Bristol Beer Factory with Julian Cope

THE 12 STOUTS OF CHRISTMAS by BRISTOL BEER FACTORY
paired with 20 MOTHERS by JULIAN COPE…

The 12 Stouts & Friends

On the 26th November 2011 Bristol Beer Factory launched their 12 Stouts of Christmas. Each case contained three stouts from the BBF ‘core’ range – Bristol, Milk and Ultimate – alongside nine that were created specially for the 12 Stouts collection. Limited to only 150 cases and priced at a reasonable £48, I was tempted to buy 2 cases but decided that £96 on stout in one go was probably a tad excessive (unless, of course, the £96 was spent on 9.6 bottles of Tokyo*)

I planned to collect my stouts direct from the brewery and while there have a tour and perhaps a sample or two but being in the wrong feeder lane at the wrong time coupled with football related diversions meant we had an interesting but frustrating tour of some of Bristol’s periphery villages and I could feel my desire to interact with other human corroding away… and then we couldn’t find a proper parking space. My girlfriend parked in front of a gate that boasted the immortal “Do not park in front of this gate – in constant use!” sign and said she’d wait until I returned or someone hassled her to move. While in the brewery I decided it would extremely rude if I didn’t buy a half dozen bottles of Southville Hop (to my taste buds, BBF’s finest beer) but I hadn’t really thought through just how much of a pain in the arse it would be carrying 18 bottles of beer for almost ten minutes… oh how we suffer for the things we love! Back at the car it was no surprise to discover that the gate has been in a state of constant non-use. With the beer safely stashed in the boot we headed for the city centre… I won’t bore you with our itinerary for the rest of the day but, suffice to say, the early evening was spent upon the Grain Barge where I ate a damn fine steak sandwich and washed it down with a couple of pints of Acer and a bottle of Southville Hop

Even before I’d collected my stouts I’d decided that I would drink one on each of the 12 Days of Christmas and I would start with the lowest ABV – Bristol (4%) – and work my way upwards in ABV order until the 12th Day when the journey would come to an end with the Glenlivet Cask Stout (10.7%). Everything went as planned for the first ten days but on the 11th it went beautifully wrong: I’d only had a mouthful or two of the delicious Laphroaig Cask Stout when I knew that the 12th Day would have to be replaced with a “Double Bonus 11th Day”

* * *

Das Cope

I discovered the music of Julian Cope in the early 1990s: I was rummaging through a friend’s tape collection and I came across the intriguingly titled Peggy Suicide. I knew the name Julian Cope for the same reason that the majority of the civilised world knows his name but beyond that pop-tinged fact my knowledge of him was virtually non-existent. Noticing that I’d been looking at the Peggy Suicide box for far longer than I’d looked at any other box my friend remarked that although he’d never fully got into it he could hear that it was something special and I should definitely give it a blast – so I stuck it in my pocket. In those days I lived alone in a large three bedroom flat. One of the spare rooms had the designated purpose of housing me and my mates as we “expanded our minds” – obviously this room was the natural home for my hi-fi but this arrangement meant that when I wanted to listen to music in bed I had to listen to it through the walls. Listening to music through walls isn’t the best way to become acquainted with previously unknown sounds but it was a method that had served me reasonably well in the past and it was the method that had helped me fall in love with the music of Lou Reed & the Velvet Underground, Neil Young and Booker T & the MGs – artists that I’m still listening to twenty years later. And that’s how I fell in love with Peggy Suicide: lying in bed, listening to the strange but beautiful sounds seeping through the walls, every night forcing myself to stay awake longer so I could explore the hidden majesties that sleep had stole from me the night before. Then one evening while reading NME or Melody Maker I came across and advert for an album called Jehovahkill. The very next day me and my friend (the one who had given me Peggy Suicide) drove through to Glasgow and paid a visit to Tower Records where I bought Jehovahkill, and that was that… my life as a Julian Cope fan had begun…

20 Mothers

At the end of October 1995 Julian Cope released 20 Mothers. It was middle of his three albums for the now defunct indie label Echo (who’d gave him a home after he was gloriously dumped by Island for, some say, slagging-off fellow Islanders U2) and, consequently, the 2nd last he’d release on a record label that wasn’t his own (or run by a close associate). When 20 Mothers was released I just didn’t get it. I was still very much in love with Peggy Suicide, Jehovahkill and Rite (not many musicians can boast such a great 3 album run) and 20 Mothers coupled with the majority of it’s predecessor, Autogeddon, sounded too much like Cope was hankering for a return to his pop-soaked days of yesteryear, which was a place that I didn’t want to dwell. But, just as some albums can make us buzz like crazy for a month or two then quietly slip to the bottom of the unplayed pile before taking a one-way trip to the local charity shop, some can almost instantly descend to the bottom of the pile but manage to avoid any one-way trips and eventually they’re slipped back into the CD player or placed onto the turntable and their inanimate patience is rewarded as suddenly & finally they are vital and important… and played LOUD AS HELL… again and again and again…

* * *

20 Mothers is divided into “Phases” – a practice that Cope has used on several occasion before and since… it is a practice that I felt also perfectly suited the 12 Stouts

PHASE ONE: Bristol (4%); Vanilla Milk (4.5%); Milk (4.5%); Hazelnut Latte (4.5%)

The Bristol Stout is a tasty, well constructed but ultimately unremarkable beer. It has a decent biscuit backbone followed by a slightly bitter chocolate finish. It’s pleasant enough to drink but not special enough to take a 15 mile detour just so you can have a pint or two

The Milk Stout and its enhanced variant, Vanilla Milk are strange little numbers. I’ve tried the Milk Stout on several occassion – in bottle and on draught – and I still can’t work out if I actually like it… I think it is too sweetly bitter for my liking but there is something about that makes me feel that I should persevere and give it another go, which I often do. I love vanilla flavoured products so the prospects of a Vanilla Stout had me quite excited but sadly the name and the sumptous aroma was as good as it got – it’s not an unpleasant beer but it needs a shed-load more vanilla to get it to where I wanted it to be

Sadly, the Hazelnut Latte didn’t work for my tastebuds. It tasted way too green – almost like someone had just taken a handful of hazelnuts, chucked them into a whizzy machine and then added in a bottle of Milk Stout. The only one of the 12 Stouts that I felt was a distinct failure

PHASE TWO: Chocolate (5%); Choc Orange (5%); Chilli Chocolate (5%)

The Chocolate Stout has a good strong chocolate vibe with a faint suggestion of a mocha dusted with cinnamon and nutmeg. Tasty

The Choc Orange smells astounding – just like a Terry’s Chocolate Orange. Unfortunately, the flavour doesn’t come close to matching the aroma as the orange is far too faint and consequently it is more of a hindrance than an enhancement. It’s certainly not a bad beer but it needs much more orange ooomph!

Like the Choc Orange, the Chilli Choc would benefit from a bit of a flavour kick. I suppose brewing with chilli must be a very difficult balance as too much will render the beer undrinkable except to those who list “competing in chilli eating contests” on their CV. Despite my hankering for a bigger heat kick this was my favourite Stout of the first two phases and it does have a good peppery heat that works well with the bitter chocolate flavouring

PHASE THREE: Raspberry (7.7%); Ultimate (7.7%); Imperial (8.5%)

The move from Phase Two to Phase Three brought a large jump in ABVs, which in theory would mean a jump in complexity and overall flavour…

The Raspberry Stout is an intriuging beer. The raspberries coupled with the Belgian yeast give the beer a very interesting sour fruit flavour, which works well with the more traditional dried fruit and chocolate flavouring of strong stouts. Again, I felt the addition/enhancement was just slightly to understated to be a resounding success but I did enjoy this beer

The Utimate Stout is a good and solid export strenght stout. The nose conjures up plum pudding and freshly brewed coffee and the taste obliges perefectly and offers the same experience. An indulgent beer that’s just a little to sweet to be perfectly savoured by my tastebuds

The Imperial Stout is another strong offering. A vibrant aroma of digestive biscuit smothered in mincemeat backed up by caramel toffees and the merest whiff of a freshly lit Rothmans King Size. The flavour is pretty much as the nose suggest only slightly more muted and the smoke tang isn’t particularly noticeable. The finish is warm and pleasant but it vanishes a tad too quick. A very enjoyable and luxurious stout

PHASE FOUR: Laphroaig Cask (9.5%); Glenlivet Cask (10.7%)

Laphroaig & Glenlivet Cask: The Finest Of The 12 Stouts

The Laphroiag has a gorgeous smoky peaty aroma with subtle hints of a sea breeze rolling across the sand dunes and into a damp dark forest… it reminds me of my childhood when we would regularly holiday in the Highlands & Islands where the air would be beautifully scented by slabs of peat being burned on the fires of homes and hotels and pubs. The taste is a good combination of the chocolate digestive biscuit & dried vine fruits of the Imperial Stout and the smoke kick of the whisky casks. It is deliciously smooth and well balanced with a finish that gently coaxes you to indulge in another mouthful – a joy to drink

The Glenlivet has a nose the conjures up images of hot buttered toast smothered in a fruit-laden plum conserve followed by a creamy toffee chaser. Just like the Laphroaig, the Imperial Stout flavours work well with the whisky cask to deliver a lovely complex beer – dried vine fruits, plums soaked in sherry, chocolate hobnobs and Gaelic coffee all flow across the tastebuds. The finish is very satisfying but without a hint arrogance or self-satisfied smuggness… it knows it is a damn fine beer but doesn’t see any need to shout about it

Both the Cask Stouts were exceptionally good beers with the Laphroaig just edging it and taking the honour of being the finest of the 12 Stouts of Christmas. I would love to see both of the them available on draught during the winter of 2012-13

* * *

If things were perfect there would be 20 Days of Christmas and consequently 20 Stouts to accompany them or Julian Cope would’ve released an album called 12 Mothers…

When I decided that I was going to review the 12 Stouts and pair them with a slice of rock n roll 20 Mothers instantly jumped into my mind – it might be simply due to the fact that they both have numbers in their titles but I’d like to think that there were deeper powers at work and they certainly have more than that one thing in common:

Despite both being very strong and interesting offerings from their creators, I don’t believe it is correct to say that they are home to the finest that each have to offer. Acer and Southville Hop are better than anything in the 12 Stouts (although both the cask aged offering runs them very very close) and Julian Cope’s greatest moments came a few albums before the release of 20 Mothers (Peggy Suicide & Jehovahkill). Also, both came a good and varied range of ideas and influences that still manage to hold together very well as a complete package. And both contain glorious highpoints mixed in with one ot less impressive moments

In many ways 20 Mothers is a classic drinking album. It contains up-beat & raucous songs that are prefect for a drunken singalong (Try Try Try, Queen/Mother, Greedhead Detector); deep and mellow songs that are great for a moment of booze soaked philosophising (1995, I’m Your Daddy, When I Walk Through The Land Of Fear) and possibly the greatest song of doom & gloom for anyone who has drunk one too many and is subsequently feeling unloved (Lonely Guy). A fantastic collection of songs

Sadly, the majority of the 12 Stouts are not currently available (as far as I am aware) but get hold of whatever ones you can then grab a few bottles of other Bristol Beer Factory offerings and savour them while you listen to Julian Cope’s 20 Mothers – you’ll have a lovely evening…

Do Not Restrain Desire

… all photography by landells except 20 Mothers …

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~ by landells on January 7, 2012.

6 Responses to “Bristol Beer Factory with Julian Cope”

  1. lengthy post! Raspberry stout was my favourite. Just low enough ABV wise to have a few in one night and the right amount of raspberry tartness to pair savoury food rather than sweet. Pretty much agree with the rest of your comments though. I enjoy the milk stout but wouldn’t be able to manage a full bottle! Lovely pairing for stitchelton though

    • If I saw the Rasperry stout on draught I’d certainly buy a pint or two… probably would buy a few more bottles of it if I find it in a shop. Never had stitchelton cheese before – will have to seek it out

  2. I saw it on sale in Trembling Madness in York and Great Grog in Edinburgh but I expect its all gone now.
    Stitchelton is unpasteurised stilton (except they can’t call it stilton as the PDO states it has to be pasteurised). I only tired it for the first time last year but its delicious.

    • I’m pretty sure Fav Beers in Cheltenham had some Rasp Stout in stock before Xmas – I should be paying them a visit before the end of Jan… maybe they’ll still have some

  3. Beer Ritz have some Raspberry Ultimate. I think? Seen Julian Cope a number of times. Always puts on a good show!

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