1000th post

So, in the 900th post, all the way back in September 2018, I mused that I had loads of posts to get writing:-

“I still have 90 posts still in draft. There’s a lot to catch up with, but I’m determined to get up to date at some point. It might be in 2020, but I will do it!”

Past me was sort of right. I only have 10 posts in draft now. It is 2020. However, it took 21 months to get from 900 to 1000. My output has slowed right down as other things have taken over. I usually round up the highlights between milestone posts, so I should do a bit of that. I haven’t had time for monthly or yearly round ups (no beer of the month since January 2018 and no pub of the month since October 2017), so this will be some of that too, as well as talking about Covid-19 life later on.

Let us step back in time to October 2018 and take it from there.

A work trip to Denver in October 2018 was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and long work days were followed by the opportunity to explore one of the world’s great beer cities. I got to visit the Crooked Stave taproom on a sunny Sunday afternoon, as well as Great Divide and Mockery Brewing.

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Exploring the city was a lovely relaxing day with some fine beer experiences dotted around the city. Work started the next day but there were still a few chances to explore the city’s food and drink in the evenings, including a lovely penultimate night meal at Ocean Prime.

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Two weeks later I was in London on business, an invited speaker at a conference, and just a week after that I had a 24 hour flying visit to Glasgow, where I watched football and ate steak and chips with a few beers in a pub that I knew well from Facebook, The Bon Accord.

The gradual slowdown of posts begins in January 2019, but it featured my favourite beery experience to date, brewing Anything but Mild at Framework brewery, with regular MOFAD drinking companion Alec, and Andrew and Noah from the brewery. We had a great day and brewed a really good mild which received its premiere a month later and also appeared in bottles many of which made their way to my beer drinking friends. Mild is still very much a thing, and done right it’s a winner.

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A topical (in June 2020) city appears in March 2019, when we had a trip to Bristol for a kind of “winter camping” weekend, with regular MOFAD companions Matt & Hazel and Steve & Janette. We get together a lot in the summer to go camping (and share and drink beer), but there’s always a long gap at the end of camping season, so we planned a city break in order to combat this.

The ladies were off on a wooly tour, we had planned a walking tour of the city, which just so happened to take in some brewery taps. Not all of them, since a few have different opening hours in the cooler seasons. Our plan was Moor -> Dawkins -> Arbor -> Fierce & Noble -> Wiper & True -> New Bristol -> Croft but it turned out to be  Moor -> Arbor -> Fierce & Noble -> Wiper & True -> New Bristol -> Croft. We had a good day of beer tasting, but we won’t be hurrying back to the city…

A bit of camping in May 2019 led to only one post although there were lots of things I never got around to writing about, including the “Beat the Brewer” night with Elusive at the Needle & Pin. What I did write about was three nights at the Church House pub in Sutton, where we’ve been several times whilst staying at Jarman Farm.

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July 2019 saw the rather incorrectly titled “Pub in the Park”. It should have been called “Food Pub in the Park”, an event sponsored by Hong Kong owned macro brewer Greene King. They have their fans. I am not one of them. They own a lot of names, and make a lot of dull brown beer. All of which was on display at this event, alongside excellent food from great food pubs, and some bands, with The Christians being the only ones of note, still sounding smooth 30 years on.

A week later we were in Bakewell, and there was good beer in a good pub with regular MOFAD drinking companion Steve, and much less regular drinking companion (and friend to badgers everywhere) Andy. Our fourth member was unwell so had stayed back at base. We worked our way across the cask ales, taking only a short lunch break for fish’n’chips down by the river.

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August 2019 saw a long trip down to the P word for a family celebration, followed by a swift return to Bakewell for the absolute mud fest that was Peakender 2019. The beer was great, the weather was awful, and more probably could have been done to mitigate the damage done by the atmospheric conditions. The 2020 edition has been cancelled and we’ll miss the 2021 edition due to a wedding. See you in 2022!

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However, just a week later England was gripped by a massive heatwave, with temperatures climbing back up close to 30 degrees C. Fish’n’chips came into play again, with Mrs MOFAD’s quest to find the elusive Yorkshire fishcake once again finally resulting in finding one in Land & Sea Fish and Chips in Sowerby, just outside Thirsk. We ate them in the sunshine on a bench outside the local church.

September 2019 saw a work trip to Edinburgh with return visits to Ox184 and Holyrood 9A as well as an atrocious “Scottish conference dinner” with thin soup and a dull haggis accompanied by an Irish whiskey!!! The cranachan was good, as was the dancing. Even the burger at the airport (whilst waiting for a delayed flight) was quite good.

There were also three camping trips, but very few trips to the pub! We had another can/bottle share event at the annual cake camp, sharing 17 different beers between us across the weekend, most of which fell into the “big unit” category, huge stouts and barley wines.

The one trip to the pub was during what turned out to be our last camping trip for 6 months, and a lunch stop at The King & Castle in Kidderminster after a day out on the Severn Valley Railway.

October 2019 saw a trip to the Lakes for more Wainwright bagging. We stayed in the same place as in October 2018 and were on a mission to clear up some more of the “Far Eastern Fells” aka book 2. We explored another ten, taking our overall total to 140. Staying in Pooley Bridge again meant a few trips to the pub, although we couldn’t get out to the Brackenrigg Inn at Watermillock as the bridge that gives Pooley Bridge its name was only a footbridge, with a new one being built to replace the 18th century bridge destroyed by Storm Desmond in December 2015. It is scheduled to open very soon ( late June 2020).

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The following week there was an excellent “Meet the Brewer” event at the Needle & Pin, with the lovely folks from Mashionistas holding court and talking all things beer and Midlands. It was a great night, which I never got round to writing up.

An overnight trip to London at the end of the month saw the chance for a quick trip to the recently opened Mikkeller “pop up pub” in Exmouth Market (it was due to become a brewpub in spring 2020).

Another London trip just two weeks later resulted in a crappy Travelodge at Marylebone, but a decent few pints and fish’n’chips at the Doric Arch.

There was an impromptu trip to Rutland for an impromptu pub lunch after an impromptu bird nerding session. Regular camping companions Hazel & Matt had been in Lincoln for the weekend, so we tried to find a convenient place to get to see them for a few hours and then have some lunch. That one acutally resulted in a blog post, as did the annual pilgrimage to the Good Food Show.

December 2019 saw another good meet the brewer event with Amber from Siren Craft Brew talking all things Siren and lots of tasty beers to try (another one that I didn’t get time to write up). A few more pub trips and all of a sudden it was Christmas. I’d saved up a few good beers for the festivities including a cranberry sour and a marzen weisse which went nicely with the big festive meals.

Just a couple of days later and we were in the Lakes again, with more Wainwrights on the mind, finising of the year with another four, including Sallows and Sour Howes taking the year’s total to 27.

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Just like that, it was the start of another decade. After a wet day out in Grasmere, we wandered around the shops in Ambleside and I got to visit Beer Ambleside, picking up a couple of dozen beers to get me through #Tryanuary 2020. The pub was a distant companion until the very last day of January with a trip to “Peaky Paradise” to stay with regular camping and drinking companions Andy & Kerrie.

Andy and I nipped out to pick up a curry on the Friday night and nipped in to The Ale Stop in Buxton for a pint – a lovely micro pub for a beer and a chat. It set us up nicely for curry, some massive stouts and then a sneaky bit of late night cheese. We were up and out on the Monsal Trail the next day for a lovely stroll, followed by a “fakeaway” night. And more big stout units.

Another pub trip a week later, a pub lunch (remember them?) at The Three Horseshoes in East Leake, halfway round a walk in the area. The beer selection is awful, but the “posh fish finger” Spanish baguette was lovely.

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We only had one trip to the Leicester Comedy Festival in 2020, due to factors including but not limited to storms Ciara and Dennis. Luckily, Paul Sinha’s show was excellent as was the burger and pint at The Parcel Yard beforehand.

Decorating happened in February 2020, but there was time to fit in a final (for now) meet the brewer event at The Needle & Pin as we enjoyed excellent beers and chat with Pentrich Brewing Co, from just over the border in Derbyshire. Another one I didn’t write up.

February turned to March. We built new wardrobes. Covid-19 was about to dominate the agenda for the foreseeable future. We managed to get away for the weekend for Mrs MOFAD’s birthday and had a lovely meal out, which turned out to be our last one for 2020 so far.

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Lockdown was coming. Working from home every day was about to become the new normal. A daily walk became a necessity as a way to get out of the house. Exploring the local area and seeing it change through the spring was an added bonus of life in lockdown, which soon became mandatory lockdown. Stay Home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives. Judging the actions of others on social media became a new sport, replacing all other sport which was gone.

Cancellations were the next thing to become the new normal. Easter holiday cancelled and moved to next year. Camping trip cancelled. Concert moved to later in the year, then subsequently moved to 2021. Beer festival moved to 2021. Summer holiday cancelled and transferred to another time. Lots of planning now feeling redundant. In the great scheme of things these happenings feel very insignificant, but in terms of coping with the situation, they are all mental hurdles to overcome.

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Easter was spent at home for the first time in about 15 years, alongside a birthday in lockdown. Thankfully the weather was on our side so we could get out for a bike ride and then a ploughman’s and a pint in the garden, with fish’n’chips for tea from George’s, our local chippy which had switched to click and collect only. Another bike ride in the sunshine, an evening listening to the Hacienda 12 hour house party in the garden, and Mrs MOFAD camped out for the night as part of a national event.

The one main advantage of working from home was emerging. Being at home for deliveries. I was getting new bits for my bike for spares and repairs, as well as deliveries direct from small breweries, who needed support from people at home (the off trade) to make up for the huge gap caused by the closure of pubs (the on trade). A birthday box from Padstow Brewing Co was one of the best arrivals, an excellent mix of beers and styles from a modern Cornish brewery.

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Easter Monday lunch was held via a Teams call, and the weather for the rest of the week held fair to allow for more daily exercise out on the bike. A break from work was nice, but also difficult because things were ramping up to unprecedented (the word of the pandemic) levels which woud result in some long days in the weeks ahead.

Weekly deliveries and a weekly pub quiz from The Needle & Pin have been one constant throughout lockdown. My Pointless Friend Richard have been there throughout, winning one week and coming close a few other times. Heart of Oak have become our nemeses. It’s not the same as getting together in the pub, but video calling Karon & John with Sean reading out the questions in 5.1 surround sound has been a fun way of spending a few hours on a Sunday evening.

The weather in May continued to hold and we managed to get out for some more walks, being able to drive a short distance to exercise, which enabled us to walk some more parts of the Leicestershire round, which we’ve nearly completed.

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We also finally got round to putting a new bike rack on the car so that we could take bikes a little further afield to explore lots of traffic free cycling routes. This led to a fantastic day out in glorious late May sunshine on the Tissington Trail, where we also met the aforementioned Andy at Parsley Hay.

That brings us on to flaming June, which has been more moist than May. The day job has been off the scale busy, but there is a bit of light at the end of the tunnel soon. A selection of beer from Fierce arrived, part of my crowdfunding order from a month or so ago. Another fish’n’chips trip to George’s, and a delayed Solvay Society order eventually arrived (UPS smashed up the first one).

It’s possible that we might be able to get out and have some adventures again soon. We are really hoping that will be the case. It will bring lots more opportunities to witter on about food and drink, perhaps under new socially distant pub rules.

If you’d have told me back in 2015 that I’d knock out 1,000 posts in 5 years, I’m not sure that I’d have believed you. There are lots of important voices in the world of food and drink writing, and I’m really only doing this for me, but to have had 17,000 views from 11,000 visitors indluding visits from Uruguay, Myanmar and the Maldives, has been nice to see.

I will be carrying on with my occasional posts, although I suspect it will take a bit longer to create another thousand! Enough of this round up, time to write something else.

May 2020 round up

A second full month in lockdown. Lockdown has changed a bit, with some easing of restrictions, so that we’ve been able to travel a bit for exercise (which is good as we like to do lots of walking) and that exercise can be unlimited.

That has been perfect for us, as we’ve resumed our quest to walk the Leicestershire Round in small loops. Doing this has definitely kept us socially distant. As soon as we leave a village then we hardly see anyone for the rest of the walk, bar the odd dog walker. There were a few more people having distanced picnics on the village green in Hallaton on one walk, but once we left the village we didn’t see anyone else for the rest of the day.

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It’s been another warm and sunny month, and definitely another month for missing the pub. Without lockdown we would have been camping for at least three weekends, and both of our bank holiday trips were cancelled long ago. One has moved to the following year, the other is TBR (to be rearranged).

There have been three constants (apart from an enormous workload) throughout May 2020.

  1. Regular beer deliveries from The Needle & Pin
  2. Weekly pub quiz from The Needle & Pin
  3. Getting out for daily exercise wherever possible

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The first May bank holiday was shifted to a Friday for VE Day celebrations. This was dreamed up in a pre-COVID world, so most of us (apart from those seen doing the not socially distanced conga on BBC News reports) did things at home. We had a classic afternoon tea in the garden. Scones with jam first, and cream on top. Always jam first.

It was a warm weekend so we even had dinner outside a couple of times, making the garden the much missed pub beer garden. We also had another click and collect from our favourite local chippy, George’s. As with April, it was the only thing that I didn’t have to cook all month. We are definitely missing that feeling of going out to the pub and not knowing what you might have.

I’ve still not had time to bake sourdough, take up new hobbies, learn new skills, or even write loads of blog posts. I’ve still not had any time to finish off old blog posts, or catch up with other things that I want to write about.

Favourite beers of the month have been dominated by Kernel and Sussex Small Batch. Pale Ale Nelson Sauvin by The Kernel Brewery was probably my favourite, super fresh and super tasty. Tiramisu Stout by Sussex Small Batch was a great balance of sweetness, coffee and vanilla. WxY⁵ by Wylam was tropical hop sherbet which contrasted well against an Oude Gueuze by Hanssens Artisanaal, supreme funky sourness with so much going on. Other lovely Kernel beers were Pale Ale Simcoe and Table Beer Galaxy Enigma. It’s been so long since I had any Kernel, they make consistently good beers.

As I said last month, one day we’ll get through this, and we’ll be back down the pub again. Hopefully we are getting a bit closer to that day.

April 2020 round up

A full month in lockdown. So much has changed, so much has remained the same. It’s been the warmest April on record, which has been very welcome when getting out for daily exercise.

Easter was a strange one. The first time we’ve not been away for Easter since 2003. The good weather meant that we could recreate a pub lunch at home, including this wonderful birthday ploughman’s and a pint. Probably my favourite beer delivery of the month was the birthday box of Padstow Brewing Co beers from Mrs MOFAD. Very “traditional” beers in bottles and more modern/funky stuff (brut IPA, negroni sour) in cans. We met them at the Good Food Show in 2018, lovely people. This pint of Padstow Pride was perfect for a lunchtime pint.

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We had a lovely (socially distant) bike ride after lunch, and then there was just time for a beer delivery from the Needle & Pin (who are now publishing a weekly stock list for you to order from) and a click and collect from our favourite local chippy, George’s. You order online, they give you a collection time, You turn up, your order comes out. You go home and eat lovely fish’n’chips. It was the only thing that I didn’t have to cook all month.

The Easter weekend was very pleasant, we got out for more daily exercise, we watched the Hacienda live stream, and Mrs MOFAD even camped out in the garden on the Saturday night. We had virtual Easter Monday drinks to replace our usual pub family lunch and had beer and birthday cake in the garden in the afternoon.

The rest of the week was a bit odd. Mrs MOFAD is still going out to work each day whilst my day job had given everyone (who hadn’t been furloughed) the whole week off, even though we have an enormous amount of work to do in the next 2 months. So I was off on daily bike rides in the sunshine, as well as doing some bike repairs (replacing snapped front derailleur cable). Anything to avoid staring at computers all day. Another Needle & Pin beer delivery arrived, which was nice.

We managed another nice walk the following weekend. After that, work returned, and everything went a bit nuts. Actually, a lot nuts. Not quite sure how I’ve made it through the other side of “do it now” deadlines and back to back Teams, Adobe Connect, Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate, Skype and Jabber meetings. Another weekend walk helped as well as another “home beer garden” lunch.

A “sort of day off” saw us in Derby for vehicle recall repairs and maintenance. Doing a conference call from the car park of a commerical vehicle garage in Derby is just another part of the new normal.

Sunday nights have been virtual pub quiz nights, with the Needle & Pin pub quiz moving online. This has meant that we can actually participate, watching on Facebook on one laptop whilst the other one dials up regular “My Pointless Friend Richard” team members Karon & John. After a few rounds I’m usually serving up dinner, which we eat during the picture round, and then finish the quiz. We have come close several times, but not won yet.

I’ve not had time to bake sourdough, take up new hobbies, learn new skills, or even write loads of blog posts. With a laptop on for ten hours a day for the day job, the last thing you want to do is open up another laptop and stare at a screen for another four hours.

Favourite beers of the month have been Midnight Anthracite by Vibrant Forest Brewery (Port Charlotte peaty smokiness), Patrons Project 10.07 // Northern Bloc // Culinary Concepts // HOMES // Ology // Fruited Sour IPA by Northern Monk, Padstow Pride, Lobster Tale, Breakfast in Luxembourg and Padstow May Day.

As I said last month, one day we’ll get through this, and we’ll be back down the pub again. Hopefully we are getting a bit closer to that day.

March 2020 round up

The month it all changed. We’re all sick of the c word by now, but Covid-19 has led to unprecedented use of the word unprecedented. Let’s look back at the longest March that there has ever been in history. I mean, that’s what it’s felt like hasn’t it? At least I’ve made it three out of three for monthly round ups.

We did manage to get out a couple of times before lockdown came down hard. We went to see Amanda Owen at the town hall, and indulged in a pizza and some salad in The Jam House, which is a new pub in town. Well, a new pub in name, it used to be The Orange Tree.

The pizza was pretty decent, and the salad wasn’t just limp iceberg. Sadly, the pint was pretty meh, I think we need to tell Japanese breweries that a “hoppy session ale” should have hops in it. Swing Low from Fuller’s was a malty caramel bitter.

Our last meal out proved to be just a couple of days later, when we went to a Miller & Carter Steakhouse for Mrs MOFAD’s birthday. The beer selection was rubbish, but there was good gin for Mrs MOFAD, and I was driving. The food was excellent, and neither of us had steak, so they are good at other things too. My pork was lovely as was Mrs MOFAD’s fish dish.

The chocolate hazelnut bombe was the pièce de résistance, like a super dense and much better Ferrero Rocher. Mrs M’s peach, mango and passion fruit Eton mess was also very zingy, but you know my feelings on this matter. The chocolate pudding is always the one to go for.

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So that was it for “out out”. Just a couple of days later I started working from home full time, and just a week later we were all put on to our current “lockdown” with only essential journeys permitted, and physical distancing required to help stop the spread of the virus.

What this has meant is that I can buy more stuff online from some of my favourite suppliers, because I’ll always be at home to receive the delivery. I’ve had some lovely beers from new Norfolk brewery Duration (super fast and super fresh beer), the last online sales (for a bit) from Elusive Brewing, and also the last online sales (for a bit) from Sauce Shop in Nottingham.

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There was also time for a couple of deliveries from my local, The Needle & Pin, who always keep me topped up with great beer from around the UK and further afield.

Now is the perfect time to support all of those small producers who will have lost many of their routes to customers, so if they are still delivering direct to your door (with no-contact couriers) then it’s time to stock up. Much better than bumping into people panic buying toilet rolls in Tesco.

Every beer bar one (that poor one mentioned earlier) has been at home. Favourites this month have been 2020 by CR/AK, Patrons Project 26.01 // Sarah Harris // Culinary Adventures: Edinburgh // Pilot // Deep-Fried Caramel Chocolate Bar Stout by Northern Monk,  Wanderlust by Alefarm, and I think my very favourite was Dessert In A Can – Chocolate Peanut Butter Caramel Brownie by Amundsen Bryggeri – super sweet peanut butter and it contains no nuts. Lovely stuff.

One day we’ll get through this, and we’ll be back down the pub again. Mine’s a pint!

The Needle & Pin craft beer club – dark beer selection box #20 – April 2020

Yes, it’s not April yet, but the current situation could require an occasional beer to help us get through, so here we are. The 51st incarnation of the Needle & Pin craft beer club, the 20th dark beer box, full of big units, with one “normal” porter poking its head up. The current situation might require some big units. I didn’t get chance to photograph these, so I’ve borrowed the N&P photos again 🙂

Alefarm – The Truth is in the Walls – 10.5%

Imperial stout brewed with sea salt and cacao. A wonderful stout, perfectly balanced like your favourite chocolate bar. Deep notes of chocolate and a smooth mouthfeel thanks to the salt, making for a rich tasting experience.

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Cloudwater – Multi-Dimensional Being – 7%

Few styles are more suited to the winter months than Baltic Porter. This classic, robust dark beer from the Baltic states is packed with deep, indulgent malt flavours but has the clean, smooth body of a lager, making it rich and remarkably full-flavoured without sitting heavy on the palate.

Northern Monk – Culinary Adventures Deep Fried Caramel Chocolate Bar Stout – 6.5%

I think you know which caramel chocolate bar. The famous one that is sometimes dipped in batter and plunged into the deep fat fryer. Few creations are more infamous, so Northern Monk set about the fun task of how to replicate that sticky, caramel-rich flavour.

They also invited those Twitter funsters and some time brewers Pilot Beer to help out. Over a grist featuring some brown and chocolate malts, light and dark variants of crystal malt and plenty of rounding flaked oats, they added copious amounts of caramel as well as lactose to accentuate the milk chocolate character. They further bulked out the mouthfeel with maltodextrin. In fermentation, chocolate and vanilla were added to seal the deal, to result a rich and sticky stout that transports you to a chippy off the quayside of Leith.

Siren – Cold Blooded – 5%

Welcome back Coldblooded, a brown porter designed to hit the spot when the weather turns. Grains are cold-steeped overnight before brew day to build up a gorgeous chocolatey base before things get started. From there expect roasty notes layered amongst subtle smoke, coffee and dark chocolate. Coldblooded pours silky smooth and drinks with a satisfying richness.

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Siren – Dark and Perilous Nights – 12.4%

An extraordinary collaboration with Florida’s J. Wakefield. Expect rich aromas of dark sugar and toffee, with a comforting chocolate fudge flavour profile, warming spirit complexity and a slick mouthfeel. Sean tried this straight out of the barrel when Siren were debating whether to bottle this back in January. It was incredible then, and it is going to get better. Save this either for a night in autumn when the wind is rattling the windows and the rain lashing down, or when the Grim Reaper calls, whichever is first.

Wylam – Imperial Macchiato – 10%

Double hazelnut praline coffee porter. This remodelled special edition would leave Bernard Quatermass dumbstruck and unarticulated! Double the hazelnut, double the coffee with an extra edition of cacao and caramalt to deliver an opulent, deluxe, sumptuous, hedonistic, rich and costly consumable colossus. Macchiato is a great beer, so this one should be double great.

The Needle & Pin craft beer club – selection box #22 – March 2020

So here we are. The 50th incarnation of the Needle & Pin craft beer club, the 22nd “standard” box. There are only 2 people who have collected all 50 since that first one in September 2016, that’s me and regular MOFAD drinking companion Alec.

This month’s collection is brought to you by the letters I, P and A, and is a bit of an “unsung heroes” selection. Siren, featured here, were also in that first selection box, and have continued to grow alongside four of the other breweries in there, Beavertown (now minority owned by Heineken), Tiny Rebel, Thornbridge and Wild Beer Co. The only sad story from the first box is the demise of Hardknott, who closed down in 2018 after 12 years of brewing.

Here’s what is to be found in the March 2020 line up…

Amundsen – Fade to Green – 6.5%

A lovely NEIPA brewed in collaboration with Finback Brewery from New York, using Azacca, Galaxy, Citra, Simcoe and Chinook.

Arbor – Basta Rosse – 5%

A beautiful red IPA brewed with Cascade, Vic Secret & Mosaic hops, in collaboration with Italian brewery Mezzo Passo. I had this one back in 2018, a delightful hoppy red ale. It was also one of the only beers on in the taproom when we visited in March 2019.

Black Iris – Anarchists Across the Pond – 6.9%

Back in Oct, we brewed up a tasty New England IPA with renowned American home brewer, Andy Tipler, while he visited Nottingham from Connecticut. Packed full of Citra, Mosaic, Vic Secret and Simcoe and fermented with London III Ale Yeast, this NEIPA has a big fruit character with notes of pineapple and peach.

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Overtone – Citra Mosaic NEIPA V3 – 6%

The V3 New England IPA is very much the same as v2, except that it is juicer, hazier and thicker than the first time around, with more of a mouth presence. A beautiful aroma of tropical fruits comes bursting out, well balanced with the bitterness hitting you late.

Siren – Hard Rollin’ – 7%

Dry & Bitter return for the first Siren collaboration of 2020. Hard Rollin’ is one of the most pillowy, smooth and creamy IPAs they’ve ever created, with plentiful rolled oats, flaked oats and milk sugar all working their magic. It’s lavishly hopped with Ekuanot, Citra, Hallertau Blanc and Mandarina Bavaria for a beautiful dank depth with aromas of tropical fruit.

Time and Tide – Ham Sandwich – 7.4%

New England IPA packed to the rafters with Mosaic hops. This one is fruity, juicy and refreshing. I’ve had it already because why wouldn’t you want to try a beer called Ham Sandwich? Just don’t put mustard on it.

February 2020 round up

My resolution to do at least one post a month is going well so far, so let’s look back on February 2020.

A “double win” to start the month, with a trip to my favourite Leicestershire fish’n’chip shop, which was also (allegedly) where Sven-Göran Eriksson used to go for fish’n’chips when he was Leicester City manager. A fish supper at Rothley Fisheries is obviously good brain food, since it powered My Pointless Friend Richard to another win in the Intercare annual pub quiz. A rather nice raffle prize was won too 🙂

Despite being an Everards pub (the Leicestershire brewery that hasn’t brewed in Leicestershire since 2017), there was a nice pint on, Hop & Stagger’s Triple Hop IPA, a gentle English IPA with First Gold, Target & Celeia hops.

A day out in the sunshine (a rare thing in this six month long winter of constant rain) a few days later, wandering around East Leake, with a stop for lunch at The Three Horseshoes. They’ve had a bit of a makeover since we were last in, but there’s still a walker-friendly bar area where you can have lunch with slightly muddy boots (you can wash them in Sheepwash Brook just outside). It’s a local chain (PubPeople.com) pub, where the food was very nice and the beer was rubbish, so a refreshing pint of lime and soda was in order.

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The next week saw our only visit to the Leicester comedy festival for this year (another show was cancelled due to Storm Dennis). We used our usual pre Y Theatre dining venue of the Parcel Yard next to the station. Tasty Friday night burgers served on silly tin trays as usual. A tasty pint of Hackney Hopster from London Fields was a good accompaniment. A pub that serves good food and good beer is exactly what you should be able to find in every city, town and village across the nation.

A much needed beer delivery arrived just two days later, including the latest dark beer selection box from the Needle & Pin craft beer club, and the Tiny Rebel 8th Birthday Beer Box, with 4 pairs of beers designed to be drunk apart and mixed together. And some funky Cwtch socks.

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Not much more on the out and about front this month as we’ve been working on some decorating projects for much of it. However, there was time for the first meet the brewer event at The Needle & Pin, with the very nice Ryan from Pentrich Brewing Co, from not too far across the border in Derbyshire. It was another great night of beer and chat and a chance to catch up with what’s been happening and plans for the future.

Metronome was probably the best pint of the night, a lovely fruity pale ale. Mild Chaos had a classic Citra profile and Blank Maps was a simple stout with lots of bitter roastiness. We also had a taster of the freshly canned Daydreaming DIPA as well as some Fragments pale ale.

With the extra leap day, there was time for one more pub trip, but the beer was not up to scratch, so it was another lime and soda night, to go with some tasty chicken burgers at The Clock Warehouse.

So, on to the beers of the month.

Number of the Yeast from Cloudwater was by far and away the winner. Huge sweetness, thick and boozy and it has aged very nicely. A To Øl Mr Blue 2018 was another that has aged nicely, fruity, smooth, soft, sour. A big blueberry unit, which pairs well with boeuf bourguignon. Death By Caribbean Chocolate Cake from Siren Craft Brew was the other winner this month, deep woody goodness with spicy notes.

The Needle & Pin craft beer club – dark beer selection box #19 – February 2020

It’s box number 49 overall. There’s no point even thinking about session beers here, these are all absolutely massive units, most of which will be saved for summer bottle share sessions…

Amundsen – Peanut Butter Caramel Chocolate Brownie – 10.5%

That’s a lot of words for a beer name. A chocolate peanut butter caramel brownie edition of Amundsen’s legendary Dessert in a Can series. Huge peanut aroma, before peanut, chocolate and caramel flavours overwhelm you. Stunning addition to the Dessert in a Can range!

Cloudwater/Track – Love in the Dark – 10%

Since Cloudwater’s good mates from Track are currently sharing their tap room space at Unit 9, they felt it was only right to brew a collaboration with their housemates. This is a true indulgence for the festive period (or beyond), a deliciously deep and smooth imperial stout, loaded with additions of cacao, hazelnut and vanilla, with a touch of fenugreek used for maple-like sweetness.

Aroma & flavour: rich chocolate dessert flavours, caramel and hazelnut
Body: Full-bodied, sweet and silky
Aftertaste: Smooth vanilla, sweet maple and light roastiness.

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It’s a triple Kees nirvana next.

Kees – Caramel Fudge Stout – 11.5%

One of the favourite dark beers ever at The Needle & Pin. This is the beer that they gave to Stu at North Riding and asked if he could brew a beer like it. That was a success, so now time to try the original. It does exactly what it says on the tin.

Kees – Caramel Fudge Stout Maple Oloroso – 11.5%

A Pedro Ximenez edition of Kees’ caramel fudge series, with maple syrup added and then barrel aged in PX barrels. PX does wonders for whisky so I’m certain it will do the same for this beer.

Kees – Export Porter 1750 – 10.5%

Black beer with a modest warm and brown head, full of dark chocolate and coffee, incorporating roasted bitterness and a very intense taste. The aftertaste is very long-lasting. This is an imperial porter that requires your time and attention. This is for an evening when you only want one beer!

Unity – Nocturnal Supremacy – 8%

Unity love their house oatmeal porter Nocturne so much that they decided to take it to the next level by doubling the malt and conditioning it on bourbon, vanilla, and single origin Brazilian Rio Verde coffee from River Coffee Roasters.

Chicken a la King

A classic from the past, revived for the 21st century. We had this on holiday last year, and decided that we should start cooking it. There are loads of recipes out there so here’s my one…

Serves 6

4 chicken breasts
3 sweet peppers (long pointy ones like romano or ramiro)
400g mushrooms
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 tablespoon oil
salt and pepper
400ml chicken stock (I make my own, but a cube plus water will do the job)
100ml white wine (anything you have to hand)
150ml creme fraiche, cream or double cream (your choice)

Cut your chicken breast into bite size pieces, cubes of about an inch.
Slice your mushrooms to around the thickness of a couple of pound coins.
Deseed and chop your sweet pepper into squares of about an inch.

Heat the oil in a pan and fry the chicken over a high heat until it starts to brown. Once the chicken is brown enough for your liking, add the mushrooms and fry them until they are well cooked.

Then add the sweet peppers and cook for a few minutes. Now add the salt, pepper and flour and cook for a minute or so. Don’t worry if some of the flour starts to stick, it will soon blend in.

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Now add the wine and cook for a minute – it will start to pick up some of the flour from the pan. Now add the chicken stock and cook for a few minutes.

Then add the creme fraiche/cream/double cream and give everything a good stir around until it starts to bubble gently.

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When it looks like that, it’s pretty much done, serve with rice of some kind, perhaps a mixture of red, brown and wild rice.

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A simple and tasty tea.

Getting back in the habit?

Apparently, I haven’t posted a recipe in over 3 years. It’s just one sign of how far behind I’ve got with my blogging. I averaged about 3 posts a month last year, down from 12 a month in 2018, and nearly 24 a month in 2017. I haven’t done a beer of the month for 2 years.

I’m going to fix some of that tonight, with a recipe post imminent. I’m also going to try and do at least a monthly round up each month, as I’ve kind of got out of the habit of blogging and I need to find my way back into it. We got a slow cooker just before Xmas, so I’m hoping this will inspire more recipe posts, as we’ve definitely been making good use of it so far.

I’m not far away from what feels like a big milestone of 1,000 posts. I got to 900 in September 2018, so things have definitely slowed down. This is a rather belated resolution to try and write more stuff in 2020. There’ll be plenty of things to write about, so I have to make the time. Perhaps I might even catch up with a few posts from last year too.