• Father’s Day? Beer please…

    Father’s Day is looming large, its impending arrival heralded by piles of crappy, dad-related gifts that have started to amass in shop windows up and down the country.

    Take it from us (both expert dads), your old fella doesn’t want superhero socks*. Neither does he want gorilla slippers**. What he wants is booze – ideally brown booze, preferably presented in a cardboard representation of a toolbox.

    As luck would have it, Amsterdam-based booze merchants BeerWulf have got it covered. Established in 2017 and flush with Heineken-invested cash, BeerWulf are the latest contenders barging in on the bulging, booze mail order scene.

    Their specially assembled Fathers Day booze box comes in three sizes (12, 16 or 20 bottles) and contains some corkers, featuring a monster 8.5% blond beer from Brouwerij Palm, a Bellfield Lawless Village IPA, and a special limited edition, brewed for the occasion pale ale called Kompaan Mentor.

    There’s the option of picking your own bottles to create a personalised beer box to suit your dad’s taste, and if that doesn’t float your boat, a range of curated booze packs are also available. In particular, Nick*** has been giving the Amsterdam pack the glad eye, and I’m very much liking the look of the Belgian**** beer pack.

    BeerWulf’s booze boxes seem reasonably priced, the Father’s Day 12 bottle pack costs £25.95 and they promise delivery within 48 hours (providing you order before 4pm). When ordering, we suggest you play it smart. Instead of delivering directly to dad, get the box delivered to your own home, snaffle the best beers yourself and replace the empty slots with some rubbish ones you bought from the Co-op.

    Happy Fathers Day!

    beerwulf unboxing


    *Actually these are pretty sweet.

    ** These are AMAZING.

    ***Nick loves Holland, and there’s no place he’d rather be than stalking the damp alleyways and back streets of Amsterdam. When down in the ‘dam he prefers to shun the traditional Brit tourist activity of pedaling around the canals and waterways in a fug of marijuana smoke in favour of a thorough investigation of the cities breweries and the wares they produce.

    **** Belgian beers are a lot safer when enjoyed in the comfort of your home. A ‘beer exploration’ trip to Bruges back in the early nineties was responsible for the single worst hangover I’ve ever endured. A weekend mainlining high strength trappist beers and croque monsieurs followed by a high speed, rough sea-ed channel crossing on a filthy old hovercraft rendered me green-gilled and bed ridden for a whole week.

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  • A pie and a pint – gluten-free stylee

    A good pal of ours (who’s name we have removed to protect his privacy*) has just been diagnosed as a coeliac. Our first reaction was to laugh long and hard and to fill his inbox with pictures of celeriac, but now we are left celeri-wracked with guilt. No one loves beer more than our nameless pal**, and for him to be denied his beloved brown booze is a cruel twist of fate. To make things right and to clear our conscience of having partaken in such callous, childish mockery, we have purloined and guzzled some gluten free beers and eaten a delicious gluten free pie in an ode to his ailment.


    You’d be pushed to find a better drink than a pint of brown booze, and there can be no finer culinary combo to said pint than a lovely pie. ***  We are no strangers to the delights of the short crust. Many years ago, both ourselves and our mystery pal sat on the judging panel for ‘King Pie’ – Total Football Magazine’s ‘Best Football Stadium pie’ awards and bravely fought our way through many trays of savory delights to find the eventual winner (the name of which we can no longer recall).

    The gluten free pie on trial hails from frozen food purveyors Field Fare and we reckon it’d give those stadium pies a run for their money. This pie is built to reside in frozen form in the freezer – whip it out, lob it in the oven and 40 mins later it’s ready for noshing.

    This pie yielded hefty pieces of hock and decent slabs of chicken, doused in a thick, creamy sauce. The pastry was crisp with a good crust to filling ratio. If we were being critical (which, of course, we are), we thought the pie tasted a tad on the salty side. It made us drink more beer, which in turn made us hungry for more pie. A vicious circle.

    Did we miss the gluten? Can’t say that we did.


    Brewed by Belgian brewsters Brasserie La Binchoise, Golden Era eschews gluten-rich wheat and barley in favour of a heady mix of ancient grain: Quinoa (those gritty bits found in posh salads), millet (not to be confused with the female mullet) and buckwheat – a coeliac friendly seed that pretends its a grain – are all present.

    On pouring, the frothy head receded quite quickly, leaving behind a murky, apple juice coloured pint that would have any haze-crazed New England beer hipster swooning with delight. It’s quite a pokey little number on the tongue with an initially harsh grapefruit tang. This soon resides to reveal a rather complex tasting , floral brew with plenty going on. 

    Did we miss the gluten? It certainly misses the viscosity and mouthfeel that wheat/barley additions afford. It’s an odd beer for sure, but definitely one worth persevering with.


    On a happier note, our coeliac pal who shall remain anonymous**** is to fill his brown booze void with local cider of which Bristol – the city where he lives – is awash. This is good news indeed. It means his popeye-esque drinking arm will not wither and waste away to a wizened claw with lack of pints to lift. But this does mean that those sulphate filled pints of cider will wreak havoc with his gout.

    Now where’s that picture of the mutated radish that looks like a foot…?


    To get your fill of Golden Era gluten-free beer, go here

    To fill your own face with gluten free pies and other frozen delights, go here…

    * Dav Ludford.
    ** His name is Dav Ludford.
    *** Apart from ham and eggs, lamb and mint, cheese and tomato, chips and gravy, cider and scotch eggs, sausage and mash, crisps and fags, chicken and baskets, etc…
    **** See * and ** above


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  • In pictures: Bath Ales new Hare Brewery

    It’s not often that we get invited to a top beer event within sensible drinking distance of our houses, so when Bath Ales offered us the chance to join them for the opening of their new Hare Brewery in Warmley we jumped at the chance. Or, at least, Nick did. Rich had other things to do. But in his absence he did find time to supply the joke of the day which Nick told to mild chortles all round.

    Before the curtain was pulled to reveal a specially commissioned hare statue that signified the brewery’s official opening Nick, along with a select group of journalists, had more serious work to do: visit a few of Bath Ales local pubs, drink a load of Bath Ales beers, munch through a vast tasting menu at Bath Ales Graze Bar (each served with a different beer), before drinking some more Bath Ales beers. That all happened on the evening before the launch, which itself was preceded by an exclusive brewery tour at the hands of Roger Ryman, brewing director of parent company St Austell, and an 11am sampling of more beer. Which was the cue for Rich’s joke: ‘time for a hair of the hare.’*

    Here, then, are the launch photographs of the new Hare Brewery taken by a slightly hungover Thirsty Gardener…

    Bath Ales viewing platform

    The new Hare Brewery is designed to be tour-group friendly, with the tops of tanks appearing on an upper level next to a new tap room that allows easy access to visitors.

    Bath Ales Fermenters and bottling lines

    The serious action happens on the ground level within a vast open space of a former warehouse. 50,000 barrels per year are possible, producing 50% cask beers, 40% bottled beers and the rest keg. The brewing equipment was supplied by Musk of Burton-on-Trent, and Roger and his team “had a huge amount of input into the design of the brewhouse.” He also had an unusual ambition that he “didn’t want to see a flexible hose anywhere” and, judging by our snooping, he has very nearly achieved this.

    Water purification for beer

    As anyone who has made a home brew (or pot of tea) in Somerset knows, the water is extremely hard. This water treatment tanks helps transform the local limestone water into something more beer friendly.

    Roger Ryman St Austell

    Roger Ryman takes journalists around the new Hare Brewery (note beer writing legend, Roger Protz, in the background admiring the set-up)

    beers gem and sulis lager

    Beer labels for Bath Ales most popular brew, Gem, are ready to join bottles emerging from the Italian built bottling line, while excellent new lager Sulis is waiting to be poured in the tap room

    Darren James Bath Ales St Austell

    Bath Ales senior brewer Darren James enjoys one of his brewery’s beers in the new tap room

    neon hare logo

    *Other hare puns are available
    Having a good hare day…
    Have a pint and let your hare down…
    That barrel will be hare today, gone tomorrow
    A pint of that will make your hare stand on end…
    A pristine brewery with not a hare out of place…
    That beer will put hares on your chest…


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  • Tullamore D.E.W. Irish whisky. We’re blending with beer

    Have you noticed there now seems to be a day for everything? For example, June 30 is ‘International Asteroid Day’, September 2 is ‘World Coconut Day’ and December 5 is ‘World Soil Day’. Marketeers are particularly keen on World Days when they can tie them in with products they’re promoting, so with ‘World Whisky Day’ looming on May 19 we have inevitably received offers of whisky in exchange for social media activity.

    Of these, one marketing scheme stood out: Tullamore D.E.W. Irish Whiskey is big on paring whiskey* with beer and were looking for people to try their blended whiskey with a selection of beers and write about the experience. We like whiskey. We like beer. And we like experimenting, so after a quick exchange of addresses a gift box was quickly sent in our direction.

    Tullamore D.E.W. Original Irish Whiskey

    Tullamore D.E.W. Original describes itself as ‘ the original triple distilled, triple blend whiskey’. It’s produced as a blend of pot still, malt and grain whiskies and is triple matured. The distillery dates back to 1829 and the famous whiskey is named after its creator, Daniel E Williams, who stamped his initials on his distilled booze.

    Tullamore produce a range of whiskies including an ‘XO rum cask finish’ and an intriguing sounding ‘cider cask finish’, but it’s the original we’re using for our tasting experiments, a whiskey that is matured in three casks: traditional refill, ex-bourbon and ex-sherry

    Tasting notes

    On its own, Tullamore D.E.W. has a light, sweet aroma with a fresh citric fruitiness that develops on the palette. The sweetness is in the taste, too, within some toffee flavours, while spicy oak notes build towards the finish along with a gentle rush of alcohol. Now on to the beer.

    We were sent three bottles – Staropramen’s Czech lager, an Innis & Gunn stout that had been aged in Tullamore D.E.W. barrels and a German Weissbier from Erdinger. Of the three it was the latter that intrigued me most, being a pairing I would never consider, so I flipped the bottle open and began the experiment.

    Like all good weissbiers, Erdinger has a good balance of banana and clove flavours along with the crisp wheat base. After a few slugs I returned to my whiskey tumbler and sipped… it seemed strangely warmer and softer than before, calming and comforting, subduing the alcohol and rounding off the spicy oak flavours, which also lingered longer. I liked the effect. Dipping to-and-fro the two drinks was a fun experience… the beer seemed more mature and alive; the whiskey grew in flavour.

    One beer and a few servings of whiskey was all I could manage to hit my World Whisky Day deadline, but I’m looking forward to repeating the taste test with the other two beers. And I’m sure some of my own favourite brews will be served in similar fashion before too long.

    Fascinating fact

    Did you know that pairing a drop of whiskey with a pint of beer actually has a name? it’s known as a ‘boilermaker’ and was made popular by Irish drinkers who emigrated to America.

    Tullamore D.E.W. is available from the Whisky Exchange

    bottle of original blend Tullamore

    *Being an Irish drink we’re now talking about whiskey with an ‘e’



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  • Booths ale crate review: beers from Northern Britain

    Last year we put together a piece on the best booze-based hampers for the i-Paper. Top of the pile was Northern retailer Booths ‘Gentleman’s Hamper’, a wicker wonder of booze and snacks* that gives me more fond memories than anything else I consumed over the festive period (although my trifle featuring Opies kirsch-soaked cherries was mightily impressive too).

    A few weeks ago Booths emailed me to highlight their new range of products and suggested our readers might be interested in their Northern Ale Crate, a wooden ale-carrier, with a bottle opener fixed to one side and loaded with six fine beers. “I’m sure our readers would be very interested” I replied. “Send one down and we’ll do the rest.”

    Living in the South West we don’t often get to sample many of the great ales from the North. Plenty of new stuff from the fashionable craft ale producers finds its way south, but in order to enjoy the more traditional beers on offer we either have to travel or rely on the likes of Booths to get hold of them.

    The beers duly arrived in time for the weekend, so I set myself the arduous task of tasting them so that our readers might also discover their beery magnificence. Here they are…

    Eden Gold, 4.2%

    Our pals from Penrith brew many good beers which we’ve enjoyed over the past few years, but this was my first swig of their golden ale. It’s the epitome of a summer beer – highly gluggable, light and refreshing with a straw-tinged breeze drifting through it. Lovely stuff

    Rudgate, Jorvik, 4.6%

    This was the only beer that also featured in my festive hamper and it was welcomed back to my fridge with open arms. Described as a ‘Flaxen Blonde Ale’ it’s a flavoursome brew, with a floral aroma and soft fruit flavours all wrapped up in a slippery smooth malty body.

    Bowland, Pheasant Plucker, 4.5%

    Booths plucked an amber ale from Clitheroe’s Bowland Brewery for their crate and it’s a very English kind of ale. The hops reminded me of blackcurrant leaf – fruity and a little bit herby – with a dab of citrus to freshen it up. It has a bready malt with a touch of sweetness and moderate bitterness. A very decent drop.

    Weetwood, Cheshire Cat, 4%

    This light and easy drinking ale will put a big grin on your face. It’s a biscuity kind of brew with a smidgeon of sweet syrup and a dry finish. My notes describe it as a ‘sunset beer’ – it starts of bright and sunny and gradually becomes a duskier over the course of drinking.

    Moorhouse’s Blonde Witch, 4.4%

    The Burnley based brewery magiced up my favourite beer from this selection. It’s a hazy golden pint with a load of flavour in it: there are citrussy notes which freshen the aroma and flavour, and a lovely soft smooth peachiness which is pepped up with bitter fruit and spicy yeast. Superb brewing!

    Ilkley Pale Ale, 4.2%

    I’m a big fan of Ilkley brewery and have enjoyed plenty of their beers, but the only other time I got my hands on their pale ale I gave it to my dad. It’s clear and light with subtle citrus and pine flavours and is much drier than the other beers in the pack, finishing with a gentle grassy bitterness that encourages repeat guzzling.

    Get hold of a Booths Ale Crate here

    *The Gentleman’s Gift Hamper is still available with a different beer selection from the one we tried. Yes, I am tempted to get another…

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  • A brush with Basil: an undercover growing guide

    Is winter finally over? Can we, at long last, venture out into the garden and get on with sowing and growing all the things we need for spring and summer? Among the many tasks that need sorting out is prepping my herb bed for the year. The sage has gone a bit straggly and might need replacing; the marjoram has self seeded everywhere, apart from where I actually want it; cooking with my current thyme plant risks getting thick woody twigs stuck between my teeth; and I have the less hardy herbs such as coriander and chervil to sow.

    But one herb that won’t be joining them in the herb bed is basil. While this most Meditteranean of herby flavours can just about grow outside, it really craves some sheltered warmth. A windowsill will do, but give it some space in your greenhouse or polytunnel and you’ll reap the benefits.

    There are a few different varieties you can sow – from the common Sweet Basil to the purple leaved Dark Opal and the bushy Greek Basil. After a foray into purple territory last year (not as productive and with tougher leaves) I’ll be sticking with the familiar variety Sweet Genovese for this summer’s pickings.

    I’ll sow my seeds in the constant warmth of the house before transferring the plants to the greenhouse when they have four or five sets of proper leaves. The plants will go straight into the ground, with their roots bedded into good few scoops of compost. Once established they’re easy to look after. Although they need a good drink, particularly undercover when it gets hot and dry, overwatering is more of a danger to their health than underwatering, so make sure the compost has a chance to dry out before rehydrating.

    Frequent picking will help keep the plants producing more leaves and any buds that form will be swiftly pinched out. They’ll be growing alongside my tomatoes, so the greenhouse will have a summery fragrance to it whenever I wander inside, and the two items will be best served alongside each other, straight from picking with nothing more than a pinch of salt.


    This is a collaborative post


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