Craft Beer Tasting

Red Kite Ale, Black Isle Brewing Company, 4.2% ABV red kite ale black isle breweryA fine looking ale this is.  Another Scottish brewery featuring on

Black Isle claim to be the UK’s premier organic brewery making world class beers from the finest organic malt and hops grown on farms without chemicals, as nature intended.

Based near Inverness, the capital of the Highlands of Scotland, it is our beautiful, unspoilt, unpolluted, wild, and not a little bit wet highland home – and we love it! We have our own organic farm where we grow malting barley for brewing. We even have our own brewery house cow, called Molly, who eats the malt from the brewery mash tun and gives us 20 pints of fresh creamy milk every day.


We live, work and brew delicious organic beer at Allangrange, translated from the Gaelic as “a fertile field of corn.” We see ourselves and what we do, as a natural link between our traditional cultural heritage and the contemporary craft beer world.

Please see their website for more or follow them on Twitter.

They describe the Red Kite Ale as follows:

As the name suggests, this amber ale lifts the spirits by infusing classic British hops with a malty backbone to create this medium bodied thirst quencher. It’s the perfect year-round beer – refreshing in summer and satisfying in winter.
A corker with a winter vegetable soup and equally at home when sharing your mouth with a Glenmorangie 18-year-old malt.

My thoughts: red kite ale black isle breweryWell, it’s nice. It’s very nice, in fact, but I wouldn’t say it’s anything special.  In fact, on the bottle they talk about blackcurrants and things, quite frankly I didn’t get any of that.  What I got was an enjoyable, red ale.  A bit biscuity, a good bitterness (in fact, if you asked me to pick a style, I would have said English Bitter).

Other than that it was a great colour and the head was creamy and long lasting, which I like.

I would happily drink it again and again (and again), but don’t take my word for it- try it yourself!

Craft Beer Tasting Watering Holes

An enjoyable, if slightly disappointing, half at the Platform Tavern, Southampton, UK

It’s a beautiful day here in Southampton, it’s lunchtime, and I thought I would wander into the Platform Tavern in Southampton for a pint of the localest of local beer, brewed next door at the Dancing Man Brewery.

Imagine my dismay to find that they didn’t have any. None at all. Zero. Zip. Nada. Diddly squat.

I’m sure that this is a rare occurrence- it must be! They’re proud to advertise that they serve Dancing Man beer, it was just bad timing.

I decided to console myself with half a pint of Pirate Bitter from Twisted Brewing, based in Westbury (about an hour and a half away).


Tasty, to be sure, although possibly served a tad cold for a bitter.  I would say that it’s a good representative of the style, not bursting with citrus, but with a balanced bitterness from the hops that lingers.  Easy drinking at 4.2% ABV.

Craft Beer Homebrew

How beer is made, or the brewing process

If you’re already a home brewer, then you can probably bore the tits off a fish going on and on about the brewing process and the difference between an ale and a lager (but we’ll get to that another time).  If you’re not yet a home brewer (quit slacking and get on board!) then you may not even realise what the process is.  You also might be interested to know that the brewing process is essentially the same whatever beer is being made, give or take an adjunct here or there, an open fermentation there and a decoction mash in between- but don’t worry about that!

Whatever your beer of choice, it pretty much boils down to four ingredients -malt, hops, water, and yeast. Other additives might be included, such as fruit or spices, but at the base these four are the primary ingredients of beer.  The German Purity Law of 1516 (the Reinheitsgebot) stated that these were the only ingredients legally permitted- no additives.


Before absolutely everything, we start with malt. Barley is the most common grain, but brewers use wheat, rye, oats, rice, corn and various other starches in the brewing process. The barley is harvested and malted by a maltster (this is completely separate from the brewing process itself, and in only a very few cases would the maltster be the brewer- the maltster is also quite unlikely to be the farmer). The grain seeds are made to germinate, and this creates the enzymes needed to convert the starches contained within the grains into sugars which can be fermented. Before the grains can sprout, the maltster halts the germination process by heating and drying the grains. The malted barley may go directly to a brewer as what is called a base malt, or it may undergo additional roasting, which darkens the colour and changes both the aroma and flavour and is then usually called a specialty grain.


The brewer takes a base malt and may or may not add some specialty grains according to their recipe.  He or she soaks the grains in warm water – this process is known as mashing.  Different mash temperatures produce different types of sugars, which the yeast in turn break down differently.  Some sugars are more fermentable than others, so the brewer must be careful to mash at the correct temperature. After the mash the grains are usually removed and rinsed with water to collect as much of the sugar that has been extracted from them as possible.  At this point the sugary liquid is referred to as wort (pronounced wert).

The Boil

The brewer now brings the wort to a boil in a large pot called a kettle. After the wort comes to a boil, hops are added in at different quantities and at different times. Hop additions often occur at numerous times during the boil; early additions contribute to the beer’s bitterness, while late hop additions provide the hop flavor and aroma.  Sometimes hops are added before the wort is boiling (first wort hopping), and sometimes hops are added as the flame (or other heat source) is switched off (zero minute hop additions).  In home brewing, the timing of the hop additions is expressed as the time remaining before the end of the boiling process, so a 60 minute hop addition would be 60 minutes before the end of the boil, and a 15 minute hop addition would be 45 minutes later, with 15 minutes remaining.


The wort which has now been battered with hops must be cooled before yeast can be added.  Many would say that it must be cooled as quickly as possible, and on an industrial scale this is true, but it is increasingly popular in home brewing to allow the hot wort to cool naturally overnight. The brewer will strain out any sediment (hop residue for example) and transfer the cooled wort into a fermentation vessel where it will stay for a period of time.  The vessel is designed to let gas (in the form of Carbon Dioxide mostly) escape without allowing any air or contaminants to come into contact with the beer by means of an airlock. The brewer adds yeast to the wort and then ensures the airlock is in place. The yeast consumes the sugars created in the mash and produces 2 key features of beer- alcohol and carbon dioxide. Once the yeast has consumed most of the sugars it settles to the bottom of the fermentation vessel.  The beer is removed from the fermentation vessel and packaged.

Other Procedures

There are a multitude of other steps that may or may not take place. The brewer may have to perform a special kind of mash such as step or decoction depending on the grains and the recipe being used.  Hops may be added after the main fermentation has taken place- known as “dry hopping”. This gives beers like IPAs their signature aromas and flavours. The beer might be aged in a barrel to give it flavors of oak or whiskey. But for the most part, the steps above cover the process of brewing.

For further information, see John Palmer’s “How to Brew”, an excellent book on the science of homebrewing, which is made available free online. /intro.html

Craft Beer Tasting

Pride, Saltaire Brewery, 3.9% ABV

Saltair Brewery Pride beerliever.comFrom their website: Saltaire Brewery was established in 2005 and is dedicated to the production of high quality ales with a contemporary twist. The Brewery is close to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Saltaire Village, famous for its Victorian industrial heritage and is situated in an old generating hall that once provided the electricity for the Bradford trams. The lofty Victorian architecture provides a perfect home to the bespoke 20 barrel brewhouse and Mezzanine Bar.

Find more about them on their website: Saltaire Brewery and follow them here on Twitter.

What they say about the beer:

Not much, really, just: 

A classic English pale bitter, with light malt base and spicy fruitiness from the Challenger, Bramling Cross and Cascade hops.

What I thought about the saltaire brewery pride

Well, it’s a traditional English Bitter.  And as the name suggests, bitterness is the key flavour profile.  The beer is bright, and a lovely golden colour.  Head retention is good with some lacing as you drink.  The aromas are quite light, but fruity hops are there, the hops feature most in the bitterness.  It has an easy drinking mouthfeel, not thin, but not thick, and for 3.9% ABV it’s got the right balance.

It’s a great example of a bitter.  Personally, I wouldn’t chug more than one of these, although it would be a good session beer due to the relatively low ABV.  The reason is that the bitterness, I found, was quite savoury, and the malt wasn’t providing enough sweetness for me, but at the same time, the hops were providing good bitterness but not the kind of hoppiness that I’d be looking for.  I guess what I’m saying is I’m not that keen on the style, even though this is a great example, I’d prefer something else altogether.

My verdict:

Worth a try, I certainly don’t regret drinking it.  You should try it at least once!

See other reviews .