Big Beer

big_beerI love traveling to Belgium, Italy, Denmark and the US for amazing “big” beers, whether by the nature of beer geek’isms, or US craft beer gaining a following in the UK, we have a growing band of UK brewers who’re willing to have a go, whether to show that they can do it too…

Of course you’ll have all heard of Thornbridge, Stephano and Kelly up there in beautiful Ashford on the Water are brewing up a storm of great beers, the Bracia, Alliance series and of course the excellent Jaipur IPA. They don’t only brew Big Beer, look out for their Ashford, a particular fave of mine.

We are of course blessed with many many brewers in this country, some, if not many, who focus on the classic British cask ale. And, long may they continue to do so, as sure as shit there ‘aint quite nothing like a pint in your local of fresh locally brewed ale.  (Gadds’ Number 7 hitting the spot for me, recently, given this amount of sun we’re having here in Kent.)

But, there are times when a really big beer, nails it.    You can’t say it’s only a cold weather style, because the 75’F of San Diego, big hops, big malt and all that comes with it, just hit’s the spot as a sundowner.   Of course you could go with a few Levitation or Yuseff’s excellent Calico, which is often a livener, after killing a day in the sun – call it rehydration?.  But, then San Francisco isn’t as warm as San Diego, and they looooove big hops.    The Danes love big hops and bigger imperial stouts too.  So, is it just because we, as Brits, put simply like to have a few before the alcohol kicks in?

So who brews big beer in the UK?

You have a look through the rosta of brewers willing to have a go, Thornbridge, Lovionds, Gadds, Moor… not just the equipment, the actual brewers, is it because they are all from outside, or have lived outside the UK?

Back in February, I was talking to a young American brewer, who’d interned as a brewer in the UK, he was scathing about the brewery he used to work at, that they never brewed any thing over 4.5%, whereas now he’s back in the Bay Area, his lightest beer is 4.5%…  Of course we’re all aware that alcohol doesn’t equate to flavour, balance and grace across ones tongue.  But aren’t there times when a bit of hop agression, malt succulence or aroma whallop hits the spot?

Spending time around many beer drinking friends, they love a beer that really grabs them, the experiential beer has a real place on their loves and likes of beer, as much as the more quaffable?

I suppose the brewery that gets plaudits, and some knockers, is Moor.   JJJ IPA is a really big beer, at 9.3% and enough hops to make 3 batches of a straight pale ale, you might say it’s hoppy! (With nearly 700 kg of malt and over 11.5 kg of hops) They went through problems making it, killing a pump on the first batch.    JJJ actually “goes beyond the it’s just a Ratebeer beer…” , the awards it garners don’t just come from the standing and desirability it has on Ratebeer. In case you haven’t heard, Somerland Gold won Bronze and JJJ IPA won Gold for the second year running at the Maltings SIBA southwest festival – judged by Brewers, Landlords and CAMRA commitee types/members. These awards are amazing, but the real buzz was the very enthusiastic response from the crowd when the JJJ award was announced. Clearly there was a lot of love in the room, Justin wants to thank everyone dearly for it.

This is one big beer. Actually, forget the ABV, which is just a by-product of the craziness that. James and Josh, two young dynamic beer literate chaps from the awesome Queen’s Arms, Corton Denham, and Justin Hawke (hence JJJ) have a shared passion for great beers and were lamenting the lack of true big American IPAs in the UK. So they decided to brew our “own version of heaven”. Double IPA was just not good enough – they really wanted to brew a triple IPA. “Triple the gravity, triple the colour, and more than triple the hops“.  Deep copper in colour, over the top in aroma and flavour, but somehow still remaining (somewhat) balanced, this beer is not for the faint of heart. “And if you don’t like hops, don’t even think about it.

Having brewed beers of similar, and heavier – both on my garage system and Triple Rock, Berkeley – this is no mean feat – especially on a system not really best suited for this mass of ingredients!

I recently travelled down to hang out with Justin, James and Josh, as I have done on previous occasions… such a long way to Somerset from Kent, especially when they decide to shut the M25 or M3.   Justin brought out a melange of great hoppy beers, from the US, Denmark and Belgium (yes, their slowly figuring hops out in there!)   Amongst the collection was a 1 year old bottle of JJJ IPA, that had been stored in fridge like conditions from the first batch.  Awesome was an understatement.   It was up there with big hoppy monsters from San Diego!

Funny, writing this, remembering how I first came to know JJJ IPA, actually be introduced to it.   There is a local beer fest, almost the “Extreme BeerFest” of the UK; Dover Festival of Winter Ales, AKA WhiteCliffs beer fest.   Ian, of, an old friend, had arrived early.  By sight he’d been through the range of beers, promptly berated me for my tardy arrival, then jammed a glass of “taste this!” in my hand…    I was left with a wow moment, are they bringing American IPA’s to Dover now?   Nah, can’t be I thought.   Still a few goes more and this was certainly a rare treat.   Excellent we announced.    The week following I was in San Francisco, for a series of events, one the awesome Double IPA fest at the Bistro, in Hayward.  The JJJ IPA would have held up reallllly well there, in fact I would think it would draw far more plaudit there than here.

For me, beer has always been a mater of horses for courses, nothing quite like an ice cold bottle of Flag Special in Marakesh night market, where sticky black imperial stouts would be completely insane, and reading Mark Dredge’s post on his blog about beer, taking them abroad… A sneaky bottle, I can understand too. (Greece isn’t known as a craft beer hotspot, but I am sure with people like Alex down there things will change.)

In the same instance, I love milds, “ordinary” bitters and the modern bright hoppy pale ales, championed by Oakham and Darkstar et al.  But, I also love those big brassy american hop bombs, so, to get one made here like JJJ is such a great treat.    I hear from Josh and James that the locals down there aren’t intimidated by the 9%, I guess from the weight they drink in cider…?!

For gods sake, Imperial Stouts and Barley wines originally came from this country!  don’t fear them, embrace these modern brews… do you want it to get like Cricket…?  (thinking it’ll be a great series, very close… )

Watch this space, (and twitter) for early announcements of the JJJ IPA arrival, along with Old Freddie Walker and Somerland Gold

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout – Ageing…

nice pic!

Nice Pic! yes, take pride in your beer!

Seemingly the concensus is that Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout ages really well, when cellared properly.   That’s lucky, because we have a few bottles of this excellent and underrated brew on our site – here

I have had bottles of BCS as old as 8 years. Awesome! I regularly age these. According to Garret Oliver, there is no determined life span on well stored bottles. They still have bottles of the first batch (1994) that they crack a few of every year. He says they are still good. – Dave from Bellport Beer and Soda – and his blog here


A friend leaving the island…



There are times when you kick yourself – you should have spent more time goofing around, sharing ideas, and just having fun with someone.

As a homebrewer/beer lover, there is one person who’s influence to my brewing has gone beyond the few meeting that we have had.   Casey Letellier has been a motivation, a wall to bounce ideas off, and someone to share an opinion with – and when he says, “mmmmmm” one has to stop and reconsider the direction you are taking.    I believe from the noises that he is making he would love to be a pro-brewer, and his returning to the US might be the making of that.  I for one hope he gets picked up quickly, as the knowledge and passion that Casey will come with, and more over the desire to prove – will be worth more than many will be imediately aware of.   Casey, is also, in no minor way an excellent graphic designer… imagine that – he can brew great beer, and knock up a good label to boot…

A quitely personable, affable and likeable guy – he has made many friends in his time in the UK – my first meeting with him at the Dover Beer Festival, and my latest, I hope not last – was at the GBBF.    The luxury that I have with frequent travel to the US, I know that I will see him again soon.    I know that any brewery that takes him on the US will have a great asset. Ratebeer top 50’s will soon follow!

He living in Oxford, and I the closest place to france, seemed a long way – now it seems not that far at all.

Good Luck, and please please keep in touch.

Ratebeer Update:3

“We’re coming back

We will be a live site soon and are making preparations for a limited test launch very soon followed by a more expanded launch in the coming days.

I regret we can’t open the doors for everyone initially but please understand that we have the site’s best interests in mind here. We appreciate your patience and support!


Joe” Update

As posted at

The community response has been overwhelming. Thanks to all of you who sent us help, beer (yeah!), offered advice, sent us your hard earned dollars, pounds, crowns, pesos and euros, offered help, words of encouragement, and simply toasted us all here in the trenches. We are now very close to meeting today’s goals of having a plan and the money to execute it.

I hope we can be back in a limited way in less than three days but this is really up to our security advisor. I want to be absolutely certain we’re offering our users a safe environment before we open our doors. I’ll send updates here and to the ratebeer community at facebook.



Ratebeer, done again…

“Dear Fellow RateBeerian

I’m sorry to say that despite our best efforts and an outstanding group of worldwide volunteers and active raters in countries around the the globe, we’ve come to a point where it’s difficult to resume our service to craft beer community.

Recently we’ve come under a steady attack by hackers to shut us down. I’m very sorry to say that for now that they’ve been successful. And I realize that correcting the issue is beyond my abilities and means.

I’m asking you tonight for help.

If you can recommend a top tier Windows IIS/SQL Server security expert or can donate money to RateBeer for the cause please do. Please send help to either via PayPal or via mail. I’m trying very hard to bring back our service to the community. Please help.


Joe Tucker”

From the man himself – so, if you happen to stumble on this site, and can help – please get incontact with Joe ASAP  – this is a pain in the doodads, a major source of reference, comunication and frivolity within the comunity.    Yes, there are other options, but we love Ratebeer!

Please feel free to use the comments pages on here to maintain comunications with other Ratebeerians.   (I should have a forum space established by tonight. )

Who, why’s, and what’s can wait………. good luck joe.

Ratebeer Issues

Grrrrr!    Ok, I love Ratebeer.  It’s a great place to distract myself – up there with my other fave – – but, just recently Ratebeer has been the victim of some hacking.   By all acounts not that severe, just agrovating for the excellent people behind the whole site.

I just hope this recent down time, correcting code or whatever they are doing – should be the last time that these things happen.    I am sure that there are serious adicts having withdrawal issues, and work rates are rising in some quarters of the world.

Good luck guys!


What with – going through update issues.    I should just write it here.

I got to the Bay area from Utah late on Tuesday – and died straight away after getting to the house.

Wednesday:  I was up and at’em –  Down to Hayward – Buffalo Bills and Old Joe the Barber.   Buffalo Bills Brewer Joe C was there – and grabbed a small glass of their 20th Aniversary Lager.    Then a lot lighter, having a great mass of curls removed, Joe’s a mean barber – 57 years on the same chair!

Then mooched up the bay to Berkeley to catch up with Rodger, ex of Drakes, to his new tenure at Triple Rock.    It was a nice thing to peer through the glass to see such a familiar face – we last saw each other on their amazing trip around Belgium, 6am at the Cantillon Brewery, after meeting them both in the Bay Area before they left in February.   Claudia’s Kolsh, was a brew at 21Amendment – to mark their departure.

A pint of their Hop o the Rocks – a cask ale!  very pleasant 6.7% IPA – washed down a burger – few beers later, sampling a newer IPA from Rodger – rather than the one of his previous incumbants efforts – was a nice IPA, as yet unamed.   I was treated to a Glass of the coffee stout as well – very very nice stuff.   Think Beer Geek and Peche Mortel.

I then made my way to the San Rafael bridge – when my GPS died!  (in Richmond)  – $220 later I am back on the road to the Napa to meet Ratebeer owner and senior, Joe Tucker…   I eventually found Ratebeer Towers – and kidnapped him to wander around the great beer spots of the area.   First stop – Bear Republic – Second Stop – Russian River – third Flavor –

(detail to follow)

So, in one week I had been to Russian River and Three floyds – West Lakeview Liquors and Ledgers – Triple Rock and Squatters.   Crazy.

Fatique caught me last night – I fell asleep at 6pm – Time Zone hell finally catching up with me!