The second Thornbridge night at The Needle & Pin, December 2017

A year ago, as part of the “twelve days of Thornbridge”, I went to the inaugural Thornbridge night at The Needle & Pin. The theme was “Serpent – deconstructed”, and we tasted our way through the components that make up Serpent, a collaboration between Thornbrige, Oliver’s Cider in Hereford, and Brooklyn Brewery. I think the bottle I bought last year will be the accompaniment to this year’s Xmas dinner.

The twelve days of Thornbridge are back, and this year’s event was a more relaxed affair, but still great fun. Meg from Thornbridge was back again to lead the event, but it was very much a choose your own adventure event, with a choice of 4 Thornbridge beers in any order, and cheeses to match.

I started out with Sampo and a little goat’s cheese. The Sampo is a Galaxy hopped pale ale, brewed with pineapple, which produces soft pineapple flavours, a nice cask pale ale.

Next up, a new version of an old classic, Dry Hopped Jaipur, which appears to take Jaipur back to its early days of what it used to taste like, creamy, hoppy and a nice bitter finish. Goes well with mature cheddar.

Whilst this was slipping down, a Thornbridge pub quiz was in full flow. Meg had 10 questions for us, although I still maintain that her clues made some of the questions too easy. No matter, as My Pointess Friend Richard thrashed the opposition to take home the prizes of Thornbridge merch and bottled beers.

Victory complete, more beer. Brock is a soft session stout. I had this at Peakender this year, in fact it was the last beer of the festival for me, but it was probably not in the best condition then as it was rather thin and light. Today it was much better, a smooth and easy drinking session stout.

We travel to the final beer for tonight. Lord Marples, the classic English bitter, and the first beer ever made by Thornbridge. This might help you in a future pub quiz, as it was one of the answers tonight. You might also need to know that it has never been bottled 🙂

I’ve had it three times, twice here, and the first time at Peakender 2015, and it’s still a classic pint, and not hard to see why it is such a big cask seller in the Thornbridge heartland of Derbyshire and Yorkshire. Nice with a bit of Gouda too.

And if that wasn’t enough, we all left with bottled beers, some included in the price, some bonus gifts from our lovely Thornbridge friends.

Another classic night at the Needle & Pin, lots of fun, good chat (and not just about beer), a bonus quiz, and new friends made as I shared a taxi home with two of them. A good pub with a good community feel is the original social network, and the N&P is definitely one of those.

Looking forward to the next tasting night already, by happy coincidence from the brewery at the other end of the Monsal Trail, Buxton Brewery.

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The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – dark beer selection box #6 – December 2017

Christmas is coming, so luckily there’s a new dark beer box available for those cold winter nights ahead. I’m not one of those people who switches entirely towards dark beers in the winter months, but it’s always good to have a selection of delectable dark beers in stock to counteract the twenty DIPAs that are stacking up in the stock room (garage cupboard).

Arbor – The Devil Made Me Brew It – 5.5%

This oatmeal stout was brewed with seven different malts and a few generous additions of Bramling Cross hops during the boil. As much as the dark fruit flavour of the Bramling Cross hop works here, it is usually somewhat lacking in the aroma department, so the addition of Bravo, Citra, Mosaic and Simcoe after fermentation makes things a little more interesting.

Brasserie {C} – Black {C} – 8%

This imperial stout will surprise palates looking for character beers with a lot of flavour. Guaranteed non-pasteurised, non-sterilised and non-filtered, it offers roasted coffee and cocoa aromas, revealing an harmonious bitternes throughough the savouring of this beer. Black {C} refers to its impenetrable black body as well as the brewery that it originated from.

Chorlton – Dark Matter 2017 – 7.3%

Released just a few weeks ago on 10th November, a salty, dark, gently sour Gose, a little lighter in body than the 2016 version due to the addition of dark Belgian Candi sugar (not the same as invert sugar) in the boil. Madagascan single origin cocoa beans give it a subtle chocolate aroma that should vary as the beer ages.

Braueri Schloss Eggenberg – Samichlaus Classic – 14% (!!!)

The once strongest beer in the world is back! Brewed every year on December 6th, Samichlaus is aged for 10 months before bottling. This beer is perhaps the rarest in the world. Samichlaus may be aged for many years to come. Older vintages become more complex with a creamy warming finish. Serve with hardy robust dishes and desserts, particulary with chocolates, or as an after dinner drink by itself. Brewed under the exclusive licence of Feldschlösschen-Hürlimann-Holding, Switzerland.

To Øl – Mochaccino Messiah – 7%

This is To Øl’s attempt at substituting the morning mochaccino coffee with a beer. You get the nicely roasted chocolate malts, some creamy lactose for the milk and a shot of nutty espresso coffee in your glass. And then some alcohol, it seemed just as obvious as vodka in a white russian. To Øl do not recommend opting for this beer instead of coffee all of the time, that way a ‘Spoons breakfast (fry up and a Stella) lies…

Tiny Rebel – Imperial Puft – 9%

A flavour explosion that’s like a proton torpedo in your exhaust port. An Imperial march into your mouth. Return of the marshmallow that’s fluffier than an Ewok, and not annoying like an Ewok.

Tiny Rebel have taken everything great about Stay Puft and gone bigger. They’ve imperialised the delectable marshmallow porter up to 9% ABV with rich roasty notes, a sticky sweetness and rich dried fruit flavours from the massive amounts of malt working to a higher strength.

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Christmas 2017 beer gift ideas – Hawkshead Brewery

We kick off this year’s festive beer guide with one of last year’s featured breweries, Hawksead. Just like last year, it was one of my favourite brewery tap trips this year. We popped in for some shopping on New Year’s Eve last year, and we also stopped off there in August, at the end of our soggy summer camping trip.We kick off this year’s festive beer guide with one of last year’s featured breweries, Hawksead. Just like last year, it was one of my favourite brewery tap trips this year. We popped in for some shopping on New Year’s Eve last year, and we also stopped off there in August, at the end of our soggy summer camping trip.

Hawkshead Brewery started life in 2002, just outside Hawkshead where they could brew around 8,500 pints of beer a week. In 2006 they moved over to Staveley, where they have been expanding ever since, increasing their brewing capacity and developing the very brewery tap that we were visiting, The Beer Hall. This involved building a new bar around two 11,000 litre stainless steel tanks which rise up through the first floor, and dominate the upstairs dining area. This means that they can now knock out over 60,000 pints a week. That’s some expansion. Just this week they have announced plans to build another brewery on a nearby site, keeping the existing one and the Beer Hall going as well.

Here are some of the beers we picked up when shopping last year:-

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Here are some of the beers on their online store at the moment.

Sundown is a lovely hoppy ale, ITI is a New Zealand session pale ale, Brodie’s Prime Export is a big stout (I have one ready to drink soon as you can see above), Damson Stout is one I’ve not had yet and the same goes for Wild Wheat, a wheat beer with Motueka hops re-fermented with wild yeast.

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Jingle Fells is their festively spiced ale, (above right), the Dry Stone Stout (above left) is easy drinking with smoky notes. And the Solar Sour (above middle) is a supreme session sour. Mojito is a new sour IPA which I haven’t opened yet, and I’m also looking forward to the Tiramisiu Imperial Stout and Tonka (brewed with Tonka beans not Tonka toys).

Great White is a cracking wheat beer with spicy notes and NZ hops poking through, the IPA is a hoppy beast and the NZPA is similarly hoppy. The Cumbrian 5 Hop also follows in their footsteps. Key Lime Tau, the result of a previous Rainbow Project collaboration with Crooked Stave, is now a core beer, and is packed full of zingy lime loveliness. The Chuckleberry Sour is also a nice sour fruit beer.

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Their “standard” range, Bitter, Red, Lager, Windermere Pale and Lakeland Gold are all also good if you are a bit less adventurous.

There’s something for everyone to choose from. You can pick and mix a case of 12 (2 cans counts as 1 bottle) or you can buy a pre-mixed case or a case of just one of the beers. Buy online at http://www.hawksheadbrewery.co.uk/beer-shop.c.aspx

The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – sour beer selection box #1 – November 2017

If you cast your mind back to June 2017, my favourite pub The Needle & Pin held its first sour beers night where we travelled from Sweden to Newcastle to Belgium via Buxton and Baltimore, and then Reading, Leeds and London all via the medium of funky, tart, sweet and sour beer.

Following on from this, they have been selling a lot of sours, saisons, gose, Gueuze and Lambic beers, and demand has grown for a Sour Beer Club, to complement the existing Craft Beer Club and Dark Beer Club.

This then is the first selection of weird and wonderful and very different beers.

Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen – Oude Geuze – 6%

A true Geuze – a blend of 1, 2, and 3 year-old lambic, unfiltered and unpasteurized, and aged in the bottle for at least a year after blending. Refermentation in the bottle gives this Geuze its famous champagne-like spritziness. The lambic that goes into it is brewed only with 60% barley malt, 40% unmalted wheat, aged hops, and water, spontaneously fermented by wild yeasts, and matured in oak casks.

Brekeriet – Rhuboise – 6%

A fruity, tart and elegant ale with brettanomyces yeast. Loads of raspberries and rhubarb are added during the secondary fermentation at this interesting brewery in Landskrona, Sweden.

Dugges x Stillwater Artisinal – Mango Mango Mango – 4.5%

This collaboration with Stillwater Artisanal explores the true depth of mango flavour. Three layers of taste and aroma from fruit and hops. Go mango go! If you’re going to put fruit in a beer, there’s no better fruit to use than mango. At least that’s what Magnus at Dugges Bryggeri says. So, when there was time for another Dugges x Stillwater Artisanal collaboration, Magnus posed the idea of a mango beer to Brian of Stillwater. Turns out, Brian had the same ideas about mango and beer as Magnus. To make it sour was an easy decision. The mango flavour comes from two types of mango and mosaic hops. Mango, mango, mango!

Good Chemistry – Field Work – 5.1%

Refreshing and rustic beers were traditionally brewed by farmhouses to sustain seasonal workers out in the fields. The malts used in this are pretty simple, as they should be – Extra Pale Propino malt, Pilsner malt, Wheat and Rye. It’s hopped with classic continental hops – Tettnang and Hallertau. The yeast produces most of the flavour and aroma though, and eats through almost all the sugar to leave a dry and tart finish to the beer.

To Øl – Gose To Hollywood – 3.8%

To Øl got starstruck and went to Hollywood to creat a salty, sour and light gose brewed with the best fruits California can offer. Best consumed on warm summer days or on the red carpet. I had one of these in March, it wasn’t sunny, and there was no red carpet, just sour fruits and zingy tartness – it was very nice.

To Øl – Sur Amarillo – 7.5%

Sur Amarillo is a sour pale ale brewed with wheat and dry-hopped over and over again with Amarillo hops to give a flowerful tart imperial pale ale. The Amarillo gives a burst of orange to this sour wild/IPA crossover.

Looking forward to trying out some of these interesting beers.

Beer of the month – November 2017 – Chubbles by Cloudwater x The Veil

Ten trips out this month, but still not a single beer that I had in a pub. All of these were bought from a pub (in fact the same pub, my local “dealer” The Needle & Pin), but none were consumed there. And all bar one of them is a can. It won’t be long before all of them are in a can I suspect. Let’s kick things off.

Beavertown’s Heavy Water (sour cherry and sea salt imperial stout) is our opener this month, and what a big beast. Richness balanced by sourness makes this scarily easy to drink.

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Staying with fruited stouts, we have an American import, a Blueberry Maple Stout by Saugatuck Brewing Company. I paired mine with apple pie for that all American experience. This beer has super sweetness from the blueberries and maple. Please tell me there’s an imperial version. Sadly, there isn’t, but there is a barrel aged version which I’d like to try.

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Our regular Cloudwater fix next, the DDH IPA Chinook Citra. I think this one has more pineapple flavours than Pineapple (also by Cloudwater Brew Co), a classic piece of Cloudwater murk. I just love it. Awesome with methi chicken. That I made.

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Another regular brewery next, with Magic Rock Brewing’s Grower Owned, a lovely west coast pine fest collaboration with Yakima Chief – Hopunion, a 100% grower owned global hop supplier. More lovely murkiness.

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Something sharp next, a Key Lime Pie Gose by Westbrook Brewing Co. I love lime. I love beer. This combines both of these loves with a little sparkle. Really lovely stuff, and something to break up all of these hop bombs in here. But what can I say, I am a friend of hops.

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So it’s no surprise that our winner is a hop bomb. Chubbles by Cloudwater to be precise. Now, I got a bit of a ribbing on Twitter for drinking it so close to its best before date. This was purely a logistics issue, as I hadn’t been able to get my hands on it as soon as it was released, having to wait until I was able to pick it up. Given its strength, its not one that you can just chug down in a session, you need to pick the right time to drink it, unless you are sharing with friends.

Juicy, thick, citrus and melon notes and more sweetness than bitterness. Drinks way below the ABV, no alcohol burn here. Really lovely stuff. Chubbles is a collaboration with The Veil from New York city, these mad people dreamt up a 10.9% triple IPA with 100% English malt, a ton of flaked oats, fermented with a specific English yeast, and hopped intensely with Galaxy, Citra, and El Dorado.

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A lovely big beast of a beer which deserves its place in the end of year final.

Tryanuary​ ​returns​ ​in​ ​2018,​ ​supported​ ​by​ ​a​ ​team​ ​of​ ​over​ ​60​ ​volunteers throughout​ ​the​ ​UK

And I’m one of them. More on that story later…

Now entering its fourth year, Tryanuary is a nationwide campaign to encourage support
for the beer industry throughout January. None of this “dry January” nonsense, it’s all about getting out and trying new things. Don’t go crazy in December, and you can still enjoy January like a normal person.

The brainchild of Mancunian beer blogger Andy Heggs and brewery owners Stuart
Swann and Shane Swindells, Tryanuary was created to encourage beer fans to support
independent breweries, pubs, bars and other retailers during what can be a challenging
month for the industry. Since its inception in 2015, the campaign has garnered huge
support.

I’ve involved myself as a participant in the last couple of years. Every month for about the last two and a half years, I’ve been doing a monthly round up of my favourite beers of the month, so in January 2016, that formed the basis of my first #Tryanuary round up.

Last year, I put up a quick preview of this year’s campaign and that was followed by a round up at the end of this January, my contribution to #Tryanuary 2017. This brings us nicely to 2018.

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Spearheading the 2018 campaign is Tom Stapley, who is best known for Craft Beer
Hour (#craftbeerhour) a weekly gathering on Twitter that embraces all aspects of the industry and showcases many independent brewers. Tom’s vision for the continued growth of the campaign involves co-ordinating a nationwide team, each championing the beer on offer in their local area.

“A campaign like this needs local people to galvanise local businesses,” said Tom, “it
needs people all over the country to celebrate the beer on their doorstep and share that
with the nation through the different mediums of Tryanuary.”

Following an overwhelmingly successful recruitment drive for volunteers, 2018 will see the campaign being advocated by an ever-growing team of over sixty beer lovers and enthusiasts who will have exclusive access to the Tryanuary website and social media profiles. Volunteers like me.

Although the campaign will be driven using the wide reaches of social media, the
ultimate aim is to inspire people to show support for their local enterprises.

Even though the UK is still enjoying a boom in all things beer and we now have over 1700 breweries, these hard-working independent businesses still need your vital support! By celebrating, sharing and enjoying what’s out there, you can help. Research on spending by local authorities shows that for every £1 spent with a small or medium-sized business, 63p stays in the local economy, compared to 40p with a larger business.

Supporting your local micropub helps your local community. They host events with local groups and they may have live music on. So why not pay them a visit? Try some new beers, maybe pick up a few to take away? Then share your discoveries and see what others have been up to via the #tryanuary hashtag.

This isn’t about drinking more.
It’s about trying something different.
Tasting something new.
Experiencing something interesting.

For more information, including details of how to get involved, visit www.tryanuary.com
or contact Tom on hello@tryanuary.com or call 07921 470803.

If you are a local business then do get in touch so that we can help to promote your beers and ideas for #tryanuary

The Geese & Fountain in Croxton Kerrial have already been in touch to say that they are planning a #Tryanuary event with new breweries from the 12th of January all the way through to the 31st. There will be lots more to follow as plans are confirmed.

Enjoy beer responsibly!

Manchester Smokehouse and Cellar, Lloyd Street, November 2017

A rainy Manchester Sunday. We had been wandering about the Manchester Museum this morning, and were going to have lunch in the cafe. However, an impromptu fire alarm cut short our visit, and after standing around in the cold for 10 minutes or so we decided there was no chance of getting back in for more mooching around, so we wandered back up towards the town hall (where we had been wandering around the Christmas market yesterday afternoon).

The market wasn’t quite as heaving as it was yesterday, but it was still busy and many of the nearby venues were happy as a result (there was a 45 minute wait for a table at the Slug & Lettuce for example). Just a few steps down a side street, we settled on Manchester Smokehouse and Cellar, which sounds like the perfect combination of two of my favourite things – smoked meats and beer. According to their web site, they “stock award winning craft, draught, cask and world beers along with the best selection of ciders…”

A quick look around fails to turn up any of those cask beers. No hand pulls in sight. Plenty of keg lines though, so that should be ok.

Stella – no. Likewise Stella Cidre.

Bud Light – no.

BrewDog Punk IPA – why? There’s a BrewDog bar just a couple of hundred yards around the corner, where they’ve got all manner of BrewDog beers which are better than their first ever offering.

Boddingtons – no. They still advertise it as a Manchester beer, despite the fact no beer bearing this name has been brewed in the city since 2012, when the cask version stopped being produced at Hydes in Moss Side. The current “beer” is produced elsewhere in Lancashire.

On to the bottles then. Crafty Dan’s 13 Guns is a good choice, lots of soft hoppy flavours but I was in the mood for something else. Wells Banana Bread Beer used to be a favourite, but as with most things swallowed by Marston’s, I tend to avoid it now.

Brewdog Elvis Juice has a good grapefruit flavour and would be a reasonable choice.

Corona – nope. The same goes for Desperados and the two Crabbies. Duvel (aka devil) is not exactly a light lunchtime tipple, the same goes for Kwak and St Stefanus Blonde. All of these are supermarket beers nowadays.

Einstok White Ale is available in supermarkets now, Hop House 13 shouldn’t have the word hop near it, and Liefmans Fruitesse is an insult to fruit beers, far too sweet and with at least a 4 quid mark up to make it appear exotic.

This all sounds like I’m being a bit of a beer snob, but if you are calling yourself a “cellar” in this city full of great breweries, you should be stocking some of them. Cloudwater, Alphabet, Marble, Tickety Brew, Runaway, Beer Nouveau, ShinDigger, Burton Road, Beatnikz Republic, Four Kings, Blackjacj, Chorlton, First Chop, Manchester Brewing, Seven Bro7hers and on and on it goes.

No sign of any of them, just beers from some big names and one or two interesting things from further afield.

In the end I settled on Hogs Back Montezuma Chocolate Lager, something I’d had before. The chocolate notes go well with chilli flavours.

On to lunch then.

We fancied something quite light today, so opted to mix and match from the menu. We had nachos with pulled pork (nicely smoked), and all the usual accompaniments of jalapenos, guacamole, salsa, melted cheese and sour cream. We also ordered the pineapple slaw (lots of tasty pineapple pieces), and sweet potato fries (because 2017).

It was a nice light lunch for us, just a shame that the “cellar” part doesn’t work as well as the smokehouse part.