The Needle & Pin Craft Beer club – dark beer selection box #14 – April 2019

The nights are getting lighter, the days are getting longer, but there are still times when only darkness will do. This is another month of big beasts, with one sessionable mild in the mix. That was a deliberate choice when we brewed it back in January.

This box has new beers, new breweries, new styles, an old classic, one of the best in the world and one for laying down.

Dig – Durr – 6.8%

Durr is a brand new stout made with milk sugar and conditioned over organic vanilla and roasted cocoa nibs. It comes from Birmingham’s Dig Brew Co, and was released only a few weeks ago.

Erdinger – Pikantus – 7.3%

A wild card beer this month, to demonstrate how beautiful a dark weiss bock can be. There won’t be the usual hit of coffee, vanilla and chocolate in this one.

Framework – Anything But Mild – 3.5%

I made this, along with Alec and those lovely folks at Framework. I’ve already mentioned that we brewed it back in January, and there are only 36 bottles of this little beauty in existence. Mild, gentle, with little hints of coffee, chocolate and maple syrup. A deliberately session mild to provide something other than chocolate laden imperial monsters for the dark beer lover. Here it is in being made…

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Lervig – Three Bean Stout – 13%

A collaboration brew with Way Beer from Brazil. Contains that common trinity of vanilla, cocoa and tonka beans, equating to a big dollop of deliciousness. The N&P team say that this is one of the greatest dark beers ever brewed…

Museum Brewing – P2 Imperial Stout – 8%

This exceptionally smooth stout is produced from the original recipe that was shipped to the Russian port of St. Petersburg for the Tsar’s Imperial Court. The smooth mellowness derives from the long maturation time in cask before being bottled in very limited numbers.

Three Hills – Faba – 11%

This is a very special beer indeed, brewed by Andrew and Zak at Three Hills. There are only 400 bottles of it and 48 of them have gone to the dark beer club. A big Imperial stout brewed with tonka, cacao and vanilla beans. The body is viscous and flavour decadent and rich. Best shared inside by the fire. This one is going into storage for a couple of years…

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The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – selection box #16 – March 2019

The 36th selection box overall.  Spring is upon as and the days are getting longer. There are still dark beers for the dark nights, but when the sun starts shining, there’s definitely a need for something pale and hoppy. Let’s get stuck in, there are four in the session category (most welcome) and two bigger beasts.

Abbeydale – Heathen – 4.1%

Formerly called Mosaic. Wonderfully refreshing pale session beer showcasing the marvellous Mosaic hops from America. Bursting with tropical fruit flavours and a pleasant citrus bitterness. Just in case there wasn’t enough in the initial brew, Abbeydale have dry hopped with even more Mosaic for good measure. A lovely session pale ale that I’ve had a few of.

Magic Rock x Cloudwater – Big Dipper – 8.3%

A revisit of the collaborative Double IPA brew with their friends from over t’hills Cloudwater Brew Co. Golden Promise, Wheat, Oat and Crystal Malt were used for a smooth, golden, malty body. A combination of Citra, Simcoe, Eureka and Mosaic T90 hops were used in the whirlpool and dry hopping, with additional Citra & Mosaic LupulN2 Pellets added in the dry hop. Fermented with London Fog yeast, the result is a fruit-filled DIPA with loads of mango and peach aroma and flavour, a little residual sweetness and a gravity-defying drinkability. Strap in for a ride on the Big Dipper…

Northern Monk x Deya – Patrons Project 9.06 – Skelatory DDH IPA – 6.8%

This IPA utilises a blend of New Zealand, Australian and American hop varieties, with NZ Motueka taking the lead with its distinctive upfront lime character, Vic Secret and Mosaic contributing hints of passion fruit, dark berries, and grapefruit. Continuing a bit of a theme in projects with DEYA, Northern Monk put together a multi grain grist, with the earth and spice flavours of malted rye prominent once again, this time backed up with malted oats and flaked barley for a robust, complex backbone. And a little bit of politics thrown in.

Northern Monk – Striding Edge – 2.8%

A former Patrons Project beer which is now a core beer for Northern Monk. Patrons Projects beers usually explored working outside of the classic four brewing ingredients, introducing different coffee, fruits, and other additions more common to the culinary world, and most of them have also been very much towards the higher end of the ABV scale.

Striding Edge had no fruit additions, and was without the firm canvas that higher ABV gives, so the team set about creating a low ABV session beer with a flavour, intensity and mouthfeel of a drink of much higher strength. Starting with the base, they made sure the water was super soft and well balanced. Enough sulphates to lift the hops, enough chloride to smooth out the mouthfeel. For the malt they trialled a new super pale variety, making this by far the palest beer they have ever brewed, and made up a quarter of the grist with oats for their creamy mouthfeel.

Ensuring the mash temperature was as high as possible whilst ensuring some enzyme activity, they filled the wort with complex sugars to ensure a higher finishing gravity and consequently a chunkier body. Then add as much hop flavour across 3 dry-hop additions, going with west coast favourites Simcoe, Amarillo and Mosaic for an intense pine, grass and citrus character, backed up with hints of orange and mango from a bonus Citra addition.

It’s one of the best sub 3% beers around, big flavour in small ABV.

North Riding x Needle & Pin – Cryo for Help – 4.3%

A limited edition pale ale brewed with The Needle & Pin to commemorate their 999th different cask ale since opening in late 2015. Brewed back in September 2018, with customers Alex, Matt, Nick and Scott, this is a very powerful Mosaic hopped beer with a strong bitter finish.

Wild Beer – Bibble – 4.2%

Another familiar one that I first had back in summer 2015, a fruity pale ale that goes down nicely. Brewed with Vienna malt and oats, for an unusual mouth filling malt base. Hopped with Mosaic hops, renowned for their tropical fruit beauty. It is unfined, and so naturally hazy. A moreish bitterness is complimented by tropical fruit tastiness. The name ‘Bibble’ in Somerset dialect means to drink loudly, often and well.

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Tiny Rebel 7th Birthday box

Tiny Rebel appeared on my radar back in 2014 when I came across “Dirty Stop Out” which was smoky, malty, oaty and with a hint of hoppiness. I also came across Urban IPA that year, and Cwtch the following year. It wasn’t hard to see why Cwtch was voted Champion Beer of Britain. More great beers came my way in the years that followed, like the wonderfully named Clwb Tropicana and Frambuzi.

I was very much looking forward to getting my hands on their 7th birthday collaboration beer box. It contains:-

– 1 x Limited Edition Birthday Glass (a thing of beauty)
– 1 x 440ml Tiny Rebel x Deya 6.8% NEIPA
– 1 x 440ml Tiny Rebel x Fourpure 5% DDH Pilsner
– 1 x 440ml Tiny Rebel x Neon Raptor 4.8% Tropical Sorbet IPA
– 1 x 440ml Tiny Rebel x Magic Rock 4% Citra Session IPA
– 1 x 440ml Tiny Rebel x Siren 11% Dark Cherry & Chocolate Barley Wine
– 1 x 440ml Tiny Rebel x Yeastie Boys 8% Pomegranate Molasses Belgian Strong
– 1 x 440ml Tiny Rebel x Big Drop 0.5% Imperial Mocha Vanilla Shot Stout
– a packet of balloons (can’t have a birthday party without balloons)
– a packet of colouring pencils (to colour in the box)

That last line might appear confusing. See below:-

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Let’s have a look at each of the beers. If you’re lucky, I will update this post with brief reviews, but I’ve said that before, so don’t keep checking every day, because I’ve got about 90 posts still to catch up with…

Tiny Rebel x Deya 6.8% NEIPA

A meeting of two breweries who are very comfortable with putting lots of hops in their beers, I’m looking forward to this one.

Tiny Rebel x Fourpure 5% DDH Pilsner

A collaboration with London-based Fourpure who make some very tasty and accessible beers. Some of which you can get in Tesco. This was always going to be one of the first to get opened, and it was a lovely flavourful lager, some biscuit malt hints and a nice floral hoppiness. I like a hoppy pils.

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Tiny Rebel x Neon Raptor 4.8% Tropical Sorbet IPA

Neon Raptor come from just up the road from me. They produce consistently good beers and are also no stranger to the hop. The Tropical Sorbet IPA was also likely to be one of the early ones to be opened, and it did not disappoint. Sherbert lemon sorbet with lots of citric fizziness.

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Tiny Rebel x Magic Rock 4% Citra Session IPA

Magic Rock are another of my favourite breweries, and yet another who are not a stranger to the hop. No surprise to see them collaborate on a Citra session IPA, and no surprise that this was the first one that I opened. Lots of lovely citrus hoppiness that we’ve all come to know and love from Citra.

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Tiny Rebel x Siren 11% Dark Cherry & Chocolate Barley Wine

This one is going away for a while. Siren know a thing or two about making big beasts, and a 440ml can of 11% barley wine is ideally one for sharing. I think this one will be in storage until camping season at least when we can look forward to creamy chocolate and cherry goodness.

Tiny Rebel x Yeastie Boys 8% Pomegranate Molasses Belgian Strong

Another on the “beast” side, it’s not every day that you come across a pomegranate molasses Belgian ale. I’m hoping that the pomegranate is dominant here, maybe a hint of sweet and sour, maybe some wine-like properties.

Tiny Rebel x Big Drop 0.5% Imperial Mocha Vanilla Shot Stout

Yes, you read that right. One of the birthday beers is a 0.5% imperial stout. Big Drop specialise in making beers of 0.5% and below. I wasn’t impressed by their lager, but the stout is genuinely impressive for 0.5% and is probably the best “no/low” alcohol beer I’ve had so far (I have a few new ones in the fridge to try). I’m going to save this one too, and will take it somewhere where I’ll be driving.

Looking forward to celebrating the Tiny Rebel 7th birthday for a while yet!

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The Needle & Pin craft beer club – sour beer selection box #6 – February 2019

We are up to the 35th box overall. The Uncle Brett IPA from the previous box was definitely a highlight, with Dust Rings also an interesting sour with a citrus undertone. Let’s dive in to the spring selection…

Almasty – Passion Fruit Sour – 5%

The sharp summer bite of a sour, smoothed off with the delights of the subtle fruity juicy flavours of passion fruit – looking forward to this one.

Brick – Pink Gose – 3.1%

Fresh pink grapefruit juice and zest adds a lip-puckering quality to the sour base. Pink peppercorns offer a soft citrusy spice and pink Himalayan salt provides a clean saline finish. Sounds like a super session sour.

Lindemans – Cuvée René – 5.5%

Oohhh, René….

Gueuze Cuvée René contains one-third old lambic, aged for at least two years, and two-thirds young lambic, which is at least one year old, matured in large oak barrels called foudres. It is then bottled in a beautiful champagne bottle where a second fermentation takes place. After 6 months, the gueuze obtains a golden colour and is slightly carbonated and tart. Kept in a cellar for a few years, it becomes truly exceptional.

The use of a champagne bottle dates back to an uncertain time period when lambic brewers specialised in recovering empty bottles from great restaurants and other establishments where a lot of champagne was consumed.

This beer can be stored for a number of years in a cool, dark place where its taste will continue to evolve. Lindemans Oude Gueuze Cuvée René was elected the “World’s Best Gueuze” at the 2013 World Beer Awards. Lindemans is one of only eight breweries that, to this day, brew an authentic lambic beer in the Valley of the Zenne near Brussels.

Omnipollo – Moa – 3.5%

Moa lemon curd sour is an attempt by Henok Fentie, one of the founders of Omnipollo, to piece together the different elements of a beer that his girlfriend would enjoy. It is not for the faint hearted. It is as sour as lemon can be. Incredible, but incredibly sour. Be ready!

Three Hills – Fermentum – 7.5%

A Bretted IPA first fermented with a Saison strain and subsequently inoculated with two different strains of Brettanomyces in bottle. Best shared after a little aging to allow esters and carbonation to develop. This one needs a minimum of a year in the bottle…

Track – Visalia – 5.5%

A big fruity cherry sour. A nice and simple “does what it says on the label” beer to end the club this time around.

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The Needle & Pin craft beer club – dark beer selection box #13, January 2019

The dark nights are getting shorter, bit by bit. However, there’s still time for plenty of dark beer. We are in to the 34th overall selection box. I’ve only had one from the previous dark selection box so far (plenty of big beasts in there), but I have already finished all of the ones from the last “main” selection box from December, due to their excellent sessionable status.

Let’s dive in to the first selection of 2019…

Buxton – Gatekeeper – 4.1%

When it comes to dark beers, I associate Buxton with big beasts like Kentucky Woods (13.8%), Rain Shadow (11.5%) and Arran (11.5%). So it’s very good to see a traditional porter from them. Bitter coffee and roasted malts lead the charge with more than a hint of liquorice.

Firestone Walker – Mocha Merlin – 5.5%

With an infusion of local roast coffee, a dash of cocoa nibs and touch of seasonal sorcery, Velvet Merlin milk stout has been transformed into Mocha Merlin. This beer is brewed with the Colombia La Granadilla blend from HoneyCo Coffee Roasters. The Colombia La Granadilla coffee meshes perfectly with the chocolatey character from the cocoa nibs, providing an oatmeal stout experience like no other. A touch of lactose provides suggestion of rounded sweetness on the finish. I’ve already polished this one off and there’s no false advertising here, coffee, chocolate and creaminess, a nice gentle stout.

Gipsy Hill – Percolator – 5.0%

Percolator is a coffee oatmeal brown ale collaboration with Dugges. It’s a Café Latte of a beer with three different types of oat, and premium English Cara and Vienna malts. It’s then blended with around a thousand litres of Volcano’s finest cold brew coffee. It offers smooth, full-bodied mouthfuls of oat milk latte.

North Riding – Coffee and Walnut Stout – 7.4%

The Needle & Pin’s 1000th unique cask ale, bottled. Brewed by the team and a few customers at North Riding in September 2018, this is a seriously good coffee stout brewed with a huge sack of locally roasted coffee beans in the FV. It has a little sweetness from the walnuts at the end. I don’t like walnuts, but I’m told this is not an issue.

Redwillow – Restless – 8.5%

Think chocolate fondant meets coffee. Loaded with Vietnamese coffee beans; it’s dark and full bodied with sweet nutty chocolate notes. Good Morning Vietnam! All the Redwillow beers I’ve had so far (quite a few on cask, and lots in cans from Booths) have been great.

Three Hills – Anglian Porter – 5%

From one of the UK’s most up and coming breweries. You may not have heard of them before, but you’re sure to hear lots in the future. Look out for a collaborative brew with them in March. This light, hoppy porter is designed to suit the local water profile and to find the sweet spot between drinkability and flavour.

Wilde Child – Beast Master – 10%

This one is the beast, in name and strength. A salted caramel and cacao nib Imperial Stout. The salted caramel really stands out. Apparently this is up there with Amundsen Zygoat.

Some of these won’t last, some will go into storage for a bit…

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The Lansdowne, Leicester, January 2019

The first theatre trip of the year, and we don’t have much booked in for 2019 so far. As tonight’s show was a 7:30 start, we had to opt for our “go to” dining choice, The Lansdowne. There are numerous other places to choose from, but none of them are close enough for a 90 minute turnaround. I think we came here at least four times last year, so it’s very familiar, but hopefully not too familiar.

Something that was familiar was a Framework beer on the bar. Familiar, because this is the pub where I’ve had most of their beers, and familiar because I was brewing a beer with them only five days ago. If a beer only has to travel just over a mile to get to the pub, it should be in pretty good condition when it gets there. Brewer’s Gold was indeed in good condition,  easy drinking with a nice hop profile and a good bitter edge.

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On to food, and I had what I pretty much always have, the standard burger. I’ve written more than enough words on the joy of the burger now, so you know my thoughts. Simple and tasty.

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Ever reliable pre-show dining.

Tonight’s show was Sandi Toksvig’s “National Trevor”, kind of like an episode of QI with extended anecdotes, a pub quiz and an audience Q&A at the end. Very funny, informative and entertaining.

Keyworth Tavern, January 2019

A winter wander today. We’ve not been to Keyworth for a good few years, but a walking event brought us here to explore with friends. First things first though, lunch. Eventually.

We found a table, had some menus delivered and ordered some drinks. I was pleasantly surprised to see an Adnams Sloe Storm on the bar so I opted for that.

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I’m not certain that it has been well looked after, as it was a bit meh. Important note – don’t believe all of the beers that have been checked in here on Untappd – you won’t find any Patrons Project, Het Uiltje or Evil Twin here, despite what someone is trying to convince you. Back to lunch…

One of our party was running a bit late due to sat nav issues, so we waited until they had arrived to order food. And then we waited. And waited. And waited. The first half of West Ham v Arsenal had been and gone. Eventually our lunches turned up, but how long should it take for a few sandwiches and jacket potatoes? Not as long as it did.

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It was lovely when it did arrive, a pulled pork melt on a Spanish baguette (lovely and crisp), and some token salad. Just a shame that it took so long, as that had a knock on effect on the rest of our day.

A nice village pub, in a village full of pubs. We’d definitely go back, just as long as we weren’t in a hurry.