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Saturday, 6 December 2014

Looking Forward, Forwarder, and Back a Bit

It's been a month since I last blogged on here. It feels like longer, because I've been doing so much journalism-related stuff that actually blogging seems to have fallen by the wayside. Fear not, this page won't end up a ghost town populated only by automated comments about cheap Cialis for a good while yet.

I've been doing things! I promise.

I'm not sure how much of this I can talk about yet, so I'll keep it vague. I'm joining Chris Hall, Craig Heap and Matt Curtis (most of the team I worked with on Craft Beer: the 100 Best Breweries in the World) on a big project that is taking me to Sheffield tomorrow (well, technically today, but we're in the awkward small-hours) and other places in the UK later on, and drinking and writing are going to feature heavily on this and subsequent missions.

I'm really excited to have the band back together.

I can talk in greater detail about a plan of my own which is going to come to fruition in the New Year so I totally will.

After a bit of hand-wringing and deep reflection on just how impenetrable my accent is I've uttered a heavily-accented "ahh, fuck it" and decided to start doing video beer reviews on YouTube as well as written ones.

I shot a six minute pilot review, largely unscripted, and I was very pleased with the result. It's never going to see the light of day (but there's a still from it below so you can see how much tat I have in my living room) and the ones I'm going to start shooting from early next year (with Emma working her multimedia sorcery as my editor) are going to look so much cooler. I've even bought a leather chair SPECIFICALLY for the purpose. From a bloke in Whitley Bay. For 99p.

As you can tell I'm going all-in on this.

Seriously though, they'll be mint. I'm psyched.



And to finish this blog post off, here's a throwback to the first beer I ever reviewed for the old Rum and Reviews website, back in March 2012. I had no idea back then that I'd be travelling around the country getting beered up as a profession back then and Jesus Christ am I glad I stuck at it.

Enjoy, and keep your hands and faces inside the time machine.

Bad King John
Ridgeway Brewing
6% ABV

One look at the bottle tells you that Bad King John is a serious beer. There’s a picture of a woman about to be burned at the stake on the label, and without bright light behind it the contents of the bottle look like tar.

The knights that fill the rest of the label look like illustrations from a medieval fechtbuch, the graphic martial arts manuals of the Middle Ages used to train the knightly orders. It’s a powerful stout, weighing in at 6% ABV, and pours thick, slow and oily from the bottle.


Bad King John has a strong bittersweet scent, underlined with a slight smell of ash, and a beige head a little dirtier looking than that which tops pints of Guinness, which quickly fades away. There’s a touch of coffee in the first taste, quickly turning to tobacco and caramel laid over a peppery skeleton, with a noticeable burn at the back of the throat with the first mouthful. The taste is shot through with hints of caramelised fruit, seeming to rise and fall from gulp to gulp. A moist, leafy aftertaste lingers a short while after each mouthful, with the more bitter notes of the taste lasting the longest on the tongue

This beer has a real tough-guy aura, not exactly hindered by the ominous swagger of the label, but all this bluster gives way after a few mouthfuls to reveal a softer and more complex drink with a thinner body than expected. Bad King John made me fear a drinking experience akin to eating a fence post, and surprised me as it revealed itself as a beer I could happily drink all night. The text on the label warns of a violent beer, a real killer, but fails to deliver on this promise; and this is in no way a bad thing.

Bad King John is mildly carbonated, and I became more aware of the touch of fizz as I made my way further down the pint glass. The taste seemed to thin a little as my first glass approached its end, but there was no drastic loss of flavour.

The alcoholic content keeps a low profile, Bad King John is a strong drink but doesn’t taste like a 6% ABV beer; in a blind test I would place its volume at two percent lower. Certainly a dangerous quality.

I opened a second bottle immediately after, and this time experimented by complementing the beer with some chunks of dark chocolate. This paid dividends, with a few bites of dark chocolate between mouthfuls adding an extra degree of complexity and depth, the smoky notes of the chocolate and the beer dovetailing perfectly.

This is a beer I could easily drink for the whole evening. It has a complex enough taste to make for a night of exploratory drinking, with the beer revealing more of its subtleties with each consecutive glass. With chocolate or a cold meat platter added to the mix Bad King John really shines, although perhaps “shine” is the wrong word for such a dark, smoky beer. Perhaps it glowers, or broods instead.

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