Beer of the month – July 2017 – Intensified Barrel-Aged Coffee Porter by Brooklyn Brewery

Another of those months where all the beers in the shortlist for beer of the month were not sampled in a pub, bar or similar. There were a few trips to those establishments, but one of them was so bad I resorted to lime and soda. There is a pub of the month this month, which at least beats May, when there wasn’t an award for the first time.

Several of these beers were sampled at our own mini beer festival, the home-made Hooky beer fest.

Let’s dive in.

First up we have an X-Girlfriend by Weird Beard Brew Co. This beer was specially designed to showcase what hops can do in a low ABV beer. A playful mix of Galaxy, Citra and experimental HBC431 for a fruity vibe. Happiness = hoppiness. Way better than so many so called IPAs.

Off to the camp site next for a Tropic Thunder by Dugges Bryggeri, a joint effort with nomadic brewer Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal. A sour ale with brewed with lactobacillus and fermented with mango, passion fruit and peach. Lilt. The totally tropical taste. In beer form. Bottom centre in this collage.

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To Denmark next, by way of Ulverston (Booths) for Green Gold by Mikkeller, which was full of bittersweet hoppy goodness. Just my kind of thing.

More hops now, with “I Played Trumpet On That Tune” by Verdant Brewing Co (they love an interesting beer name). This was a very good New England/Vermont style IPA, cloudy, smooth, and fruity, with an artfully refined bitterness. Hoppy and dank, and very juicy.

If you’ve been following beer of the month this year, you’ll recall that Cloudwater have already got 4 beers through to the end of year finals. They almost made it 5, but after careful consideration, they take bronze and silver this month instead.

In bronze medal place we have the DDH IPA Citra by Cloudwater Brew Co. DDH stands for “double dry hopped”. Cloudwater has doubled the amount of hops in this IPA to bring us the brewery’s first DDH IPA. Fermented with WLP4000 yeast and dry-hopped with Citra, Amarillo, Chinook and Centennial (big name American hops). WLP4000 yeast was isolated from a uniquely crafted double IPA from the the USA and produces a balanced fruity ester profile of peaches and light citrus that complements any aggressively hopped beer.

Dry hopping is the process of adding hops to a beer to add more of a hop aroma. As you do not boil the hops, you won’t be extracting any of the oils from them, and therefore will not be contributing to the beer’s bitterness. What you will be adding are hop flavour and aroma. If you are a big hop fan, dry hopping is a must.

Nom Nom Nom. An hoppy juice bomb. Perfect with spicy dhansak. Yes please!

Another big IPA next, in the form of NW DIPA Citra, also by Cloudwater Brew Co. This was a super juicy murk bomb full of relentless Citra bitterness. My taste buds appear to be perfectly aligned for this beer.

So what kept Cloudwater from the top spot this month? It was an Intensified Barrel-Aged Coffee Porter by Brooklyn Brewery. It starts as a big, chocolatey ale, ready to take on super powers. The first power is gained from months of aging in Kentucky bourbon barrels. The second arises from delectable beans harvested from Finca El Manzano Single Origin Coffee in El Salvador. The final power comes from Blue Bottle Coffee, who roast the coffee to perfection. Brooklyn advise that you brace yourself for complex notes of dark chocolate, vanilla, oak, berries, and dried fruit.

I advise that you seek this out. I’ve finally found out what bourbon barrels are for. Bourbon is not my thing, but it adds a lot to this beer. It’s a super coffee beast. Thanks to regular MOFAD drinking companion Matt for sharing it with us.

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That should spice up the end of year battle a bit!

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Mother Hubbards Fish & Chips, Swaffham, Norfolk, July 2017

Another takeaway post, and a rather impromptu one at that. If you’d asked me yesterday morning what I’d be eating tonight, I would have said curry, at home, as per.

Due to an urgent family matter, we needed to be in Swaffham this weekend. Have I ever told you that the architect who designed our kitchen extension also designed the public toilet block in Swaffham? Well, I have now.

So on an overcast Friday evening, I found myself in a long queue outside this chip shop. Possibly the longest chip shop queue that I’ve ever been in. That has to be a good sign right?

Indeed it was. Three delicious portions of fish’n’chips were served up, alongside a little tub of home-made tartare sauce (no squeezy sachet nonsense).

There was plenty of choice, three sizes of cod, two of haddock, two of rock, plaice, skate, wholetail scampi, fishcakes, cod roe, saveloys, sausages, spring rolls, pies, burgers, fried chicken, battered mushrooms and plenty of moisteners in the form of beans, curry sauce, peas (mushy or not) and gravy. They also do pizzas and garlic bread, jacket potatoes and salads. There are also desserts. And a whole cabinet of fresh doughnuts.

A cracking fish’n’chip shop with lovely friendly staff, and you can see why it is so popular (there were no queues outside Mr Chips on the other side of the market place). Definitely the place to go if you find yourself in this charming sleepy market town.

There is a such a thing as a Free Lunch

In this case, it’s a beer called Free Lunch, brewed by Northern Monk brewery for Honest Brew. How does such a thing come about?

Over six months, Honest Brew cycled against 50 of the top startups in London as part of Braintree Payments’ “Tour De Tech”. They dominated the competition and won £40k towards a marketing campaign.

Rather than spending the prize on themselves, they decided to brew a beer for beer lovers with Leeds’ Northern Monk. That’s where customers came in – voting for a style, a strength, a flavour and the appearance of the beer that would be brewed. The winning combo was a 5-6% hazy IPA with citrusy & zesty flavours.

The people had voted. So Northern Monk made an IPA overflowing with bold aromas and flavours. Hefty doses of Citra usher in bright citrus fruit aromas. Vibrant grapefruit, lemon and mandarin flavours are tempered by the addition of oats to produce a soft mouthfeel. A sensory overload built upon the foundation of Northern Monk’s distinctive house yeast strain. Deliciously fruity, unashamedly hazy, and a true collaborative effort – the race to finish your can won’t last long.

In my first can I found pine, citrus and grassy notes, an hazy delight. Yes please! Thanks to Honest Brew for free beer. Looking forward to another one soon.

If you would like to buy some, they are now on sale at £7.90 for an howler of 3 cans as shown above. Off you go.

Rowena/Wyevale Garden Centre, Rothley, July 2017

A garden centre? Whatever next? Some years ago we spent a lot of time in these, finding things for our various garden projects. That has dwindled a lot recently, which culminated in a project to get the garden completely revamped last month. We left that to the experts, and just have a few little bits and pieces to sort out. Which is why we find ourselves here on a rainy/sunny Saturday afternoon. Before filling up trolleys with pots, plants and slate chippings, we stopped off for lunch in the little cafe. It’s not so little any more, with an outside seating area, a conservatory bit, and the main dining area all linked together. The usual selection of sandwiches, toasties and some other hot dishes on offer.

I had a chicken, bacon, cheese and chutney toastie, which was nicely filled, with all of the different elements combining to make something a bit more interesting than the usual ham and cheese affair. A few tiny bits of salad on the side. An old fashioned English toastie this, a sandwich stuck under a grill, from the days before the Breville toasted sandwich maker (other toasted sandwich makers are available). Not exactly haute cuisine, but a quick and easy lunch stop.

Dog and Duck, Shardlow, July 2017

Another pub trip where the company was more important than the food and drink. Just as well really, as this was another classic poor chain pub effort. A Marstons pub, the usual below average selection of beers from the empire, a few bottles, and some rubbish “ciders” like Strongbow and Old Mout. So, another night on the lime and soda. No biggie, I have great beers at home for another night.

Maybe the food could make up for this disappointment. Although “two for one, all day every day” doesn’t always insipre confidence. Mrs MOFAD opted for curry again, she does enjoy a pub curry. Chicken tikka masala is an easy pub option, and pubs always chuck in the full works, rice, naan, popadom and alleged mango chutney (it’s never any good).

My choice was the BBQ chicken burger, which sounded nice.  Crispy buttermilk chicken goujons topped with Monterey Jack cheese and BBQ sauce, served with chips and coleslaw.

The best word you could find to describe this would be fodder. That’s all that it was. Very average damp pub chips (lots of seasoning required), a pointless little dish of alleged coleslaw (way too much onion), and an awful bread roll that had probably been hanging around all day, and. It disintegrated a little bit more every time you picked it up. Processed cheese added insult to injury, and a pitiful amount of alleged BBQ sauce didn’t help. No additional sauces available to help out either.

Chain pub eating at its lowest ebb. Meh food, no decent drinks. Luckily there were plenty of laughs to be had with friends.

Wagamama, Leicester, July 2017

Another rare weeknight shopping trip to Leicester. You may recall that there was one last week, but it wasn’t as successful as it could have been, so we are back this week, exploring some different retail venues. Again, I won’t be telling you about that. Instead, I’ll tell you about dinner.

We will often pop in to Wagamama for a quick dinner. It’s usually quick, if there’s not a queue. Tonight there was a queue out of the door, which was handy as the “out of the door” bit was cooler than the bit inside the door, where the heater was on full blast. On a warm July evening.

We were soon seated and ordering. It will probably come as no surprise that we both ordered exactly the same things that we usually do. So that’s chicken katsu curry for me as ever…

Although this was another plate to annoy the sauce/salad brigade, who hate to see sauce touching salad. You may recall this from a visit to The Hunting Lodge in June.

A quick note on drinks. Hitachino Nest has disappeared from the menu. This is a shame, as their beers go well with this particular cuisine. There are a few other offerings, which look interesting, but with Meantime involved, I don’t feel comfortable ordering them.

Meantime used to be a lovely independent brewery, but they are now owned by Asahi (after being bought by SAB Miller in May 2015), so they just don’t feel like a craft brewer any more. My philosophy is that I have loads of lovely independent beers at home, so I’ll save myself for those. As it was, the ginger beer was lovely and refreshing with the katsu curry.

The home made Hooky beer festival, July 2017

You may recall from last year that we went to the Hook Norton beer festival. A festival in a field on a farm. With poorly kept beer. And not much else going for it, apart from the company. We returned to the area this year, but with a different plan.

A very simple plan. We would hold our own beer festival, supplying our own beer. I even made tasting notes. Probably more detailed than they needed to be, but I’ve been exposed to plenty of Sean’s tasting notes now and it was good fun putting them together. They follow below, and then I’ll move on to the round up of the beers we had.

First, a note about sour beers…

Traditional sour beers are usually created through mixed fermentation of the beer after it has boiled. This mixed fermentation can be simultaneous (traditional yeast, wild yeast, and bacteria added all at the same time), or sequential in a separate vessel. In this case, a beer will be fermented traditionally with common brewer’s yeast until it is at or near completion. This beer will then be transferred into barrels (usually oak, sometimes stainless steel tanks) where wild yeasts and bacteria will begin to re-ferment the beer, consuming sugars that traditional yeasts are unable to eat.

One byproduct of this secondary fermentation by bacteria is lactic acid, which, along with acetic acid and other organic acids, is responsible for souring the liquid. This process often takes a long time, from months to years, but yields a complex final product that can be served as-is, or mixed with young beer to temper the sourness and add complexity (the Belgian style Geuze uses this technique). These beers will continue to develop and sour with time, including in the bottle.

If you don’t have time to wait for a beer to age in the barrel, then you can use a kettle souring process, in which the lactic acid is generated by a primary fermentation of a bacterial culture (often lactobacillus, which could come from a lab or even yoghurt) for several hours (all the way up to a few days) before a final boil is conducted to kill the bacteria, halt the production of lactic acid, and continue with a secondary fermentation by traditional yeast.

Gose is a top-fermented beer that originated in Goslar, Germany. It is brewed with at least 50% of the grain used being malted wheat. Dominant flavours in gose include a lemon sourness, an herbal characteristic, and a strong saltiness (the result of either local water sources or added salt). Gose beers typically do not have prominent hop bitterness, flavours, or aroma. The beers typically have a moderate alcohol content of 4 to 5% ABV.

That’s the science bit, now the beers…

Thornbridge – Tart – 6% – sour ale

A “Bakewell sour” brewed in collaboration with Wild Beer Co., Tart pours a golden yellow colour with a white head, and is refreshingly tart and dry with a combination of citrus hops and flavours of grapefruit and bitter lemon. The name Tart is inspired by the Bakewell delicacy where Thornbridge are based and accurately describes the flavour of the beer in a single word.

Dugges – Tropic Thunder – 4.5% – sour ale

Tropic Thunder is a joint effort with nomadic brewer Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal. This sour ale was brewed with lactobacillus and fermented with plenty of mango, passion fruit and peaches to produce something akin to an alcoholic Rio.

In 2002 Mikael Dugge Engström had a meeting with an Englishman, who was in the business of selling second hand breweries. This got Mikael thinking. How cool would it be to have your own brewery and brew your own beer?

With all the energy of a man possessed Mikael started studying Swedish alcohol legislation (which is pretty extensive), read up on everything and anything he could find on brewing beer and going on visits to anyone who would have him, getting tips and making friends. All while he started buying the parts needed to build a small brewery. In 2005, he opened one. In 2010 he moved to a bigger one. In 2017 he doubled capacity again.

Modern Times – Fruitlands Blood Orange and Hibiscus sour – 4.8% – Gose

Fruitlands is tart, fruity & frighteningly delicious. The sour, salty base beer lays down the funky refreshment, while a heavy dose of blood oranges & hibiscus turns the whole thing into a wall-to-wall citrus fiesta, with tart, floral notes from the hibiscus adding beautifully to the profile. It’s a marvelous mix of elements that collides with your mouth like a fruit-filled asteroid of flavor traveling at the supersonic speed of party.

Modern Times is a brewery from the Point Loma neighbourhood of San Diego, named after a beautifully crazy utopian community founded in 1850. Almost all of their beers are named after real utopian experiments or mythological utopias.

Wild Weather – One Eyed Iain Salted Caramel Porter – 6.2% – English porter

A collaboration with Electric Bear, where rich malts flow around a sweet caramel base creating waves of decadence as your tongue experiences each flavour. This is driven home by a slight salted note to awaken both the nose and mouth.

Boom! Came the sound of the thunder, and as the rain came down like beads bouncing from the mash tun, Wild Weather Ales was born! Brewed in Silchester (just outside Reading) and drawing inspiration from new world hops, Germany’s malts and beer styles from across the globe, Wild Weather Ales vow to make your drinking experience as enjoyable as their brewing.

Now with their own on site canning line, collaborations with some of the UK’s most inspirational brewers, and being more and more readily available nationwide Wild Weather is experiencing wild growth.

“Striking branding” you might say. Wild Weather say thank you, but they can hardly take all the credit. When they approached the punk artist and guitarist from the London punk band MÜG he jumped at the chance to have his work displayed across some of this fair land’s greatest drinking establishments.

Cloudwater Brew Co – DDH IPA Citra – 6% – India Pale Ale

DDH stands for “double dry hopped”. Cloudwater has doubled the amount of hops in this IPA to bring you the brewery’s first DDH IPA. Fermented with WLP4000 yeast and dry-hopped with Citra, Amarillo, Chinook and Centennial (big name American hops). WLP4000 yeast was isolated from a uniquely crafted double IPA from the the USA and produces a balanced fruity ester profile of peaches and light citrus that complements any aggressively hopped beer.

Dry hopping is the process of adding hops to a beer to add more of a hop aroma. Traditionally, dry hopping is done in beer styles like pale ales and IPAs, but brewers are utilising this process in many other styles as well. Since you are not boiling the hops, you won’t be extracting any of the oils from them, and therefore will not be contributing to the beer’s bitterness. What you will be adding are hop flavour and aroma. If you are a big hop fan, dry hopping is a must.

At the heart of Cloudwater Brew Co is a deep love for the changing seasons, each bringing with it an invitation to enjoy the scarcity and abundance the natural world offers. Cloudwater want to showcase the ebb and flow by using seasonal ingredients at their very best, and taking inspiration from the change of lifestyle each season creates.

Boundary Brewing Cooperative – Joyous Abandon – 4.8% – Saison

Joyous Abandon is their first bottled mixed fermentation Saison. Using a house culture, they aged this Raspberry Saison in a Pinot Noir barrel and allowed the critters to do what they do best. This beer is the future.

Boundary Brewing Cooperative are a Cooperative Brewery in Belfast owned and run by their members. Opening in 2014, they are the first brewery in NI to bring together modern US styles with the more traditional Belgian/French style beers.

That was just our beer selection. Matt & Steve also brought beers. We alternated between offerings from our various selections. No overall plan, just whatever we felt like.

Printemps from Unity Brewing (a nettle saison) which kicked off our evening (good with fish’n’chips), Project Barista : Turkish from Siren (a big coffee beast), Zuur Goosberry (gooseberry sour) and Mangomarillo from Watsons Brewery in Essex (fruity mango flavours, but not an IPA). We mixed things up with a little Tropic Thunder from Dugges (alcoholic Lilt).

The beer of the festival came next. Intensified Barrel Aged Coffee Porter from Brooklyn Brewery finally showed me what bourbon barrels are for. Making a great beer like this one. We were all blown away by this one. Apart from Hazel (who produced the facial reaction of the festival) and Mrs MOFAD (who was equally unimpressed).

More coffee came next with a Northern Monk patrons project collaboration, morello cherry and Peruvian coffee imperial porter. More coffee bitterness, but the cherry comes through very late.

That was day one. I started off day two with my Cloudwater DDH IPA Citra, which was absolutely fantastic. A hoppy juice bomb that was perfect with my spicy dhansak.

We went sour to kick things off for everyone, with another Vibrant Forest, this time Zuur Rhubarb, which was very pleasant.

Trolltunga from Buxton Brewery was up next, coincidentally we had opened some just two days before. It was just as good 🙂

My bottle of Joyous Abandon was next, a raspberry saison which would be perfect in summer. I know that it is summer, but it wasn’t quite summery enough today.

Back down south next for Tellicherry from Winchester’s Red Cat Brewing, a peppercorn wheat beer. I couldn’t detect the pepper anywhere.

Steve’s Portugese import was next, Coral Tónica from Empresa de Cervejas da Madeira. We’d all had worse, but it didn’t exactly set the world on fire.

Another Red Cat next, Naked Sour (that should get some more hits on this post), a simple and unadulterated sour.

We moved on to Essex next, for Watsons Imperial Black Otter. Allegedly a black IPA or Cascadian dark ale, the nose promises loads of hops, but they are weirdly absent from the palate. A nice dark ale, but I really wanted to taste all of those hops that my nose told me were present.

To round things off, we returned to yesterday’s lovely Project Barista : Turkish from Siren.

It is fair to say that our Hooky beer festival was way better than the official one last year. Great beers, well kept (in bottles and cans) and a good array of styles and flavours. We had all curated some of our favourite styles alongside a few different things. Thanks to Matt & Steve for their selections.

Looking forward to doing it all again in a few months! Already got some good ones lined up 🙂