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Oddbins News

  • "Getting all sloshed up in the name of love..."

    OddBeers Logo

    20170526_191209

    This month has been the month of love, or at least, getting all sloshed up in the name of love. A stag do in Marbella, one in Budapest and a wedding at the historic and graceful Athelhampton House has seen me testing my liver and brain function to the limits.

    Before I start romanticising about Weird Beard, Fallen and the rest, I'll talk a little about my holiday romance in Marbella. Her name was Alhambra Reserve Rioja, a cheeky Spanish surprise that had decidedly more flavour than the omnipresent Saint Michael. I had another fling in Budapest, with a German IPA whose name escapes me. This is sad, as she was heavenly. Sigh, it's better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all...

    James

    Onward!


    Notes from the Editor:

    The vast majority of our craft beer is small production and sourced locally. The reviewed beers are not always available in all of our stores, however, we have put a guide to availability under each review. Please use our store finder to locate your nearest branch and call ahead to guarantee stock is available.


    Fallen_Brew_grapevine

    So they've switched from 500ml bottles to 330ml cans. I won't bore you with the myriad reasons for this, but colour me unimpressed. Thankfully, after pouring it out, my disappointment dissipates. She looks like caramel apple sauce, with a thin lacing head. She smells like a grapefruit in a biscuit tin.

    Throwing it into my mouth, it delivers a dark and burnt malt profile, a hamster's hats worth of coffee, with grapefruit and traces of the more sickly tropical fruits. Mid carbonation, tight bubbles, pretty refined.

    This is not a session beer, but a lively and worthy addition to any bag of cans. Deep and complex, like a hallucinatory conversation with Jung. And as promised by the marketing blurb on the can; a long, dry and bitter finish much like Paul McCartney and Heather Mills' divorce.

    If this is the new world, I want in.

    Grapevine

    Jamesforscore

    Fruit, surfing a wave of the mineral rich Scottish water, coming to a dry hoppy finish. I'm pretty sure I love you.

    4.5

    MattforscoreFresh, fruity, fizzy.

    4

    Availability: Scotland stores


    Fallen_Brew_Just_the_Ticket

    This one pours a deep yellow colour. Hazy, loose bubbles, no head. She smells like citrus hops, syrupy tinned peaches and papaya.

    The first sip is a little spiky, with moderate to heavy carbonation. The sharp carbonation doesn't kill the flavours but it does get in the way. Citrus, straw, tropical fruits, and a dry, bitter finish. The missus burped like a truck driver.

    JustTheTicket

    JamesforscoreTo use street parlance, "This aaaiiight!". Some fruit, some dry hops, some clean Scottish water all amounting to tasty belch fuel.

    3.5theMRSLight in flavour, colossally fizzy, would make Godzilla belch.

    3

    Availability: Scotland stores


    Siren_Craft_Brew_Proteus

    She looks like an old puddle in a breakers yard; deep, hazy and rusty looking. The smell is dominated by caramel, burnt biscuit and malt, with a little marmalade and yeast on the side.

    She has a luxurious body, full with the right level of carbonation. The taste is medium sweet with a good showing of piny hops and a caramel, malty backbone... There is a darkness in there somewhere. A yeasty shadow lurking in a darkened recess, just enough to make its presence known.

    Jamesforscore

    Very good, I could drink this until I lose my vision, and at 6.9% that'll be sooner rather than later.

    4.5

    theMRSAnd I quote, "yeah, it's quite nice that".

    4

    Availability: Selected London stores


    Fallen_Brew_Dragonfly

    I like a good amber, so I'm all smiles whilst pouring. She looks lovely, a deep reddy brown, with a big, loose head like Boris Johnson but twice as smart and orders of magnitude more respectable.

    She smells like malted milk biscuits with a squirrel's coin-purse worth of floral hops. There might be some candied orange peel in there for good measure.

    The flavour is initially bittersweet before the caramel maltiness kicks in, which in turn yields to a complex swirl of citrus peel and caramel sweetness. The Resultant belch sounded like the battle cry of the undead.

    Dragonfly

    JamesforscoreNot what I was expecting from an amber in all honesty, as it's sweeter than it is malty, but a damned fine session ale.

    3.5

    theMRSI don't smell much, taste much. It's fine. (And with that breathtaking input...she's fired!)

    2.5

    Availability: Scotland stores


    Weird_Beard_Pig_Smasher

    She looks nice, a rich mahogany brown. It would look the business in my wood panelled library (of the mind - sadly it doesn't exist), I have many leather bound books*. The pour leaves a very slight, off-white head.

    The smell is sweet, like honey or candied fruit. It's not sickly though, there is a bready, malty backbone there, but it's undeniably sweet.

    Well balanced with sweet bready malts, an earnest sweetness, sticky, honeyed ribs. It's formidable though, I think 4 or 5 of these at most before it gets more cloying than a post-election Theresa May at No.10.

    PigSmasher

    JamesforscoreMedium bodied, full flavoured, nothing outlandish, just a bloody good beer. Happy to Pig Smash that into the lowest hole in my head.

    4.5

    *I have few.

    Availability: Selected London stores


    Weird_Beard_Safeword

    Finally, a beer with a big ol' foamy head. I didn't have to pour from three storeys up to get it either. She's a glorious shade of light orange, the name of the colour swatch would be something lame like "Nectarine Dream".

    She smells deliciously fruity, how I'd imagine the sweet room at the Wonka factory. Doesn't smell like a beer, but it does smell delicious - candied orange and berry fruits.

    As with all Weird beers, it feels luxurious in the mouth, they really know how to condition. Now on to the business end, there's a powerful hoppy punch up front, peppery, before some fruity action in the rear <insert your own Frankie Howard noise here>.

    Not too saccharine, not too cloying, just fruity enough; think John Barrowman over Elton John. There's a little bitterness in the tail to hammer home its IPA credentials.

    Jamesforscore

    A unique experience for sure, and one I'd recommend to a friend.

    3.5

    Availability: Selected London stores

  • An Oddbins Adventure: Chenin Man, Buttered Coffee and Spider Pig

    The below is an adventure, what began as a buying trip to South Africa and turned into a true love of the region, the people, the culture and of course the wine! Working for Oddbins is unique in that we are a tiny buying team (just 3 of us), which requires a very involved approach where listing a new wine is more than it seems. It's a new partnership and during my journey I tasted some wonderful wines but also met some truly fantastic people. So, my story is of course about the wine but perhaps more importantly, about the people behind them.

    It began with a challenge to revitalize the range, followed by a tasting in our London boardroom, it wouldn't do; I knew that I had to go to South Africa to experience the region and taste the wines in their natural habitat, alongside the people that made them, to get it right. In what seemed like a whirlwind, I touched down in Cape Town just a few weeks later! I remember landing and thinking to myself 'Okay, you're here. Now what?'

    I had a lot of ground to cover, from Constantia to Swartland, out to Hemel en Aarde to Greyton in just a 10 day period. I hadn't been to SA before and I was alone with no comfort of a travel buddy, at least at this point...but things have a funny way of working themselves out and as I walked into arrivals there was a man holding a sign with my name on it. This was my first encounter with who I would come to call the 'legendary Cambell Jooste' Zoom Safe Trips and Tours. At this time he was simply a ride from the airport to the hotel. I had no idea he would become such a significant part of my trip. From the get go I went to hop in the back seat, but Cambell was having none of it,"in the front with me", he said. And that would be my seat for the remainder of the trip, next to Cambell, not just my driver, but my tour guide, wake-up call, lunch buddy and friend.

    There was no better way to start day one (ease into it) than at the serene Stellenbosch farm owned by the legendary Ken Forrester - The Chenin Man! Ken has been making wine for many years and his speciality is Chenin Blanc, which aged to leesy and textured, but for me it is the purity and quality of the 'Petit Chenin' that I loved - no oak, just straight up quality fruit and varietal character - bring on the crunchy apple, honey and linalool! During the visit I wandered down to Ken's barrel room to take a look around. In the back corner was a barrel with 'Roussanne' written on the face...'what is that?'. I love Roussanne, a native white Rhône grape. It's rare to see it completely on its own, especially from South Africa, and rarer to see it done right. Slightly hesitant, I tasted it and was wowed! At this point it was only sold via Ken's farm in SA, but it was so good I had to bring it back and share with the fellow wine lovers in the UK.

    Rouossanne Wine

    Now that I'm warmed up and have had a few sips of Chenin, it's time for a different experience...I hopped back in the car with Cambell and set off to stop no.2. Through the green, mountainous terrain of Stellenbosch and out into Swartland. It looks more like a desert, but has some super gnarly bush vines! We pulled up to a small farm house and made our way up the driveway. I was met with a curious glance that implied 'who the heck are you?''Jenny', I said, anticipating the questions. He tried to act like he hadn't totally forgotten that I was coming, and what a better way to do that than offer up a plastic cup of a new vermouth they were producing (ok, I can roll with this). Pretty soon though, we were laughing about it along with the fact there is a cheap brand of wine called 'Oddbins' sold in Checkers (the local supermarket) that doesn't have the best reputation for representing winemakers and he had thought that was who I represented! (Note to self - say Oddbins UK moving forward). A few minutes later, the man behind the establishment showed up - Adi! We went to chat in the cellar which was a stark contrast to Ken's place. It contained open top fermenters with all sorts of interesting things bubbling and was being watched over carefully by a big picture of a 60's pin up girl. Adi offered me an espresso - 'do you take butter?' [Huh?]. I truly thought he was taking the piss. A sort of 'let's mess with the tourist' kinda thing, but then he simply plopped a dollop in his own cup - not my cup of Joe please. I later asked Cambell if he had an answer for me. Nope! But he did laugh (mystery to be solved - if you have the answer, feel free to tweet me @oddbinsbuyers). Anyway, I tasted some awesome wines...watch this space!

    Wine Blog

    Next on the list is Miles Mossop! Miles' story is a good depiction of what's happening in the SA wine scene at the moment. He started at one of the more established estates, making wine for Tokara and was allowed to vinify a small amount under his own label each year as a bit of a side project (quite common). The culmination of this is three awesome wines, yes, awesome. As a couple of months before my visit, Miles has moved on from Tokara, hopefully giving him even more time to focus on what's not a side project anymore. These wines are seriously wonderful. Saskia - an oaky, leesy white Rhône blend, Max - a rich and juicy Bordeaux blend and 'The Introduction', an old vine barrel fermented Chenin from the Swartland.

    Introduction Wine

    Okay - it's impossible to go through every stop, even the ones with some of the more memorable wines, but at this point I've been in SA for a few days now and I'm slowly settling in and Cambell is definitely helping. On day three, he is waiting downstairs with a cup of coffee, settling into his routine of reading the morning paper in the lobby whilst I'm usually 5-10 minutes late. We hop in the car and we're off again, this time to meet one of the sweetest and most talented people I've met, Adam Mason. Adam is the brainchild behind Mulderbosch Wines and again, has a side project.

    The wine is called Marvelous! Finding wines in the UK sub £10 on the shelf that are REAL, crafted wines is difficult. Many a time they are shipped over in large tanks and bottled here. Marvelous is Adam's baby and these are small volume parcels of grapes taken from sites that best suit each varietal, blended to create three seriously delicious wines - a Red Bordeaux blend, a Red Rhône blend and a wonderful White Rhône blend. Also from Adam, and two of my favourites, are his Yardstick Pinot Noir and Chardonnay - the Pinot is juicy, silky and fruit driven and instantly appealing, and the Chardonnay is toasty and rich. Adam is coming over in October to do tastings in the stores. Watch our Twitter feed for when he will be at your local Oddbins.

    Adam Mason

    Next stop! Not another farm though, this was a different approach. A way to cover more ground and soak up a bit of the culture. Cambell and I were off to Publik - a wine bar in Cape Town run by Dave and Dave (both Dave's actually make wine). They are all about getting the weird and wonderful into the bar and showcasing some of the interesting projects that are happening in the region. While some are awesome, some are a work in progress and some are downright scary, but that was the fun of it and either way it's great to see so much innovation. Over a plate of Charcuterie including Biltong, we tasted through a line up of wines. Part way through, Dave put this bottle down in front of me, with a totally serious and straight face - 'try my wine!'. So, I too kept a straight face, staring at the red headed man affectionately cradling a baby pig! The rosé was simple, charming and quite appealing, but was the UK market ready for Spider Pig to make an appearance on their dinner table? That was up for debate! Either way, the night turned into a great evening and eventually the story of THE Spider Pig was revealed, which made me like the wine even more, but that is a story for another day...The same evening, I came across Samantha O'Keefe's 'Lismore' from Greyton. Sam is an amazing lady and basically pioneered the region way up in the mountains. She is making a Rhône style Viognier, a Syrah that will blow your mind and has just added a Pinot Noir. I tasted these and was so impressed that I rescheduled my trip and Cambell and I drove two hours out to Greyton to meet Sam the next day. Her wines will be arriving into Oddbins in September.

    Pig and Lismore Wine

    Next up - Alex Dale from Radford (Winery of Good Hope). This guy is a true talent and the range is fantastic. We already work with Alex but I popped by for a lovely lunch with some of the vineyard staff anyway (this is a daily routine - stop, chat, live and enjoy - we could learn a thing or two!). He introduced me to Gus, his brother who grew up making wine in Burgundy. Gus is now working at Paul Roos on a tiny (literally tiny, just 3000 bottles) project, which I only found out about after I tasted and fell in love with his wine. These wines are very old world in style. The white, Paul Roos Die Skoolshoof is a co-fermented blend of Chardonnay/Chenin - really hands off winemaking here that is made in a Burgundy style - it is nutty, roasty, oaky and mineral and a gorgeous and wonderful red Bordeaux blend, the Paul Roos Die Filantroop which is a rustic and earthy Shiraz blend. A true boutique wine, which to top it all off, gives the proceeds back to provide education for the farm workers families. When the wines were listed in Oddbins there was so much pride amongst all the workers, which is exactly what it's all about.

    Paul Roos Wines

    When the trip came to an end, I was sad to go, and I was very humbled by my experiences and the wonderful people I had met. I received a text message 1 day after landing from Cambell Jooste making sure I had made it home safely (enough said).

    Meet Jim!

    Meet Jim

    Days later, I was in one of my local branches and got to chatting to a customer named Jim who is from Johannesburg, about my trip and the wines. Jim and his buddies had signed up to ride the Prudential 100 miles to raise money for children's education in South Africa - www.bokamosotrust.org.uk. He tells me a bit more about the Bokamoso Trust and I am in awe and touched (yes, Buyers do have hearts!). Jim bought himself a few bottles of Paul Roos and in the spur of the moment, I told him that Oddbins would sponsor his team in their ride (oops, how do I sell this to the powers that be on Monday?!). He was surprised and cheekily asked if in addition to the money for the charity, his team could have wines for the ride - my answer was no. Oddbins doesn't do cycling and drinking! But we did agree that they'd get a case of South African wines for AFTER the race. In addition to the £500 being donated by Oddbins on their behalf to the charity, for every 10 minutes Jim shaves off his goal time, the charity will get an extra £50. The ride takes place on July 30th and you can follow Jim's journey @oddbins #OnYaBikeSA

  • A flea's hat and an otter's pocket...

    OddBeers Logo

    On paper, this box looked very interesting. Some familiar names, some new, a wealth of pales of varying styles and a couple of swerve-balls.

    The weather was almost warm enough to set foot outdoors without succumbing immediately to exposure, which is good enough for an Englishman to fire up the BBQ. With the grill loaded, the nuts decanted form bag to bowl and the tunes set to 'chill', we began...

    Overall, a good box ranging from average to sublime. Here are some bullet points for ease of digestion.

    • Scottish breweries seem to be killing it. Cromarty's 'Man Overboard' was exceptional
    • The Anchor Chilli Dark Lager is proof that gimmick led beers can enchant

    Notes from the Editor:

    The vast majority of our craft beer is small production and sourced locally. The reviewed beers are not always available in all of our stores, however, we have put a guide to availability under each review. Please use our store finder to locate your nearest branch and call ahead to guarantee stock is available.


    Cromarty Brewing Co. Man Overboard Double IPA
    This one came out a deep, cloudy, orange colour with a thin, white, lacing head.

    The smell's clean, uncomplicated and lightly citrusy - favouring the orange end of the spectrum as opposed to the yellow/green end.

    Wow! This is full bodied, with moderate, yet tight carbonation. The flavour is equally impressive; this reasonably sweet, malty gem has accents of tangerine, peach and mango.

    James Beer Score
    A good dose of caramel up front. Good depth, sweet over bitter.

    Score 4.5
    Matt Score
    A full on malty backbone holding up an array of fruits.

    Beer Score 4.5
    Availability: Scotland stores, Blackheath Beer Store


    Victory Headwaters Ale

    This was aggressively fizzy, I thought it might take the French polish off the dining room table, but I just about managed to get it in the glass before it geysered itself everywhere. The resulting pour left a big, foamy off-white head atop a clear amber liquid.

    Aromas of fresh, piney hops gives way to caramel, biscuit, malt and a hint of candied orange. It smells pretty good.

    Feels nice in the mouth, medium body, low to moderate carbonation. Flavour is fairly light, bittersweet with a dry, earthy finish.

    James Beer Score
    Very drinkable, a decent session ale.Beer Score 3.5
    Mat Beer Score
    Very hoppy, tasty and easy to drink. Smelt like a brewery.

    Beer Score 3.5
    Availability: Blackheath Beer Store, Aberdeen stores, Chorlton branch


    Five Points Brewing Company IPA
    I tend to like these bold, strong IPA's so...

    It looks suspiciously murky, like rusty water. It has a short-ish, off-white foamy head, which didn't hang around.

    The smell was a cocktail of sweetness - citrus, passionfruit and maybe a fleas hats worth of banana - and a bitter, earthy quality. The underlying earthy odour incongruous with the sweeter notes.

    Medium bodied with low to medium carbonation, on point for an IPA I'd say.

    It tastes much like it smells, there's a little citrus, a little passionfruit, a soupçon of banana, which tails off into a piney, bitter finish.

    James Beer Score
    This is just a little bitter for my palate, a solid IPA for those who like the bitter end of the spectrum.

    Beer Score 3
    Matt Beer Score
    Very bitter and it lingers, good if you like that sort of thing.

    Beer Score 3
    Availability: London stores


    Five Points Brewing Company XPA
    Admittedly I had to look up 'XPA' because...what is it? Apparently it's something like an American Pale or an IPA, and something like an exercise in marketing.

    Whether XPA exists or not, this beer does and it's hazy, straw-yellow liquid with a short white head that laces the glass.

    It smells mostly citric, lightly tropical, slightly malty and rightly hoppy.

    It felt a little like soda water, a little too watery in the body. It's a little malty, a decent showing of citrusy hops with a dry-ish finish. It's not quite as juicy and fruity as the marketing spiel implied, a little thin with a medium bitter finish.

    James Beer Score
    Not bad, a little too light to write home about, but a decent bet for a session.

    Beer Score 3
    Matt Beer Score
    Nice tropical fruit aroma. I would session this.

    Beer Score 3
    Availability: London stores


    Brauerei Heller Lagerbier
    Let's get this out of the way, it is a truly awful label. Looks like a stock Word template for a German style beer. I'm sure it's awesome though.

    As a Helles should be, it's golden and frothy in appearance. It has a pleasant scent, mildly sweet and floral with an Otter's pockets worth of smoke.

    Light on body with tight carbonation, there is however, a reasonable depth of flavour...for a lighter beer style. Clean grains, malt, not too sweet, not too bitter.

    James Beer Score
    Indicative of the style, really good session beer.

    Beer Score 3.5
    Matt Beer Score
    Good nose, not a big flavour, but what's there is good.

    Beer Score 3.5
    Availability: Blackheath Beer Store, Edinburgh stores, Aberdeen stores and our London Bridge and Chorlton branches


    Stewarts Brewing
    A deep copper coloured pour, with a short lasting thin, white head.

    The aromas of fresh, grassy hops against floral notes make this smell like a rainbow's end bathing a spring meadow in colourful glory as the birds flutter and sing. Not really of course, that would be horribly trite, unlike this beer, which smells fresh.

    It feels thick and full with low carbonation resulting in a smooth and full beer, rather than watery. The flavour has candied citrus peel, clean grains, a little yeast, sharp and bitter grapefruit, and a slight metallic quality. It's an interesting journey, starting sweet and ending quite dry and bitter.

    James Beer Score
    Not for a session, but this is interesting and complex.

    Beer Score 3.5
    Matt Beer Score
    A mix of bittersweet fruits and biscuit malts. I liked it a lot.

    Beer Score 4
    Availability: Aberdeen and Glasgow stores


    Weird Beard Brew Co. Mariana Trench Pale AleSuspiciously cloudy and yellorange in colour with a slight, white fluffy head.

    It smells pretty tasty, a good showing of fresh and floral hops, bitter pine resin and citrus fruits.

    It has tight carbonation, but not so fizzy you'd struggle to discern the beer's character. I thought this beer was really well balanced, the fragrant, piney hops and sweet malt working in tandem for a flavourful citrus and tropical, fruity ale. Not too bitter.

    James Beer Score
    Fresh floral hop odour. Light, but pleasing. A fine and tasty ale.

    Beer Score 4
    Matt Beer Score
    Sets the standard for a good, drinkable APA without impressing too much.

    Beer Score 3.5
    Availability: London stores

     


    Remember, ale's well that ends well. Until next time.

    James.

     

     

     

     

     

  • Fancy an OddBeer...?

    OddBeers Logo


    IntroducingJames-1.0

    "In the recent past, premier grape-juice peddlers Oddbins, offered up - by way of competition - the role of beer blogger, in exchange for a Twitter application. 'Erudite, well-travelled beerhemouth seeks savvy, customer-focused retailer to taste beer and review for #OddbinsBeer' was my winning tweet and golden ticket to the special sauce, hand-selected by Oddbins' own merchants of gold standard no-no juice.

    I should state at this point, that I am not a professional taster. I have no background in competitive tasting. I have never taken a course in beer tasting. What I do have is an appreciation of well-made things by passionate enthusiasts rather than cynical businessmen. In beer terms, this means I would usually avoid the flavourless, filtered fizzy water created on an industrial scale by corporate robots. It means that I enjoy complex flavours brought about by studying the process, ingredients and endless experimentation."

    "...and just to make sure James doesn't disappear up his own back cavity in a pompously grandiloquent celebration of hipster beers, I, being Matt, James' buddy has been forced to drink, opine and say "shut up" when he uses words like 'mouthfeel'."

    So, let's get going then. Here are the wondrous delights of Box Numero Uno...


    Notes from the Editor:

    The vast majority of our craft beer is small production and sourced locally. The reviewed beers are not always available in all of our stores, however, we have put a guide to availability under each review. Please use our store finder to locate your nearest branch and call ahead to guarantee stock is available.


    CampervanMutiny

    Well, this is as black as Donald Trump's heart, but fizzier than you'd expect, with a short-lived biscuit coloured head. Unfortunately Mr Trump's biscuit coloured head isn't as short-lived...

    It smells a little like cola, coffee and chocolate. I tried really hard to get the hint of coconut mentioned on the label, but I just didn't smell any.

    It would benefit from a little less fizz and a slightly fuller body, but it's smoky, roasted malts play well with the sweet chocolate. By now, I'm (or at least I've talked myself into) tasting coconut. This is what happens when I read the label before tasting. Overall, it's good. Not as full bodied as some, which actually makes it a going concern for a session.

    Jamesforscore

    I would tear through these pretty quickly. Not one you'd labour over.

    3.5

    Mattforscore

    A fine milk stout. This is fast becoming my favourite style of beer.

    4

    Availability: Scotland stores only


    OddbinsNo8

    This is the latest in a growing line of fine collaborative brews with some of the finest independent breweries. This hazy, light gold effort, despite discernible effervescence, was headless like the horseman. Maybe the...ahem...bartender was to blame.

    This, rather oddly, smells like cured ham. Not entirely of course. The smoked wood comes through loud and clear with a smattering of grains. I'm hungry. I'm getting some cheese from the fridge.

    The flavour comprises of sweet bread, smoked malts, biscuit, caramel and stewed apples. The smoky quality is less a whiff as promised, but abundant and strong. The yeast does cut through the mix a bit and it goes really well with Gruyere.

    Jamesforscore

    Have it with cheese or cured meat. Then again, have everything with cheese.

    3.5

    Mattforscore

    For better or worse, you get exactly what's written on the label, oak-smoked and blonde. Best paired with food.

    3

    Availability: All stores


    ChadlingtonGoldenAle

    Pretty uninspired presentation, but we're here to judge the beer, not the bottle. In the glass it's a nice deep amber colour with a small, lacing white head. Not overly bubbly, a bit like me in the morning.

    It's a little toffee-like on the nose, with a subtle showing of citrusy hops.

    It lacks body, feeling very watery in the mouth. It tastes malty, with a dry bitter finish. Not really fruity, not hoppy, a little tobacco maybe. A reasonable amber ale but nothing too much to recommend going out of your way for.

    Jamesforscore

    Not bad, but instantly forgettable.

    2.5

    Mattforscore

    Not tasty enough for me.

    2.5

    Availability: Oxford branch only


    MondoAllCaps

    Colour me unexcited at the prospect of a Pilsner, though I should mention that the Tempest Brewing 'Easy Livin Pils' is awesome...

    It pours a clear, light golden colour with a fast receding white head. It looks a lot like...a Pilsner.

    My nose tells me of its light, gently floral odour, with an otters pockets worth of washing up liquid. If the taste is a disaster, maybe I'll hand it to a woman from the 50's and demand she do the washing up.

    Thankfully, this is a decent pilsner. A little fruitier than average, it's bright, refreshing and not too heavily carbonated. An ever so slightly oily body, with a mouse's earlobes worth of washing up liquid. Certainly not enough to mar the experience.

    Jamesforscore

    Drink this all day long at a festival, that's an order.

    3.5

    Mattforscore

    I'd happily have this again.

    4

    Availability: London stores only


    Beavertown8Ball

    The trademark comic book Beavertown weirdness adorns the hipster 330ml can. What comes out of the can is a cloudy, rich amber brew with a large, foamy, off-white head.

    It smells good. There's tropical fruit, a bit of citrus and caramel malts. Matt's not so sure on the smell, he thinks it's minerally and a bit like you're down wind from a sewage outlet emptying into the sea. I heartily disagree. Also, Matt's fired.

    The flavour is a good balance of sweet and bitter. A good showing of malt, like a sweet bread. It lingers a little, but the tail is caramelised hops with a light to moderate bitterness, so...stay as long as you like.

    Jamesforscore

    I could session this. Dangerous at 6.2%.

    4

    Mattforscore

    Big flavour, trailing bitterness but good balance.

    3.5

    Availability: All stores


    WimbledonGold

    Oh dear, it looks like a kidney patients sample. I wonder if I should drink it out of a bag, using a catheter as a straw?

    The smell is all over the place, and as evasive and unknowable as a latter day Howard Hughes. I smelled, at different times, caramel, sherbet (though this fades after a while), grass, rubber, fish. This is a real nasal curve ball for me. A smelly blind spot.

    The taste fairs better. It's yeasty rather than hoppy, with subtle straw notes. She's a blonde with a good body on her, foamy, filling.

    Jamesforscore

    A decent, helles style. Perfectly alright.

    3.5

    Mattforscore

    I like it. It's nice. (Yeah, thanks for that deep insight - James).

    4

    Availability: West London stores only


    Remember, ale's well that ends well. Until next time.

    James.

  • The Acts of The Ape-ostles

    The Chapel of Saint Paraffino has a guest speaker. While preparing to regale the congregation with his annual round up of the year, and scanning his extensive notes, the priest has succumbed to a fit of the vapours. Passionate Chimp, on a visit to family members more observant than himself, has agreed to step in, his suspicion of creationism outweighed by a fundamental decency and a constant urge to show off. He does not realise that he's about to find out whence cometh his name...

    Passionate-Banner

    On one side of the pulpit sits a litany of sadness and regret, on the other an illuminated manuscript of delight and success. As he declaims them to the gathering, he feels a growing sense of absurdity, that the breathless onslaught of surprise, shock and dismay has made it difficult to tell good from bad, major from minor, shit from shoeshine. Eventually he alights upon an improbability so stunning that his composure dissolves entirely. And it's listed in both of the texts...

    L.City

    With a howl of anguish, he tears up the scripts and hurls the shreds of paper into the blinding light of the clerestory windows, a fluttering kaleidoscope of sensory disintegration. The congregation rise and fill their pockets with the fragmented memories as they descend, a pick and mix of celebration, loss and wince-worthy reminder.

    Passionate Chimp slumps over the lectern, deep in thought. He hasn't had a bad year, if he takes away the things he could do nothing about. Leicester City notwithstanding, there was plenty of good sport, a decent summer, front row seats at a concert by his hero. Who knows, maybe it's time to break out the communion wine. But dear God, not that one. Or that. And especially not...He shudders and makes a phone call, a quick prayer to Bacchus for which he imagines the Lord will forgive him.

    Chimp-Banner

    Five minutes later his fellow disciples of Dionysus arrive in an encouragingly rattling van, and within moments the 12 Chimps of Christmas are spreading the gospel of celebration. Whether rejoicing at the end of one year or psalming the possibilities of the next, all are settling into each other's company with the liberal libations of Laurent-Perrier Non-Vintage, and Prosecco Ca'Rosa, and so much more besides. And Passionate Chimp smiles benignly upon the flock, asking himself a couple of questions. What do we really have if we don't have each other? Should we not first and foremost keep an eye on one another, whatever the tidings? And the big one...

    LP

    ...How am I going to get the church to pay for all this fizz? Yikes! They'd better be having a sale in January!

    CaRosa

    A happy and healthy New Year to all of you, and be sure to watch out for each other.

  • Chimps Tea Party

    The door looks like it could lead into any pantry. And it does, sort of. A few square feet of crockery, cutlery, non-perishable foods, general kitchen clutter pushed out of the way into one small room. But what's down that little winding staircase at the end? Darkness, perhaps danger, a world of adventure? As our eyes adjust, we can make out wood, glass, a stillness perhaps eternally undisturbed, a sense that the place can get on quietly with its work without our help. As our ears attune to subliminal Gregorian chant, we fumble around the wall until we find an ancient Bakelite switch, and...

    Snazzy-Banner

    ...welcome to Snazzy's wine cellar! The chant gives way to the Ronettes singing Sleigh Ride, and strings of flashing Christmas lights adorn row upon row, rack upon rack of wines, a bottle encyclopedia of every vinous fascination, a cornucopia of Dionysian ecstasy! And certain gaps suggest that Snazzy is at home, dot dot dot...

    A chimp's tea party is a different thing altogether when Snazzy is hosting it. His guests are nonplussed, having brought along bananas, party blowers, a great many custard pies and even some tea. Instead, Snazzy has laid on some of their favourite wines from their time at Oddbins and they are swirling, sniffing and slurping. And these are truly fabulous wines. While they have all tried any number of wonders from Oddbins' glittering range, Snazzy has gone for the ones we'd normally save for a special occasion. Like a Christmas gathering!

    Notorious-Banner

    Notorious is enthused by a bottle of Gaja Dragomis Barolo"What I like about a good Barolo is that it will age for 20 years, even more, but if you open it now and let it breathe for a good while, it still delivers a profoundly rewarding wine experience. Oh my soul, herbs, spices, berries all coming together on the palate to give you what amounts to a delicatessen in a bottle. Made from the Nebbiolo grape, by the way, which is so named from the Nebbia, an October mist which used to herald the beginning of the harvest. They're rather more scientific nowadays." The other chimps are impressed by Notorious' fondness, unaware that his knowledge stems from time spent with a protective Sicilian family who had looked after him during a couple of, let's say, sensitive months.

    Barolo

    Crazy is enamoured of the Man O' War Dreadnought Syrah"This is from a world class winery, this is, 150 acres over a big spread of plots on Waiheke Island in Auckland Bay. Some of the steepest land in the area, giving the grapes a whole load of sunshine but with a cool breeze from the sea so they don't get too ripe and lose their unique character. Another savoury, Christmas dinner-type wine, with a blueberry and pepper vibe, stylistically not too far from a Northern Rhône masterpiece." What Crazy doesn't tell them is that he was drawn to the wine because "Dreadnought" sounded like his unstoppable approach to his social life.

    Dreadnought

    Snazzy himself is absorbed by a Chardonnay, World's End "Rebel Rebel" from California's Napa Valley. During the afternoon he has been asked once or twice how he funds his lavish lifestyle, breezily replying "oh, friends in high places, you know. And a couple on low places, just in case...". Right now, however, he is utterly consumed. "Now here's a winemaker for you," he announces to the diminishing attention of his friends. "Jonathan Maltus, played a big part in the Garagiste movement of the 1990's. Hugely impressive CV - Château Teyssier in Saint-Emilion, where you can also find his benchmark wine 'Le Dome', and now this." His eyes screw shut in a growing transport of vinous delight. "So complex yet so vibrant, pineapple and even pear drops on the nose, a crisp palate with the merest smidgen of oak, and that finish, it's still going on, it's, it's..." 

    Rebel

    He looks to the end of the table for approval and elaboration, an appropriate end to his rhapsody. "S'alright, I s'pose," concludes Outspoken. Snazzy looks at him as his face crumbles with disappointment. As his friends try to suppress their laughter, a custard pie hits him on the back of the head. Turning, unwisely, to see where it came from, two more hit him on either side of his face. The table falls into screeching, party blower uproar as Loveable pours a pot of cold tea down the front of Snazzy's trousers, and as he tries to back off he falls over a banana skin.

    Chimpmas has arrived.

  • Orang-Utangover!

    The bar has reached a Friday evening peak. Everybody is loud and excitable, Prosecco is flowing and there is love and laughter everywhere. The Headache Fairy will be busy tomorrow, but for now...

    "...So, then I said, right, I said 'And anyway, darlin, that's not a banana you're peeling!'" Mass guffaws. HAHAHAHA HA HA HA ha...ha...haaa...and fade to black. And silence.

    Crazy-Banner

    A chimpanzee is lying beneath a tree. Well, perhaps "beneath" dignifies the picture somewhat. "Underneath" might be better. And the tree is horizontal. On the floor surrounding the chimp are a number of festive baubles, and on a nearby sofa is a crumpled heap of clothes and blankets. Looping on his television screen is a video of a chimp invasion of a wine store. After a BLT he will realise how much fun last night's Christmas party was, but right now he is sulking about a lost battle with a tree.

    "Oi, Snazzy", he says to the sofa. The crumpled heap moves a little to show the head of another chimpanzee, this one topped off with an angel. "How did we get here?"

    "I think we started off with a couple of aperitifs, Crazy, Laurent-Perrier Non-Vintage, £27 a pop. Christmas has come early at that price..."

    LP

    "No, here!" I was a tree climbing aristocracy not so long ago, now I'm pinned to the floor by a Norwegian Spruce wondering how I'm going to get to work. I should be sitting in the sunshine picking fleas off my girlfriend, not working in a wine shop in Clapham!"

    "Well for a start, I warned you against putting your Christmas tree up after a night on the Brasso. You should have savoured some Bourgogne Blanc Girardin with me - elegant, pleasantly aromatic, and appealingly fruity. The wine's not bad either, boom boom!"

    Bourgogne

    "And as for your job, well, think about it. People want a shop with character, and they want the best of everything. The confused man with ten quid who'd never been in the place before - you gave him Coteaux du Pont du Gard - fruit, structure, intensity and complexity. And a rather saucy joke. Think how some small part of his life may have been changed by a wine of such quality. He might have had a Road to Damascus moment with a country wine from Avignon."

    Pont-du-Gard

    "...and the lady wanting a change from boring, boring Pinot Grigio? Domaine de Coudoulet Viognier - a lovely flowery nose and tropical fruit on the palate, balanced with a dash of citrus. She didn't think wine shopping could be such fun, and now she's looking at the more generic offerings with something approaching pity. You see, we send out little ripples of love and affirmation with every bottle, and though you can't see them, they cross your path with every step you take from the shop to Clapham Junction station. Every cosy looking, lamp lit window may have a Coudoulet Viognier behind it. If only you knew!"

    Snazzy-Banner

    "Cor blimey, Snazzy, you don't half talk some cobblers. And there's nothing elegant or pleasantly aromatic about you while you're piled up on my settee! Now get yourself out and get us a banana, lettuce and tomato, while I sort some coffee out."

    As the front door closes, Crazy Chimp's mind drifts to Snazzy's comments. To the tables he may have enriched in some way, to the laughter he's brought to unsuspecting shoppers, to the enrichment of his own mind and so many others with knowledge of the seemingly obscure or opaque. Clapham has become a beautiful place, and Christmas is his, for him to give to the world!

    Well, that's if he can get from under this tree now Snazzy's gone out...

  • The Chimpossible Dream

    Outspoken Chimp is sitting with friends watching himself on a video for the umpteenth time. The video concerns the seasonal takeover of a chain of wine stores by a bunch of likeable, if unruly chimps, and Outspoken has convinced himself and all around him that he is by far the star of the show. A former tabloid journalist, he has a great flair for persuading people to believe the clearly improbable. As another bottle of Girouette Sauvignon Blanc is passed around, the rather surprising finale takes him back to his journalistic heyday.

    Girouette-Sauvignon-Blanc

    'MUST WE FLING THIS FILTH AT OUR POP KIDS?' blared a headline in the Sunday People, back in the punk era, above a hysterical piece that accused the New Musical Express of covering the new music's attendant hysteria in tones verging on the hysterical. Even by tabloid standards, this was award-winning gobbledegook! Not to be outdone, Outspoken swung straight on to the bandwagon. Picking randomly on Mancunian no-hopers, Primate Scream, the Daily Spud's front page article 'PUNK ROCK DRUG HOUNDS BEAT UP VICAR' carried nothing to substantiate its headline, but seethed with enough ill-conceived outrage to drive the band's record sales through the roof. Outspoken subsequently left Grub Street behind, making the trek to Manchester to work as the band's PR. Tied up in the boot of their Austin Allegro, by his own account...

    Outspoken-Banner

    The band went from strength to strength, or at least from stunt to stunt, until their singer, Passionate Chimp, began to feel restless. The sincerity with which he dealt with the band's subject matter - creationism, species-ism, dodgy Clint Eastwood films - was beyond reproach, but he was wishing the audience would show their approval with something other than phlegm. Maybe they could leave flowers at the front of the stage, like they did for Barbra Streisand, or a bottle of deliciously elegant wine like Domaine Condamine Syrah-Mourvèdre, or even throw their...ahem, that's quite enough now...

    Syrah-Mourvedre

    On a night off in the middle of a tour, he wanders into a cabaret club in Liverpool. A listless turn has the audience tapping their toes politely while eating chicken in a basket and gazing into glasses of Vin Tres Ordinaire. During the interval, Passionate Chimp takes the stage and starts cautiously to sing 'The Way We Were', an evolutionary favourite. The bouncers move to throw him off until they notice that people are paying attention. He glides into '(They Long To Be) Close To You', an anti-creationism classic, and people are looking fondly into each other's eyes and swaying gently while they push the boat out with some Anxo Albarino.

    Anxo-Martin

    By 'Ape-ril In Paris', the original act has packed up and wobbled home, having drowned his mediocrity with Kavalan Concert Master Taiwanese whisky; and as Passionate brings the house down with 'Lover Come Back To Me', the man with the bucket of 'roses for the lady' has sold out completely, the whole lot piled up at the front of the stage! The audience are on their feet, grown men are in tears and the club is in uproar, and as Passionate Chimp gathers up the flowers, buried among them he sees - yes! - underwear! A Littlewoods panty girdle with a phone number written on it in lipstick. Passionate hasn't been here an hour and already he has arrived!

    Passionate-Banner

    Making notes in a dark corner stands Outspoken himself. Even he has never convinced so many people so unequivocally of his own greatness. He mooches over to a man in a sheepskin coat, his hands bedecked with sovereign rings, and starts making arrangements.

    Is this the end for Primate Scream? Will Tom Jones be dethroned by a chimpanzee? Will our hero dial the number on the Littlewoods passion killers? Tune in next week, and in the meantime keep the heat turned up with a bottle of La Multa Garnacha, a hot blooded continental with a powerful body that you won't want to share with anybody else!

    La-Multa

  • The Long Arms of The Law

    Hilarious Chimp is listening to records. At the moment it is the turn of Pithecanthropus Erectus by Charles Mingus, a long-standing family favourite. The music is terrifically exciting, with five men seeming to make the noise of eleven, and Hilarious is playing it at an appreciable volume while whirling around the room on a unicycle and whooping and a-hollering with the band! Unfortunately, his neighbours are rather less appreciative. They've seen the video Hilarious made recently with all of his other Oddbins cohorts, and they didn't find quite the same joy in its assorted muckslinging or the Mingus-maybe melodies that have sent the chimp back to his record collection. And now this racket! Tired of his primate pranks, they have summoned the long arm of the law...

    Hilarious-Banner

    In the conference room of a swish hotel, Sassy Chimp is delivering a seminar entitled 'Writing On The Wall: When To Flog Your Business, and Where You Won't Be Found'. It consists, in large part, of the murky tales surrounding his sale of 'Monkey Vegas', a huge empire founded on teaching circus skills and party tricks to primates. By what he described as an 'uncanny coincidence', Sassy sold the business at an eye-watering profit exactly one month before animal acts were banned from circuses. "I didn't so much avoid the country after that, it was more a case of simply being somewhere else...". He has come back to help his friends and family with the cheerful invasion of Oddbins, whence he has graced his event with ample supplies of Terra Noble Reserva Terroir Syrah, a deep and deliciously savoury red from the Maule Valley in Chile, together with a Chardonnay from the same winery, a warmly approachable white that partners delightfully with the hors d'oeuvres he's provided. While he's pointing to a Venn diagram on a Bo-Nobo board, he is discreetly called out of the room and taken into a police station.

    Terra-Noble-Syrah

    Terra-Noble-Chardonnay

    "...and he says you're the only person he knows who can pay for his bail. Well, you and..." consulting a notebook, "...Billy Expletive Smart. Funny bloke considering he doesn't even crack a smile!"

    "Funny?"

    "Yeah. He's cracked everybody up round here, playing table tennis with the boys. 10p, 50p, whatever, absolutely thrashed all of them. Funny thing was, he was riding a unicycle throughout. Even when we brought him in he pedalled out to the panda. Then he made the handcuffs disappear and we found them in the glove box."

    "How much is his bail exactly?"

    Sassy-Banner

    "Well, he's clearly a chimp of good character. In fact, we considered dropping all charges when we told him we don't usually have much to do with hominoids, and he said that's because you can get cream for them nowadays. If we can find a caring home for him we'll forget the whole thing - you seem to have done better than he has out of circus regulations, maybe you owe it to him to see he doesn't spend another Christmas in the park? Meanwhile, we'll set him up in Oddbins and the staff will take him under their loving wing! Now,  back in the car and you can pick up your records while we bring your neighbours in for crime against hilarity. A couple of days in the cooler listening to Kenny G should teach them what side their bread's buttered!"

    In the back of the car, Hilarious and Sassy are making up. "So, Hilarious, 50p a game, you say? I'm sure I could fix you up with plenty more games, and at a pound a pop! How about we seal the deal with a bottle of this Tarlant Champagne..."

    Tarlant

  • Existence, Nothingness and a bottle of Oddbins No.8, please!

    A chimp walks into a bar and asks for a pint of lager. "That'll be £8 please, sir. I must say, we don't get many chimps in here.", "I'm not surprised at £8 a pint. Anyway, am I in the right store here? I'm supposed to be talking about Oddbins No.8, and you seem only to have a selection of every day beers, most of them as predictable as that joke."

    No.8

    "Oh, right," said the barman, polishing a glass. "You should be in that wine shop just across the street. Dunno what's going on with those places, they're full of monk - er, apes, at the moment." In the snug, an orangutan looks up from the crossword in the Daily Spud and nods, sagely.

    Abandoning his beer, he knuckles his way to Oddbins' Chiswick store where his cousin, Curious, is reading a book entitled '5,000 Things You Should Know About Stuff'. "Did you know," says Curious instead of hello, "that the venom fangs of a Montpelier snake point backwards?"

    "Which makes them a sight less poisonous than what they serve behind the bar down the Hammersmith Gorilla," remarked Thoughtful. "But might you not want to swot up on craft ales, given that Oddbins' new collaboration beer will be here today?"

    Thoughtful-Banner

    "I have given it some thought, actually," mused Curious looking up from his book and rubbing his eyes through the empty frames of his pretend glasses. "It sounds like a fairly recent development, but the Campaign for Real Ale has been knocking about since 1971 to protect traditional ales and pubs from the tide of long hair and psychedelic depravity. Nowadays it seems some of the craft breweries have gone so far out that what would recently have been considered real ale might now seem like..."

    "Yeah, whatever. What gets me is, what is the opposite of craft beer? I mean, what is an un-crafted beer? If it hasn't been crafted, it doesn't exist, right? So, what I had earlier, which was patently untouched by human hand, was in fact not there. It was in an existential quandary, that's where it was, and it should have stayed there!" He rubs his tummy and emits a rumbling burp. "Pardon me! Better an empty house than a bad tenant, as they say!"

    Curious-Banner

    "Tsk, really, Thoughtful! Look, here's the delivery, let's open a bottle of Oddbins No.8 and make our own minds up." From beneath the counter Curious brings a well-thumbed volume entitled 'Everything You Need To Know About Things That Haven't Happened Yet!'. Opening it at a post-it note bookmark he advises: "A blonde style, brewed with a proportion of smoked wheat, using a yeast called bastogne, as used in the Orval Trappist brewery. A collaboration with Anspach & Hobday of Bermondsey, who started with what was little more than a home brew kit in a tiny railway arch". He raises his eyes and fondly inspects his beer. "I told you things were getting far out!"

    "Mmm, thicker texture than you'd expect from a blonde," enthused Thoughtful. "Bit of smoke to it as well. Still a fairly light body, nice fruit and a lovely sort of brioche feel on the finish. Absolutely delicious, possibly their best one yet! D'you reckon we could get the Hammersmith Gorilla to take some of this, as it was obviously crafted, therefore it is a concrete entity and they won't have to do refunds on sales made in an existential abyss."

    "We could just tell them it's gorgeous, you know..."

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