Beer of the month, June 2017 – Spring + Summer IPA Mosaic Exp 431 by Cloudwater Brew Co

A holiday month often results in some difficult choices for beer of the month, as there have usually been many beer tasting opportunities. This month was no exception. These ones all came from the supermarket, but only one of them actually made it into the top ten or so. That shows what a good month it has been.

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Let’s start with that supermarket beer, which is not a derogatory term in this case. Shameless by Redwillow Brewery has a lovely hop profile, and is a cracking little IPA.

We’re off to Cheltenham next, for a Steady Rolling Man by DEYA Brewing Company, which was full of delicious tropical hoppiness. I didn’t have a copy of 461 Ocean Boulevard to hand, so I couldn’t accompany it with Eric Clapton’s cover of the Robert Johnson song.

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We stay with DEYA for Into the Haze, very chewy, soft and full of fruity hoppiness. Smooth and delicious.

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We stay with hops (as with most months) with a Tap Type APA by Magic Rock Brewing, also full of hoppy juiciness. You may spot a pattern of hops and juice – that’s the trend right now and it’s fine by me.

Psychokinesis by Magic Rock Brewing is next in the round up, very much a herby and fruity IPA with a hint of mint (and lime) in the finish. Very good this one.

A detour to Sours night for almost all of the rest of the best beers of the month.

Dark of Ages Past by Wild Weather Ales (featuring Calculon) was full of awesome blueberry flavours, one of the best sour fruit beers I’ve had for a while.

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Superluminal by Buxton Brewery was one that I was expecting to have massive hoppiness. In fact it was full of enormous grapefruit flavours but no hops. Pucker up buttercup! Mrs MOFAD loved it, the first for any beer labelled IPA.

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We take a quick trip to Newcastle for the next two. Knowledge by Rhinegeist Brewery was sampled at BrewDog Newcastle, and is made from peachy loveliness. The fruit takes over from the hops but it works so well. It took a while to work out what was going on, but it was really nice.

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Just down the road at Box Social I enjoyed this North Brewing and Het Uiltje Double IPA collaboration, full of grassy, hoppy, orangey sweetness. Yum yum!

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Back to sours night. A Vandervelden 135 Oude Geuze Vieille by Brouwerij Oud Beersel was one of our “bonus beers”. I’d already bought one of these, and after our tasting my bottle is going into storage for a large number of years. A wine amongst beers. It might just be rather special in a good few years.

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Once again we find ourselves travelling (metaphorically) to Cloudwater Brew Co. for our winner, the Spring + Summer IPA Mosaic Exp 431.

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Juicy tropical/stone fruit hoppiness is overflowing in this one. This is what a stone fruit IPA should be like. Take note BrewDog! It goes through to the end of year final.

 

Beer of the month, February 2017 – Autumn + Winter Fazenda Ouro Verde Porter by Cloudwater Brew Co

(Editor’s note – I had fallen a bit behind with these posts, so they’ve gone up a lot later than they should have done – let’s dive right in.)

A good month for beers. When you consider that some of the “also rans” could have been winners in other months, it shows what a strong line up we have.

Tropigamma Tropical IPA by Beavertown is a tropical murk bomb, full of hoppy Lilt flavours.

Day Tripper #1 by The Gipsy Hill Brewing Company was packed with flowery citrus hoppiness.

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Luponic Distortion: Revolution No. 003 by Firestone Walker Brewing Company was a happy slice of hoppiness. Just my kind of thing.

Bosko by Pressure Drop Brewing was a nice balance of hoppiness and bitterness.

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Harveys Prince of Denmark was a contender – coffee, liquorice, dark fruits and bags of treacle. Powerful stuff. Nom!

More hops are on their way, in the form of Five o’Clock Shadow by Weird Beard Brew Co. I loved this. Piney. Hoppy. Resinous. Really nice balance and low bitterness. Massive flavours. One of my favourites of the year so far.

Hops again? You know it. Hepcat by The Gipsy Hill Brewing Company was an awesome session IPA. Better than many so called IPAs. Bitter hoppiness.

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Sorachi Face Plant by Weird Beard Brew Co. features the Marmite of hops, Sorachi Ace. Although it tastes more like a Stilton and mango chutney sandwich. Love it.

We’ve nearly made it to the end of this round up. Export India Porter by The Kernel Brewery is the runner up this month. The eternal battle of hops versus heavy roast malts. Lovely stuff, really works well. Good carbonation too.

Our winner is not a hoppy beer. Autumn + Winter Fazenda Ouro Verde Porter by Cloudwater Brew Co. Some beers call for eloquence and considered words. How to sum this up? ALL THE COFFEE!!!!!!!! ☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️

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A very worthy winner.

Beer of the month, January (#tryanuary) 2017 – Autumn + Winter IPA Mosaic Exp 431 by Cloudwater Brew Co.

January has been rebranded #tryanuary, a reaction to all of this #dryjanuary nonsense, where people seem to think that you do lots of faddy things to “detox” yourself. You already contain things that detox you. Those things are called kidneys and a liver. Treat them with respect and they will look after you.

Let’s look at some of the best beers of #tryanuary then. We start with Frambuzi from Tiny Rebel Brewing Co, an Uzi 9mm full of sour raspberry flavours. Certainly no sweet “supermarket fruit beer” nonsense here.

Next up we visit Hampshire, for Vibrant Forest Summerlands, a golden summer session beer brewed exclusively with American hops to give a slight citrus character and a rich hop aroma. A relatively low ABV makes this a true golden session ale to enjoy whatever the weather.

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They are not wrong. I’ve never had so much hoppiness in 3.5% – a cracking session beer, and even sweeter as it was a free sample for taking part in #CraftBeerHour

I wrote about “the limited edition crowdsourced beer experiments” of Cloudwater Brew Co back in August. I had DIPA v3 which turned out to be beer of the year, as well as v6 and v7 during 2016. I also collected v8, v9 and v10 in 2016, and v11 came out recently. From next month, the beer switches to cans, and v12 will be the first canned release.

So DIPA v8 makes the list for January, full of tropical dankness but very easy drinking. I’ve still not found one I like more than v3 yet.

Speaking of cans, we move on to one next, Storm In A Teacup by Wild Weather Ales. Over to Wild Weather for the blurb:-

Two things are loved the world over; a warm cup of tea and a cool glass of beer. And it’s with this worldwide love affair firmly in mind that we crafted this beer. Using hops from the US, New Zealand & Australia, tea inspired by China and the finest English malt. A true intercontinental behemoth.

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It does exactly what it says on the tin. “Earl Grey IPA” is what it says on the tin. It is literally that. Gentle tea flavours mixed with hoppy goodness.

Across the North sea to Denmark, for Peter, Pale & Mary from Mikkeller, probably the most famous “cuckoo” brewery, as they don’t have their own brewery premises, but collaborate with other brewers to get their beers made. This particular brew has cracking hoppy flavours and is definitely my kind of pale ale. Sessionable goodness. Yes please!

We return to Manchester and Cloudwater Brew Co for our winner, the snappily titled, Autumn + Winter IPA Mosaic Exp 431, which is described as “a dank, juicy, hoppy IPA featuring Mosaic, E431 and Vic’s Secret hops and fruity esters from WLP4000 yeast.”

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It is indeed stuffed full of dank hoppiness, absolutely delicious stuff, very much my favourite beer this month, even though the others in the list have been very good.

The first candidate for beer of the year 2017!

Beer of the year, 2016 – Cloudwater DIPA v3

In which we look back through the beers of the month for 2016 and attempt to pick a winner for the year. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. I’m willing to give it a try.

January’s winner was Eternal from Northern Monk, full of all the hop flavours, but only 4.1% – top work from a session IPA, a style that many brewers are going for but many are struggling with. This is really good stuff, keeping the numbers low but the hoppiness high.

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February 2016’s winner was Panhead Pale Ale – Quickchange XPA. One of several found in New Zealand at the start of the year, super hoppy hits, Mosaic, Galaxy and Citra hops all joining together, with those alpha oils coming through very strongly.

With another 12 days of NZ beers to choose from, March’s winner was always likely to come from the Southern hemisphere too. Armageddon IPA by Epic Brewing Company was enjoyed at The Brewers Co-operative. As soon as I tasted it, I made a bold claim – “beer of the month for March. No doubt.”

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That claim turned out to be true. A super hoppy smack in the face with malty and tropical fruit notes.

The Antipodean dominance continued into April, with the imported Oyster Stout by Three Boys Brewery taking the title.

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Goldenthal from Bollington was May’s winner, a continental style golden barley wine which was a birthday present to myself on a visit to one of Bollington’s pubs. When Samuel Gregg bought a mill in Bollington in 1832, he named it Goldenthal, a German word which translates to “happy valley”. Residents of Bollington have used this name for the village ever since.

The beer that bears this name is very flavoursome, sweet without being cloying, like an IPA smashed into a barley wine. Dangerously drinkable for 7.4% – I could drink it all night. That would be a bad idea. There’s no way you can #keepitsession with this one.

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A trip to Edinburgh in June introduced me to Findhorn Killer by Speyside Craft Brewery, found at The Potting Shed. This one gained the topical name Hoppy McHopface, a deliciously balanced hoppy ale. If you think that the craft beer revolution is all about London, Manchester or other big English cities, I can confirm that it is alive and well in Scotland too.

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July found lots of us at a beer festival, surely a chance for lots of great beers. Sadly not as it turned out. It was actually a beer bought in 2015 that triumphed.

In 1978, The Courage Brewery brewed a batch of Imperial Russian Stout, aged it in infected wooden barrels and some time later it was put into bottles. In 2012, someone at Buxton Brewery opened a bottle, drank the beer (which was apparently amazing) and then rescued the intruiging combination of sedimented yeasts and debris from the bottom of the aged vessel. They then inocculated a barrel of their own Russian Imperial Stout, Tsar, with this precious sludge and left the beer to its own devices for 9 months. The only attention they gave it was a weekly “roll around the brewery”, apparently the same as the Courage barrels got.

Following this 9 month ageing, the beer changed in character thanks to the Brettanomyces strain of yeast that had laid dormant in the bottle for all those years waking up when being introduced to some young, fresh Imperial Stout, adding a delicious tartness to the beer to go with the hop bitterness and deep malty and dark fruit flavours.

The Tsar Bomba was born. I’ve been letting it rest, but I couldn’t let it rest any longer. Good call. Dark. Bitter. Sweetness. One for slow sipping and a strong contender for beer of the year.

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Sadly, you won’t be able to buy one like it, until they make the next generation version (much like Cloudwater and their DIPA releases). Speaking of Cloudwater…

August’s beer of the month was so good, it produced enough words for its own blog post. The DIPA V3 by Cloudwater Brew Co.

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It’s a 9% double IPA (DIPA). It doesn’t taste like a 9% DIPA. With many beers of high strength, you can taste the alcohol, and sometimes it can overpower the flavours of the beer (often called “alcohol burn”). Not so here, it’s wonderfully drinkable for a 9% beer.

Juicy Citra and Mosaic hops mingle with Chinook and Comet. Vermont ale yeast makes a big contribution to this beer, bringing a peach flavour to do battle with the tropical notes from the hops. It would appear that over time the hops might have fought back a bit more than when everyone tried it back in April when it was released. Even after 4 months this is still stunning.

The only disappointment is that I’ll never get to have another bottle of this, because I bloody loved it. I had a sneaky feeling that it would be beer of the month for August, and I was quite right.

September’s winner was Foreign Extra Stout by Dancing Cows, a deep, complex and strong stout, perfect for sipping on a cool evening outside. Which is demonstrated by this image.

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Fruity flavours, roasty flavours, coffee flavours, smoothness. A very worthy winner of beer of the month. Delicious!

October’s winner was, appropriately enough, called Bourbon Oktober, by Vibrant Forest Brewery. This is “Black Oktober” but aged in a fresh bourbon barrel for nearly 6 months. We held our own mini beer festival where we sampled lots of nice beers, it was the best on the night and the best of the month.

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Aging the “Black October” produces a big bourbon vanilla beast which was quite stunning. Vibrant took their existing full bodied strong stout (with aromas of dark chocolate and liquorice) and the barrel aging process has added spicy notes and vanilla. It was certainly worth that extra work and wait. Bourbon barrel brilliance and a worthy winner.

November’s winner was Universal Mind by Beavertown, their Rainbow Project 2016 collaboration with ParrotDog, a take on the old German style called Adambier.

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Oak. Smoke. Sweetness. Marsala. Creaminess. A strong sipper. Good complexity. My favourite Rainbow Project beer so far.

And finally, we come to December’s winner, a new festive favourite. Christmas Cake Imperial Stout, brewed by Cloudwater Brew Co in collaboration with ToØl of Denmark.

Our lovely little local, The Needle & Pin, had managed to secure one of these rare casks, and just a few minutes after they opened, I was ready to try some. Sold only in halves or thirds (you don’t need more), this festive delight was sure to delight anyone who came into contact with it.

Indeed it did. Without a doubt it was Christmas cake in a glass, boozy dried fruits and gentle winter spices. Well worth the brief cycle to get out and try it. Nearly everyone who walked through the door during the couple of hours that we were there wanted to try it, the exception being a couple of people who had other things to do, such as driving home or operating heavy machinery…

So now the hard job of picking out a winner from all of these delights.

In good old fashioned Miss World style, we start with third place, which goes to Bourbon Oktober, a big bourbon vanilla beast. There is a use for bourbon barrels, and ageing beer is that use.

In second place, we have Tsar Bomba, another barrel aged beast of a beer with a delicious tartness, some hop bitterness and deep malty and dark fruit flavours. Definitely one for slow sipping.

My beer of the year was from August, and as I’ve already mentioned, it generated its own blog post (I did the work, we don’t have sentient beers yet). Cloudwater DIPA v3 was released on the 9th of April. I didn’t get any at the time, but did manage to snaffle a bottle when picking up my v6 and v7 bottles later in the year.

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There has been a lot of talk about Cloudwater and their DIPA experiments. I’ve tried v3, v6 and v7 this year, with 8, 9 and 10 all waiting to be drunk, and 11 on the way in a few weeks (according to the release schedule). The v3 was definitely my favourite, because I love huge and flavoursome IPAs, and it was very much one of those. I just kept sniffing it, taking in that aroma, and drinking it, taking in that flavour. It was a lovely beer, and although I’ll never get to have it again, I’m happy to have had it.

I’m sure there’ll be more debate about limited release beers and related matters in 2017, but let us close out 2016 by praising Cloudwater DIPA v3 as an experiment that went very well indeed!

Beer of the month, December 2016 -Christmas Cake Imperial Stout by Cloudwater Brew Co and ToØl

No messing around, straight down to business. The last day of the year means a lot of round up posts. Beer and pub of the month, followed by beer and pub of the year, and a few other summary posts too.

So let’s get going. As we had the 12 days of Thornbridge at The Needle & Pin earlier this month, no surprise to find a couple of Thornbridge beers in the list.

We start with Thornbridge Lucaria, essentially chocolate ice cream in a glass, an ice cream porter that does exactly what it says on the pump clip. Rich and sweet with vanilla, lactose and chocolate.

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We move on to Thornbridge Serpent, which was the subject of the first visit to the N&P this month.  A deconstruction of the beer ensued, and it was a great night. It almost feels wrong to put this in for beer of the month, as it really feels and tastes more like a cider. . Serpent is a Belgian style golden ale, brewed with cider lees (the leftover bits from fermenting cider, yeasts, skins and whatever’s left), and then aged in Four Roses bourbon barrels. For two years.

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It was worth it.

No IPA yet? Worry no more, here comes an American style one, a collaboration between Siren Craft Brew of Berkshire and Brewdog Shepherds Bush. They put their heads together and decided to create a fruit smoothie beer, a juice-packed IPA with the most fruit they’ve ever used in a brew (mango, papaya and passionfruit), plus a huge hit of lactose for a thick and smooth body. And it is indeed smooth, just like a silk (as Shaggy once proclaimed). A silk woven from hops and a calippo to create a smooth juice bomb.

On to our winner, and appropriately enough for December it’s a Christmas beer. It’s actually the first time a festive “themed” beer has even got a look in, as they so often tend towards massive disappointment, waving a cinammon stick at an amber ale does not cut it in these enlightened times.

One of the important ingredients of Christmas is Christmas cake. But what if you are on a liquid diet? How about a Christmas cake in beer form? That can be arranged. I was within cycling distance of one of only 12 casks of Christmas Cake Imperial Stout, brewed by Cloudwater Brew Co in collaboration with ToØl of Denmark. Some say that the cakey Imperial Stout was infused with fresh ground spices and dried fruits to create something fruity, and rich, with lingering warming spices.

Our lovely little local, The Needle & Pin, had managed to secure one of these rare casks, and just a few minutes after they opened, I was ready to try some. Sold only in halves or thirds (you don’t need more), this festive delight was sure to delight anyone who came into contact with it.

Indeed it did. Without a doubt it was Christmas cake in a glass, boozy dried fruits and gentle winter spices. Well worth the brief cycle to get out and try it. Nearly everyone who walked through the door during the couple of hours that we were there wanted to try it, the exception being a couple of people who had other things to do, such as driving home or operating heavy machinery…

A worthy winner of beer of the month, and there’s a bottle maturing in the garage for MOFAD drinking companion Matt, who has this to look forward to…

It goes into the final for beer of the year… That’s up next, so stay tuned…

Beer of the month, November 2016 – Universal Mind by Beavertown

There were lots of beers that nearly made the shortlist this month, such as  Mosaic Pale Ale by London Beer Lab, Bloody Notorious by Beavertown, Comfortably Numb by BAD Co, and BrewDog’s Jet Black Heart.

Here are the top five for this month. It’s been another month for home beers, nothing that I’ve had whilst out and about has made the list. And there’s no IPA in the list either. I’m as shocked as you.

We start with one that does exactly what it says on the tin (bottle). Old Engine Oil by Harviestoun Brewery. If it’s called that, you’d expect it to be thick, dark and delicious. And it is. Exactly that. Smooth and creamy with coffee, toffee and chocolate.

Something a lot lighter up next, in the form of Atlantic APA by Brixton Brewery from a Needle & Pin selection box. Hoppy and properly pale loveliness makes for a very good ale.

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Into cans next for a Pride & Joy by Vocation brewery. I’d only seen these in Booths until recently, but you can now find some of their cans in Tesco. Pride & Joy is a super hoppy APA much like the Atlantic APA above.

We go dark again, for Holy Cowbell India Stout by Beavertown brewery.  This one features heavy malts, lots of fruits and plenty of hops. There are hints of lavender in here too. It’s very drinkable indeed.

We stay with Beavertown for our winner, Universal Mind by Beavertown, their Rainbow Project 2016 collaboration with ParrotDog, a take on the old German style called Adambier.

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Oak. Smoke. Sweetness. Marsala. Creaminess. A strong sipper. Good complexity. My favourite Rainbow Project beer so far. It goes forward to beer of the year…

Beer of the month – October 2016 – Bourbon Oktober, Vibrant Forest Brewery

A tricky month this one. Lots of strong contenders (in terms of quality and alcoholic strength). All bar one of these were sampled in the same week of October, when we were on our East Anglian epic adventure, part two.

Finishing off our “Summer House Beer Festival“, we had a Guatemalan Coffee Extra Porter by Buxton Brewery, bottom right in the picture.

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We’re up all night to drink coffee. Massive coffee nose, big coffee flavours with vanilla mixing in there too. There are lots of coffee porters out and about, this is a good one.

Another new beer next, a Triple Knot Tripel by Adnams (perhaps unsurprisingly for a week in Southwold), made with Pilsner malt, acidulated malt and invert sugar fermented using Adnams house yeast as well as white wine yeast. It’s hopped with Eldorado and Pacific jade and a sprinkling of botanicals – lavender, orange blossom and jasmine. Quite unusual for a beer.

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Orange, honey and lovely warming Autumn flavours. Dangerously drinkable for 10%, it tastes nowhere near that. A slight bready character often associated with sparkling wine too. Really delicious stuff, this would make a great Christmas day ale.

We step outside of the holiday bubble for a moment to try a Three’s Company by Cloudwater Brew Co. A three way collaboration with Magic Rock and JW Lees, using the latter’s 4709th generation yeast culture.

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Boom! A hop bomb has been dropped from a great height. Massive NZ hop flavours and something to tide everyone over until Cloudwater’s DIPA v8 gets out into the wild.

We stay hoppy with an Imperial Red IPA Special Edition by Vibrant Forest Brewery which is “built” on their “RadicAle Imperial Red IPA”.  This is what they have to say about it. “The aroma now sits on a maltier backing with reduced hops and the giant citrus and tropical notes have replaced by thick fortified waves of cherry, plum and deep woody syrups. The boozy aftertaste has mellowed and the whole experience is utterly different to how we initially presented it.”

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This is what I have to say about it. Boooooooom! Massive caramel malts, hoppy happiness. Very very good. A special edition indeed. As you can tell, I liked this one.

We return to our collage (bottom left) for this month’s winner, Bourbon Oktober, again by Vibrant Forest Brewery. This is”Black Oktober” but aged in a fresh bourbon barrel for nearly 6 months.

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This produces a big bourbon vanilla beast which was quite stunning. Vibrant took their existing full bodied strong stout (with aromas of dark chocolate and liquorice) and the barrel aging process has added spicy notes and vanilla. It was certainly worth that extra work and wait. Bourbon barrel brilliance and a worthy winner.