The Needle & Pin craft beer club – dark beer selection box #7 – February 2018

The seventh dark beer selection, perfectly timed for the depths of winter. Let’s peer through the gloom and into the darkness…

8 Wired – Flat White Coffee Milk Stout – 5.5%

Honourably named after New Zealand’s national style of barista coffee. A title that has been wrestled away from freeze dried instant coffee and made NZ one of the best coffee destinations in the world. Brewed with coffee, vanilla beans and lactose.

Buxton x Stillwater – Subluminal Coffee Imperial Stout – 10%

The second brew of Subluminal, this time with coffee. An imperial stout brewed in collaboration with Sillwater Artisanal (NY, USA). Delicious, pitch black, chewy, and unmissable. The latest addition to Buxton’s decorated lineup of impy collabs. Drink me. Love me. Never forget me.

Brouwerij De Molen – Rasputin – 10.4%

Rasputin is a sweet imperial stout with subtle chocolate and coffee notes accompanied by plums, the first brew from De Molen. The beer is brewed only in limited numbers once or twice a year. A heavy, bitter stout with a traditional high alcohol content to prevent the beer from freezing during the icy crossing from England to Russia. Strong yet not overwhelming. Try ageing it for a couple of years to unearth its full complexity. I already have one of these, so I might just do that 🙂 Don’t drink straight from the fridge or you’ll miss out on those complexities. Take it out around 15-20 minutes before you want to drink it.

Wild Weather Ales – Bello Di Mamma Tiramisu Stout – 6%

Vanilla and lactose make way for a rich Italian coffee centre. Notes of Amaretto and biscuit leave behind the memory of Mamma’s classic Tiramisu.

North Riding Brewery – Choc Fudge Brownie Stout – 7.4%

Brewed by Stu at North Riding brewed this beer on request from the N&P, and also bottled some especially for the Dark Beer Club. Brewed as a tribute to the Brouwerij Kees Fudge Brownie Stout that was a big hit in bottles last year (I’ve got one of these waiting for me in the garage). Think chocolate fudge, brownie, vanilla and little hints of red fruit and nuts. There are two casks also being aged, to be served when they are about a year old.

Buxton x Omnipollo – Yellow Belly Imperial Stout – 11%

A peanut butter and biscuit imperial stout. Brewed without peanut butter. Brewed without biscuits.

The Rainbow Project (created by Siren Craft Brew) brings together 14 breweries to make 7 collaborative beers themed on the colours of the rainbow. I’ve written about this a few times already. In 2014, Buxton drew yellow out of the hat and were paired up with the Stockholm based Omnipollo.

They sat down and discussed what they could brew based on the idea of yellow. After some time, there was consensus that the prime meaning or idea expressed by the colour yellow is cowardice. The next challenge was to turn this idea into a beer.

The political situation throughout Europe was in turmoil at the time, with lots of far right wing movements on the rise. “One thing that struck us while the preliminary political polls were being presented during election night was that the actual support for the Swedish fascist party was in reality 40% higher than what people had disclosed when asked (face to face) what they voted for just after casting their ballot. At the same time the polls were more or less accurate when it came to other parties on the political scale”, Omnipollo’s Henok Fentie said.

One thing that this could mean is that although people vote extreme right they are on average not as prone to admitting to it as people voting for other parties are. Being a coward can mean many different things, but protesting anonymously at the expense of people’s freedom and right to co-exist without showing your face is one meaning that that the team felt was relevant.

So, with all this in mind, the yellow beer became an 11% Peanut Butter and Biscuit Imperial Stout. Except there are no peanuts or biscuits in it, and it is in no way yellow. It was then dressed it in the most hateful, cowardly-anonymous costume they knew of. Taste, enjoy and don’t be prejudiced.

Another tasty selection, a few to store for a while, a few to start drinking a little sooner.

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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.

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!

Whistlers Cafe Bar, Chipping Norton, July 2017

The ladies were next door but one in the wool shop, squishing things and buying things (although not as much as expected). The men retired to the drawing room, or this cafe next door, for a quick coffee. As it turned out, the ladies didn’t spend too long in the wool shop, so they also joined us, although not in time to witness Steve crack his head on the stone fireplace behind where we sat. Ouch, that hurt. And I was only watching.

We did seem to get funny looks when we just ordered coffees and teas, but the staff were perfectly pleasant. Some cafes do forget that they are cafes at times. The coffee was a decent cup, and the food certainly looked nice. We chilled out for a short while and then went on our merry way.

The Hydro, Buxton, April 2017

A short and sweet post. We were meeting up with friends for a wander round Buxton, but first we needed some quick refreshment. We had arranged to meet here and were soon settled in and ordering teas and coffees.

I had a reasonable latte, although the service was rather slow. And that’s about all there is to say.

The King’s Head Hotel, Thirlmere, January 2017

Tropical storm Desmond brought us here.

After the utter devastation that December 2015 brought to many parts of Cumbria, the county was almost cut in half by the closure of the A591 between Grasmere and Legburthwaite, due to parts being washed away near Dunmail Raise and landslip alongside Thirlmere. In 2009 it was voted “Britain’s favourite road”. In 2016 it was the subject of major works in order to get it back open again.

It reopened in May 2016, and in June 2016 we drove down some of it in order to get to a walk on the west side of Thirlmere. From the west side you could see across Thirlmere and get glimpses at all of the work that had done over the previous six months, as well as seeing some of the damage, the tiny trickles that have since turned into ravines.

Fast forward to today, and we had a walk that started from the Steel End car park at the south western corner of Thirlmere. Owned by the evil empire of United Utilities, it is still free to park in, their way of giving something back to the county. We walked along the eastern edge of Thirlmere, along many newly made and restored paths. The devastation was there to see in close up.

At the end of our walk, we found ourselves at The King’s Head Hotel in Thirlmere. It is one of those handy establishments that doesn’t stop serving food at 2pm, which was just as well as we didn’t get here until some time after that. We have been here once before, but just to park before our ascent of Thirlmere…

Off to the bar first, and time for a former Lakeland classic (now part of the Marston’s empire), Cocker Hoop by Jennings Brewery, a classic bitter golden ale.

Food next, and somewhere between the order being taken and heading off to the kitchen, my ham and cheese panino turned into bacon and brie, which is essentially just ham and cheese by another name. It was very nice, but not what I ordered. At this time, I was too tired to debate the matter, so tucked in. Nice side salad and always good to see some classic pickle on the plate too.

By this point, we had some time to kill before we caught the bus back to our starting point, so it was time for a coffee, a most unusual thing for me in a pub!

The story of the bus will follow in a moment, but The King’s Head is a great place for lunch if you are in the area – there aren’t many options to choose from, so it’s always nice that the option that you have is a good one.

Summer House Beer Festival, October 2016

There is of course no such thing.

This “beer festival” was a self-curated drinking session featuring myself and regular MOFAD drinking companions Matt & Steve. We had a focus on dark beers tonight, and we had all brought a selection of bottles with us to share and try.

We started with Umbral Abyss by Vibrant Forest Brewery (procured by Matt). Whilst it lacked the now legendary Vibrant effervescence, there were good smooth coffee notes running through this one. Definintely one for coffee-ists like Bruce and Alec.

I took a quick turn away from the darkness here, for another Vibrant Forest brew, a Radicale Belgian Zuur Bier, which was tart but mellowed nicely – a good sour beer.

We stayed with Vibrant Forest for their Black Forest, which was a piquant porter indeed.

We moved on to some of my bottles next with an Imperial Brown Stout London 1856 by The Kernel Brewery, which was thick, brown and very chewy. We then moved on to Export Stout London 1890 by The Kernel Brewery, another of mine, which was very dark and very delicious. One of my beers of the night for sure.

This was followed by another favourite, a Bourbon Oktober again by Vibrant Forest Brewery. The second time I’ve had this big bourbon vanilla beast this year.

A mis-step next. We opened two bottles of Belgian Dubbel by Vibrant Forest. The first was very flat and tasted pretty off. The second had more carbonation but was still not right. We should have been getting raisins and similar but we just had to pour them away. Something not right with the batch perhaps?

And as you do, we finished with coffee. Guatemalan Coffee Extra Porter by Buxton Brewery to be precise. Massive coffee nose, big coffee flavours and some vanilla too. This was also a highlight of the evening.

It’s fair to say that our curated and self-hosted mini beer festival was a success. Buy beers, share beers with friends. It’s a great way to spend an evening.