Beer of the month – December 2017 – Double Heathen by Northern Monk

December can be a tricky month when it comes to choosing a beer of the month, because there are often special edition beers knocking around, and there are bound to be some Xmas specials like last year’s beer of the month for December, Christmas Cake Imperial Stout from Cloudwater and To 0l. This year it’s another month where there’s only 1 beer that was drunk in a pub, the rest are bottles and cans sampled at home or elsewhere.

There are quite a few “honourable mentions” this month, such as Wyoming Sheep Ranch by Buxton Brewery (sweet and strong pine forests),  Spring + Summer Session IPA Amarillo Citra by Cloudwater Brew Co (tropical citrus, hint of peach, some dryness, some bitterness), Catch My Eye (another Cloudwater), The Tropical by Wild Weather Ales (very nice peach sour), Mormora Sour (different from Cloudwater, a coffee sour with classic coffee bitterness, almost a green coffee bean flavour).

On then to the main event, where we find sours, stouts, IPAs and something a bit different.

Sour first, with Summer/Hallertau Blanc Double Sour by Chorlton Brewing Company, a massive sour beast which was really nice. Probably a perfect summer sour but still worked in December.

An old friend next, Bourbon Oktober by Vibrant Forest Brewery (winner in October 2016). As it has aged, the former liveliness has dissipated but the big flavours are still there.

You knew it wouldn’t be long before Cloudwater came along, so here’s their first in the round up, DDH IPA Amarillo, full of delightful hoppy bitterness, very nice indeed.

Beaverillium by Beavertown is up next, another brewery who have featured reasonably regularly in these round ups. Beaverillium was full of smooth and silky mango, with bitterness and some malt creeping in later on.

Two more Cloudwaters next, a DDH IPA Nelson Sauvin Galaxy which was super smooth and fruity juice with a nice rounded flavour. And to prove that they do other stuff as well, we have our only pub beer, Black Forest, served from the newly installed keg lines at the Needle & Pin. It was a delightful beast, cake in a glass, a festive delight and another winner for #evilkegfilth (yes, that’s an ironic hashtag).

We return to bottles for third place, and a Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) by Founders Brewing Co. This was smoother than a sand blasted smooth thing, big stout flavours with coffee on the nose and chocolate swirling around. No alcohol burn which is often a danger with these big stouts.

We have literally finished off the year with a New Year’s Eve bottle of Serpent by Thornbridge, a suitable celebratory beer, because it’s not really a beer, more of a beery cider, and it feels right for the annual celebration as another year closes.

On then to the winner for December 2017, Double Heathen by Northern Monk, another brewery that have featured a few times in the end of month round ups, but haven’t won since January 2016 (with Eternal their session IPA).

The “normal” version of Heathen featured in May 2017’s round up, and Double Heathen takes that beer to the next level, full of fantastically vicious bitterness, some sweet pine and madly easy drinking for a 10% DIPA. Love it.

So that’s another 12 months in beer. Now to try and choose the beer of the year.

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Star of Siam, Keswick, December 2017

The traditional New Year’s Eve takeaway. For the first time in a long time, we are not in Ambleside, and not going to Jade Garden, Lucky Dragon, China Cottage, Doi Intanon (on the rare year that it was open on NYE) or Jintana.

In Keswick, we turned to a familiar Thai restaurant, Star of Siam. We’ve been coming here for as long as we’ve been coming to Keswick, a lovely friendly Thai restaurant, and great for takeaways (as ever we like to drink our own beer rather than drink poor quality offerings in takeaway outlets).

Here is a case in point.

Thornbridge Serpent.

I encountered this beer for the first time on “Thornbridge night” at The Needle & Pin in December 2016. We deconstructed the beer that night, tasting a very sour and tannic Oliver’s cider, a sweet perry, and a meh bourbon. On that night, it tasted like the lees (the leftover bits from fermenting cider, yeasts, skins and whatever’s left) had really dominated this brew, a Belgian style golden ale.

A year on, and it’s even better. So much apple, the beer that’s not a beer.

On to dinner, which accompanied this fantastic beer that’s not beer. A classic starter, satay chicken with peanut chilli sauce. Just to be clear, the satay part is not the peanut bit that you like, that’s in the sauce. The satay part is usually made from lemongrass, shallots, garlic, chilli, ginger, turmeric, coriander, soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar and a few other bits.

The “slaw” bit might not be the most authentic, but it works here with the juicy chicken and tasty peanut chilli sauce.

On to the main event. Chicken gang massaman. The massaman is probably my favourite Thai curry, perhaps because of more peanut. It varies from place to place. I always used to have beef, but too many cheap cuts of steak have left me favouring chicken instead. A very simple one tonight, a few bits of carrot and some chunks of onion,

Simple, but very tasty, and a fantastic way to round out another lovely year of food and drink. Many great meals accompanied by many great beers. 2017 has been a good one.

Lake District Wildlife Park cafe, Bassenthwaite, Cumbria, December 2017

Keep it simple and you won’t go far wrong. A reasonable mantra for life and certainly for a business. After our aborted visit to the Wheatsheaf Inn, we came back this way, having driven past on our way to the “no food today” pub.

The Lake District Wildlife Park has been around for a while, but we’ve never been, as we are usually out in the hills with the actual local wildlife rather than the imported mandrils and red pandas in cages.

The most handy feature is that they have a cafe that serves food all day, and you can visit the cafe without paying to get in to the park itself, which is nice. Both Mrs MOFAD and I had a ham and cheese panino which comes with chilli tortilla chips and a nice coleslaw (not onion heavy).

Exactly what we wanted for today, well priced, tasty and quick. A friendly little cafe which is handily placed if you find yourself at the top end of Bassenthwaite Lake (the only lake in the Lake District).

We didn’t linger as there was one more Wainwright to ascend for 2017, and we had to get up and down before it got too dark…

Wheatsheaf Inn, Embleton, Cumbria, December 2017

This is another one of those “I was going to tell you about it but I can’t” posts.

After our trip up to Dodd this morning (our penultimate Wainwright for 2017), we had planned to have lunch here and then drive a short way to park up and tackle Ling Fell.

This plan fell flat on its face when we arrived, parked up, and then went into the pub. We were about to choose a table and asked whether they were still doing food (“good food all day every day” is proclaimed outside). Sadly, they weren’t as they were setting up for a New Year’s Eve party later on, so were unable to rustle up a couple of sandwiches and a bowl of chips.

We waved a cheery goodbye, got back in the car, and then drove halfway back towards where we started from to find some lunch. Another attempt to support a local business thwarted…

The Crafty Sheep Dog, Keswick, December 2017

Beer drinkers in Keswick have always been well served by Booths, Britain’s greatest supermarket (although sadly now up for sale, so at risk from losing that title depending on who buys them up).

However, Booths can’t get hold of everything beer-related, because some stuff is made in batches that are too small for distribution to supermarkets. So there is a gap in the market for someone to supply local and “not too far away” beers. Step forward “The Crafty Sheep Dog”.

The Crafty Sheep Dog (not to be confused with The Crafty Baa in Windermere) is found inside Sheep-ish in Keswick, a friendly clothes shop that has lots of sheep-themed designs and parodies, in the form of t-shirts, hoodies and the like.

More importantly, they have a corner of the shop dedicated to Cumbrian breweries and one “guest brewery”. Right now that guest brewery is the lovely Fyne Ales, so I had to pick up a couple of them as well as one each from Tractor Shed, Hardknott and Fell.

There are plenty to choose from, so even if you’ve had a lot of Cumbrian beer (like me) then you’ll find some interesting new things tucked away in crafty corner.

Definitely worth a visit, particularly with #tryanuary coming up!

Tebay Services, December 2017

A trip to Keswick always means a trip to Tebay services, the best on the entire motorway network. We try to time our arrival for lunchtime to combine a spot of shopping with a spot of lunch. In the summertime, the BBQ is usually on the go outside which means a delicious local juicy burger.

It’s just a little chilly for that today, so we opted for a seat in the cafe in the sunshine, where we could watch the ducks skating around on the frozen pond.

Whilst they skidded around in the cold, we enjoyed some nice warm food. Where else on the motorway would you get a ham and cheese toastie that looks and tastes this good? Nowhere. One of the only service stations where it’s a pleasure to have to stop. No sad and dusty cans of cola products required either, the delicious Square Root Ginger Beer from Square Root Soda Works in Hackney. They  won the 2015 BBC Food & Farming Awards for best drinks producer, the first soft drinks company to make it in to the final, let alone win the award.

A lovely lunch was then followed by some shopping, picking up some local beer and foods as well as some delicatessen delights. We’ll be back in the summer.

The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – selection box #9 – December 2017

Just in time for Christmas, it’s time for the latest Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club selection box, which I think is the fifteenth in total. Today’s photo is not the most glamorous of backdrops, but this is about the contents, not the presentation! Let’s dive in…

Green Flash – Soul Style – 6.5%

Green Flash are one of San Diego’s finest breweries, and I’ve already had three of their beers, West Coast IPA (heavy pine, malty sweetness), Passion Fruit Kicker (subtle passion fruit and wheat) and GFB (an acronym with two definitions).

Soul Style IPA is their manifestation of a single IPA, just to prove that there are still some out there in this world of DIPAs, TIPAs, IIPAs and the like. Simcoe, Citra and Cascade hops are layered, allowing bright tropical waves of flavourful citrus and floral notes to break gently on the palate.

Omnipollo – Zodiak – 6.2

A rather conformist beer from the Omnipollo team, Zodiak is their new house IPA. A blend of grains, untouched post fermentation and aspiringly hopped with Simcoe, Citra and Centennial.

Poppels – West Coast IPA – 5.4%

Brewing since 2012 and certified as organic since 2016, Poppels are a Swedish brewery who seem to be in the shadow of some of the more illustrious Scandinavian breweries.
West Coast IPA originates from the American west coast, known as the beer lover’s beer. This brew is packed with bouquet & bite from the variety of hops used to create an ever-evolving beer style.

Pressure Drop – Domino Topple – 7.2%

Located just around the corner from Beavertown, and brewing some great beers, Pressure Drop are a popular brewery. Bosko has been my favourite so far. Domino topple is full of chewy, mango fruitiness with that lovely hoppy bitter bite, a lovely dank IPA.

To Øl – Tangerine Dream – 4.6%

Tangerine Dream is a soft, balanced cream ale infused with ripe tangerines and ideas of balance. It is also named after one of the coolest electronic bands ever. You should listen to The Myth of Dragons or Light Flux while drinking this beer.

Yeastie Boys – Bigmouth IPA – 4.4%

It’s a bit of a surprise that this is the first Yeastie Boys beer to feature in the Craft Beer Club. I’ve had three of their output already, Digital IPA, Pot Kettle Black and Gunnamatta, all handily available in my favourite supermarket Booths. Their beer was brewed under contract in the UK at Brewdog, and they have just announced that their new UK brewer is West Berkshire Brewery shortly, after that relationship ended earlier this year.

Bigmouth is an extra pale, unfiltered, hoppy session ale. It is full of tropical, grapefruit, lemon and white wine notes from the Nelson-grown New Zealand hops (Nelson Sauvin, Wakatu, Taiheke). A luscious mouthfeel, from the heavy use of wheat and oats, carries the hop flavour across the palate before easing out with a dry, bitter finish.