Ben Dean-Titterrell

Politics and beer

Tag: Ale

1001 Beers: 7. Arrogant Bastard Ale

Arrogant Bastard Ale

Arrogant Bastard Ale

From: United States

Brewed by: Stone Brewing

First Brewed: 1997

ABV: 7.2%

Obtained from: Beerhawk

The first thing I noticed upon drinking this dark coloured ale was how forceful and intense the bitterness was. The writing on the can boasts of how strong and aggressive it is in a very self-aggrandising paragraph; with regards to the bitterness of the hop flavours it certainly tells the truth. The bitterness stays in the mouth and lingers a while after each sip.

Speaking of sips, this is a beer that must be consumed in small increments. Taking large gulps of Arrogant Bastard Ale would be too overpowering to be enjoyable. In such a large can this becomes a beer to drink slowly and thoughtfully, and at over 7% ABV each sip packs a punch. Despite its strength one can is unlikely to get you drunk, but I reached that point where you’re aware for some time that you’ve had a drink.

There are some very dark fruity notes to this beer as well. The fruitiness tastes most like some kind of dark berry. This brings a sweetness that in my opinion is much needed, if the bitterness was left unchecked it really wouldn’t be tolerable. This is a good bitter beer that even a fan of sweeter beers can enjoy.

I wouldn’t rush to get this beer if given the option but its still enjoyable and certainly makes its way into the list of beers I would drink again. All things considered I give this a well earned three pints.

3 out of 5

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Ben’s Brew: 1. Rivers of Amsterdam

Over the past year I’ve developed an increasing interest, and interest that has become almost an obsession, with beer. I’ve drunk and read my way to being able to make a casual, passing judgement of any beer. But at some point along the way I declared to myself that I must begin to make my own beer if I hope to increase my expertise and refine my judgement. Also, making beer sounded like fun.

So, I present here the first edition of Ben’s Brew; the tales of my attempts at brewing beer. Expect this series to be periodic and sparse, as, of course, beer takes some time to ferment. I aim to make all kinds of beer and make them all as exciting and interesting as possible. I expect failures, mishaps, and mistakes, and perhaps a decent pint or two, along the way.

Rivers of Amsterdam

My first venture into homebrewing is an amber coloured ale. It came from a basic homebrew kit my girlfriend got me for my birthday. It took about three weeks to make and it spent most of it time fermenting in a cupboard. Here’s what I did step by step to make my first homebrew.

Step 1: Disinfect everything. I shan’t bore you with this step too much, but you basically just have to clean everything so you don’t poison yourself or something.

Step 2: Next you add this weird looking mix to the large plastic tub. This was the malt extract. There were no actual fresh hops or malt grains here, but in future editions of this series I plan to use raw ingredients. The mix used for this homebrew looked and smelt like a very dark honey.

Step 3: Next I had to add 19 (nineteen!) pints of water, 3 of which had to be boiling. I go through this one kettle full of water at a time. It only took till pint 12 or so that I realised there was a second kettle next to me that I could also use. After adding the water you just mix it around with a big spoon for a while. I was surprised at just how easy this was; honestly an idiot could do it, as I hope to have proved.

Step 4: Finally you just add some yeast to make it rise like bread or ferment or something. You might be able to tell that I actually know next to nothing about brewing beer.

Step 5: Put it in a cupboard for about a week and just sit and wait around. I was meant to wait until there were no bubbles at the top of the mix but in the end I just couldn’t be arsed so moved onto…

Step 6: Siphoning! This was pretty grim because when I first sucked on the tube I got some of the liquid in my mouth (beer that hasn’t fermented is really nasty). But yeah you just siphon the mix into this big plastic cube and leave it in the cupboard again for another two weeks.

A note on “leaving it in the cupboard”: The instructions gave specific temperatures to keep the beer at but I didn’t have a thermometer or control of the temperature in the room I was using. So I just thought I’d put in a cupboard and hope of the best. Part way through the fermenting process I bought some new equipment that should make my temperatures more accurate next time around.

New equiptment

Step 7: Now I just sort of waited around for it be ready. I waited…

 

 

…and waited…

 

 

…and waited…

 

 

…and waited…

 

 

…and went on holiday to Amsterdam…

Amsterdam 1

 

 

…and waited a little more…

 

 

…and then it was ready!

So, the big question is how does it taste? Well, in a word: plain.

That’s not to say it isn’t good, it’s just so incredibly plain. The flavours were just so simple and straightforward. It was like drinking a beer that was stuck on the default settings of some kind of digital beer generator. I know that’s quite an obtuse way of putting it, but it was just so one dimensional.

But, it was drinkable and it doesn’t seem to be poisonous. I’ve had it on two occasions now and I’m neither catastrophically ill nor dead. So yeah, I made an actual beer. Regardless of how it tastes, this was, undeniably, a success.

One thing I unfortunately don’t know about the beer is how strong it is. ABV is measured by taking two readings before and after fermentation using something called a hydrometer. I only found this out part way through fermentation, so it’s impossible to know how strong my first brew really is. It feels pretty average though, my best estimate would be between about 4.5 and 5.5 percent.

And finally the name. The name comes from a conversation I had with my girlfriend when we were in Amsterdam as we were walking next to a river. It went something like this:

BEN: You see the colour of the water?

LOUISA: Yeah.

BEN: It looks like my beer.

[side note: the beer was a hell of a lot darker and greyer while it was fermenting]

LOUISA: *laughs slightly* That could be a good name for it. Rivers of Amsterdam.

So that’s that. The full story of my very first homebrew. It was great fun, really great fun, and I can’t wait to do it again. Next time there’ll be real malt grains, real hops, more flavours in the fermentation (I plan to add fruit and stuff), and hopefully another interesting name. Until then, cheers!

1001 Beers: 5. Fuller’s London Pride

Fuller's London Pride

Fuller’s London Pride

From: England

Brewed by: Fuller, Smith and Turner

First brewed: 1959

ABV: 4.7%

Obtained from: Tesco (Colchester, Essex)

When I drank my first sip of Fuller’s London Pride, I really needed a drink. I was in a frustrated and irritable mood. Someone had let me down with a bit of bad news and I really wanted something to take my mind off things. Fuller’s London Pride did exactly what I needed.

This ale was smooth and light on the palette. It wasn’t harsh on the tongue and it wasn’t so strong that it was hard to drink. I felt relaxed as I drank it, it helped clear my mind of the frustrations of recent events. The flavours were good but at the same time incredibly simple. This beer was, for lack of a better word, accessible. It was welcoming to a beginner, to those unseasoned to the nuances of ale drinking.

Bottle top

It had a lovely amber colour which glowed well in the right light. It looked like the idyllic type of ale you envision when you read “real ales” on the outside of a pub. I drank London Pride in my bedroom and feel that this was not the optimal place to drink it. This beer felt like it would be more at home in a pub, perhaps drank alongside some classic British pub food.

Fuller’s London Pride boasts that it is the UK’s favourite premium ale. As far as I’m concerned, it deserves to be just that. A high 4 out of 5.

4 out of 5