Tag Archives: real ale

Beer and Fantasy Books

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, or even a short time, you’ll know I like beer. More specifically real ale or craft beer as it is called in America, small batches of beer produced by independent or small breweries. I was lucky enough to be able to create my own special beer with a local brewery, Fownes Brewery, to celebrate the launch of Mageborn last October. We called it Mage, of course.

In this article I wrote just before Christmas I expand on beer in the fantasy genre as a whole and there’s also some photos from the Mageborn launch and photos of the Mage ale too. Enjoy!

Beer and fantasy books Medium Article

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MAGE is born….or brewed

Today I went over to Fownes Brewery in Gornal to help them put the finishing touching on the special edition real ale I helped them brew, MAGE. This real ale was specially commissioned to tie in with the publication of my new novel, Mageborn, book 1 in the new Age of Dread trilogy. Today at the brewery we were labelling up the bottles and boxing them up. Behold the tasty, delicious darkness that is MAGE, a 5% porter.

I also had my first taste and I was super nervous. What if after all of this I didn’t like it? In the past I’ve ordered or bought beers and in theory they have all the things I like, but when I actually taste them it I’ve been disappointed. I am hugely relieved to say MAGE tastes fantastic. I really like it.

It was really special to see it today having been there at the beginning. And don’t they all look gorgeous lined up together in neat rows in that box! The beady eyed amongst you will also notice there is an abbreviated version of the Mageborn summary on the label as well. I’m pleased to say bottles of MAGE will be there on Wednesday night in Birmingham at the Mageborn launch to drink or take away for later.

Summer might be over, but today it didn’t stop me from sitting out in the sunshine this afternoon and enjoying a nice dark beer. Cheers!



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Beer and books

Fownes Brewery LogoI am delighted to announce that I will be working with a local brewery, Fownes, to create a special limited-edition real ale to celebrate the publication of Mageborn.

Next month I will taking a trip to Fownes Brewery, based in Gornal, Dudley, to help them brew and bottle a special beer ahead of October’s launch. I have been a long term fan of real ale (there are even a few reviews on this website) and wanted to do something special to celebrate the start of this second trilogy.

A few months ago I paid Fownes brewery a visit to discuss my cunning plan. Over a cup of tea (it was before midday) I found I had a lot in common with brothers Tom and James Fownes, the brewers,  including a love of fantasy books, comics, the animated version of Hobbit from years ago, Jackson and Livingstone fighting fantasy novels and, of course, real ale. My favourite type of ale are typically dark beers and porters, which they also like to brew, so it sounded like a match made in heaven!

As a result of the brothers common interests the brewery and all of their ales are fantasy-themed. Just look at the gorgeous artwork they have on their beers!

We actually tried to sort out a real ale a while ago, and for those with keen eyes, the brothers have a cameo in Bloodmage. But at the time I was living in another part of the country and it was more difficult to coordinate. Now that I’m in the West Midlands it was very easy for me to pop over to chat it through.

So, I will provide more info on the real ale, such as where and when it will be available once I’ve brewed it, but by the time Mageborn comes out in October, it will be ready, if not before!

I also hope to have some bottles with me at both Mageborn signing events in early October in Birmingham and London. Fingers crossed.

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Real Ale: Plum Porter – Titanic Brewery

I’ve not done one of these in ages, and I’m not really sure why. I’m busy but I’ve also still been regularly drinking real ale, so I’ve no real excuse. Now I’m at the point where I look at the shelves in my local shop, farm shop, supermarket and say ‘ Have I tried that one?’ and I’m not really sure. So this is now becoming a personal record as well!

So, my first real ale post  in a while and it is my favourite type of ale – a porter.

Plum Porter Titanic Brewery“This beer is dark strong and well rounded; the richness of such a rotund beer is brought to an even keel by the late addition of Goldings hops and natural plum flavouring. Take the opportunity and go for the low hanging fruit, this sumptuous beer really is a plum!”

This is a rather special porter. I will say right now, I don’t like fruit beers, that is any that say ‘a hint of citrus’ or ‘a zesty finish’. They are just not for me. If I’m browsing in the shop and I see that on the tasting notes, it goes back on the shelf. Orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit in a beer are not for me. I’ll have the fruit and the beer separate. So, having said all of that, a fruit porter. My initial response was to put it back but it’s not citrus and I’ve had coffee, toffee, liquorice and smoky porters, but never a plum porter.

This is a really tasty beer. It’s not zesty, but also the plum taste is very clear. You can smell it and the colour is a rich purple when you hold it up to the light. And I’m delighted to say it really works. The ale has a slightly bitter aftertaste, more than I was expecting, but it’s not unpleasant. Also at 4.7% it’s not too heavy at all and could make for a good session ale. It has won several awards over the years and I can see why. A really pleasant surprise and much tastier than I was expecting.

The Plum Porter is brewed by Titanic brewery based out of Stoke on Trent which was founded in 1985. So it’s relatively new, if you can count a 30 plus year old brewery to be new these days. There is a lot of information on their website about them and all of their beers, including a chocolate and a vanilla stout, and a cappuccino stout! They’re not a brewery I’ve come across before but since moving to a different part of the country the local shops stock all sorts of new beers. I will definitely try another of theirs in the future and keep an eye out for their stouts.

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Real Ale: Yorkshire Blackout – The Great Yorkshire Brewery

I’ve not done of these in a while. So for those who are new to the website, as well as posts about writing, I also write about comics, TV, films and real ale.

Yorkshire Blackout“We’re right chuffed with our porter. This 18th century London beer style is brewed with 100% English ingredients and showcases the delicious flavours of chocolate and vanilla – by ‘eck it’s addictive.”

As I’ve probably mentioned once or twice before, I’m a fan of tasty porters. I find most stouts too heavy and too strong and I need a lie down after one, but porters lay somewhere in that nice middle ground on the ale scale.

This is another old style modern real ale, from an 18th century recipe. One of my other favourites, Black Gold from the Copper Dragon Brewery in Skipton, is another of those ye olde discovered recipes and there is some common ground between them in terms of taste. Yorkshire Blackout, as the name suggests, is completely black like a pint of Guinness but it’s not a heavy drink and it’s very different in texture, plus it doesn’t have much of a head. Strong flavours of chocolate come through immediately and it took only a few sips for the after-taste of vanilla to come through as well. It smells of vanilla but it’s not overpowering, so it doesn’t taste like you’re drinking a melted lump of ice cream. The balance of flavours is actually just right for me, not too bitter or sweet, and despite being 5% it was still a very fresh and tasty drink. It’s the kind of pint I’d have with a traditional hearty meal, like a steak pie and chips or bangers and mash.

The Great Yorkshire Brewery (previously Cropton Brewery) which is located in Cropton was founded in 2010 and they offer a range of beers from lagers to porters but also ciders. There are still Cropton beers on the website so they might be offering beers under the two brands or in the middle of a transition. They do offer brewery tours of their facilities and more information is available via their website. The brewery is also producing seasonal ales using local produce starting with Lavender Blonde this August using local Yorkshire lavender.

Take a look at their website as it has more information about their beers, forthcoming events, an online shop to buy beer and merchandise and the latest news on their blog. Earlier I mentioned matching beer to food and there is also the opportunity to buy a Beer and Food Matching evening as a gift via their website. I think this is a brilliant idea and I’m seeing more of this sort of thing being offered all over.

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Real Ale: Cumberland Ale – Jennings Brewery

“A superb golden coloured ale, brewed with English pale Ale malt and using only the finest English aromatic hops.”

Cumberland AleI received a few ales for my birthday, what a surprise, and among them was a couple of bottles of Cumberland Ale. I’ve had this before several times in the past, in bottles and on a pump in a bar just around the corner from Kings Cross and every time I’ve found it to be very tasty.

It’s fairly light in taste, what some would describe as a delicate palette, and unlike some beers it’s actually really difficult to describe. It has a very slight bitter aftertaste, but there again that’s not a problem for someone like me who doesn’t like bitters or ales that leave you needing something sweet to cleanse the palette. You can drink a couple of these and not feel as if you’ve been sucking on a lemon. It’s very smooth, a bit malty, at 4.0% it’s not heavy and is slightly amber in colour and sort of golden as well with a slight head. Overall it’s a really nice easy drink which some might find boring, but I really enjoy it and will always go for it if I see it on the pump. Other flavours I’ve not noticed but are mentioned are apple and biscuit so I’ll have to look out for them next time I have a pint!

Cumberland Ale won silver in 2009 and bronze in 2010 at the International Beer Challenge and it’s a favourite as it’s stocked nationwide. Jennings have been going for 185 years and despite having not been to the brewery I think I’ve tried all of their core range, except for the Bitter. If I’m ever up that way in the Lakes I’d definitely pop in to take a tour and pick up a couple of bottles or ten. I’ve been to the Lake District lots of times on holidays but it’s rare that I go that far north in the area so at some point I’ll have to make a special journey.

Have a look at their website and if you are up that way, or are coming down from across the border, pop in and take the tour.

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Real Ale: Isle of Arran Dark – Arran Brewery

A traditional “Scottish Heavy” style beer with a full malt flavour and a deep bitter finish.

arranI received one or two ales for Christmas, ok more than two, and one box had a wide selection of ales from across the UK. This is my first ale from the Isle of Arran Brewery, and this dark beer had a good chance of being a winner from the moment I poured. It comes out almost black, but at 4.3% it isn’t too heavy. It’s actually a dark browny red when held up to the light, and it has a bit of caramel in the taste and is very earthy. There are no floral or fruity flavours to it, at least to me, although it is described as having a bit of that in the nose. This malty ale does have a little bit of a bittersweet finish, and it is balanced just right for me. It is definitely a smooth drink and it won Europe’s Best Dark brown and World’s Best Dark Brown at the World Beer Awards in 2012.

Fairly uncommon on other brewery websites, but a very good idea, the Arran website suggests the type of food it should accompany, anything with a stronger flavour as this is quite mild but still tasty.

I’ve never visited the Isle of Arran, in fact I’ve never been to nearby Glasgow, but both seem like grand places to visit. The brewery was originally set up in 2000 and has changed hands a couple of times but in the last few years has been prospering and expanding with new beers, increased production and some other cunning plans. Take a look at their website for all the latest news and of course, their online shop, for their beer.

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Real Ale: Black Gold – Copper Dragon Brewery

Black Gold Copper DragonA recipe created from restored brewing records from the 1800’s. The use of traditional coloured and roasted malts give a unique rich and luscious flavour.

As detailed above, this is a lost recipe that has been recreated for the modern ale drinker. To date this is one of my three favourite porters or dark ales. It’s very light and smooth, it’s tasty but not too rich which can sometimes happen, which leaves me feeling like I need to cleanse my palette a bit before drinking some more. It’s a rich dark brown, almost black in colour, and there are hints of liquorice, toffee and coffee. It isn’t bitter and it isn’t fruity, which I’m not a fan of in pale ales and you sometimes get with some American hops. A real earthy drink that doesn’t leave a bitter after taste and it’s only 3.7% so a couple in a row is not going to leave you too fuzzy.

The Copper Dragon Brewery in Skipton has been around for a while and they produce an interesting range of beers and have recently diversified into producing a pilsner beer called Radka. I’ve not made it up to the brewery yet but it’s definitely a place that I want to visit, go on a tour, and maybe purchase a couple of ales from the shop.

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Real Ale: Heron Porter – Two Roses Brewery

A rich deep scarlet beer with chocolate on the nose and a full round smooth flavour.

Heron PorterThis 4.2% Porter is one of my favourites from a local Yorkshire brewery, the Two Roses Brewery. So far, it’s definitely in my top 10 porters. At the moment I drink more of this, Ilkley Black (which I covered a while back) and one other I’m going to talk about soon from the Copper Dragon Brewery, than any other real ales. I’m definitely developing quite a think for porters and ruby ales over pale and stouts. I’m also slowly working out which hops I like and don’t as more and more breweries list which type they use on the bottle or website.

This ale has also been described as having hints of chocolate, bananas and cherries. I’ve no idea about the last two, but there is definitely a hint of chocolate, but this isn’t a sweet drink at all. Far from it, in fact there is definitely a slightly earthy taste and it’s so red it’s almost black when poured, so at first glance you might mistake it for a pint of the Irish Black Stuff. It’s only 4.2% so it’s very light and incredibly smooth to drink and a single pint or bottle doesn’t leave you feeling bloated or heavy. Very little fizz or froth, a lovely taste without a sour aftertaste.

There’s a lot of squabbling and splitting hairs about porters and stouts, which I won’t go into, but for me personally, I prefer it when porters are not heavy drinks. Stouts are usually much stronger and heavier. You can’t have more than two without feeling like you’ve had a big meal and need a sleep. The porters I tend to drink are nothing like that and you could have two without feeling bloated, drunk, or that you’ve just eaten a giant roast dinner! All of which is a long way of saying you could have a couple of these and easily have room for something else.

For 2013, Heron Porter is in my top 10 real ales. Highly recommended.

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Real Ale: Kraftwerk – Revolutions Brewing Company

Mid-brown beer hopped with noble German hops. Medium-bodied, moderate levels of bitterness and a balanced finish. Somewhere between English brown ale and German Alt-Bier.

kwThis 4.5% beer comes from the Castleford based, Revolutions Brewery, where they pay homage to music from the analogue age, before digital and downloads. All of the names of their ales also come from music and they produce special brews to help promote brands. As it says on their website, love music, love beer.

This is definitely not your usual real ale and as mentioned above it does taste a bit like a German beer, but is dark and tasty without tasting like a stout, as it’s only 4.5%. So it’s not a heavy drink at all and it has a very mild bitter aftertaste. It’s very tasty and something rather special in my opinion.

Another thing I really liked about it is the more real ale I drink, the more I think about brewing as a science. To me the brewers are wizards or chefs, conjuring up the perfect pint, with a drop of this, a pinch of that, and two spoonfuls of something else. I know there are real ales like this one out there, and as a fan of dark ales and ruby ales I’m going to come across all of them sooner or later, but even so, they will be slightly different. This is because the brewery has approached it from a slightly different angle, and even with the same ingredients two brewers would produce something slightly diffferent.

Anyway, Revolutions Brewery has some great real ales and they love their music, so if that sounds like your sort of thing then check them out.

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