Sunday 25 December 2011

Day of Bengal

And so we draw the calendar to a close after yet another year of mostly regular updates, meandering commentaries and the kind of simile that works harder than most people throughout the entire year with about as much appreciation.

It's been an altogether blander affair this year. Barring a few extremely notable exceptions, the beers have been fairly one-track and uninspiring and the same can be said for some of the entries too.

Maybe that's down to waning inspiration or perhaps it's because I've had a considerably less eventful December in 2011. There's something to be said for the theory that creativity is frequently heightened by distress or borderline depression. So in a way, it is heartening to note it's been much more difficult to assign as much importance to the blog this year than I did in 2010. But it's a funny one to ponder. Would you prefer inspiration or contentment? Can the two coexist? And wouldn't this be much better if I had a pint?

As for the last question, I can think of only one way to answer that. And to round things off, a beer that's as London as you could hope for. Brewed by Fuller, Smith & Turner of Chiswick, it's an India Pale Ale like many I've had this year. Not a daftly hoppy one either, but robust and interesting enough.

It's doubtful you'd call this a craft ale like some I've had this month, but I really don't mind that. You feel like you can have a full pint of it without having to fawn over how amazingly well it's been balanced and how wonderfully pungent the new world hops are. Not that I mind any of that, but sometimes you just want a beer and this is just one of those.

Beer: Fullers Bengal Lancer
Strength: A strong yet perfectly feasible 5.3%
Colour: Standard beer light orange.
Smell: Standard beery smell, nothing out of the ordinary, nothing noxious. If anything, slightly fresh smelling, like just-washed woolens.
Tasting notes: Sharp, crisp and with admirable fortitude. Every other cliche you can think of to describe what's a genuinely tip top IPA. Whether it would qualify as one in the strictest sense is really neither here nor there with me today. I'm being seasonably charitable, but I think this beer deserves it. There is a faint taste of Christmas about it too. Peppery and spicy at first, just a smidgin of fruitiness later. Well done, Fuller's.
Gut reaction: I'm marking it down here as it's already not sitting comfortably on my Christmas dinner.
Session factor: Not today, but another time I'll gladly neck a few of these in one go.
Arbitrary score: 258

Saturday 24 December 2011

Come Wandle with me

Christmas Eve is here and off we go to bed. Except that we don't. Not all of us. For there are still one of two bits of unfinished business to attend to, including presents to wrap (all of them) and the last of the beers to get through. 

In truth, I'm not really looking forward to it and I might well leave one of them till tomorrow. The back end of this stinker of a cold along with the tiredness only a two-day break in Amsterdam can bring about has taken some of the enthusiasm away. 

And well it might. I had a long day yesterday that started out in a hotel near Leidseplein, took in a Vlaamse Frites takeaway joint, a cookie shop, the Belgian beer bar, a full-on bonkers bike ride in the famous Amsterdam drizzle, the Burger Meester, a second-floor flat atop a mental spiral staircase and a mad dash to the airport. 

As is often the way with these things, the ability to chat freely and easily with fellow barflies can open up whole worlds of possibilities and yesterday was no exception. I'll never forget hurtling along cobbled streets in the front of a trolley bike with an unkempt dog barking for all he was worth and cars screeching to a halt in their eagerness to give way to the pedal-powered vehicle. I'm told bike is king in Holland and they frown on car/bike interfaces. It's always the car driver's fault no matter who is really in the wrong - a good way of running things if you ask me.

Even despite the relatively early night I had, I still woke up this morning feeling like I needed another few hours. And it's only now, almost 24 hours since I left the place, that I'm beginning to feel like I've shaken off the cloying, debilitating blanket Amsterdam tends to wrap you in.

But in just a few hours' time, all this will be forgotten. Beer will be drunk, presents will be wrapped and the hour when I can sleep again will be upon me. And then it's Christmas. 

Beer: Sambrook's Wandle
Strength: A mercifully manageable 4.2%
Colour:Mash tun copper.
Smell: First impression was of a slight vinegary feel, but that must have been the salad dressing I had earlier. It has a distinctly earthy aroma about it, though. Trodden earth like you get in parks.
Tasting notes: There isn't much wrong with this at all. Brewed slightly stronger than its draught counterpart, it's nevertheless a classic session beer that has just enough body about it to hold its own while also having that gentle hoppy aftertaste that begs another helping. While there are no big flavours here, there is everything you'd want in a beer of this nature. Light, refreshing, easy on the eye and unburdened by pretension or ostentation.
Gut reaction: It's a bit belchy, but nothing overly dramatic.
Session factor: Stratospheric.
Arbitrary score:140

Thursday 22 December 2011

Dutch courage

The internet is so commonplace these days, it's sometimes easy to forget it wasn't really there 20 years ago. You can do so much you could only have dreamed of in the not-too-distant past, it's scary. Like update a blog, for example. 

And that's exactly what I'm doing right now. Because when you read this, I'll be several ales and maybe one or two Jenevers to the good in Amsterdam on the works Christmas party. We've clearly had a good year in 2011. In all honesty, I think I'm probably too ill to appreciate it, but we'll see how the Dutch gin deals with the sinuses and I'll report back tomorrow.

Holland isn't exactly famous for its brewing industry. If you take Heineken and Amstel out of the equation any way. But there are one or two fine beer makers out there, which I intend seeking out the day after our celebrations when most of my colleagues will be on their way home.

The Amsterdam 'brown bar' is something I've never really patronised to a large extent before, but I'll be seeking a few out tomorrow. Essentially, they are old, traditional places with dark brown wood panels on the walls (hence 'brown bar'). The few I've seen pictures of look brilliant. Like a Dutch equivalent of an old man's pub. I'm really looking forward to unearthing a few and, if any of them sell De Molen beers, so much the better.

But just having a pleasant afternoon wandering round the concentric canals without much to worry about will be nice. It's a terrific place to mooch around in and once you get over the initial weirdness of the all touristy stuff, there's a lot to see.

And with any luck, this stupid cold will be a distant memory by then.

Beer: London Fields Brewery Hackney Hopster
Strength: 4.7%
Colour: Joe, Joe. It's that lager colour again, Joe. 
Smell: Not unpleasantly floral. And sharp enough to cut right through the blocked sinuses. 
Tasting notes: Good heavens, it's like Lemsip. Now it could be that I'm imagining this, but after the initial rush of bog-standard 'best bitter in a bottle' disappointment, there's a huge rush of citrus that genuinely makes me feel I'm downing an alcoholic cold remedy. Not quite Night Nurse in a glass as there isn't a great deal of body about this and the finish is sadly all too brief, but I'm almost feeling a few more swigs of this will see me through the night. There's precious little fizz about it, though, which is why it also feels like it's been poured straight out of a barrel.
Session factor: Fairly high, I'd say. Little carbonation, average strength and light enough to slug back with abandon.
Arbitrary score: 17

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Indian brown ailment

December. I always forget how inappropriate a month it is for tackling an advent calendar such as this. I know I've bleated on about the party season getting in the way and all that, but I forgot one crucial factor. The inevitable cold. 

As I sit here typing this, my nose is both blocked and streaming. I can barely hear anything. The raw, red marks around my nostrils are glowing so much they're putting dear old Rudolph to shame. My throat feels like it's been ripped out, dipped in kerosene, dragged over several car accidents' worth of broken windscreen and stuffed back in the wrong way round.

Then there's my poor eyes, squinting out of my puffed up face like bloodshot pissholes in the snow. Yep. I'm properly ill. And it's no coincidence, is it? It's December, of course, and the combination of cold, wet weather, late nights and general exhaustion brought on by the rush before Christmas means I've practically invited this virus round for the holiday season. Sure, make yourself at home, stick around, I'm not busy.

Now I like a good moan as much as any man, but what makes this particular illness doubly irksome is that it means I can barely pick out any subtle flavours in any of the beers I'm drinking. So from Sunday evening onwards, most of the assessments have been a combination of educated guesswork and previous experience, mixed in with a thin coating of Lockets for good measure.

Hardly the judgements of a refined palate, then. But never mind. Only a few more days left before I can hang up my bottle opener for at least another 11 months. Best get on with it. These beers won't drink themselves, will they?

Beer: Kernel Brewery Indian Brown Ale
Strength: A hopefully virus-defeating 7.4%
Colour: Brown. Really very dark brown. The darkest brown I've seen for a while. 
Smell: You're kidding, right? At a push, I can just about smell some hops and yeast, the latter probably because I fucked up the pouring again. 
Tasting notes: Again, it's remarkably difficult to comment when practically everything you use to detect flavour has been annihilated by this pesky disease. OK, it's not really a disease, but it bloody feels like it. I have, however, discovered that if you drink it fairly quickly, then burp a bit, you get a fairly big taste hit, so in the absence of any taste bud sensitivity, that'll have to do. It's sad, because I get the feeling this is a really lovely beer. I can't pick up much about the first gulp, but you do get a lovely, tart malty coating over your tongue as the taste subsides which, at the moment, is really pleasant and almost therapeutic. Yes, there's bitterness too, which is nice. Makes me feel like I'm drinking some kind of citrus fruit drink packed with vitamin C. Unfortunately, that's all I can give at the moment. What I will say is that I feel much better at the end of the glass than I did at the beginning.
Session factor: Not huge, but I wouldn't mind a few in one sitting given different circumstances.
Arbitrary score: 9.9

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Breakfast of champignons

There's probably some perfectly reasonable explanation behind it, but you have to admire the sheer audacity and recklessness of calling a beer Breakfast Stout. 

I woke up in morning and got myself a beer, crooned Jim Morrison, in a fairly ostentatious display of bravado and insouciance designed to appeal to rebels and poster buyers the world over. Bet he didn't help himself to one of these, though. Would have flattened the bugger, I reckon.

And weighing in at a terrifying 9.3%, I'm not surprised. If you can down something like this for breakfast, you have to have the constitution of an Indian elephant that's spent its entire life cleaning out vindaloo pans. Imagine sitting down to a couple of slices of toast and a bottle of this before heading out to work. Unthinkable.

Has to be another reason. Maybe it's stout for people who haven't had one for a while and this one breaks their stout fast. Perhaps it's thus named to remind you it needs drinking first, before any other inferior stouts get in the way. It could even be that it's so full-bodied it constitutes an actual meal and the most important one of the day at that.

Whatever the truth behind it, there's no denying it's a drink that would raise a few eyebrows when ordered at a bar.

Beer: Kernel Brewery Breakfast Stout
Strength: A liver-bothering 9.3%
Colour: The Grand Union Canal, at night. 
Smell: A cold espresso crossed with cooking sherry and raw field mushrooms. 
Tasting notes: I've had to go away and come back five minutes later, such was the impact of the first sip. A beautiful, plummy sweetness hits you first of all, but that doesn't last. No, that's quickly replaced by what feels like a cascade of tingly droplets of frozen bitter lemon that gets progressively sharper the more it coats your tongue. And this is viscous stuff, so there's really no hiding place. Amid the ice storm, there's a stab of Calvados that pierces like a falling icicle, pinning your palate to the floor of your mouth. It then twitches its last judders of life before flickering out. Gone. 
Session factor: Oh, behave.
Arbitrary score: One million pounds

Monday 19 December 2011

Bethnal Green blues

More than anywhere else in London, the place with which I've had the most chequered of histories is Bethnal Green. It seems to be my own personal failure enclave where pretty much everything I try doesn't come off.

It's difficult to pin down the exact point this dodgy relationship with the area began, although my hazy memory is throwing up something about a missed stop on the tube that saw me end up in the wilds of Wanstead with no way of getting back without resorting to an expensive private hire car.

My next brush with the area sticks in the memory much more clearly. There was this girl, see. Beautiful, intelligent, funny. Something of a silly name, but I'd have overlooked that. We dined. We went back to hers. We chatted. Then it was time for bed. At which point, she showed me the spare room, then took great pains to tell me exactly where I could find her were I to wake up in the night and need anything. Oh I needed something, all right. A bloody written invitation, clearly, as I totally failed to pick up on this hint and left the next morning thinking I'd maybe missed a trick. A social evening some months later, during which time she'd started seeing someone else, confirmed this to have been the case.

It didn't stop there. I moved to the area shortly afterwards, into a small, damp yet costly bedsit. The year was 1999 and it saw various disappointments come my way, including a reunion then subsequent split up with a serial piss-baller, a brief dalliance with a friend that caused the downfall of their long-term relationship and, even worse, the witnessing (fortunately only on the radio) of the hideous comeback in the Champions League final by the most hateful football team in the world.

Bloody Bethnal Green. It wasn't finished either. I also experienced the crushing disappointment of being gazumped on a property that was, at the time, on the market for a piddling £75,000. Then there was the car break-in. And the loss of several coats in the Approach.

I was glad to be shot of the place, to be honest. Since when, the area has undergone something of a renaissance. Although it's slightly hipster these days, a plethora of good pubs, restaurants, shops and transport links (if you count Shoreditch High Street at the far end of Bethnal Green Road) have sprung up in the years since I left.

And now, I have Bethnal Pale Ale from the Redchurch Brewery, which has opened up in the area in the last year. The beers I've already had of theirs have been reasonably good so far and I'm told they are opening up a retail outlet at the brewery too. Which makes it all the more galling I'm no longer in the vicinity.

Beer: Redchurch Bethnal Pale Ale
Strength: A perfectly acceptable 5.5%
Colour: Mandarin orange and chimney red
Smell: Way too fruity. Like a just opened can of sweetened oranges. 
Tasting notes: Kicking the back end out of what you thought this fruity number would be. This beer has every flavour from luscious tangerine to tart blood orange and all points in between. True to form, it gives you nothing but the most tangiest aftertaste imaginable and leaves you wanting something more. And quite frankly, you're going to be disappointed. Because everything you wanted and everything you imagined is going to fade away, gently but obviously, and you're going to be left with nothing but the bile-laden hideousness of the tart you felt in the first place. 
Session factor: Poor. Quaffable, yes; drinkable, no.
Arbitrary score: 38

Sunday 18 December 2011

Trying trio

If there's one weekend I've gained a huge insight into my own limitations, this was it. It's time to pack it up and admit I'm no longer a young, resilient man. Time was I could go out on a Friday night and still have the energy to carry on right the way through the weekend. But no more.

And that's why I'm only just getting round to updating the calendar. Instead of being sensible on Friday evening, I decided I could push the boat out, what with it being the last weekend before Christmas and all. This was an error. After struggling through to 3pm yesterday, I returned home and spent the rest of the day in such a state of delicacy I could barely move.

In fairness, I have developed a survival mechanism that meant I wisely avoided alcohol completely, but that gives me the arduous task of downing three tonight. Fortunately, only one is 500ml, so at least it shouldn't be too much of a struggle.

What the weekend has made me think about is the wisdom of continuing with this tradition. I've never managed to complete one without having to catch up at some point and that's pretty embarrassing. It's only a beer a day. But there's the rub. If I'm going out during what's traditionally the season of overindulgence, it can end up being many more than one beer a day, which can occasionally prove too many. Something's got to give.

And that can mean one of two things. Grow up a bit or stop doing the calendar. This time next year, I'll be a year older, so we'll see how it goes.

Beer: Brodie's Old Street IPA
Strength: A disconcerting 6.4%
Colour: The warm orange glow of a setting sun.
Smell: Bruised peaches and comice pears.
Tasting notes: Unlike the smell, there is absolutely nothing sweet about this at all. It's sharp and tart from the off and it's downhill (or uphill, depending on your viewpoint) from there to the finish, which seems to go on an age. In a way, this bitterness provides the perfect counterpoint to the bountiful fruit of the bouquet or at the very least a sharp contrast. Whether or not it actually tastes nice is a moot point. Perhaps for the first five seconds or so it works nicely, but the back end of the finish almost tastes like the painful sting of bile, so on balance, I'm happy I've only got one to drink. 
Gut reaction: Despite the after taste and the relatively high carbonation, I'm not expecting it to be that vicious.
Session factor: Fairly low, especially at this strength.
Arbitrary score: 14

Beer: London Fields Brewery Harvest Ale
Strength: A more humane 4.7%
Colour: The same setting sun as above, only around 20 minutes beforehand.
Smell: Not much, really, but somewhat worryingly, the only thing I can pick out is five-year-old emulsion paint
Tasting notes: A little watery at first, disappointingly. Then there's an overpowering hit of how I imagine a 30-odd year old thatched roof would taste like if you dipped it in a large puddle, bunged the lot in a Moulinex and mixed it with several pans of potato water. Thankfully, that doesn't last the course and you're treated to a slowly fading bitter finish that does its level best to (and largely succeeds in) washing that fusty taste away. 
Gut reaction: Again, no issues predicted with this. It just doesn't have enough about it to threaten.
Session factor: Not too bad, really. The sharp finish almost makes you forget the generally poor taste of it.
Arbitrary score: 3.5

Beer: Meantime London Pale Ale
Strength: A reassuringly weak 4.3%
Colour: Barely disguised lager
Smell: Barely disguised lager
Tasting notes: Barely dis... OK, it's not that bad, but there isn't really a great deal to say about this one. I expect it's designed for drinking quite a lot of on hot summer days, but since this is the middle of winter and I'm still feeling rather unenthusiastic about beer, it seems a mite out of place. Like lager, it's sharp from the off and has a fairly dank finish. It's pretty gassy too and were it not for the label telling me this is a pale ale, I'd say it was lager by another name. 
Gut reaction: Although not strong, it's got plenty of gas and has already had me burping with gusto.
Session factor: High.  
Arbitrary score: 62%

Thursday 15 December 2011

Cool porter

On reflection, perhaps it wasn't the best idea in the world to have the world's hottest chilli for dinner this evening. Hasn't done a great deal for the sensitivity of the taste buds, I can tell you. 

In fact, my entire mouth is tingling like I've been leaning on it funny for a good half an hour. It's not unpleasant. It's just it feels like any subtle nuances of flavour will be a mite tricky to pick out due to the still searing heat my tongue is experiencing currently.

The naga chilli is to blame for this. As purchased from Chilli Pepper Pete in Brighton. Reputedly the hottest chilli in the world measuring more than a million heat units on the Scoville scale (the chilli equivalent of Richter, presumably), these things are lethal even in small doses. Bunging around eight of the blighters into a chilli along with several Scotch Bonnets and some Dave's Insanity Ghost Pepper sauce was asking for it really.

So in a way, it's a good job tonight's offering is a fairly robust, uncomplicated beer. Fuller's London Porter, if it were an actor, would be someone like Steven Seagal. Lacking in subtlety despite pretensions otherwise, it's full bodied and doesn't require much thought. Fairly good in a crisis.

What better way of calming the inferno, then?

Beer: Fuller's London Porter
Strength: A standard 5.4%
Colour: Dark wooden floorboards.
Smell: Liquid Marmite and plasticine. 
Tasting notes: Bit like a roast dinner this. Not that it tastes of beef, gravy and Yorkshire puddings, of course. More that it's got that reassuring texture and homespun feel that makes you think you're either round your parents' place on a Sunday or feasting in a country pub stuck out in the middle of nowhere on a rickety table by a flickering real fire. It's dealt with the chilli with aplomb and wiped its smokey, chocolatey feet all over the mouth's doormat. And it's got a lovely, sweet, oily finish that slips its way quietly and soothingly down your throat. Nice
Gut reaction: Calming, but heavy.
Session factor: A bit rugged for too many, I'd suggest. 
Arbitrary score: One hundred and eighty

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Thirsty work

Amazing how you can start fixing something and all of a sudden you find a billion more things that aren't quite right and demand immediate attention. 

Fixed a puncture on my bike this evening. Started two-and-a-half hours ago. Decided it needed new rim tape; a good clean; oooh, those tyres need changing; reckon the gears want a good clean, regrease and re-index; haven't cleaned the chainrings for a while...

So a five minute job at most has taken nearly thirty times that. Which explains why I'm not posting until this hour. And which also explains this fairly concise preamble. I'm thirsty now too. Good job this is a 500ml bottle, then. 

Beer: Brodies Dalston Black IPA
Strength: A hefty 7%
Colour: A deep, dark scarlet.
Smell: An intoxicating combination of French Golden Delicious apples, cherry blossom and Thai stick.
Tasting notes: As you gulp and the burst of carbonation subsides, your tongue becomes the unwitting recipient of an almost relentless barrage of bitterness. Akin to the first few spatters of rain patting the dry pavement before the deluge, it's as if an avalanche of hoppy harshness is coming and you'd better be ready. But you can't be ready, you see. If you can taste it, there's no escape. For some, the bitterness might be pushing it a bit far, but after more than two hours faffing with a bike, I can deal with this.
Gut reaction: Doesn't taste too threatening, although that carbonation up front could cause some ructions.  
Session factor: Not at this ABV, but you could knock back a few served in schooners.
Arbitrary score: Eight bloody nil.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Ill communication

Some days, this is easier than others. Yesterday was a breeze despite the pre-calendar refreshers I had at The Crown in Southwark. Today, it's like pulling the teeth of water kittens you're trying to herd uphill with a fork. 

In many ways, December really isn't an ideal month for this kind of venture. Christmas parties abound, the lure of the fireside of a snug pub is increasingly difficult to resist and disease stalks the streets, buses, tubes and offices, waiting for its moment to pounce.

And it got me. I feel dreadful. All of a sudden, my decision to don extreme weather clothing and wander about in last night's storm as a kind of Honor Oak King Lear looks all the more foolhardy.

Could quite happily head straight to bed, but what with being on the downhill stretch now, I may as well take the plunge. Besides, this is a free beer and we all know how good they can be for you, eh? An old mate Rob, who has just finished a particularly worthwhile project photographing all the pubs in Brighton, picked it up for me in Dorset before I'd decided to have London breweries as the theme. So as it's a present, it makes the cut, despite being from Bridport.

And in a way, I feel duty bound to drink it now as well, especially since I've just read on the label that the brewery - Palmers - donates 5p for each bottle sold to the Chesil Trust, a charity that helps the young or disabled enjoy sailing.

By drinking this, I'm supporting a worthy cause.

Beer: Palmers Dorset Gold
Strength: A paltry 4.5%
Colour: Well, duh. Actually, it's a more pleasing copper colour that sticks two fingers up at its name.
Smell: Can't make much out through this bloody cold, but among the usual maltiness, I can detect a hint of air escaping from a deflating inner tube.
Tasting notes: Ah, it's not bad. Fairly standard stuff, but interesting enough. A tinge of ginger accompanies the rounded fruity opener and that's a clue to the zest to follow, delivered by a not overly generous portion of hops that aren't much to write home about. In fact, there's a not unwelcome undercurrent of honey running through it too, which has definitely lifted this out of the arena of the run-of-the-mill. Hang on. Ginger? Zest? Honey? I'm clearly craving a hot toddy or 'enhanced' Lemsip, aren't I?
Gut reaction: It's a feisty number where the fizz is concerned and I've been belching. 
Session factor: You could, but for me it'd be too much like overdosing on Beecham's Powders.
Arbitrary score: Nil-nil

Monday 12 December 2011

Chocs away

Halfway through the calendar and not even a passing glance at the surreal. How the dolphin cucumber has that happened?

I had a quick ganzer at last year's calendar and couldn't believe how much better it was. Passionate, heartfelt writing, jokes, puns, interesting metaphor. It had the lot. Whereas this year has been pretty mundane, if the truth be told. Laboured, unfunny, boring. Even for the reader.

Now there must be a bloody good reason for this, I over-analyse. What can the explanation be? It's clearly not the selection of beers - plenty of good stuff in London, I note. There's the possibility I've just got shit in the intervening year, which you can't rule out.

But the over-arching difference between this year and last is... December 2011 is just not that dramatic. This time last year was genuinely tumultuous for all manner of reasons. In all honesty, I really didn't have any idea what was going on. Hence the high quality of the posts (IMO OBV YMMV etc.).

Jump forward 12 months and I know exactly what the near future holds, where I'll be, what my prospects are and how uncannily right I was on New Year's Day last year that 2011 would be the first since 1984 in which I failed utterly to snog anyone.

They say your finest writing comes when you're beset with uncertainty. On the strength of this year's calendar, they've got it spot on. Like everyone else, I really hope next year's calendar is better.

Which brings me to the surreal bit. I was presented with something this evening to which I genuinely didn't know the answer. To wit, how do you pronounce 'garage'? Is it 'garridge', as your south east London dance music fan of a certain age would have it, or 'gar-arrge', as befits the pronunciation as borrowed from the French 'parking', i.e. garage?

I don't know the answer. But the well-spoken piped voice on the 171 bus to Catford Garage knows. What say you?

Beer: Meantime Chocolate Stout
Strength: 6.5%
Colour: Ruddy, dark, Bourneville-style chocolate
Smell: More like a cheap sherry-ridden fruitcake than a beer
Tasting notes: OK, so first up, I'll be honest, this tastes bloody rubbish. I'll declare my interest a bit here. I've had a couple of ales already this evening, one of which was a Brooklyn Chocolate Stout, so in fairness, this one has a bit up to which to live. And I'm just on the point of damning it with some withering sarcasm the like of which I've yet to display a gift for when, all of a sudden, something's not quite lining up. It's not big or fruity enough to start with, but then from nowhere comes a blast of already tasted chocolate. Now I know you're wondering what the fuck I'm talking about, so I'll lay the cards out now. We've all hollowed out a Cadbury's Creme Egg like we're doing something inappropriate for a family website. And the result is 'diluted' chocolate. A bit faded. Like it's had a proper tonguing. Doesn't look all that appetising, but we eat it all the same, whether or not there's still a bit of that tenacious tin foil clinging barnacle-like to the exterior. And it's that unmistakable faded, rather jaded, chocolate wash that's the dominant taste about this beer's finish. I doubt I need say any more. 
Gut reaction: Unsurprisingly, this doesn't feel like it'll lay easily. 
Session factor: Depends entirely on your bent for licked-out Creme Eggs.
Arbitrary score: 6-0

Sunday 11 December 2011

Rye smile

Well what a dismal weekend for beer it's been. Holed up at my parents' place with nothing but a couple of off-tasting cruddy ales for beery company. 

But it's funny how things can change in the blinking of an eye. Well, they can in the land of the Beer Advent Calendar. Moments after returning, I venture to the calendar and pull out today's offering. And stone me if it isn't a Kernel Pale Ale Rye. As crafted by my fair hand.

OK, that's potentially pushing it a bit. I helped in it's preparation. All right, I was there on the day it was brewed. And I didn't manage to spill or ruin anything.

That was the second time this year I've been along to the Bermondsey arches to drink in the convivial atmosphere and see if I can learn anything about brewing beer. Think I've remembered most of what I picked up in the two visits and it's inspired me to have a crack at maybe making some of my own next year.

So in a way, no matter what this stuff tastes like - and I haven't tried it yet although it's been ready at least a week - some good has emerged. Even if it tastes rank - and I'm fairly sure it won't - then some creativity will be born from the experience.

Beer: Kernel Brewery Pale Ale Rye
Strength: 5.7%
Colour: The pale orange of expensive 1970s skateboard wheels
Smell: Oddly reminiscent of the early 80s fizzy drink Quatro. 
Tasting notes: Oh, the relief. Of the 'thank fuck for that' ilk. When you check your coat pocket the next day and find your wallet is still there. Or when you finally locate that email that covers your arse and makes the client's complaint fade away into nothing. As if it never existed. There is just about enough so-called tropical (read: sweet) fruit flavour up front, but that doesn't stand a chance as our hoppy light brigade makes its headlong charge into the Russian guns of your tongue, sabres rattling and defiant and with no care for their own safety. Sure, their blood will eventually stain the buddy battlefield, but it will not have been in vain, by all the Gods. And that stain will take years to wash away, much like the bitterness this pale imparts for some considerable time after you've long since expected it to be gone. I think I may have discovered the ideal beer for slaking the thirst of a parched herd of migrating zebra. 
Gut reaction: Hard to tell, really. There is a fair bit of sediment that escaped the bottle due to yet more clumsy pouring. 
Session factor: Wish we'd make this in April as it would be ideal for summer afternoon-long tastings
Arbitrary score: 1969

Saturday 10 December 2011

Double trouble

Been fairly lax due to one thing and another, so for the second time this week I'm again presented with a double bill of beers. Hardly particularly professional, is it? Still, it's for the love of it, so a bit of slippage here and there isn't going to hurt anyone I don't expect.

It's around now, just about a third of the way in, that I traditionally start to question why I bother with this. It's a bit of an effort and I've never managed to go through the whole thing without missing a day.

But perhaps that's a good thing. Gives the liver time to recover a bit. The creative juices the chance to replenish, although there hasn't been a great deal of evidence of that happening so far this year.

Not to worry. A couple of bottles of inspiration and it'll all come flooding back, right? Although quite honestly, neither of the two out of the calendar in the last couple of days are having me licking my chops in anticipation.

Yesterday's was a Pitfield's 1837 IPA. Now I've heard mixed reviews of this stuff, ranging from 'awful' to 'downright undrinkable', so I literally can wait to try it. I've also just found out it's now brewed in Cambridge rather than London, which is something of an additional disappointment, so it's looking fairly bleak.

Today's is a more promising prospect - London Fields Gold. Yes, yes, that's another golden ale I'm drinking. But I've not had anything from this new addition to the London brewing scene, so there's at least a small element of surprise in store.  

Beer: Pitfield's 1837 IPA
Strength: 7.6%
Colour: Dull, lifeless amber.
Smell: Nothing at all like the IPAs I've been drinking recently, it smells more like a strong premium bitter: sweet, fruity and fusty rather than spicy and enticing.
Tasting notes: It's difficult to say which camp I'm in here, but just two hearty glugs in and I'm erring towards the undrinkable end of the spectrum. It's a bit like drinking a badly out of date pint of London Pride that's somehow chanced upon a supply of steroids and beefed itself up a bit. While simultaneously having passed out and allowed something already fairly smelly to crawl up its arse and die. The sleevenotes have it that this is a beer brewed to an historical recipe. I can only think there's every reason the recipe should have stayed that way.
Gut reaction: A beer more likely to turn my insides into a fizzy bum gravy producing factory I don't think I've had for many a year.
Session factor: Dismally low. I've already given some of this one away and am seriously considering pouring the rest.
Arbitrary score: -274

Beer: London Fields Brewery Gold
Strength: 5.1%
Colour: Opaque, light gold. Like someone didn't pour it carefully and the sedement's ended up in the glass.
Smell:Really disappointing. Like a wet pair of jeans left in a plastic bag for a week crossed with a cat's breath.
Tasting notes: Much, much more disappointing than the smell. I think it must be off. Is it entirely fair to review a beer you think is off? Well, given I've nothing else, I guess I will. This has next to no merit at all. There's precious little about it from the start, a damp squib of a finish and an utterly unconvincing middle that you wonder why they bothered. Now I had a glass of their beer when I collected this bottle and it was lovely, so I know they can do it. But this shouldn't have been allowed out of the building and the poor aroma and below average taste cannot be put down to clumsy pouring. Pleh.
Gut reaction: I fear for my innards.
Session factor: A decent one would score fairly highly, I reckon. But I wouldn't want another one of these again on the strength of this bottle.
Arbitrary score: 0-2

Friday 9 December 2011

Hoxton fings

OK, I know it's late, but I've not gone to bed yet, so this still counts as 'today' in my book. And for several of our friends on the American continent, this is still the 8th of December. 

And with that firmly established as a perfectly reasonable excuse, we'll get on to the less rational arena of the errant pub.

That's you, The Harp. Because on the surface of it, you do everything right. And you sell some good beer. Hell, you even look OK. But you fail. And you fail epically.

Here's why. You were open. And to all intents and purposes, you were still open when I chanced upon you this evening. And when I ventured inside, you were all lights on and serving. And you'd seen me waiting patiently for my opportunity to order.

Then you decided you were shut. No flashing lights, no 'last orders' bell. Nothing. Just a refusal. That's not good enough. I don't mind you being shut and I totally respect your right to call time. But you really should call time so I can at least choose to head elsewhere.

And I'm massively disappointed, because I've recommended you to countless people asking where the best pub near Charing Cross is. And even though this evening you had a relatively uninspiring beer list, I still thought you were a better option than just heading home. But I was wrong. I didn't want to be, but you pushed me into it.

I realise this won't affect you commercially, but I can't recommend you any more. A good pub has great beer, a good atmosphere and, crucially, lets everyone know when it's over. Two out of three, in this instance, wasn't good enough.

But then, you didn't have any Redchurch Brewery beers for me to have a crack at, so perhaps it was for the best.

Beer: Redchurch Brewery Hoxton Stout
Strength: I can't read what it says, but it looks like 8.9% (it's actually 6%)
Colour: Deep, dark and brown. Like you wouldn't muck about with it.
Smell: You know what. I've had several sniffs of this and I can't make out anything other than 'beer' and 'fruitcake'. Which isn't good enough in my book. 
Tasting notes: For a stout, this is surprisingly refreshing. Sure, there's molasses and treacle and everything you'd expect from a stout (apart from Guinness, that is), but this has a bit of a kick to it. Not only when you first swig it, but long afterwards as well. Almost infuriatingly. You sense you'd quite like rid of the taste, but it comes back at you like a child insisting it wants to wear the red cardigan; not the pink one. It doesn't know these things are up for debate; it just says it louder and louder till you have to threaten to take away its noo-noo before it'll back down. It's not unpleasant; just inevitable. 
Gut reaction: I'm indignant it won't hurt a bit, despite having already burped several times.
Session factor: Depends how much you enjoy conflict.
Arbitrary score: 12

Wednesday 7 December 2011

North and south

More observant readers will have spotted the lack of update yesterday. This was due to technical reasons, to wit, I was unable to operate the keyboard having been on an extended trip to The Rake in Borough.

Regulars will be only too aware updates can be less-than-clockwork as December wears on, what with it being the party season and all. The intention was there but sadly the ability was absent. Never mind. It does mean I get to have two this evening, so every cloud...

And this evening's drinks couldn't be more different if they tried. One from north London; one from south. One easily sourced; the other a bit of a chore to lay in. One pale; the other black. But both made by fairly small brewers based in Network Rail properties (or railway arches, to the uninitiated).

So take a bow Camden Pale Ale and Kernel Double Black IPA. I've had both before and they each have their merits. Camden Pale Ale is a terrific keg beer that's a go-to pint whenever you see it in a bar. I believe they have it on at The Social and it's exactly what I'd be drinking were I there.

Kernel's Double Black IPA is a thing of wonder. I can't quite put my finger on why it's better than the standard Black IPA they do, but it just is. It's unfair to compare the two as they're completely different beers, so I won't.

I'm glad it's the Camden Pale Ale first, though.

Beer: Camden Pale Ale
Strength: A paltry 4.5%
Colour: Insipid pigs urine 
Smell: Honeysuckle
Tasting notes: If ever there was a beer designed to be a session ale, this is it. The nicely floral aroma is carried over into the first gulp, but that quickly disappears. Next up is a rasping citrus zest that feels not unlike a lemony spike strip 'stinger' puncturing the tyre walls of your taste buds. This is the very epitome of refreshing, especially as the lingering finish drags on and tempts you into another swig. 
Gut reaction: Only issue with the beer is it's quite a belch-bringer.
Session factor: Large. Fairly low ABV, light, refreshing. It's got everything a session ale needs. 
Arbitrary score: 28

Beer: Kernel Double Black IPA
Strength: A wonderful and frightening 9.8%
Colour: Mahogany
Smell: Molasses and marzipan 
Tasting notes: This is huge. A genuinely massive beer. Lovely big dollop of treacle on the tongue, laced with the finest sherbet, then comes the sharp, tart taste of Granny Smith's apple and a wave of malty Marmite that has what I imagine is the flavour of anchovy-stuffed olives in rock salt. And it is a wave as that salty sensation surfs along the surface of your tongue. It has a half-life of at least a couple of minutes too, so you can afford to savour and marvel at how you can possibly pack this much punch in such a small glass. Sensational stuff. 
Gut reaction: It feels fairly soothing, but at 9.8% you can never be certain.
Session factor: Negligible. This is hard, if satisfying, work. 
Arbitrary score: 254/3

Monday 5 December 2011

Karma Citra

Monday. A busy week ahead. Nowhere near enough sleep as you fought valiantly the duvet demons and bravely battled the trolling mind. Early start. Things to do. Freezing cold. General Monday misery. 

And yet spirits have remained surprisingly high despite the many faceted beast that is the beginning of the working week.

Why? The door through the fifth day of December brings me a Kernel Citra IPA, that's why. I've got form with this stuff. That is to say, I've had it before and it's terrific. So while beavering away in an office that must have been too cold to be entirely legal, I was warmed by the prospect of sinking this one tonight.

In fact, the only downside of cracking a beer this good is the fear your words won't do it justice. Ideally, the review would fit the beer, but often when faced with such high quality, it's tricky thinking of anything worthwhile to say about it.

It tastes nice. I like it. I could go another one of these. See? It's like being a tongue-tied teenager unable to utter anything even remotely comprehensible to that girl you fancy. Charlie Brown clamming up when he finally summons up the nerve to talk to 'that little red-haired girl'. Sometimes there just aren't any words there and I'm worried that'll happen tonight. It would be easier describing a can of Carling Black Label.

Or maybe the alcohol content will unlock the loquaciousness and I'll ramble on all evening eulogising about its nectar-like properties?

Sometimes, there's only one way to find out.

Beer: Kernel Citra IPA
Strength: 6.6%
Colour: A Gorgeous golden orange
Smell: Like writhing around in a sandpit full of lychee flowers.
Tasting notes: I think this is the best beer I've had all year. And I've had some extremely good beers. Right from the off, this screams quality and artisanship. For something that smells so powerful, this is a really subtle beer. An initial sugary hit that reminds me for all the world of those shiny orange sweets you can get in Indian shops gradually fizzles out into a long, flowing taffeta train of a finish. And it's a delightfully delicate zest of a finish too, like someone repeatedly dabbing a peeled segment of mandarin orange on to your tongue with all the care and attention of a mother soothing her child's grazed knee. I reckon even people who profess to not like beer would like this. Completely delicious. 
Gut reaction: I don't care. It could make me fart with the force of a Rolls-Royce Trent 900 and I wouldn't mind.
Session factor: Despite the potency, I'd gladly drink this all night. Honestly wish I'd bought several more. 
Arbitrary score: 100

Sunday 4 December 2011

Beyond the pale

It's days like these that really test the mettle. Sure, it's all very well with the build-up and the initial burst of enthusiasm. But when you're faced with the drinking equivalent of a tricky away tie on a rainy night in Stoke, that's when you really find out what you're made of. 

So welcome, testing Sunday. I stare you down. I drink in your face. Despite a terrible batch of lager back (that's a medical term) and a crushing sense of decline, brought on in no small part by the cold, hard facts of dwindling hit counts, I'm forging on regardless.

Now some would call that foolhardy. Irresponsible. Borderline alcoholic. And they'd be exactly the kind of person you'd want to annoy by belching beery breath right in the kisser. Pow! I know this isn't particularly healthy, but since when has December and anything remotely pleasurable been all that good for you? Sure, I could take milk thistle and pure spring water filtered through the rock of ages, but that's not going to sustain any kind of interest over 24 days, is it?

And besides, I've at least two people whose livers are living vicariously through my daily updates and I can not disappoint. And there's a Brucie Bonus today. Anyone eagle-eyed enough to spot what's playing on my record player in the picture above wins a half of Courage Directors down the local Wetherspoons.

If that's not reason to keep going, nothing is.

Beer: Sambrook's Pale Ale
Strength: Thankfully, just 4.2%
Colour: Worryingly lager coloured. Really looks like a pint of Fosters.
Smell: Like the sweetest spring blossom. Really pleasing and surprising given the circumstances. 
Tasting notes: There I was all set to slate this as a Badger Brewery knock-off, when all of a sudden that bitterness kicked in. To be fair, this knocks the socks off anything Badger can come up with. While the aroma is hugely floral, the taste is a different matter. It's got a buttery biscuit base that would have Gregg Wallace frothing in a Pavlovian frenzy and the (dare I say it?) lager-esque hops used work really well as a pale. Probably more of a summer drink in all honesty, but we can all use some sunshine in our lives in these dark days of winter, can't we? 
Gut reaction: Can't imagine it'll have any adverse effect, but a skin-full would probably leave you feeling your stomach had been scraped out with a scalpel.
Session factor: Easy. You could quite easily sink several without thinking about the possible consequences referred to above. 
Arbitrary score: Thirty-love.

Saturday 3 December 2011

Unsightly Hackney

The trouble with randomness is that it has a tendency to throw up some distinctly uniform patterns. So it is that just three days into the calendar and I'm drinking another beer with Hackney and a colour in its name. 

Redchurch Brewery, based in Bethnal Green, has only been going a few months but it's already garnered some critical acclaim among beer bloggers and ordinary ale-drinking folk. Personally, I've never touched the stuff. Hell, I'd never even seen the stuff before my bottle gathering took me to the City Beverage Company on Old Street, where I was told by the brewer himself they stocked Redchurch's fare.

City Beverage Company is a terrific place. It sells all sorts of drinks, from Chinese tea and Ethiopian coffee to quality craft beer and fine wine. It's not a huge shop, so things are piled high. It's almost like you're in a second-hand bookshop, but with drinks instead of books. Well worth a visit.

But back to the beer. Redchurch do three beers, all of which have made it into the calendar this year. I'm told the stout is great, but that the Hackney Gold divides opinion. I'm really hoping it's not just another standard golden ale of the ilk I've slagged off before and I do wonder when the backlash against pale-coloured ales will start in earnest. Beer-coloured beer does seem to be a rarity these days.

I like the packaging on this stuff, though. Nice and simple, nothing too ostentatious, fairly understated. But something tells me the beer may not share those characteristics.

Beer: Redchurch Brewery Hackney Gold
Strength: 5.5%
Colour: Not gold. Fantastic. Russet, I'd say. And a bit cloudy, courtesy of my ham-fisted pouring
Smell: Yeasty as a proving loaf, with a good dollop of apple crumble thrown in for good measure. 
Tasting notes: Beautiful, rounded, full and smooth orangey opening that surrenders to a tangy foe of a finish like a lily-livered Walter Softy waving a white flag at a hairy spider. This is a proper, autumnal fireside of a beer rather than the summer lightener I was expecting from the name. I'm really not sure why it's called Hackney Gold since it's neither made in Hackney nor gold. Clearly names count for nothing these days and a good thing that is too. It's a repeater as well. It's taken me, what, five minutes to write these tasting notes and I've practically finished it.  
Gut reaction: Not much in the way of carbonation in this, so I don't expect too much wind, sediment ingestion notwithstanding. 
Session factor: Modest alcohol count plus borderline addictive taste equals proper session ale. 
Arbitrary score: 17-20

Friday 2 December 2011

Stout of this world

Difficult day today so apologies for the lateness. Actually, fuck that. I'm not sorry. It's at least on the right date, so that's good enough for me.

What made it difficult was the combination of a great night out and an early start this morning. On a miserable December evening characterised by too much rain and not enough degrees, I struck out for Stoke Newington and the sanctuary of the Jolly Butchers. I may have tried one too many there before heading down to the Vortex in Dalston for a gig. The Memory Band, if you were wondering. Highly enjoyable.

But in the back of my mind all night was the thought of having to conduct an interview at 7.45 the following morning to fit in with some git's ludicrous timetable. Doubly galling, then, that he was only too happy to rearrange it till this afternoon when he realised he didn't have the right document with him. Thanks.

In truth, I haven't really been looking forward to this. While it was pleasantly surprising to find passable ales at the gig venue last night, it's done nothing for my head or stomach today. The prospect of drinking hasn't been one I've been relishing at all today, so it really feels like I'm forcing this one down.

That's right. Forcing. Like it's some kind of hardship.

Beer: Meantime London Stout
Strength: 4.5%
Colour: Black
Smell: Roasted black treacle. It's pretty pungent.
Tasting notes: Oh, how terrifically smooth. I wasn't really holding out any high hopes for this, but it's really impressive. Plummier than a member of the landed gentry and with a velvety cravat straight out of Jeeves and Wooster, Meantime London Stout is also insanely moreish. And that's down to the finish, which is like a steadily sloping gradient from fulsome to rasping. Just what you need to encourage another sip.
Gut reaction: How can something this mellow cause any ill? I go so far as to say you could use this instead of Gaviscon.
Session factor: Not high, but I'd like a few more all the same.
Arbitrary score: Six-nil

Thursday 1 December 2011

Hackney downed

Off we go and, blow me, if it isn’t a high-strength IPA. Unsurprising really, as I’ve a few of these dotted around the calendar, reflecting the huge upsurge in popularity of these ales in the last couple of years.

You'll already know the story of India Pale Ales and, if you don't, I'll assume you're probably not all that interested. Something to do with hops, strength and the long voyage to India on slow-moving boats. What marks the latest breed out from the more traditional varieties is their use of so-called 'new world' hops such as Citra, Simcoe and Nelson Sauvin. I realise I'm drifting alarmingly into wine critic territory here; suffice it to say they smell and taste a lot bigger than their forebears.

In a way, that's been a good thing. They've changed the game and have thrown down a beery gauntlet to the old guard. Trouble is, as with anything really, once a bandwaggon gets rolling, any old chancer will try and jump on it. This inevitably leads to dick-measuring one-upmanship, arms-race jostling for superiority and eventual saturation that ultimately breeds brown-shoed bores bleating on about how much they preferred the original. Optimistic outlook, eh?

The signs are already there. The last six months have produced an alarming array of ever-more outlandishly named 'look-how-many-different-types-of-hops-I've-stuffed-in-here' IPAs that have contributed in no small part to the world running out of the more exotic varieties of hops. In years to come, people will look back misty-eyed at the 'great hop drought' of  2011. It hasn't quite caused fights between brewers at hop suppliers, but those days can't be far off. You can also get different coloured ones too. Black IPA, red IPA, green IPA. And worryingly, this trend has crossed over to stouts and porters too - next up, a white porter. Where will it end?

Thankfully, some brewers laid in their supplies long ago and are quietly going about their business of making quality, interesting IPAs that have enough about them to excite the palate but aren't so overbearing you don't know whether you're drinking beer or going down on a cannabis flower. 

Brodies is one of them. In what looks like a small coal shed outside an old Victorian boozer in Leyton (see Beer Advent Calendar passim), the team there brews a pleasing range of well put-together ales. Most of which they sell in the pub at the frankly risible price of £1.99 a pint. Thankfully, they bottle a lot of it and flog it at a far more wallet-relieving price in a limited number of London outlets. 

Not only that, their naming convention falls just the right side of the ludicrous line, so they've a few representatives in this year's calendar.

Eagle-eyed calendar followers will have spotted a couple of cosmetic changes to the format this year. This is purely down to time constraints, but it should improve readability. Brevity, I'm told, is the watchword these days, so it's unlikely I'll ramble on at this length in subsequent posts and I've dropped one or two of the categories below. 

I am, however, happy to engage people in banter/answer questions/argue the toss/accept compliments in the comments section, so feel free to use that facility as often as you like. 

Beer: Brodies Hackney Red IPA
Strength: 6.1%
Colour: *sigh* red. Well, not that red, actually. More damp conker.
Smell: Difficult to put my finger on this one. It's a cross between sponge fingers, stale fruitcake, week-old sawdust and soaked cardboard boxes, like the type you find outside northern supermarkets. Yes, the sawdust and the boxes.
Tasting notes: Not as complex as I thought it would be from the smell. Disappointingly, it's exactly what I'd expect from something called Hackney Red. It's a Man U fan of a beer; one that's never seen north of Watford, never mind the streets of Salford. Oh sure, it knows all the facts and figures, but ask it what bus to catch from Piccadilly Gardens to Old Trafford and it looks at you blankly. That is to say, on the surface, it seems the genuine article. Nice rounded hit up front and sharp at the end. But with every peeling away of the flavour veneer, so a level of authenticity disappears too. What starts out reasonably promisingly ends up overly sour and grasping desperately for acceptance. Should have supported its local club, really.
Gut reaction: It's fortunately quite subtly carbonated, so I'm not anticipating too many ructions despite its cloudy appearance.
Session factor: As viable as Man U playing in the next round of the Carling Cup.
Arbitrary score: 1-2

Wednesday 30 November 2011

The crate and the good

Well that was an unexpectedly laborious faff. Thought I'd make it easy on myself this year by picking 'London brewers' as the theme. You know. Close to home and all that. 

But it's taken the best part of two weeks to pull this little lot together. I've been north, east, south and even a bit west to lay in the ingredients for this year's calendar. Hell, I've even been to Brighton. Up a ruddy steep hill at that.

I'd like to say that was the difficult bit, but it wasn't. No. Finding a crate was no mean feat, so thanks to Theatre of Wine in Tufnell Park for the kind loan of the rather fetching orange Orval one above. But the real bind was making that seemingly unimpressive number matrix above. It might not even be a matrix, but I want to give it a complicated sounding name because that was a right bugger to make. Looks like it could have been knocked up in minutes; in reality it took me three hours.

Each one of those little flaps was meticulously scored out with a fairly blunt Stanley knife and there was more than one occasion I nearly sliced the end of my ruddy fingers off.

That said, it's pretty bloody impressive, isn't it? Big grin on the face when I finished it and posted it up. Now all I've got to do is drink the contents.

It's a tough job, etc....

Sunday 27 November 2011

Beer of the Roses

Someone told me it had been August since I last updated this blog. They were right. Unforgivable sloth. I assure you I have been drinking beer, but writing about it has seemed pointless. But no more. Because someone suggested a beer fight. What could be more worthy than that?

Lancy git: taller and slimmer not necessarily better.
For more, click here.