The Needle & Pin craft beer club – dark beer selection box #13, January 2019

The dark nights are getting shorter, bit by bit. However, there’s still time for plenty of dark beer. We are in to the 34th overall selection box. I’ve only had one from the previous dark selection box so far (plenty of big beasts in there), but I have already finished all of the ones from the last “main” selection box from December, due to their excellent sessionable status.

Let’s dive in to the first selection of 2019…

Buxton – Gatekeeper – 4.1%

When it comes to dark beers, I associate Buxton with big beasts like Kentucky Woods (13.8%), Rain Shadow (11.5%) and Arran (11.5%). So it’s very good to see a traditional porter from them. Bitter coffee and roasted malts lead the charge with more than a hint of liquorice.

Firestone Walker – Mocha Merlin – 5.5%

With an infusion of local roast coffee, a dash of cocoa nibs and touch of seasonal sorcery, Velvet Merlin milk stout has been transformed into Mocha Merlin. This beer is brewed with the Colombia La Granadilla blend from HoneyCo Coffee Roasters. The Colombia La Granadilla coffee meshes perfectly with the chocolatey character from the cocoa nibs, providing an oatmeal stout experience like no other. A touch of lactose provides suggestion of rounded sweetness on the finish. I’ve already polished this one off and there’s no false advertising here, coffee, chocolate and creaminess, a nice gentle stout.

Gipsy Hill – Percolator – 5.0%

Percolator is a coffee oatmeal brown ale collaboration with Dugges. It’s a Café Latte of a beer with three different types of oat, and premium English Cara and Vienna malts. It’s then blended with around a thousand litres of Volcano’s finest cold brew coffee. It offers smooth, full-bodied mouthfuls of oat milk latte.

North Riding – Coffee and Walnut Stout – 7.4%

The Needle & Pin’s 1000th unique cask ale, bottled. Brewed by the team and a few customers at North Riding in September 2018, this is a seriously good coffee stout brewed with a huge sack of locally roasted coffee beans in the FV. It has a little sweetness from the walnuts at the end. I don’t like walnuts, but I’m told this is not an issue.

Redwillow – Restless – 8.5%

Think chocolate fondant meets coffee. Loaded with Vietnamese coffee beans; it’s dark and full bodied with sweet nutty chocolate notes. Good Morning Vietnam! All the Redwillow beers I’ve had so far (quite a few on cask, and lots in cans from Booths) have been great.

Three Hills – Anglian Porter – 5%

From one of the UK’s most up and coming breweries. You may not have heard of them before, but you’re sure to hear lots in the future. Look out for a collaborative brew with them in March. This light, hoppy porter is designed to suit the local water profile and to find the sweet spot between drinkability and flavour.

Wilde Child – Beast Master – 10%

This one is the beast, in name and strength. A salted caramel and cacao nib Imperial Stout. The salted caramel really stands out. Apparently this is up there with Amundsen Zygoat.

Some of these won’t last, some will go into storage for a bit…

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Rothley Fisheries, Leicestershire, January 2019

The title of Leicestershire’s best fish’n’chip shop is hotly contested. This one has always been my candidate for that title.  It’s allegedly where Sven-Göran Eriksson used to go for fish’n’chips when he was Leicester City manager. It has recently changed hands, and on a snowy night in Leicestershire, we made our way here for dinner before our annual charity pub quiz night. I’ve been here on the odd occasion with friends from work, but it was the first visit for the rest of team “My Pointless Friend Richard”.

Fish’n’chips is the classic takeaway dish, but occasionally you can combine its speed of arrival with a bit of a sit down and some plates and cutlery. Here, you can also combine it with beer from the local Charnwood Brewery, with a selection of their bottled ales on offer, served at both room and fridge temperature (your choice).

You also get a pot of tea with your meal, for that full Northern eating experience. Bread and butter is included (because you’ve got to have a chip butty, even if you’re sitting down with a plate). You also get a choice of peas, beans or curry sauce. No need for your Peter Kay “has tha’ nowt moist” quote here.

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Double peas for me as Mrs MOFAD is not a fan. That’s the small fish, the large one (seen on another table) is enormous. You might just spot a bowl of pickles in the top right corner – these are also included. And if all of that is not enough, you can even have a free top up of chips as you are making progress with your meal.

It’s fresh, it’s delicious and it’s very good value. Lovely crisp batter, soft flakes of fish and great chips. Definitely the best fish’n’chips in Leicestershire, whether wrapped up in paper and taken home, or whether you sit down and eat it in the restaurant.

Plank & Leggit, Sawley, January 2019

A #tryanuary adventure with a twist. Of lime. And soda. Another visit to this standard chain pub for some food and some chat. My #tryanuary advenure had to come to a temoporary halt with the sad sight of Greene King IPA. Another night on the lime and soda, but not a problem as there’s plenty of great beer left to sample this month. It just happens to mostly be in my fridge at home.

So on to dinner then, lots of good value food to chose from. Mrs MOFAD had the sweet potato and chick pea curry, I opted for the “chicken New Yorker” a cheese topped hunter’s chicken with a couple of onion rings, half a grilled tomato and a spoonful of peas. Decent chain pub fodder to fill your belly.

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A good evening of chat, if only they’d make an effort to get some beer into the pub.

The Lansdowne, Leicester, January 2019

The first theatre trip of the year, and we don’t have much booked in for 2019 so far. As tonight’s show was a 7:30 start, we had to opt for our “go to” dining choice, The Lansdowne. There are numerous other places to choose from, but none of them are close enough for a 90 minute turnaround. I think we came here at least four times last year, so it’s very familiar, but hopefully not too familiar.

Something that was familiar was a Framework beer on the bar. Familiar, because this is the pub where I’ve had most of their beers, and familiar because I was brewing a beer with them only five days ago. If a beer only has to travel just over a mile to get to the pub, it should be in pretty good condition when it gets there. Brewer’s Gold was indeed in good condition,  easy drinking with a nice hop profile and a good bitter edge.

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On to food, and I had what I pretty much always have, the standard burger. I’ve written more than enough words on the joy of the burger now, so you know my thoughts. Simple and tasty.

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Ever reliable pre-show dining.

Tonight’s show was Sandi Toksvig’s “National Trevor”, kind of like an episode of QI with extended anecdotes, a pub quiz and an audience Q&A at the end. Very funny, informative and entertaining.

Brewday with Framework Brewery, January 2019

A day off. The chance for a lie in? Cup of tea in bed, lazy breakfast?

No. An hour extra in bed, then up, scraping ice from the windscreen (which took ages), and off to Leicester to brew beer. Picking up regular MOFAD drinking companion Alec on the way, we were soon at Friday Street, home of Framework Brewery, in Leicester.

Built circa 1898, the former Leicester Corporation depot was designed by the Leicester-based architect T.W. Pettifor. Corporation depots / yards were once plentiful across the city but many have subsequently been redeveloped. This site went on to become home to a framework knitters, and is one of only a handful of Corporation depots to remain in the city. It is considered by many as the best example, due to the intactness of the buildings.

Part of the depot is now occupied by Framework Brewery, Leicester’s first craft brewery who are proud to be part of the city’s rich cultural present and are inspired by its craft-driven industrial history.

Alec & I were here at the invitation of Sean, proprietor of my pub of the year, The Needle & Pin, in Loughborough. As regular customers, we have consumed one or two pints there, so we were offered the opportunity to help brew something which will be on sale in a few weeks. Sean was already there, chatting with Andrew, owner/brewer and his son Noah, described by his t-shirt as “assistant brewer”.

We had already planned our brew, so the ingredients were ready to go. I was live tweeting the day over on https://twitter.com/TryEastMidlands as part of my #Tryanuary regional co-ordinator duties…

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I’m not going to give too many spoilers as to what we are creating, but the malts that you can see might give you a few clues. The liquor was steaming away nicely on the opposite side of the brewery…

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Liquor is a brewer’s fancy name for water. Our selection of malts were pumped across the brewhouse, and injected into the mash tun (that big metal pot above) whilst being sprayed with water. Brewing is like baking, and Andrew explained that a moist malt mixes much better than a dry one, hence the use of water before it hits the mash tun. As it arrives, it has to be mashed in. We took turns at this, and here is Alec on duty…

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After everything is mixed together, it starts to do its thing, extracting all of those lovely sugars from that malt. The beer is mashing. Next, it is time for a cup of tea, one of the most important parts of the brewing day, and something that also has to be mashed to get the best results.

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After tea and chat, it’s time to sparge. Sparge means to “moisten by sprinkling with water”, and is the process for separating the sugar from the barley. After the mashing process is complete, the grains, water and sugar are all in the mash tun.

Hot water is sprayed across the top of the malt, and sinks through, picking up those lovely sugars on its way to the next vessel, where it will be boiled. This is “wort”. Sparging is best done slowly so that the maximum amount of sugar can be extracted from the malt. Here is the wort on its journey…

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Once it is all sparged, the spent malt is left in the mash tun. If you have timed it right, you will have gone out to fetch a hot sausage and egg cob (Leicestershire speak for bap), so Noah will have the privilege of digging out the mash tun. The spent malt was later picked up by a local farmer to feed to his livestock. You might spot some shoots in there – the heat makes it sprout.

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Next is is time for the boil. The boiling process takes that lovely sweet wort and sterilises it. Boiling releases the alpha acids from the hops that you have just added, and they in turn release some bitterness to complement the sweetness. After the boil, it is cooled and the hopped wort is transferred into a fermentor where the yeast is added, and the magic really starts. The yeast gobbles its way through the sugars, turning them into alcohol and carbon dioxide. This is how it looked after its first night of sleep…

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Whilst all of these processes were going on, there was a lot of time for other tasks. The biggest one was racking off a batch of Foxpaw into casks. This means filling casks with beer, as opposed to the 1980s Australian definition, which means “on your bike” (rack was a slang term for motorbike).

We filled 30 casks with tasty fresh beer, which was then rolled into the cold store for a little rest, before it goes out to beer lovers around the region.

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A great day of brewing, and we are realling looking forward to tasting the result. Andrew and Noah were very generous with their time and sharing their passion and brewing knowledge. We talked about loads of stuff during the day. Thanks to Sean for setting it all up, and to Andrew and Noah for leading us through the process.

The mystery beer is gobbling up some sugar at the minute and will be launched at The Needle & Pin on Thursday 7th February. As well as the “plain version” there will be other special casks available, with additional flavour combinations. You’ll just have to wait and see what those will be…

Keyworth Tavern, January 2019

A winter wander today. We’ve not been to Keyworth for a good few years, but a walking event brought us here to explore with friends. First things first though, lunch. Eventually.

We found a table, had some menus delivered and ordered some drinks. I was pleasantly surprised to see an Adnams Sloe Storm on the bar so I opted for that.

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I’m not certain that it has been well looked after, as it was a bit meh. Important note – don’t believe all of the beers that have been checked in here on Untappd – you won’t find any Patrons Project, Het Uiltje or Evil Twin here, despite what someone is trying to convince you. Back to lunch…

One of our party was running a bit late due to sat nav issues, so we waited until they had arrived to order food. And then we waited. And waited. And waited. The first half of West Ham v Arsenal had been and gone. Eventually our lunches turned up, but how long should it take for a few sandwiches and jacket potatoes? Not as long as it did.

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It was lovely when it did arrive, a pulled pork melt on a Spanish baguette (lovely and crisp), and some token salad. Just a shame that it took so long, as that had a knock on effect on the rest of our day.

A nice village pub, in a village full of pubs. We’d definitely go back, just as long as we weren’t in a hurry.

The Sultan of Keswick, January 2019

It’s the end of our Lakes holiday. The weather has been very kind to us, seven walks and seven more Wainwrights added to our total, which now stands at 123, with 91 to go. We’ve completed book 6, the North Western Fells.

As it’s a Friday night, we’re having curry as usual, and treating ourselves to a takeaway. Regular readers will know that we very rarely eat in at a curry house as they just don’t have anything that we would like to drink. The beer and cider that we have bought from local shops is way better than what’s on offer here, so our #tryanuary adventure is continuing at home tonight after a couple of nights out down the pub.

In keeping with the spirit of #tryanuary, we’re trying a new curry house, The Sultan of Keswick. We usually go to Lakeland Spice Cuisine, so we decided to take a chance on this one. The first thing you notice is that the price is much higher than everywhere else in town, even with a 20% discount for takeaways.

I went for one of my usual selections when trying out a new curry house, chicken shatkora, a chicken curry with small pieces of a citrus fruit known sometimes as a wild orange. I love the sourness of this fruit with the richness of a curry sauce, but tonight there was an enormous lack of fruit, although plenty of chicken. And lots of spiciness, probably the spiciest shatkora that I’ve ever had.

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It was accompanied by a lovely naan bread. Overall, it was not bad, but I don’t think it’s better than our usual haunt.

On to that #tryanuary bit. I like a spot of IPA with my curry, and this Eden River Brew Co “Yakama” was full of dry and fruity bitterness, lovely west coast stylings. Very tasty stuff, one of their best, up with Amber Rocket.

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If you think that Eden River Brew Co sound a bit familiar, it’s because until last summer they were known as “Eden Brewery”, changing to something more “craft-oriented” (their words) to get them recognised outside of Cumbria. I’ve been drinking their beer before they were trendy 🙂