Meet the Brewer – Three Hills – Needle & Pin – March 2019

Another lovely meet the brewer event at the N&P. Three Hills owner Andrew cut his teeth as a brewer in China, and now he is back home in the UK brewing up some sensational beers. Named after local neolithic tombs, Three Hills Brewing is a garage nano-brewery based in Woodford, Northamptonshire.

Their mission is to produce high quality, innovative and experimental small-batch beers for those who love to explore new taste sensations (that would be me). Rather than reproducing the same beers, they focus on creating a new recipe every time to keep things interesting. When they say small batch, they mean it: whether it’s IPA, saison, stout, wheat or unhopped gruit, their 225-600L batches allow them to brew with love and creativity. The result is truly unique, limited edition beers. There’s a lot of debate about core ranges versus constant evolution, but I think there’s room in the market for both.

One of the main reasons for tonight was to launch the collaboration brew between Three Hills and the N&P, a 5% Rhubarb Crumble Stout called “Giant Leap”. It was sweet and smooth with definite rhubarb notes. Paired well with a little rhubarb cakey treat too!

The other beers available were:-

Three Hills IPA V4 – sweetness, maltiness and a little bitterness. Well rounded.

Woodford Experiment Pale – smooth cask pale with a tasty hop profile and a nice bitterness.

Kveik – ooh that’s Belgian. I mean technically it’s Norwegian because it’s their word for yeast but a definite Belgian flavour profile. Very farmhouse!

Small Steps V3 – mint on the nose and some grapefruit on the finish. Light and refreshing, a lovely summer beer.

Due to having to catch an earlier bus (curse work in the morning!) I didn’t get chance to have a good natter tonight, but there’s always next time. I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more from Three Hills in 2019.

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Self guided Bristol brewery tour, March 2019

A kind of “winter camping” weekend, with regular MOFAD companions Matt & Hazel and Steve & Janette. We get together a lot in the summer to go camping (and share and drink beer), but there’s always a long gap at the end of camping season, so we planned a city break in order to combat this.

We had loads of plans about how exactly we would do this, but poor transport options and various other factors meant that we opted for staying in a Holiday Inn in the city centre, rather too close to a very unsavoury area known as “The Bearpit”. Stay away from the subways…

The ladies were off on a wooly tour, we had planned a walking tour of the city, which just so happened to take in some brewery taps. Not all of them, since a few have different opening hours in the cooler seasons. Our plan was Moor -> Dawkins -> Arbor -> Fierce & Noble -> Wiper & True -> New Bristol -> Croft and then back to the hotel.

This changed pretty quickly along the way, as we received some updated opening hours information, which then changed again. More on that story later.

We were camped on the doorstep of Moor, waiting for them to open at 12pm sharp. We were straight in, and seleced a couple of beers each, enjoying a nice relaxed start to the day. Others soon started to arrive and it started to get noisy with conversations and music.

I had a “Dead Punk All Dayer”, which was full of flavour wrapped up in just 3.5% – a super session IPA, and the right way to start! I also had Claudia, a session hoppy wheat ale, which was also really tasty.

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You can also see “Stout” and “B-Moor” which were favoured by Matt & Steve. A few items were picked up to take away.

At this point, had they been open, we could have gone to Left Handed Giant and Good Chemistry, but that wasn’t an option.

We were going to go to Dawkins next, but they had changed their own plans, so we made our way to Arbor instead. The Arbor tap room at the moment is just a portakabin in the car park, but they do have sockets so you can charge your phone (important when live tweeting a walking tour of the city).

Unfortunately they had no beer on cask (at a brewery!), and only a couple of things on keg, with lots more cans in the fridge. The problem with the cans is that Arbor favour the pint can for their beers, and that’s not necessarily what you want when you go to a tap room. I’m looking forward to thirds or halves of various different beers. Some people like pints, and they are almost always available everywhere, but it’s nice to have the choice to try different ones in smaller measures.

As it was they were only selling halves or pints of a couple of keg beers, so we were rather limited. I had Brut’n’Free, a gluten free Brut IPA brewed with Amarillo, Simcoe and Mosaic hops. It was one of the better Brut IPAs that I’ve had, a style I’m interested in but haven’t really found “the one” yet.

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Because they didn’t have much on, we didn’t linger. Matt & Steve had Basta Rosse which I really like, but they are not such big fans of the hoppiness. No takeaways here.

We were off to Dawkins next. Yesterday they tweeted to say that they would be open early for the rugby (not why we were going), and their new opening time of 2pm fitted perfectly into our revised schedule. However, upon arrival, there was a distinct lack of activity. We poked our heads in and were told that they weren’t opening as planned as they had to clean up after a large party the previous evening. So we left and went to Fierce and Noble instead. If you say one thing and do another, your customers will go elsewhere…

Fierce and Noble definitely had the rugby on, in the “main room” next door. We hung out in the bar area, and took the opportunity to grab some rolls and crisps for lunch (a simple thing to sell ham rolls, cheese rolls, etc. behind the bar, but many places won’t). A half of session IPA, nice and easy drinking, and a Masquerade Pale, full of lovely fruitiness.

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You can also see the black IPA (simply called Black IPA) which was tolerated by my drinking companions. Not pictured is Pain au Chocolat Stout, which one of us had but another couldn’t due to the presence of chocolate, which is something which doesn’t agree with many drinkers.

A very interesting building to have a tap room in, lots of wood panels, and much nicer than Arbor’s portakabin 🙂 A few takeaways were picked up here too.

Off to Wiper and True next. This was the moment when I slightly rued having taken up the offer of some rolls, since they had a pizza oven out in the car park. I love pizza and beer, a great combination, but always better to eat instead of hoping there will be something on…

I’ve had a few W&T beers over the years, so it was nice to find some new things on. I started out with a Sicilian Sour, which was just that, with gentle lemon notes. Perfect for a sunny summer afternoon, but not bad on a cool spring one.

After that was Phantasmagoria, fresh from the tank, a tap room exclusive and a balance of juiciness and bitterness. Right up my street.

You can also see the darkness behind, with a Pink Peppercorn Porter (not much peppercorn, but pleasant) and a Milk Shake Stout, which was very nice, but the presence of lactose ruled it out for one of our number.

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The next destination was New Bristol brewery. We didn’t quite time this right, as the England rugby match was about to start, and it was rather packed out. This prevented much conversation, and also meant that plastic drinking vessels were in use. Boo to that, but you can understand why.

Pictured are Lemon Jelly IPA (smooth sherbert lemon zinginess) and Pineapple Pale (a metric megatonne of pineapple which has stomped all over any other flavours that might have been present).

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Steve had the Coffee Maple Bacon stout. Nothing available to take away, so off to our final destination, Croft Brewery.

Nice to see glasses again. In them you can see B52 (simple session ale), Beast (a classic hoppy bitter) and Black Book (thin but tasty dry stout).

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Lots of different cans available here so we grabbed quite a few each as it was the last leg of our tour.

A lovely day out exploring Bristol breweries. On this particular route, there wasn’t much else, so you definitely need to take advantage of food where it’s offered (there’s a branch of Iceland next door to Dawkins). Moor was probably the nicest tap room, Arbor was a bit too “rustic”. Wiper & True opt for the long benches and trestle table approach but there was a nice atmosphere. New Bristol needs judging when there’s not rugby on, and Croft was a nice end to the day. I liked the character of the Fierce and Noble building.

Definitely a grand day out, as Bristol created Wallace and Gromit would have had.

The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – selection box #16 – March 2019

The 36th selection box overall.  Spring is upon as and the days are getting longer. There are still dark beers for the dark nights, but when the sun starts shining, there’s definitely a need for something pale and hoppy. Let’s get stuck in, there are four in the session category (most welcome) and two bigger beasts.

Abbeydale – Heathen – 4.1%

Formerly called Mosaic. Wonderfully refreshing pale session beer showcasing the marvellous Mosaic hops from America. Bursting with tropical fruit flavours and a pleasant citrus bitterness. Just in case there wasn’t enough in the initial brew, Abbeydale have dry hopped with even more Mosaic for good measure. A lovely session pale ale that I’ve had a few of.

Magic Rock x Cloudwater – Big Dipper – 8.3%

A revisit of the collaborative Double IPA brew with their friends from over t’hills Cloudwater Brew Co. Golden Promise, Wheat, Oat and Crystal Malt were used for a smooth, golden, malty body. A combination of Citra, Simcoe, Eureka and Mosaic T90 hops were used in the whirlpool and dry hopping, with additional Citra & Mosaic LupulN2 Pellets added in the dry hop. Fermented with London Fog yeast, the result is a fruit-filled DIPA with loads of mango and peach aroma and flavour, a little residual sweetness and a gravity-defying drinkability. Strap in for a ride on the Big Dipper…

Northern Monk x Deya – Patrons Project 9.06 – Skelatory DDH IPA – 6.8%

This IPA utilises a blend of New Zealand, Australian and American hop varieties, with NZ Motueka taking the lead with its distinctive upfront lime character, Vic Secret and Mosaic contributing hints of passion fruit, dark berries, and grapefruit. Continuing a bit of a theme in projects with DEYA, Northern Monk put together a multi grain grist, with the earth and spice flavours of malted rye prominent once again, this time backed up with malted oats and flaked barley for a robust, complex backbone. And a little bit of politics thrown in.

Northern Monk – Striding Edge – 2.8%

A former Patrons Project beer which is now a core beer for Northern Monk. Patrons Projects beers usually explored working outside of the classic four brewing ingredients, introducing different coffee, fruits, and other additions more common to the culinary world, and most of them have also been very much towards the higher end of the ABV scale.

Striding Edge had no fruit additions, and was without the firm canvas that higher ABV gives, so the team set about creating a low ABV session beer with a flavour, intensity and mouthfeel of a drink of much higher strength. Starting with the base, they made sure the water was super soft and well balanced. Enough sulphates to lift the hops, enough chloride to smooth out the mouthfeel. For the malt they trialled a new super pale variety, making this by far the palest beer they have ever brewed, and made up a quarter of the grist with oats for their creamy mouthfeel.

Ensuring the mash temperature was as high as possible whilst ensuring some enzyme activity, they filled the wort with complex sugars to ensure a higher finishing gravity and consequently a chunkier body. Then add as much hop flavour across 3 dry-hop additions, going with west coast favourites Simcoe, Amarillo and Mosaic for an intense pine, grass and citrus character, backed up with hints of orange and mango from a bonus Citra addition.

It’s one of the best sub 3% beers around, big flavour in small ABV.

North Riding x Needle & Pin – Cryo for Help – 4.3%

A limited edition pale ale brewed with The Needle & Pin to commemorate their 999th different cask ale since opening in late 2015. Brewed back in September 2018, with customers Alex, Matt, Nick and Scott, this is a very powerful Mosaic hopped beer with a strong bitter finish.

Wild Beer – Bibble – 4.2%

Another familiar one that I first had back in summer 2015, a fruity pale ale that goes down nicely. Brewed with Vienna malt and oats, for an unusual mouth filling malt base. Hopped with Mosaic hops, renowned for their tropical fruit beauty. It is unfined, and so naturally hazy. A moreish bitterness is complimented by tropical fruit tastiness. The name ‘Bibble’ in Somerset dialect means to drink loudly, often and well.

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