Saturday 17 August 2013

Statistics, Damned Statisics

Untappd, like many devices which are used to rate beer it divides opinion. There are those that love it, savouring each check in and proudly showing off each newly rewarded badge as eagerly as a cub scout. There are those that loathe it, who shudder each time a newly checked in beer clogs up their twitter time line like some kind of fatberg and often vociferously make their opinions known on the matter. Me? Well I sit firmly on the fence, I'm on there and if people are actually bothered about my day to day drinking habits then you're welcome to join me but I won't be pushing my check ins to twitter any time soon. It has proved to be an invaluable tool when writing this blog, for example after I returned from my last trip to the States I had tried 107 different beers in eight days and when it came to writing about them I was able to chronologically flick back and remind myself of the experience. I've now been logging beers on Untappd for a year, so I thought I'd share with you my findings. I'm often asked what my favourite beers are and as I'm constantly changing my mind this is probably as close as you'll get to the truth, for now at least.

For the sake of accuracy, all figures are based on beers drank between the 5th August 2012 and the 5th of August 2013.

The 5 beers I've drank the most of are...

1. Magic Rock Cannonball IPA (17 Times) I think this says it all really. The best beer being brewed in the UK right now? Probably.

2. BrewDog Punk IPA (15 Times) Because it's bloody easy to get (you can buy it in that most punk of supermarkets, Waitrose) and when it's good, it's very good.

3.(=) Odell IPA (14 Times) Surprisingly the only American beer to make it into my top 5, perhaps not so surprising considering how far British brewing has come in the last couple of years.

3.(=) Thornbridge Halcyon (14 Times) Expected this to be my number one, probably would be if it was as commonplace as Jaipur.

5. Camden Pale Ale (12 Times) This beer is now on tap at nearly all of my local ale houses and that's a wonderful thing because this is a wonderful beer.

So as you can see, I appreciate my hops but at the very least I'm a man that knows what he likes.

The 5 breweries I've drank the most beers by are...

1. Brodie's (38 Beers) 38... Thirty Eight different beers in just 12 months, get a core range already! You know what, they were all pretty fantastic too, even the Mojito pale ale but not the Sake IPA. Most of these were had at the fantastic Bunny Basher festival at Brodie's Brewery Tap the King William IV in Leyton.

2. The Kernel (31 Beers) The advent of my local Oddbins stocking these beers was a wonderful thing, fresh Kernel beer delivered practically to my doorstep. Citra IPA was once again wonderful but the Biere de Table, a french style farmhouse ale, was my most quaffed Kernel beer this year, lovely stuff.

3. Odell (22 Beers) Do you remember that time my Dad didn't let me leave the tap room at Odell brewery until I'd tried every beer they had on tap? Neither do I.

4. Magic Rock (20 Beers) Quite how in their short existence Magic Rock have managed to brew twenty plus beers, each and every one as stunning as the last I'm not sure but guys, please, whatever you do, don't stop.

5. BrewDog (19 Beers) Despite their reputation for inconsistencies Brewdog haven't really let any howlers go but I'd rather have a great Punk each and every time than something different every time.

I'd say variety is the the spice of life but sometimes it's good to stick with those that you love and cherish.

The 5 most common styles of beer I've been drinking are...

1. American IPA (87 Beers) Seriously, what else did you think would have made the number one spot? 

2. Imperial/Double IPA (48 Beers) Strangely this is one of the few categories not split into 'English' and 'American' categories, probably because y'all were all too smashed up after drinking so much double IPA.

3. American Pale Ale (44 Beers) I know, I know, I'm boring and predictable.

4. English Pale Ale (29 Beers) Because sometimes only the taste of twigs is good enough!

5. Black IPA/Cascadian Dark Ale (24 Beers) Because sometimes I like to drink a beer that tastes like an IPA but doesn't look like one. I will say that a few beers in this category called themselves Black IPA but they were stouts that had been aggressively hopped, THERE IS A DIFFERENCE. On the other hand I've tried some stouts that were more like Black IPA, now I'm really confused.

According to my data I've tried 92 different styles of beer over the last twelve months, I would argue that their aren't really that many styles of beer in existence but if you'd tried 92 different styles of beer then you wouldn't be in a fit state to argue either.

The 5 places I've been the most drunk in are...

1. The Craft Beer Co, Islington (50 Check ins) Thanks to a variety of beer launches, meet the brewer events and sometimes just meeting up with good friends I've spent a lot of time in this wonderful Islington boozer. I still think that this is a pub that's not quite found its feet but it's early days yet.

2. The King William IV, Leyton (32 Check ins) The King William is a strange old place, part Brodie's brewery tap part traditional east end boozer. I don't visit this pub which is very local to me often enough but I made up for my repeated absence by getting thoroughly hammered at the annual Brodie's Bunny Basher festival.

3. The Euston Tap, Euston (26 Check ins) The Euston Tap has consistently had the best selection and best kept beer in London over the last 12 months. If it only had the cosy charm of The Southampton Arms in Kentish Town then it would probably be my favourite place to drink.

4. The Mayor of Old Town, Fort Collins, Colorado (24 Check ins) 100 taps featuring the best beers in the world in a gorgeous modern yet comfortable space. The best service and friendliest staff for miles around. Great food, great cocktails and great times. This is my favourite bar in the world.

5. Odell Brewing Company, Fort Collins, Colorado (22 Check ins) When I was a fledgling beer writer I once described the tap room at Odell as 'my beer Mecca' and I still wholeheartedly agree with that statement. This is where it all began for me.

So it's no surprise that I mostly drink in London because I live here and after that I mostly drink in Fort Collins because my Dad lives there. Looking at my statistics my home/pub ratio is about fifty fifty which I think is just about right.

Here are a few other factoids I've dredged up like some sort of Louisiana bog man.

The strongest beer I tried was Sam Adams Utopias 10th Anniversary at a whopping 29% and it was really very good but at $250 a bottle it'll be a long time before I try some again. The weakest beer I tried was Tesco Everyday Value lager which Nate left in my fridge, looks, smells and tastes like off sparkling mineral water. The beer I rated the lowest was unsurprisingly the Tesco Everyday Value lager but I also gave the dreaded half a star to Innis & Gunn Oloroso Cask which in the heat of a live blogging moment I described as 'like a mouthful of wet dirt.' The beer highest rated beer on Untappd that I've tried was Russian River Pliny the Younger which has an average score of 4.7 out of 5, nice drop it is too.

So in my 2012/13 Untappd season I checked in 1047 times and I'll be honest when I was 'sessioning' a beer all night I didn't always check it in, a shocking confession I know. I drank 680 unique beers in the last 12 months which is an average of 13.08 new beers a week or 1.86 new beers a day. For me the damning statistic is the fact that I drink on average at least 2.87 beers a day which might not seem like a lot but when you add the missing pints, the gin and tonics, the drams of whisky, the cocktails, the odd glass of port and EVEN the occasional glass of wine that's a shit-ton of booze. All this boils down to the fact that I probably, possibly, most definitely drink far too much and should probably do something about it. Has using Untappd made me drink more? I think it might have done, especially as it can be tough to have dry night when you have an app that tells you all the wonderful things your friends are necking. Does that make Untappd a bad thing? Well earlier I said that some of my blogs would've been difficult to write without it but if I didn't have it I'd probably have just used a pen and paper to meet the same ends.

Earlier I said that my opinion of this app was indifferent but I think that couldn't be further from the truth. I violently swing from loving it as a database to loathing it for revealing me as a filthy lush but still I keep coming back to it's warm and loving yellow display. Until next year then.

Sunday 4 August 2013

The North is Coming

Through blogging I've become part of a wider beer community and this has never been more apparent after the time I spent in Edinburgh at the European Beer Bloggers Conference last month. When I first started writing about beer I had less than 100 followers on twitter and the only people that read my early blogs were my Dad (who admittedly is as big a beer fiend as I am) and my close friends who don't share the same, shall we say 'enthusiasm' about beer that I do but still supported me all of the same, many of them now fans of great beer like I am. I had no idea how I was going to get people to read my blog but trying to connect with other bloggers through their own blogs and Twitter seemed like the sensible thing to do.

18 months later I can now call some of those people I started communicating with through twitter good friends and that is a wonderful thing. One of the first people that supported me through twitter was a chap called David Bishop (formerly @BroadfordBrewer on the Twitter) who is an avid homebrewer and beer blogger himself. I've watched from afar as he has accumulated awards for his homebrew which I've heard is quite excellent and often I wondered to myself if he'd ever take the plunge and go professional as it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that this is what he wants to do with his life. Well, a few months ago he DID take the plunge, forming a partnership with business and marketing know-how Russell Bisset Northern Monk Brew Co was born.

The phrase 'cuckoo' or 'gypsy' brewer gets used a lot these days which simply means that the brewery doesn't own it's own kit and borrows someone elses (Mikkeller arguably being the most well known example of this) and at the moment Northern Monk fall into this category, their inaugural brew New World IPA being created at Hambleton Ales in Ripon, Yorkshire. I was contacted by David to see if I'd like to try a bottle from this first commercial batch of New World IPA and a few days later I collected a neatly wrapped up bottle of beer from the post office. 

The first thing that immediately strikes you about this beer is the decent branding that adorns the 330 millilitre bottle, Northern Monks striking logo sitting proudly at the centre of the label. It's a well thought out piece of graphic design that would stand out proudly on the supermarket shelf with the only negative for me being the unnecessary use of the word 'craft' which I see as a bit of a stigma on new beers these days. The beer already describes it as a 'new world' style IPA and weighs in at 6.2% ABV and with this information I can already tell that it's a modern style beer that will appeal to my palate, I'm not sure the use of the word craft, which is admittedly printed in teeny tiny writing, would increase the saleability of this beer. However I will admit that I see 'craft beer' from a different and somewhat cynical perspective and understand how a person who is just discovering beer might look for beers and breweries that use the dreaded c-word.

I'm pretty excited at the prospect of being one of the first lucky people to taste this brew and after allowing it to chill overnight I crack open the bottle. The beer is golden tangerine in colour and the large, lively bubbles form a short-lived white head of foam which soon fades to leave just a halo clinging to the edge of my glass. The nose is full of candied oranges and lemons with a hint of marmalade and just a whimper of grapefruit. I'm immediately greeted by a bready sweetness on taking my first sip which is followed by mellow citrus fruit, a little white pepper and and almost grassy note. The finish is as bitter as a Yorkshireman that's just been charged more than three quid for his pint and is ever so slightly astringent, it seems to linger for an age but it leaves you gagging for another taste of this beer.

It's a very drinkable beer just as a modern IPA at this strength should be and the sweetness is very well rounded and nicely balanced by the bitter finish. My only criticism is that I like a bigger, juicer citrus flavour in India Pale Ale and although this has a little it's lost slightly behind that wall of bitterness. This is not really a negative though as I really enjoyed the beer and will be purchasing a few more bottles for further evaluation. It's exciting, for me at least, to witness the start of the next stage of the beer renaissance that the UK is entering and Northern Monk are at the forefront of this revolution. David and Russell plan to have a range of four core beers but specials will crop up from time to time, at the moment they're only brewing once a month but with beer this good I'm positive it won't be long before they're in their own brewery using their own kit and doing this gig full time.

Huge thanks to David and Russell for sending me this bottle, I wish you both the very best of success with your new venture.