Beer of the month, February 2017 – Autumn + Winter Fazenda Ouro Verde Porter by Cloudwater Brew Co

(Editor’s note – I had fallen a bit behind with these posts, so they’ve gone up a lot later than they should have done – let’s dive right in.)

A good month for beers. When you consider that some of the “also rans” could have been winners in other months, it shows what a strong line up we have.

Tropigamma Tropical IPA by Beavertown is a tropical murk bomb, full of hoppy Lilt flavours.

Day Tripper #1 by The Gipsy Hill Brewing Company was packed with flowery citrus hoppiness.

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Luponic Distortion: Revolution No. 003 by Firestone Walker Brewing Company was a happy slice of hoppiness. Just my kind of thing.

Bosko by Pressure Drop Brewing was a nice balance of hoppiness and bitterness.

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Harveys Prince of Denmark was a contender – coffee, liquorice, dark fruits and bags of treacle. Powerful stuff. Nom!

More hops are on their way, in the form of Five o’Clock Shadow by Weird Beard Brew Co. I loved this. Piney. Hoppy. Resinous. Really nice balance and low bitterness. Massive flavours. One of my favourites of the year so far.

Hops again? You know it. Hepcat by The Gipsy Hill Brewing Company was an awesome session IPA. Better than many so called IPAs. Bitter hoppiness.

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Sorachi Face Plant by Weird Beard Brew Co. features the Marmite of hops, Sorachi Ace. Although it tastes more like a Stilton and mango chutney sandwich. Love it.

We’ve nearly made it to the end of this round up. Export India Porter by The Kernel Brewery is the runner up this month. The eternal battle of hops versus heavy roast malts. Lovely stuff, really works well. Good carbonation too.

Our winner is not a hoppy beer. Autumn + Winter Fazenda Ouro Verde Porter by Cloudwater Brew Co. Some beers call for eloquence and considered words. How to sum this up? ALL THE COFFEE!!!!!!!! ☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️

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A very worthy winner.

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Pub of the month, February 2017 – Mason and Co

A quiet month for pub trips, with just a handful to choose from. There are a few not to choose from as well, including a dull Marstons pub with a badly kept pint and a hit and miss burrito.

A few trips to Leicester (comedy festival as usual) and one of these resulted in our first candidate for pub of the month, The Landsdowne (Orange Tree). We’d been there before, but not for a few years, so there is no MOFAD visit recorded. It’s going to be our new pre-show dining pub, as we have abandoned The Marquis Wellington after our last visit.

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A good local pint and a decent chicken burger, so we’ll definitely be back.

A couple of trips to 2016’s pub of the year, The Needle & Pin, this month. One was for a pizza and a pint after watching T2: Trainspotting, and the other was the lovely dark beer night, where we enjoyed dark beers and some tasty cheeses, and other sweet and savoury nibbles. My favourite match was an extra smoky brisket from over the road at the Hog Stop, matched with Beavertown Smog Rocket smoked porter.

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So, we move on to the winner, Mason & Co at Here East in Hackney Wick. This is located just next to the former Olympic broadcast centre from 2012, right down by the River Lee Navigation. On a lovely summer’s day you could sit out and watch canal boats drifting by. In February, you need to stay indoors.

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.

What you get inside the bar is great beer and great food, as Mason and Company is 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?”)

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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. 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.

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Great food and great beers make this a great pub if you find yourself down at Here East. A worthy winner of pub of the month, and I’ll be back again on my next visit.

Pizza Express, Loughborough, February 2017

With apologies to Don Covay and Aretha Franklin:-

Chain chain chain! Chain of foods…

Pizza Express opened its first restaurant in London in 1965, and has been expanding ever since. Over the last 20 years or so they have been a kind of corporate football, changing hands around four or five times. Whilst they’d like you to think that they are that same company with a Sicilian chef cooking authentic pizza, nowadays they are just another chain owned by a Chinese private equity firm.

We’ve always been well equipped with pizza places in Loughborough. I had my first Leicestershire pizza at the Purple Onion, way back in October 1992. We’ve had the big chains (Pizza Hut & Domino’s) for a long time. We’ve got a Papa John’s. We also have local places such as Croma, Mario’s, Sliced! and Dominic’s (definitely not Domino’s, honest). The most recent (December 2016) TripAdvisor review is hilarious, and it won’t encourage you to visit Dominic’s.

There is one place that is head and shoulders above all of these. That is Peter Pizza. I have written about them several times already. They do the best pizza. They are top on TripAdvisor. They even have the slogan “Come and try the worst pizza that one guy on TripAdvisor ever had”.

So what did a sleepy market town need? Two new Italian chains of course. As part of the new Cineworld development in 2016, we got Bella Italia and Pizza Express. Tonight, we were off to the cinema again with MOFAD dining companions Karon & John. We decided to go to Pizza Express beforehand, as it is very close to the cinema.

There’s only one decent beer choice on the menu, the Peroni Gran Reserva, a pleasant double malt beer. The standard Peroni is just dull, but this has interesting sweet and malty notes that go well with pizza.

On to that pizza. I must admit that I found the menu a little uninspiring. There are nine pizzas with chilli on. There’s one with chicken. There’s one with ham. La Reine. I had that. It was quite nice, but it was no Peter Pizza.

Mrs MOFAD had the same, but in Romana form. What this means is that they roll the dough out a bit thinner, to make a larger base, and then charge you another couple of quid for the privilege. However, it just seems to go colder more quickly. We also had a mixed salad on the side, which was also a little uninspiring. A tomato chopped up, five half slices of cucumber and a handful of leaves. Not exactly value for money. We could have had twice as many (better) pizzas, better salad and better drinks at Peter.

You expect your local independent to be more expensive than the chain, but it’s the other way round. Pizza Express is over priced and underwhelming. There was nothing specifically wrong and it was convenient, but if you’re going to charge £13.50 for a pizza, it should be stunning. Even though we weren’t in a hurry (for once!) we did feel rather rushed out of a largely empty restaurant.

Beavertown Tropigamma Tropical IPA

Another beer from the third Needle & Pin craft beer selection box.

The N&P love all things Beavertown (as do I), and they especially love this one off beer, brewed to celebrate Beavertown’s 1000th brew. Hugely fruity compared to Gamma Ray, a tropical IPA brewed with lactose, pineapple, mandarin, papaya, passionfruit, guava, mango and lime juice. Enough fruit for you?

Juicy tropical fruits combine with big bold hops on the nose to lure you in with complex aromas of citrus, ripe mango and piney hops. The flavour is fruit driven, leading with sweet mandarin, tangy passionfruit and round mango and finishing with a satisfying hop bite. The oats help make the drinking experience smooth and round. This is literally a fruit explosion in a can.

Lilt. The totally tropical taste. Tropigamma. The totally tropcial murkbomb. Not an IPA but an interesting tropical fruit attack. Produces both “hop face” and “grapefruit face” in Mrs MOFAD. Juicy and fruity, and a grapefruit hit, with smoothness from the oats. Dangerously drinkable delight.

George’s Tradition, fish ‘n’ chips, Loughborough, February 2017

Good old fashioned fish’n’chips. You can’t beat it. That means that sometimes, you shouldn’t try. Tonight was one of those times. Our final night at the Leicester comedy festival for this year, and a slightly altered plan. We are looking after this lovely little ball of fluff for a couple of weeks:-

So as we didn’t want to abandon Holly for hours on end, we decided to head straight back home after the show, and grab fish’n’chips on the way.

George’s Tradition have been open in Loughborough for a few years, and have become a firm favourite in the town, regarded by most as our best fish’n’chip shop. No fuss, no messing about, just great quality food, well cooked and also well presented (a nice carboard pizza box style box). Tonight I opted for the ocean wild cod and large chips, whilst Mrs MOFAD had the battered fishcake:-

My meal deal included the pictured mushy peas, a nice addition to fish’n’chips, and this was a classic chip shop dinner. Lovely stuff, and definitely our best local fish’n’chip shop.

Pirate Life Pale Ale

You might not have seen my first Pirate Life post, so I will recap their story.

Pirate Life was set up in 2014 by Australians Red and Jack. They met whilst working at BrewDog (Australians involved in another part of the UK beer industry, whatever next?) They returned home, and after a couple of other jobs, they were able to set up their own brewery, selecting the lovely city of Adelaide (it is, we’ve been there) in which to get brewing.

In line with what Cloudwater have done for 2017, all of their beer is destined for can or keg. No bottles, no cask (not that you’d expect much cask action in the Antipodes). There are still anti-can breweries out there (there’s a vehement one just across the border from me in Derbyshire), but Pirate Life are not one of those.

On to the second beer that I’ve cracked open.

Style: West Coast Pale Ale

Alcohol: 5.4%

IBU: 50

Hops:  Mosaic, Cascade

Description: The brief we gave ourselves for our flagship beer was that it should be able to be sent to any bar in San Diego and to stand proudly alongside the many great pales produced in, and around, the west coast of the US.

The schematic for a West Coast Pale Ale is bucket loads of big US hops, a full malty backbone and a characterful yeast. That is what this pale ale is all about. Enjoy as fresh as possible.

Beer pairing: Everything, all of the time.

So, let’s open it up.

Lovely hoppy aroma on the nose, and this follows through on the palate, presenting as a tasty and hoppy pale ale with a slightly sweet malty backbone, but definitely a good balance of these two characeristics. Very easy drinking and I could just see myself drinking a can of this whilst looking down on Adelaide from Mount Lofty. Lovely stuff.

Dark Beer night at The Needle & Pin, February 2017

The latest Needle & Pin event is upon us. This one turned out to have a little twist on all of the previous beer tasting events. There was a little bit of food involved, pairing some little nibbles with a selection of 5 dark beers. Tonight’s event sold out in record time, and got expanded a few times. It seems that there are plenty of dark beer fans out there.

Once again, this feels like one of those events that you expect to find in London bars and brewery taps, so it’s really great to have it in our sleepy little market town. Let’s begin…

Gouden Carolus Classic was awarded “world’s best dark ale” at the 2012 World Beer awards, and also won gold at the 2015 awards. It pours a deep red, viscous with sweet notes or raisin, toffee and chocolate.

This was paired with some cave aged Gruyere cheese, and this was a great match, bringing out the creamy flavours of the cheese, and the sweet raisins in the beer.

Moor Stout is dark, smooth and rich, with roasted barley and bitter chocolate. Simple, unpretentious and highly drinkable, it has the hallmarks of a classic black beer, no unicorn hair, solar dust or celebrity nail clippings.

There were 2 potential matches with this one. Some Bavarian smoked cheese was first, but for me it didn’t work as it was way too subtle. I like my smoked cheeses to have little wisps of smoke coming out of them (heavily smoked) but this was too subtle for my tastes. The second match was Roquefort, and that was a winner, with the tanginess standing up very well against the heavy roast flavours of the beer.

Beavertown Smog Rocket Smoked Porter was inspired by London’s industrial revolution, when smog filled the air and the London porter was the beer of the working man. This was an original home brew recipe, using 9 different malts, including plenty of smoked Rauchmaltz from Bamberg in Germany. Big flavour hits of molasses, rasins and caramel are cut through by the resinous American Chinook hop. Smoky aromas abound, reminiscent of the smoke stacks of industrial London.

This match was my favourite of the night, smoked brisket from across the road at The Hog Stop. An extra smoky brisket was commissioned, to match up with the lovely chocolate smokiness from the Smog Rocket. Both were delicious.

Thornbridge’s Eldon is named after the Eldon Hole, one of the seven wonders of the Peak District. It is a Bourbon oak imperial stout, smooth and roasty, brewed with demerara sugar, with added complexity coming from the Bourbon soured oak. Caramel, coffee and chocolate mix with a hint of vanilla and Kentucky bourbon.

The food match for this was a piece of last minute inspiration, a Medjool date to match with some of the sweetness from the demarara sugar. The match was good, although this was probably my least favourite beer of the night. It felt a bit thin and underwhelming, unusual for a Thornbridge beer.

Finally, Bristol Beer Factory Milk Stout. This award winning national champion stout is a beautifully creamy, full-bodied stout, the likes of which were brewed nearly a century ago on the very site of the Bristol Beer Factory today. Does not contain milk. Invigorating & stimulating for workers (or so they used to say). Brewed within the city of Bristol from local raw materials, sweet, black and extremely full-bodied. Unfermentable lactose sugar (added during the boil) sweetens the chocolate and black malt derived roast flavours. An historic beer, recreated for the modern drinker.

This matched nicely with one of Rebecca’s (aka Mrs Needle & Pin) hand made creations, an Oreo and salted caramel petit four. The sweetness balanced nicely between the two, and rounded off a lovely evening of beer tasting and chat, with the added bonus of some nice nibbles.

There’s always time for some shopping, usually this involves picking up things that I’ve previously reserved, and tonight was no exception. Several new Cloudwater brews (and a delicious coffee porter for MOFAD supplier Matt) as well as a couple of new IPAs, a barrel aged weisse and two imperial stouts (one for Matt).

Another great night out at the Needle & Pin, not hard to see why it was my pub of the year for 2016