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  • 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.







  • 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."


    "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?"


    "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!"


    "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..."


    When it comes to beer, as with many things in life, it’s nice to explore different styles in detail, but then it can also be fascinating to gather up different styles and see how they all compare. So, that is what we have served up in our shops this weekend (May 16/17) – a buffet of beery goodness, featuring: two different styles of lager from a bigger producer; two similar styles in a Pale Ale and IPA (both local to your local shop); and a cider for good measure.

    Celia Lager

    Celia Lager (4.5%, £2.65) – T‘int right, t’int fair, t‘int fit, t’int proper that people who love beer should have to suffer from fatigue and other unpleasant complaints after enjoying a brew. Enter stage left Celia, a tasty, crisp, gently malty (and organic) lager that delivers flavour without the bother – a timely tipple for Coeliac Awareness week. Brewed with local Saaz hops and Moldavian Malt, it is the only pilsner in the world made with the benefit of being gluten-free with all natural carbonation.

    Celia Dark Lager (5.7%, £2.65) – ‘Tis a bit of a rare thing, dark lager, and its colour comes from the dark malts used in the brewing process. This one (which is also gluten-free and organic) is a beguiling mahogany colour and combines the rich, mellow flavours of the malt with the crisp, refreshing Žatec hops to produce a balanced end result.

    Local beer

    Two ‘mystery’ local brews – your local Oddbins will also be putting on a Pale Ale and an IPA of their choice. Although Pale Ales tend to be gentler and lighter in style and IPAs err on the hoppier, higher alcohol side, the possibilities, as someone once said, are endless. It’s time to see how local brews fare against the big boys.

    Angry Orchard Cider (5%, £2.25) – but you might be more of a straw-chewing, cider-lover, so we’ve included this new, friendly chappy of a cider (despite the name, it is not a red-faced Phil Mitchell-type). No, this young American is crisply refreshing, with a slightly sweet, ripe apple flavour that is hard to resist. As we say, nothing like Phil Mitchell.

    But don’t take our word for it – come on down, get familiar with them and make your own minds up.


    To quote Otis Redding, we are going down in the valley, down in the valley so low. Down in the Rhône Valley to be precise. This week we are mining the soulful depths of this expansive southern French appellation with assertive, modern wines that showcase the jaw-dropping value to be found with just a lil digging. We’ve Châteauneuf-du-Pape-alikes for under a tenner, ethereally delicate Provencal rosés (we don’t need much prompting to bust out the rosé and sandals here at Oddbins) and all-round, supermarket-smashing wines that will make you want to go down, down, down in the valley, so low. Oh, and if you go low enough, you might just discover some hidden treasure…

    Skipping from Otis to Neil, merrily dispensing ear worms left, right and centre (that doesn’t sound very charming, but you catch our drift), we find another musician who knows that, sometimes, you have to dig deep to find the good stuff. It’s often the same with wines, but luckily our Buyer Ana Sapungiu is a superb miner and always strikes gold… The blueberry and star anise-laden Domaine de l’Arnesque Côtes du Rhône ‘Fleur de Garrigues’ 2011 (£9), for example, isn’t so much a wine as a gift to palates nationwide. So get in there as – to (mis-) quote Mr Young again – in the field of opportunity, Ana has been ploughing again… Now, if you really get carried away by the Rhône, you might end up in Provence, which is no bad thing, because it allows us to talk about Château Coussin Rosé 2012 (£12.25)… Aside from sun salutations and a trip to Stonehenge, this pink grapefruit and strawberry sorbet-flavoured jewel is a darn good way to welcome in the truanting golden sphere.

    That’s what our Ana sings as she skips around the office, sampling wines (contrary to popular belief, and unfortunately for her, she doesn’t spend her days cavorting around sunlit vineyards in bucolic idylls). No, she just sings ‘dig-diggy-dig’ in the office, where she discovered the 2010 Côtes du Rhône ‘Le Vent’ Rouge. The winemaker, Jean-Luc Colombo, was a chemist in a former life and has deployed his science-y know-how expertly with Le Vent Rouge. For just £8.50 (down from £10), you get an awful lot of silky redcurrant and bay leaf flavours for your money. Another belter is the herby, warm and sensuous Serabel Gingondas 2012 (£15.50). From an underrated appellation in a cracking year, this Gigondas could give its neighbour, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a run for its money. Now, are we correct in thinking that you’ve been looking out for the hidden treasure we promised earlier? Well you’ve found it by gum! For we have two pairs of tickets to the cultural mecca that is the Meltdown festival, this June, on London’s South Bank. Meltdown is curated by a different musician each year and, this year, it’s the turn of Unkle co-founder James Lavelle, so should be a trip-hip-hop-electro delight (if that means something to you, you’re officially cool. If it doesn’t, then we’ll translate: it’s going to be brilliant). ‘But how do I enter?’ you cry. You already have, by subscribing to these bi-monthly musings! Good luck!

    Whilst we do like it down in the valley, we keep our periscope firmly above ground, and were alarmed when we clocked the rise of councils banning the sale of beers and ciders above six per cent. Brewing is an art and brewers must achieve balance between elements such as hops, alcohol and sugar. But if such schemes were rolled out nationwide, 23 per cent of the 398 craft products that won awards at the International Beer Challenge and International Cider Challenge would be banned. Our Managing Director, Ayo Akintola, had no hesitation in joining Off-Licence News’ United to Protect Strength campaign, saying: “The criminalisation of that which is not criminal, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, mustn’t be allowed to creep in through the back door. If it does, we don’t face a Nanny State, so much as a ‘Nurse Ratched’ State.” But, *dismounts soapbox*, if you want to check out craft beers with serious flavour (many of which weight in over six per cent) before a ‘crafty’ council stops you, we have a stonking range in our shops. So swing by your local and ask our staff for their brew du jour.

    Anyway, we hope you’re at least six per cent happier having read this – ‘til next time!


    January Fun Wine Discounts at Oddbins 2014

    This time last year Oddbins brought you the now infamous January Love Wine Discounts 2013 for mothers, Germans, redheads and those ever popular bankers and journalists. Our theme in January 2013 was “LOVE” and we were attempting to start the year by spreading some love to people who we felt hadn’t received the love they deserved in 2012.

    The response was almost unanimously and gloriously loving, with the exception of one gentleman, let’s call him Jeff. Jeff made a formal complaint on account of not fitting into any of the groups, but also because he had a sizeable chip on his shoulder, a sense of humour failure, way too much time on his hands and an unusual desire to give birth without having the appropriate genitals, which we can only assume was the result of unresolved, possibly oedipal, parental issues. Sorry, we Freudianly digress. Where were we? Oh yes…  Well, this January our discounts are back…

    Our theme for January 2014 is “FUN”. But it is difficult to have any fun when the country seems to be bound up in the negativity of our economic situation. Some things appear to linger indefinitely, outstaying their welcome and our boredom threshold, for other examples please see Plebgate, Miley Cyrus and would it be wrong to say UKIP? Mustard in the pantry? Seriously? You know women have been able to vote since 1918 and make up, give or take, 50% of the population, right?

    So we want to put the fun back and celebrate the people who will make 2014 joyful by carrying us, and our largely ineffectual politicians, up that unforgiving slope of recovery to the pinnacle of pleasure and merriment (please note that is not a smutty euphemism). Each weekend in January we will be offering a different select group a 10% discount off full price wines (including sparkling and fortified wines) in any Oddbins shop. But who is capable of rescuing our economy and restoring the exuberance? We put our top people on the case to find out…

    The results were undeniable. Back off Jeff, we said they were undeniable. And these are the people we are backing to make 2014 a vintage year of fun and frivolity…


    Lovers: Friday 3 – Sunday 5 January 2014

    Lovers: Friday 3 – Sunday 5 January 2014

    A recent study showed that we in the UK aren’t having as much sex as we used to. A certain baker obviously didn’t get that memo. So we want to celebrate the lovers. Not the procession of love rats reported daily in the press like the transcript of some Jeremy Kyle show. For the record, Harry -ironic surname- Styles, Simon -shouldn’t it be easier to keep it inside those high waisted trousers- Cowell and Jermain Defoe, who Alexandra Burke, sensibly in our book, replaced “with Merlot”, need not apply. No, we want to celebrate the real lovers. And this is why…

    A lil’ lovin’ is not only excellent exercise, but it also boosts your immune system, lowers blood pressure and risk of heart attacks, improves sleep and eases stress. So forget an apple a day, apparently the beast with two backs could reduce pressure on the NHS, make our workforce stronger, healthier and happier and help to rebalance our ageing population. Apparently the reasons for the UK’s currently limping libido are financial problems, unemployment and too much technology. Well, unemployment has fallen to its lowest rate since early 2009 (who would have thought Gideon could affect our sex lives? *involuntary full body shudder*), so to combat the other two our answer is: sell your technology to ease your monetary worries and get back down to doing the “bad thing”. Maybe a glass of wine would help get you in the mood? Just one mind, it is January and as Shakespeare advised the drink “provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance.”

    So if you head to any Oddbins shop between Friday 3 and Sunday 5 January 2014 and can convince our staff that you are a lover, without resorting to smut, nudity or depravity, you can have 10% off full price wines (including fizz and fortified wines).* Not sure how to go about it? Why not bring your partner with you? Flash that photo in your wallet? Show us that late night text sent just because you missed each other? Who knows, we might even believe you if you come back in wearing the same clothes as the previous night!

    Oddbins says: “FUN THROUGH PASSION.”


    Engineers: Friday 10 – Sunday 12, January 2014

    Engineers: Friday 10 – Sunday 12, January 2014

    OK, we know we told you to sell your technology in the previous section, but we lied, we’re fickle like that, we just wanted to demonstrate the absurdity of smartphone internet browsing as an alternative to foreplay. We love technology. Well not all of it, hence why you will never have unexpected items in your bagging area at Oddbins or have your wine delivered using a method which has had its accuracy called into question by Pakistan (do you really want your online orders to land on a neighbouring school?), but we are amazed by most of it.

    Human invention is rapidly changing the world: the Gastric-Brooding Frog will soon be resurrected from extinction to once more literally spew forth its babies on to this earth, 3D printing will revolutionise the drunken office party, buildings like The Shard pop up on our skyline almost overnight and may disappear just as quickly if South Korea’s Infinity Tower is anything to go by and who knows we may even find out what-in-the-blazes a Higg’s Boson actually is. We would love to get our puny appendages on the James Dyson Award-winning Titan Arm to allow us to carry more wine for you. We are super excited about mayoral theme park: Boris Island. Iran sent a monkey into space and it came back completely different, which added weight to the moon landing conspiracy theories, because those guys came back the same. Our imagination and inventiveness seem to know no bounds: cronuts, duffins, OK maybe that’s the end of Franken-pastries, well let’s hope it is before someone combines a Malaysian “curry puff” with the walnut and honey packed “nunt”. We jest of course, but on a serious note the future of the UK lies in development, ingenuity and creativity. Even former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, a man rumoured to have bought 38,000 menthol cigarettes just in case the EU tried to ban them and so obviously knows a thing or two about forward planning, says that Britain needs more engineers, there must be some irony it that…

    So if you are an engineer, engineering student or inventor head to any Oddbins shop between Friday 10 and Sunday 12 January 2014, prove it to our staff and you can have 10% off full price wines (including fizz and fortified wines).* You can prove it by showing us your business card, your student card or text books if you are an engineering student or simply by telling us about a project that you are working on.

    Oddbins says: “FUN THROUGH INNOVATION.”


    Teachers: Friday 17 – Sunday 19, January 2014

    Teachers: Friday 17 – Sunday 19, January 2014

    Question: How do people become superhero engineers capable of improving our economic fortunes? Answer: They need superhero teachers. In August we wrote a blog post offering to give away ten cases of wine to teachers who inspired you. The number of responses we received? Zero. But we will not be deterred in our admiration of educators…

    Apologies if we get a bit heavy for a moment, but we believe that teachers mould our lives and through them we learn to appreciate the world around us. Some of our favourite teacher moments of the year were reading about a teacher who took a student to basecamp on Everest, a teacher who confiscated a phone from a student and returned it with a selfie of himself and two colleagues, Jeremy Paxman asking Tristram Hunt the same question five times and still failing to get an answer (did you feel his pain teachers?), physics exam questions that start “Justin Bieber is thrown horizontally at 10m/s from the top of cliff 122.5m high…” and “Yo momma’s so fat that objects 5m away accelerate at 1m/s² toward her…”, the website, Channel 4’s Educating Yorkshire that on paper appeared to be a painful mockumentary but through the power of good teaching produced one of the feel good highlights of the year and The Guardian’s Secret Teacher’s suggestion of Ofsted inspections for nativity plays because “this unnecessary frivolity is having a direct and catastrophic impact on our position in international league tables.” We should be doing everything we can to prevent the steady exodus of teachers, they should not be scapegoats for politicians, prey for the tabloid press or an excuse for poor parenting. We should appreciate them because we need them, they teach us to appreciate everything else. And life is way more fun if you have the slightest Scooby Doo how any of it works!

    So if you are a teacher or lecturer head to any Oddbins shop between Friday 17 and Sunday 19 January 2014, prove it to our staff and you can have 10% off full price wines (including fizz and fortified wines).* You could prove it by showing your union membership if you are a member, you elbow patches if you are a geography teacher or we'll happily probe you on some subjects that we remember from school.

     Oddbins says: “FUN THROUGH APPRECIATION.”


    Brewers: Friday 24 – Sunday 26, January 2014

    Brewers: Friday 24 – Sunday 26, January 2014

    The first rule of Oddbins Fun Club is: if you don’t like wine, there’s beer and it is also awesome. Drinking anything that wasn’t lager used to put you in the beards, cardigans and boring brigade. Well recently beards, cardigans and boring (read geeky) became hip, and with it so did drinking good beer, with a little help from the most unexpected of places: America. We can argue the toss over what a craft beer is, but we can all agree that the revolution, like it or not, started in the more forward thinking areas of the US. Did you know that studies have shown a positive correlation between the concentration of microbreweries and the likelihood of that area voting for Barack Obama? Need more celebrity endorsement? Arnold “The Governator” Schwarzenegger declared: “When you grow up you have to drink beer.” And supermodel Christy “Fatso” Turlington admitted: “I have a beer belly.” Looking down at our own paunch, we think our own love of beer may be growing more rapidly than Ms Turlington’s…

    The number of breweries in the UK topped 1,000 in 2012 and another 187 were added to that total in 2013 (roughly 30 more than the previous year). Although craft beer only represents 0.5% of the total beer sales it is one of the rare areas showing growth in this country. And it doesn’t stop there, it has long been thought that agriculture and therefore modern civilisation started because of bread. Although we do love a slice of hot buttered rye bread toast with our rillettes, we were pleased to hear that a rogue group of presumably ale-loving scientists now believe that it was actually beer that kicked the whole thing off. We have accepted this hypothesis as fact and are proud to announce that all that is good about Britain was built on beer. And so shall it return if we continue to back craft brewers across this great nation.

    So if you are a brewer head to any Oddbins shop between Friday 24 and Sunday 26 January 2014 and you can have 10% off full price wines (including fizz and fortified wines).* But because we realise that this is a relatively small group, anyone who comes in on this weekend can have 10% off the full price of any beer in our “local craft beer” range (ask staff for details).



    And finally, if anybody manages to pick up the discount every weekend and can prove it by way of receipts, then we have some bonus fun for them.

    *The above discounts are only applicable to full price wines. No further discount will be applied to items already on special offer.

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