Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Call of Duty: Black Hops

Did you ever play Dungeon Master on Atari or Amiga, with its crappy graphics, naff sound, but awesome gameplay and characters like Gothmog, Sonya, Linflas and Wuuf? Remember how you felt when the dungeon's gate opened for the first time and it was just you on the edge of 14 levels of darkness and days of gamer angst? That's exactly where I am right now.

Apologies to FTL Games & Nintendo.
I'm about to start home-brewing. I've spent much of the past year prattling on about hops and malts, citrus and caramel, it's time I got to grips with the process of packing these flavours into a glass bottle. It's like I'm in the Hall of Champions about to choose my four adventurers. 

After months of negotiations, and even agreeing to move house, I have managed to secure a small cube of cupboard space just the right size for a 40-pint fermentation barrel. But winning agreement from my end-of-level bosslady was just the first stage; I also had to choose whether to go for a kit, and if so, which one.

First part was as easy as decking Dhalsim in Street Fighter: Noobs start with a kit. And seeing as I was too busy playing games in my teens and twenties to brew my own beer, solving that puzzle was easy. So I moved promptly on to: which kit.

Oh dear, there are many.

Fortunately, I have a crack.

It's the home-brew haven on Dumbarton Road. Inn House Brewery is like a real-world PokeMart. But instead of PokeBalls, potions or antidotes, it's stacked floor to ceiling with tins, tubs, barrels, flasks, bottles, and packets of yeast and hops. (For those of you sick of my shoddy videogaming metaphors, it's like an old-fashioned ironmongers, but beer and wine stuff instead of tools, screws and fuses.) 

And thankfully the vendor's more like Beedle than the Happy Mask Salesman (one hopes).  After a series of dumb questions that really did play out like a scene from Zelda, I think I'm going to accept the Cooper's Starter Kit quest. That I can swap their starter lager for a Brewmaster IPA is like an in-game special bonus. And you know what, if I muck it up and brew a bad batch I can always respawn.

(Fans of Xenon 2, and Assault on Precinct 13, this song's for you. Cx)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Are you having a Laf?

Laf steam beer by Royal Deeside
Laf steam beer by Deeside Brewery
Remember a few weeks ago, when it was blistering hot, when a part of you was thinking, it's almost too hot, when it was blue skies and wispy clouds, when every cool pint was heaven (more so than usual), when you fantasized about rain, when the office was unbearable (more so than usual) and work impossible, when it was open season for umpteen Taps Aff Young Teams and all you wanted was to get out the city and down to the beach. Remember?

Well, I was on holiday in the Hebrides with my top off drinking a cold beer on one of the world's most beautiful beaches. There wasn't a cloud in sight. With the exception of my family, there wasn't a soul in sight.

Along with buckets and spades, we were wise enough to have brought a couple of bottles of Laf on our yomp across the machair. Laf's a delicious steam beer from those stylish brewers at Deeside Brewery (you can tell they're stylish because of their use of serif and san-serif fonts on the labelling). 

You hear a lot about perfect temperatures of beer. Extra cold, 14 degrees, half-hour out the fridge, slightly chilled, cellar cool, room temperature, and so on. Following extensive research, I can reveal the perfect temperature for a beer is when said beer has been kept for an amount of time in a plastic bucket filled with sea water, kept in the shade of rocks and half-buried in the sand. The sea water must be no hotter than 14 degrees though; none of your beer-curdling Med here. Condensation on the glass is a vital component, too.

Ours poured beautifully, amber golden with a floral, zesty head that gave promise to a deeply refreshing drink. Tastewise, there was a subtle yet robust wooden or earthy background flavour, which I took to be the characteristics of the steam-brewing process. And, in the glaring sun, its prominent crisp, light hoppy taste was an absolute godsend. Deeply refreshing.     

A nomination for Beer of the Year? Definitely.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Number munching

78's set list was brought to you by the Letter J
There's a pub in Glasgow called The 78. You'd like it. It's got a fire, dark wooden tables, long sociable benches and a clutch of quality ales on tap. It's also one of the few havens for hungry vegans.

I went there on Wednesday for pints and again today for food. 

On tap they had the Williams lager, which is better than most, and the wonderful Joker, one of the finest IPAs kicking about on draft. Also on offer was Cock o' the Walk and the delicious Seven Giraffes. 

But on Wednesdays the 78 also hosts an open mic night. Like any of these nights, it's a complete mixed bag but the chilled, friendly atmosphere of 78 keeps it cool. List of performers was dominated by the letter J weirdly. Next week, if you're a Kevin, Kriss or Katrina you need to get along there. 

The impromptu end-of-the-night singalong was the standout performance of the night though. Couple of guitars, beat box, singers and a mighty tambourine made for a pleasant alternative to 'can you start drinking up please'. Hopefully this'll be more than a one-off. 

Today we went along for lunch. Had a quesadillas, which was nice enough though not as good as the ones my brother in law does. My wife had the burger. It was pretty tasty and she wrote about it here