Observant Twitter followers will have noticed that I get fed up with session beer. I seem to remember tweeting "I'm drowning in an ocean of indifferent session beer" at some stage.
The problem is, my home county of Cumbria is a very conservative drinkership. It wants unchallenging session beer. 5% abv is regarded by many as ridiculously strong. Imported beers are conspicuous by their absence. I get bored and more than a little frustrated. I've nothing against session beer, I just don't want it to be the only style (or range of styles) available to me.
Fortunately there are some positive developments: "Hardknott" Dave Bailey's admirable efforts are well-documented in blogsville; Bitter End are rumoured to be brewing an 8% "extreme" IPA and Stringer's brew "Black Flag", an luscious 8% stout.
I've recently discovered another tremendous Cumbrian beer that has the potential to entertain the beer geek (as opposed to the real-ale enthusiast): Croglin Vampire by Cumbrian Legendary Ales. First brewed in 2007, its only regular outlet is the Kirkstile Inn which shares ownership with the brewery. Only rarely has it appeared anywhere else.
A few weeks ago I interviewed Roger Humphries, the owner of the pub and brewery, for my little beer column in Cumbria Life magazine. A few days later a box of bottles arrived in the post. Most were 500ml bottlings of their regular beers, of which "Loweswater Gold" is the star (current title-holder of SIBA's Northern Region Best Bottle Beer.)
I was astonished. A Cumbrian brewer producing something quite un-Cumbrian. The beer is dark ruby red with a rapidly-dimishing head leaving attractive "legs" down the side of the glass. There isn't a big aroma, just some generic malt with some forest-fruits.
But the mouthfeel and flavour! What a treat! The phrase that sprung to mind was "a symphony of malt". Layer upon layer of nuanced malt loveliness revealed themselves with a sumptuous velvety mouthfeel. Very special.
In a beer world in which shouty hop-bombs hog the limelight, malt complexity is frequently sidelined. Crog Vamp is a perfect reminder of the delights of malt.
I emailed Roger telling him how good this beer is. My enthusiasm stirred, I wanted to share this beer with the beer geek world.
The other day I had a meeting with Roger to work on a marketing plan for Crog Vamp. I've recommended that as a matter of urgency he engages with us online beer geeks in two ways: get Twittering, and send out bottles for reviews by bloggers.
Yes, you read that correctly – there are bottles available for review! If you are an internet beer reviewer you can have a bottle or two. Roger will need your address so please leave it here, and I'll pass the info on.