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 Crafty Sheep Dog, Keswick, December 2017

Beer drinkers in Keswick have always been well served by Booths, Britain’s greatest supermarket (although sadly now up for sale, so at risk from losing that title depending on who buys them up).

However, Booths can’t get hold of everything beer-related, because some stuff is made in batches that are too small for distribution to supermarkets. So there is a gap in the market for someone to supply local and “not too far away” beers. Step forward “The Crafty Sheep Dog”.

The Crafty Sheep Dog (not to be confused with The Crafty Baa in Windermere) is found inside Sheep-ish in Keswick, a friendly clothes shop that has lots of sheep-themed designs and parodies, in the form of t-shirts, hoodies and the like.

More importantly, they have a corner of the shop dedicated to Cumbrian breweries and one “guest brewery”. Right now that guest brewery is the lovely Fyne Ales, so I had to pick up a couple of them as well as one each from Tractor Shed, Hardknott and Fell.

There are plenty to choose from, so even if you’ve had a lot of Cumbrian beer (like me) then you’ll find some interesting new things tucked away in crafty corner.

Definitely worth a visit, particularly with #tryanuary coming up!

The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – selection box #9 – December 2017

Just in time for Christmas, it’s time for the latest Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club selection box, which I think is the fifteenth in total. Today’s photo is not the most glamorous of backdrops, but this is about the contents, not the presentation! Let’s dive in…

Green Flash – Soul Style – 6.5%

Green Flash are one of San Diego’s finest breweries, and I’ve already had three of their beers, West Coast IPA (heavy pine, malty sweetness), Passion Fruit Kicker (subtle passion fruit and wheat) and GFB (an acronym with two definitions).

Soul Style IPA is their manifestation of a single IPA, just to prove that there are still some out there in this world of DIPAs, TIPAs, IIPAs and the like. Simcoe, Citra and Cascade hops are layered, allowing bright tropical waves of flavourful citrus and floral notes to break gently on the palate.

Omnipollo – Zodiak – 6.2

A rather conformist beer from the Omnipollo team, Zodiak is their new house IPA. A blend of grains, untouched post fermentation and aspiringly hopped with Simcoe, Citra and Centennial.

Poppels – West Coast IPA – 5.4%

Brewing since 2012 and certified as organic since 2016, Poppels are a Swedish brewery who seem to be in the shadow of some of the more illustrious Scandinavian breweries.
West Coast IPA originates from the American west coast, known as the beer lover’s beer. This brew is packed with bouquet & bite from the variety of hops used to create an ever-evolving beer style.

Pressure Drop – Domino Topple – 7.2%

Located just around the corner from Beavertown, and brewing some great beers, Pressure Drop are a popular brewery. Bosko has been my favourite so far. Domino topple is full of chewy, mango fruitiness with that lovely hoppy bitter bite, a lovely dank IPA.

To Øl – Tangerine Dream – 4.6%

Tangerine Dream is a soft, balanced cream ale infused with ripe tangerines and ideas of balance. It is also named after one of the coolest electronic bands ever. You should listen to The Myth of Dragons or Light Flux while drinking this beer.

Yeastie Boys – Bigmouth IPA – 4.4%

It’s a bit of a surprise that this is the first Yeastie Boys beer to feature in the Craft Beer Club. I’ve had three of their output already, Digital IPA, Pot Kettle Black and Gunnamatta, all handily available in my favourite supermarket Booths. Their beer was brewed under contract in the UK at Brewdog, and they have just announced that their new UK brewer is West Berkshire Brewery shortly, after that relationship ended earlier this year.

Bigmouth is an extra pale, unfiltered, hoppy session ale. It is full of tropical, grapefruit, lemon and white wine notes from the Nelson-grown New Zealand hops (Nelson Sauvin, Wakatu, Taiheke). A luscious mouthfeel, from the heavy use of wheat and oats, carries the hop flavour across the palate before easing out with a dry, bitter finish.

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.

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