An Easter dose of Raging Flem

Last year I spent Easter in Belgium. I blogged at the time about taking a clutch of Kernel beers for tasting and the trepidation of introducing these beer lovers (and connoisseurs in the truest sense) to some of London’s best offerings.


A year on and I’m here in Western Australia wondering what they’d think of Raging Flem. From the Feral Brewing Co’s new Brewpub Series I was sent a sample which arrived hours before the trip to the South West. The label tells me to treat it like milk, to keep it refrigerated. They’re serious about their cold storage at Feral and I was worried that it’s trip to me and then down south may have an effect.

It’s pitched as combing the traditional ferment driven Belgian style with the new world movement for floral American hops to create a blend of new and oldbrewed using a mixed bag of specially selected Australian and European malts, a truck load of American Hops including Amarillo, Cascade and Chinook with a special addition of Belgium candy sugar to round out a unique brew.

The verdict? Well I didn’t have any Belgians, on hand but did have present a Dutchman, a Mediterranean and an Honorary Belgian (with a keen palate for Flemish beers). The panel like the beer is a bit of a bitsa. It takes those brewing styles and mashes and melds them together. The result a resounding success. It’s a bold IPA, those hops coming through loud and clear but has a degree of subtlety which I guess is driven by the malt and that candy sugar. I’m thinking this would be a winner for my real Belgian panel but they’re unlikely to see it make the trip to Europe. Stocks of the series are limited at present to trusted suppliers of Feral. There’s more to come from the Brewpub Series so keep your eyes peeled.

An Easter dose of Raging Flem

Q&A: Kelly Ryan

I think that this weeks Q&A will be a firm favourite across the beer world, as we catch up with possibly the busiest man in beer. Formerly of Thornbridge, Fyne Ales and Epic; and now moving onto new prospects, we hear from Kelly Ryan.


Your brewing ethos…

Passion, Pride, Fun, Flavour, Quality

Beer epiphany…

I don’t think I’ve had just one beer epiphany, but sitting in a Flavour Chemistry class with my old professor, Jean-Pierre Dufour (who was instrumental in the development of the brewing division of the Catholic University in Leuven, Belgium) here in NZ and tasting through Duvel, Chimay Red, Chimay White and Chimay Blue was definitely a big part of it. JP was ridiculously passionate and taught me loads about beer, brewing and fermentation science. It was his palate, however, that never ceased to amaze me. He inspired me to taste everything I could and to describe as much as I could. I still remember that first sip of Duvel. The effervescence and that Champagne-like mousse coupled with the delicate spice of the yeast. So damn good!

Best beer find of the last year…

Anchorage Love Buzz Saison – A heady mix of peppery goodness, the delightful tartness of the Saison yeast, a hint of Brettanomyces for good measure all tied together with an undercurrent of light oakiness from the French oak Pinot Noir barrels that it’s aged in. An elegant and fascinating beer and the type that should be served up to beer and wine lovers alike.

Sounds heard in the brewery…

If I’m mucking about doing trial brews, it could be anything from some good NZ reggae (Katchafire), Fat Freddy’s Drop (NZ Reggae/Dub/Jazz/Roots) or something a bit more out there like some crazy industrial Skinny Puppy or KMFDM or even some Tool, A Perfect Circle or Pink Floyd. A bit of everything really! The Beatles often pop up on the playlist.

If I wasn’t brewing I’d be…

Dead! Either that or teaching brewing :)

Before I was brewing I was…

A student on the road to being a brewer… I was studying Microbiology and Food Science degrees and got into a trainee brewer programme with a big brewery straight out of university. It was meant to be!

Favourite thing about what I do …

I think it’s probably similar to most brewers… I love recipe development. Envisaging a beer and a culmination of flavours and aromas. That mixing together of diverse and interesting ingredients and that point when it all comes to fruition and you taste the finished product. I love that.

Greatest brewing achievement to date…

A tough question! I enjoy the fact that people have had enjoyment out of what I do for a living. The odd award here and there is always exciting as well.

Things you miss about the UK…

This could be a long list! I miss being able to go to a local market or supermarket and get incredible cheeses for a decent price. I miss the snow. I miss foraging. I miss the pub we used to run and live in, The Coach and Horses in Dronfield. I miss Mark Taylor’s incredible food (the ex-chef of the Coach). I miss Loch Fyne up in Scotland where I started my UK brewing experience. I miss the Peak District. I miss our great friends. I miss the huge choice of beers that are available in the pubs of Sheffield. I miss Thornbridge Kipling. I miss the friendliness of the Yorkshire and Derbyshire folk.

What could we learn from NZ…

Be more proud of your local fare. It’s fantastic. I think the cuisine of the UK is awesome, so many interesting dishes and flavours beyond the usual roast meat and fish n’ chips.

Which brewers do you look up to…

Thornbridge (of course!), Dark Star, Hawkshead, Brewdog, Lovibonds, Fyne Ales, William Bros, Fullers, Adnams, Sharp’s, Brooklyn (US), Odell (US), Dogfish Head (US), Sierra Nevada (US), Russian River (US) Sprig and Fern (NZ), Feral (AUS), De Molen (NED), Birrificio Italiano (ITA)… in fact this list could go on forever!

Pub heaven…

That’s easy! The Coach and Horses in Dronfield. Surrounding by the hum of conversation by the locals and sitting down to a leg of rabbit done in a cider and mustard sauce and matched with a bottle of Maredsous 10 from the fridge. It would have to be snowing just a bit as well.

Pub hell…

A cold, empty pub with nothing good on tap, a menu from a freezer bag and bar staff that spend all their time on their phones and glare at you icily when you order a drink.

Favourite local pub…

I’ve just moved from Auckland and am currently working out of a great craft beer pub in Hamilton called House on Hood. A good beer selection on tap and friendly staff, so it’s an easy one!

Favourite non local pub…

I’m a big fan of The Malthouse in Wellington. Awesome beer selection, knowledgeable staff and it’s nice and relaxed. The pizzas are pretty tasty as well!

What advice would you give any aspiring brewer…

Work hard, be prepared to start at the bottom, work even harder, clean everything that you can see or reach in the brewery and then work hard some more. When you’re not working hard, read everything you can on brewing, expand your horizons and taste as many foods and beverages as you can, build up your palate and your understanding of flavour and aroma combinations and never be afraid to innovate. Have fun along the way and talk to as many brewers as you can!

What’s on the horizon…

In New Zealand, usually the ocean (see what I did there!). Doing some brewery consultancy work at the moment which sees my go from NZ to Canada to NZ to Fiji, then off to judge at the World Beer Cup in San Diego and check out the awesome Craft Brewer’s Conference there. After that it’s back to NZ to install and commission a new brewpub in Hamilton that I’m going to be plying my trade as a head brewer. Exciting times ahead!!

Finally, can you tell us a joke about beer…

Did you hear about that brewer who didn’t like Brettanomyces in his beer? He said it tasted Orval! Yeah, I’m pretty crap at beer jokes.

Q&A: Kelly Ryan

My Belgian Triple

From my last few posts you’d know that I spent Easter in Belgium. I realised this morning that i’d not made any comments about the beers I’d most enjoyed apart from the odd Tweet amidst the bottles. One of the first things our hosts did as we arrived was ask when we wanted to go to the beer shop. At this point they didn’t know of my love of beer – just Lou’s – and I knew at this point the weekend was going to be a success.


First up is the two Blonds. Wolf 7 from Lupus Brewery and Omer from Bockor Brewery. I’m not inclined usually to a Blond (in beer or in life). These two were new to me, a favourite of our host and probably the preferred by the table if the empties were anything to go by. I hope to see them in London soon.

Prearis Quadruple from De Proef Brewery. Possibly the most surprising of the three. Dark, malty and with a little sweetness, it’s potent at 10% but not too thick for my tastes. It was crowned best hobby beer of Belgium in 2011 and now brewed by De Proef a contract brewer. The thought that a hobby beer club can produce this is a real eye opener.

It’s only a small selection. Here are a few that are worth a picture.


As a footnote, if you find yourself in Kortrijk, without the benefit of a Belgian family to provide amazing hospitality, head to Gains Bar a great spot with outdoor seating and an amazing beer list.

My Belgian Triple

The Kernel goes to Kortrijk: The Verdict

I last wrote about the trepidation of taking beer to the Belgians; and more specifically Kernel IPA. Who wouldn’t like a bottle of anything from The Kernel?

After a short intro of The Kernel by Lou, where she talked about the origins of the brewery, the brewer, the beer and the brown paper labels (she is slightly obsessive about paper) the appreciation began.

The bottle was held, label read, held to the light. There were positive nods. A knot in my stomach unravelled. Glassware selected the beer was opened, poured, held to the light, nosed and eventually tasted. The verdict? A smile. A nod. Another sip. Another smile. Another nod. Mission accomplished.

It seems that I’ve set the bar quite high. When I next see “the Belgians” it will be on home turf in London. What to introduce next?

The Kernel goes to Kortrijk: The Verdict

The Kernel goes to Kortrijk

What do you buy Belgians for Easter? This was my dilemma of the week. Heading to Kortrijk for the weekend and a meeting with Lou’s Belgian family I’m left scratching my head. I consult the Belgians I know and I feel they are left scratching their heads too.

Chocolate is their answer, then hesitation, before I’m told “but not your English chocolate”. Taking chocolate to Belgium wherever I get it from just doesn’t seem right. A few coffees, a bit of surfing the web and lots more head scratching and I have my plan. I’ll take coals to Newcastle. Or in in this case beer to Belgium; more precisely Kernel to Kortrijk. I’ll be presenting this to my hosts and hoping that they approve.


It seems apt, as on first meeting Lou’s mum I went to The Kernel to buy a selection. Something to give a little taster of what makes me tick. Buying direct from Evin O’Riordan he advised to “go big” and not shy away from offering up beers that would test the palate. It’s perhaps different with 7 Belgians and I’ve got a clutch of India Pale Ale and Pale Ale of different hop batches. This time it wasn’t direct but from Oddbins at London Bridge. Special mention to them for tweeting me a list of what they had in stock. That really is social media done well in my book.

I’m strangely nervous about the reaction I’ll receive. I mean, an Englishman turns up in West Flanders trying go bring something new in respects to beer. This could be a spectacular coup or a crushing failure. What’s your bet? All will be revealed next week.

The Kernel goes to Kortrijk

How do you open yours?

I’ve got the simple but essential task of bottle opening pretty much covered. With the magnetic opener stuck to the fridge door, the keyring opener for when i’m out and about and the top of the corkscrew when there’s wine and beer to opened i’ve got all bases covered.


There’s even the Aidan Moffat, Little Beer Song opener for when I want an Indie serenade to accompany the hiss and metallic clunk. Should disaster strike however I needn’t panic as I’ve had instruction in improvised techniques the Kiwi way.


Sunday Daydreaming: Best Beer Destinations?

Sunday is a day of rest… though that rest could be a few down the local. For me, today at least, it’s a day of sanding, scraping, priming and painting. I’m daydreaming of good beer and good friends.

With a boys trip to plan later in the year i’m thinking of the best beer destinations in the UK and Europe and thinking back to Antwerp… what are your favourites?

An Afternoon of Beer, Paters Vaetje

Picture courtesy of Carlo Bezoari taken @ Paters Vaetje, Blauwmoezelstraat 1, 2000 Antwerpen

Sunday Daydreaming: Best Beer Destinations?

Tournee Generale: Why can’t we be more like the Belgians!

After a Christmas where any TV choice was dictated by a Ben 10 obsessed 3 year old it was a welcome change to return home and see what the V+ box had in store.  Oz and Hugh Raise the Bar seemed like the most appealing offering but in televisual terms proves that the bar tends to be quite low these days. The format is the well worn travel mission where our hosts supposedly showcase the best of what’s on offer with a challenge in the last programme of running their own bars: for one night only that is. It’s laboured, gimmicky TV which relies on stereotypes and a scattergun approach to content. It leaves me asking: why can’t we be more like the Belgians! Yes that’s right the Belgians. Stay with me.

Such was my despair I went to the fridge, reached into the bottom shelf and cracked open a bottle of  Tournee Generale. Quite possibly the only beer created as part of a TV show (of the same name) and sold commercially? Now i’m sure I may be corrected at this point, but its the only one I know of. And yes you guessed it. It’s Belgian. The result is Tournee Generale (6.5%). It’s a cloudy, amber beer, with a creamy head and a definite  Coriander taste and smell. It’s not a classic but is more than drinkable. In some ways, the fact that its brewed (by Duvel Moortgat) as a result of a TV show is its most interesting characteristic  

For those who remember MTV in the 90s, when it was about the music and not awful teen reality,  you’d recognise the shows co-host, Ray Cokes who is paired with Jean Blaute who you probably don’t.  As the name suggests the series is a tour of brewers in search of  the countries best with the objective of brewing a Speciale Belge. From what I’ve viewed so far it’s not the scattergun approach of our BBC equivalents; crediting the viewer with a little intelligence and as and added bonus there are no shots of a hungover Oz Clarke in his pants!

Here’s a taster! Interested to know what your views are on the treatment of beer in the mainstream media.

Tournee Generale: Why can’t we be more like the Belgians!

Christmas Kriek

So we’ve all been there. It’s midweek, its wet and cold and almost everything that could go wrong, has, and that which hasn’t will doubtless be kicking you in the arse in the next few days. Christmas week should not be like this!

Perhaps sensing the cartoon rain (or perhaps snow) cloud that has been hanging over my head all week Lou hatched a very simple but effective plan involving Belgian beer and savoury snacks. 

Before even opening the front door the smell of pastry and a good amount of cheese is wafting down the stairwell, and combatting the cloud. I will say at this point that there are many skills that I admire in the people in my life but the ability to read my mood and feed me accordingly is a skill that Lou has acquired above all others. I’m generally a grouch but more so when not sufficiently fed and watered. She has been known to counter my mood by saying “shut it, eat this “… seconds later the picture is different. 

As I open the door the waft is now an enveloping blanket of cheese. At this point, without even knowing what’s cooking any thoughts of stress have disappeared.  The source of this mood altering smell, Gougères; a sort of mini cheese puff made with choux pastry and stuffed with cheese. Hailing from Burgundy these French favourites are commonly served with a glass of bubbles. I’m not adverse to the odd glass of Champers but we don’t have any in the fridge. What we do have lurking in the deep recesses is some Lindemans Kriek. I’m not a big one for cherry beers (dare I say i’ve always considered it a drink for the ladies) but the sweetness and acidity of the Kriek is an ideal substitition for the Champagne and an ideal companion to the Gruyere laden pastry.

With the Gougères polished off, and the Kriek run dry, all is right with the world and Christmas week is back on track  So in the spirit of Christmas and this Anglo-Franco-Belgian post… Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noël,  Zalig Kerstfeest.

Christmas Kriek