Pub of the month – July 2016 – The Needle & Pin, Loughborough

A slightly different pub of the month post this month.

It’s been a quiet month for pub trips, with most of my visits to pubs coming in just one day, during a small and impromptu “walking tour of Loughborough”, much in the style of last year’s walking tour of Skipton.

We start with The Swan in the Rushes, a previous winner back in March 2015, and the second stop on our walking tour. It was a warm day, so we had a couple of drinks. First, a Barista Stout from Theakston. With a name like that, you’d be expecting big coffee flavours, and there’s no false advertising here. Good coffee flavours in this classic stout. A little more coffee would not have been a problem.

We’d spotted BrewDog Elvis Juice in the fridge, so decided to stay and have one. Elvis Juice is a grapefruit infused IPA, and once again, no false advertising , as it’s full of lovely, happy, grapefruit hoppiness. A classic BrewDog brew.

The White Hart is next in the list. Our detailed planning of this walking tour (a few tweets earlier in the same week) had identified The White Hart as a suitable dinner stop.

The White Hart is a pub that I have been visiting on and off for the last 24 years. Way back in October 1992, a group of fresh faced students came down here on a Sunday night and won the pub quiz. I do recall drinking lots of Addlestones cider here (I was a cider drinking youth, ale came much later into my life).

As with so many pubs nowadays, it has had several makeovers since 1992, and the latest one is very tasteful, giving it both an old and new feeling at the same time.

We enjoyed a pint of Crazy Like a Fox from Totally Brewed, who live just up the A60 near Trent Bridge in Nottingham.

We also ate here, my choice was the classic beef burger, which was juicy and delicious. The cheese and bacon were also good, and the gherkin mustard went very well. Just one problem. No plates! We want plates! Boards are for chopping, plates are for eating from 🙂

We did enquire about another drink, but the five different bottles above the bar from Eden brewery in Cumbria (one of my favourites) were for display purposes only. They display beers that they do not sell. This confused us, so we moved on…

The Needle & Pin was the winner back in May 2016, when I probably mentioned that it was my new favourite Loughborough pub. With the temporary (24 hour) return of former regular MOFAD drinking companion Bruce, we decided that we had to start and end the day here.

A Magic Rock High Wire “unapologetically hop forward in character” started proceedings, and it delivers on that promise with mango, lychee, grapefruit and hops hops hops.

An international mash up followed. New Zealand hops (motueka, and it was amusing to hear Alec’s attempted pronunciation) made into a beer by North Riding Brewery in Scarborough. Sadly it needed loads more hops to bring out that distinctive NZ hoppy goodness. Pleasant, but not a showcase for this hop.

We returned to the fridge and another reliable Magic Rock brew, this time Inhaler, their take on a session IPA with a total of six hops (Amarillo, Citra, Equinox, Galaxy, Mosaic, Simcoe). It could have had a few more chucked in there for my hophead palate, but it was still a very decent session IPA. (Edit: at the time of tasting it was a limited release, but has since become part of their core range).

Always a pleasure to be at The Needle & Pin, it’s just a great pub with so many great beers to choose from, and changing all the time.

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Beer of the month – July 2016 – Buxton Tsar Bomba

A fairly even mix of beers in and out of the home this month. We start off with something from Aldi, a Spill The Beans by Brains Craft Brewery, full of coffee, chocolate and hazelnut flavours. This was the best of the Aldi range of beers that they have commissioned so far.

We move to another supermarket commissioned beer next, a Marks & Spencer Black IPA by Purity Brewing Co, a good mix of dark maltiness and hop flavours. A good nose and well balanced. This trend of supermarket commissioned beers shows no sign of going away, and on this evidence, that’s ok with me.

We take a trip to town next for a High Wire West Coast Pale Ale by Magic Rock Brewing at the Needle & Pin. This was another beer to be tarred with the epithet Hoppy McHopFace…

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Just an hour or so later, an Elvis Juice by BrewDog at The Swan In The Rushes was passing my lips, a beer full of happy grapefruit hoppiness. Thank you very much.

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To finish off this month, we go dark. First, we are off to a field just outside Chipping Norton for some Bourbon Oktober by Vibrant Forest Brewery. This was quite stunning. Vibrant took their existing beer, Black October, a full bodied strong stout (with aromas of dark chocolate and liquorice) and then aged it in a fresh bourbon barrel for nearly 6 months. It was certainly worth that extra work. Bourbon barrel brilliance.

In other months, that would have been an obvious winner. However, this month it came up against a formidable opponent indeed. Let’s have a little story.

In 1978, The Courage Brewery brewed a batch of Imperial Russian Stout, aged it in infected wooden barrels and some time later it was put into bottles. In 2012, someone at Buxton Brewery opened a bottle, drank the beer (which was apparently amazing) and then rescued the intruiging combination of sedimented yeasts and debris from the bottom of the aged vessel. They then inocculated a barrel of their own Russian Imperial Stout, Tsar, with this precious sludge and left the beer to its own devices for 9 months. The only attention they gave it was a weekly “roll around the brewery”, apparently the same as the Courage barrels got.

Following this 9 month ageing, the beer changed in character thanks to the Brettanomyces strain of yeast that had laid dormant in the bottle for all those years waking up when being introduced to some young, fresh Imperial Stout, adding a delicious tartness to the beer to go with the hop bitterness and deep malty and dark fruit flavours.

The Tsar Bomba was born.

I bought my one back in May 2015. I’ve been letting it rest, but I couldn’t let it rest any longer. Good call. Dark. Bitter. Sweetness. One for slow sipping and a strong contender for beer of the year.

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Sadly, you won’t be able to buy one like it, until they make the next generation version (much like Cloudwater and their DIPA releases)…