March 2020 round up

The month it all changed. We’re all sick of the c word by now, but Covid-19 has led to unprecedented use of the word unprecedented. Let’s look back at the longest March that there has ever been in history. I mean, that’s what it’s felt like hasn’t it? At least I’ve made it three out of three for monthly round ups.

We did manage to get out a couple of times before lockdown came down hard. We went to see Amanda Owen at the town hall, and indulged in a pizza and some salad in The Jam House, which is a new pub in town. Well, a new pub in name, it used to be The Orange Tree.

The pizza was pretty decent, and the salad wasn’t just limp iceberg. Sadly, the pint was pretty meh, I think we need to tell Japanese breweries that a “hoppy session ale” should have hops in it. Swing Low from Fuller’s was a malty caramel bitter.

Our last meal out proved to be just a couple of days later, when we went to a Miller & Carter Steakhouse for Mrs MOFAD’s birthday. The beer selection was rubbish, but there was good gin for Mrs MOFAD, and I was driving. The food was excellent, and neither of us had steak, so they are good at other things too. My pork was lovely as was Mrs MOFAD’s fish dish.

The chocolate hazelnut bombe was the pièce de résistance, like a super dense and much better Ferrero Rocher. Mrs M’s peach, mango and passion fruit Eton mess was also very zingy, but you know my feelings on this matter. The chocolate pudding is always the one to go for.

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So that was it for “out out”. Just a couple of days later I started working from home full time, and just a week later we were all put on to our current “lockdown” with only essential journeys permitted, and physical distancing required to help stop the spread of the virus.

What this has meant is that I can buy more stuff online from some of my favourite suppliers, because I’ll always be at home to receive the delivery. I’ve had some lovely beers from new Norfolk brewery Duration (super fast and super fresh beer), the last online sales (for a bit) from Elusive Brewing, and also the last online sales (for a bit) from Sauce Shop in Nottingham.

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There was also time for a couple of deliveries from my local, The Needle & Pin, who always keep me topped up with great beer from around the UK and further afield.

Now is the perfect time to support all of those small producers who will have lost many of their routes to customers, so if they are still delivering direct to your door (with no-contact couriers) then it’s time to stock up. Much better than bumping into people panic buying toilet rolls in Tesco.

Every beer bar one (that poor one mentioned earlier) has been at home. Favourites this month have been 2020 by CR/AK, Patrons Project 26.01 // Sarah Harris // Culinary Adventures: Edinburgh // Pilot // Deep-Fried Caramel Chocolate Bar Stout by Northern Monk,  Wanderlust by Alefarm, and I think my very favourite was Dessert In A Can – Chocolate Peanut Butter Caramel Brownie by Amundsen Bryggeri – super sweet peanut butter and it contains no nuts. Lovely stuff.

One day we’ll get through this, and we’ll be back down the pub again. Mine’s a pint!

The Needle & Pin craft beer club – dark beer selection box #20 – April 2020

Yes, it’s not April yet, but the current situation could require an occasional beer to help us get through, so here we are. The 51st incarnation of the Needle & Pin craft beer club, the 20th dark beer box, full of big units, with one “normal” porter poking its head up. The current situation might require some big units. I didn’t get chance to photograph these, so I’ve borrowed the N&P photos again 🙂

Alefarm – The Truth is in the Walls – 10.5%

Imperial stout brewed with sea salt and cacao. A wonderful stout, perfectly balanced like your favourite chocolate bar. Deep notes of chocolate and a smooth mouthfeel thanks to the salt, making for a rich tasting experience.

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Cloudwater – Multi-Dimensional Being – 7%

Few styles are more suited to the winter months than Baltic Porter. This classic, robust dark beer from the Baltic states is packed with deep, indulgent malt flavours but has the clean, smooth body of a lager, making it rich and remarkably full-flavoured without sitting heavy on the palate.

Northern Monk – Culinary Adventures Deep Fried Caramel Chocolate Bar Stout – 6.5%

I think you know which caramel chocolate bar. The famous one that is sometimes dipped in batter and plunged into the deep fat fryer. Few creations are more infamous, so Northern Monk set about the fun task of how to replicate that sticky, caramel-rich flavour.

They also invited those Twitter funsters and some time brewers Pilot Beer to help out. Over a grist featuring some brown and chocolate malts, light and dark variants of crystal malt and plenty of rounding flaked oats, they added copious amounts of caramel as well as lactose to accentuate the milk chocolate character. They further bulked out the mouthfeel with maltodextrin. In fermentation, chocolate and vanilla were added to seal the deal, to result a rich and sticky stout that transports you to a chippy off the quayside of Leith.

Siren – Cold Blooded – 5%

Welcome back Coldblooded, a brown porter designed to hit the spot when the weather turns. Grains are cold-steeped overnight before brew day to build up a gorgeous chocolatey base before things get started. From there expect roasty notes layered amongst subtle smoke, coffee and dark chocolate. Coldblooded pours silky smooth and drinks with a satisfying richness.

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Siren – Dark and Perilous Nights – 12.4%

An extraordinary collaboration with Florida’s J. Wakefield. Expect rich aromas of dark sugar and toffee, with a comforting chocolate fudge flavour profile, warming spirit complexity and a slick mouthfeel. Sean tried this straight out of the barrel when Siren were debating whether to bottle this back in January. It was incredible then, and it is going to get better. Save this either for a night in autumn when the wind is rattling the windows and the rain lashing down, or when the Grim Reaper calls, whichever is first.

Wylam – Imperial Macchiato – 10%

Double hazelnut praline coffee porter. This remodelled special edition would leave Bernard Quatermass dumbstruck and unarticulated! Double the hazelnut, double the coffee with an extra edition of cacao and caramalt to deliver an opulent, deluxe, sumptuous, hedonistic, rich and costly consumable colossus. Macchiato is a great beer, so this one should be double great.

The Needle & Pin craft beer club – selection box #22 – March 2020

So here we are. The 50th incarnation of the Needle & Pin craft beer club, the 22nd “standard” box. There are only 2 people who have collected all 50 since that first one in September 2016, that’s me and regular MOFAD drinking companion Alec.

This month’s collection is brought to you by the letters I, P and A, and is a bit of an “unsung heroes” selection. Siren, featured here, were also in that first selection box, and have continued to grow alongside four of the other breweries in there, Beavertown (now minority owned by Heineken), Tiny Rebel, Thornbridge and Wild Beer Co. The only sad story from the first box is the demise of Hardknott, who closed down in 2018 after 12 years of brewing.

Here’s what is to be found in the March 2020 line up…

Amundsen – Fade to Green – 6.5%

A lovely NEIPA brewed in collaboration with Finback Brewery from New York, using Azacca, Galaxy, Citra, Simcoe and Chinook.

Arbor – Basta Rosse – 5%

A beautiful red IPA brewed with Cascade, Vic Secret & Mosaic hops, in collaboration with Italian brewery Mezzo Passo. I had this one back in 2018, a delightful hoppy red ale. It was also one of the only beers on in the taproom when we visited in March 2019.

Black Iris – Anarchists Across the Pond – 6.9%

Back in Oct, we brewed up a tasty New England IPA with renowned American home brewer, Andy Tipler, while he visited Nottingham from Connecticut. Packed full of Citra, Mosaic, Vic Secret and Simcoe and fermented with London III Ale Yeast, this NEIPA has a big fruit character with notes of pineapple and peach.

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Overtone – Citra Mosaic NEIPA V3 – 6%

The V3 New England IPA is very much the same as v2, except that it is juicer, hazier and thicker than the first time around, with more of a mouth presence. A beautiful aroma of tropical fruits comes bursting out, well balanced with the bitterness hitting you late.

Siren – Hard Rollin’ – 7%

Dry & Bitter return for the first Siren collaboration of 2020. Hard Rollin’ is one of the most pillowy, smooth and creamy IPAs they’ve ever created, with plentiful rolled oats, flaked oats and milk sugar all working their magic. It’s lavishly hopped with Ekuanot, Citra, Hallertau Blanc and Mandarina Bavaria for a beautiful dank depth with aromas of tropical fruit.

Time and Tide – Ham Sandwich – 7.4%

New England IPA packed to the rafters with Mosaic hops. This one is fruity, juicy and refreshing. I’ve had it already because why wouldn’t you want to try a beer called Ham Sandwich? Just don’t put mustard on it.