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Sun Sail
In The Drink - Paul Antrobus
Festive Tipple
(1 vote, average 5.00 out of 5)
Thursday, 27 November 2014 00:00


Perk up the Christmas party with fiery ginger beer, iced tea and even rhubarb.

A couple of years ago I held a small panel session tasting ginger beers, as reported in All At Sea in January 2013. Fentimans non-alcoholic version came out top for ginger flavour and Crabbies Original was the favourite alcoholic brew we sampled.

“We liked the idea that ginger is reputed to have amazing healing powers, perfect as a winter warmer and a summer antidote to sea sickness,” they said. That’s quite widely held folklore and not necessarily scientifically valid but, even as far back as 500 BC, ginger was used as a medicine and food flavouring in China and India.

Since the test, the range of brewed alcoholic ginger beers has grown with different variations of the genre and supermarkets introducing own-label versions, always a sure sign of a growing consumer interest.

Micro brew monopoly
Thursday, 02 October 2014 14:23

Micro brew monopolyAccording to CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale now in its 43rd year, new independent ‘micro’ breweries are opening apace while pubs continue to close down at 31 per week.

CAMRA organises the annual Great British Beer Festival at Olympia, West London. This year’s show in featured 350 brewers and over 900 beers, lagers and ciders from across the globe.   Ten or so were UK mainstream breweries with nationwide distribution, the rest small independent micro breweries serving a localised clientele. CAMRA says there are around 1,200 breweries and over 6,000 real ales in the UK alone. Two subjects dominated the festival bar chatter: excitement at the number of new breweries opening and concern about the pub closures. “At this rate,” said one, “there will be more breweries than pubs!”

London now leads the breweries charge with 52 real ale brewers calling the capital their home, up from 44 last year, with Fuller’s of Chiswick the only mainstream brewer still in town.

Something for the ladies
Tuesday, 05 August 2014 00:00

Something for the ladiesConsidering how simple and enjoyable the standard London dry gin recipe is, the number of boutique distilleries opening up around the country and the expanding range of gins now available is quite remarkable.

The new arrivals are mostly the result of enthusiasts dreaming up a better London dry gin mousetrap, like Sipsmith or Adnams. In retaliation, mainstream distillers are resurrecting ‘original’ recipes or adding novelty botanicals to their existing distillate to create new flavours such as Gordon’s Cucumber or Elderflower – or the pretentiously exotic Tanqueray Rangpur, which uses rangpur limes in recognition, I imagine, of the popularity of gin in the days of the Indian Raj.

Waitrose sees the resurgence as reason for a dedicated leaflet featuring over 20 of the gins it stocks of all types including a brand new one, ‘BLOOM’. This is the brainchild of one of the few lady master distillers in the business, Joanne Moore of G & J Distillers (the new name for Greenalls in Cheshire) which is a major producer of gin and vodka for its own brands as well as for supermarket own-label offerings. And, as far as I can research, this is the first gin variant to be primarily (but not exclusively) aimed at ladies and the female palate.

Having started as a London dry gin with juniper and coriander, it ends as a light floral gin with camomile and honeysuckle and pomelo (a citrus fruit from Asia sometimes called Chinese grapefruit) as the signature botanicals.

First of the summer wines
Wednesday, 04 June 2014 12:13

First of the summer winesJune is the first month of the summer quarter-year and the month when the JP Morgan Round the Isle of Wight race kicks off the summer regatta scene afloat and ashore. Time then to consider summer wines...

What makes a wine a summer wine? A practical benchmark is what goes with barbecues, cold crustaceans, salads and al fresco dining on the yacht club terrace. A descriptive benchmark is wines delivering summer soft fruit taste tones of strawberries, raspberries and plums, refreshing lighter wines suitable for serving and consuming chilled.

Whites and rosés may spring to mind but there is a growing trend for selected red wines kept in the fridge and served from the table-top ice-bucket - quite commonplace in French sailing meccas, so why not here, too?

Boutique breweries get crafty. . .
Friday, 02 May 2014 08:55

Boutique breweries get crafty. . .Once upon a time, before motor transport and telephones, there were individual public houses in England’s towns and villages brewing their own beer on the premises for consumption by their own customers.

Then brewing companies were established to supply all the pubs in the village - and beyond. Then there were mergers and the UK was down to six or so major brewers. These were much criticised by CAMRA  - the Campaign for Real Ale - for producing poor-tasting ‘industrial’ products.

This provided the opportunity for small-scale brewers to make a comeback, often in a plant no bigger than a double garage, sometimes in the back of a pub, producing nearly hand-made ‘real ales’. Seemingly, in recent years, they have been opening all around the country faster than pubs are closing.

Characterised as small batch  production and striving  to produce distinct flavours using different hops and grains, many have managed to subtly redefine themselves as ‘craft’ beers, seeing this as having a classier appeal than the Real Ale moniker.

Individually small but collectively adding up to a significant consumer base, the new ‘craft beers’ term is in a twist of fate now providing the opening for the big brewers to enter into this market segment with their own ‘real ales’ despite being big. Some have done this with in-brewery small units, others via collaborations with established independent boutique breweries.

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