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.

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Star of Siam, Keswick, December 2017

The traditional New Year’s Eve takeaway. For the first time in a long time, we are not in Ambleside, and not going to Jade Garden, Lucky Dragon, China Cottage, Doi Intanon (on the rare year that it was open on NYE) or Jintana.

In Keswick, we turned to a familiar Thai restaurant, Star of Siam. We’ve been coming here for as long as we’ve been coming to Keswick, a lovely friendly Thai restaurant, and great for takeaways (as ever we like to drink our own beer rather than drink poor quality offerings in takeaway outlets).

Here is a case in point.

Thornbridge Serpent.

I encountered this beer for the first time on “Thornbridge night” at The Needle & Pin in December 2016. We deconstructed the beer that night, tasting a very sour and tannic Oliver’s cider, a sweet perry, and a meh bourbon. On that night, it tasted like the lees (the leftover bits from fermenting cider, yeasts, skins and whatever’s left) had really dominated this brew, a Belgian style golden ale.

A year on, and it’s even better. So much apple, the beer that’s not a beer.

On to dinner, which accompanied this fantastic beer that’s not beer. A classic starter, satay chicken with peanut chilli sauce. Just to be clear, the satay part is not the peanut bit that you like, that’s in the sauce. The satay part is usually made from lemongrass, shallots, garlic, chilli, ginger, turmeric, coriander, soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar and a few other bits.

The “slaw” bit might not be the most authentic, but it works here with the juicy chicken and tasty peanut chilli sauce.

On to the main event. Chicken gang massaman. The massaman is probably my favourite Thai curry, perhaps because of more peanut. It varies from place to place. I always used to have beef, but too many cheap cuts of steak have left me favouring chicken instead. A very simple one tonight, a few bits of carrot and some chunks of onion,

Simple, but very tasty, and a fantastic way to round out another lovely year of food and drink. Many great meals accompanied by many great beers. 2017 has been a good one.

The King’s Arms, Hathern, November 2017

A second visit to The King’s Arms in the MOFAD era, although somewhere that we’ve been to a few times, usually for get togethers with walking friends. The same applied tonight, although we didn’t find out about tonight’s gathering until Saturday, as it had somehow slipped under our collective radar.

When you’ve got 30 odd people descending on a pub, you need a certain type of pub that can cope with such things. The posher chain pub wants everyone to be eating, the micropub doesn’t have quite enough room. So this is the level you settle for, a Marston’s chain pub, so you’ll know exactly what you’re getting. A range of different food options and several beers from the Marston’s empire, including Ringwood and Jennings and a few others that look like they are not from the empire, but they are. With a permanent 2-4-1 deal on food, you need to go with a friend if you don’t want to pay twice as much as everyone else.

Tonight’s beer choice was this month’s seasonal offering from Jennings, Pie in the Sky. It is alleged to be “a robust full bodied beer with pale ale malt and the finest roasted malts combined with whole cone English Fuggle hops to deliver a robust flavour”.

It was just so bland. Before they were owned by the evil empire, I liked Jennings. Hops? Malts? Where? I’m not looking for Cloudwater levels of hoppiness in every pint, but just a decent pint of cask ale would do. It was just so meh.

The food was standard chain pub fodder, I opted for the pulled pork burger, which matched the beer because it was also surprisingly bland. The pulled pork was naked, no sauce, no flavourings, just nude pork (that will get some odd hits for this blog post). It was all ok, but just that. And look at that cheese, it hasn’t even melted in the slightest.

Mrs MOFAD opted for the curry (she does like a pub curry), which was more interesting, although the naan bread was more like a tiny saddle cover for a bicycle seat. Her cider was more interesting, which is not something I thought I would ever say about Bulmer’s.

This does come across as a bit snobby, and it’s not meant to, but this was another of those nights when the company was more important than the food and drink. Again, there was nothing bad, it was just fairly non-descript.

The Beer Engine, Skipton, September 2017

The walking tour of Skipton continues, and we find ourselves in our favourite pub from 2015’s walking tour, The Beer Engine. This year there was no-one in talking about “London swearing” just lots of people enjoying good beer on a Saturday afternoon. It is a place that knows its market and caters to them. There’s not much point sticking 5 keg lines in here and trying to convince local drinkers to have thirds of double dry hopped triple IPAs.

There are 5 cask ales on hand pump, ideally suited to the local market. There are around 4 ciders and some good bottled beers including some nice Belgian numbers. The perfect place to enjoy a relaxed pint and a chat.

My relaxed pint was Vale Ale by Three Castles Brewery from Pewsey in Wiltshire, a tasty caramel bitter.

A quick atmosphere shot to give you a sense of the place:-

A lovely little micro pub. Whenever we are next in Skipton, we’ll be back.

Early Doors Micropub, Skipton, September 2017

The first stop on the second part of the “walking tour of Skipton“. This one wasn’t here when we came on our last walking tour, having opened during 2016. As you’ll see from today’s walking tour, Skipton is well catered for when it comes to pubs, and this is its second micropub (a little pub that concentrates on beer and not much else). It’s like pubs used to be, before Sky Sports became ubiquitous. It’s all about the beer, with six cask ales to choose from, usually two blonde, two amber/ruby and two dark. The friendly and helpful barman will guide you through the beers and offer a taster of any of them…

This was a UPA (ultra pale ale) from Doghouse Brewery in Lancashire (although they began life on the Isle of Man). Refreshing hoppy bitterness with just a hint of orange. A lovely session ale to start a town-wide session with 🙂

If you want a good old-fashioned pub for a nice quiet pint and not much else, then this will do you nicely.

The Narrowboat #1, Skipton, September 2017

After a gentle bimble around Skipton this afternoon we wandered back to the hotel and then back out again for dinner. We’ve booked a table somewhere for tomorrow night (a lesson learned from 2015) but tonight we just decided to wander until we found somewhere. We didn’t take long to find our dinner destination, settling on The Narrowboat, which we’d visited as part of 2015’s walking tour of Skipton.

The first reason for visiting was because I had spotted Hawkshead’s Passion Fruit Gose on the bar. Mrs MOFAD has been looking out for this beer since it was first announced, and we missed it at this year’s Thornbridge Peakender (along with many other great beers which came and went in the blink of an eye). It looked like it was finally time to try it.

So near, and yet so far. I’d ordered it at the bar, but the last few drops dribbled out of the keg. The pub let Mrs MOFAD have it for nothing (to compensate for the sadness), and she had to choose something else. Pogo by Wild Beer Co is fruit salad with a little hop character.

My first was Sorachi by Bristol Beer Factory, a decent cask ale but for me the Sorachi Ace hop was too muted. It’s a Marmite hop but I love its flavour which is why I was looking for more here.

A gentle golden ale next, in the form of Mallisons American SIPA. A decent pint but nothing to really excite.

Just in case you weren’t sure that we were in the North. Chips and gravy. Northern gravy. Although sadly Hazel’s pie had to go back, as during the likely reheating they had burned it rather badly, and it was inedible. It was eventually replaced with pizza, but they didn’t refund the difference.

No such problems with my pizza which they got right first time. A porky fest with bacon, sausage, pulled pork and black pudding.

Black pudding is northern filth, so it was distributed to other plates… Apart from the filth, this was a tasty, porky and crisp pizza, just what I wanted on a Friday night. If that wasn’t good enough, then Mrs MOFAD was even more delighted, as they had found some more Passion Fruit Gose. Her review was simple:-

“OMG. Best. Beer. Ever.”

Fairly clear cut.

My final pint tonight was Citra Star from Northumberland’s Anarchy Brew Co, one that I’ve had before in a can, and it’s even better on cask.

A shame that they burnt the pie, and didn’t really sort the situation out properly, but we did all eventually have a nice dinner and some great beer.

Keelham Farm Shop, Skipton, September 2017

The start of our Skipton weekend. Mrs MOFAD and regular MOFAD companion Hazel are off to Yarndale tomorrow. We were due to be joined by other regular MOFAD companions Steve and Janette tonight, but Steve has been attacked by a chest infection overnight and is not fit to travel.

Hazel & Matt stayed with us last night, and we set off for Skipton this morning. After a coffee stop at Woolley Edge services (where else when heading to Yarndale), we arrived in Skipton just after 1pm, and decided to make this our lunch stop before checking in to our hotel.

If the Keelham name looks familiar, that’s because we stopped at the sister shop to this one back in September 2015, on our way home from that year’s Yarndale trip. Today we had some lunch before doing some shopping.

There are two eating areas in this branch, a full menu downstairs (20 minutes wait this lunchtime due to the large number of Yarndale visitors) or a soup and sandwich menu upstairs (no wait, just find a table and order at the counter). We nipped upstairs, grabbed a table and then picked up some sandwiches, crisps and drinks.

A well filled chicken and bacon mayo sub roll, a bit of salad squeezed in there too. Some Yorkshire crisps (#obvs since we are in Yorkshire) and the gentle fire of Cawston Press ginger beer. Very tasty stuff and just what we needed after our journey.

Time next for a bit of shopping. As there are 4 of us and just one car, both Matt & I had to be restrained in our choices, and kept things to just a small box each. A proper local selection of Yorkshire beers for me, BAD Co from Dishforth (first encountered at last year’s Good Food Show), North Brewing Co from Sheepscar Grove in Leeds, and a couple from from Holbeck’s Northern Monk .

As well as all of this tasty beer, there was plenty of local food as well as lots of stuff from further afield. Loads of fresh stuff as well as plenty of tinned and dried foods. A lovely little farm shop, and I’d probably shop here an awful lot if I lived in Skipton.