Thursday, 31 July 2014

How To Make The Perfect Cup Of Tea*

Photo from Ute under CCL
*Well, according to me anyway. And why wouldn’t you listen to me? I’m great.

Tea is a (sort of) British institution that has been a part of our culture for hundreds of years. There’s many different types of tea and each one should be brewed differently. Today, however, we’re focusing on the everyday 'English breakfast' brew that we as Britons drink millions of cups of every day.

Milk before brew?

First things first. Don’t ever ever ever EVER put the milk in first. It makes the tea taste like sadness - besides, you never how much milk you need until the water is actually in the cup.  SO WHY WOULD YOU DO IT?!

Speaking of water, it needs to be at boiling point when you pour. If it’s too cold you won’t get the proper flavour extraction. And it means there's less time for biscuit dunking.

Keep Steeping

So, the kettle's boiled, the tea bag is in, the water has been poured, and now comes the easiest part - literally doing nothing. You need to leave it to steep for 2-3 minutes to get the full amount of flavour and tannins out of the bag. On the good side, you can use this down time to decide which biscuit to accompany your perfect tea...

Don’t even mention the words rich tea because I will slap you. Two seconds in the cup and it’s lying in a soggy mess at the bottom. The chocolate digestive is clearly the way forward (hobnobs are also good, but so absorbent you will end up only drinking half of your brew) and I will also accept custard creams. Party rings at a push.

Milk it 

So it’s perfectly steeped and you have your biscuit of choice. What now? Take the teabag out? NO! LEAVE IT IN YOU WEIRDOS! Next, do your milk (if you so desire - although drinking everyday tea black is also bonkers).

If you've run out of the milk you like (i.e skimmed, blates) never EVER think you can get away with using a different type of milk. If you're used to full fat, skimmed will feel like you're adding white water. If you're used to skimmed, anything more will feel like you've got yoghurt in your brew. Eurgh.

Generally you only need a small splash, but if you want to be picky I think the perfect amount is about 50ml - basically, your tea should be a light brown colour. Now you can take your tea bag out and give it a squeeze on the side of the mug just to be sure. 

Sweet enough?

The final part is optional and a topic of great discussion. Sugar? However much you have, just make sure you stir it, and stir it well. What, you thought it would dissolve itself? Idiot. You’ll end up with nothing but a sickly sweet bottom half, and all your teeth will be crying.

If you’re trying not to be fat you can also use those minuscule sweetener tablets which actually do work very well, although apparently some people think artificial sweeteners might end up killing us all. I'd probably stick with the sugar...

So there you have it - all the tools you need to make the perfect brew and shoot down anyone who says otherwise. Now go put the kettle on, milk and one please.

Do you agree with Sam's pernickety rules for the perfect cuppa? Let us know your best brew tips in the comments!

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Koko Kanu: The UK's Only True Coconut Rum

Where I work summer is drawing to an end, most people have been on their holidays and we are starting to talk about Christmas, all the new wines and products we'll have. It's only a little bit depressing. I am able to partially ward off the feelings of the inevitable as I am still to flee to warmer climes, but I need a little help getting through.

I have been sent a wonderful rum to really get me back in the summer mood. Koko Kanu is the UK's only true coconut rum, any rum can get me in brighter spirits but the light and fruity styles that are perfect for cocktails are even more likely to get me in a summery mood. Kok Kanu comes from Jamaica, is a clear rum having seen no maturation to retain all the tropically fruity goodness and is nicely affordable at £19.99 to add to that.

On the nose there are bundles of coconut, pineapple and tropical fruits with sugar cane and caramel coming through. This smells just like a Mai Tai, the nose is so rich, fruity and sweet, it's so inviting.

On the palate Koko Kanu is unsurprisingly sweet and smooth - it really coats the mouth with an almost syrupy mouthfeel. There is just so much flavour of coconut with perhaps a little banana. For me this is best drunk over ice as whilst the sweetness is great it can be a little cloying without that icy freshness (besides, who wants to drink warm rum in this weather?!)

This is a really nice white rum, there is so much sweet fruit flavour and it does have a very nice texture and a surprising amount of body. It is very good on its own over ice, but is even better as part of a cocktail, be it Mai Tai, Daquiri or Mojito. Speaking of which, here's Koko Kanu's very own mojito recipe!

Koko Kanu Mojito

  • 50ml Koko Kanu
  • 1/2 a lime cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 tsp Caster sugar
  • Soda water
  • 6 mint leaves
  • Crushed ice
  1. Add the limes to a tall glass followed by the sugar and a dash of soda water
  2. Press the limes with a muddling stick
  3. Add the mint followed by crushed ice
  4. Add the rum and stir gently
  5. If required add a little more soda or sugar
  6. Top off with a little more crushed ice and garnish with mint

Koko Kanu caqn be bought from The Whisky Exchange for £19.15

Review: Clearspring Organic Japanese Tea (and Matcha Tea Explained)

I never really thought I was one of those people that got on with fancy or 'alternative' teas - I wasn't really interested unless it was an average mug of English breakfast - and I certainly didn't drink tea without milk. The horror!

But I've been being a bit more adventurous recently - giving stuff like chamomile, jasmine and green teas a go - and when Clearspring offered to send me some green tea and matcha tea, I was very eager to give it a try.

Matcha Tea

I was especially excited about matcha tea - the tea that's been so much in the press in recent years for its wonderful health benefits.

If you're a matcha-newbie, then here's the basics: Matcha tea is basically green tea, but the green tea leaves are ground up to form a very concentrated powder. Its powder form means that when you add it to boiling water to make your cuppa, you'll be drinking the entire leaf, not just whatever the tea leaves infuse into the water. This is what makes matcha tea so healthy in comparison - you get allllll the goodness of the leaf.

It might be a relatively recent trend in the UK, but it's been enjoyed in Japan for centuries.

Matcha tea (see below)

So what's so good about it?

As well as containing a HUGE amount of antioxidants (like tons more than gojiberries and all those other antioxidant-rich foods) it also gives a steady release of energy (way better than the short bursts you get from coffee) and it can help with weight loss and healthy skin. It's also rich in things like potassium and protein - basically, it's way healthier than regular tea.

So, what does it taste like? Here's my review of the matcha tea - along with the two other green teas Clearspring sent me to try.

Clearspring Organic Sencha Green Tea (£3.59,

This is a perfect example of how a truly good green tea is one part high-quality product, and one part reading the instructions. I'd always thought green tea was a bit muddy tasting and bitter, but it turns out all it takes to correct this is:

1. Using a good quality type of green tea - such as Sencha (the type Clearspring uses) - which is made from the first or second 'flush' of tea leaves, which are exposed directly to sunlight rather than kept in the shade. It's also organic. Just like any kind of tea, coffee, or beverage in general, higher quality stuff brings nicer results, on the whole.
2. Brewing it right: once the water is boiled, leave it to cool for one minute before adding the tea bag. Then let the tea bag steep for one to two minutes - any less and it will taste of nothing, any more and it will release too many tannins and start to taste bitter.

The result is a subtle, refreshing tea with delicate aromas. It's much lighter in style than any other tea I've tried, but I found it very soothing in this hot weather!

Also great in our Lime and Green Tea Martini recipe!

Clearspring Organic Green Tea with Roasted Rice (Genmaicha) - £3.41, The Health Bay

Adding rice to the tea blend sounds a bit nuts, but once I'd tried it, I understood why it works. Once I'd brewed it in exactly the same way as the green tea, I immediately could smell a stronger, more nutty, fuller aroma (kind of like popcorn kernels!), and that followed through on the taste. It was still fresh, but slightly more fulfilling and comforting. Better for colder weather, and also made me feel fuller for longer - although I don't know if there's any real reason for that...!

Clearspring Organic Matcha Powder (£15.99, Bodykind)

This ceremonial grade (aka 'super good') matcha tea is slightly trickier to make. Again, it's best to add the tea (a quarter of a tsp of the powder) to water that's been left to cool for a minute (or not fully boiled in the first place), but then you really do need to give it a whisk with a hand-whisk.

A spoon simply won't dissolve the powder, and I found even the whisk doesn't do so fully, but the result of whisking it is a much smoother texture. If you can still see small fragments of powder in the tea, I wouldn't worry - you can't taste them or feel them when you're sipping it at all!

And the taste? Again, it's light, refreshing and not in the slightest bit bitter - very pleasant for such an ominous shade of green! It really does feel healthy, and the slow-release caffeine kept me alert for much longer than a coffee normally does.

All in all, I'll definitely be drinking more green tea from now on, and I was especially fond of the matcha.  What's your experience with matcha tea? Tell us in the comments! And let us know what your go-to brew is - we're dying to try more!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Top of the Hops: Beer and Music

Photo: Elena Norbiato (CCL)
Lennon & McCartney. Slash and Axl Rose. Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love… Music’s history is full of dynamic and turbulent relationships. Relationships that aren’t always healthy, but nonetheless are integral to success and productivity. There is no smoke without fire. There is no Liam without Noel. There are no Stones without Jagger!

And one of the most dynamic duos in the music industry is the relationship between music and alcohol, and in particular, beer. This is an unstable history; alcohol has been the downfall of many a musician who can’t control their addictive personalities, but in (fairly) moderate amounts alcohol can heighten the experience of music; for the audience, the musicians and everyone working with it.

Beer creates bravado, loosens inhibitions, boosts confidence and can be responsible for wild and wacky ideas, brilliant solos and terrible Middle-8’s. It can also devastate lives if we're talking about the many musicians that have succumbed to alcoholism, but I'm just talking about drinking socially and in moderation.

One of the most exciting partnerships in the brewing industry at the moment is the number of musicians and bands brewing their own beer in collaboration with breweries. Artists are realizing that beer can be a great merchandising venture, and that a beer can be created to reflect a band's personality and music style. It can also provide a great alternative revenue stream in an industry constantly looking to make up for the loss of royalties without having to tour incessantly.

People who are educated in music are often educated in what they drink, and there is a real ‘stand up and fight’ attitude to tasteless corporation lagers emerging. These are the faceless brew conglomerates that sponsor major events that you are ultimately forced to drink due to lack of variety. If you were given the option to drink your favourite bands’ beer at their concert, you would, wouldn’t you?

Bands and artists that have released their own beer include Frank Turner, Iron Maiden, Kiss, Elbow, Professor Green, Status Quo, Mastadon, and the list is ever-growing. But are they any good? Which one is top of the hops? Which bands’ beer has the X Factor? Sorry, enough of the puns.

Folk artist Frank Turners ‘Believe is more a modern pale ale than classic wheat beer as advertised. It’s fresh with medium bitterness and some residual yeast. It’s pleasant, with a little wheat sweetness and some, but not too much zesty orange. 7/10

Charge’ by Elbow is the bands’ second beer. Much like a disappointing second album, this one fails to live up to its predecessor ‘Build A Rocket Boys’. It’s a fairly uneventful, amber-coloured ale with bittersweet, biscuity malt. 4/10
Elbow's Charge beer is available at ClassicAles for £17.99 per dozen

Arguably the best thing they’ve ever released, Status Quo’s ‘Piledriver is a rich English Best-Bitter. It’s got some treacle and dark fruit flavours, and is quite floral on the nose. 6.5/10
Piledriver is also available at Classic Ales for £17.99 per dozen

As subtle as a wall of noise, Mastodon’s ‘Black Tongue’ is an invasive double Black IPA. Unapologetic and ruthless, this is a beer that reflects its bands’ style. Big, sweet and bold tropical fruit flavours with a burst of bitterness. Absolutely relentless, but pretty good. 8/10

It’s no surprise that KISS, the masters of band merch, have a beer. Destroyeris a pale ‘pils’ style lager. It tastes of very little, with the corny sweetness common in cheap lagers. 2/10
Available at Uvinum for £2.67 per bottle

British rapper Professor Green’s ‘Remedy is an excellent late-hopped West-Coast pale ale. Refreshingly clean and bitter, with very ‘green’ aromas of grapefruit zest and British hops. Clear winner. 9/10
Available at Signature Brew for £8.99 per case of four

Like musicians are doing, concert promoters and venues should look at ways to indulge their audiences. They should take pride in their events, and that means that the entire experience should justify the ticket price. Audiences are fed up of the tasteless and faceless lager giants who have monopolised festivals and concerts for the past 20 years. People want variety. Imagine a beer festival at Glastonbury. Imagine that!

Luckily, we’re seeing the first signs of change. Iron Maiden’s beer Trooper was the official beer of Sonisphere 2014. The show was the last on their world tour, having played to 2 ½ million fans. Robinsons, the UK brewery responsible for Trooper, has already brewed over 5 million pints, and half of that is to fulfil export orders. This is true testament to the avid following of one of the world’s biggest metal bands, and shows that audiences really do care about what they drink and that they do have a choice.

I’m very open to music in the same way I’m open to trying new beers. Not every one will be a winner, some are definitely better than others, but there is a definite correlation between brewing and the music industry. On one side you have the massive corporate machines churning out boy bands to the uneducated masses (the equivalent of Coors Light or Carlsberg) and then you have the underground indie and house artists without the enormous marketing budgets (your cool, unashamedly hip Craft Beers).

For me it’s the perfect musical duo. Beer doesn’t argue and storm off stage. It is never late to a gig. Beer will never argue with you about who gets mechanical royalties, or break up with you due to ‘musical differences’.

As Frank Zappa once said ‘you can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline’. Musicians are out for world domination. Watch out for Iron Maiden Airways…

Monday, 28 July 2014

Lager & Lime is DEAD. RIP Lager & Lime. Here's Its Replacement...

Photo: Jirka Matousek (CCL)

The British Summer is a funny beast isn't it? Sun...Rain....Sun....Lots of Rain.

After all the confusion, you're going to need a drink, and sometimes you just want a quick slurp of a shandy or a neck of lager & lime. Well unfortunately, nobody told you, but the lager & lime is dead, killed off by a much superior cordial. (Well, according to me...)

Introducing the Lager & Lime's successor: The Lager & Elderflower.

Now, I know what you're thinking; since when did lager go all soppy on us? And believe me, I get a LOT of stick from people when I drink it. But it's SO GOOD. So much better than lager with lime, and I LOVE lime! Hence the massive Rennie cupboard in my kitchen...

It's the most simple of cocktails, and most (good) pubs now stock an Elderflower cordial for a whole host of purposes - Gin & Tonic, Elderflower & Soda, Pimm's with Elderflower are but a few.

I'm not going to teach you to suck eggs with a recipe (just slug in however much of the cordial you want) I'm just enlightening you, hopefully enhancing your world and making your life much, much sunnier & more flowery.

So, grab a lager and a bottle of Elderflower cordial (Belvoir do a great one and it's on offer at 2 for a fiver at Tesco until tomorrow!), and mix yourself some liquid sunshine.

Win! Leaning Tower of Pisa Espresso Cups!

I'm just back from a blissful holiday and to cheer myself up I thought it was about time for another little giveaway here at Vinspire.

Unfortunately, my travels didn't make it as far as my beloved Italy (I got as far as Norfolk), but now I can basically pretend I'm there thanks to these cute Leaning Tower of Pisa Cups from Menkind! (I can also pretend I'm a giant...)

As soon as I saw them they made me smile - they're basically cute little white ceramic cups that are perfect for an espresso or dips, but when they stack they form a brilliant wobbly homage to a certain well-loved leaning tower.

Photo: Justin Ellis (CCL)
They might look a little on the unsteady side (yep, I was worried too), but their design means there's no chance of them toppling over, (much like the real tower, I suppose...) so they'll be safe to show off on your kitchen side. And if you can't afford to visit the actual tower, now you can take one of those 'look, I'm holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa' selfies in your own home... Just me? Oh, okay.

As a major Italy fan (and someone who is actually part Italian, not that I've mentioned that a million times or anything) I just think they're super cute and I'd love to bring them out for after dinner espressos or green tea when I have friends over.

Come to think of it, I could think of a fair few friends they'd be the perfect gift for - which is handy, because they're only £19.99 for the whole stack of six. So it gets a big TICK for value for money too.

I think you get the idea for how much I love them now, and when I saw them I asked Menkind if they'd let us give one of them away and they kindly agreed, so here's your chance to win a set of these Leaning Tower of Pisa cups of your very own!

To enter, please just do any (or all!) of the following:

  • Share this post on Twitter using the hashtag #VinspireMenkind or retweet our giveaway tweet.
  • Like the giveaway post on our Facebook page (and be a liker of our page!) and comment underneath the post telling us what your favourite thing about Italy is.
  • Comment under this post telling us your favourite thing about Italy.
The competition is open until Tuesday 5th August at noon - we will pick an entry at random and announce the winner by Wednesday 6th August. Good luck!

(Small print: This giveaway is only open to UK residents (sorry, overseas readers!) and entrants must be aged 18 or over. The giveaway closes at midday on Tuesday 5th August and late entries will not be accepted under any circumstances. You may enter once each on Twitter and Facebook, but any further entries will be disqualified. The Leaning Tower of Pisa cups were donated to Vinspire by the lovely guys at Menkind and they have in no way paid us for our opinions - we contacted them to ask about a giveaway after we fell in love with the cups! Unfortunately, none of the Vinspire team is eligible to win the prize (boo!). The winner has 24 hours to come forward, or we'll give the prize to someone else (sorry!) If you have any questions, feel free to email us.)

Outstanding Natural Spirits: Cotswolds Distillery Launch

Last week, Tuesday 22nd July, I was lucky enough to go to the launch of England's newest whisky makers, Cotswolds Distillery. A handful of local media, whisky buffs and bloggers were invited to have a little snoop around the site and hear firsthand what plans they’ve got up their sleeves.

Nestled amongst the picturesque Cotswold countryside in Stourton, you can't help but appreciate the site's beauty (look at the pictures, you'll understand). It’s pretty clear that a lot of money has been put into this project; it’s a whopping £4m investment with two buildings set on five acres of land.
The founder, Daniel Szor, kicked off the evening by saying a few welcoming words, and explaining how it all came about.. I’ll cut it short. Basically, after being a whisky lover for over 20 years, Dan had ventured to New York’s Whisky Live – he’s a Big Apple Boy himself – and it was the first time he’d noticed such a large amount of Craft Distillers. He already owned a holiday home in the Cotswolds (just down the road from the site) and one day, gazing out of the window, he saw fields of golden barley swaying in the wind. Like a light bulb moment, the idea of Cotswolds Distillery was born. A gentle nudge, or rather a “What the bloody hell are you waiting for?!” from his friend Jim McEwan at Bruichladdich, and everything started falling into place very quickly. Before he knew it, the stills were on order and Dan was gathering a good workforce.

Alex Davies, formerly of Chase Distillery, has taken the role of Head Distiller; a promising start. Shaun Smith is Head Brewer and Assistant Distillery Manager, and Nick Franchino is Assistant Distiller. Dan’s managed to get three pretty bloomin’ awesome mentors on board too; Bowmore famed Harry Cockburn, whisky troubleshooter Jim Swan, and the godfather of branding Craig Mackinlay. Let the spirits commence!

Taken from Cotswold Distillery news
Traditional Forsyth copper pot stills were an absolute must, and with a huge waiting list, they weren’t expecting to get up and running any time soon. Then by some twist of fate, the phone rang bearing good news of a 2014 order cancellation that would be ready in June; clearly, it was meant to be.We all know that making whisky requires a minimum of three years, so what do they plan to do in the meantime?.. Quenching people’s thirst with an artisan gin!

You might sigh at the thought of that, there are flippin’ loads of gins on the market at the moment – you’ll probably have seen our numerous posts about them (here) – so do we REALLY need more? Assuringly, Cotswolds Distillery have made it clear that they don’t want to create ‘just another one’; they’ve chosen to focus on wild, locally-sourced, unique Cotswold botanicals. It will be a drink full of heritage and provenance; a gin with a purpose.

With the help of botanist Benedict Pollard, the team are in the process of building a single-botanical distillate library housed in a swanky tasting room/lab get up. The list is 150+strong, including things such as lavender (my fave out of the ones we tried), lemon balm, and pink peppercorns (the more unusual ones were kept under wraps), and it’ll serve as a guide explaining how botanicals react during distillation. The library will be an essential tool for recipe development, and the Cotswolds Distillery Gin is intended to be available in the coming months.

So back to the whisky.. The barley they’ve ordered is organically-farmed from a 2013 harvest just 20 miles south of the site, at Bradwell Grove Farm, and it will be floor-malted by hand at Warminster Maltings. The spirit will be left to do its thing in first fill American bourbon casks, and they intend on the whisky being unpeated with strong notes of barley sugar, honey and vanilla.

Distillation will be taking place this autumn, meaning its first release will be ready in time for Christmas 2017. They’ve already started taking pre-orders for this ‘Limited Edition Bottling – Organic Odyssey’, priced at £44.95. There are only 5000 bottles available, and the speedy first 500 receive an invitation to the distillery’s third birthday/release party.. Who doesn’t love a party?

If you’re feeling flush, or more likely, rally some troops to go in with you, there are a number of casks for sale, which you can go and fill yourself at Cotswolds Distillery later this year. It’s £2995, which includes 5 years ageing (the annual storage charge is £25 after that) and you get the opportunity to taste a sample drawn straight from your cask every year. It’s a great chance to play a part in this exciting project and be a part of the Cotswolds Distillery story.

From what I’ve seen and heard, I’d keep those peepers peeled on this one; liqueurs, brandies, rye whisky and bourbon were all talked about too, and considering they have a few years to play around with recipes, Cotswolds Distillery will most certainly be having fun perfecting their spirits.

We wish them every success.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Friday Cocktail: The Irish Apple

Ah, long, hot, balmy evenings, how I love you.

Seeing as our beautiful British summer is at its peak, I've spent the day longing for a refreshing, fruity cocktail with a little something-something (I believe this is pronounce "suh-in suh'in" if you're cool) to give it an invigorating kick.

When we told you about Wild Geese Irish Whiskey a couple of weeks back, we were seriously impressed by their tasty creations, and they've been kind enough to send us another epic cocktail to see you through this glorious summer night.

It's super easy but big on flavour, and drinking it feels a bit like putting a hazy, satisfyingly chilled out Instagram filter onto your entire life. You can learn how to make it by viewing the video above, or have a read of the recipe below:

The Irish Apple cocktail recipe


1. Mix the Classic Blend whiskey, dry cider and apple & rhubarb juice by ‘rolling’ them in a cocktail shaker. 
2. Pour into a highball glass and float a large ice ball on top. 
3. Add the Kamms & Sons to create a bittersweet taste and - if you've got time - garnish with a crab apple and apple blossom. Drizzle fresh caramel over the garnish for the final touch.

If you haven't got crab apples to hand, use a slice of fresh apple and drizzle a little caramel sauce on that.

Wild Geese Classic Blend is available from The Whisky Exchange for the web exclusive price of £18.45.

The Crusher Pinot Noir

I know, I know, and I’m very sorry, but it’s another American booze post again. I can’t help myself, I’ve got Yank fever! (In the wrong context that could sound horrendous). Having drunk my way through the majority of California’s wine regions I’ve yet to find something that I didn’t like. Well…there was one instance with a certain wine that almost made me wretch but I won’t name names. It rhymes with P&K Fallo. But awesome name though right?

I’m spending my week in the charming village of Burnham Market in North Norfolk. Whenever we come here I simply have to visit the absolutely brilliant people over at Satchells. They’re a small independent place which will serve pretty much any booze need you have.

For instance, the Mrs and I have spent quite a long time looking for elderflower liqueur, but found no luck in any of the supermarkets. Just as we were on the brink of ordering online, Satchells saved the day and the holiday, with the brilliant Chase Elderflower liqueur. Elderflower fizz all round tonight! But they also have liqueurs in every flavour you could possibly imagine (some that I'd never even heard of) and do all sorts of weird and wonderful things, such as mead!

The big name places and even the supermarkets have their place in the world, but there is definitely something to be said for popping into the little independent wine shop near you and seeing what they have. You’ll still find the branded stuff, but there’ll be wine from places that simply don’t have the output to fill the chain stores. If you have an idea of what you like and where it comes from, just go in and ask and whoever is there will make a recommendation. All the staff in independent places are very knowledgeable and happy to give advice. Which leads me on to this cheeky little number...

The Crusher Pinot Noir. Hailing from the lesser known region of Clarksburg just outside Sacramento, The Crusher is a range of wines from two families, Sebastiani from Sonoma County and Wilson from Clarksburg. It is so named ‘for the point in the winemaking process where the fruit of one family’s labors, literally gives way to anothers.’

In the glass it’s a bright garnet colour, light even for Pinot Noir. On the forefront of the nose there are crunchy red fruits and a definite whiff of rhubarb and custard. I know right?! It’s got a nice weight to it as it coats your mouth with flavours of cranberry, strawberry and a little lick of oak to finish it off. It’s very low on acidity which almost comes across as slightly flabby and if it wasn’t for the oak influence and nice bit of tannin it would be too unbalanced. The finish is fairly long and leaves a satisfying woody spice behind. This isn’t as full and juicy as most Cali Pinot’s I’ve had in the past, but at only £10.99 from Satchells, this is a flippin’ bargain!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

New Southern Comfort Lemonade & Lime Premix

Southern Comfort Lemonade & Lime
It's been a long time since I last drank Southern Comfort - we're talking eight or nine years - and when I did, I was at university, it was mixed with Coke, and it was far too late in the evening to be making rationalised decisions!

Since then, it's not really been on my radar - until now...

Southern Comfort, Lemonade & Lime is super brand new and currently exclusive to Tesco stores at £2.99 per 275ml bottle.

At 5% abv, it's on par with a lager or other pre-mixed spirit drinks which we're used to grabbing in the sunshine, and not too full-on for afternoon drinking or al fresco dining.

While the sun is still scorching (please may it continue) the combination of Southern Comfort, lemonade and lime is extremely appealing when you get home and you make a beeline for the fridge be it only to stick your head in for a few seconds after a stuffy train ride.

Pre-mixed, in 275ml bottles, where the only effort you need to put in is finding a bottle opener to pop off the cap, this is summer simplicity at its best and Southern Comfort have clearly mastered an understanding of the British lethargy after the beating sun has sapped all energy to do anything but chillax.

Granted, I'm still not quite sure exactly what Southern Comfort is after all these years (I've been informed it's a one-of-a-kind blend of fruits, spices and American whiskey) and but it's quite refreshing, and mixed with lemonade and zesty lime it certainly hits the spot.

Not a huge drinker of pre-mixes I was a little worried it might be too sweet, but chilled well, it wasn't offensive - much less sweet than I anticipated. With a balance of refreshing citrus flavour and fruity Southern Comfort sweetness, it strikes the perfect note to be a picnic and barbecue choice - just don't forget your bottle opener...always such a shame if you do.

Whilst I've poured it into a glass with a handful of ice, a wedge of lemon and a wedge of lime for photographic purposes and to show you how refreshing it looks, you really need do no more than keep a few bottles in the fridge and pop the cap to enjoy.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

A Little Treat: Glenmorangie Signet

Every so often you have to indulge, just let go and forget about your responsibilities and spoil yourself just the slightest bit. I must confess that I take this view far more often than I should. As a result of my self-indulgence I splurged on the Glenmorangie Signet at a work charity auction, a fine display of selfless philanthropy in my opinion and felt that I should share the experience as this isn't the sort of dram that people get to try every day.

I have tried a few of the Glenmorangie range before, but always at the lower end, Signet is one of Glenmorangie's little experiments that has then gone on to be beautifully (if a little blingly) packaged and placed at the higher end of the standard range. Signet is made with some chocolate malt which is heavily roasted malt producing vanilla and caramel flavours and has received a ton of plaudits in medals galore. Signet is no-age statement, but bottled at a nice 46%, one of the few higher abv Glenmorangies in the standard offering

On the nose there is a heap of citrus peel, cocoa, chocolate, orange and caramel. With a bit more delving and nosing you get warm pastry, sherry, Christmas cake, sweet spice and vanilla. This malt has a beautiful nose, it's really wonderful with great complexity and is so mouth-watering.

On the palate the Signet is oily and viscous, there's a load of body there. Flavours of pear, cinnamon,  cocoa, coffee and lychee leap about with, raisins, honey and  toasted caramel (whatever that is) coming in. The flavour is sweet, but at the same time slightly bitter and ever so intruiging. This is a corking, delicious, wonderful dram that is really very special.

The Glenmorangie Signet is quite different to a lot of other malts, with the coffee, mocha, chocolate notes it is really set apart and makes a great after dinner whisky. Whilst it certainly isn't an everyday whisky it is great to have on hand to dip into every now and again when you're feeling naughty or self satisfied. It's a shame that the Signet costs so much with it being a definite buy if it was at £80, at the £110-£130 mark it is a little bit harder to justify, but if you can then be sure to buy a bottle.

The Glenmorangie Signet is available at Master of Malt for £112.81

Dönnhoff Tasting at Theatre of Wine - "The Lens of Terroir"

Those of you with a keen memory may remember that a couple of months ago I went to a fantastic vertical tasting at West London Wine School featuring one of the premier Mosel wine producers, J. J. Prüm. Shortly after this I was alerted to a tasting being held at another of my favourite wine haunts, Theatre of Wine; they were showcasing one of the top producers from the Nahe - Dönnhoff. I simply could not resist the opportunity to learn a bit more about that noblest of noble grapes, Riesling.

The session was led (admirably as ever) by Jason from Theatre of Wine, who had been over to visit the Weinguts just a week or so earlier and had spent some time with members of the Dönnhoff family. Instead of doing a vertical tasting, ie: tasting through the years, Jason had another idea; he wanted to look at wines from across the family's various vineyards (they have nine sites in total) in one single year, 2012. This is because the Dönnhoff family have a very interesting concept when it comes to their wine production; they produce all of their wine, from all estates, in exactly the same way in every given year. They don't believe in concepts that you may read about elsewhere such as "the craft of the winemaker"; instead they see themselves as the custodians of the vines and the grapes and it is their duty to produce them as best they can, without too much interference. They want to let the grapes and, in particular, the terroir speak for itself. Jason stated that it was his belief that no grape expresses its origin, its terroir as much as the Riesling grape and he wanted to demonstrate it through this tasting.
So, with this in mind, we began... 

We started with a Kahlenberg Trocken, Bad Kreuznach, Nahe (£24.70). Fresh and fruity, it had a slight vegetal layer of complexity on the nose. On tasting, it had a slightly spritzy taste with decent levels of acidity and minerality - which is what you're really looking for in these kinds of wines. Decent finish. 7/10.
Dellchen Riesling Grosse Gewächse (the German equivalent of premier cru), Norheim, Mahe (£41.60). Very complex on the nose, heady and intense. Redolent of tropical fruits and side notes of spice. Really defined acidity on the palate giving an extremely long and bright finish. Fresh and grassy with hints of citrus fruits. Really classy and elegant wine. 8.5/10 (my favourite of the dry wines).

Hermannshöhle Riesling Grosse Gewächse, Niederhäusen, Nahe (£43.40). Less fruity than the last wine, more vegetal. It asked more questions then it gave answers. On the mouth it was refreshing and finessed, poised and balanced, with a very long finish. I thought it was good, but it lacked a little of the oomph compared to the Dellchen. 8/10.

We did try a Pinot Gris as a kind of mid-session interval and to mark the transition between the trocken (dry) wines and the halb-trocken (off-dry) wines. It wasn't for me really and I was glad to get back to the Rieslings!

Krötenpfuhl Riesling Kabinett, Bad Kreuzberg, Nahe (£17.90). Kabinetts are the first level on the German Prädikatswein system. This was fragrant and had notes of tropical fruit, but it was slightly reserved on the mouth. It was, however, very good value for the price; a thoroughly decent wine. 7.5/10.
Felsenberg Riesling Spätlese, Schlossböckelheim, Nahe (£29.00). Sweet with definite notes of passion fruit bursting forth. I noted some delicate floral notes too. On the mouth it was bright and fresh, vibrant and brilliant. It had a taste that reminded me of Seville oranges and lychee and had bags of personality. The finish was long and pervasive. Wonderful. 8.5/10

Hermannshöhle Riesling Spätlese, Niederhäusen, Nahe (£39.00). Less exuberant on the nose, but still with tropical notes - pineapple in this case. On tasting, however, it demonstrated incredible balance; intense and fruity, with a candied pineapple flavour. The acidity that was clearly present balanced with the sweetness wonderfully to give it that balance. A memorable wine. 9/10

2011 Brücke Riesling Auslese Gold Cap, Oberhäusen, Nahe (£28.80/half). This was the one wine that wasn't from 2012. Notably sweeter than the two spätleses, seemed to have a touch of botrytis to it. My first thought on tasting it was of a lovely marmalade, sweet and fruity but with an undercurrent of acidity. Was very well balanced and had a long and insistent finish, which was comfortably over 30 seconds. 9/10.

So there you have it, a superlative wine tasting. I really did feel that by the end I understood what the Dönnhoff family intended and what Jason meant. We had six wines from 2012, all put through the same machinery and techniques and all stored in the same way. The differences between these wines became apparent as we went through the tasting and demonstrated to me exactly the subtleties and vagueries that I have come to love about the world of wine. It is possible for me to say that I like Dönnhoff wines, it is also possible to say that I especially enjoyed the wines from Dellchen and Hermannshöhle, however this was just the 2012s. When the 2013s come out, I would really like to do a similar tasting with them and see whether I get the same results (hint, hint Jason!)

For details of upcoming tastings at Theatre of Wine see here.   

Monday, 21 July 2014

Rehydrate & Revive with CHI Coconut Water - Plus Cocktails

Coconut water is a thing. It’s natural, fat free and it hydrates you quicker than water. It’ll come as no surprise then that you see many a celeb sipping the stuff when you’re rifling through Heat magazine. I jumped on the bandwagon a while ago, purchasing it with an air of smugness; my body is a temple, and I’ve just come from a yoga class don’t you know?.. Reality is, I’ve discovered it to be an amazing hangover remedy; I glug it in an attempt to restore normality and banish the regret of having one too many the previous night. It kind of works, though there’s definitely no chance of me resembling Rihanna whilst I do this.

Last week a little package arrived in my post box. I opened it up and out popped two cartons of CHI; one, pure coconut water, and the other, natural espresso coconut milk. Instantly I notice the packaging, it’s bold and not cluttered with information; it just has an identifiable logo with bright colours. The ‘island’ illustration of a waterfall, complete with birds, palm trees and flowers, implies a Thai theme, and upon investigating, this is exactly where the idea of CHI came from.

CHI was dreamt up by Jonathan Newman (who’s actually a filmmaker) whilst holidaying in Phi Phi Island, Thailand. Having drunk coconut water every day – plucked fresh from the trees – he noticed a big improvement in health and hydration. A few years later, a number of packaged coconut drinks came onto the market, none of which quite matched the natural, clean taste of the real thing. This sparked a light bulb moment and Jonathan believed that he could do better.

Sourcing some of the sweetest coconuts from a plantation in Thailand, CHI – meaning life force – was born; it’s 100% pure, with no added sugar, no added preservatives and no chemicals.

I’m no connoisseur, but this coconut water does indeed taste much nicer than the others I’ve had. They’ve nailed it on the sweetness front; a lot of them smell so luxuriously coconut like but, disappointingly, the taste never quite matches. I know it will never be rich and creamy – as much as it smells like it should be – but CHI comes close on the balanced front.

At Vinspire, we're not adverse to non-alcoholic drinks (you can take a peek at our other soft drink posts here), yet if the opportunity arises, booze is most definitely welcome. So, accompanying the CHI cartons were a few cocktail recipes; using smaller measures than most cocktails, they’re less alcoholic – better for your liver – but they essentially undo all the health benefits you get from drinking coconut water. Does that bother me? Nope. I’m willing to give anything a go.

The first one I tried was with the natural espresso coconut milk, transformed into a 'Chilli-Choc Espresso Mintini'.

You’ll need:
  • 1oz Chi Espresso Coconut Milk
  • 25ml shot of chilled Vodka
  • 1oz Funkin Liquid Chocolate (or 1oz melted 60% Dark Choc)
  • 1oz Home-made Chilli Syrup (Chilli Powder + Sugar + Water)
  • 1 dash Tabasco
  • Mint Sprigs

Simply shake all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker and strain into a Martini Glass (a sieve works just as well as a strainer. Add mint sprigs to garnish.

Unfortunately, my attempt at this did not work. and I’m too embarrassed to unveil my own photo of the finished product. I didn’t have any Funkin Liquid Chocolate, so went for the melted chocolate option instead. The combination of cold liquid and melted chocolate did not meet eye to eye, and I ended up with an espresso coconut vodka drink with a hint of chilli, alongside a mound of chocolate granules left in the strainer– doh! It tasted alright – if you’re into that chocolate cocktail thing – and I imagine Baileys might work better as an alternative to the liquid chocolate; it’d make a thicker, more attractive drink, that’s for sure.

After that mega fail I went down the simple route; a 'Chi-jito'.

You’ll Need:
  • 2oz Chi 100% Pure Coconut Water
  • 25ml shot of White Rum
  • 2oz Lime Juice
  • 1oz Lemon Juice
  • Wedge of Lime.

Add all ingredients to a glass of ice, stir well, and finish with a wedge of lime.

The first taste was a little bitter, so I added a teaspoon of sugar syrup, which made it much more pleasant. I did find myself missing the mint and the fizz of a traditional Mojito, however, I quite enjoyed having a coconut twist to the drink, so there’s definitely room to play with this kind of thing.

Other recipes include 'Chi-Chi’ (1oz Chi Coconut Water with Pineapple, 25ml shot of Coconut Rum, 1oz Pineapple Juice, 1oz Coconut Cream; served over ice, and finished with slice of pineapple) and ‘Chi Mango Crush’ (2oz Chi Coconut Water with Mango, 25ml shot of Tequila, 3/4oz Lemon Juice, 1/2oz Funkin Mango Puree or Mango Juice, Soda Water, Orange Wedges; add your ingredients – minus the soda water – over crushed ice. Stir, top with soda water, and finish with a slice of orange.)

As intriguing as they are, I think coconut water works best on its own. CHI promotes being healthy, hydrating and pure, and when it tastes this good, there’s no need to mess with it... I’ll forego all high hopes for celebrity sparkle, and shall stick to having it the morning after the night before. Simple.

You can buy the full range of CHI products from the website. 1 litre bottles of CHI 100% Pure Coconut Water are available from Tesco or Waitrose, priced at £3.49, and Ocado currently have the 330ml cartons on offer for £1.

The Importance of a Good Wine List: The Fox & Duck, Hertfordshire

Last week, I visited The Fox and Duck, a pub not far from me in a village called Therfield in Hertfordshire. This was no ordinary review opportunity - the pub's owner Ivan Titmuss, who took over just 18 months ago, visited me to see what I thought of his uniquely brilliant wine list.

When Ivan arrived, he became the 8th landlord in just 7 years, so the pressure was on to get things right. Things obviously needed to change. Being a Greene King pub, Ivan was limited on how he could tweak the beers on offer, and so he tackled the wine list.

Oh, the pub wine list. So many times it's just a handful of the most recognisable reds and whites, maybe a sugary rosé thrown in for good measure, and some dusty bottles of Veuve behind the bar that never get bought. The wine grapes and styles might be familiar (New Zealand sauvignon, Chilean merlot) and the friendly pub prices might keep a large glass under a fiver, but the quality tends to be average at best.

So what did Ivan do? He ignored the large-scale suppliers that most of the local pubs use, and went up to Norfolk, where he found a brilliant, small European wine trader who was happy to help him design his unique wine list with a focus on quality wines at all price points.

It meant a glass of wine has gone up in price a bit, but once the locals began to taste his selections, they soon saw it's better to pay a little more for far more enjoyable wines that are actually better value for money. His supplier also trains his staff, and helps Ivan rotate the list 3 times a year so he can ensure his wines match his seasonal menus.

Here are 7 brilliant aspects of his wine list that I wish more pubs and restaurants would adopt:

1. Not Too Long, Not Too Short

If there's just a handful of red and white, you're doing it wrong, but equally heavy, leather-bound tomes of 1000 wines really only work in the most high-end establishments, the ones that attract people who only go to show off their wine smarts.

The Fox and Duck has 9 reds, 9 whites, 2 rosés, 3 sparkling (including a sparkling rosé) and 3 dessert wines. It's diverse enough to be interesting but snappy enough to show a huge amount of thought has gone into the selection. In fact, there's actually a healthy selection of wines on the list that are exclusive to this pub.

2. Value for Money Regions

Recognisable regions might help shift wines with very little hassle on the part of the serving staff, but they often mean your punters have to pay rather a lot more money than they really need to for a good bottle of wine to share over dinner. Either that, or you have to pick cheaper examples that don't do the regions justice.

The Fox and Duck has focussed most of its European-only list on less 'classic' regions like the south of France, Portugal and lesser-known areas of Spain and Italy. The only thing it maybe needs is a couple of offerings from Hungary, Bulgaria or Austria, but Ivan admits he didn't want to go too hard, too fast and scare the locals away. I'm sure these regions will crop up in future lists.

3. Educate and Inspire

The picture to the left shows the sharp, accessible layout of the wine list, and I think that's absolutely crucial to helping customers feel comfortable to explore the wines on offer, equipping a future generation of wine fans with more knowledge so they can make  informed choices that gives lesser-known wines the attention they deserve.

Not only does Ivan make it clear the 'colour' of the wine, he also mentions the region and the grape varieties involved, which really helps less savvy customers - as well as wine geeks like me.

Suddenly, that 'Pouilly-Fumé' you've heard so much about is just a good quality sauvignon blanc from the Loire region of France, and the weird-sounding southern French wine you don't recognise turns out to be just a blend of some grapes you definitely do recognise, like sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and grenache blanc. Suddenly you're drinking sauvignon blanc that ISN'T from New Zealand, and ENJOYING IT!
And tempranillo - a grape variety producing some cracking value wines from various countries - is suddenly given credit for being the main grape in a Rioja.

Many would prefer wine to remain a daunting and elitist mystery, but the honesty and clarity of this wine list has suddenly made every wine completely accessible to everyone. If you ask me, this is an extremely BIG GOOD THING.


Oh, this is so important! Stop picking tons of good wines that I have to buy a whole bottle of, pub owners! I can't afford it an end up drinking cheap crap that makes me sad.

Ivan lists 15 of his 20-25 wines by the glass, which means not only can diners pick different glasses for different dishes of their meal, but also that - if they want to - they can choose to spend just £7-8 on a glass of the finer stuff as a treat, and maybe learn about which fine wines they like. Surely this is the best way to get them coming back to buy a whole bottle.

I can't stress how massively important this is to get your customers (well, customers like me) to explore your wine list and realise just how good it is.

5. Reasonable Prices for Decent Wines

Half of The Fox & Duck's wines are available for less than £20 a bottle - Ivan's clever choice of regions has made it possible to buy a very decent, enjoyable bottle without wincing at the price.

There are a select number of £25-40 bottles too - so larger budgets and special occasions are covered - but it's always great to see a list of several desirable bottles you can actually afford without over-stretching yourself. Making good wines accessible to as many people as possible can only be a good thing.

6. Don't Forget Dessert

The three sweet wines are listed as part of the dessert menu. I was so pleased to see customers being encouraged to explore dessert wines - all three are very varied in style, and even currently include a delicious PX sherry!

7. Let Your Locals Decide

You're new to the town and you want to make some changes - great. But don't start presuming you know what your customers want better than they do, or they'll soon tell you.

Ivan's an easygoing chap who is obviously popular with the locals. When the supplier sends him sample bottles, he leaves them out on the bar so his regulars can tell him exactly what they think. Imagine returning a week later and seeing the wine you selected on the list? Little touches like that are what makes this place special.

To finish, here are my brief tasting notes on four of the pub's current wines:

Viognier, Domaine Astruc, £19
A southern French example of my favourite grape variety, and this doesn't disappoint on any of viognier's classic characteristics: apricot, peach, pear and a nice spicy finish, with plenty of smooth, velvety texture. Aromatic and perfect for summer, or the pub's duck dish which comes with onion bhajis.

Alvarinho, Terre D'Alter, £22
I'm not a great fan of Portuguese wines or the albarino/alvarinho grape, so I wasn't eager to try this. Boy am I glad I did - this had a gorgeous, mineral, herby wine a lovely balance and mouthwatering freshness.

Alfrocheiro, Terre D'Alter, £27.50
I'll admit it, I actually don't recall having heard about the alfrocheiro grape before, but I know Terre D'Alter is a decent producer, so I was eager to give it a whirl. It was lovely and rich, spicy and warm, with hearty berry flavours. Perfect with the pub's Foxy Burger.

Bacca Nera, £19.50
This Italian red is from Salento, and is a blend of negroamaro and primitivo. It's Ivan's favourite wine on the list, and when he described it to me as 'sweet', I raised my eyebrows skeptically. But once I tasted it, I could definitely see what he meant - while this is a dry red wine, the fruit is incredibly sweet and concentrated, and the wine has a delicious, silky texture. I'd never have considered this wine without tasting it but it will be my top pick of the reds when I next go back to visit. This is living proof of what I mean when I say how important it is to encourage people to try wines they've never heard of.

Ivan might be new to The Fox and Duck, but he certainly knows what he's doing. I only hope other pubs in my area - and across the rural parts of the UK as a whole - will begin following his lead soon.

Friday, 18 July 2014

How I Think I Look When I Sabre A Champagne Bottle Vs How I Actually Look

Nailed it.

Ah, the 'How I Think I Look Vs. How I Actually Look' meme. We at Vinspire have found a use for you at last.

You know how it is. You're at a party, and suddenly it's time for some fine fizz, and so naturally someone brings out a giant sword to take the cork off with. Because that's how it's done when you're a Champagne playaaaa.*

This is your moment to shine, so you take the bottle (foil and wire cage removed already, because that's what butlers are for), grip it firmly in your big, manly hands, and sweep your big sword majestically up the bottle's curvy body like some kind of kinky, fizz-related foreplay. At the climax of your sabre's sweep, it merely brushes the cork, and BAM, it's flying to the moon and your champers is gracefully spurting out of the neck. It's Moet meets Mills & Boon, and you are definitely getting laid tonight.

That's how it happens, right? Well, no. Sometimes it doesn't happen like that - not even a little bit.

The Vinspire team would like to bring you the right way and the wrong way to sabre a bottle of Champagne:

First, here's a video of Freddy at The Champagne Academy last June, losing his sabre virginity at the hands of a suave-looking Frenchman. They're  both wearing nice suits, the crowd is cheering them on, and in typical French style the sabring works like a charm. Everyone claps. Lovely:

Skip forward a year to July 2014, and our very own Sam Green is being shown the same trick by Freddy. Only Freddy's not got that French 'je ne sais quoi' teacher-wise, and everyone's had about 2 glasses of Champagne too many to be able to do this without a right royal Bollinger balls-up. Predictably, this happens:

That's right, in his tipsy state Sam uses too much force, the pressure is all too much for the poor Bolly, and the bottle explodes in his hands, sending a tidal wave of £35-quid Champagne all over Sam's fetching vest. Glass shards fly in all directions, narrowly missing several of the seated guests, and one of the party (me, unfortunately) appears to squawk like a peacock in shock and do a bit of a swear.

Don't drink and sabre, kids. Or at least do it very, very far away from your guests and don't put any pressure on the sword - using the seam of the bottle as a guide for its path - and if you can, get someone that knows what they're doing to show you a dummy run before you give it a go.

Epic Champagne sabring fail. Feel free to send us in any footage of your own sabring disasters - if we get enough, we may create a Public Service Announcement video or something. 'When Champagne Sabring Goes Wrong.'

* seriously, Champagne sabrage has been done for centuries.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Summer Beers from Meantime Brewery

This week's treat comes from Meantime Brewery, who sent me two of their summer releases to try, to see if they quench my thirst on all these swelteringly hot days we're having.

If you didn't guess already, Meantime are based in Greenwich in London (good name, eh?) and produce a range of  fantastic, flavourful and exciting beers - in 2013 they made 53 different styles!

Actually, over the past six months or so, they have become possibly my favourite London-based brewery thanks to me having their beers a number of times in Knightsbridge and in and around the Greenwich area. With their eclectic range they have shot to fame and have become the largest craft beer producer in our nation's Capital.

This time, they have been kind enough to send me two of their beers: the Yakima  Red and their Indian Pale Ale. Both of these I have had before on tap but never in bottle. It is safe to say I loved both of them, but it is always worth another look to see if the bottle made a difference! Here is how I got on:

Yakima Red

Just from the shape of the bottle you can see that Meantime like to be a little different. It reminds me of a town crier's bell. Makes we want to just grab it by the neck, shake it above my head screaming 'Hear ye!!! Hear ye!!' Obviously, I'm not going to do that.......... Maybe after I have drunk the nectar that lies inside.

In the glass it is a deep ruby, copper colour with a pristine, foamy head. On the nose you are hit instantly with citrus, hops, a lick of malt and a touch of aniseed. Really crisp, fresh and flavourful.
This isn't surprising, as it is made with five different hop varieties from the Yakima Valley in Washington State (hence the name), which help the beer really pack that flavourful punch.

On the palate it has great body, citrus sharpness of orange, nectarine and peach, with a light bitterness of malt and hops that helps to separate it from it's lighter styled friends. Brilliantly balanced with an amazingly long finish. Truly fantastic at 4.1% abv and a must-have for anyone interested in London Craft Beer. 9.5/10

Indian Pale Ale

From all the millions (literally, millions, I'm sure) of you out there that have read my beer reviews before, you should well know that IPA is not my favourite style of beer. Often, it is just an affront of hops on the nose and fore palate with little to back it up. This, however, could be the one that turns me. I've also done this properly, with a big, fat plate of chicken jalfrezi to accompany it.

For a start, the bottle has a Champagne-esque seal so the fun starts even before you have poured the thing! With a light 'pop' you instantly get a whiff of citrus, yeasty bread and that lovely hoppiness you get from Goldings and Kent Fuggles. Not overpowering - just enough to get you interested. In the glass it is an inviting amber with a steady burst of bubbles almost suspended beneath the smooth head.

Its real masterstroke is in the mouthfeel. At 7.4% this isn't for the lighthearted. But unlike so many IPA's I have had in the past, this extra alcohol makes a weighty, full bodied beer that sits beautifully on the palate. So many times I have been upset that a beer 'holds back' - this certainly doesn't. It even comes in a 750ml bottle for Christ's sake!

Once there, it bursts with flavours of tangerine, caramel and a light hint of sweet spice that makes this a truly stunning aroma. The creamy smoothness quells the heat of the curry brilliantly and compliments the many spices and herbs within it. Again, the finish is long and complex with bitter, sweet hops and crisp acidity. Simply put, the best beer I have had this year. 10/10.

Although Meantime's foundations lie in its beer, their tour and brewery bar/restaurant has also turned many a head within London. Trip Advisor rates it 5/5 and ranks it #32 out of 614 activities in London. That is nearly the top 5% of ALL attractions! You only need to read some of the reviews to get a feel of how fun, interesting and boozy their Brewery tours are!

It is on that note that I will be booking my place on the next possible Tour of Meantime Brewery just so that I can try both of these beers again as soon as possible. Take a bow, Greenwich.

P.S. Please send me the rest of your range. NOW!