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.

Hotel Teatro, Denver, October 2018

A spooky evening and another quick Denver post. This evening picks up where this afternoon left off, networking with the people that I met at The Renaissance earlier on today, along with a few more who couldn’t make it, as they have only just rolled into town.

Another buffet meal, with the usual selection of meats, breads, salad bits and other things. There was an added tasty bonus here, lots of plates full of churros, the Spanish doughnut which is probably from Portugal by way of China. These were lovely, as they almost always are, crunchy and sprinkled with lightly spiced sugar.

Tonight I got to sample Sour Apricot from Dry Dock brewery in Aurora, Colorado. A nice balance of sweet apricots and sourness, tart and fruity with sourness from the brewing process. It went well with some nice bits of cheese from the buffet.

There was also a Tivoli Helles Lager, another Denver brewery, who are based on the Auraria College campus of Metropolitan State University in Denver. A very easy drinking lager with a very German taste, which is probably because it is brewed from entirely imported ingredients.

Finally a “Face Down Nitro Brown” from Telluride Brewing, also in Colorado. A bit of a hybrid of an English and American style brown ale (the beer that your Uncle drank in the 1970s) that is silky smooth and super malty.

Afterwards, I found out that this is a four time award winner, taking gold in 2012 and 2014, and bronze in 2016 at the Great American Beer Festival for “American Style Brown,” and also a gold at the 2012 World Beer Cup.

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A pleasant evening of chat and beer and food.