A beer connoisseur for the night!

OK, so I have drunk a lot of beer in my time. I know what I like. Fuller’s London Pride (and the mighty ESB), Young’s Special, Wadworth 6X, Ringwood Forty Niner and Old Thumper, Ruddles County, Old Speckled Hen, Shropshire Lad,  Sharps Doombar: these and many more are all very fine ales. I’ll quaff lager, be it Peroni, Stella, 1664, Estrella (Barcelona!), Red Stripe (maan!) San Miguel. I think I could hold my own with a beer buff on Belgian Beers, the Trappists, Duvel, Leffe. I love a good German lager, sitting in a market square in Munich.  But I wouldn’t claim to be a connoisseur.

My friend Simon James, @gueuzel on Twitter, most definitely is. Every year he arranges a beer tasting for 50-60 friends in Ealing. He gets in six very interesting, mostly very strong beers, and invites the assembled throng to assess them. Pizza is thrown in half way through.  Simon has been hosting this with wit and passion for eight years now. This year was the first time I have been.

It was awesome!

I’m not going to go into vast detail, but I’ve got a picture of each beer and will add a sentence or two. There is a theme every year and this year all the beers were from the USA. Certainly changed my perception of the US as the home of refreshing but rather tasteless lager. (Blame Budweiser).

So here we go. Starting with a quaffer and ending up with something that could replace dessert wine after Christmas pudding!

First up. Longboard Island lager, Kona Brewery, originally from Hawaii. Very drinkable lager, with a hint of lemon. A step up from Budweiser. 4.6% strength.


2nd, Freedom (or French) Tickler, modelled on a French “Saison farmhouse” ale. From the Oskar Blues brewery, based in Colorado and North Carolina. Quite like the Belgians, to me. Cloudy, a bit like Hoegaarden. 5.8% – getting serious.


3rd, Anchor Porter Steam beer from San Francisco. The connoisseurs purred over this one. I’m not a huge fan of dark beers (until they transform into Guinness) but this was good. Consensus was that there were real chocolate flavours in this one. 5.6%.


4th, Lagunitas IPA (India Pale Ale), from the Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma, California. Cool! A very fine beer, with a grapefruit aroma and a hoppy, fruity taste. Maybe a bit too strong for quaffing, but a couple of bottles would be nice. 6.2%


(The arm in the photo is my good friend Paul, who claims he has drunk this as a session beer in America!)

5th. Trellis Garden Ale, from the Odell Brewery in Colorado. (I’m beginning to think Colorado is a good place for drinking beer!). This came in a wine-sized bottled and cost £16.42. It’s a ruby colour with a strong aroma of mint and other  herbs. It doesn’t taste minty, but has a good hoppy flavour. In the sense that the strength takes a moment to hit you, it reminded me of Duvel. It is a quality beer, to be treated with respect. 8.7%.


Last, and most, Founders Curmudgeon.  A brutal beer. Thinking about aromas, I got bread and butter pudding! It is rich and fruity, like a dessert wine, but with a hoppy underpinning. A fascinating clash of flavours. To be treated like a dessert wine in terms of the quantity drunk. 9.7%.


An educational evening.

We were sharing the cans and bottles, although I didn’t realise when we got the cans of Longboard at the start! Luckily not everyone had turned up at that point. And it was the quaffer. I was able to watch Match of the Day without falling asleep when I got home. And the Championship highlights afterwards. I hadn’t expected that!

Respect to Simon, his wife and friends, who made it all possible.

About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. I’ve written a novel called “The Decision”, a futuristic political thriller, and first of a trilogy. I’m also the author of a book on music since the 1970s called “ I Was There - A Musical Journey” and a volume of poetry about youth, “Growin’ Up - Snapshots/ Fragments”. All available on Amazon and Kindle.
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6 Responses to A beer connoisseur for the night!

  1. Simon says:

    Lovely write-up John. Churlish of me to point this out given your recollection of everything else is spot-on, but there were actually around 60 people there! It must have been the beer…

    • John S says:

      Yes, I thought 25-30 seemed a bit low, but thought I’d read that somewhere. the fact there were at least six tables, two of which had 10 people on them, somehow didn’t register! Duly edited. And thanks again for a great evening.

  2. Dood says:

    What a delightful way to spend an evening. A pretty hefty selection – and that Curmudgeon looks pretty terrifying at 9.7%….

    May not have mentioned that the Black Lion organised a brilliant evening of tasting from Fuller’s a few weeks ago. I heard about it literally at the last minute from a mate who’s on their mailing list.

    Free tasting of about twelve bitters and lagers (they brew some limited-edition stuff, as you know), starting, as you did, with lower percentages, and climbing through the ranks; an excellent accompanying talk by their Head Taster in an increasingly rowdy but hugely genial atmosphere, and free nosh from the pub thrown in. I’ll DEFINITELY let you and the usual suspects know if this happens again!

  3. dc says:

    Hey Dood- we also had a Fullers tasting at the RAC which was great fun. It must be hilarious for the host to see the audience degenerate as the evening wears on. As with John , the Porter was a highlight and I see Guinness have just released a couple of new Porters onto the market so it must be getting trendy. I enjoyed this piece as anything that strikes a blow against this dry January idea is a good news story.

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