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?

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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.

Beer of the month – September 2017 – Even More Jesus

A nice rarity this month, as we start with a beer drunk in an actual pub. It’s one I’ve had before at home, in a can, but whilst out and about in Skipton we came across Pogo by Wild Beer at The Narrowboat, a fruit salad in a glass with a little hop character.

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A trip to Liverpool saw an absolutely cracking session IPA in the form of Penny Lane Pale by Mad Hatter Brewing Company, hoppy and easy drinking.

Fruitiness next, in the shape of of Key Lime Pie Gose by Westbrook Brewing Co. This one is packed full of limezzzzzzzzzzz! Refreshing sherbert lime flavours, full of fizzy fun. I love lime. Also lamp.

A previous winner next, in the form of Christmas Cake Imperial Stout from Cloudwater and To0l. It was beer of the month for December 2016, so how has it changed after 9 months in a cool, dark place? Pretty nicely, it has mellowed just a little but is still very much as schedule. This was the first of three beers from the same night when we had another of our mini camping beer festivals.

We stay with Cloudwater next, and the other pub visit to feature here, Cloudwater night at the Needle & Pin. The DDH IPA Citra was also in third place in July’s beer of the month, and it was nice to have it again. If only I’d brought my curry with me.

In runner up spot, from the camping beer fest, we have Imperial Biscotti Break by Evil Twin Brewing, Base, base, almondy biscuit base. Super tasty, coffee and vanilla, a very solid imperial stout.

It was beaten only by it stable mate, Even More Jesus by Evil Twin Brewing. Praise the lord! It rendered Steve speechless, Matt was impressed by the amount of flavour from malt alone and I was rather partial to the thick, oily, loveliness.

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A fourth dark beer makes it through to the end of year final.

Beer of the month, August 2017 – Stone the Crows IPA by Brewski

Another month almost entirely dominated by beers at home. This is despite several pub trips, a brewery tap trip and 2 visits to a good beer festival. With so many rotating lines on at the beer festival (and the rotations not always synchronised with the availability of the customer who wants to try them) you won’t always find the beer you want to taste.

However, to the beer festival we go first, for a Passionfruit And Blueberry Tart by Thornbridge Brewery. This one beats the standard version of “Tart” hands down. Sweet and sour and delicious. Lovely fruits balanced by sourness.

Everything else is a beer at home. The next one came to me fresh from Brass Castle Brewery. Earlier in the year I was one of their many crowd funders who started their “Crowler Club”. In this context, a crowler is a 990 ml can, filled fresh from the brewery and then sent straight out to customers. The crowd funding campaign enabled the brewery to purchase a special canning machine to make this all happen.

It was certainly worth it. The first beer that I tried was Disruptor, my first crowler beer, full of hoppy, fruity and juicy loveliness. Tropical goodness and super fresh.

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To another favourite brewery for Wyoming Sheep Ranch by Buxton Brewery. This was a little different for Buxton as there was absolutely nothing on the nose but big sweet pine on the palate. It was lovely stuff which made for a gentle sipper.

We now go to the dominant force in 2017’s beer of the month ratings, Cloudwater Brew Co. The Spring + Summer Pale Ale Ekuanot was a great beer for such low ABV. Not everything has to be a 9% monster to have good hoppy flavours and a nice body.

Something a little bit different next, a Peanut Butter Milk Stout by Belching Beaver Brewery. Not the kind of can that you might be able to show to more sensitive members of the family which is how come it was held over a week or so and made it into the August list. It was an utterly delicious peanut butter milk stout. Awesome nutty aroma, smooth flavours.

Who’s next? Well, it’s Cloudwater again, with Tremendous Ideas by Cloudwater Brew Co. A super tasty murk bomb (that’s a very cloudy beer that’s full of flavour). Thick with hops and juicy bitterness with fruitness to balance it out.

However, a new winner this month, on their first ever appearance. Stone the Crows IPA by Brewski from Sweden was full of super juicy grapefruit bitterness. Maximum citrus flavours and really lovely stuff. Very lively and sharp. A worthy winner to mix with all those Cloudwaters at the end of the year…

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Beer of the month – July 2017 – Intensified Barrel-Aged Coffee Porter by Brooklyn Brewery

Another of those months where all the beers in the shortlist for beer of the month were not sampled in a pub, bar or similar. There were a few trips to those establishments, but one of them was so bad I resorted to lime and soda. There is a pub of the month this month, which at least beats May, when there wasn’t an award for the first time.

Several of these beers were sampled at our own mini beer festival, the home-made Hooky beer fest.

Let’s dive in.

First up we have an X-Girlfriend by Weird Beard Brew Co. This beer was specially designed to showcase what hops can do in a low ABV beer. A playful mix of Galaxy, Citra and experimental HBC431 for a fruity vibe. Happiness = hoppiness. Way better than so many so called IPAs.

Off to the camp site next for a Tropic Thunder by Dugges Bryggeri, a joint effort with nomadic brewer Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal. A sour ale with brewed with lactobacillus and fermented with mango, passion fruit and peach. Lilt. The totally tropical taste. In beer form. Bottom centre in this collage.

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To Denmark next, by way of Ulverston (Booths) for Green Gold by Mikkeller, which was full of bittersweet hoppy goodness. Just my kind of thing.

More hops now, with “I Played Trumpet On That Tune” by Verdant Brewing Co (they love an interesting beer name). This was a very good New England/Vermont style IPA, cloudy, smooth, and fruity, with an artfully refined bitterness. Hoppy and dank, and very juicy.

If you’ve been following beer of the month this year, you’ll recall that Cloudwater have already got 4 beers through to the end of year finals. They almost made it 5, but after careful consideration, they take bronze and silver this month instead.

In bronze medal place we have the DDH IPA Citra by Cloudwater Brew Co. DDH stands for “double dry hopped”. Cloudwater has doubled the amount of hops in this IPA to bring us the brewery’s first DDH IPA. Fermented with WLP4000 yeast and dry-hopped with Citra, Amarillo, Chinook and Centennial (big name American hops). WLP4000 yeast was isolated from a uniquely crafted double IPA from the the USA and produces a balanced fruity ester profile of peaches and light citrus that complements any aggressively hopped beer.

Dry hopping is the process of adding hops to a beer to add more of a hop aroma. As you do not boil the hops, you won’t be extracting any of the oils from them, and therefore will not be contributing to the beer’s bitterness. What you will be adding are hop flavour and aroma. If you are a big hop fan, dry hopping is a must.

Nom Nom Nom. An hoppy juice bomb. Perfect with spicy dhansak. Yes please!

Another big IPA next, in the form of NW DIPA Citra, also by Cloudwater Brew Co. This was a super juicy murk bomb full of relentless Citra bitterness. My taste buds appear to be perfectly aligned for this beer.

So what kept Cloudwater from the top spot this month? It was an Intensified Barrel-Aged Coffee Porter by Brooklyn Brewery. It starts as a big, chocolatey ale, ready to take on super powers. The first power is gained from months of aging in Kentucky bourbon barrels. The second arises from delectable beans harvested from Finca El Manzano Single Origin Coffee in El Salvador. The final power comes from Blue Bottle Coffee, who roast the coffee to perfection. Brooklyn advise that you brace yourself for complex notes of dark chocolate, vanilla, oak, berries, and dried fruit.

I advise that you seek this out. I’ve finally found out what bourbon barrels are for. Bourbon is not my thing, but it adds a lot to this beer. It’s a super coffee beast. Thanks to regular MOFAD drinking companion Matt for sharing it with us.

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That should spice up the end of year battle a bit!