Royal Albert Hall, February 2018

How do you get to the Royal Albert Hall? Practice!

One of the oldest musical jokes in the world there. In my case, the answer was via Kensington Palace (grounds, above) and Kensington Gardens, after a walk through the snow. It was bitterly cold, with a “realfeel” of -10 celsius, aka “brrrrrrrrrr”. Much as I wanted to stay out strolling along the Serpentine and up to the Hyde Park bandstand, a little defrosting was required. As the Albert Memorial had just loomed into view (it’s hard to miss it!) it meant that his hall was not far away.

One day I’ll come here for a performance. I’ve so far missed all 208 of Eric Clapton’s appearances, the RAH’s most prolific living performer. Today, it was just for a nice warm cup of coffee and a chance to hang about in this historic building for half an hour. There’s a lot of building work going on at the minute, so this 1871 landmark is not quite at its best, although it is still mightily impressive. More ancient and steeped in history than the Sydney Opera House (we’ve been to a performance there!) but not as quirky.

The beer selection is awful (not a problem today), but the coffee was decent enough. A great place to stop even if you’re not catching a show. A welcome warm up after a chilly stroll.


The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – sour beer selection box #2 – February 2018

It’s already time for the second sour beer selection box. The highlight (so far) from the first box has to be Mango Mango Mango from Dugges, lots of lovely mango and no overbearing sweetness. Gose to Hollywood was also a good one, full of sour fruits and zingy tartness. Let’s delve into the latest box of delights…

Lines – Citrus Grisette – 3.5%

Lines decided to make a summer fruity blend, combining a soft juicy grisette with a wheat and oat body, and using a saison strain to leave some delicious sweet spice in the background. The beer, which Lines class as a fruit grisette, a lemon zest and grapefruit conditioned summer Belgian beer.

Wild Beer – Fruitbooter – 5.7%

A blast of fruitiness, a foudre-fermented (and then aged), pink peppercorn saison topped up with an acid drop of select barrels from the Wild Beer library before being packed to the brim with the ripest Somerset raspberries to create a tart, jammy, and mouthwatering beer.

Stillwater – A Saison Darkly – 8%

Brewed with dark malts and burnt sugars then lightly spiced with rose hips, hibiscus, & schisandra berries. Even though Stillwater Artisanal Ales are based in Maryland, United States, this dark saison was brewed at Sint Canarus, a house brewery in Gottem, Belgium in association with brewmaster mister Piet Meirhaeghe – also known as Dr. Canarus.

To Øl – Mr Blue – 7.5%

A rustique Saison brewed with blueberries, and the first beer to be released from the To Øl ‘Reservoir Dogs’ series. A malt base of rye, wheat and oats to deliver a spicy, full mouthfeel, hopped with Galaxy and Belma and then 500 kg of blueberries per 1000 litres. This beer is complex and well rounded with Belgian yeasty notes blended with the fresh blueberries that adds notes of Nordic forest floors.

Buxton/Stillwater – Raspberry Superluminal – 7%

A raspberry version of Superluminal Sour India Pale Ale, part of a continuing collaboration with Stillwater Artisanal. Big raspberry flavours with mango and grapefruit coming through from the hops and sweet raspberry on the finish.

Gipsy Hill/Duration – Barnstormer – 4.7%

A collaboration between Gipsy Hill and the “work in progress” farmhouse brewery Duration. It’s a wild sort of saison that’s been kettle soured overnight, cherry wood was then added to the boil and it was then fermented with three strains of yeast. Tart, dry and complex.




The Needle & Pin craft beer club – dark beer selection box #7 – February 2018

The seventh dark beer selection, perfectly timed for the depths of winter. Let’s peer through the gloom and into the darkness…

8 Wired – Flat White Coffee Milk Stout – 5.5%

Honourably named after New Zealand’s national style of barista coffee. A title that has been wrestled away from freeze dried instant coffee and made NZ one of the best coffee destinations in the world. Brewed with coffee, vanilla beans and lactose.

Buxton x Stillwater – Subluminal Coffee Imperial Stout – 10%

The second brew of Subluminal, this time with coffee. An imperial stout brewed in collaboration with Sillwater Artisanal (NY, USA). Delicious, pitch black, chewy, and unmissable. The latest addition to Buxton’s decorated lineup of impy collabs. Drink me. Love me. Never forget me.

Brouwerij De Molen – Rasputin – 10.4%

Rasputin is a sweet imperial stout with subtle chocolate and coffee notes accompanied by plums, the first brew from De Molen. The beer is brewed only in limited numbers once or twice a year. A heavy, bitter stout with a traditional high alcohol content to prevent the beer from freezing during the icy crossing from England to Russia. Strong yet not overwhelming. Try ageing it for a couple of years to unearth its full complexity. I already have one of these, so I might just do that 🙂 Don’t drink straight from the fridge or you’ll miss out on those complexities. Take it out around 15-20 minutes before you want to drink it.

Wild Weather Ales – Bello Di Mamma Tiramisu Stout – 6%

Vanilla and lactose make way for a rich Italian coffee centre. Notes of Amaretto and biscuit leave behind the memory of Mamma’s classic Tiramisu.

North Riding Brewery – Choc Fudge Brownie Stout – 7.4%

Brewed by Stu at North Riding brewed this beer on request from the N&P, and also bottled some especially for the Dark Beer Club. Brewed as a tribute to the Brouwerij Kees Fudge Brownie Stout that was a big hit in bottles last year (I’ve got one of these waiting for me in the garage). Think chocolate fudge, brownie, vanilla and little hints of red fruit and nuts. There are two casks also being aged, to be served when they are about a year old.

Buxton x Omnipollo – Yellow Belly Imperial Stout – 11%

A peanut butter and biscuit imperial stout. Brewed without peanut butter. Brewed without biscuits.

The Rainbow Project (created by Siren Craft Brew) brings together 14 breweries to make 7 collaborative beers themed on the colours of the rainbow. I’ve written about this a few times already. In 2014, Buxton drew yellow out of the hat and were paired up with the Stockholm based Omnipollo.

They sat down and discussed what they could brew based on the idea of yellow. After some time, there was consensus that the prime meaning or idea expressed by the colour yellow is cowardice. The next challenge was to turn this idea into a beer.

The political situation throughout Europe was in turmoil at the time, with lots of far right wing movements on the rise. “One thing that struck us while the preliminary political polls were being presented during election night was that the actual support for the Swedish fascist party was in reality 40% higher than what people had disclosed when asked (face to face) what they voted for just after casting their ballot. At the same time the polls were more or less accurate when it came to other parties on the political scale”, Omnipollo’s Henok Fentie said.

One thing that this could mean is that although people vote extreme right they are on average not as prone to admitting to it as people voting for other parties are. Being a coward can mean many different things, but protesting anonymously at the expense of people’s freedom and right to co-exist without showing your face is one meaning that that the team felt was relevant.

So, with all this in mind, the yellow beer became an 11% Peanut Butter and Biscuit Imperial Stout. Except there are no peanuts or biscuits in it, and it is in no way yellow. It was then dressed it in the most hateful, cowardly-anonymous costume they knew of. Taste, enjoy and don’t be prejudiced.

Another tasty selection, a few to store for a while, a few to start drinking a little sooner.

A sad sandwich from Ginsters

It’s not all glamour and glitz from lovely pubs and bars. Sometimes I’m eating a sandwich at my desk (aka “al desko”). This always runs the risk of a travesty of a sandwich arriving. Today was another of those days with this feeble effort from Ginsters, which was much more of a damp squib than the expected “firecracker chicken”.

A smattering of chicken in this limited edition sandwich. Limited chicken sandwich more like. What a con.