Hophead
Bands On The Bank @ Bateman’s Brewery, Wainfleet, Lincs
Is there a better way to spend a sunny afternoon than sitting in the beer garden of a traditional English Brewery, listening to bands playing live on the back of a truck and sampling brews fresh from the barrel? If you answered “No Hophead there is not” then you’d be damned right.
Bateman’s is not at the cutting edge of brewing even though it has been known to experiment from time to time. You know pretty much what you’re going to get - but when it’s done well (like Batemans) then it just makes you proud to be a Brit. It’s one of the things we just seem to do effortlessly well – like marmalade, inventing games and taxation.
So let’s raise a few glasses to Bateman’s – still an independent family run brewery. Cheers!
Summer Swallow (3.9% ABV) 
A light golden ale that was OK but needed some extra aroma from the hops to give it a more refreshing zing. It has the basis of a great beer but hophead found that taste a bit flat. One swallow does not a summer make – but it was enough to know to try something else.
XB (3.7% ABV)
Ah this is more like it – a perfectly rounded and balanced English bitter. They don’t get more traditional or more delicious. XB varies greatly in taste and this is due to the publicans because when it’s in good condition it’s a corker of a bitter.
Combine Harvest (4.7% ABV)
Bateman’s win many awards especially for their flagship brew XXXB and their Dark Mild but Hophead thinks that this is their best brew. It’s bready and hoppy and thoroughly moreish.
Mocha (6.0%ABV)
To round off the afternoon why waste time having pudding when you can combine it with your last pint? This is brewed with coffee and chocolate and tastes of tiramisu – which can never be a bad thing. Hophead got to reading the many languages on the side of the bottle and most countries of the world would give a 6% beer some decent respect. But not the Poles. Oh no – they are in a different league my friend. The bottle says “Klasse D PIWO” – class D beer. Only class D! What the hell is class A? This sounds like a job for Hophead!

Bands On The Bank @ Bateman’s Brewery, Wainfleet, Lincs

Is there a better way to spend a sunny afternoon than sitting in the beer garden of a traditional English Brewery, listening to bands playing live on the back of a truck and sampling brews fresh from the barrel? If you answered “No Hophead there is not” then you’d be damned right.

Bateman’s is not at the cutting edge of brewing even though it has been known to experiment from time to time. You know pretty much what you’re going to get - but when it’s done well (like Batemans) then it just makes you proud to be a Brit. It’s one of the things we just seem to do effortlessly well – like marmalade, inventing games and taxation.

So let’s raise a few glasses to Bateman’s – still an independent family run brewery. Cheers!

Summer Swallow (3.9% ABV)

A light golden ale that was OK but needed some extra aroma from the hops to give it a more refreshing zing. It has the basis of a great beer but hophead found that taste a bit flat. One swallow does not a summer make – but it was enough to know to try something else.

XB (3.7% ABV)

Ah this is more like it – a perfectly rounded and balanced English bitter. They don’t get more traditional or more delicious. XB varies greatly in taste and this is due to the publicans because when it’s in good condition it’s a corker of a bitter.

Combine Harvest (4.7% ABV)

Bateman’s win many awards especially for their flagship brew XXXB and their Dark Mild but Hophead thinks that this is their best brew. It’s bready and hoppy and thoroughly moreish.

Mocha (6.0%ABV)

To round off the afternoon why waste time having pudding when you can combine it with your last pint? This is brewed with coffee and chocolate and tastes of tiramisu – which can never be a bad thing. Hophead got to reading the many languages on the side of the bottle and most countries of the world would give a 6% beer some decent respect. But not the Poles. Oh no – they are in a different league my friend. The bottle says “Klasse D PIWO” – class D beer. Only class D! What the hell is class A? This sounds like a job for Hophead!

Titan IPA Great Divide Brewery 7.1%
Hophead thoroughly approves of the idea of an IPA day. As a contribution, here is a picture of one of the best IPA’s that Hophead has ever tasted. It doesn’t slap you in the face with aggressive hops – it is just beautifully blended and an absolute delight to drink. As Dr Jones (Jones calling Dr Jones) might say – Yippee IPA!
(Hophead hangs head in shame)

Titan IPA Great Divide Brewery 7.1%

Hophead thoroughly approves of the idea of an IPA day. As a contribution, here is a picture of one of the best IPA’s that Hophead has ever tasted. It doesn’t slap you in the face with aggressive hops – it is just beautifully blended and an absolute delight to drink. As Dr Jones (Jones calling Dr Jones) might say – Yippee IPA!

(Hophead hangs head in shame)

Arrogant Bastard (Oaked) Stone Brewery ABV 7.2%
OMFG – What evil genius came up with this? Hophead has had many brews over the years and a lot of them have given that wibbly shudder as they slipped past the tonsils. So kudos to Stone because this is the first brew to ever result in a wibbly shudder on smell alone. It is stunning. You know this is going to be world class even before you taste it. Glade need to bottle this and put it those room air fresheners which squirt at you every time you pass them. In the UK this is a seriously expensive beer but it is an example of “you get what you pay for”. It looks fantastic with a dark orangey foam and the taste just knocks you sideways. An absolute triumph of brewing. It managed to turn an ordinary dull Friday afternoon into a day to remember. Sampled at the Sheffield Tap. Hophead will be looking for the unoaked version now – probably on the shelf next to those hen’s teeth.

Arrogant Bastard (Oaked) Stone Brewery ABV 7.2%

OMFG – What evil genius came up with this? Hophead has had many brews over the years and a lot of them have given that wibbly shudder as they slipped past the tonsils. So kudos to Stone because this is the first brew to ever result in a wibbly shudder on smell alone. It is stunning. You know this is going to be world class even before you taste it. Glade need to bottle this and put it those room air fresheners which squirt at you every time you pass them. In the UK this is a seriously expensive beer but it is an example of “you get what you pay for”. It looks fantastic with a dark orangey foam and the taste just knocks you sideways. An absolute triumph of brewing. It managed to turn an ordinary dull Friday afternoon into a day to remember. Sampled at the Sheffield Tap. Hophead will be looking for the unoaked version now – probably on the shelf next to those hen’s teeth.

A Night in the Cat
Nothing makes Hophead’s little heart beat faster than the prospect of a night in the Devonshire Cat (known to Hophead as The Greatest Pub In The World TM). It’s always worth putting a large chunk of the evening aside here in order to explore what is going on in BeerWorld. Oh and before you pinch that idea – Hophead already has plans for that particular theme park. Instead of height restrictions, there will wavy lines painted on the entrance to each ride and a sign saying “You must be this drunk to go on this ride!”
On this occasion Hophead got there early on Saturday in order to catch a bite to eat. Now most students have scurried home, the place is a bit more airy and the trip through BeerWorld was relaxed and of astonishingly high quality. Beers sampled were:
Columbus IPA (Acorn Brewery) - Fresh single hopped IPA utterly delicious
Deception (Abbeydale Brewery) - Single hopped with Nelson Sauvin – just as delicious
Jaipur (Thornbridge Brewery) - A World Class Beer
Mort Subite - Another World Class Beer
Floris Chocolate - Isn’t this what helps to make beer so bloody brilliant. Of course you’re not going to down pints of this all night but have it at the end of a good night out and it will send you to bed with a grin on your face.

A Night in the Cat

Nothing makes Hophead’s little heart beat faster than the prospect of a night in the Devonshire Cat (known to Hophead as The Greatest Pub In The World TM). It’s always worth putting a large chunk of the evening aside here in order to explore what is going on in BeerWorld. Oh and before you pinch that idea – Hophead already has plans for that particular theme park. Instead of height restrictions, there will wavy lines painted on the entrance to each ride and a sign saying “You must be this drunk to go on this ride!”

On this occasion Hophead got there early on Saturday in order to catch a bite to eat. Now most students have scurried home, the place is a bit more airy and the trip through BeerWorld was relaxed and of astonishingly high quality. Beers sampled were:

Columbus IPA (Acorn Brewery) - Fresh single hopped IPA utterly delicious

Deception (Abbeydale Brewery) - Single hopped with Nelson Sauvin – just as delicious

Jaipur (Thornbridge Brewery) - A World Class Beer

Mort Subite - Another World Class Beer

Floris Chocolate - Isn’t this what helps to make beer so bloody brilliant. Of course you’re not going to down pints of this all night but have it at the end of a good night out and it will send you to bed with a grin on your face.

St Petersburg Imperial Russian Stout (Thornbridge Brewery)
If 7 C’s smacked you in the face to get your attention, this stout is just about the opposite end of the spectrum. This beer can smooth-talk its way into your panties without you even knowing until it’s too late. A true triumph of brewing. There is no harshness from the dark malts used and the sweetness disguises its true strength of alcohol (7.7% ABV). Deceptive, dangerous and delicious.

St Petersburg Imperial Russian Stout (Thornbridge Brewery)

If 7 C’s smacked you in the face to get your attention, this stout is just about the opposite end of the spectrum. This beer can smooth-talk its way into your panties without you even knowing until it’s too late. A true triumph of brewing. There is no harshness from the dark malts used and the sweetness disguises its true strength of alcohol (7.7% ABV). Deceptive, dangerous and delicious.

7C’s (Summer Wine Brewery)
Tucked away in Holmfirth near Huddersfield – known in the UK as the base for an interminably long “sit-com” about three old blokes in retirement that at times was about as funny as watching coffin’s warp. Holmfirth now has two good reasons for a visit. The excellent Picturedrome where Hophead caught an intimate gig by Steve Harley which rocked the place (sadly missed the Alabama 3 gig in June but notes Southside Johnny is there in October). Now Holmfirth is home to this brilliant brewery and what a beer they have produced in 7C’s. Brewed with seven hops (all beginning with C – guess which) to a seven percent ABV, this brew is capable of giving you seven varieties of headache if you’re not sensible. A beer which yells out its credentials before you’ve even tasted it. Nothing very subtle – just fantastic brewing.

7C’s (Summer Wine Brewery)

Tucked away in Holmfirth near Huddersfield – known in the UK as the base for an interminably long “sit-com” about three old blokes in retirement that at times was about as funny as watching coffin’s warp. Holmfirth now has two good reasons for a visit. The excellent Picturedrome where Hophead caught an intimate gig by Steve Harley which rocked the place (sadly missed the Alabama 3 gig in June but notes Southside Johnny is there in October). Now Holmfirth is home to this brilliant brewery and what a beer they have produced in 7C’s. Brewed with seven hops (all beginning with C – guess which) to a seven percent ABV, this brew is capable of giving you seven varieties of headache if you’re not sensible. A beer which yells out its credentials before you’ve even tasted it. Nothing very subtle – just fantastic brewing.

Yakima Red (Meantime Brewery) 4% ABV
Not a beer that has troubled Hophead’s radar before but what a mistake that was. This is a truly superb beer – even world class. It is a well hopped amber/red beer along the lines of Brewdog’s 5am Saint or Ballast Point’s Calico Amber. It immediately passed one of Hophead’s rules – if it brings a smile to your face and makes you giggle then it is 5 star brew. Find it and drink it – you won’t regret it.

Yakima Red (Meantime Brewery) 4% ABV

Not a beer that has troubled Hophead’s radar before but what a mistake that was. This is a truly superb beer – even world class. It is a well hopped amber/red beer along the lines of Brewdog’s 5am Saint or Ballast Point’s Calico Amber. It immediately passed one of Hophead’s rules – if it brings a smile to your face and makes you giggle then it is 5 star brew. Find it and drink it – you won’t regret it.

Sheffield
A remarkable city in so many ways – but a particular favourite of Hophead. It is of course home to the Greatest Pub in the WorldTM – namely the Devonshire Cat but as with all centres of excellence this only breeds competition and many bars have sprung up, snapping at the cat’s heels. Looking back at a weekend where Hophead did not have beer that was less than good, there are a number of significant reports to post. Firstly a stop off at The Sheffield Tap on platform 1b of the train station.

Sheffield

A remarkable city in so many ways – but a particular favourite of Hophead. It is of course home to the Greatest Pub in the WorldTM – namely the Devonshire Cat but as with all centres of excellence this only breeds competition and many bars have sprung up, snapping at the cat’s heels. Looking back at a weekend where Hophead did not have beer that was less than good, there are a number of significant reports to post. Firstly a stop off at The Sheffield Tap on platform 1b of the train station.

Wetherspoons Beer Festival Spring 2011

Hophead has been away on manoeuvres and has not had much contact with computer screens – so here are some final thoughts on the beers sampled at this year’s spring fest. Hophead’s awards are as follows.

Gold medal goes to …. Ballast Point Brewery – Calico Amber

(a stunning world class beer that must become more widely available even if this means keeping Mr Wetherspoon’s kittens hostage)

Silver medal goes to …. Oakham Brewery - Taipan

(wonderfully refreshing beer with bags of hop citrus flavours)

Bronze medal goes to …. Triple FFF Brewery – Ramble Tamble

(OK why isn’t triple FFF not FFFFFFFFF?)

Happiest beer award goes to …. Wells Brewery Banana Bread Beer

(fantastic aroma and powerful taste of bananas – made Hophead giggle with delight.)

Chameleon award for the most variable brew goes to …. Wolf Brewery – Prairie Gold.

The first pint was OK. The next time it was brilliant with a smoothness and a balance of sweet and bitterness. The third time it tasted of paper (it really did! What’s going on there?)

Nick Clegg award for the most disappointing beer – Lymestone Brewery Gaul Stone.

ABV = 5.5%. Hops = Strisselspalt, Willamette. Taste = zero, zilch, bot all. (Worthy mentions for Jenning’s – Cocky Blonde, also tasteless and Hyde’s Plum Treat, tempting aroma but no taste)

Skoda Award for the most surprising beer goes to …. Butcombe Brewery – Mendip Spring.

Although the weakest beer by ABV it packed in tons of flavour. One of the most enjoyable session beers hophead has enjoyed in a long while. (Worthy mentions for Oakham’s Taipan; Wychwood’s Elderwych and Titanic Tug Light Mild.

Joe McElderry Award for the most forgettable beer goes to …. Cairngorm Brewery – Roggen. Hophead’s notes say it was sampled but there’s no recollection of its appearance or taste. (Many worthy contentenders including Brain’s Milkwood and Bateman’s All Seasons)

As usual with beer festivals – none of the above are likely to appear as best beers voted by the public. Hophead has long realised that true talent is rarely appreciated by the masses (this is why X factor and Ant and Dec are popular – if you don’t know who Ant and Dec are then count yourself among the blessed and live a long and peaceful life)

Wetherspoon’s Beer and Cider Festival Spring 2011
Day four at the festival
Things are beginning to swing and hophead enters ‘spoons with a joyous heart. A full list of beers and tasting notes can be found at http://www.jdwrealale.co.uk
SHEPHERD NEAME EAST INDIA PALE ALE 5.0% ABV Shepherd Neame Brewery, Kent.
There was a time not long ago when hophead had an adage that “Shepherd Neame can’t make a bad beer” and then hophead found one. Luckily it seemed to be a one off experiment and hophead can’t hold a grudge with any brewery (well – most breweries). Hooray for Shepherd Neame again! This is a great beer – probably the best traditional British IPA hophead has ever had. Good blending of flavours as you would expect from England’s oldest brewers. Same again barman
 
BALLAST POINT CALICO AMBER 5.2% ABV Ballast Point Brewery, California, USA.
OMG! OMG! This is hophead’s reaction translated into teenage girl-speak. Having only recently sampled a Ballast Point beer for the first time, hophead was looking forward to trying this at the fest. And, boy this does not disappoint. Now this definitely must be the best beer at the fest – but better keep trying them, just in case. This is in the very top premier league of beers. In fact hophead can’t wait to sample this alongside Brewdog’s 5am saint. It’s just everything you’d want in an amber beer More! More! More! (in fact hophead did have another one) Buddy!
 
BATEMANS ALL SEASONS 4.2% ABV Batemans Brewery, Lincolnshire.
Having spent a couple of pleasant afternoons in the past at Bateman’s brewery, Hophead has a soft spot for them. They have brewed some pretty good beers (XXXB, GHA, Combine harvest) tho nothing outstanding. Hophead was hoping for something along the combine harvest route as this too was brewed from malt, wheat, rye and oats. But it’s just brown beer. Meh
 
ELGOOD’S SPRING CHALLENGE 4.3% ABV Elgood’s Brewery, Cambridgeshire.
The barmaid recommended this to hophead as being the best available but she was wrong. It’s sharp – in fact it leaves an acid burn in your throat rather like after you’ve been sick. Got to mark it down for that fact alone. All the bitterness comes late – long after you’ve swallowed it and it’s not that pleasant. There again it’s not really that bad either. Meh

Wetherspoon’s Beer and Cider Festival Spring 2011

Day four at the festival

Things are beginning to swing and hophead enters ‘spoons with a joyous heart. A full list of beers and tasting notes can be found at http://www.jdwrealale.co.uk

SHEPHERD NEAME EAST INDIA PALE ALE 5.0% ABV Shepherd Neame Brewery, Kent.

There was a time not long ago when hophead had an adage that “Shepherd Neame can’t make a bad beer” and then hophead found one. Luckily it seemed to be a one off experiment and hophead can’t hold a grudge with any brewery (well – most breweries). Hooray for Shepherd Neame again! This is a great beer – probably the best traditional British IPA hophead has ever had. Good blending of flavours as you would expect from England’s oldest brewers. Same again barman

 

BALLAST POINT CALICO AMBER 5.2% ABV Ballast Point Brewery, California, USA.

OMG! OMG! This is hophead’s reaction translated into teenage girl-speak. Having only recently sampled a Ballast Point beer for the first time, hophead was looking forward to trying this at the fest. And, boy this does not disappoint. Now this definitely must be the best beer at the fest – but better keep trying them, just in case. This is in the very top premier league of beers. In fact hophead can’t wait to sample this alongside Brewdog’s 5am saint. It’s just everything you’d want in an amber beer More! More! More! (in fact hophead did have another one) Buddy!

 

BATEMANS ALL SEASONS 4.2% ABV Batemans Brewery, Lincolnshire.

Having spent a couple of pleasant afternoons in the past at Bateman’s brewery, Hophead has a soft spot for them. They have brewed some pretty good beers (XXXB, GHA, Combine harvest) tho nothing outstanding. Hophead was hoping for something along the combine harvest route as this too was brewed from malt, wheat, rye and oats. But it’s just brown beer. Meh

 

ELGOOD’S SPRING CHALLENGE 4.3% ABV Elgood’s Brewery, Cambridgeshire.

The barmaid recommended this to hophead as being the best available but she was wrong. It’s sharp – in fact it leaves an acid burn in your throat rather like after you’ve been sick. Got to mark it down for that fact alone. All the bitterness comes late – long after you’ve swallowed it and it’s not that pleasant. There again it’s not really that bad either. Meh