The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – sour selection box #3 – May 2018

We are already up to the third sour beer selection box, lots of interesting beers from home and much further afield coming up in this one. Pucker up buttercup!

Brasserie Trois Dames – Joyeuse – 5.6%

A pile of whole raspberries was co-fermented with a fresh saison. After which, a mature barrel aged sour saison was added to taste, creating this lush and alluring blend. Unlfitered, unpasteurised, unadulaterated, and ready for the celebration of the everyday.

Brekeriet Beer AB – Pink Passion – 4.7%

Another Scandinavian discovery for me this year, Sweden’s Brekeriet Beer AB are all about sours and wild ales. So far I’ve had Wild & Juicy (super juicy sour fizz) and the far more subtle Rhuboise (gentle raspberry and rhubarb flavours).

Pink Passion is a tart, refreshing and gluten free oat Berliner with passion fruit and hibiscus.

Founders Brewing Co. – Rübæus – 5.7%

Optimising the flavour of fresh raspberries added at several stages during fermentation, Rübæus is the perfect blend of sweet, tart and refreshing, not just another boring summer wheat beer or shandy. With a hefty malt bill, this beer is 100% Founders.

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Stillwater Artisanal – Shoegaze – 6%

‘Distorted Farmhouse Pale Ale’ is a New England style IPA that met a farmhouse pale ale down a darkened alley. Brewed with oats, spelt and lactose and then hopped with Simcoe, Citra and Pacific Gem.

One that I’ve had before, a very easy drinking spicy saison.

To Øl – Sur NEIPA: Citra & Mosaic – 5%

A sour mashed New England style IPA (yes, another one) with Citra and Mosaic, it does exactly what it says on the tin. Hoppy and sour, but not too much of either – a quick shot of hoppiness followed by citrus notes of lime and spice.

Wild Weather Ales – Ask Me About Loom – 4.8%

Wild Weather Ales are another of my favourite breweries at the minute. I think I’ve now had 15 of their beers, and they excel at fruity and sour beers such as Dark of Ages Past, Peach of a Weekend, Damn Dead Strawberry and the ever reliable Curse of Threepwood.

The Monkey Island theme continues here, with Ask Me About Loom. For those of you not into 1990s PC games, Cobb was a character found in the Scumm Bar on Mêlée Island, and he wore a badge reading, “Ask me about Loom(tm)”. He mostly answered questions from Guybrush Threepwood by saying “aye” until asked about Loom, when he would then advertise ‘Loom’ – another game made by LucasArts.

Back to the beer, which is an orange and passion fruit sour, in fact it is a forward thinking tart colossus of a beer. An under current of rich passion fruit gives way to the satsuma umbrella wrapped around a lip puckering sour wheat base.

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The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – selection box #11 – May 2018

You know the drill by now, the latest selection of 6 beers from the “normal” club, a picture and some notes. Another different backdrop for this month’s photo too 🙂 And this time it’s all about the hop.

Anderson Valley – Hop Ottin – 7%

A new brewery to me, and an interesting sounding IPA. Brilliant copper colour with a lingering, lacy white head. The nose sings of grapefruit, pine needles, citron, roses and bergamot. The flavor is rich in the citrusy, resiny flavours from Columbus and Cascade hops packed into this beer balanced artfully with a solid, honey-drenched malt character and crisp bitterness leading to a beautifully dry, light herbal finish. Apparently it bites like a cankicky bluetail (a rattlesnake looking for a fight).

Arbor – Large Hop Collider – 8%

A double India Pale Ale, brewed with Citra & Mosaic hops. Big flavours and aromas of mango, passion fruit, lychee and sweet citrus. I’m a big Arbor fan, having had many of their excellently named (and brewed!) beers in the last 12 months, including Mega Mega White Thing, Lime in the Coconut, The Devil Made Me Brew It, Smac My Brew Up, Super Yakima, Piccolina and Oz Bomb. Look forward to trying some more at this month’s meet the brewer night at The Needle & Pin.

Black Iris – Cosmic Cream – 5.0%

A familiar beer this one, sampled at February’s meet the brewer event at The Needle & Pin. Smoothly creamed fruits come through from the mix of lactose and Vic Secret, Citra, Simcoe and Rakau hops.

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Dry and Bitter – Dank and Juicy – 6.2%

Denmark’s Dry & Bitter are one of my favourite discoveries this year. As Seen on TV is a cracking session IPA, Citra Bale Ale is a lovely session ale full of Citra goodness (I could drink it for days), Simcoe Bale Ale is similar, and Fat & Fruity has soft pine and a little fruit.

Dank and Juicy is a full blown West Coast IPA with Citra, Equinox and Mosaic hops, to give loads of tropical fruit on the nose and a resinous hop backbone.

Marble – Pint – 3.9%

AKA the beer that moaning minnies grassed them up to Trading Standards over. A cracking pint, whatever the measure, a pale malt bill and a blend of NZ and US hops combine to make a 3.9% session ale with zesty aromas, grapefruit and subtle lemongrass.

Melvin – Melvin IPA – 7.5%

You can’t always get what you want, but sometimes you get lucky. It’s all about the right hops, at the right time. This is how Melvin grew up. Fruity, intense, but not bitter like the rest of them. As long as you don’t take advantage, Melvin think that this is the hoppiest relationship you could ask for. I’ll be the judge of that!

The Needle & Pin craft beer club – dark beer selection box #8 – April 2018

No time for preamble, I’ve got loads of posts to catch up on. You must know the score by now. Six new beers, a couple that will get drunk soon, some others that will be laying down for a while…

Brooklyn – Black Chocolate Stout – 10%

This is the famous Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout. In the 18th century, Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, ordered a stout to be sent to her from England. This beer was brewed strong and hoppy to survive the sea voyage, and it arrived in perfect condition. Soon “Russian Imperial Stout” became the toast of the Russian aristocracy.

Brewed since 1994, the Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout has become heralded the world over. It achieves its dark chocolate aroma and flavour through the artful blending of six malts and three distinct mashes. Properly kept, it will improve in the bottle for many years, in a cool, dry spot away from light sources.

Malts: 2-row, caramel malt, malted wheat and a blend of American roasted malts
Hops: Willamette and American Fuggle

Cloudwater – Baltic Porter – 7.2%

The first Baltic Porter from Cloudwater, brewed with a rich malt base featuring caramel, Vienna, Munich and Carafa Special malts. They used WLP833 (yeast) for fermentation and 6 weeks of lagering, and the resulting beer was brightened up with a very light dry hop of Ekuanot.

De Struise – St Amatus Oostvleteren 12 (2013) – 11%

Saint Amatus, also called St. Aimé, was a Benedictine monk. He took the defecse of the lesser man who was exploited by the Merovingian king Thierry III. Oostvleteren in Belgium is the only parish to patron St Amatus as saint. De Struise started brewing at Deca in Vleteren in early 2006, and started their own micro brewery in Oostvleteren during 2009.

A strong dark quad aged on Woodford Reserve barrels from Labrot & Graham in Kentucky. A complex character of prunes, plums and raisins combined with Belgian yeast and hints of chocolate, with a warming caramel malt body. Brewed in 2013, bottled in 2016, this will age effortlessly for many years.

Marble – Lost Your Marbles – red wine barrel aged – 10.4%

An imperial stout aged in Pinot Noir barrels containing cherries, blackberries, blackcurrants, raspberries and redcurrants. What else needs to be said?

North Riding Brewery – Choc Fudge Brownie Stout (Ski Sundae edition) – 7.4%

The original Choc Fudge Brownie Stout was brewed on the request of the N&P and appeared in the February 2018 selection box. Hot (ish, it’s still only spring) on its heels comes the Ski Sundae edition, with added raspberry and vanilla.

Old Sawley Brewing Company / The Needle & Pin – Plummeth the Hour, Plum Crumble Porter – 4.5%

The very first N&P collaborative brew, brewed at Old Sawley. A plum porter, with plums on the nose and a big hit on the palate, with a finish of muscovado sugar and vanilla, as the crumble overtakes the plum. An imperial version is already in the planning stages.

The Head of Steam is coming to Leicester

On Thursday April 5th, a new pub is opening in Leicester, replacing the Reynard on Market Street (which I never visited and didn’t particularly want to). The Head of Steam is the fifteenth pub of that name to be opened by Hartlepool-based Camerons Brewery, and I’ve heard good things about the other ones around the country.

Like other pubs in the chain, it will be presenting beers from local breweries such as Framework, Charnwood, Langton and Brewsters, alongside some of the best beers and ciders from around the world, which will be pouring from its 30 lines. With cans and bottles also available, there should be around 120 different beers/ciders available at any one time.

The HoS team pride themselves on hand-selecting the perfect range of beer for customers using expert knowledge from their team of passionate beer sommeliers.

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There will also be food available, served from 11am until 9pm, including breakfasts until 3pm (full English, pancakes, porridge and a veggie breakfast). Sandwiches and wraps are available until 5pm, with pulled pork and fish fingers among the fillings alongside light bites such as soup and nachos. There are eight burgers to choose from including vegetarian and vegan ones, as well as three foot long hot dogs, including Homer’s favourite “foot long chilli dog”.

Wait, there’s more. Five pizzas including pulled pork and chicken tikka varieties. There are three pies, served with mash, peas and gravy. Then we get to the main courses, with classics such as fish’n’chips, sausage’n’mash and steak’n’chips. There are also more international offerings in the form of Moroccan harissa marinated salmon, boeuf bourguignon, chicken tikka masala, mussels and chicken Milanese. There are puddings too. And many of these dishes come with suggested beer pairings too.

They have already become a verified venue on Untappd, which helps you to see what beer will be available when you visit. There will also be regular events such as quiz nights and live music, and the VIP floor can be reserved for your function. If it ever warms up, there’s a beer garden too.

Looking forward to checking it out on a future trip to Leicester.

The Devonshire Arms, Kensington, March 2018

We decided not to back into central London tonight. After a day out in Bermondsey we came back to the hotel to unwind with a cup of tea, and then headed out just around the corner for a hearty pub dinner.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that we are in Derbyshire, given that is full of pubs called The Devonshire Arms (the various Dukes of Devonshire having owned much of the land in the area), but we are still in Kensington.

This was another pub taking part in the Thornbridge “craft beer residency” and once again my Thornbridge polo shirt caused a little confusion, as I was mistaken for an employee again 🙂 However, I didn’t have any Thornbridge tonight, because they were approaching the end of their residency, and I’d already had the one that they had left on keg. “What about these bottles” came the reply from the lady behind the bar. “Nope, had them too.” In fact I’ve had 58 different Thornbridge beers according to Untappd, so it was statistically unlikely that they would have one in stock that I hadn’t had.

Although perhaps I should have just had one anyway, as my first pint of Adnams Fat Sprat proved to be nothing more than a bog standard malty bitter.

On to the food, and a rare sight in a pub, a “fish pie for 2” served with beans and broccolini. Given that it has been freezing cold all day, and with snow swirling around outside as we arrived, a warm and hearty fish pie was just the thing, presented in this big cast iron pan to allow you to serve yourself.

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It was suitably delicious, very much hearty and warming, and certainly just what we needed on this bitterly cold night. Mrs MOFAD accompanied hers with a Stiegl-Weisse Naturtrüb by Stieglbrauerei zu Salzburg, a very nice herbal wheat beer from Salzburg in Austria.

I decided to risk an ABInbev subsidiary, Blue Point’s Toasted Lager, which was not toasted in any way, but was a perfectly pleasant amber lager, certainly a change from the general cold fizz that you might find in a London pub.

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A lovely dinner at The Devonshire Arms, well worth a visit if you’re in the area, and very handy if you’re staying in the nearby Holiday Inn. Lots of posh houses/flats to have a nose at on the way there and back too.

Brewdog, Soho, March 2018

It’s a Friday night in London. Everyone is out out. Trying to find somewhere for a drink is a bit of a tricky proposition. After a bit more wandering (our dinner plan A turned into about plan F after lots of wandering), we settled on Brewdog, based on the fact that it’s not the cheapest night out in London, and we might just be able to get a table.

After working our way through to the bar, we spotted a table becoming vacant, and Mrs MOFAD slipped through the crowd to grab the table whilst I grabbed some drinks.

For me it was Siren’s Kisetsu, a Japanese Saison with yuzu for a tart and zesty citrus kick, sudachi (another small, tart citrus fruit) and cedar, created with Tonkotsu Ramen bar. There are also Oolong tea leaves and Saison Dupont yeast brings it all together, and you really get the fruitiness from the citrus fruits.

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Mrs MOFAD was also on a sweet and sour kick with this Shanghai Noon from Cleveland’s Platform Beer Company, a prickly pear (aka Indian fig opuntia) and lychee sour, fruity and sweet with a nice tartness to it.

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As you will have noticed from the interesting hue, we once more found ourselves sitting underneath some neon in Brewdog, much like York last year. Despite that, it was good to be in here for some quality beer.

Vapia-no pizza, Soho, March 2018

This is going to be one of those moany posts. I ordered pizza. I left without eating pizza. I went to the Soho Theatre. I bought a wrap. I ate that after the show. I was still thinking about pizza.

Let’s get on to the good bit first. I like the Vapiano concept (when it works). If you’ve not been to one before, a quick explanation. When you go in, you get a contactless card (much like a hotel room card). You find yourself a table or a spot at a shared bench (more likely on a busy Friday night in the west end). You visit the counter that you want to order food from, you order food, drinks etc. You tap your card on the reader and the charge for whatever you’ve ordered is applied to the card. When you’ve finished, you take your card to the till, and pay. Easy. Simple. Quick.

When it works, it works. However, if it is a really busy Friday night, and you choose pizza, you might run the risk of not getting pizza. I’m willing to take that risk for pizza, but it backfired. I did manage to get a pint of “British Pale Ale” from Caledonian (yes I know, evil Heineken subsidiary). Six quid a pint though – super ouch!

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Coupled with eating some of Mrs MOFAD’s chicken alfredo (chicken, mushrooms, onion, cream, egg and Grana Padano), this was all that I had to sustain me. The pasta orders are cooked in front of you while you wait. Despite ordering pizza in what seemed reasonable time, there appeared to be a backlog of pizzas, and orders that went in after mine were definitely coming out before. When they messed up another order (missing three quarters of it!) then they had to get the rest of that through the oven.

In honour of the recently departed Jim Bowen, let’s have a look at what we could have won, with a previous visit to Vapiano in April 2011…

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My plan to come here because it would be quick rather blew up in my face. You can’t win them all. At least they were good enough not to charge me for the pizza I didn’t eat. I would come back, but I’ll make sure there’s another half hour available next time. Can’t win them all.