Ale to the King.

Edinburgh's quality beer and ale review and culture site.

Archive for the tag “black lager”

Brew at the Bog Special: Review: The Main Event

In Ale to the King’s concluding piece on Brew at the Bog Festival 2012, we bring ourselves to the main event, the festival experience itself.

Arriving around 10PM on the Friday we pitched our tent after a back and forth trying to locate where the entrance to the field actually was. Being the initial Brew at the Bog the campsite understandably small, taking up a very restrained area at the rear of the field. As already discussed this successfully encouraged more of a festival feeling despite the expanse of empty grass. However this did mean those wanting an earlier bedtime were kept awake by those partying until 6AM. It may have been something unique to allow more space, leading for a quieter night for those who wished it, a rarity in festivals.

I’ve only lived in Scotland for about a year and a half, but the weekend of the 4th and 5th seemed unseasonably cold for even this country. However even this had its upside; we’d noted the Brewdog beers that would be on offer and brought the ones that weren’t – the icy weather provided out tent with a fine beer cooler.

However in the morning campers were able to appreciate the lovely view across the Moray Firth as they enjoyed their breakfasts. After that there was some time before the festival kicked off at midday. That’s some time to kill before the entertainment starts, so unless you’re into the camping experience and start times are similar next year, Ale to the King would recommend coming on the Saturday morning itself.

The day kicked off on the second, Go North stage, with He Slept on 57 delivering a crowd engaging performance that really suited the venue. A band I’d never heard of, but a pleasant surprise that was very enjoyable and the whole musical day took this theme. Small bands, who clearly brought some of their following with them, but largely unheard of, delivering great music that fitted enormously well with the festival.

On the culinary front there was your standard festival fare; tasty churros with hot choc-sauce dip, lovely, greasy Aberdeen Angus steak burgers (these were especially delicious), excellent, quality fish and chips that ranks amongst the best I’ve eaten and the Tea Posy. This was a charming caravan converted into a retro-50s cafe with a beautiful spread of cakes out front that really went down with will a pint of icy Punk IPA.

As the day wore on the happy, contained and relaxed mood was maintained by both the bands and the exceptionally professional and friendly staff who performed sterlingly in the bitterly cold conditions. And cold it was, if its similar conditions next year remember to bring many, many, many layers. It would have been nice to have had significantly more indoor and outdoor heaters provided, fingers crossed for next year. Once the third jumper was on under the coat however there was something quite fun about drinking Zeitgeist Black Lager in a freezing, fairy-lit room to the sounds of acoustic folk.

There was a varied crowd in attendance, from ale fans, festival lovers, hipsters and party animals that made for a really interesting and enjoyable mileau.

Under the beautiful setting sun and fug of more than enough great beer I realised that this inaugural festival was already doing a great many thing right; if this is anything to go by next year’s will be even more cracking that this one.

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Brew at the Bog Special: Review: The Beers

Brew at the Bog, a festival who’s beer is supplied almost exclusively by Brewdog? This is something Ale to the King couldn’t say no to!

Ale to the King believes that beer is best viewed in the context in which it exists, be that history, whether its from bottle, draft or pimped-out carton, environment its drunk in, distance from birthplace… the list is almost endless. So Brewdog beer served at an inaugural festival that bears much of their branding in the Highlands was a special context indeed.

The beer selection looked great, with pre-festival reports of Punk IPA, 5AM Saint, Zeitgeist Black Lager, 77 Lager and the IPA is Dead range (Citra, Bramling Cross, Sorachi Ace and Nelson Sauvin). Sadly, upon arrival the IPA is Dead range was nowhere to be seen and bar staff weren’t sure what had happened to it. A shame, since I was really looking forward to trying those I have yet to have the pleasure of, but the beers offered were still something to get excited about!

The weather was incredibly cold, the wind and chill blasting in from the Moray Firth, bringing with it flakes of white from the snowcapped mountains. The first beer I tried, and my general go-to grog, was the Punk IPAThe cold really pervaded all the beers, blasting them ice-cold. Using Ale to the King’s previous review as a control, the iciness of the Punk IPA on pump really brought out the tropical flavours, totally overriding the citrus notes. It also boosted the sweetness in the after-taste, leaving the mouth feeling like it was coated in glycerine. Certainly odd but for a different, exciting tasting experience I’d really recommend throwing a can or two in the freezer and drinking at sub-zero temperatures.

The 5AM Saint on pump was similarly altered by the temperatures (I really felt sorry for the bar staff, clutching freezing cans and plastic cups all day). Compared to how it normally comes it was especially sharp and mouth-clenchingly tart. Unusually it took on a very bitter quality on the mid-taste and there was a great, new prickliness to the after-taste. Another one to put in the freezer for a taste experiment.

The 77 Lager was, predictably, unaltered by the cold. Being a lager its naturally served cold; not this cold mind, which lowered the flavour intensity somewhat and really brought out a quality of fine mineral water.

The Zeitgeist Black Lager felt extra carbonated and left a pleasurable tingle on the lips that turned prickly in the cold air. Despite this extra fizz the Zeitgeist Black Lager brought out a unique and overwhelming peppery flavour. A serious twist on an already intriguing beer and another worth experimenting with.

So despite the lack of the IPA is Dead range the beverages on offer at Brew at the Bog were a brilliant, very interesting lot that really changed in the conditions the festival afforded. Unless the beer storage and delivery are changed next year, prepare your tastebuds for an intriguing and surprising journey.

Brew at the Bog Special: Review: Bogbain Farm/Brew at the Bog Venue

Continuing Ale to the King’s coverage of Brew in the Bog festival we turn our eyes to the venue itself.

Bogbain Farm is just south of Inverness, a good three hour drive from Edinburgh (obeying speed limits).

However, what a drive it is; its almost worth the excursion itself when you get across the Forth Bridge, past the dual carriageways (why are there no motorways in Scotland?) and hit Cairngorms National Park.
Before long you’re cruising through some spectacular countryside of snow-capped mountains and mirror-like lochs.

Make sure you check your petrol guage before setting off however, there was a slightly hairy moment when I underestimated how lacking in filling stations some areas of Scotland are.

Also take care when you hit the A9. This stretch is known for lunatics and we encountered our fair share along here.

Arriving at the farm, the camping area was located at the furthest end of the field. Here the cold weather works for the venue. Since campers were allowed to drive right up to the camping area the hardness of the ground prevented the field turning into a boggy, tyre-tracked sludge.

The camp-site was surprisingly small, but then this was the inaugural event, thus was never going to attract the numbers of, say, Wickerman Festival. This had both its merits and flaws. On the meritorious side it kept everyone together and created a more friendly, communal feeling amongst the small number of campers. Had it the run of the whole field then no doubt everyone would have spread out separately and it just wouldn’t have had that special ‘festival’ feeling.

However, that inability to spread out also meant those who would have preferred a quieter experience and got to bed/rise earlier were penned in with those who preferred to party until daybreak.  If you’re coming next year and prefer to wake a little earlier make sure you bring some earplugs.

Something everyone appreciated though, regardless of party-disposition, was the view. Stretching out across the horizon was a gorgeous scene of the Moray Firth. Make sure The campsite viewyou face your tent away from this to avoid an incredibly chilly, draughty night!

As for the performance and, more pertinent/important to Ale to the King, ale serving area, the building and surrounding grounds seemed very appropriate. Being a farm it felt suitably earthy and unpretentious for something that was supplied exclusively by Brewdog, yet had a slightly left-of-field feeling which fit the beverages  equally well. Ale to the King believes all craft beer should be considered within the context of that around it, and there’ll be more talk of that in tomorrow’s post on the beers, but in brief, it worked very well.

As a venue to partake in proper beer it offered something really unique that I’d highly recommend. Outwardly it was very scenic, a large, pretty farmhouse and barns with charmingly decorated disused farm equipment dotted about. Inside was the small The Bothy stage which played host to some great acoustic acts and was, crucially, warm! Decorated with a ornate accordions, fairy lights, tables and chairs and a stuffed otter, it was a great place to relax with a Zeitgeist Black Lager.

The second stage, Go North, was a mid-size white-walled barn. From the roof hung ropes of those old-fashioned fairy lights which are essentially painted lightbulbs. The whole thing was very charming, if bitterly cold.

The main bar itself was something of a treat. Inside the larger, more exposed wooden barn, the beer was ice cold, no doubt helped by the weather but the staff remained friendly and were very pleased to help and even offer advice on what brew would suit one’s palate. Looming over this was a massive wagon (or some other farming contraption this writer is too ill-educated to have identified otherwise).

Beside this was, amusingly a sandpit, replete with toys to play with and the straw-lined floor made the whole area utterly unique. Just outside this was the grassy courtyard, surrounded by an overhanging roof that allows one to stand outside yet be sheltered from the elements should the sun raise its head.

Its an utterly charming, interesting, and with all the odd bits and pieces around, intriguing place to drink craft beer; if there’s another ale-filled event here in the future, festival or otherwise, Ale to the King has no reservations in recommending this as a great, unique place to enjoy yourself.

Aledvent Calendbeer selection 2

If you haven’t been keeping up, Ale to the King has been counting down to Christmas in the best way it can think of.  While many go for the common or garden advent calendar with chocolate and others prefer the more traditional advent candle, Ale to the King has created the Aledvent Calendbeer. A carefully chosen beer that reflects Christmas in one way or another (no matter how tenuous the link!) will be decapitated, drunk and deliberated over until the big day itself.

Selection 1 consisted of Christmas Ale by Goose Island, Paradox Isle of Arran by Brewdog, Black Lager by Zeitgeist, Finch by Natural Selection Brewing, Samuel Smith’s India Ale by Samuel Smith Old Brewery and There is No Santa by Brewdog.

But that was just Selection 1 and as 007 once said, you’ve had your six.

So, without further ado Ale to the King presents you with Aledvent Calendbeer Selection 2:

If you want to drink along with Ale to the King and compare notes, then you will need:

  • Hefeweizen by Stewart Brewing
  • Winter Ale by The Brooklyn Brewery
  • India Pale Ale by Knops Beer Company
  • Hop Trials – Nelson Sauvin by Tryst
  • St. Mungo by West Brewery

If you’ve not been able to keep up with the Aledvent Calendbeer  then now’s a great time to get on board and even make up for lost time by having a second beer a day from Selection 1!

So charge your glasses and raise it in honour of the ever approaching jolly Saint Nick. Because Christmas is a time for treating yourself as well!

What did you think of the Aledvent Calendbeer Selection 1? Disagree with Ale to the King‘s verdict on There’s No Santa or the praise heaped upon Goose Island’s Christmas Ale? Please, do sound off in the comments below!

Review: Black Lager – Aledvent Calendbeer 3

Beer: Black Lager
Brewery: Zeitgeist
Type: Black lager
Served: Bottled
Alc: 4.9% Vol
Aledvent Calendbeer Number: 3

Christmas is coming and with that the mandatory Christmas parties and get togethers.  And the go-to supply to fuel these? Usually several crates of lager. So, with that in mind, here’s Ale to the King’s first lager review; Zeitgeist’s Black Lager.

Now this reviewer is going to have to be frank and honest before the review goes further: I generally turn tale and run from anything that describes itself as a lager. This probably stems from my days of drinking well below the legal age limit and only hanging out in your standard chain pubs. Only serving your most bog-standard of brews I always found myself preferring the bitters or ciders on offer. Industrialized, more common lagers like Stella Artois  or Fosters just taste to me like gone off fizzy milk.

Needless to say at the aforementioned Christmas parties I bring my own.

Right, with that disclaimer out of the way, the Black Lager has a decent amount of character. Its got a pith black colour and whatever head lasts for more than a moment is a solid, finely bubbled white lending a very attractive appearance.

The first taste is mildly of black forest gateaux. You get the dark, ripe, cherries, and the light mixture of thick cream and chocolate. The whole flavour shoots round the mouth nicely and zips up the sides of your teeth.

Darkly fruity is a prevalent tone of the lager but there’s a hint of eldeberry mixed in around the middle of the taste.

The after-taste reveals prunes and figs which begin to dominate the flavour which reflects in the nose, which contains raisins and prunes. But in there there’s also definite Demerara sugar.

Then, just as things are subsiding, there’s the taste of that smell of a new car before you’re left with a very bready sensations on the roof of the mouth.

Its a nice, fizzy lager, worth a go if only for one experience but the overall expedience is a little flat and hollow. Its got a good amount of layers for a lager, but then its downfall is exactly that; its a lager.

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