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Sam’s Beer Blog: 12 Beers of Christmas

When it comes to Christmas, I’m generally a bit of a Grinch. If I had it my way, crimbo decorations would go up Christmas Eve and be down on Boxing Day. I realised that I haven’t written a Beer Blog in a while, and with the C word rapidly approaching, what better subject to base a beer blog on?

Here are 12 great tasting, somewhat festive beers that you can confidently order at the Portland while all the seasonal drinkers are taking forever to order.

It might sound something like this: “A pint of beer, a… 1, 2, 3… 4 pints of beer, a… Jackie what are you having? A glass of wine please, a J2O… what flavour? Ermmm… oh any is fine. Oh, and a Guinness”.

1: Stay Puft Marshmallow Porter, Tiny Rebel, 4.2%.
Before I started buying stock from different suppliers, I tried for so long to stock this porter. It’s such a fun beer; people buy it for the Ghostbusters reference, but more so because it’s a great dark beer that’s a little bit different. Don’t cross the streams!

2: A to the K, Oatmeal Pale, Alphabet Brewery, 5.6%.

This is one of my favourite beers in the whole craft beer fridge (my pride and joy). I can just about get away with calling this a festive brew as the oatmeal produces a nice biscuity taste from the start. Reminds me of those big tins of shortbread your Nan always has at this time of year.

3: Zombie Cake, Chocolate Praline Porter, Brewdog, 5%.
Who doesn’t have chocolate for breakfast on Christmas Day? Not much to do before lunch is there except play with your stocking. Brewdog made a great shout when they added this beer to their core range. Hey, who ate all the Guylian?

4: F*ck, the Christmas Tree is on Fire!, Orange and Coffee Oatmeal Stout, Het Uiltje, 10%.
This incredible stout from Dutch brewery Het Uiltje is a staple in the Portland fridge in December. Obviously at 10% it’s a night ender, not a night starter. Maybe one to share with a mate.

5: Pulping on Your Stereo, Orange-Infused IPA, Nene Valley Brewery, 4.5%.
Are you old enough to have received an orange in your stocking on Christmas morning? This zesty session IPA tastes like if Tango started brewing beer.

6: Abbot Reserve, Real Ale, Greene King, 6.5%.
You know it’s December when GK start rolling out this wonderful chestnut ale. Because Abbot Reserve is brewed so strong, it has a real sweetness to it, which is a taste I have definitely acquired. A throwback to the Abbot Ale of old.

7: Juice Springsteen, Tropical IPA, Alphabet Brewery, 4.5%.
Because us Scrooges always need a reminder that Summer is only a few months away. This juicy pale ale is always popular, particularly with fans of The Boss.

8: Orinoco Mocha Milk Stout, Drygate, 6%.
If you like going in to Starbucks to try their Christmassy offerings, this might be the beer for you. Heavy coffee flavours in this big tasting dark beer from the crew up in Glasgow.

9: Big Drop Stout, 0.5%.
This one is for the designated drivers, or indeed the heroes partaking in Dry January. This non-alcoholic milk chocolate stout is one of the best low-and-no products on the market.

10: Stay Puft Imperial Irish Cream Marshmallow Porter, Tiny Rebel, 9%.
Much like the original Stay Puft, but far stronger and much richer. With the addition of the Irish Cream, this is the perfect beer if you like a crafty Baileys after your Christmas dinner. At 9%, this is another beer you might wish to share.

11: Greedy Goose, “Honkingly Good Ale”, Hook Norton, 4.2%.
This Christmas-themed, malty amber ale is very sessionable. If I was headed down the pub on Christmas Day to get out of the way while Mother prepared lunch, I would definitely have a few pints of this.

12: “You’re so Vain, you Probably Think this Stout is About you”, Salted Caramel Imperial Stout, Kees/Alphabet Brewery, 11%.
Although the song title doesn’t scream “Christmas”, the beer style definitely does. This salted caramel stout perfectly rounds off the list with its rich flavour and smooth mouth-feel. Share it if you like; t’is the season of giving after-all.

There you have it: plenty of recommendations for y’all to try over the festive period. Do you have a favourite beer from the list? Should I be looking elsewhere for Christmas-themed beers? Come in and tell me about it! Alternatively, you can find us on social media @ThePortlandArms.

Sam’s Beer Blog – Real Ale

For the most part, my beer blogs have been focused around craft beer, because that’s what I’m passionate about. I’m also a long-time real ale fan. I went to my first Cambridge Beer Festival at 19 years old (13 years ago, although the hairline would suggest longer). I have loved real ale ever since, as do our gig-goers. No matter what great, unique craft beer cans we have in the fridge, gig-goers will always spot the ale pumps first. A lot of people look for buzzwords: if a beer has the words “golden” or “hoppy” on the badge, it’s guaranteed to sell well. But, as I’ve written about before, if one of these people dare venture outside their comfort zone and try a pint of oatmeal stout, for example, they might be pleasantly surprised.

One of the real ales I try and have on consistently is Tribute, from Cornish brewer St. Austell. I prefer my beers to be more malty than hoppy; I love that biscuity after-taste. Tribute delivers this, and at 4.2%, it’s perfect if you’re on a session. It’s also tremendously refreshing; you’re never going to get sick of this beer. The brand is very recognisable too, so it’s popular with people who don’t necessarily get to go down the pub often.

Speaking of recognisable brands, Oakham beers are more popular than ever at The Portland. You know what to expect from an Oakham beer: hops. Lots of them. Because of this reputation, Oakham beers go down a storm, especially at our Sister pub The Alex, where they strive to have at least one Oakham beer on draught at all times. Funnily enough, Oakham have just released a range of canned craft beer. Look for Thrill Seeker, Best Friend and Alpha Inception in our fridges.

Greene King’s XX Mild won several Best Beer awards last year, for its contributions to the Mild genre. When I think of the term “mild”, I think of two old boys sitting next to a fruit machine, in the middle of the day, complaining about the youth of today. Because of this mindset, XX Mild often gets overlooked. It is therefore quite hard to find in Cambridge, as some pubs are hesitant to stock it. We sell a lot of XX Mild, as we have developed a reputation for having it on draught regularly (and for keeping it well, obviously). It’s not just weirdy-beardies that drink it either; when people try it, they tend to stay on it for the rest of the night.

And then there’s old faithful: Greene King IPA. I fear that sometimes this beer is missold, as the term “IPA” is more associated with craft beer in this day and age. Hipsters go mad for an IPA… when they’re served by keg or in a 330ml can. Nevertheless, Greene King IPA is as reliable a pint as you’ll find. It’s a solid session ale. No thrills, just top quality beer. It’s our best-selling real ale by a country mile.

The point of this blog is, don’t overlook real ale. Even though the market took a small hit during the craft beer boom, real ale is set to make a big comeback as breweries realise this is what the masses still crave. As far as I’m concerned, real ale is as good in 2019 as it was back in 2006 at the Cambridge Beer Festival, when you (me) first experienced it.

Do you have a favourite real ale? Should I be stocking beers from a particular brewery? Come in and tell me about it! Alternatively, you can find us on social media @ThePortlandArms.

Sam’s Beer Blog: Food Pairing

It’s always been a trend in restaurants to pair wines with certain food dishes, for example a nice glass of Sauvignon Blanc to go with your carbonara. With more and more pubs becoming food-lead, it’s only a matter of time before customers expect the same with craft beer. At the Portland, y’all know we offer a great selection of canned and bottled beers; I thought I would suggest which dishes from our menu pair well with these beers. Think of this blog as a go-to guide when you’re next in the Portland ordering food and fancy a beer to go with it.

Let’s start with my favourite menu item: the Cajun Chicken Burger. The succulent chicken breast is coated in Cajun spices; it’s just tremendous. Adnam’s Dry-Hopped Lager makes a great partner to this dish. The crisp, clean taste of this lager cuts through the subtle spiciness of the Cajun seasoning and refreshes nicely. This lagers pairs well with cheese as well, so why not whack some mature cheddar on your burger n’all.

You’re probably aware that we proudly serve Barrel & Stone Pizzas at the Portland. Beavertown’s Gamma Ray APA is a great shout with any of our pizzas; indeed, the more toppings, the better! The juicy hoppyness compliments the pizza crust nicely. I would personally go with The Works: salami, ham and fennel sausage. Can’t go wrong.

That old British favourite Bangers and Mash goes great with Dutch brewery Kees’ Mosaic Hop Explosion. The intensity of Cambridge Quality Meat’s classic pork sausages stands up to the hoppy, bitter characteristics of this tremendous IPA.

Speaking of British favourites, our beer-battered Fish and Chips goes great with Hoegaarden: “the original Belgian wheat beer”. This wonderful witbier enhances the salinity of the fish, while also cleansing your palate.

Our top-seller at the Portland is, of course the Portland Big One: our homemade 6oz steak burger topped with cheddar, bacon, hash browns and onion rings. A proper, hearty meal like this goes great with De Molen’s Achtung Berry. The rich flavour of the steak mince with the fruity, tart style of this Berliner Weisse brings the savoury taste out in the dish.

Vegetarians need look no further than our Battered Halloumi and Chips, along with Brewdog’s Lost Lager. Pilsners are generally lighter-tasting; therefore go great with dishes like this. Much like with the fish and chips, the Lost Lager enables the wonderful flavour of the Halloumi, while washing your palate to boot.

I hope this blog has given you some inspiration when you’re ordering your food and don’t know which beer to grab with it. If you have had any great experiences pairing food with beer, please swing by and let me know! I’d love to be inspired by yourselves too.


Sam’s Beer Blog: Vegan Beers

In 2018, breweries must accommodate for several dietary requirements, should they wish their beer to be consumable for everyone. More and more people are seeing the benefits of going vegan, which in the past would have limited the range of beers that they would be able to drink. Nowadays the amount of beers that are indeed suitable for vegans is vast, which is surprising, as not all breweries advertise the fact that their beers are vegan friendly.

Unfortunately, the only vegan friendly draught lager that we stock at all times is Amstel. We regularly stock Hop House 13 on draught, which is vegan friendly. We’re also going to be swapping the Noble for Birra Moretti, which is suitable for vegans, in the near future. Elsewhere, Aspalls Harry Sparrow cider is vegan friendly, as is Guinness, which is a recent occurrence.

Our two longest serving bottled lagers: Corona and Peroni Nastro are both suitable for vegans, as are Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and the Brewdog range, of which we stock Punk IPA, Vagabond (which is also gluten-free), Elvis Juice (grapefruit-infused IPA), Slot Machine (red rye IPA) and Clockwork Tangerine, which is a delicious tangerine-infused pale ale.

If a vegan is looking for something non-alcoholic, we offer Brewdog’s Nanny State, as well as Bitburger Drive, which even has isotonic effects if you are on a health kick.

Now on to my prized section: the canned beers. The entire Brewdog core range is vegan friendly, of which we stock Neck Oil, Gamma Ray, Lupuloid, Smog Rocket, as well as the new Bloody ‘Ell, which is a very tangy blood orange IPA. The Magic Rock selection is suitable for vegans: High Wire (pale ale), Common Grounds (coffee porter) and Fantasma (gluten-free IPA). Brewboard beers are also vegan friendly: Turmoil (light copper IPA), Cardinaldred (interesting amber ale) and Lakota, which is a 5.1% American pale ale that just so happens to be our craft beer of the week.

Elsewhere on the canned-beer front, we have the ever-popular Adnams Dry-Hopped Lager, Charlie Don’t Surf which is an American style wheat beer” more refreshing than the smell of Napalm in the morning”, the notorious witbier Hoegaarden, Meantime’s Yakima Red and Dutch brewery Kees’ Citra Pale Ale, all of which are vegan friendly.

As I previously explained, a surprising amount of beer is suitable for vegans; the breweries just don’t shout about it enough. The extensive range of beers we stock is now complimented by our new vegan Barrel & Stone pizzas too. Hopefully this Beer Blog has provided you (should you indeed be a vegan) with a wider range of choices down your local.

Sam’s Beer Blog: Stouts and Porters

Last week, I held a craft beer tasting session with the other site managers, to give them the opportunity to sample our tremendous range of beers. A point of interest emerged from this session: people who thought they didn’t like dark beers, actually really like dark beers.

In my experience, people can be a bit hesitant of stouts and porters. Folk have this picture in their heads of senior citizens sitting in a working men’s club drinking Mild. In 2018, that mental image is unfounded. At the Portland, we have a varied range of dark beers to suit any taste.

Take Champion from Jocks and Peers. Brewed in Cambridge, this is a dark and roasted stout with a coffee aroma. No funny business. At 4.1%, it’s a beer you could stay on all night and not get bored of.

One of the bottled beers we have stocked for a long time is the Belhaven Scottish Oat Stout. This is one of Hayley’s favourites. At 7%, this stout is rich in flavour. It describes itself as “intense, yet approachable”. Coffee and chocolate notes compliment the thick texture. This beer often gets overlooked; I highly recommend you give this one a go.

“Everything is better when it’s brewed with chocolate” is the slogan of the beer simply titled “Chocolate Porter”, from Kees Brewery in the Netherlands. It’s hard to dispute that claim when you try this beer. When it arrived and I tried it for the first time, I expected it to be as thick as treacle. It isn’t. This porter is surprisingly drinkable. At 6.2%, it isn’t ridiculously strong, so it isn’t necessarily a night-ender. It’s got just the right viscosity; I would happily drink a couple of these in the middle of a session.

If you’re after something a little sweeter, I totally recommend the Dark Neapolitan, which is an ice cream porter from Northern Monk Brewery. “Tastes like strawberries dipped in chocolate”, quipped Hayley during our taster sesh. The clue is in the title with this beer. Much like the Chocolate Porter from Kees, it’s 6.2% and it isn’t too thick, however it is far richer than the above. One of my personal favourites.

Finally, we come to a beer called “You’re So Vain, You Probably Think This Stout is About You”. This is a collaborated effort between Alphabet Brewery and Kees Brewery, so you know it’s going to be a good’n. It’s a salted caramel imperial stout which, unlike the other beers in this blog, is rich and suitably thick. At 11%, what else would you expect? It’s the most expensive beer that we stock, but the price never puts customers off. Carly Simon would be proud.

I hope reading this has inspired you to come out and try more stouts and porters. The Portland staff’s product knowledge is excellent so if you would like a recommendation, please just ask. Cheers!

Sam’s Beer Blog: ‘Low and no’

Here’s an interesting statistic: the number 6 best-selling craft beer in the UK right now is Brewdog’s Nanny State. It’s a surprising fact considering it boasts an ABV of 0.5%.

The “low and no alcohol” market has exploded over the past year, with record sales over January due to the amount of people going dry for the month. A couple of years previous, drivers had gotten used to Becks Blue being their only option for non-alcoholic beer. Nowadays there are so many great low-alcohol beers on the market that Becks Blue has almost faded into obscurity.

At The Portland we are very proud of our “low and no” range. The first addition to our shelf is Erdinger Alkoholfrei. It’s a smooth weißbier with an ABV of <0.5%, but what sets this beer apart is its isotonic properties. Erdinger Alkoholfrei contains vitamins B9 and B12, which have positive effects on the human body. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you could drink this beverage after a work-out.

Bitburger Drive is a light non-alcoholic beer with an ABV of 0.05%, which also boasts isotonic effects. It’s low in calories with an intense citrus flavour. It’s a popular beverage due to its similarity in taste to “real beer”.

Now, onto the previously mentioned Nanny State. The Brewdog brewery grows more and more every year. Their Punk IPA is wildly popular, especially with gig-goers (I will do a Beer Blog dedicated to Brewdog beers in the near future). The Nanny State sells so well at the Portland that we struggle to keep it in stock. At 0.5%, it’s a copper coloured beer, packed with hops. I honestly think a lot of people don’t actually realise the low-alcohol content. Either that or they don’t care; it tastes that good.

These 3 beers, along with the 0% Kopparberg Mixed Fruits cider, J20s, Appletiser, Fentiman’s Ginger Beer, etc, mean that drivers are no longer limited to Coke, orange juice or lime and soda. I will be looking to extend the “low and no” range in the future; I’ll be sure to keep you guys informed. Until then, drive home safely.

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