Gude Ale: Williams Bros 80/-, Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, Thwaite’s Tavern Porter

I might have mentioned before that I’m finding my beer drinking tastes turning darker and darker. Maybe it’s the cold weather – lighter, hoppier beers seem more suited to summer somehow – or maybe it’s because it’s just that I’ve historically not drunk many dark beers, so they seem all shiny and new to me.

It might even just be that there are more of them available – I read this article a while back, about how every small brewery worth its salt is clamouring to get into a growing market for stouts and porters, which means I’m not alone in my newly developed taste for the black(er) stuff.

Whatever it is, last weekend I found myself a trio of beers darker than I would have drunk a year or so ago.

Williams Bros 80/-
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I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m a big fan of Williams Bros, so I expected this one to hit the spot. And it did, with treacle toffee very much the dominant flavour. That said, it wasn’t too sweet, and actually could have been a bit sweeter to be honest. A good beer, although not my favourite in the Williams Bros range.

Young’s Double Chocolate Stout
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It’s taken me a while to get round to trying this which is surprising given how highly my brother-in-law has spoken of it. I’m glad to say it lived up to the hype, with big chocolate/coffee flavours and a lovely creamy feel to it. I think Bateman’s Mocha is probably still my top coffee/chocolate beer to date, but this comes a close second.

Thwaite’s Tavern Porter
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The blurb on the label about Elizabethan taverns should, perhaps, have made me suspicious – the porter style of beer isn’t documented until the 18th century, long after Good Queen Bess’s time – but I didn’t think about that until later. Historical inaccuracies aside, the beer wasn’t that exciting. Not unpleasant, but nothing memorable either, and not one I’d rush to drink again.

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Gude ale keeps my heart aboon!

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Last year, 2012, was all about change in our house. The goal of that change was losing weight, and although I’ve achieved what I was hoping to, I’m determined not so slip back into old habits and undo all that hard work. That’s made easier, of course, by the fact that Gem still has weight she wants to lose, but we’re both viewing the changes we made last year as being a permanent, rather than temporary, state of affairs. This was never so much about a “diet” as it was a lifestyle change.

One of the changes we made was to drink less alcohol. Not that we were ever heavy drinkers, you understand, although I bet everyone says that. But a cheeky couple of beers on a Tuesday night here, and few glasses of wine there soon adds up. I suspect many people, like us, consumes more than they’d like to admit. And the calories in those drinks tend to go uncounted, making it all too easy to pile on the pounds while maintaining a pretty healthy fruit and veg laden diet. I speak from experience.

Beer is a particularly bad offender, so it was definitely something that required a change. Step one was stopping buying boxes of whatever American or European lager was on offer in the supermarket – those beers are just too easy to drink, because not only are they relatively inexpensive, but because they don’t really taste of much. Rather than denying myself altogether, though, I decided to indulge my taste for better quality craft beers and real ales, but in more limited amounts.

Essentially I swapped quantity for quality, and I have to say it wasn’t that difficult a change to make. Not when the range of quality beers available these days is pretty good. And it’s getting better all the time, with new craft breweries, craft beer pubs and specialist beer shops springing up all the time.

Of course it’s always tempting to stick with the things you love. Once you find a beer, or a brewery, you love, it’s easy to stop trying new things. And so, at the start of the year, I made it my aim to try as many new beers as possible. So far, this year, I’ve drunk 22 beers that I’d never had before. They’re listed here, if you’re interested. Most have been decent, a few outstanding, and only one or two being a disappointment. However…

Whilst I’ve kept a record of which new beers I’ve tried, and for reasons unknown even to myself have taken photos of pretty much all of them, I’ve not kept a note of what they were like.

I think this needs to change, so beginning very soon, probably next week, I’m going to try my hand at reviewing beers here on the blog. This is something I might be absolutely rubbish at – I know I’m not very good at writing about music, something else that I love. but I’m going to give it a go anyway. How bad can it be?

Cheers!

Incidentally, the beer pictures at the top of this post was one I had at the weekend, and was one of the aforementioned disappointments. Alba Scots Pine Ale by Williams Bros is one I’ve been wanting to try for a while. Maybe it was a bad bottle, but it didn’t pour well at all and lost any head it might have started off with very quickly. The beer was syrupy tasting, pretty flat beer with only very slight hints of the pine and spruce that had been used in its brewing. I’d give it another go, right enough, because the rest of the internet seems to love it. But I won’t be rushing to do so. Which is a shame, because I’ve loved everything else I’ve had from Williams Bros.

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Another year over, a new one just begun

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Crown and Anchor, Welby. Perfect for a New Year's Day pint

I found myself thinking about Yoko Ono in the shower this morning. No, nothing like that, it was the Christmas song she did with John Lennon that popped into my head, specifically the line where she wishes us “a happy new year… without any tears”.

Wishful thinking, and more than a little naive I reckon. As a parent of two pre-schoolers (something I won’t be able to say this time next year!) I’d settle for a day without tears. Maybe one day, but I don’t think it will come any time soon. Certainly not in 2013!

The year just gone had plenty of tears, but none of them were over anything serious. Unless you count being denied an extra biscuit or not getting to watch another Spongebob before bed as serious!

For the grown ups, 2012 was a successful year. Between us, Gem and I lost over 10 stone in weight – that’s a whole person! I also ran my first 10k road race, and in a pretty good time from what everyone tells me. And I set up this here blog, joining an awesome online community in the process, something which culminated in this wonderful video at the tail end of the year.

So now, as a new year dawns, it’s time to set some new goals, and this is something I’ve thought long and hard about, if only to make sure that I’m aiming for something that’s actually achievable – I’m a busy guy! Here, then, in no particular order, are my goals for 2013:

  1. Read at least 12 books

    I tried this a couple of years ago, and failed miserably, so I’m hoping for a better result this time around. 12 books… that’s one a month. Shouldn’t be too hard, right? If I got the train to work it wouldn’t be a problem, but driving every day limits my opportunities for reading. Of all my challenges, i think this might actually be the toughest.
  2. Run more
    I’m planning to run at least two 10ks this year, and to improve on the PB of 52:31 that I set in 2012. In fact, I’m aiming for a sub 50 minute 10k, but I think that’s going to depend on how soon I get back into it – I’m currently resting out a groin strain. Fingers crossed I can get out on the road in the next week or so, and hopefully the this one will fall into place.
  3. Write more regularly
    After a strong start, my blogging rate fell away over the summer, and the NFL season almost killed it entirely. It’s not tha I’ve struggled for things to write about, it’s been more a question of time management. Like the reading, though, I’m hoping to do a better job of making time in 2013. How well I do at that will, of course, be evident right here.
  4. Drink more beer
    I like beer, probably too much if I’m being honest. Something that made a big difference in the great diet of 2012,though, was substituting quality for quantity. Gone are the days of pickin up a case of whatever the supermarkets have on offer. Instead, I’m making more of an effort to seek out beers I’ve never drunk before, and savouring them. As a result, I’m drinking less overall, and that’s something I’m keen to continue in 2013. I might even write about some of the beers I’ve sampled!
  5. Make more beer
    This kind of goes hand in hand with the last item, and like so many of these, it’s something I’ve been saying for years but not actually managed. I did make my own beer once, so I’ve got all the kit. Finding room for the barrel while it ferments, out of the reach of The girls, that’s the biggest challenge.
  6. Take at least one picture every day
    I’ve seen a few folk do this over the last couple of years, and I like the idea a lot. The shot at the top of tis post is day one – we’ll see how I get on over the next 12 months

So those are my goals for 2013. I’m sure I’ll come up short on some, but hopefully I succeed on some, and find myself this time next year looking back on a successful 12 months.

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Little old wine drinker me

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Gem was away this weekend, catching up with old friends, leaving me in sole charge of the little’uns. On the basis of my first full day alone with them, I must admit to being a little nervous. 

But I’m pleased to report that aside from a slight dent to my pride (Mummy apparently cooks everything better than me… which is undeniably true, but I don’t need to hear it after every meal) the weekend has gone without a hitch. And, more importantly, without any A&E trips!

So I’m now kicking back and enjoying a well deserved beer. Although if looks could kill, I might not be here to enjoy it. You see, according to at least one Sainsbury’s shopper, I committed a cardinal sin.

I took the girls down the beer aisle! And bought beer!

Picture the scene… I’ve had a look at the ales, picked out a few I’ve not tried, and am just putting 3 bottles in the trolley when Daddy Lion – they toy Megan loves more than anything in the world – appears in front of me. A fellow shopper had very kindly picked him up from the floor. “Thanks very much” I said. I might as well not have bothered, because what I got back was a stony silence, and a look of disgust which I can only put down to my being near alcohol with two small children. A simple “You’re welcome” would have been sufficed!

This reminded of a conversation Gem was having at the nursery gates a few weeks ago, about drinking in front of the kids. The consensus amongst the other mums seemed to be that this was a big no-no, although effing and jeffing in front of the same kids is apparently perfectly acceptable, judging by what happens ever day at those gates. Gem stayed quiet, not feeling confident enough to admit to enjoying a beer or two, or a few glasses of wine while the kids are about.

Oh the horror! Just imagine… drinking… in front of the children. You just wouldn’t, would you?

Well, actually, yes, I would. In fact, only last week I got myself in a conversation with Heather about how beer is made. A conversation which kind of petered out when she asked what yeast was, and the best answer I cold come up with was “magic stuff”.

I just don’t see what the big deal is – I know we need to encourage a responsible attitude to alcohol in our kids, but surely pretending that booze doesn’t exist is NOT the way to achieve that? In fact, I’d argue that seeing us enjoying a drink or two, without falling over drunk, is exactly the way to do things – lead by example, and show them that drinking isn’t all about getting as drunk as you can. Isn’t that how it works in other parts of Europe? Y’know, the parts that we’re constantly hearing don’t have problems with binge drinking and teenagers destroying their livers on a regular basis.

There are, of course, drawbacks to this approach… like the time Heather saw her first Coca Cola Christmas ad and said “look, Daddy, Santa is drinking a beer!” Cue hasty explanation that other drinks come in small bottles…

So is it us that’s wrong? Should we be pretending to our girls that beer, wine, whisky etc don’t exist? Are we setting the girls up for a future life that involves getting wasted on the cheapest booze they can get their hands on? I’d love to know what you think – the comment box is at the bottom of the page.

Oh, and in case you’re interested, the Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference IPA isn’t a bad pint, although it’s no Brewdog. But then, what is?

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Drinking water to stay thin

Or, in my case, to get thin. Well, not exactly thin, just… less un-thin. Yes, I’m on a diet.

I’ve been resisting writing about The Diet until I had hit some kind of major milestone. To be honest I have no idea why that was the case, but it was. Maybe I was scared that by talking about it I might somehow jinx things. But now I am writing about it, so I must have hit that milestone, right? Right!

Since The Diet began, just over six weeks ago, I have lost…… insert drumroll here….. just over a stone! That’s 14lb if you’re American, or 6.35kg if you’re from just about anywhere else. Whichever way you measure it, it’s a significant weight loss, and I’m pretty pleased with myself for achieving it.

But there’s still a fair old way to go. Believe it or not, the weight I’ve lost thus far only just nudges me from obese into overweight, according to the Body Mass Index (BMI). Now, I know BMI isn’t the be-all and end-all, and that various medical folk disagree with various aspects of it, but it’s probably as good an indication as anything of where I should be aiming for.

My ultimate goal isn’t to be in the “normal range” (BMI between 20 and 24.9) – I reckon I’d be a bit too skinny for my liking, and anyway, Wikipedia tells me that health-wise, it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Instead, I’m aiming for somewhere in the bottom half of “overweight”. Of course, once I get there I might change my mind, but that’s my long-term goal at the moment.

So what’s my secret? What have I changed? Well, actually not very much. In fact, I think the changes could be boiled down to three things:

  • More Exercise We’ve cracked out the Wii Fit again, and mostly been good at sticking to a reasonable exercise programme. I know it doesn’t burn a huge amount of calories, but something is better than nothing, and it’s cheaper and easier (with 2 small people to think about) than going to the gym!
  • Less beer No more cheeky wee beer(s) with midweek dinner is helping a lot, and at the weekends I’m being much more selective in what I drink – if I’m going to limit myself, I might as well drink something better than whatever is on offer in the supermarket, right?
  • Diet meals Gemma has joined Slimming World, and as a result has learned a lot of ways to make the food we already eat friendly enough to eat on The Diet. And the best part is everything still tastes great, and there’s plenty of it. What more could you ask for?

My next target is a nice round number which modesty prevents me from sharing, but I’m hoping to get there some time in mid to late April. If I keep losing weight at the rate I am currently, I could get there even sooner. Who knows, I might even need a new summer wardrobe!

I should also mention that Gemma, who’s doing even better than me, is documenting our diet journey in much greater detail, over at Greetings from Dietville. Why not head over there, and leave her some encouraging words?

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!