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  • Bad Seed Brewery Has Rolled In!

    Bad Seed, good guys. That's right, some of the nicest guys with some of Yorkshire's nicest beer have finally found their way into our warehouse. And it's about time, considering that Bad Seed Brewery is one of our North Yorkshire neighbors!

    Lots of beery goodness is driving around in here... Lots of beery goodness is driving around in here...

    I first discovered Bad Seed probably not too long after their launch at the great Friends of Ham in Leeds. My first impression was "why is the price tag still hanging off of it?" because of the bottle's little tag-doohickey thing. Yet, opinions of the of-course-it-dunked-straight-into-my-beer device is not what I walked away with. Indeed, it was their deliciously light and spritzy Saison that made me want to know more about these Bad Seed guys. Fortunately, thanks to the best gig in the world, I now get to.

    The gregarious Chris and passionate James have taken their brand from strength to strength in the past year. They've collaborated with other great breweries (striking gold with the Northern Monk collab--Salted Lemon Wit), made solid showings at various beer festivals, and--beyond just expanding their range--they've experimented with sour beers and produced a fabulous Cherry Sour. Which sold out way too fast.

    BadSeedBoxes

    It's serendipity that the Saison from this Malton, North Yorkshire microbrewery has finally found its way into our range alongside some of their other great stuff: the smooth and rich Espresso Stout, refreshing and clean Hefeweizen, and the über-hoppy India Pale Ale. From a random brewery with a tag on its bottle to a passionate player on the beer-scene, I couldn't be happier that we've got some great beer from the nicest Bad Seeds there are. I can't wait to see what they come up with next.

    -Maggie

  • I'm Beer Sommelier Certified!

    Photo: The Beer Academy Photo: The Beer Academy

    On Friday, September 18th after several years of researching, studying, writing, and, ermm, drinking beer, I finally got my Beer Sommelier certification from the prestigious Beer Academy--an arm of the Institute of Brewing and Distilling--in London. I'm very proud to join the ranks of some of the best beer people out there  and super excited to be Beer Hawk's actual-on-piece-of-paper beer sommelier.

    Having no idea what to expect going in to the assessment, I have to admit that I was a bundle of nerves on the train down to London. I didn't know if I was going to have to taste a million beers and say which breweries they came from. Was I to brew a beer from grain to glass in two hours? Define "Craft?" Recite Voltaire?

    Without compromising the integrity of the test, I won't give all the beery details. I will say, however, that it wasn't as simple as sitting around and getting hammered--although that would've been awesome. I had to explain bits of my portfolio of evidence which was followed by tasting and style identification. Likewise, I had to show evidence of understanding where specific components of a beer came from. And some off-flavors made an appearance (delicious...) Pretty much it was a bit more than an hour and a half of beer-talk.

    Besides becoming a member of a relatively elite club, another good thing came out of the assessment: I found where my weakness is. While I'm quite good at beer pairing and understanding the brewing process, I'm a little weak in some of my style identification. While I was spot-on with a good number of them and in the ballpark of a handful of others, I completely blew it on a couple of them. I wish I could tell you how bad I blew it but let's just say I got a good mocking from my "dear friends" when I told them what I missed. They're so supportive.

    IBDSignDespite my doofus misstep--and never being able to look at a couple of these beers the same way again--the fact of the matter is, of course I'd make some mistakes. This is a lifelong learning process and one that doesn't stop with a shiny new beer sommelier badge. While I feel as though this accomplishment is a validation for all of the hard work I've done to date, it is also a passageway into the even bigger world of beer. And I'm so happy that I get to make the voyage--on my own, and with the great crew here at Beer Hawk! Cheers!

    -Maggie

    SommelierBadge

  • Ein Prosit! It's Oktoberfest!

    A good few years ago (hence why I look so young and vibrant) I made one of the ultimate beer-pilgrimages: Munich's Oktoberfest. So each year when the air starts getting crisp and the leaves start to change, I find myself reliving the memories of our trip to Germany. I crave those refreshing and smooth lagers. I want pretzels, and spaetzle, and sausages. I wonder what ever happened to my souvenir Ich Liebe Dich cookie that I wore around my neck. I didn't eat it and I'm pretty sure I wore it home on the plane like every good tourist should.

    That time is upon us again--it's Oktoberfest! A festival that started in 1810--initially as a celebration for Crown Prince Ludwig's wedding but had morphed over the years to include horse-racing and an autumn festival--has ultimately found its identity as a place to drink liters upon liters of deliciously drinkable Oktoberfest beer while being enchanted by smells of grilled meat, pretzels, and roughly six million people all trying to use the same toilets. There truly is nothing better.

    Here's me and a beautiful Märzen at Stuttgart's Volksfest. Here's me and a beautiful Märzen at Stuttgart's Volksfest.

    Oktoberfest lasts for roughly 16 days--this year is September 20th through October 5th--and is generally synonymous with the Bavarian city of Munich. While other cities, most notably Stuttgart, host their own versions called "Volksfests" it's only six breweries from Munich that can and do produce the famous Oktoberfest beers. If the same beer style is produced by a brewery outside of Munich, it's called a Märzen. Whatever you call it, it's a beer that was traditionally last brewed in March (or Märzen in German, get it?!) before it got too warm to do so during the summer. The deep-golden-coloured, bready, spicy, malty-sweet-yet-bitter refreshingly drinkable lager would find itself ready just in time for harvest. And now just in time for us to have one too many.

    My experience at Stuttgart was better than in Munich as there was a lot more space and it was easier to chat with those around you. We befriended some locals sitting next to us--and inexplicably (read: too many beers) paid for their beer all night. I'm pretty sure our evening ended with us dancing on the table singing "Sweet Home Alabama" like we were the original writers of the song.

    Before and After Before and After

    Munich or Stuttgart, the process is the same. Huge semi-permanent tents where thousands party late into the night. Thrill rides that I'm surprised the EU permits. Grilled food, fried food, sweet food. Beer. Men in lederhosen, women in dirndls. It's all that makes Oktoberfest great and why it's a must-go. Because, truth be told, nowhere else would you see a sturdy German woman with Popeye-arms carrying her bodyweight in steins of Oktoberfest lager. Or, if you're (or your spouse is) of German heritage, your family name on your very own beer tent.

    --Maggie

    The non-Americanised spelling of our family name. Nope. They didn't care. The non-Americanised spelling of our family name. Nope. They didn't care.

    Can't make it to Bavaria? Don't have Popeye arms? Then have your own Oktoberfest at home (don't forget the sausages and the pretzels!) with our very own The Magic of Oktoberfest mixed case. Prost!

  • Leeds International Beer Festival

    Leeds International Beer Festival is quickly becoming one of my favorite beer fests around. Having gone through the whole airplane/hotel/time-zone-change thing for beer festivals in the past, I love Leeds for its proximity to my house. Once again having the best boss in the world, I did a little happy dance as we made our way to the beer festival for the afternoon. Research, ya know?

    LeedsBrochure

    Only in its third year, the Leeds International Beer Festival is still in its infancy. Nevertheless, it seems as though it has worked its way through the inevitable growing-pains. There were some improvements employed this year over last year and I think the changes are all great choices. Turning the lights down low and having smaller bars in the main room made it easier to breathe in there. Granted, I was only there for the trade session where we pretty much had the place to ourselves but it just seemed to have a better flow.

    The US Craft Beer room was a big improvement over last year's, in my opinion. Not only were there lots of great beers from Stone, Sierra Nevada, Oskar Blues and the like, there were free video game consoles. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. For free. Play until your hand is shaped like a claw. For free. Score!

    LeedsFest

    Besides ventilation and old-school video games, I think that the biggest improvement to the festival--and what's going to put it on the map as one of the best beer festivals there are--is the beer selection. I feel that this festival seems to have a bit of a youthful edge to it (TMNT video games being a clear indicator of that) and the beers available reflect that better this year. There were some doozies from the likes of Siren Craft Brew, Tiny Rebel, and Ilkley Brewing. We also found some beauties like Little Things that Kill from Weird Beard Brew Co. and a dandelion and burdock porter from the great guys at London's Pressure Drop Brewing. Furthermore, exciting beers from Spain, Germany and Italy, among others, were welcome to flex their muscles on a big stage. With no "must be in cask" limitations, the patrons, the breweries, and the whole wide world win.

    LeedsBeerBeerWith great food coming from some of Leed's most creative restaurants, live music, DJ's and fantastic organization, the Leeds International Beer Festival is a proper celebration! This is no stuffy beer festival in a cramped hotel conference room. There is no room for "your beer must be like this and must be like that in order to be included." All are welcome and all are guaranteed to have a great time. I did. A little too much.

    --Maggie

  • Left Hand Brewing Company Has Arrived!

    Left Hand Brewing Co. Logo I'm stoked that Left Hand Brewing Company has come back to us here in the UK from the mile-high land of Colorado. I discovered Left Hand years ago because, as a proud Southpaw, I couldn't not try a brewery so aptly named.

    At the time I was only interested in very malt-forward beers as I hadn't yet grown to like the bitter aspect of beer. Imagine my pseudo-cool-girl-trying-to-impress-the-guys delight when a glistening Left Hand Milk Stout tap handle appeared and time stood still.

    I remember my first impression like it was yesterday. Creamy. Chocolate. Coffee. The smoothest stout that I had ever had. I didn't know what a "milk stout" was. Figured it had something to do with the creaminess or was a gimmick or they had a special affinity for the cows on the label. Nevertheless, for a long time I declared that my favorite style of beer was a stout simply because of my memory of Left Hand's Milk Stout.

    To this day I know Left Hand as one of those breweries that--if you didn't recognize or fancy anything else and were looking for something you'd trust--would perpetually (perennially even?!) be a solid choice. But with their innovative Nitro-series, seasonals, and limited editions alongside the perennial range they prove that they're anything but an ol'-standby. These guys are great!

    LeftHandBottles

    The Nitro series is really exciting. Left Hand, after years of trial-and-error, finally mastered the art of conditioning beer with nitrogen as opposed to carbon dioxide. And all this without the use of a widget (which are ubiquitous in the cans of a certain Dublin-based dark beer.) It had truly never been done before with success. The result is an exceptionally creamy beer with a beautiful head that looks like a milkshake. And you thought I was in love with the Milk Stout? Well, hel-lo Milk Stout Nitro. You gorgeous thing.

    I know I yammered on and on about Left Hand's stouts, but I've got to give a shoutout to their Stranger Pale Ale too: aromas of orange alongside a fresh hoppiness that comes across as florals and cut grass are mirrored in a flavor that is bolstered by biscuity and toasted malts. It's the champion of nuance--it's lovely!

    It goes without saying that I'm super excited that we at Beer Hawk--and only Beer Hawk--are now carrying a good chunk of Left Hand's Perennial Range. Our exclusive Left Hand mixed case is a great way to try all we've got but singles are available too. With this great American brewery back in the UK, I've been able to re-live "X" number of years ago. And I've been forcing people to give me left-handed high fives all week!

    --Maggie

    Left-Hand-Banner-Logo---Black-Outline-1

  • September's Beer Club

    There's a distinctly British theme to this month's beer club as we are featuring some of the finalists we discovered when we recently judged CAMRA's Champion Beer of Britain competition. Marble Brewery's Chocolate Marble was crowned Champion and in a total coincidence we'd already featured it in our July Beer Club.  As you'll know we don't repeat beers in the Club, so we've left that one out but have included some of the other contenders for the 2014 crown, including Burton Bridge, Neath Ales and Dunham Massey.

    rooie logoIt's not just about British beer though as there's also some treats from four Dutch masters!  The Netherlands is a hive of beery activity at the moment and September features Rooie Dop, De Molen, Kaapse Brouwers and La Trappe.  La Trappe and De Molen are regulars in our range but Rooie Dop and Kaapse are a tad harder to come by so we're very excited to include them this month too. Rooie Dop won RateBeer's Best New Brewery award last year and as a personal endorsement, my fridge is full of both the Chica Americana IPA and the Double IPA Ot the Explorer at the moment!

    We're also expecting a delivery from the tremendously exciting Left Hand Brewing Company from Colorado very soon and if that arrives in time we'll be popping their Milk Stout (96 on Rate Beer!) in as well!Hand Registered

    As ever, let us know what you think of the beers we've included this month and most of all if you discover something amazing, tell us and we'll see if we can add it to our range.

    Cheers

    Chris (Beer-Taster-In-Chief)

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  • The Beer Hawk GBBF Recap

    Veni, vidi, vici. Oh yes, Beer Hawk came, saw, and conquered this year's Great British Beer Festival with gusto! Once again we were proud to be the sponsor of the Champion Bottled Beers of Britain bottle bar and found ourselves surrounded by not only the best bottled beer in the country but also some great volunteers. Thankfully resurrected by CAMRA in the 80's, GBBF has now become one of the world's leading beer festivals. This beer festival is always a lot of fun with a great buzz and the opportunity to share a beer with shiny happy people. I know I'm already looking forward to next year!

    BigTop Besides the CBBOB competition that I wrote about last week, I personally attended Tuesday's trade session (our directors, Chris and Mark, bravely sacrificed a bit more of their work-week in the office to partake in some other sessions...all in the name of teamwork.) One session is not enough to experience GBBF! When you're talking about the BIGGEST celebration of British beer in the world which is almost single-handedly run by a superabundance of generous volunteers, the length of the festival itself isn't long enough. It's a tremendous festival of beer and the people want more!

    Now, I've been to a lot of beer festivals; from GABF, to Copenhagen, to even the famed Oktoberfest. Now that I've got two GBBFs under my belt, I've got some observations and (hopefully constructive!) criticisms about the fest as a whole. These opinions are more-or-less from the perspective of a foreign outsider looking in who genuinely wants to live, breathe, and drink everything there is to know about British beer. (Which, duly noted, are not unique to me and I'm not presenting an opinion that has never been expressed before. I'm just taking this chance to preach!)

    First of all, from what I know, the beer selected for the festival is chosen by a bunch of CAMRA branches and CAMRA big-wigs picking out their favorite beers and asking that brewery to bring some of it to the festival. While that's very democratic--and mass participation is exactly what beer needs--there's a danger that it can all get a bit redundant. It ends up with a single bar with 20 taps having 20 beers from 15 breweries from a dozen different regions, and each have about 13 versions of a golden ale. Which, obviously, is quite a bit of THE SAME THING. I found myself staring at some bars and having no clue what I was looking at. I don't feel that's the best way to present British beer to the world because I'd end up walking away from that bar to go find something that was better described to me. Too much choice is not always best--streamline it!

    If I join can I help pick the beers? If I join can I help pick the beers?

    Which leads me to my next thought: it'll probably never change. Despite the fact that every other prominent beer festival throughout the world rewards great breweries--and not individual beers--with a spot in their lineup, the organizers of the Great British Beer Festival seem intent on supplying a thousand "different" choices. Now don't get me wrong, the breweries that have been selected by the Great CAMRA Claw are all great in their own right with a lot of fantastic people behind them. Yet, when they're only permitted to bring what has been requested by CAMRA there is a lot of British talent, creativity, and innovation that is hidden away from the world stage. I think that that's a great injustice. All eyes are on British beer at this moment--work it!

    My next point will probably ruffle some feathers but...well...the American bar (now dubbed "Craft Wanker Corner") was pretty busy most of the day. As were the Belgian/Italian/Dutch/Czech bars. I don't want to get started on the age-old complaint of "why do the American beers have to show up in casks if the Belgians don't?" Nope, I just want to draw attention to the fact that these bars had quite the magnetic pull on rather large crowds. And there's only one explanation for that--the beers were different.

    You got this guy. And 237 golden bitters. You got this guy. And 237 golden bitters.

    Of course I'm not insinuating that the other bars were desolate wastelands serving poor beer. It's just that people--I--go to beer festivals to find the unexpected, to find something they'll remember. To have fun! And, sorry, but the fact that it's from Somerset or Wales or is 3.8% and golden in colour and someone from a CAMRA branch liked it last year doesn't make it memorable. It might be really good. But it's also really good at my local.

    I'm obviously not advocating that CAMRA completely scrap their ethos of supporting cask. Not at all! British beer is famous for its complex subtlety and restraint. The cask ale is as British as the monarchy. Yet there is so much going on in this country--and so many talented brewers--that could do a great service to the British beer reputation if only given a chance or a little freedom. It's truly a shame to hide it from the world like it's a black sheep (*not affiliated with the brewery or any of its subsidiaries) all in the misguided interpretation of tradition.

    --Maggie

  • Champion Bottled Beers of Britain at GBBF

    I have the best bosses in the world. Nope--the UNIVERSE. Not only did they send me down to London to "network" at Great British Beer Festival (GBBF), but they also gave me the opportunity that a lot of people would give their left arm for: I got to be a judge for the final round of the Champion Bottled Beers of Britain (CBBOB)!

    CBBOBJudging

    The final judging took place the day before GBBF opened and consisted of a panel of six judges--including me--who were tasked with picking the bronze, silver, and gold bottled beer award winners. Even though you may think that sitting around tasting beers and talking about them with some esteemed beer industry people would be easy: it wasn't. The final nine beers we tasted had made their way to us after a YEAR of multiple levels of selections around the country--to include two more panels before us on the same day.

    A fellow judge--none other than Mr. Roger Protz A fellow judge--none other than Mr. Roger Protz

    Suffice it to say, once the final nine are selected and passed on to the final round, these are the crème de la crème. Picking one of them to be the best is no easy task, especially considering that there are so many deserving beers and brewers that deserve to be recognized. Nevertheless, the task was ours and we all (rather gladly) accepted it.

    The process was easy: look, sniff, taste, score--all blind, of course. Basically what we were looking for was whether the beer was pretty true to style, interesting, and--most importantly--did it make you want to drink a lot of it?! There was a little chatter amongst us judges with regards to certain flavors and aromas that we were getting and, on a general level, whether we liked it or not. Ultimately our scoring was done individually and anonymously.

    I sampled more smartly as they went on! I sampled more smartly as they went on!

    Once we had finished all the tasting, we took a moment to confer with each other about whether our scores that we had given each beer truly represented the best beers of the lot--and a few judges took another taste of a couple of beers to confirm. We then collectively confirmed that we had the same top five beers just to ensure that there wasn't a rogue outlier that we should revisit. Once we were satisfied that we had all independently, but collectively, determined the top five the scores were handed in to be tallied. And then there was nothing to do but wait until the big announcement!

    CBBOBEmptyJudging

    With regards to my voting, I'm pleased that my favorite--and my #1--of the day was ultimately declared the Gold Champion Bottled Beer of Britain award winner--Marble Chocolate Marble. What won it for me was the absolute glut of aromas and flavors of licorice, molasses, raisins, and coffee. Yet, despite its bold flavors it is still was very drinkable. Beautiful ruby highlights and a frothy tan head just further proved my point.

    While all of the beers were deserving, there were definitely a few other standouts for me: The ultimate Silver winner St. Austell Proper Job, Bronze Winner Spire Prince Igor Russian Imperial Stout, and Moor Revival (who were my #4, #2, and #3 respectively.)

    I'm so grateful that I had this opportunity to judge--I would love to do it again. It was such a blast and I felt like a very important person walking around with my "Judge" badge on. This was truly was a GBBF to remember.

    --Maggie

    ******Not to get all "business-like on you, but if you fancy trying to prove me and the other judging panels wrong, we at Beer Hawk have a CBBOB case that we put together of 15 of the beers that made it to the final rounds. We don't have all the beers from the round that I judged, rather, it's a collection of beers from the final three rounds. It DOES include the Silver winner and a few others from our final round--and it will soon include the Gold winner once the brewery brews it again! Just visit this link below to purchase. Be warned, though--it'll sell out soon!******

    http://www.beerhawk.co.uk/cbbob

  • The North(ern Monk Brew Co.) Has Come.

    Today it has come: today is Northern Monk Brew Co.'s first brew day in their new brewery site.

    And it truly has been a long time in the works. I had my first contact with the nascent Northern Monk Brew Co. way back in early 2013 when it was still just a cuckoo-brewing concept with a skeleton website. Yet things have grown quickly for the Monks: they've taken on head-brewer-monk-in-charge Brian Dickson late last year, bought the brewery site sometime around Christmas 2013, and maintained interest in the brand with various collaborations, contract brews, and launch events all over Yorkshire and beyond.

    I've gotten to know the founder and Chief Monk, Russell Bisset, pretty well over the past year-and-a-half through various doings. Besides Russ' family and dog, there are very few people (or canines) that are as pleased as I am that this day--in the North--has finally come.

    Northern Monk Brew Co.'s New Brewery Northern Monk Brew Co.'s New Brewery

    Brian and Russell have almost starved themselves to get to this point (seriously. I guess Russ has only eaten tuna for the past two weeks and is now concerned that he will die from it.) But it has well been worth it. I had the great opportunity to have a nosey around today while they were brewing with a hand from the awesome James Kemp (or JK) and it smelled sooooo good in there. All of Holbeck Urban Village in Leeds smelled delicious, actually. Those are some lucky office-workers over there.

    Head-brewer-monk Brian and hopppppppppps! Head-brewer-monk Brian and hopppppppppps!

    So, with a beautiful new kit from Malrex all fitted and fancy, a head-brewer chomping at the bit, and a cold-store room full of hops from heaven, the time--and the North--has finally come for brewing. And it was truly serendipitous (and truly unplanned) that their first brew of their New World IPA chocked full of Simcoe, Waimea, Chinook, Galaxy, Summit hops took place on none other than International IPA Day. Subsequent brew-days will see Strannik, Monachus Pale, and their (I don't know if I can say the name) Session IPA, among others, being brewed. Hallelujah.

    Welcome to town, Monks. You've been coming for a while; we're glad you've finally made it.

    -Maggie
    nmbcoposter

  • New Look, Same Great Taste!

    We're just about to finish our first full week based out of the new Beer Hawk HQ's. It's been a rather massive project that included expanding the office space, painting, installing flooring, building new-and-improved-and-super-huge racking for the beer, buying a new fork lift (Chris' favourite part) and moving. Oh, and the moving. Hundreds and hundreds of crates and cases of beer. Hundreds. hundreds. *whimper.

    A filthy Chris & Zach with a well-deserved beer after moving about a billion others A filthy Chris & Zach with a well-deserved beer after moving about a billion others.

    After many exhausting days and not doing our actual jobs, we're finally settled into our new place just on the outskirts of Harrogate. So, with the air-hockey table removed from the toilet and a freshly-tidied kitchenette we're excited to expand Beer Hawk into even bigger and better things.

    Mark loving his new wheels Mark loving his new wheels

    Now with our huge new warehouse, we plan on adding a lot--a lot, a lot--of new lines to our range (which means more beer festivals, trips abroad, and "networking!") in the near future--and I'm hoping that'll include some cans. There's also some discussion going on about doing some tasting nights that we'll be trialing up here in Yorkshire with the hopes of making that available to those of you who reside yonder at some point in the future.

    A slightly wobbly iPhone photo of our new digs! A slightly wobbly iPhone photo of our new digs!

    In the meantime, we're just here doing what we do: working hard at getting better and better everyday to hunt out the world's best beers. If you're in the area please feel free to pop in and take a look around at our new space (and pick up some beers, while you're at it!) Oh, and stick your head into the office to marvel at the flawless decorating. That was my job.

    --Maggie

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