Needle & Pin – Buxton x Omnipollo Ice Cream beer night, February 2018

Yes, it’s another night at The Needle & Pin. Tonight, it’s the turn of four bottles from two breweries (Buxton and Omnipollo) who teamed up in 2014 to produce “ice cream” beers, with flavours that reminded them of classic ice creams. They proved so popular, they are still producing them. Away we go with some tasting.

We start with Buxton x Omnipollo – Original Ice Cream Pale – 5.6%, described thus:-

“hop laden pale ale brewed with oats, wheat, lactose and 1000 fresh vanilla beans”.

I recall it (as I’ve had it before) as a smooth vanilla biscuit which wasn’t quite as hop laden as described, and I’ll tell you something. When it is paired with Cadbury chocolate buttons like it was tonight, it works so much better. A chocolate and vanilla biscuit delight.

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Next up we move to Buxton x Omnipollo – Lemon Meringue Ice Cream Pie – 6% – a beer that sits right between sour and sweet, the closest that the brewers say that they have ever come to balance. Kettle-soured and brewed with added lactose, it is then conditioned on buckets of lemon juice. Tonight it was paired with an individual lemon meringue pie, and was lovely as ever. It contains all the lemons, sour tartness, a festival of lemon. A really nice beer and not “proper rotten” as occasional MOFAD companion Kerrie would have it.

So, that’s the warm up over and done with. Here come the big beasts. And what beasts they are. Our penultimate beer tonight is Buxton x Omnipollo – Original Texas Pecan Ice Cream – 10% – a beast indeed. This is a pecan caramel porter brewed with caramel sauce, a heavy hand of vanilla and lactose sugar.

Tonight it was served with an individual pecan pie, and it was a sweet treat with big burnt sugar and a lot of power.

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This is the end, beautiful friend. And what a way to end, with Buxton x Omnipollo – Original Rocky Road Ice Cream – 10% – an imperial marshmallow porter brewed with cocoa nibs and lactose sugar. It was served with one of my favourite sweet treats, what else but rocky road?

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I struggled to place the nose on this one, the sweet maltiness hides the alcohol, it’s very smooth and the marshmallow is subtle, with roastiness and chocolate swirling around.

A lovely night of beer and puddings, this is my kind of pudding club. Texas Pecan was my favourite.

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The Otter, Kegworth, December 2017

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Team Christmas lunch time. I’m not one to change a winning formula, so we are sticking with our venue of recent years, The Otter in Kegworth. A reliable member of the Vintage Inns chain, and once again they didn’t disappoint.

Beer first (it is Christmas after all), and a pint of Rudolph’s Reward from No. 18 Yard Brewhouse (who are a subsidiary of Kent’s Shepherd Neame). Another Xmas connection there, having a beer from a brewery called shepherd 🙂

On to the festive feast then. A very tasty pate starter, with snow pea tops (they are appearing more and more in this hemisphere now, very popular in the southern one), radish slices and a cheffy smear of a tart berry compote. It was very nice indeed.

Regular readers will know that when it comes to food, I love to try new things, but I also favour going for something tried and tested. This short rib of beef is the same thing that I’ve had every time we’ve been here. In the words of that 90s bard the Fresh Prince, “if it ain’t broke, then don’t try to fix it…”

Just as delicious as ever, and paired with some nice hot English mustard of course.

Pudding next (because Christmas) and once again I’m going for the tried and tested chocolate truffle brownie option, because chocolate is always the best pudding.

Once again this proved to be correct, and I think I was the only one who finished their chocolate deliciousness, as it was very rich. I question the need for massively out of season strawberries to be served with this, when the more in season clementine or cranberry would make more sense.

Another lovely lunch at The Otter. Same time next year please!

Quorn Country Hotel, December 2017

A Christmas party at a local hotel, one that we’ve not been to for about 15 years. A Christmas party is not rocket science. It’s really easy to get it right, and sadly all too easy to get it wrong. When you stump up a few extra quid for your party (compared to previous years at least), you expect extra quality, be that in food, drink, or service.

When you don’t get that, you feel a bit ripped off. When you get attitude and surliness in response to polite queries, it’s not a sign that you’re going to have a great evening. This is a time of year when those in the hospitality industry are working their hardest and are stressed so you should always cut them some slack, but this was at the start of the evening.

We booked way back in the summer, which gained us free bottles of wine for each table. This actually turned out to be a glass of sparkling wine which had been poured for over an hour, thereby losing fizz and warming up. Great start.

I was designated driver, so just had a bottle of Charnwood beer, with added hotel price mark up.

A salmon starter (I do like a bit of fish) and more fish for main course (did I mention that I like fish). Portions were not exactly huge, and we struggled with enough veg and gravy to go round the table. It was adequate at best, and no-one was blown away.

The chocolate pudding was the best part of it, with some candied physallis to cut through the richness.

Eventually some terrible burnt coffee arrived, and then a pretty rubbish disco ensued. If you’re thinking of having a Christmas party here, I’d look around at some other alternatives.

Filmore and Union, Skipton, September 2017

The walking tour of Skipton is drawing to a close. We’ve got a couple of pubs to visit later on, so for now a coffee and cake break. Filmore and Union are a small northern cafe chain, who started out in York in 2012 and have opened another ten sites since then.

There’s quite a lot of what might be termed “weird hippy food” on the menu in here, but this chocolate brownie and latte were very nice.

It’s the kind of place were you’d expect to find “smashed avocado on vegan toast”, “egg white omelette” and a bowl of granola for 7 quid. So yes, you’ll find all of those, but if you just want a decent coffee and a bit of cake, this will do nicely. Makes a nice change from Costa.

The Cake ‘Ole, Skipton, September 2017

Cake please!

After a gentle trundle around Skipton, we needed to stop off for tea and cake. There are plenty of options dotted around the town. We found ourselves in the Craven Court shopping centre and The Cake ‘Ole caught our eye (not least because it reminded us of Kerrie).

The wacky decor (sadly not pictured because we were too busy staring around the room and spotting things) certainly caught our eye so we grabbed a brightly covered table and ordered some tea, coffee and cake.

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Actually I was the only one who ordered the cake. Because chocolate orange cake.

Look at that dense deliciousness. It was lovely. A good cup of northern tea to go with it – proper loose leaves, none of this soft southern tea bag nonsense. Delightful mismatched crockery (this caused some uproar on Facebook) and all the mad decor. Lampshades without the shade (just the wire frame) with various birds perching on them, an upright cow, a crow watching suspiciously on. A selection of cuckoo clocks (and cuckoo clocks that made other noises). Pages of the Beano as wallpaper. A zebra.

Friendly and happy staff round things off nicely – a great place to pop in for tea and cake.

The Beehive, Combs, Derbyshire, September 2017 #2

Here we are again. Last night we booked a table for tonight. We were lucky to get one, as they only had a couple of slots left, at 6 and “just after 8ish”. It’s just as well that we went for “just after 8ish”, because at 6 we were just finishing off our walk for the day (which was lovely, a perfect day for walking and we had picked a great circuit). There was just enough time to get back to the camp site for a cup of tea followed by a shower.

We arrived just after 8ish, and our table wasn’t yet vacated. No problem, we had a drink at the bar and a chat with the staff whilst things were being sorted out. Here is that drink at the bar, another pint of Thornbridge Rattlesnake, a reliable cask IPA.

Enough bantz, the table was now ready. We’d had time to peruse the menus and the specials board. We all gravitated to the specials board, and to exactly the same point on the specials board. We all ordered the cod wrapped in parma ham, with spinach mash and a cream sauce.

It was both delicate and delicious and we all demolished it in double quick time. Which left plenty of time for pudding. On our previous visit earlier this year, the chocolate and candied lime tart was a big favourite. It was on last night but someone had swiped the last one. Luckily there was a replacement on tonight, with this chocolate and candied orange tart.

It was equally lovely, but the lime one just edges it. Because lime. I’m not a squirty cream fan, but it does at least add a touch of moisture to complement the crisp pastry. No soggy bottom here.

Yet another lovely visit to this lovely pub. I’m out of praise for it, because it’s just great. I’m sure we’ll be back again next year on another camping trip…

The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – dark beer selection box #4 – August 2017

This is the tenth selection box from the N&P and the fourth from the dark beer club. I’ve still got one bottle left from the first box (Buxton Rainshadow), two from the second (Mutiny and Old Freddy Walker) and two from the third (Omnipollo Noa and Buxton/Stillwater Subliminal Imperial Stout). These are all big beasts, not for when you are keeping it session.

Let’s dive in to this month’s selection.

Campervan – Mutiny on the Bounty – 4.2%

Take your taste buds on an exotic adventure. Campervan are not afraid to rock the boat when it comes to giving their beer identity. This rebellious milk stout gets its unique aroma from the use of roasted coconut at the conditioning stage. Relish the chocolate and coffee infusion before soaking up the subtle vanilla flavour. A real hit when a cask of it was on in the N&P earlier this year.

Kernel – Imperial Brown Stout 1856 – 9.9%

Another of those big beasts. Kernel brewery export stout gets a lot less praise than it deserves. This deep and opulent dark beer harks back to a previous era, when London was at the forefront of the brewing industry. Layer upon layer of dark malts with a nice bitter edge, all rolled around waming alcohol undertones.

Modern Times – Black House – 5.8%

Another hard to get hold of beer from San Diego’s Modern Times brewery.  Black House is an oatmeal coffee stout bursting with coffee aromas and flavours. Modern Times roast their own coffee so they can choose exactly what beans to use and how to roast them. The result is a complex and aromatic beer, with lots of roasted character and a chocolate covered coffee bean finish. All of this packed in to only 5.8% so you could even enjoy it by the pint.

Northern Monk / Other Half Patrons Project 1.04 – Leeds Lurking – 10%

Not the snappiest of titles is it? Doesn’t actually tell you anything about the beer, a collaboration between Leeds’ Northern Monk and New York’s Other Half. It’s just your standard every day run of the mill morello cherry and Peruvian coffee imperial porter. Said no-one ever. We had this at the home made Hooky beer festival last month, lots of coffee bitterness and the cherry comes through really late.

Pig and Porter – Gothic – 7.4%

Intense, dark, brooding, sinister and really rather tasty. Gothic was apparently Pig and Porter’s first bottled dark beer, although this particular incarnation is canned. It features ten different malts and a blend of English, German and American hops, all of which combine to produce a complex, rich, dark and fruity flavour.

Apparently best drunk in a remote moorland farmhouse, on a dark and stormy night, with a full moon and a sense of foreboding.

Thornbridge – Cocoa Wonderland – 6.8%

I first had this in July 2015 at the second Thornbridge Peakender (the one that they spoilt with greed). It is a riot of chocolate flavours, a full bodied, robust porter with natural mocha malt flavours from the complex malt grist, complementing the decadent additions of real chocolate to the maturation process. I loved it so much that it was beer of the month for July 2015. Nice to have another one to enjoy.

Looking forward to enjoying some of these as the nights draw in…