Friday, 25 September 2015

Review: blk. water



Ok, I admit it, I don’t drink enough water. That wonderful, life-giving, cleansing, necessity that does wonders for the body (clearer skin, brighter eyes, less fatigue - the benefits are endless), which we’re lucky enough in this country to be able to get for free, or thereabouts, from the tap.

When I was offered a case of blk. water to review, I jumped at the chance. Offering serious hydration, and the chance it may aid a hangover (something this drinks writer knows plenty about), not to mention that is looks ridiculously cool, I was sold.

Boasting a list of benefits which, I’ll be honest, I had to look into, it certainly sounded impressive: zero calories, you say? Great! Pure hydration? Check! Over 60 trace minerals? Bring it on! Alkaline ph? Sign me up!


But what does that actually mean?


Essentially, it's a very pure mineral water, with added minerals and electrolytes. The fulvic trace minerals (derived from plant matter and fulvic acid, and apparently critical to the growth of plant and animal life) are what gives this stuff its colour.

We lose electrolytes through exercise, sweating, and going on massive benders. Replacing these helps you feel like a normal human being the morning after 5 glasses of your favourite Cabernet Sauvignon.


But what does it taste like?

Well, water. It tastes exactly like mineral water. It's nicer than the stuff that comes out of my taps in East London, and totally different to the Yorkshire water from my childhood, but essentially, it's just water. I did a blind taste test with a friend who couldn't tell the difference.

But that's not really the point of this stuff - it's meant to taste like water. The difference is in its appearance - it doesn't look like water, and that's what sets it apart. It oozes cool - just look at the bottle! That typeface, that branding!

While I'm not convinced it helped my hangover much better than normal water does (and bacon, and coffee, and sleep), I did feel like a total badass drinking it, and surely presentation is half the fun when it comes to drinks? Look at the fuss we'd make if our martini wasn't in the correct glass, or if the lime peel used as a garnish was a bit brown round the edges. Looks matter, and this looks cool.

You can buy blk. water from Firebox for £14.99 per case of six bottles.


As with all of our samples, we never exchange goods in return for a guaranteed good review, and this review contains nothing but my own true opinion. We only ever write about samples that we genuinely enjoyed and would buy - anything that we don't like either gets a critical review or no review at all.

Would you try blk.? Let us know in the comments

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

No Such Thing as Bad Publicity? How Far is Too Far in Alcohol Advertising?

Neon signs set

The marketing of alcohol is the producer's key to the lock on your wallet or purse, the password to your bank account or the subconscious voice in your head which tells you 'You must have this! Go now and thrust your wages into the hand of the nearest off licence owner and rejoice in your choice!'

Companies will use all of their wily marketing skills to persuade you to take their product home, be it a catchy tune, an awesome slogan or a massive claim that an entire nation only drinks their beer (Castlemaine XXXX, stand up & take a bow...). 

However, as the race to become evermore standout and noticeable with promotion starts to become more and more competitive, there are some people who have taken advertising to a level which, to some, can be see to be as controversial as Jeremy Corbyn's choice of jumper.

A couple of weeks back, I was alerted to a bit of promotion by the craft beer company, Brewdog, which has caused a large amount of uproar among a lot of people. Brewdog are a company based in Ellon, Aberdeen and have a history of full-tilt advertising to make the hardiest of drinkers blush and the tabloid press go apoplectic in rage (they brew a 32% beer called Tactical Nuclear Penguin, and they also conducted a funeral for commercially produced beer in the middle of Stockholm when they opened a bar there), but this time it seems that they have pushed it a bit too far.**

Reported in The Scotsman at the start of the month, Brewdog have taken to the internet to advertise their crowdfunding projects, but have decided to push the buttons of many people by parodying transgender, prostitutes and homeless people under the guise of 'comic promotion'. Some people would say that its lighthearted, irreverent, taking the mick out of themselves. Other people see it as bad taste, harmful to public perception of those people in society and very 'anti-Punk' (their tagline for the crowdfunding is 'Equity for Punks'). 

By putting this out there, it's pretty evident that they sought a bit of a reaction, and as Oscar Wilde said a fair old while back 'there is only one thing in the world that is worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about'. But is this really the best way to show the world the good stuff you produce? In my opinion, probably not...

Another advertising 'faux pas' was recently committed by a brand called Premier Estate Wines, a company that supplies wines to off licence chains and independent merchants. Promoting their Aussie wines through an online video, they did the classic thing of getting an attractive woman to talk longingly about the quality of their Australian Shiraz. Nothing too scandalous there. 

However, watch the video which showcases the liquid and you can see that maybe positioning the glass where it was and using their tagline of 'Taste the Bush' would raise a few eyebrows and rattle the cage of many a woman. Add to that the twitter campaign to win a case of wine by tweeting 'I want to #tastethebush' and you have a recipe for controversy. Using pretty women to coax people to buy things is pretty standard these days, but starting to sexualize a simple bottle of Shiraz and you are swimming in rougher waters.

A still from Brewdog's recent controversial video. Photo: YouTube
Sometimes, marketing teams can become blind to the message they are sending across when it comes to their advertising campaigns. Take Bud Light - a classic US beer that sends a message of a refreshing, light and all round popular beer for every person. It stands to reason that they want to embrace their fun-lovin' image by getting a slice of the social media pie and start their own hashtag campaign. So they did, and #upforwhatever was born. 

On its own, there were many things you could do with it to bring the brand to the public's attention. However, when they decided to position Bud Light as the beer "for removing the word No from your vocabulary for the night", and then plastered the tagline on the beer bottle, seemingly unwittingly promoting rape culture, you do wonder how the people responsible didn't foresee any problems. Cue uproar, social media outcries and grovelling apologies from the company.

Companies are always going to want to be seen as doing something different and wanting to push the envelope. It sets them apart and, most importantly, keeps them in the public eye. However, when they cross the boundaries and start to seemingly insult and objectify the people to whom they should be selling (sometimes in ways that it could be foreseen would court controversy) they risk alienating far more people than the group they are subjecting to 'banter'.

As famous marketeer Maya Angelou once said, "I've learned that people will forget what you've said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." It might be handy for a few brands to bear that in mind...

* These are my opinions and do not represent Vinspire as a whole.

** For balance, it's worth noting we've written lots of positive things about Brewdog before, and do actually like an awful lot of what they do.

What do you think? Feel free to comment on Twitter, Facebook or comment below!

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Ten of the best places to drink gin in the UK

Photo: Greg Hirson

The UK is currently going through Gin Craze take two. While this one isn't likely to nearly destroy the city of London like the pesky 18th century one, gin is the drink that shows no signs of slowing down. Despite warnings that the juniper bubble would burst, gin is stronger than ever. Craft distilleries are still popping up around the UK, as are the gin parlours to drink in. Here are ten of the best places around the UK to drink a great gin and tonic, try something new, or discover a new favourite cocktail.

The Old Bell Inn – Saddleworth, Lancashire


Photo: The Old Bell Inn

There are some pretty stupid Guinness World Records out there: the world’s fastest toilet, the largest collection of sick bags, and the most snails on a face to name a very small few. But one very worthy Guinness World Record belongs to the Old Bell Inn in Lancashire, for the most gins commercially available. There’s a ridiculous 430 of them, so it’s pretty likely you’ll be able to find something you’ve never tried before.

London Gin Club (The Star at Night) – Soho, London




Nestled in Soho, just off Oxford Street, is the perfect gin lovers’ retreat. With a friendly and relaxing atmosphere, great, knowledgeable staff, and of course, a lot of gin, it is my favourite place to lose an evening in London. Their gin taster menus change every month (four G+Ts with interesting garnishes), and are a great place to start, but they also offer a blind tasting menu, and an eight-gin flavour spectrum menu, taking you all the way from dry, to gin liqueur.

City of London Distillery/Cold Bar – Blackfriars, London


Photo: City of London Distillery

If drinking gin just isn’t enough for you these days, the Cold Bar at the City of London distillery could be the one for you. You can overlook the stills in a speakeasy-style bar, with the faint aroma of gin in the air. They have more than 200 gins on the menu, including their own City of London Dry Gin.

Graphic – Soho, London


Photo: Graphic Bar Instagram

While a lot of gin palaces may be going for the speakeasy/Victorian/general vintage vibe, Graphic has gone the other way. Along with a huge gin menu (more than 300), the bar is home to hand-crafted Bermondsey Tonic Water (it’s a very important part of your G+T), and a monthly gin social with free entry.

Portobello Star – Westbourne, London


Photo: Portobello Star

The Portobello Star is the home of Portobello Road gin. If drinking gin isn't enough for you anymore, you can book tickets to the 'Ginstitute' and learn about it too. You get a history lesson (well-oiled with plenty of gin), learn how gin is made, discover all the different botanicals, and create your own gin to take home. Of course, you can also just go and drink the huge amount of gin on offer.

The Jekyll & Hyde – Birmingham


Photo: Jekyll & Hyde

With a sumptuous Victorian feel, the gin parlour at the Jekyll & Hyde is the perfect hideout. Not only do they have around 90 gins on offer, the bar offers an ‘Eat Me Drink Me’ gin and food fusion menu that changes every month; a Mad Hatters Tea Party including gin flights if you’re feeling indecisive; and cocktail masterclasses.

Atlas – Deansgate, Manchester


Photo: Atlas

Anywhere that elevates gin to new heights is good in my book, so I naturally approve of Atlas bar’s ‘Gin Bible’. The bar stocks around 170 varieties, has helpful tasting notes, or very helpful staff if you want to talk to a real human being. And for those few and far between days when the sun is shining in Manchester, there’s a lovely sun terrace too.

Heads & Tales – Edinburgh

Photo: Heads & Tales

Head here to meet Flora and Caledonia, Edinburgh Gin’s two stills. Not only is the bar home to Edinburgh Gin, so you can watch a spot of distilling while you enjoy a (gin) cocktail or two, but the menu offers you the chance for some G.I.Y – gin it yourself, with a menu that changes weekly. Choose your glass, your gin, your flavour, drink & repeat.

The Potted Pig – Cardiff


Photo: The Potted Pig

Tucked away in some reconditioned bank vaults on the High Street in Cardiff, is the Potted Pig, especially good if you like some pork with your gin (other meats/non-meats are available). They have around 30 gins, organised into ‘London Dry’, ‘Floral’, ‘Fruity & Sweet’, and ‘Aromatic & Spicy’, and can help you find the perfect gin to accompany your meal.

Red Willow – Macclesfield


Photo: Red Willow Twitter

Perhaps best known for being a microbrewery serving a great range of beers, Red Willow also has a 50-strong gin menu, including several local offerings: Forest, Hunters, Dakin etc. As it’s known for both its beer and gin, it’s the perfect choice if you happen to be stuck with someone who doesn’t drink the good-juniper-stuff.


Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get round to every single gin palace/bar/parlour/hideaway in the UK yet, so I'm sure there will be one or two that I've missed out/yet to try. If you've got any recommendations as to where you've found the perfect G+T, let us know in the comments below.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Monin Pumpkin Spice Syrup & Cocktails

Photo Credit: Monin UK
It's pretty much an unwritten rule, but as soon as all the coffee chains (namely the big green one that rhymes with bar-lucks) start dishing out the spiced lattes, summer is no more *sigh*. Well, spoiler alert, it's only bloody happened hasn't it? Pack away the sunnies, dig out the knitwear from the back of the wardrobe, maybe even stick the heating on; autumn has arrived.

If you have the tendency to be a bit of a coffee snob, a sweet spiced latte is probably not your thing - you might want to read Phoebe's excellent 'how to cope' post - but don't disappear just yet. Monin's new Pumpkin Spice Syrup, the one that's gracing all of this year's seasonal coffees, is much more versatile than you might think. To prove this, they very kindly sent me over a few samples to play around with, along with some bright pumpkin-orange Halloween goodies; no tricks, just treats!

Made with actual pumpkin juice - that's right, no artificial flavours or additives - Monin Pumpkin Spice captures the earthy, autumnal flavour of pumpkin with a warm kick of spice from cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. It's an instant hit of the American classic, pumpkin pie (though a damn sight less calorific), and it evokes memories of walking through a sea of fallen copper-coloured leaves, early evening darkness, and the crackle of an open fire. Romantic huh?

Like all Monin products (they have a range of over 140), this new syrup is a wonderful ingredient in cocktails and mocktails, as well as the obvious coffees and hot chocolates, and I imagine it'd be very welcome in the kitchen too... Pumpkin Spice roasted plums perhaps?

A few recipe ideas accompanied the samples - a (sp)Iced Tea and a Pumpkin Spice Mule - but as nice as they sounded, following the suggested serves is not my bag; it was time to experiment!

In the spirit of the season, and with bonfire night in mind, I decided to concoct a smoky, spicy, whisky sour, which would be a perfect pre-or-post-dinner-drink. Citrusy with sweet Pumpkin Spice undertones, the use of Chase Smoked Vodka alongside whisky adds a dry element to the otherwise velvety cocktail, and having cracked black pepper on the top gives it an extra punch.

Alternatively for those moments where you just want to snuggle up in your PJs with a hot drink, I've boozed it up with a cream floated Hot Toddy (inspired by the Hot Gin & Tonic I had in Stockholm). Keeping with the American vibe of Monin Pumpkin Spice, I used bourbon along with orange and lemon juice, and a fresh grating of nutmeg. A naughty indulgence for any night of the week!

Sugar, spice and everything nice might have been used in the creation of The Powerpuff Girls, but Monin have taken it on board too. If you want the new syrup in your extra-hot-triple-shot-almond-milk-latte, or whatever lengthy coffee you like, then go for it; it'll be delicious! However, if you'd like to spice things up, try it out in the cocktails below.

You can find where to buy Monin Pumpkin Spice on their website or via Bennett Opie Ltd. You can also buy a 70cl bottle online from Next Day Coffee for £5.49

Smoke/Spice/Sour
(serves 1)

  • 1 Egg White
  • 25ml Lemon Juice
  • 35ml Monin Pumpkin Spice Syrup
  • 35ml Whisky (nothing too peaty - I used Great King Street Artist's Blend) 
  • 20ml Chase Smoked Vodka 
  • Ice
  • Cracked Black Pepper (to garnish)

Method

  1. Put a cocktail glass in the freezer. 
  2. Into a shaker, add the egg white, lemon juice and syrup. Whack the lid on and shake vigorously for a minute to build up some foam. 
  3. Now add the whisky, smoked vodka, a handful of ice, and shake for another minute. 
  4. Remove your glass from the freezer and strain the cocktail into it. You should have a nice foamy top. 
  5. Using a pepper mill, crack some black pepper over the top to finish it off. Enjoy!


Bourbon & Spice Toddy
(serves 1)

  • 1 Orange (juice only)
  • 1/4 Lemon (juice only)
  • 35ml Monin Pumpkin Spice Syrup 
  • 50ml Bourbon 
  • 75ml Double Cream
  • Nutmeg (to garnish)

Method

  1. Squeeze the orange and lemon juice into a pan, add the syrup and heat gently for 5 minutes, making sure it doesn't boil. 
  2. When it's hot, remove from the heat, add the bourbon and stir. 
  3. At this point stir the double cream in a bowl until it thickens slightly (using a whisk can overdo it in an instant). 
  4. Pour your hot bourbon mix into a glass and float the cream on top. 
  5. Grate some nutmeg over and serve. 

Roll up! Unicorn Tears Gin Liqueur is Now a Thing


Yes, really.

That's right, you can buy now buy Unicorn Tears gin liqueur in the UK.

It's recently gone on sale at Firebox, and has caused quite a stir already, so I was very eager to try some of this spirit and its mystical botanicals (which, I'm told, is sourced from real unicorns - many, many of whom were harmed in the making of it. #sorrynotsorry #yolo)

They kindly sent me a shot of the stuff to play with, and I was not disappointed.

As you can see from the picture, the unicorn's tears are joined by pieces of real, edible silver, making for a very sparkly-looking drink. One of the product images makes it look slightly pinky, but that's just the lighting - this is a clear, shimmering liquid, and so pretty that I wasted no time opening the bottle (which is why my photos are so rubbish... sorry. I was excited.)

The eagle-eyed among you will note this is 'unicorn tears gin liqueur', not 'unicorn tears gin', so what does that mean?

Basically, it tastes rather like a gin that's been slightly sweetened, and it has a slightly more unctuous, silky texture that makes it sippable on its own without a mixer, despite being 40% abv. Because why would you want to water down REAL UNICORN TEARS? Exactly.

So what do unicorn tears taste like? Well, like gin, only with added magical properties. There's plenty of juniper and orangey-citrus, a hint of warm spice, and the sweetness is more maple syrup than pure sugar.

After sipping this majestic booze treat, I added a little tonic, and found it to be a fine accompaniment to the sadness of this enchanting beast. It's pretty powerful stuff, and I did wake up in a forest the next morning, but I'm very eager to try some more.

If you, too, would like to possess some boozy unicorn tears, then you can pre-order a 500ml bottle from Firebox for £39.99. It's released on 25th September.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Gin cocktails you've never heard of, but really need to try



Looking to do something a little different with your Gordon’s? Want to tweak your Tanqueray and Tonic? Make something other than a Martini? Well you’ve come to the right place. Here’s our low-down of the best gin cocktails you’ve probably not heard of, but really need to try.



Warday’s Cocktail

Taken from the classic Savoy Cocktail Book, this drink deserves to be brought back into public consciousness.

Ingredients
1 Teaspoonful Chartreuse (the traditional recipe calls for green Chartreuse, but yellow would work well too)

1/3 Vermouth

1/3 Dry Gin (we like herbaceous gins to counteract the apple flavouring in the Calvados, like Sipsmith)

1/3 Calvados or Apple Brandy

Combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass.



Bijou
Photo: Didriks (CCL)

This is basically a Negroni which swaps red vermouth for green Chartreuse. The name (the French word for ‘jewel’) is said to represent the jewels for each of the drinks’ components (diamonds for gin, rubies for red vermouth, and emeralds for the green Chartreuse).

Ingredients

50ml gin

25ml Green Chartreuse

50ml Martini Rosso

1 dash bitters

Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled glass.



Death in the Gulf Stream

Rumoured to be Ernest Hemingway's hangover cure. While we’re not convinced it’s the best way to treat a sore head, it’ll certainly give you one.

Ingredients

Peeled zest and 1 tablespoon juice from 1 lime

4 dashes Angostura bitters

1 teaspoon simple syrup (or a teaspoon of sugar will do)

100ml of gin (the traditional recipe calls for genever, but you could substitute it for a heavy-juniper gin such as Death’s Door or Langley’s No. 8)

Shake all ingredients with ice, pour into an ice-filled glass, churn, and top with more ice.



Monkey Gland
Photo: ChodHound (CCL)
This one is hard not to like – even by those who aren’t big gin drinkers. First created in the 1920s, it’s said to be named after a medical procedure from the time involving male genitalia and, erm, monkeys.

Ingredients

5 parts gin

5 parts fresh orange juice

1 part grenadine

1 dash absinthe

Combine gin, orange juice, grenadine, and absinthe in a cocktail shaker filled with ice; shake vigorously and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with an orange twist.



Suffering Bastard

Originally named the ‘Suffering Bar Steward’ after the poor, hungover chap who invented it, this is a beauty of a drink which, with the healing powers of limes and ginger, will melt away any suffering.

Ingredients

2 parts bourbon

2 parts gin

2 parts ginger ale

1 part lime juice

2 dashes bitters

Add the bourbon, gin, lime and bitters to an ice-filled glass, and top with ginger ale.



Thursday, 17 September 2015

Gaining "The Knowledge" with Meantime Brewery


I was recently given the opportunity to visit the Meantime Brewery in Greenwich to take a tour of their brewery and take a sneak-peak at their tutored beer theory sessions, called "The Knowledge".

Meantime beers, founded in Greenwich in 2000 by Alastair Hook, have been a firm favourite of mine over the last few years and their spread across pubs in the capital and beyond has been very impressive to see. They take their ties to Greenwich very seriously, with the brand named after Greenwich's most famous export - time. This is taken even further with the fact that they grow some hops on the Greenwich peninsula, as such they can truly count themselves as a London producer (although the amount of hops they get from this site does make up a statistically small proportion of their overall supply). Like a lot of successful smaller-scale ventures in this sector they have been acquired by a larger group, in this case SABMiller (who count Fosters, Millers, Castle, Peroni and Pilsner Urquell as part of their portfolio), earlier this year. The early indications are that this will only aid Meantime in expanding their production and furthering their reach - which has to be a good thing!

On our trip we were given a tour around the brewery by Rod who has been working with Meantime since very near the beginning. We were shown around the working heart of the brewery, Rod spoke with obvious pride and passion at its operation. The ethos behind Meantime is to look for clean and pure processes with a focus on unpasteurised production techniques. They have a core range of traditional styles, including: Lagers, Pale Ales, Wheat Beers, Porters and Stouts, as well as having on-site some barrel aged products that go to make special, small-batch lines. Walking around the site with Rod really gave a fantastic insight in to the level of effort that goes in to product development, production and quality control in an operation as big as Meantime. No wonder they have been so successful!

After our tour Rod took us up to a nice, comfortable classroom at the back of the factory which is where they give their beer tasting masterclasses that they call "the Knowledge". These courses range from two hour sessions to whole day events; you can even do a course on beer and cheese matching! Once more I was impressed by the breadth and range of Rod's knowledge for all things beer - interestingly we also shared a passion for German wine, which led to a couple of thoroughly interesting off-topic chats. During our session we tried three of the beers from the Meantime range which allowed us to see how the production lines that we'd seen result in these wonderful beers:

We started with Meantime's London Lager (available from Majestic at £10.99 for six bottles). This is described by Meantime as the "quintessential English lager". What is noticeable here is the balance that exists between the hoppy and malty characteristics of the beer. This is a beautifully clean and pure lager, which comes from its unpasteurised production techniques.  

Next up was their Yakima Red (available from Waitrose at £1.79/bottle). As you would expect from the name this beer has a nice dark red tinge to it which comes from the combination of British and German malts. The addition of American hops to this beer gives a typically tropical, fruity characteristic.

Last up was Meantime's Wheat Beer. The beer had that familiar banana bread aroma to it (which fills me with dread as I DETEST bananas), which Rod explained came from the esters in the beer. On the mouth it had a nice, soft feel to it. I don't think I'll ever be the world's biggest wheat beer fan, but this was a perfectly decent example.

Thank you to Rod and the Meantime team for a very enjoyable evening. If you would like to gain "the knowledge" with Meantime then follow this link.

Disclaimer: I did not pay for this session, the views contained within this article are, nonetheless, my own.     

Beer & the Rugby World Cup - It's Time To Get the Beers in!



The Rugby World Cup starts TOMORROW (Friday)!!! Honestly, I've been inexplicably excited for months - to the point where the mere mention of a odd-shaped balls makes me all giddy inside (hhhmmmm....)

Obviously, where rugby is concerned, generally there is beer, and LOTS of it. I will be tucking away plenty of Guinness or Heineken tomorrow night, purely because thats all you can get in Twickenham... Oh, did I forget to mention... I've got tickets.

Keen not to rub it in too much, here's what you should be drinking this World Cup, to show your support for your chosen country!


England
Beavertown - Neck Oil (£2.80, Honest Brew)
If you were asked to name an English band, chances are that Led Zeppelin would feature somewhere high on that list (hopefully). So, that automatically means that the brewery owned by the son of Robert Plant is therefore very English?

Maybe not, but they do make amazing lovely beer, and this sessionable strength IPA is perfect for starting early and finishing late singing 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot' at the top of your lungs, embracing strangers with ketchup from that burger you inhaled at half time all down your brand new England jersey.



Scotland
Brewdog - Punk IPA (£2.50, Sainsbury's)
Scottish are moody about not being very good - I'm not talking about the beer here. Unfortunately Scotland has slumped to 10th place in the world rankings in recent years.

Luckily, there is salvation in beer, and at 5.6% you're likely to forget everything else about Scotland in six or seven pints' time...








Ireland
Guinness (£3.50 for 4, Tesco)
The ONLY beer synonymous with rugby, Guinness is as much a part of game day as Rucks, Scrums & Mauls (well, maybe not for the players).

BTW,  if you didn't know those rugby words you should probably look them up...NOW!





Wales
Tiny Rebel - Full Nelson (£2.40, Honest Brew)
Quite an apt name for a beer to drink with Rugby, this particular brew is described as a Maori Pale Ale.

So, a Welsh beer has an All Black in a headlock? Should be interesting...




USA
Brooklyn Lager (currently £9.99 for six at Majestic)
Yes, the Yanks are in the RUGBY World Cup - and they're not wearing massive shoulder pads and helmets.

Should you find yourself watching them against Scotland, Samoa or South Africa, grab a Brooklyn and wish them luck - heck, if they manage to fight off those teams, it might give us a better chance when it comes to the knockout stages - should England get that far...



Canada
Molson Canadian (unfortunately only available from Tesco in Ireland at the moment - 17 euros per 20.)
Whats more Canadian than a beer with Maple syrup in it. Absolutely nothing, thats what.

And it sounds like a mighty fine combination. I want to get me a couple of these and cheer them on against France.





South Africa
Castle Lager (£1.50, The Savanna - also in some Majestic stores)
I remember sinking a fair few of these at the Bok Bar near Leicester Square a couple of years ago while watching England play South Africa.

Needless to say I was one of the least popular people in that bar at the time, especially as we went on to win... Grab a couple and some Biltong, and try not to mention that other famous South African sportsman...




Japan
Kirin Ichiban (£.179, Ocado - and other supermarkets)
The Japanese have gone big on Rugby. They love it!

So get some Kirin Ichiban in (you can get it from most good off-licences or supermarkets), kick back and enjoy.





Australia
Fosters (currently 2 packs of 15 for £18, Sainsbury's)
Unfortunately, the most commercially available Australian beer in the UK, is also one of the worst.

Should you find yourself cheering on the Aussies, the best you can do if you've got a couple of cans of this lying around is pretend you are those guys from the adverts.



New Zealand
Tuatara Pilsner (£2.90, Honest Brew)
Anything from Tuatara, Garage Project, Parrot Dog or Yeastie Boys is worth tracking down!

There are some amazing Craft Beers coming out of New Zealand at the moment, and some incredible Rugby. Coincidence?  Just keep the cheering to a minimum, the All Blacks will need no encouragement...






France
Kronenberg 1664 (£4.49 for 4, Tesco)
Let's just hope we don't have to support the French.

I can't bear the thought of a World Cup where France are literally the last team worth supporting.




Italy
Peroni (currently on offer at Waitrose for £19 per 18 bottles!)
Crisp and clean, unlike the Italians.

Dirtier than a rugby players' underwear after a game, the Italians don't mind getting their boots' studs on other players' body parts in the name of trying to win*...






I, for one, can't wait for an excuse for a few beers and a home Rugby World Cup. It's a once in a lifetime, and, even if you don't enjoy Rugby, get behind your home nation and support our country! Altogether now... 'Ssswwiiinnnggg Looowww.....'

*These views are Adam's, and certainly not represented by the rest of the Vinspire team, haha! Particularly not our part-Italian editor... In fact, all of these views should be taken for the light-hearted banter they were intended to be.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

10 Crazy Pretty Thermal Flasks for Autumn


Ah, it's that time of year again isn't it? The weather forecast is set to permanently grey, the leaves are turning, there's that 'back to school' vibe in the air and everyone seems obsessed with hibernating in the warm with hearty stews and Strictly Come Dancing. Basically: perfect thermos flask weather.

Autumn is my favourite time of year for this very reason - I get to go for a long walk through the fallen leaves, all cosy in my new coat, and sit on a bench enjoying a steaming cup of coffee from my new pretty thermos flask.

I wrote about brilliant flasks for under £20 back in 2013, but here's another selection of the very prettiest thermos flask designs I could find:


Let's start with one for ONLY A FIVER. Yes, this 'go and do' flask from Urban Outfitters is on sale, hooray! I love the pink and gold design, and I feel like having this in my cupboard is going to make me get out and about a lot more this Autumn.


I love this French vintage style thermos flask from Not on the High Street. "Thé extraordinaire" indeed. It's £20 from a boutique called Lavender and Sage.


Look, I know the whole 'vintage map print' thing is so 2010, but it doesn't take away from the fact that I LOVE the look of this vintage map flask from Liberty. It's £18.95 and I can think of a fair few blokes in my life that would love this for Christmas.


Hands up who else loves flamingos? YES ME TOO. This flamingos thermos is £19 from Lisa Angel on Not On The High Street.


Time for another bargain! I first found this Cartography Range 'You Are Here' thermos flask on John Lewis for £20, but it's on sale at Berry Red for just a tenner! Don't say I never do anything nice for you.


Back to Lisa Angel at Not On The High Street now for this Daydream tea break flask (£21). I know it won't be to everyone's taste but it's very colourful and very fancy and that's a big win-win for me.


Those who prefer their designs more refined will probably love this V&A Palamos flask from Amara. The yellow lid is just so gorgeous with that design, isn't it? It think it's pretty good value for £18.95.


Okay, I know I love my flowers and kitsch designs but I think this bamboo wooden thermal flask might be my favourite. Look how sleek and sexy it is! I just love it. It's £22 from The Exotic Teapot on Not On The High Street.


You know how much I love a pun, so it's no surprise that this 'hello hotness!' thermos flask by Happy Jackson is making me very happy right now. It's £14.95 from John Lewis.


Lastly, a thermos celebrating the very reason I spend so much time outdoors: our family's lovely dogs! This 'Wilber woof' dog flask is from the very brilliant The Flask Company on Not On The High Street - I love their collection (this camper van flask is another favourite that didn't quite make the list) and they seem to have a flask for every kind of personality. This one is £20.