March 2020 round up

The month it all changed. We’re all sick of the c word by now, but Covid-19 has led to unprecedented use of the word unprecedented. Let’s look back at the longest March that there has ever been in history. I mean, that’s what it’s felt like hasn’t it? At least I’ve made it three out of three for monthly round ups.

We did manage to get out a couple of times before lockdown came down hard. We went to see Amanda Owen at the town hall, and indulged in a pizza and some salad in The Jam House, which is a new pub in town. Well, a new pub in name, it used to be The Orange Tree.

The pizza was pretty decent, and the salad wasn’t just limp iceberg. Sadly, the pint was pretty meh, I think we need to tell Japanese breweries that a “hoppy session ale” should have hops in it. Swing Low from Fuller’s was a malty caramel bitter.

Our last meal out proved to be just a couple of days later, when we went to a Miller & Carter Steakhouse for Mrs MOFAD’s birthday. The beer selection was rubbish, but there was good gin for Mrs MOFAD, and I was driving. The food was excellent, and neither of us had steak, so they are good at other things too. My pork was lovely as was Mrs MOFAD’s fish dish.

The chocolate hazelnut bombe was the pièce de résistance, like a super dense and much better Ferrero Rocher. Mrs M’s peach, mango and passion fruit Eton mess was also very zingy, but you know my feelings on this matter. The chocolate pudding is always the one to go for.

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So that was it for “out out”. Just a couple of days later I started working from home full time, and just a week later we were all put on to our current “lockdown” with only essential journeys permitted, and physical distancing required to help stop the spread of the virus.

What this has meant is that I can buy more stuff online from some of my favourite suppliers, because I’ll always be at home to receive the delivery. I’ve had some lovely beers from new Norfolk brewery Duration (super fast and super fresh beer), the last online sales (for a bit) from Elusive Brewing, and also the last online sales (for a bit) from Sauce Shop in Nottingham.

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There was also time for a couple of deliveries from my local, The Needle & Pin, who always keep me topped up with great beer from around the UK and further afield.

Now is the perfect time to support all of those small producers who will have lost many of their routes to customers, so if they are still delivering direct to your door (with no-contact couriers) then it’s time to stock up. Much better than bumping into people panic buying toilet rolls in Tesco.

Every beer bar one (that poor one mentioned earlier) has been at home. Favourites this month have been 2020 by CR/AK, Patrons Project 26.01 // Sarah Harris // Culinary Adventures: Edinburgh // Pilot // Deep-Fried Caramel Chocolate Bar Stout by Northern Monk,  Wanderlust by Alefarm, and I think my very favourite was Dessert In A Can – Chocolate Peanut Butter Caramel Brownie by Amundsen Bryggeri – super sweet peanut butter and it contains no nuts. Lovely stuff.

One day we’ll get through this, and we’ll be back down the pub again. Mine’s a pint!

February 2020 round up

My resolution to do at least one post a month is going well so far, so let’s look back on February 2020.

A “double win” to start the month, with a trip to my favourite Leicestershire fish’n’chip shop, which was also (allegedly) where Sven-Göran Eriksson used to go for fish’n’chips when he was Leicester City manager. A fish supper at Rothley Fisheries is obviously good brain food, since it powered My Pointless Friend Richard to another win in the Intercare annual pub quiz. A rather nice raffle prize was won too 🙂

Despite being an Everards pub (the Leicestershire brewery that hasn’t brewed in Leicestershire since 2017), there was a nice pint on, Hop & Stagger’s Triple Hop IPA, a gentle English IPA with First Gold, Target & Celeia hops.

A day out in the sunshine (a rare thing in this six month long winter of constant rain) a few days later, wandering around East Leake, with a stop for lunch at The Three Horseshoes. They’ve had a bit of a makeover since we were last in, but there’s still a walker-friendly bar area where you can have lunch with slightly muddy boots (you can wash them in Sheepwash Brook just outside). It’s a local chain (PubPeople.com) pub, where the food was very nice and the beer was rubbish, so a refreshing pint of lime and soda was in order.

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The next week saw our only visit to the Leicester comedy festival for this year (another show was cancelled due to Storm Dennis). We used our usual pre Y Theatre dining venue of the Parcel Yard next to the station. Tasty Friday night burgers served on silly tin trays as usual. A tasty pint of Hackney Hopster from London Fields was a good accompaniment. A pub that serves good food and good beer is exactly what you should be able to find in every city, town and village across the nation.

A much needed beer delivery arrived just two days later, including the latest dark beer selection box from the Needle & Pin craft beer club, and the Tiny Rebel 8th Birthday Beer Box, with 4 pairs of beers designed to be drunk apart and mixed together. And some funky Cwtch socks.

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Not much more on the out and about front this month as we’ve been working on some decorating projects for much of it. However, there was time for the first meet the brewer event at The Needle & Pin, with the very nice Ryan from Pentrich Brewing Co, from not too far across the border in Derbyshire. It was another great night of beer and chat and a chance to catch up with what’s been happening and plans for the future.

Metronome was probably the best pint of the night, a lovely fruity pale ale. Mild Chaos had a classic Citra profile and Blank Maps was a simple stout with lots of bitter roastiness. We also had a taster of the freshly canned Daydreaming DIPA as well as some Fragments pale ale.

With the extra leap day, there was time for one more pub trip, but the beer was not up to scratch, so it was another lime and soda night, to go with some tasty chicken burgers at The Clock Warehouse.

So, on to the beers of the month.

Number of the Yeast from Cloudwater was by far and away the winner. Huge sweetness, thick and boozy and it has aged very nicely. A To Øl Mr Blue 2018 was another that has aged nicely, fruity, smooth, soft, sour. A big blueberry unit, which pairs well with boeuf bourguignon. Death By Caribbean Chocolate Cake from Siren Craft Brew was the other winner this month, deep woody goodness with spicy notes.

January 2020 round up

This is an attempt to try and write a little something each month, to get out of the bad habits of 2019 when I didn’t write very much at all. Rather than piling up 10 or more drafts a month and never finishing any of them, getting at least one round up published might be the way forward. It’s got to be worth a try.

So what’s been happening in January 2020? A lovely trip to the Lakes concluded with some fantastic pizza from The Sourdough Pizza Co in Ambleside. They are not really geared up for visiting customers at the moment, with a distinct lack of counter facilities, but we didn’t have time to wait for a delivery, so collection was the quickest optio. Pulled pork and apple sauce pizza? Yes please!

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There was also the customary trip to The Mortal Man, via Wansfell as usual, a lovely pub with good food and a warm welcome. The MOFAD card left many years ago is still there. It’s a fantastic walk and it was a great day to do it.

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The only other pub trip this month was a quick pint in The Ale Stop, with MOFAD companion Andy, whilst we were waiting for our curries to be cooked. A lovely little micro pub in the centre of Buxton, full of lively locals. The only other trip “out out” this month featured a pleasant new carbonara pizza at Pizza Express (no sign of Prince Andrew), before we went to see Bad Boys For Life (quality action nonsense).

Some of my favourite beers this month have been Donzoko Northern Helles (great lager, believe the hype), Escape Pod by Pressure Drop (liquid Bounty bar mixed with crude oil) and the fantastic Sunshine by Brass Castle, a good old fashioned fantastic IPA. No adjuncts, no lactose, no fruit purées. Just a great balance of malts and hops.

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The aforementioned Andy and I also shared some big unit stouts and porters like Tokyo* Death and Siren’s 2019 Barrel Aged Caribbean Chocolate Cake.

My least favourite beers were all of the Lidl ones, brewed under the made up “Hatherwood Craft Beer Company” name. They were very cheap, but not very good. If you pay a pound for an IPA, you get a pound’s worth of IPA.

Recipe of the month was probably slow cooker jerk chicken. Looking forward to refining that one a bit more.

So that was the first 2020 round up, hopefully I’ll get to do one each month. February should see a few more trips out, with the Leicester comedy festival tempting us into a couple of trips…

Beer of the month – January #tryanuary 2018 – Amber Rocket by Eden Brewery

#tryanuary has been good fun. Learning about lots of new beers and breweries from around the country. I even hosted one of the days on social media, bashing out loads of tweets about pubs and breweries from all across Leicestershire.

I’ve also been sampling new beers from near (Framework tap takover night) and far (Cumbria and Hampshire feature in this line up as well as a couple of Scandinavians). The year starts much like many of 2017’s monthly round ups, with all beers featured here being sampled in bottle or can at home (or on holiday). Other good beers were had in the pub, but they didn’t beat these ones.

We start with Dugges from Landvetter, near Gothenburg in Sweden. They have featured here before, with Jasmine Dragon and Tropic Thunder both featuring in previous round ups. You would hope that a beer called Mango Mango Mango would have lots of lovely mango flavours and no overbearing sweetness. That’s exactly what it does have, one of my favourite mango beers (they seem to be so hard to get right).

The wonderfully named Murk Du Soleil from Marble Beers next. A New Zealand take on the New England IPA style and a collaboration with their Kiwi friends at Hop Burns and Black in London. A pale, oat-laden grist gives a full, silky-smooth body, setting the stage for fruity South Island hop character – passion fruit, papaya, nectarine, kiwi and mango. The pine and fruits are nicely balanced, but where is the murk? Maybe it had all settled in the last few millimetres of the can.

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To another regular star of these round ups, Vibrant Forest Brewery and their Rum-Barrel Aged Kick-Start, full of smooth and sweet stoutiness. Something barrel aged under 6% – very much welcome! Classic Vibrant liveliness too.

Another interloper now in the shape of Tropical Super Itchy by Evil Twin Brewing, the Danish nomadic brewery who are making some of the best beers right now. TSI is a sour wheat beer packed full of lovely sour passion fruit flavours. A tropical super winner.

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Something that hasn’t featured in the round ups so far is a sour farmhouse IPA, and U.F.I.P.A from Redchurch Brewery rectifies that, an IPA that has been introduced to some Brettanomyces. My initial review began with the words “slam dunk da funk”, but this reference to a 1997 song by tedious boyband 5ive is probably lost on most people. You should be glad of that, my head is filled with this kind of useless trivia. A really interesting funky flavour from the souring, with no hops noticeable. Another great example of what #tryanuary is all about.

Familiar territory again next, and where would we be without a Cloudwater in the round up? More Danes involved too, as this was a collaboration with Dry and Bitter, and I foresee more of their beers in my future. Mobile Speaker was smooth, fruity, juicy, and had a delicious thickness. A lovely dry hopped beast with Citra and Galaxy hops swirling around.

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We are up to third place, and off to Tottenham next, for Domino Topple, a Mosaic IPA from Pressure Drop Brewing, and there was a hint of strawberry about it. Delicious with Sri Lankan black pork curry (what I cooked), and easy drinking too.

To Cumbria for this month’s silver medal, Mutiny from Stringers, my favourite of their beers so far. Dark fruits, dark chocolate and coffee and maybe a little bit of liquorice somewhere in the mix. A dark and smooth delight.

To this month’s winner then, in the shape of Amber Rocket by Eden Brewery, a “supercharged” American amber ale. One of the top 5 of this style too, up there with Hawkshead Sundown, Vibrant Forest Cydonia, and Cwtch (which I’d put in this category). Probably half of my top 10 come from Cumbrian breweries, which is interesting. 

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Lovely hoppiness and a deserving winner but it probably won’t be beer of the year because there’s some amazing stuff to look forward to in 2018, and that’s just the stuff that I’ve got in stock. Who knows what wonders are being brewed or dreamt up right now?

Beer of the month – December 2017 – Double Heathen by Northern Monk

December can be a tricky month when it comes to choosing a beer of the month, because there are often special edition beers knocking around, and there are bound to be some Xmas specials like last year’s beer of the month for December, Christmas Cake Imperial Stout from Cloudwater and To 0l. This year it’s another month where there’s only 1 beer that was drunk in a pub, the rest are bottles and cans sampled at home or elsewhere.

There are quite a few “honourable mentions” this month, such as Wyoming Sheep Ranch by Buxton Brewery (sweet and strong pine forests),  Spring + Summer Session IPA Amarillo Citra by Cloudwater Brew Co (tropical citrus, hint of peach, some dryness, some bitterness), Catch My Eye (another Cloudwater), The Tropical by Wild Weather Ales (very nice peach sour), Mormora Sour (different from Cloudwater, a coffee sour with classic coffee bitterness, almost a green coffee bean flavour).

On then to the main event, where we find sours, stouts, IPAs and something a bit different.

Sour first, with Summer/Hallertau Blanc Double Sour by Chorlton Brewing Company, a massive sour beast which was really nice. Probably a perfect summer sour but still worked in December.

An old friend next, Bourbon Oktober by Vibrant Forest Brewery (winner in October 2016). As it has aged, the former liveliness has dissipated but the big flavours are still there.

You knew it wouldn’t be long before Cloudwater came along, so here’s their first in the round up, DDH IPA Amarillo, full of delightful hoppy bitterness, very nice indeed.

Beaverillium by Beavertown is up next, another brewery who have featured reasonably regularly in these round ups. Beaverillium was full of smooth and silky mango, with bitterness and some malt creeping in later on.

Two more Cloudwaters next, a DDH IPA Nelson Sauvin Galaxy which was super smooth and fruity juice with a nice rounded flavour. And to prove that they do other stuff as well, we have our only pub beer, Black Forest, served from the newly installed keg lines at the Needle & Pin. It was a delightful beast, cake in a glass, a festive delight and another winner for #evilkegfilth (yes, that’s an ironic hashtag).

We return to bottles for third place, and a Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) by Founders Brewing Co. This was smoother than a sand blasted smooth thing, big stout flavours with coffee on the nose and chocolate swirling around. No alcohol burn which is often a danger with these big stouts.

We have literally finished off the year with a New Year’s Eve bottle of Serpent by Thornbridge, a suitable celebratory beer, because it’s not really a beer, more of a beery cider, and it feels right for the annual celebration as another year closes.

On then to the winner for December 2017, Double Heathen by Northern Monk, another brewery that have featured a few times in the end of month round ups, but haven’t won since January 2016 (with Eternal their session IPA).

The “normal” version of Heathen featured in May 2017’s round up, and Double Heathen takes that beer to the next level, full of fantastically vicious bitterness, some sweet pine and madly easy drinking for a 10% DIPA. Love it.

So that’s another 12 months in beer. Now to try and choose the beer of the year.

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.

Beer of the month – October 2017 – Un-Human Cannonball by Magic Rock Brewing

A holiday month often leads to difficult choices when it comes to beer of the month. However, this holiday was to Portugal, and the resort that we stayed in did not score well when it comes to beer. There are two Portugese beers here, but they were both bought at an off licence in Albufeira, the only redeeming feature of a rather horrible place. If I never go to Albufeira again, it will be too soon.

On with the beers. This is another of those months where all of the featured beers are cans or bottles that have been enjoyed outside of licensed venues.

We start with “Born In the IPA” by Cerveja Musa, a small brewery from Lisbon who like a beer name based on a musical theme. As well as the two featured here, I also had “Twist and Stout” and “Mick Lager”. Sadly I didn’t find any “Ale That She Wants” or “Psycho Pilsner”.

After days without hops, hoppy days arrived again in the form of Born in the IPA, which was a delight after so much bland Euro lager.

Next comes a Red Zeppelin Ale also by Cerveja Musa.

Caramel e lupulos. Bom! After 5 days without hoppiness I was starting to worry that I’d never find any in Portugal. This one intrigued some fellow drinkers who have not really strayed into the craft beer world, a slightly sweet red IPA was not something they had encountered before.

We come back home now for the rest of the beers, from three familiar breweries.

Our next beer is Patrons Project 7.01 // SÆSONER // DDH SAISON by Northern Monk. That weird capitalised naming is their choice, not mine. This double dry hopped (DDH) saison is a collaboration with Alefarm of Denmark.

This one is a proper hybrid. Hoppy nose, it looks and smells like an IPA but then turns into a saison on the palate. Very nice indeed.

No surpise to find Cloudwater in another monthly round up. Once again they nail a session IPA, the Spring + Summer Session IPA Citra Mosaic is another cracker, hoppiness but low enough ABV so that you can have more than one!

The same can’t be said of the NE DIPA Simcoe Citra BBC, another strong, thick and hoppy beast. This is what I missed most when in Portugal. Big NE flavours to delight the mouth.

In third place we have something which sounds almost identical, in the form of NW DIPA Citra BBC Simcoe, also by Cloudwater Brew Co.

After a week of largely Euro lager I needed something like a juicy dank murk bomb. Mission accomplished with this one, big bold flavours.

In second place we have something that I should have drunk a while ago, but when you have half a litre of 9.2% double IPA, you have to find the right time to savour it unless you are sharing with friends. Drinking fresh is better, but this one did stand up to being saved for a short while.

Human Cannonball (2017) by Magic Rock Brewing was older than the brewery would like you to enjoy it but was still good. Massive lavender coming through late on the palate and bitter orange flavours. Delightful hops and resin. I just love this style.

Keepting with the theme of very similar sounding beers, we have this month’s winner, also by Magic Rock. Un-Human Cannonball (2017).

Once a year Magic Rock receive the latest crop of hops from the US. Intensely aromatic and bursting with potential they’re begging to be put to work. With three times the quantity of hops of Cannonball and even more than flagship Double IPA Human Cannonball, Magic Rock have created a fitting tribute to the new hop release with their annual homage to the hop.

If half a litre of 9.2% double IPA needs the right time and place, then half a litre of 11% triple IPA needs that even more.

I didn’t drink this one fresh. I don’t care. It was still awesome. Insanely drinkable for 11% but its power reminds you of its heritage. Great stuff, pine and herbs and a worthy winner. Next year I’ll try and buy two and then try and see the difference between fresh and aged a little, just so that I know.