Beer of the month, January (#tryanuary) 2017 – Autumn + Winter IPA Mosaic Exp 431 by Cloudwater Brew Co.

January has been rebranded #tryanuary, a reaction to all of this #dryjanuary nonsense, where people seem to think that you do lots of faddy things to “detox” yourself. You already contain things that detox you. Those things are called kidneys and a liver. Treat them with respect and they will look after you.

Let’s look at some of the best beers of #tryanuary then. We start with Frambuzi from Tiny Rebel Brewing Co, an Uzi 9mm full of sour raspberry flavours. Certainly no sweet “supermarket fruit beer” nonsense here.

Next up we visit Hampshire, for Vibrant Forest Summerlands, a golden summer session beer brewed exclusively with American hops to give a slight citrus character and a rich hop aroma. A relatively low ABV makes this a true golden session ale to enjoy whatever the weather.

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They are not wrong. I’ve never had so much hoppiness in 3.5% – a cracking session beer, and even sweeter as it was a free sample for taking part in #CraftBeerHour

I wrote about “the limited edition crowdsourced beer experiments” of Cloudwater Brew Co back in August. I had DIPA v3 which turned out to be beer of the year, as well as v6 and v7 during 2016. I also collected v8, v9 and v10 in 2016, and v11 came out recently. From next month, the beer switches to cans, and v12 will be the first canned release.

So DIPA v8 makes the list for January, full of tropical dankness but very easy drinking. I’ve still not found one I like more than v3 yet.

Speaking of cans, we move on to one next, Storm In A Teacup by Wild Weather Ales. Over to Wild Weather for the blurb:-

Two things are loved the world over; a warm cup of tea and a cool glass of beer. And it’s with this worldwide love affair firmly in mind that we crafted this beer. Using hops from the US, New Zealand & Australia, tea inspired by China and the finest English malt. A true intercontinental behemoth.

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It does exactly what it says on the tin. “Earl Grey IPA” is what it says on the tin. It is literally that. Gentle tea flavours mixed with hoppy goodness.

Across the North sea to Denmark, for Peter, Pale & Mary from Mikkeller, probably the most famous “cuckoo” brewery, as they don’t have their own brewery premises, but collaborate with other brewers to get their beers made. This particular brew has cracking hoppy flavours and is definitely my kind of pale ale. Sessionable goodness. Yes please!

We return to Manchester and Cloudwater Brew Co for our winner, the snappily titled, Autumn + Winter IPA Mosaic Exp 431, which is described as “a dank, juicy, hoppy IPA featuring Mosaic, E431 and Vic’s Secret hops and fruity esters from WLP4000 yeast.”

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It is indeed stuffed full of dank hoppiness, absolutely delicious stuff, very much my favourite beer this month, even though the others in the list have been very good.

The first candidate for beer of the year 2017!

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Pub of the month, January 2017 – The Mortal Man, Troutbeck

January 2017 has been a tale of two parts. The first part (the first three days of January) contains all of the pubs in the running for pub of the month. The second part (the rest of the month) had three more pub visits, but to very disappointing chain pubs, including one that had no beer (Carling does not count as beer).

Off we go with our first contender. The King’s Head Hotel in Thirlmere is somewhere that we have been once before. However, the last time we came here (16th June 2010), all we did was park in the car park, before ascending Helvellyn. Yes, we have a list of Wainwrights that we have conquered and when, which is why I can quote that date.

Our visit was inspired by tropical storm Desmond, which had wreaked havoc in this area just over 12 months ago. We had a walk to take in some of the newly repaired and redirected paths in the area, and ending up at The King’s Head for lunch.

The King’s Head is one of those handy places that doesn’t down tools at 2pm, so when you arrive after that time you will be pleased to know that you can still order some lunch and a pint, such as this former Lakeland classic (now part of the Marston’s empire), Cocker Hoop by Jennings Brewery, a classic bitter golden ale.

Somewhere between our order being taken and heading off to the kitchen, my ham and cheese panino turned into bacon and brie, which is essentially just ham and cheese by another name. It was very nice, but not what I ordered. At this time, I was too tired to debate the matter, so tucked in. Nice side salad and always good to see some classic pickle on the plate too.

A nice lunch at this classic Lakeland inn.

We wind back the clock two days, and find ourselves in Wainwrights’ Inn, in Chapel Stile, part of the Langdale Estate. Again, we’ve been to the Langdale Estate before, way back in 1999 this time. Today, a largely familiar walk led us here for lunch.

Wainwrights’ Inn have subscribed to the tasting bat/paddle methodology, which allows you to enjoy 3 x 1/3 pint glasses of different beer. We managed to confuse them by requesting Tirril Pennine Pilsner as one of the three beers, but they eventually worked out that it was a proper beer so could be included. A light and refreshing pilsner, and it was joined by Derwent Brewery’s Cote Light (easy drinking light ale) and Penning Brewing’s Jingle Bell Rock (pleasant session bitter with standard festive pun name).

Lunch arrived on boards (boo – we want plates!) but was utterly delicious. A warm chicken, bacon & melted cheese baguette, served with a salad garnish and barbecue sauce. We also ordered some chips to share.

A great start to a New Year of eating and drinking. Three new beers to kick off #tryanuary, and a new pub too. Dog friendly and walker friendly, Wainwrights’ Inn is a jewel in Chapel Stile, and hightly recommended if you are in the area. I assume that the position of the possessive apostrophe means that the Inn is for all of the 214 Wainwrights rather than just Alfred…

We come on to our winner, somewhere which has featured here a few times already. The Mortal Man is definitely a MOFAD favourite, and we usually walk over from Ambleside via Wansfell to have lunch here.

The usual pint of Loughrigg by Hesket Newmarket awaited (I seem to have it every time we come here). The cider festival was on as usual so Mrs MOFAD treated herself to a few halves. The first was a Monkey Mango by Cockeyed Cider…

With so many visits, we can now compare the changing of the club sandwich. It’s fair to say that it was at its peak in 2014 and has deteriorated a bit since. The flavours are still good, but the removal of the plate and the lack of toasting change it from being a proper club sandwich.

Let’s see 2017 in close up:-

It was a tasty sandwich, featuring the right number of layers at last, but a club sandwich should be toasted. Mrs MOFAD also had a good sandwich which was enjoyed with Side-r Elderflower cider by Glebe Farm, intense floral notes but a little acidic.

My bonus beer today (no driving at the end of this walk) was a familiar name, Sally Birkett’s Ale. Until early 2016, it was brewed just down the road by Hawkshead Brewery, exclusively for The Mortal Man. The beer is now brewed in Carnforth, by Old School Brewery, and is still exclusive to The Mortal Man. A good session ale.

A lovely visit to The Mortal Man as ever, and a worthy winner of pub of the month.

Mason and Co, Here East, Hackney Wick – January 2017

London 2012 was a big success. Cast your mind back to Wednesday 6th July 2005. London beat Paris to host the 2012 Olympics. This led to 7 years of cheap jokes, cynicism and classic British self-deprecation.

From Danny Boyle’s wonderful opening ceremony, through to great performances from athletes and the concept of “Olympic legacy”, this part of East London has been transformed. They’ve still not finished, as you’ll spot on the walk here from Stratford International station. Loads more building work still going on and it’s going to be a few more years before everything is fully complete.

It takes just six minutes to get here from St Pancras. Six miles in six minutes on the Javelin train. By car or underground it would take you six or seven times as long as that. So this part of London is now accessible for people approaching from the north. You can now watch West Ham play at home, as they have moved away from the Boleyn Ground, with claret and blue lighting up the London Stadium.

There’s plenty more Olympic venue action to be had too, with the Aquatics Centre and Copper Box arena still seeing regular sporting action.

Down at Here East (the former Olympic broadcast centre) you can now find bars and restaurants, looking out on to the River Lee Navigation, just a stone’s throw from the A12, which starts life just down the road at the Blackwall Tunnel and winds its way through Essex and Suffolk before finishing up just sneaking over the Norfolk border into Great Yarmouth.

One of these bars is Mason and Company, the brainchild of Edward Mason (owner and director of The Five Points Brewing Co, based in a railway arch under Hackney Downs station) and Rachel Jones (founder of street food company “Capish?”)

With those two people involved, you’d expect great beer and great food. You get just that. There are 20 beers on tap to choose from, as well as numerous bottles. All of these can match with some street food classics, including a meatball sub, steak brioche, and fried chicken or aubergine parms on brioche (think posh KFC).

Plenty of sides to choose from, Italo-fries (skin on fries coated in oregano salt), courgette fries, a Hackney salad (which is much nicer than it might sound, remember this area has been regenerated!) and a few other bits and pieces. Let’s have a quick interior shot…

First up, a beer. Bosko by Pressure Drop Brewing (who also brew in a Hackney railway arch) is a nicely balanced American IPA, with fruity notes, as well as hoppiness and bitterness.

It was chicken parm for me, Italian fried chicken thigh, marinara sauce, basil aioli, sautéed kale and parmesan crisp on a brioche roll. Very much a posh chicken burger, accompanied by those Italo-fries.

Another beer to accompany this tasty food. We have to go south of the river (at this time of night?) for this one, to West Norwood and Gipsy Hill Brewing Company. This is Day Tripper #1, full of flowery citrus hoppiness and lacking paleness like most American pale ales do. Lovely stuff.

One for the road. Err, train, since I have to catch one to get home. This was also from Gipsy Hill, Hepcat, an awesome session IPA which was way better than many so-called IPAs. Delicious bitter hoppiness.

Fantastic beers and lovely food make this a go to destination if you are down at Here East.

St Joseph’s Tearoom, Whitwick, January 2017

It’s another short and sweet post covering a short and sweet visit. Just like the first time we came here, we had been out walking around our Charnwood Letterbox trail. Today we were doing the walk in sections, and drove here after completing the first section, just in time for lunch.

No need for a boring fizzy drink here. A traditional Italian version of Orangina, Aranciata from Paoletti Bibite. You don’t see that very often. And by that I mean ever. Because it’s the first time I’ve encountered it…

A quick and simple lunch, ham and cheese toastie with a salad garnish. No frills, no messing about. Tangy cheese and tasty ham melted together into warm goodness.

A quick and simple lunch and we were soon off and on our way. St Joseph’s is a lovely little place.

Centro Lounge, Loughborough, January 2017

Another evening at Centro Lounge can probably only mean one thing. A cinema trip. It has become our post cinema haunt, but a change of itinerary tonight meant that it became our pre-cinema haunt.

If that change wasn’t too much to take in, here’s another one.

Wine!

Tonight was “Tapas Tuesday” where you can get three dishes and a glass of house wine for £9.95. A pretty simple offer, very clearly stated on the menu, and most people were partaking.

Except it confuses the bar staff. If you order this offer, stating you want to order “Tapas Tuesday”, for some utterly unknown reason (although the cynic in me can hazard a guess), they assume that you don’t want the free glass of wine that comes with it unless you very slowly and carefully specify that you want the free glass of wine that comes with it. So you stand at the bar staring at the staff. You ask where your wine is. “You didn’t order any wine”. “This offer comes with wine.” “You have to ask for it.” Even though the menu clearly states that it comes with wine.

As you might have guessed, this annoyed me. Implying that I’m an idiot because I didn’t order the thing that the menu explicitly states comes with the thing that I ordered. I think a change of policy is required. Or maybe a spot of training.

On to the food. We ordered 6 dishes between us:-

Patatas bravas with roasted garlic mayo (2 portions, pictured below)
Chicken teriyaki skewers with sesame dressing
Beef and pork meatballs in a tomato & red wine sauce
Honey-glazed shredded five-spice pork
Salt and pepper squid with lemon mayo

I was underwhelmed by the patatas bravas. The potatoes should be crisp and golden after a nice roasting in the oven. The sauce should have finely chopped onion, garlic, paprika and usually a touch of chilli. And if that mayo had roasted garlic in, I’m a monkey’s uncle. Uninspiring. And actually not all the necessary as the dishes are served with some good fresh ciabatta, which is great for mopping up sauces.

The chicken teryaki skewers were very nice, as was the five spice pork. Although these Asian flavours don’t sit easily alongside the more traditional meatballs (albondigas) and potatoes. The squid sits a little better, although a sprinkling of pimenton would have tipped it a bit more towards Spain.

After we finished, we nipped next door to watch Passengers, which was really good apart from just a couple of scenes that needed to be reined in a bit. A great slow build of menace…

Anspach & Hobday The Porter

It’s time for our second delve into the third Needle & Pin craft beer selection box.

Paul (Anspach) & Jack (Hobday), two London graduates, founded Anspach & Hobday in the pursuit of a better beer experience. Guided by the wave of contemporary craft beer and inspired by the illustrious brewing heritage of London, their brewery and and brewery tap are based in an archway in Bermondsey, just a stone’s throw from the Shard and Tower Bridge, and right in the heart of the Victorian brewing quarter.

“The Porter” is their lead beer, rich, dark & roasted, the beer that got them where they are today, and still brewed to the same recipe as the first time it was home-brewed in 2011. It won silver at the International Beer Challenge 2013 as home-brew and then gold in 2014 as a commercial brew.

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As we open it up and pour, we find roasty smoky malts, with hops lingering a little in the mouth. No carbonation to speak of (I was expecting at least some) but it’s very much a classic porter.

Oldmoor Lodge, Nuthall, January 2017

For the third Thursday in a row, we find ourselves at the pub. At least this week it’s a different pub to the last two weeks 🙂

A familiar story though. Just like the last trips out, another opportunity to catch up with friends presented itself, so we hopped up the M1 for three stops and into this Brewers Fayre establishment (after navigating the weirdness of the A610/A6002 roundabout).

We found our large group at the back of the pub, grabbed a table and then I headed off to the bar to order. One of the saddest pub sights greeted me upon arrival. Two hand pumps, with no pump clips, and consequently no beer.

A pub with no beer. That is not a pub.

At least there was food available. I ordered the dish described on the menu as “chicken garlic chicken”, a chicken breast coated in breadcrumbs, brushed with garlic butter and served with chips, a fried egg and a lightly dressed salad garnish.

Which came first? The chicken or the egg? Well, in this example they both came at the same time. Classic pub grub, simple and tasty. The salad garnish was really just a garnish, a bit more would not have gone amiss.

Mrs MOFAD opted for the smothered chicken, known pretty much everywhere else as hunter’s chicken, your usual chicken breast “smothered” in BBQ sauce, topped with bacon and melted Cheddar cheese, served with chips, coleslaw, garlic bread and a lightly dressed salad garnish (again). Also good standard pub grub.

But no beer. Poor show Brewers Fayre. It’s not like it’s New Year’s Day and there hasn’t been a delivery.