Tag Archives: Bristol Beer Factory

Bristol Beer Factory, Cheese Taste Off

Apple bruised pigs and fromage baguettes, as the source of the phrase ‘cheesy’ music, were just a couple of the tales we were told at yesterday’s cheese tasting at the Grain Barge. For an event that promoted itself as cheese and alcohol based we got to hear a lot. This latest event was the third big ‘do’ recently hosted by the Bristol Beer Factory. The previous two were the opening of the visitors’ centre, and the chocolate and ale tasting. The stormy and cold evening of the choc tasting was happily offset by the beautiful weather last night.

The Grain Barge has a brilliant view of the Floating Harbour and the setting sun can be a highlight, although we didn’t linger upstairs for long. The vast quantities of cheese were all set up in the downstairs function room. Three glasses were set up for each taster, along with a jug of water and a spittoon for those who chose to use it. The cheese was passed around on a platter and we all took three pieces to try along with each of the drinks on offer – there were three tasting rounds of cheese paired with cider, wine and beer, respectively. The preferences were numbered from one to three although we were told that only the first choice would be counted. I guess no one told the Andrews and Alex that you should avoid politics at the table for jokes flowed for most of the evening about the state of the election and the new government.

The hosts were social and jubilant, the company friendly, and the cheese, supplied by Trethowan’s Dairy, delicious in all its manifestations. The first was the Caerphilly, then the cheddar and the blue Stichelton to finish up.

The overall ‘official’ winner was the cider but my preference leaned towards the Bristol Beer Factory beers. The cider was top choice for the Caerphilly (I found the wine too acidic), the Rioja was lovely but the Exhibition blended better with the cheddar, and while the Muscat Beaumes de Venise was my favourite drink of the evening, the sweet Milk Stout was my favourite choice to accompany the blue cheese.

I won’t list all the drinks served over the evening because I didn’t keep a record of them. Bristol Culture’s beautifully scripted notes, and past promptness in writing up events, meant that I took a more passive approach in my reflections. I suggest a visit for more details (and a great review). Also keep an eye out for the post by Bristol Bites who was at our table and equally diligent with the note taking.

The highlights of the evening were the cheese, the drinks, the company and the social atmosphere. All the talking did take a little while to get used to and while I initially felt rude at eating while being spoken to, I soon managed to pick up speed and tasted along with the presentations. It may take a little work but I shall be more prepared for the next one.

The origin of the word cheesy is not from the French cheese baguettes, by the way, its origin is the Indian word chiz which means ‘the thing’. No Indian drinks that night and it was a shame that the Indian Pale Ale from the chocolate and ale tasting didn’t make an appearance but I’ll keep going back in case it does.

Grain Barge, Chocolate and Ale

A rainy, windy and, more than a little, chilly Thursday was the backdrop for this curiously mixed tasting. The day after was a holiday, however, and the location only a few hundred metres from home so a little discomfort wasn’t much of a sacrifice. My friends Kristine and Andy found out about the Chocolate and Ale session from the Bristol Beer Factory stand at the Love Food Festival the previous weekend. The presenter this evening, Andrew, must have sold it well because there we all were listening to him and Lisa from the Chocolate Tart introduce a session that focused on quality, taste and adventure.

Six ales and six chocolates were presented for our pleasure and a charge of £8. The setting was the Grain Barge on Mardyke Wharf, off Hotwells Rd. Outside the window was the view of a choppy river and all around us in the pub were people enjoying their evening. The selection was presented and enjoyed as follows:

1. Sunrise / Manjari
Ale: Sunrise was the first ale and was golden with citrus and red fruit notes. The hops seem to be extra special at the moment we were told and the taste was light but slightly bitter.

Chocolate: A disk of Manjari 64 per cent cocoa was our first chocolate taste of the evening. The best chocolate does not have to be 70 per cent apparently and this was a dry tasting chocolate that didn’t release its flavours until it was chewed and tasted for a while. Andy pioneered the snapping sound test and we proceeded to do it to all the chocolates that followed. I’m pretty sure they all sounded the same but that could have been the ever-increasing influence of the ale.

2. Kriek / Chuao
Ale: Lindemans Kriek, a bright cherry coloured, and flavoured, beer from Belgium. This is a lambic beer which is produced by spontaneous fermentation through exposure to wild yeasts and bacteria. The process begins with a sour beer and on refermentation there is an addition of morello cherries. Much flavour and sweetness to begin with and ends on a dry and slightly sour tone.

Chocolate: a Chuao chocolate made by Amadei which is very special indeed. The chocolate takes its name from the Venezuelan peninsula where the seeds are produced. This is a dark chocolate without the bitterness found in products of low grade cocoa with the latter being more available because they are easier to grow.

3. Exhibition / Ganaja
Ale: Exhibition beer (5.2%) which has been brewed in Bristol for over 20 years. Originally from the Smiles brewery, the beer later had its name changed to Heritage because of threatened legal action. One of the brewers went to work at Bristol Beer Factory and brought along the recipe and the beer was given back its original name. Easy on the nose but stronger in flavour and much more bitter than the other drinks that evening.

Chocolate: A top quality chocolate used by chefs, Ganaja by Valrhona. More flavours than the Manjari disks provided with our first beer. Delicious.

4. IPA / Chilli chocolate
Ale: The IPA 6.8% had its debut in this tasting session and it was my favourite beer of the evening. The use of American hops is said to be the source of its fruity taste and it was an enjoyable and full flavoured beer which was fragrant and tasted quite light for its percentage levels. Much plaudit was given to American experimentation with beers and a suggestion that English beers try to aspire to some of these levels were greeted with pleased support from our table. Not least from my American friend Kristine.

Chocolate: This was a chilli infused sweet with quite a kick to it. The ouch factor was very evident and at the same time the taste was lovely and not overpowered by the heat. The idea behind the chilli chocolate was that this was the type of beer that would be most suitable for a curry.

5. Milk Stout / Jivara
Ale: The Milk Stout was a favourite of the night and was awarded Gold Stout status in CAMRA’s cask and ale class, 2009. The last cask is now available at the Grain Barge and won’t be around for another four to five months after that. The name comes from the use of lactose sugar which does not break down in the fermentation process and allows for the sweetness to remain in the drink.

Chocolate: Jivara, delicious, dark, strong and sweet. There was also a specially prepared selection of Milk Stout Truffles created for the evening and they were superb. Small hand-made creations which varied in sweetness when drunk with the ale and without. Kristine and I both bought some at the end of the evening.

6. Black 77 / Skylon
Ale: The Black 77 which takes its name from its colour and its percentage: 7.7. A dark and intense drink which nevertheless was quite easy to drink but maybe not as much as the previous ones for me. The guys really liked it although I think the Milk Stout was their preferred drink of the evening.

Chocolate: Skylon which was dark and intense, much like the drink.

By the time the last drink was poured and drunk we had decided that attending had been lots of fun. The location was perfect (especially for me and my housemate, although a little further away for the others), the information useful and fascinating and of course the beer and chocolates were just lovely. The latter will have to be enjoyed on Easter Sunday by Kristine who had given up chocolate for Lent but carefully stored the little tastings away for an extra treat in a couple of days. Her heroic effort at resisting the incredible chocolate was most impressive. I don’t think I could have done the same.

Grain Barge, Beer and Chocolate

The Bristol Beer Factory is celebrating Cask Ale Week from 30 March until 5 April and they want you to celebrate with them. The specials on offer are drink based: buy three Bristol Stout and get one free, and there’s a tasting.

The tasting is of Beer and Chocolate, the price is £8 and the event is held on April 1st at 8pm on the Grain Barge in Bristol. The Grain Barge is moored at Mardyke Wharf and serves local beer from a harbourside location facing the SS Great Britain. It has only been open since July 2007 but was already voted Venue’s “Best Bar in Bristol”. There is seating upstairs on the deck and tables inside. I’ve only ever tasted Bristol Stout and Milk Stout from other drinkers but they were enjoyable enough to have me excited about going on Thursday.

Contact Andrew sales@bristolbeerfactory.co.uk or The Grain Barge gb@bristolbeerfactory.co.uk for further information.

Grain Barge, Mardyke Wharf, Hotwells Rd, Hotwells, Bristol, BS8 4RU