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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Thornbridge night, The Needle & Pin, Loughborough, December 2018

Oh yes it’s Thornbridge night, and the feeling’s right, oh yes it’s Thornbridge night, oh what a night.

The annual Thornbridge night at The Needle & Pin. Now in its third year, but with a new host, as Meg has moved on to Beavertown (a gentle and fairly playful boo and hiss rippled around the room from the people who hadn’t already heard this news). We met James, field sales manager for Thornbridge.

We talked all things Thornbridge. Having (between us all) been to the previous two Thornbridge nights, been on the brewery tour, and been fairly regular attendees at Peakender (just me on that one), we had a fair bit of Thornbridge knowledge (we wiped the floor with everyone else in last year’s quiz) so bandied around a few topics for discussion, including the popularity of of good cask beer, getting so many beers into Tesco and future beer plans.

And of course there was beer. One of the new variations of Lucaria, Salted Caramel Lucaria, full of toffee, coffee, chocolate and creaminess. A lovely pint to savour.

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Whilst that was going down, so was Thornbridge bingo, Sean’s latest game. Pretty much as you would imagine, bingo cards with names of Thornbridge beers on, and then beer names drawn out of a box to tick off on your card. We had time for a couple of rounds, and we won a couple of lines on our table, with prizes on all of the other tables too. Great fun.

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More chat, and then James remembered something. He disappeared downstairs and returned with two bottles of Serpent to share around. Serpent was the subject of our first Thornbridge night, so once again I think we scared James a bit with our knowledge of it. I bought a bottle that night, and we had it on New Year’s Eve last year. It had aged well.

We had some more tonight, surprised that there was still some in existence. It has continued to age well, still dominated by apple, with some bourbon smoothness in the background. It continues to be the beer that is not a beer.

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There was time to sample Necessary Evil, an absolute malt bomb full of all the malts.

Another great night out at The Needle & Pin. Great fun with lovely people, and perfectly kept beers as usual. Looking forward to the 2019 version already!

The Needle & Pin craft beer club – dark beer selection box #12 – December 2018

Selection box number 32 and some big dark beasts for the festive period. As the nights get darker (for the next 19 days anyway), so do the beers. Let’s enter the black hole…

Amundsen – Chocolate Marshmellow – 11.5%

Which idiot came up with the idea that you should pair your beer with a dessert? Why not just make a beer that would be dessert in itself? Save yourself making dessert and just crack one of these open. Amundsen decided to pick out three of their favourite dessert flavours to incorporate in a flagship imperial stout. Dark, sweet and delicious. This version brings back memories of marshmallows and hot chocolate around a camp fire. Will probably go well with smores. Although it’s probably not the season for them.

Left Handed Giant – Woodland Creatures V2 – 6.9%

Pistachio & Honeycomb Milk Stout collab with Uiltje Brewing Company with Bramling Cross hops, Maris Otter, Carafa III, Caramalt, Chocolate, Crystal in the malt bill and pistachios, honeycomb and lactose added in order to turn this into liquid Crunchie.

Moor – Old Freddy Walker – 7.4%

Moor, from Bristol, are celebrating their 11th birthday this year. Old Freddy Walker was Champion Winter Beer of Britain in 2004, and is one of Roger Protz’s “300 beers to try before you die”. A cult ale, described as “one for the connoisseur”, it’s a rich, dark, and full bodied old ale that really has to be tasted to be appreciated. This beer is usually the first to sell out at beer festivals, thanks to its blend of Pale, Lager, Crystal, Wheat and Black malts that are fermented with an English yeast. Bramling Cross hops are added to provide a hint of orange and a balancing dose of bitterness.

If these words sound familiar, it’s because this is the first beer to make a second appearance in the craft beer club, this time in a can instead of the large bottle of April 2017. It really is a classic old ale.

It seems to have creeped up by 0.1% since last time too…

Stillwater – Big Bunny – 8.0%

Imperial chocolate milk stout, a collaboration with Arizona Wilderness. Aromas of cocoa nibs, burnt toast and dark, roasted coffee followed by an intense, smooth chocolate flavour. It finishes with a terrifically smooth roastiness.

Weird Beard – Dirrty Hands – 9.8%

Imperial Schwarzbier. Those loveable rogues at Weird Beard collaborated with Haand Bryggeriet to make a dark, sticky, filthy beer worthy of getting your hands dirty. Being an Imperial Black Pilsner, they wanted to get those dark malts pumping, getting just a little naughty at 9.8%

Westbrook – 7th Anniversary Chocolate and Sea Salt – 10%

For their 7th Anniversary Beer, they went big on the chocolate and added a little salt to make it interesting. Luscious notes of liquid cocoa and a smooth salinity make this beer deliciously decadent.

Sean adds: I bought this beer in January and have kept it all year for this beer club. A one off brew to celebrate Westbrook’s 7th Birthday and imported from South Carolina.

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BBC Good Food Show Winter, The NEC, November 2018

So here we are again, the annual visit to the Good Food Show. A compressed trip this year, as we had a discounted ticket which meant you couldn’t get in before 11am, and Mrs MOFAD had an appointment with an aircraft this afternoon (off to Munich for work).

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Luckily, the show was smaller this year, so we managed to do everything in 4 hours. There seems to be a trend towards shrinking over the last few years, and there were so many producers missing. No Port of Lancaster smokehouse, no Dean’s Shortbread, no Geeta’s, no Debbie & Andrew’s. No White’s, no Wild, no Saucy Fish, no Yorkshire Provender.

The most startling thing was the lack of breweries. I think 2016 was probably the high point for this, whilst this year there were only 5 or 6. Barely any cider makers this year too. Still lots of gin dominating the drinks village. Good to see our friends at the Curry Sauce Co back again (and they are now available in Ocado too!)

I met some fellow ministers:-

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and as usual we sampled some good food and drink, the standard random selection of beer, cheese, apples, gin, chocolate, sausages, pears, biscuits, chutneys, sauces and chicken teryaki. Definitely a much smaller show this year, but we still returned with a decent haul (some items not pictured for reasons).

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The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – sour selection box #5 – November 2018

The nights may be drawing in fast but there’s still a place in my beer store for some super zingy funky sours. Let’s see what’s in this sour box of delights this month, celebrating the first anniversary of sour smackers.

Brekeriet Beer AB – Uncle Brett IPA – 6.5%

A crisp and fruity Brettanomyces IPA with Citra, Centennial, Columbus, Mandarina Bavaria and Eldorado hops. The fermentation with different yeast strains adds a great complexity. Complexity for days. So much going on from the brett, even some vanilla. Hops are lurking somewhere. Clean and sour and dryer than a desert.

Brasserie de Blaugies – La Vermontoise – 6%

Collaboration with Hill Farmstead. A spelt saison (Saison d’Epeautre) with American hops (Amarillo). Looking forward to this lively little number.

Moor Beer Company, Left Handed Giant Brewing, Lost And Grounded Brewers – Berry Lush – 4%

An ode to Bristol as the original home of Ribena. Berry Lush is a tart and refreshing Blackcurrant Witbier. Pils malt, wheat malt, flaked wheat & oats have been combined with 300kg of blackcurrant puree to produce a beer that is slightly tart and refreshing with a magnificent red colour and pink foam.

Gipsy Hill – Moxie – Fruit Salad Sour – 4.5%

For this version of Moxie, Gipsy Hill added 200kg of raspberry and 200kg of pineapple to fermentation and cold side. A nod to an old, fruit salad, classic, gently tart, refreshing sour. Goes well with courage and spirit apparently.

Gipsy Hill – Dodger – Lemon Sherbert Sour – 5%

Dodger is a Lemon Sherbert Sour. A traditional kettle sour, with late citra hops in the boil and dry-hopped with lemongrass. Aroma hops are Citra, bittering hops are magnum, with lemongrass and lactose in the mix. Goes well with treats and sweets.

Union Craft Brewing, Stillwater Artisanal – Dust Rings – DDH Sour

On September 15th 2017 at 7:55:46 a.m. EDT NASA lost contact with the Cassini space probe as it made its final approach to Saturn. Approximately 420 minutes later, NASA received a strange message from the probe: “Yo! This is Strumke. Tell UNION I’ve got the dust for our collab.” Dust Rings was born, a very special Stillwater x UNION sour ale, dry-hopped with Lupulin space dust to commemorate the 9th Annual Baltimore Beer Week.

A nice sour with a citrus undertone, but NMHP. That’s “needs more hop powder”, a new variant on NMH (needs more hops).

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The Bon Accord, Glasgow, November 2018

A pub that I know well from a Facebook group about whisky. A pub that former MOFAD drinking companion Bruce has been to many times. Former, as he fled back to the Shaky Isles 6 months ago, but he will be back for a short trip next year, so I’m sure we will raise a pint again. Members of that group frequent this pub. So when I found out a couple of weeks ago that I would be in Glasgow on business for 24 hours, and that my hotel was just a few minutes away from the pub, there was only one place I was coming for dinner tonight.

I only just got here in time, a few minutes before the kitchen was due to close. Luckily I’d already looked at the menu online, so I knew exactly what I was having, and ordered that and some drinks. I don’t have steak and chips as much as I used to, so when I do I want it to be good.

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It was good. The use of fries over the traditional fat chip might raise a few eyebrows, but it worked well here. Lovely bit of beefy business, nicely rare as requested. A good splodge of mustard was all the accompaniment that was required. There was even pudding (in the shape of that slice of orange peeking out from underneath the steak).

Another stroke of fortune was that there was football on, so I watched Scotland beat Israel 3-2 thanks to a James Forrest hat-trick. Watching a great game amongst passionate Glaswegians was a great expereience. Drinking well kept beer was also good. With a decent amount of cask ale, I made my own flight of a number of halves including Merchant City American pale (nice hoppiness and tea fruitiness), Ekuantot from Peerless (gentle pithiness), and Blackthorn Sloe Porter from the ever familiar Settle Brewery.

There’s also handy signage in case you get lost…

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Swally is “a swallow of” aka a drink.

A lovely night in a lovely pub. Definitely recommended.

The Corner Office, Denver, October 2018

A not so spooky night out. More networking after a long day of conferencing. My conference day started at 7:30am with a “brain date”. That’s a chat about work stuff if you were wondering. And yes, that does say 7:30am. Even if you can throw a stone at the conference venue from your hotel bedroom window, it’s still an early start.

When you get invited to a networking event later in the day, it does lift the spirits a bit. Another buffet tea, chicken legs, vol au vents, cheesecake, etc. As it turns out, no work chat, since I spent most of the evening talking about travel, our trips to Vegas, Oz and New Zealand being the main topics of the evening.

A choice of seven decent beers (and Stella, which is treated as exotic here) made for a relaxing evening, with lots to select from, including one that I had last night. Three more local beers ticked off tonight. To start, Pretzel Assassin, an amber lager from Denver Beer Co, with a nice touch of maltiness.

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More travel chat and more beer. Simone Rosé Saison from Renegade Brewing Compay was a French style Saison made with wheat and rosé juice, making for a refreshing and interesting beer-wine hybrid.

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Another Renegade brew to wrap things up, the Envy Brut IPA. For me, another fizzy lager that is not an IPA. I’ve yet to meet one that lives up to the letters I, P and A.

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A fun night. It was Halloween but there were fewer scary outfits here than I saw on Sunday afternoon’s travels around the city. In fact the staff here just had random fancy dress, nothing to do with Halloween, which was rather confusing. Denver seems to be a city where it’s harder to find bad beer than it is to find good.