Beer of the month, March 2017 – Mosaic IPA by Crate Brewery

Yet another month where all bar one of the best beers were sampled at home. Let us move into the kitchen to discover them…

Appropriately enough, the first one in the round up is a Lemon Meringue Pie by Buxton Brewery. All of the lemons. Sour tartness. A festival of lemon. This is definitely one for the lemon fan. (Edit : just a few weeks later, occasional MOFAD companion Kerrie described this as “proper rotten”. She was very wrong. Hazel, a non-beer drinker, even bought a bottle on that occasion.)

To familiar hoppy territory next, for a Clairvoyance by Magic Rock Brewing. I looked into my crystal ball before drinking this, and predicted tropical hoppiness and fruity murk. It was literally that. Delicious with pulled lamb shoulder.

We move on to Straffe Hedrick Tripel, the winner of Belgium’s Best Belgian Style Tripel at the World Beer Awards in 2016. The Maes family have been brewing in the centre of Bruges since the mid 19th century, and this beer is now the most established product of the De Halve Maan brewery. A huge white head and big carbonation bring some hoppy aromas to the nose, unusual for many Belgian beers. Fruits and grains are apparent on the palate, but they say that the bitterness dominates. Does it? Kind of, those golden fruits certainly come through, and the elegance of the carbonation is reminiscent of a good sparkling wine. This was the only beer in the list out of the home, from the Needle & Pin Belgian beer night.

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The train now arriving at Platform C is an American IPA by Fallen Brewing Co, calling at good hop and malt balance and very smooth. Lovely stuff.

As has happened so often recently, there’s a Cloudwater in here. This time it’s DIPA V10. Murky. Juicy. Dank. Tropical orange notes. A hint of mint right at the end. Some resinousness. Really good effort, another one that is gone forever.

More hops now, from Siren Craft Brew, in the form of Proteus IPA Volume 2 – Mosaic, Chinook, Cascade (that is the full name of the beer). This one had a big body, big tropical fruits, big hops, big pine. A fantastic IPA, those three hops work so well together. It narrowly missed out on being the winner.

That honour goes to Mosaic IPA by Crate Brewery. Classic tropical fruit hoppiness and an excellent showcase for the Mosaic hop. Delicious. Mine came from Sourced Market at St Pancras station, so if you’re ever waiting for a train, pop down and pick up some great beers. London prices though!

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Another hoppy beast through to the end of year final…

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The Needle & Pin Belgian beer night, March 2017

Just moments after the inaugural dark beer night at the N&P, I was down at the bar reserving the first two spaces on the inaugural Belgian beer night (the other space for regular MOFAD drinking companion Alec). It felt like it was ages away, but time flies when you’re waiting for a Belgian beer night to arrive. Sean handed over the reins for this one to the N&P’s resident Belgian beer expert Iain, who was to guide us through the landscape of Belgian brewing past and present.

We opened with Westmalle Dubbel (7%), a rich and complex Trappist beer, which undergoes secondary fermentation in the bottle. The Westmalle monastery has been brewing beer for over 150 years, and is one of only twelve monasteries allowed to carry the “Authentic Trappist Product” label on their beer. The Dubbel is a dark brown beer with aromas of dark fruits, bread, warming spices, leading to flavours of raisins and other fruits with a dry finish.

My conclusion? Dark fruits, a little sourness and some very nice carbonation. A very pleasant Dubbel indeed.

We move on to Straffe Hedrick Tripel (9%), the winner of Belgium’s Best Belgian Style Tripel at the World Beer Awards in 2016. The Maes family have been brewing in the centre of Bruges since the mid 19th century, and this beer is now the most established product of the De Halve Maan brewery. A huge white head and big carbonation bring a hoppy aroma to the nose, unusual for many Belgian beers. Fruits and grains are apparent on the palate, but the bitterness dominates.

Does it? Kind of, those golden fruits certainly come through, and again the elegance of the carbonation is reminiscent of a good sparkling wine.

On we go, with Vicaris Tripel Gueuze. This is created by brewing two beers and then joining them together in the bottle. A creamy white head billows above a honey gold beer, with a nose of tart vanilla and spice, leading to a full body and long dry finish.

This was another with very nice carbonation, some tart vanilla flavours mixing with a little spice on the palate.

We now take a break for another Belgian classic, fries and mayonnaise. An awesome way to refuel and soak up a little liquid.

These were piping hot, salty and delicious. And lovely mayonnaise too.

Off for a little fruity number next,  Kriek Boon (4.5%). The brewery in Lembeek has brewed under different ownerships since 1680, and has been owned by Frank Boon since 1975, establishing a reputation for fine Gueuze lambic beers. This is a cheery beer made by blending different aged lambics and then ageing them again over whole cherries. This gives a tart cherry beer with a hint of sweetness, and a hint of something coming from the oak casks that the beer has aged in.

I’m not a fan of cherries, but this was a nice beer, flavours of cherry juice but with the cherries fading away. Very easy drinking, perfect for a summer BBQ.

Here we deviate from the plan. We were due to finish with Rochefort 10 (11.3%) but due to logistical issues, I had to take mine and run. Look out for a separate review later.

Before the evening began, there was time for a quick bit of shopping, with a couple of Cloudwaters and a Howling Hops IPA (which will be my first from this brewery). The photo also shows the left over Rochefort and my glass to commemorate the evening.

Another great night out at the N&P – the April instalment of the event is already sold out, but look out for another Belgian event in the autumn. Pop over to Facebook to keep up to date

The Needle & Pin, March 2017

A little “halfway between birthdays” event for us. We had a bit of a think about where we wanted to have a little event with a little group of friends. Often these happen in various chain pubs about the area, but I wanted our one to happen in my favourite pub. So we made it happen (with thanks to Sean who let us reserve the entire upstairs area for the evening).

My evening began with a pint of Beer Hub Brew #1 from The West End Brewery, a new Leicester brewery that opened up last year. This was a cracking session pale ale with good hoppy notes.

Some pizza arrived from Peter Pizza. We tucked in.

This was accompanied by North Riding Brewery’s Neapolitan Milk Stout, which is like childhood in a glass, the 1980s ice cream classic in pint form.

Downstairs, it was bar manager Jet’s birthday. Sean had very kindly rebranded one of the pumps to celebrate this 🙂

Whilst one or two people were confused by this, Mrs MOFAD was choosing another beer, Curse of Threepwood from Wild Weather Ales, a fruity and tart rhubarb and hibiscus sour wheat beer. If you don’t recognise the name, Guybrush Threepwood was the main character in the Monkey Island series of games. One for you 90s gamers!

One more pint to celebrate, a Thornbridge favourite, Lord Marples, a classic bitter.

A lovely night out with friends and beers.

Bradgate Park Conservatory Tea Room, Leicestershire

A sunny Sunday in spring. A weekend at home. So we were off out for a walk, parking up at Groby Pool (not for the reasons that most people park at Groby Pool), and heading off for a walk around the Leicestershire countryside.

We had planned our walk to arrive in Bradgate Park at lunchtime, and that is exactly what happened. As it was a nice sunny day, we found a table outside and then popped inside to order some lunch. The usual cafe selection of sandwiches, panini, etc. is available. Keeping it simple with ham and cheese panino today, tasty if it’s done right, a travesty if it’s done wrong.

Nothing to complain about here, decent ham and cheese, and speedy service. The anaemic salad garnish wasn’t anything to write home about, but then it so often isn’t. We also had some crisps and drinks and then treated ourselves to some cake (we still have to walk back to the car, so it’s important to be properly fuelled).

As ever, I chose the chocolate cake, rich and moist.

The Conservatory Tea Room is a great little place if you’re visiting Bradgate Park. Plenty of seating inside and out, and they open every day from 10am-5pm (4pm from March-November).

Siren Proteus IPA Vol II

The final bottle from the inaugural  Needle & Pin craft beer club selection box. This one took quite a while, because my original bottle very swiftly came to an unfortunate end when it met hard tarmac on its journey home. Luckily, there was another bottle available some months later, so I grabbed it and then found a gap in the schedule in which to open it up.

Proteus is a series devised to make the most of three hops, with this volume using Mosaic, Chinook & Cascade. Siren have brewed three pale ales using this combination, before creating this dialled-up IPA version, based on everything the brewers have learned about the hops and how they work together.

Big body, big tropical fruits, big hops, big pine. This is a fantastic IPA, those three hops work so well together. Lovely stuff. I want to find lots more of this series now, but that may prove tricky!

Manor Organic Farm tea room, Long Whatton

Spring is springing! Around our way, this means an annual event – lambing days at a local farm. On these days they open up to the public so you can get up and close with nature, and cuddle a few of their pet lambs.

I think this is a great idea as it gets children closer to the world of food, and where things come from. It also shows the love and care that most farmers put into raising their livestock. There is much negative propaganda out there, and yes, there are poor farming practices still in this world, but if you think all farm animals are raised in sheds and kept in appalling conditions, come and see how it is done by people who care about their animals.

Anyway, enough gentle tub thumping, on to a quick lunch stop. The farm has a great farm shop, and a tea room that is open all year round, Wednesday to Saturday, 9:30-16:30. We popped in for a late lunch before going off to see lots of springy lambs bouncing around.

We were quite late so a few things had sold out (jacket potatoes in particular) but we all opted for variations on the sausage/bacon/egg bap (cob in local dialect).

Freshly cooked and delicious, a very tasty lunch. As we had spent some time staring longingly at the cakes, we had some of those too, with my choice of tiffin being the correct one – chocolatey, gooey and delightful.

If you are in the area, this is a lovely little tea room, and you can do some shopping at the farm shop afterwards.

Boundary American Pale Ale

Boundary Brewing are a cooperative brewery in Belfast, owned and run by their members. They opened in 2014, the first brewery in Northern Ireland to bring together modern US styles with the more traditional Belgian/French style beers.

The American Pale Ale is one of their core styles. The definition of sessionable, a 3.5% pale ale offers a surprisingly full body which allows the hops to remain balanced. Think biscuit, citrus and refreshing. The APA is not too hoppy and is the perfect gateway, thirst-quenching beer.

That’s what they say, what do I say? Well, it’s definitely a light and gentle APA. Perfect if you want to keep things session. I prefer a bit more body and a lot more hops in mine, but this one is perfectly pleasant, an easy session ale.