Beer of the month – January #tryanuary 2018 – Amber Rocket by Eden Brewery

#tryanuary has been good fun. Learning about lots of new beers and breweries from around the country. I even hosted one of the days on social media, bashing out loads of tweets about pubs and breweries from all across Leicestershire.

I’ve also been sampling new beers from near (Framework tap takover night) and far (Cumbria and Hampshire feature in this line up as well as a couple of Scandinavians). The year starts much like many of 2017’s monthly round ups, with all beers featured here being sampled in bottle or can at home (or on holiday). Other good beers were had in the pub, but they didn’t beat these ones.

We start with Dugges from Landvetter, near Gothenburg in Sweden. They have featured here before, with Jasmine Dragon and Tropic Thunder both featuring in previous round ups. You would hope that a beer called Mango Mango Mango would have lots of lovely mango flavours and no overbearing sweetness. That’s exactly what it does have, one of my favourite mango beers (they seem to be so hard to get right).

The wonderfully named Murk Du Soleil from Marble Beers next. A New Zealand take on the New England IPA style and a collaboration with their Kiwi friends at Hop Burns and Black in London. A pale, oat-laden grist gives a full, silky-smooth body, setting the stage for fruity South Island hop character – passion fruit, papaya, nectarine, kiwi and mango. The pine and fruits are nicely balanced, but where is the murk? Maybe it had all settled in the last few millimetres of the can.

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To another regular star of these round ups, Vibrant Forest Brewery and their Rum-Barrel Aged Kick-Start, full of smooth and sweet stoutiness. Something barrel aged under 6% – very much welcome! Classic Vibrant liveliness too.

Another interloper now in the shape of Tropical Super Itchy by Evil Twin Brewing, the Danish nomadic brewery who are making some of the best beers right now. TSI is a sour wheat beer packed full of lovely sour passion fruit flavours. A tropical super winner.

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Something that hasn’t featured in the round ups so far is a sour farmhouse IPA, and U.F.I.P.A from Redchurch Brewery rectifies that, an IPA that has been introduced to some Brettanomyces. My initial review began with the words “slam dunk da funk”, but this reference to a 1997 song by tedious boyband 5ive is probably lost on most people. You should be glad of that, my head is filled with this kind of useless trivia. A really interesting funky flavour from the souring, with no hops noticeable. Another great example of what #tryanuary is all about.

Familiar territory again next, and where would we be without a Cloudwater in the round up? More Danes involved too, as this was a collaboration with Dry and Bitter, and I foresee more of their beers in my future. Mobile Speaker was smooth, fruity, juicy, and had a delicious thickness. A lovely dry hopped beast with Citra and Galaxy hops swirling around.

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We are up to third place, and off to Tottenham next, for Domino Topple, a Mosaic IPA from Pressure Drop Brewing, and there was a hint of strawberry about it. Delicious with Sri Lankan black pork curry (what I cooked), and easy drinking too.

To Cumbria for this month’s silver medal, Mutiny from Stringers, my favourite of their beers so far. Dark fruits, dark chocolate and coffee and maybe a little bit of liquorice somewhere in the mix. A dark and smooth delight.

To this month’s winner then, in the shape of Amber Rocket by Eden Brewery, a “supercharged” American amber ale. One of the top 5 of this style too, up there with Hawkshead Sundown, Vibrant Forest Cydonia, and Cwtch (which I’d put in this category). Probably half of my top 10 come from Cumbrian breweries, which is interesting. 

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Lovely hoppiness and a deserving winner but it probably won’t be beer of the year because there’s some amazing stuff to look forward to in 2018, and that’s just the stuff that I’ve got in stock. Who knows what wonders are being brewed or dreamt up right now?

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The Victoria Inn, Syston, January 2018

Another outing for “My Pointless Friend Richard” in the classic line up of me, Mrs MOFAD, Karon & John. As the quiz was on, the pub weren’t doing food so we had picked up emergency fish’n’chips and taunted other quiz teams by eating them in here.

The brain cogs need lubrication, so a pint of Black Dragonfly was in order, from up the A46 in Newark.

It is described as a black IPA. It is not that. A pleasant bitter with roasted malts is what it is. And it didn’t help, as “My Pointless Friend Richard” suffered another defeat at this venue.

Syston Fish Bar, January 2018

This was not in our plans. However, due to some timing errors, we didn’t have time to eat at another pub before “My Pointless Friend Richard” attempted to reclaim their Intercare quiz crown at The Victoria Inn. So an emergency executive decision was executed and we popped in to the Syston Fish Bar for some fish’n’chips. However, no-one had explained to the staff that they would need to serve customers and learn how to operate a till. It took the guy serving at least 5 minutes to ring up 2 meals.

The fish’n’chips was ok, nothing very special. It filled a hole and fed the brains in advance of quizzing. It was hoovered up quickly, so no photo.

Centro Lounge, Loughborough, January 2018

The latest in the series of “cinema and dinner” posts. Tonight’s film was the fantastic Early Man, and whilst there were very few people in the cinema, this was no reflection on the excellence of the film.

Our go to pre/post cinema dining place is Centro Lounge, not least because it is next door to the cinema. That often leads to familiar menu choices, and occasional dalliances with the monthly specials. Familiar tonight, Mrs MOFAD went for some tapas, and I went for the Buttermilk Fried Chicken with skin on fries, chipotle mayo and “house slaw”. Recipes that use buttermilk will tell you that its acid content tenderises the chicken, and that certainly was the case here, very moist chicken with a nice crispy coating.

The chipotle mayo has a nice warm kick to it, but the slaw was another one that was heavy on the red onion. The trend nowadays seems to be that slaw (aka red slaw) represents a dish with either a light vinaigrette or no dressing and coleslaw (aka white slaw) comes with mayonnaise.

Brewdog Nottingham, January 2018

A very rare excursion to Nottingham. Very rare. In fact, I think the last time we came here was because the Derby Assembly Rooms had burned down. So that puts it in 2014. Four years on, and there’s still no Assembly Rooms. Apparently it will be knocked down in 2020 and rebuilt in 2022. On that occasion, we were here to watch Sarah Millican’s rescheduled show. Today, there was a Christmas present to exchange. We just don’t come to Nottingham these days.

After achieving our goal, we wandered down to Brewdog for lunch, as it was our closest option for good food and an interesting beer. Well, one of us had an interesting beer. My Indie Pale Ale was a very dull biscuity lager which did not exhibit any of the “pear and banana notes” that were claimed in the tasting notes.

Mrs MOFAD’s beer was far more interesting. Raspberry Popsicle Parade was fruity, smooth and a little tart, a 0.5% raspberry Berliner Weisse. If only all low alcohol beer was this good.

Lunch was pizza. My Brewdog dining experience is generally formed of burgers or pizza, and this is a pizza establishment. Which means I will be choosing King of Pigs, gyula sausage, leeks, tomatoes, with mozzarella and watercress. As usual, it was delicious. Pizza done simply and done well is a thing to behold. This had tasty sausage, with the piquancy of leeks and great peppery watercress. I wouldn’t mind a few more slices of sausage and a lot more watercress.

Another solid Brewdog experience.

Railway Inn, Swadlincote, January 2018

Swad is odd. That is an opinion, but I’m going to prove it to you in a minute with a photo of my dinner. An early evening meet up with some friends in a pub that we’ve been to a couple of times before, most recently in December 2015, which saw a healthy victory for “My Pointless Friend Richard”.

Tonight however saw the same problem that blighted the previous visit – no decent beer on, so I was once again turning to my soft drink staple of lime and soda.

Here comes the weird bit. Fish and chips. With salad. What madness is this? The fish and chips were a decent pub effort (very crisp batter), but salad? They’ve even gone to the effort of trying to put something interesting in it, not just some limp iceberg. It just doesn’t go with fish and chips though.

Swad is odd.

Moon & Bell, Loughborough, January 2018

I’ve written about ‘spoons before. It’s convenient, and when you’re meeting friends in the pub in order to plan summer trips then the most important requirement is wifi, so that you have facts at your fingertips. With any luck, the beer will be in good condition, and the food will be ok.

With any luck, there will actually be some food, as Wetherspoons has been hit by meat shortages this week (no steak on steak night) after a product recall from their supplier Russell Hume, who were unable to demonstrate compliance with food hygiene rules at its locations. (Edit : just one month later, Russell Hume went into administration after JD Wetherspoon and Jamie’s Italian amongst others cancelled their supply contracts).

Beer first, and something new to me from the reliable Titanic brewery, in the form Black Ice, described as a black IPA or Cascadian dark ale.

I wasn’t really in agreement with this, it’s more dark red ice, a not unpleasant beer but nothing special and not really in the black IPA category like Beavertown’s Black Betty or Saltaire’s Kala Black.

Thankfully, there was some food available tonight, that pub classic “half chicken and chips”, with a dash of coleslaw and some BBQ sauce. Another of those dishes that are very easy to get wrong, but simple and tasty if you get them right.

It was pretty good, and helped to fuel our evening of planning. Lots of trips on the cards later in the year, and I suspect that will lead to more blog posts, as these things tend to 🙂