The Needle & Pin craft beer club – dark beer selection box #8 – April 2018

No time for preamble, I’ve got loads of posts to catch up on. You must know the score by now. Six new beers, a couple that will get drunk soon, some others that will be laying down for a while…

Brooklyn – Black Chocolate Stout – 10%

This is the famous Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout. In the 18th century, Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, ordered a stout to be sent to her from England. This beer was brewed strong and hoppy to survive the sea voyage, and it arrived in perfect condition. Soon “Russian Imperial Stout” became the toast of the Russian aristocracy.

Brewed since 1994, the Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout has become heralded the world over. It achieves its dark chocolate aroma and flavour through the artful blending of six malts and three distinct mashes. Properly kept, it will improve in the bottle for many years, in a cool, dry spot away from light sources.

Malts: 2-row, caramel malt, malted wheat and a blend of American roasted malts
Hops: Willamette and American Fuggle

Cloudwater – Baltic Porter – 7.2%

The first Baltic Porter from Cloudwater, brewed with a rich malt base featuring caramel, Vienna, Munich and Carafa Special malts. They used WLP833 (yeast) for fermentation and 6 weeks of lagering, and the resulting beer was brightened up with a very light dry hop of Ekuanot.

De Struise – St Amatus Oostvleteren 12 (2013) – 11%

Saint Amatus, also called St. Aimé, was a Benedictine monk. He took the defecse of the lesser man who was exploited by the Merovingian king Thierry III. Oostvleteren in Belgium is the only parish to patron St Amatus as saint. De Struise started brewing at Deca in Vleteren in early 2006, and started their own micro brewery in Oostvleteren during 2009.

A strong dark quad aged on Woodford Reserve barrels from Labrot & Graham in Kentucky. A complex character of prunes, plums and raisins combined with Belgian yeast and hints of chocolate, with a warming caramel malt body. Brewed in 2013, bottled in 2016, this will age effortlessly for many years.

Marble – Lost Your Marbles – red wine barrel aged – 10.4%

An imperial stout aged in Pinot Noir barrels containing cherries, blackberries, blackcurrants, raspberries and redcurrants. What else needs to be said?

North Riding Brewery – Choc Fudge Brownie Stout (Ski Sundae edition) – 7.4%

The original Choc Fudge Brownie Stout was brewed on the request of the N&P and appeared in the February 2018 selection box. Hot (ish, it’s still only spring) on its heels comes the Ski Sundae edition, with added raspberry and vanilla.

Old Sawley Brewing Company / The Needle & Pin – Plummeth the Hour, Plum Crumble Porter – 4.5%

The very first N&P collaborative brew, brewed at Old Sawley. A plum porter, with plums on the nose and a big hit on the palate, with a finish of muscovado sugar and vanilla, as the crumble overtakes the plum. An imperial version is already in the planning stages.

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800th post!

Just 2 months since 750, and we’ve now reached 800 posts. There are still another 70 in draft format, so despite knocking out a good number in recent weeks, the to-do list has increased by about 10%, in part due to a couple of trips to London.

Since the last post, there has been some ‘Spoons action, and the start of a new hashtag, #swadisodd, spawned by this pub fish’n’chips with peas and salad. Yes, salad. Odd. The tag is #swadisodd as the pub was in Swadlincote, affectionately known by locals as Swad. The home of the “Swadside Massive” which is a grafitti tag that we saw in the area many years ago.

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Some tasty pink beer and a pizza in Brewdog Nottingham was followed by another trip to Centro Lounge and then another outing for “My Pointless Friend Richard” in Syston. We were not able to wrestle our crown back this year.

February saw two boxes from the Needle & Pin craft beer club, the seventh dark beer selection which contained a few to drink now, and a few to stick away for a rainy day in a year or so. The second sour beer selection box also had some very interesting beers within, including a fruit grisette, a lemon zest and grapefruit conditioned summer Belgian beer. That should do nicely when the days start to warm up.

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A London trip saw something a bit different, including a coffee stop at the Royal Albert Hall. Impressive place. There was a lot more snow around than shown in the photo, and it was bitterly cold, but a nice wander around Kensington Gardens and the royal parks needed something to warm things up a bit.

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A tasty pub dinner at The Crown & Two Chairmen was to come later that evening, followed by what might be the comedy highlight of the year (which considering it came two days after Bill Bailey’s latest tour show is quite a feat). The warm up show for Flight of the Conchords at the Soho Theatre, which was superb, despite being rough round the edges (the whole point of warm up shows). Given that the tour has now been rescheduled after Bret broke his arm, I’m considering it a double win that I got a ticket!

More comedy the next night, with my first visit to a room that I’ve heard over 200 times, the main auditorium of the Leicester Square Theatre, with the ridiculously good value Machynlleth comedy festival preview show. Where else would you see Sara Pascoe, Rachel Parris, Josh Widdicombe, Ed Gamble, Jen Brister, Tim Key and James Acaster, all compered by Kiri Pritchard-McLean, the 2018 Chortle award winning best compere, and all for 12 quid? The answer is nowhere.

A couple of tasty beers followed at the Craft Beer Co “Covent Garden”, although I still maintain that it’s not in Covent Garden.

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There was just time for another selection box from the N&P craft beer club, a night of To0l beers at the very same pub, and then another London trip which has generated a lot more posts.

So it’s time to stop procrastinating and get back to writing posts. I have a feeling it won’t be long before we get to 900!

The Head of Steam is coming to Leicester

On Thursday April 5th, a new pub is opening in Leicester, replacing the Reynard on Market Street (which I never visited and didn’t particularly want to). The Head of Steam is the fifteenth pub of that name to be opened by Hartlepool-based Camerons Brewery, and I’ve heard good things about the other ones around the country.

Like other pubs in the chain, it will be presenting beers from local breweries such as Framework, Charnwood, Langton and Brewsters, alongside some of the best beers and ciders from around the world, which will be pouring from its 30 lines. With cans and bottles also available, there should be around 120 different beers/ciders available at any one time.

The HoS team pride themselves on hand-selecting the perfect range of beer for customers using expert knowledge from their team of passionate beer sommeliers.

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There will also be food available, served from 11am until 9pm, including breakfasts until 3pm (full English, pancakes, porridge and a veggie breakfast). Sandwiches and wraps are available until 5pm, with pulled pork and fish fingers among the fillings alongside light bites such as soup and nachos. There are eight burgers to choose from including vegetarian and vegan ones, as well as three foot long hot dogs, including Homer’s favourite “foot long chilli dog”.

Wait, there’s more. Five pizzas including pulled pork and chicken tikka varieties. There are three pies, served with mash, peas and gravy. Then we get to the main courses, with classics such as fish’n’chips, sausage’n’mash and steak’n’chips. There are also more international offerings in the form of Moroccan harissa marinated salmon, boeuf bourguignon, chicken tikka masala, mussels and chicken Milanese. There are puddings too. And many of these dishes come with suggested beer pairings too.

They have already become a verified venue on Untappd, which helps you to see what beer will be available when you visit. There will also be regular events such as quiz nights and live music, and the VIP floor can be reserved for your function. If it ever warms up, there’s a beer garden too.

Looking forward to checking it out on a future trip to Leicester.

Vapia-no pizza, Soho, March 2018

This is going to be one of those moany posts. I ordered pizza. I left without eating pizza. I went to the Soho Theatre. I bought a wrap. I ate that after the show. I was still thinking about pizza.

Let’s get on to the good bit first. I like the Vapiano concept (when it works). If you’ve not been to one before, a quick explanation. When you go in, you get a contactless card (much like a hotel room card). You find yourself a table or a spot at a shared bench (more likely on a busy Friday night in the west end). You visit the counter that you want to order food from, you order food, drinks etc. You tap your card on the reader and the charge for whatever you’ve ordered is applied to the card. When you’ve finished, you take your card to the till, and pay. Easy. Simple. Quick.

When it works, it works. However, if it is a really busy Friday night, and you choose pizza, you might run the risk of not getting pizza. I’m willing to take that risk for pizza, but it backfired. I did manage to get a pint of “British Pale Ale” from Caledonian (yes I know, evil Heineken subsidiary). Six quid a pint though – super ouch!

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Coupled with eating some of Mrs MOFAD’s chicken alfredo (chicken, mushrooms, onion, cream, egg and Grana Padano), this was all that I had to sustain me. The pasta orders are cooked in front of you while you wait. Despite ordering pizza in what seemed reasonable time, there appeared to be a backlog of pizzas, and orders that went in after mine were definitely coming out before. When they messed up another order (missing three quarters of it!) then they had to get the rest of that through the oven.

In honour of the recently departed Jim Bowen, let’s have a look at what we could have won, with a previous visit to Vapiano in April 2011…

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My plan to come here because it would be quick rather blew up in my face. You can’t win them all. At least they were good enough not to charge me for the pizza I didn’t eat. I would come back, but I’ll make sure there’s another half hour available next time. Can’t win them all.

Become a Five Points funder

The Five Points Brewing Co, an independent brewery in the heart of Hackney has launched its first round of crowdfunded investment, offering you the chance to become a Five Points Funder and receive shares in the business. The funds raised will be used to meet growing demand, accelerate growth and bring everything back to where it all began; the brewery based on the landmark ‘Five Points’ of Hackney.

The crowdfunding campaign is live on Crowdcube, with a target to raise £750,000 of investment. The money will be used to open the first Five Points Taproom at the iconic Pembury Tavern, as well as investing in state-of-the-art new brewhouse equipment and fermentation tanks which will triple production capacity volume, and which they hope will allow them to meet their ambitious plans to increase sales from 2 million to 6 million pints a year (34,000 hectolitres). A new research and development brew-kit at The Pembury Tavern will also be used to develop new recipes and research innovative brewing processes.

The fundraising will also mean investing in their growing team as well as expanding UK distribution and developing their growing export business. The Five Points Brewing Co was founded by two local Hackney residents who have always strived to invest in their local community as well as their business. Five Points was the first brewery in the UK to be an accredited Living Wage employer, it sources electricity from 100% renewable sources and helped set up an apprenticeship scheme for young, aspiring brewers at Hackney Community College. This is what the Five Points team have continuously aimed to create; tasty beer brewed with the highest standards of quality and a company ethos which is accessible and inclusive to everyone.

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The decision to seek investment comes as the brewery is struggling to keep up with high demand. They reached capacity in late 2016 and have since been brewing some of their beer with an independent family-owned brewery in Belgium. This investment will enable the brewery to treble production capacity in Hackney and bring back all brewing production to London. Crowdfunding will also allow Five Points to open their first taproom, allowing this long-cherished ambition to become a reality.

As part of the crowdfunding campaign, Five Points is offering a number of exclusive rewards for investors, ranging from free birthday pints, to up to 25% discount in their taproom and online, and exclusive shareholder invites to brewery recipe development and hop-picking experiences, as well as investors receiving shares in the company.

The minimum investment is just £10, and the campaign is open until until Sunday 8th April.

The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – selection box #10 – March 2018

 

 

The tenth selection from the craft beer club, and I think the eighteenth overall. The last “main” box came just before Xmas, so let’s see what hoppy delights await this time. Thanks to the Needle & Pin for supplying this month’s photos, my beers were all bundled in with some other deliveries so I didn’t get chance to take the customary photo.

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Amundsen – Hop Magic – 7%

A collaboration with Dry & Bitter Brewing Company and Dugges Bryggeri. The three breweries describe this as the “ultimate crusher”, a tropical juice hop head butt with Magnum, Mosaic, Galaxy, Nelson Sauvin, Citra, Ekuanot and Simcoe all mixed in.

Shindigger – Mango Unchained Session IPA – 4.2%

A session IPA blended with mango and pineapple, described by the team as “if Rubicon made beer”.

Marble – Tuckerlovsky Session IPA – 4.7%

Named for Marble’s head of sales and his wife, this punchy session IPA is made with a blend of Northern and Southern hemisphere hops. Bright citrus and juicy tropical fruits partner with a subtle malt sweetness.

The other half of the box is below…

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Magic Rock – Brother Chucker – 6.7%

A collaboration with their mates at Basqueland Brewing Project, brewed to remind them of a fun filled week of bikes, beer, baked cheesecake, big smiles and darts in the Basque region. A smooth malt bill featuring Golden Promise, wheat and golden naked oats, alongside a defined bitterness to aid drinkability. They then used lots of lovely piney/citrus Simcoe and limey New Zealand Motueka hops as well as a dash of tropically crazy HBC 438. The beer was fermented with their house WLP001 yeast for minimal aroma/flavour interference and super easy drinking refreshment. Bullseye!

Arbor – Piccolina – 3.2%

Big flavoured low alcohol session beer, brewed with Vienna malt & oats and Mosaic and Simcoe hops. I’d love to tell you more about it, but that’s all that’s been written about it so far! (Edit : my words are hoppy, crisp, dry and bitter, which makes for a lovely session ale, an easy drinking pint that you could drink plenty of.)

North Riding – Mosaic – 4.3%

Enter the new kid on the block, Mosaic hops are full of blueberry and citrus flavours and seriously pack a powerful punch to make a juicy banger of a pale ale. (Edit: this was a lovley session pale, so much fruitiness from the hops.)

Given that two thirds of the beers in this box are session strength, I suspect they won’t last very long, as I’m rather lacking in things that aren’t double IPAs or imperial dark beasts at the minute. I think 2018 will be seeing more sessionable brews…

Craft Beer Co, Covent Garden, March 2018

When is Covent Garden not Covent Garden? When it’s High Holborn. If you’re on the corner of Endell Street and High Holborn, I don’t think you’re in Covent Garden. If you know your way around London then you might agree. If you are thinking of opening a bar, sticking the words Covent and Garden on it will certainly help you to attract visitors.

However, I’d argue that if you’ve got 11 cask ales, 2 cask ciders, 28 more beers on keg and another couple of keg ciders, that’s all that you need to attract visitors. It was enough for me. I went out of my way to come here, instead of going back to my hotel via a nearby pub. I hadn’t located any decent pubs near to the hotel at this point, so I came here instead, for a pint before catching the tube back.

I say pint, it was actually two halves, because with 39 beers to choose from, how can you have just one? It was hard enough picking two.

I started Tai Chi from Tiny Rebel, probably my favourite Welsh brewery right now. It’s just your run-of-the-mill lychee and sea buckthorn pale ale, one of the birthday beers brewed to celebrate their sixth birthday.

There’s a slight sweetness and some lychee tartness, and sharpness from the buckthorn. It didn’t really work for me, but I like the idea. I think finding this on cask might confuse a few people.

My other half was Scrambler, from Rooster’s Brewing Co, who are also celebrating a birthday, their 25th to be precise. This one is just your run-of-the-mill melon pale ale, available in the first part of the year.

Tasty melon flavours, and if it was soured up a bit it would be very nice indeed. A tasty pale ale with a difference, and another one that might confuse a few cask fans.

This is a great bar if you’re looking for a great beer. I suspect it gets really crowded at peak times, but there was space in the ground floor bar at 10pm on a Thursday, and seats downstairs in the basement too. I’ll be back after my next west end night out…