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Posts in Category "Product news"

Why is it called India Pale Ale?


One of the questions we are asked the most is, “What does IPA stand for?” Followed swiftly by, "Why is it called India Pale Ale?


The short answer is I.P.A. stands for “India Pale Ale” but it is not from India. The long answer? Well, this highly hopped beer has a long and fascinating history:


Back in the late 18th century, English brewing companies realised adding extra hops to their pale ales would save the brews on the hot voyage around Africa. It was too hot to brew in India at the time, and with the water being mostly undrinkable, there was a huge demand for beer by the  English colonists. It wasn’t until 1835 that the highly hoppy and strong style of pale ale became known as India Pale Ale. By the 1840s, the “Pale Ale prepared for the East and West India Climate” for England was eventually shortened to “India Pale Ale”.


The eagle-eyed may notice modern beers use the acronym - IPA - rather than I.P.A. (with the stops denoting an abbreviation from India Pale Ale). Modern styles do not spell out IPA as “India Pale Ale” because it is not particularly pale and, historically, this style of beer did not travel to India. It wasn’t until American home brewers began experimenting in the late 1970s (thanks to President Jimmy Carter for repealing the prohibition-era law against home-brewing in 1978), and re-discovered India Pale Ale, finding it the perfect vehicle for playing around with different types of hops. 


Today, when people think of Craft Beer, they think of the modern IPA - overly hopped and between 5.5% to 7.5% alcohol. The modern IPA is now only a passing salute to the historical style. If you look at the wall of beer in our shops, you may notice brewers constantly like to experiment and reinvent older styles to create new sub-categories. 


The three main styles of IPA:

English IPA

American IPA

Imperial (Double) IPA



Speciality IPAs:

Belgian IPA

Black IPA

Brown IPA



White IPA


Watch this space! 

(the new styles emerging are only limited by the brewer’s imagination. See our current range of IPAs here)



Want to know more about other beers? Read our Crafty Guide to Beer Styles in the Modern Craft Beer Era 

Posted in Product news

Beer Discounts

Save on our your favourite beers everytime and anytime in-store. We always have the following beer and cider discounts available in all our Brew Testament locations. 


15% off   24 cans  Beavertown (mixed)
13% off   12 btls    Kernel Table Beer 50cl (unmixed)
10% off   12 btls    Any beers/ciders (mixed)



Posted in Product news

It's Cool to Chill Your Reds

When I started out in the wine industry in the late 90s, the Beajolais scene from Abigail's Party was very much in people's minds when we reacted in horror to the suggestion of chilling reds. Partly this inflexibility was down to the fact that, in the wine trade, the only person more up his own ar**e about wine than a wineshop assistant with 6 months experience, is a sommelier with 6 months experience. But 15 years later my view has been modified;  now I have a more phlegmatic approach to what people do with wine once they've bought it from me, but more importantly I've been to enough wineries now to know just how many reds are drunk straight from the 15 degree cellar by the winemakers themselves.

I mention all of this because we seem to have a really strong demand for the sort of reds that lend themselves towards a quick spell (say 10 minutes) in the fridge. That's to say light bodied, lowish tannnins, crisp acidity but a decent amount of zippy fruit. Beaujolais such as the '09 Colonge (£10) is an obvious starting point. Our Barbera d'Asti Casareggio from Pavia (£10) is another one. There is also the Frappato grape from Sicily; our  Baccaria (£8) and the higher end 2010 from Cos (£17.50) both manage to combine lighter weighted refreshment with an appealing smooth texture. Two excellent Italian Cabernet Francs, the brightly fruity Blason (£11.75) from Friuli Isonzo, and the more spicy Tenuta di Caldella (£11) from Veneto are superb with a goats cheese salad. The other grape which comes immediately to mind is Pinot Noir - the problem is that the prices which can be attached to this grape, plus its aromatic complexity, push our willingness to serve reds cool to the limit. Which leads to the caveat of this piece: be aware when chilling reds, or expensive whites for that matter, that added refreshment comes at the expense of aroma.


Posted in Product news

The Bordeaux / Burgundy Minefield

We can't call ourselves Bordeaux and Burgundy specialists, though I think our selection will grow as the company grows more generally, and once our online shop is (imminently) launched. Funnily enough the team love Burgundy, and whilst we probably have a more complex relationship with Bordeaux, it's certainly a region I have visited several times. Moreover we are doing brilliantly with our Bottle Apostle Graves 2005 (£15) made for us by Chateau du Seuil. So what are the snags to stocking Bordeaux and Burgundy?

Firstly there is the complex "open" market which means that well heeled individuals are often buying from the same sources as retailers, which means that outside of the very well established merchants with large buying power, there isn't much of a customer base to encourage us to dive in head first.

Claret might not be the go-to region for all of our groovy South Hackneyite wine lovers; Burgundy, and particularly Pinot Noir is a bit more hip. But there are still problems. The price rises over the last few years mean that we are pushing £40 for village wines (ie not Premier Crus) from the best locations (eg Gevrey Chambertin) and best producers. And this is generally for pretty young vintages too. It takes some effort to find much older than 2006 in reds, and similarly our Meursault spot on the list is empty whilst we find something younger than a 2008.

Bordeaux meanwhile suffers from being either a bit old school in some of our customers' minds, either in marketing terms or through being rather drier and savoury than some reds with more tannin and acidity. But perhaps the bigger barrier is placed in front of Chris and I as "professional" buyers: much of the Bordeaux that we get to taste is in general tastings where we are tasting wines from around the world. And if you try a Claret, then a Brunello di Montalcino, you can guess which is going to suffer by comparison. The trouble is that even we separate out the Bordeaux wines, I find that I'm always getting a question mark of "value for money" hanging over them - at all price levels.  Of course the wines we do have are exceptions: the aforementioned "House Claret", 2004 Haut-Bages Liberal Pauillac (£34) etc. But we're running out of our excellent 1998 Chateau Bellefont-Belcier St Emilion Grand Cru (£38) and I'm struggling to find a worthy 2000 or 2001 to replace it.

But we keep battling; a recent lucky break with a private source landed us some Francois Parent Chambolle Musigny (£35) and Pommard 1er Cru Les Rugiens (£45) from the great 1999 vintage are drinking beautifully and do provide a wine experience worthy of the price tags. So keep your eyes open...


Spanish Surprises & Rioja Gripes

This week we've had another batch of new Spanish wines arriving, and it's noticeable that they're not from the "obvious" regions of Rioja and Ribera del Duero. We seem to be getting more excited about the less well-known stuff.

A recent trip to Spain to seek out "House Rioja" featured an array of lollipoppy sweetish "easy drinking" reds made using Carbonic Maceration (as with most Beaujolais) and confirmed that I should look for sub £10 Tempranillo based wines elsewhere. This sentiment was echoed by a client who has replaced a Rioja on their wine list with the "Bajondillo" 2009 (£10.00) made by Jimenez-Landi in the Mentrida region of central Spain. They felt not only that they got more bang for their buck, but also that the Mentrida tasted more like what they expected from Rioja. It's hard to keep loyalty if you don't conform to some degree to customer preconceptions.

That's not to say that we've given up on Rioja; whites are a bit hit and miss, especially as the traditional Reservas and Gran Reservas are phased out, and the same-old-same-old Chardonnay and Sauv Blanc are introduced to try to raise sales figures. But we've tasted lots of very good reds albeit in the £10+ sector and from (to us anyway) familiar names. There is a newish category clumsily called semi-Crianza (a bit of oak ageing) which is meant to be a halfway house between party wines and the serious stuff and so should address the concerns laid out above, but I haven't tried anything with wow factor yet. As I write we have an "Introduction to Rioja" event coming up on Thursday, so we are definitely commited to the cause. Similarly with Ribera del Duero we've been looking beyond the ubiquitous brands and have taken a while to hit on something but think we may be'll just have to watch this space.

I digress; here are three of the  Spanish surprises.

The region of Penedes is not as well known as it's biggest brand, Torres. It's the heartland for Cava but there are also some interesting wines featuring the Cava grapes. "Massis del Garraf" 2009 from Terraprima is a vibrant, zesty white which blends some Riesling in with the local Xarel-lo (one of my favourite grape names; it sounds like a relative of Superman.) Yours for £11.00.

Bobal is a grape  I had most associated with good value gluggers from Central Spain; I remember in the early days of my wine career enjoying an unpretentious little number at £4.99 from M&S. We've been stocking the marvellously named Manchuela winery Bodegas y Vinedos Ponce's Clos Lojen (£12.00) for some time, but myself and Chris were both blown away with their top wines. So salute the "P.F" 2009 Manchuela (£18.00) which marries vibrant cherry fruit and nutmeg with well balanced tannin and acidity.

I have to admit I had to look up Conca de Barbera in my wine Atlas; it's also in Catalunya, just inland from the Tarragona region.  "Les Paradetes" 2006 by Escoda Sanahuja (£21.50) is an epic well structured red full bodied red with a hint of medicinality - it certainly made me feel better.

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