The Needle & Pin craft beer club – dark beer selection box #18 – December 2019

It’s box number 46 overall, full of some big units and that rare thing, a session porter. A couple of these might make their way into my Christmas beer line up and quite a few will be saved for sharing next year.

Cigar City – Caffè Americano – 12%

Bold, strong and dark, traditional Caffè Americano is made by adding water to espresso. Bold, strong, and dark, Cigar City Brewing’s Caffè Americano is made by adding vanilla and Tampa-roasted espresso beans to a formidable double stout base. Aromas of fresh-ground espresso beans, vanilla and alcohol spiciness dominate the nose in this imposing imperial stout. The palate finds strong flavours of fudge, coffee, penuche (an Italian vanilla fudge), and raisin pudding (a sort of spotted dick) balanced by moderate carbonation and an assertive German hop flavour and bitterness, while the sweetness of vanilla rounds out the beer’s long finish.

Nøgne Ø – Porter – 7%

The first dark beer in the club from Norway’s Nøgne Ø. A very traditional (and very good) quite dark ale, where dark malts provide flavours of coffee and dried fruit.

North Riding – Fudge Brownie Stout – 7.4%

A return visit to the dark beer club for this one, a beer originally brewed by North Riding in 2016. Smooth creamy chocolate fudge, hints of vanilla, bucketloads of deliciousness.

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Siren – Barrel Aged Primal Cut – 10%

Primal Cut has been ageing in bourbon casks and Siren are thrilled with how the beer has developed. This complex porter has a beautiful blackcurrant tone with deep coffee and chocolate flavours, complemented by a wisp of smoke in the air and a distinctive bourbon character.

St Bernardus – Christmas Ale – 10%

St. Bernardus Christmas Ale is the youngest descendant in the illustrious family of delicious Abbey Ales by Brewery St. Bernardus. This beer is characterised by its deep dark colour, with a creamy, thick head and a full, almost velvety taste with a fruity nose. It’s a seasonal ale, brewed annually for the holiday season. The long winter nights are perfect moments to savour this ale with or without friends and to enjoy its unique, complex taste and aftertaste.

Thornbridge – Market Porter – 4.5%

Thornbridge make some lovely dark beers, and this is no exception. A really creamy and smooth porter, so easy to drink.

BBC Good Food Show 2019

The annual round up of the annual pilgrimage to the BBC Good Food show. I think it’s also going to be the annual moan that it’s not as good as it used to be. Once more it seems to have shrunk, this year we had completed every stall before 2pm and there seemed to be a distinct lack of some of our favourite smaller producers.

If you like gin, you would have been in luck. I lost count of the number of gin producers that were there, it was absolutely heaving with them. Some of them had very interesting variations which were worth a further look, but there were so many plain gin producers too. We even saw New Zealand’s Cardrona distillery again, who we first met at Pub in the Park in June.

The lack of beer was startling. Church Farm from Warwickshire were there again (not far to travel for them), as well as a brewer of brown beers from the south west, but that was it. I got some lovely beers from Padstow Brewing Co last year, but they were nowhere to be seen. Good beer was to be found in 2017 and 2016 too, but no sign in 2019.

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We still managed to stock up on some Tracklements as usual (oh look, another free tote bag) and some tasty Heck sausages, along with the usual haul from the Isle of Wight garlic farm, the obligatory Curry Sauce Co collection (now available at Ocado), and some new sauces from The Fresh Sauce Co from Ipswich.

So, a reduced haul compared to previous years but there’s still some lovely stuff to be enjoyed over the next few months. I just hope that the organisers can do more to encourage the smaller producers back here. The folks at the Curry Sauce Co were saying that they were considering not coming back next year, for the first time in 20 years…

The Needle & Pin craft beer club – sour beer selection box #9 – November 2019

The nights are drawing in and it’s not all about massive imperial stouts. I enjoy sour beers all year round, but some people think they are not for winter. Let’s dive in to the next selection, box number 46 overall.

3 Fonteinen – Armand & Gaston – 5%

A special cuvee from one of Belgium’s finest producers. This limited release Geuze is packed with lemon sherbet notes and all the funk you’d expect from a premium lambic but with more depth than the standard release.

Burnt Mill – Split your Infinities – 5.6%

A simple malt bill of pale & wheat provided a wort that was soured overnight, boiled, then sent to the fermenter to condition on blueberry puree. Clean, lactic aromas and light tartness are complemented by the Mosaic dry hop and the mellow, sweet taste of blueberries in this refreshing fruited sour.

Cigar City – Margarita Gose – 4.2%

Throw on your Hawaiian shirt and your lederhosen and meet Cigar City Brewing at the intersection of traditional German brewing and tropical relaxation. A German-style Gose with added orange peel and lime essence to create the perfect warm weather ale. It will definitely be drunk in cold weather here!

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Dugges – Black Currant – 4.5%

Premium Dugges. Black Currant is a sour beer fermented with blackcurrants. To give the beer its sour taste, lactobacillus was added to the mix. A beer within the New Nordic Beer Project, brewed with only Nordic ingredients. Think Ribena in beer form, and much classier than a purple nasty.

Dupont – Saison – 6.5%

Saison Dupont is a classic Belgian farmhouse ale. This is a beautifully balanced, complex beer that has a refreshing fruitiness and long, dry finish. It is bottled unfiltered so it may be cloudy or have a slight sediment but this is normal and perfectly natural. One of the greatest beers in the world.

Floris Kriek – Brouwerij Huyghe – 3.6%

Easy drinking and full on, a deep red colour and slightly cloudy, made with Maraschino cherries. Light and very refreshing. Floris is made by Brouwerij Huyghe the brewery famous for Delerium Tremens (the one with the pink elephant).

The Needle & Pin craft beer club – selection box #20 – November 2019

It’s box number 45 overall, and not a moment too soon, as I’m all out of sessionable beers, and three of these count as session. So they probably won’t make it past the weekend, leaving the bigger units to fight another day.

71 Brewing – NEIPA Here Nor There – 6.5%

As Dundee’s first brewery for 50 years, 71 is reviving the lost art of brewing in Scotland’s fourth city. A New England IPA with Simcoe, Citra, Centennial & Azacca in the whirlpool and then double dry-hopped with Simcoe, Mosaic & Citra. I might be tempted to go back to Dundee – the beer scene was awful the last time that I was there!

ABC – Juice Springsteen – 4.5%

A 4.5% tropical fruit juice session IPA. Bags of pineapple, mango, passion fruit, guava and mandarin just bursting to get out of the can. Fruits plz!

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Amundsen x Lervig – Even More Cowbell – 7.5%

This collaboration between Amundsen and Lervig from Norway is the biggest dryhop ever attempted in Scandinavia equivalent to 50 grams/litre. Piney, dank, resinous. Not for the faint hearted, and I’m really looking forward to this one.

Campervan – Leith Juice – 4.7%

A fruity, juicy session IPA dry hopped with Simcoe, Cascade and a van full of orange zest. Leith Juice packs a huge zesty citrus kick, with flavours of grapefruit, lemon and orange in abundance. I had this in Edinburgh at the lovely Holyrood 9A back in September, and it was full of juicy orange flavours.

Hackney – Our House – 3.5%

Our House, in the middle of our street.

A light, summery, refreshing, juicy number. Heavily hopped with Citra and Centennial, it has tropical notes and a nice round body to carry those fruity flavours. At a low abv of 3.5% it is certainly suited to quench your thirst in the heat of the summer. Unfortunately, we are now in cold and dreary November, but this will still do nicely.

Pomona Island – I eat with Gusto – 3.4%

Manchester’s Pomona Island are one of the best breweries around at the moment. Their DDH Table Beer is dry hopped with Citra BBC & Vic Secret. I’ve had one of their previous DDH Table Beers, Bonbonbonbons, which was fantastic.

The Needle & Pin craft beer club – dark beer selection box #17 – October 2019

It’s box number 45 overall, and more darkness to get us through the darker evenings and rainy autumn days. Most of these will probably go into storage for future sharing events as there are some more big units in here, but a few will be out to accompany some weekend puddings.

Arbor – Goo Goo G Joob – 12%

Arbor are renowned for their pale hoppy beers, but they also brew some very special dark beers, and this is a great example of Maple Imperial Stout with complex dark malt, burnt caramel and black treacle flavours. Whether it contains any actual walrus is yet to be determined.

Beartown – Imperial Crème Bearlee – 9%

A velvety stout with burnt cream, Madagascan vanilla and molasses. I’d like to tell you more than that, but there’s very little information out there.

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Chimay – Blue – 9%

The Cistercian Trappist monks of Chimay have been brewing since 1862, with their abbey being located on the site of a well which provides pure water for the beer.

Chimay Blue Strong Dark Ale is world-class Belgian elegance in a bottle. This authentic Belgian beer is complex, rich and powerful, all of which improve and transform over many years thanks to its classic bottle-conditioning.

Whilst obviously strong, the alcohol is barely noticeable, giving way instead to the beautiful aromas of spicy Belgian yeast, bread dough and toffee, the mark of great craftsmanship. Rich and intense with lovely caramel notes, it’s the lovely dry finish allows the distinct Belgian flavours to linger well into the next sip. Absolutely gorgeous.

Evil Twin – 60 Day Dry Aged Stout – 6%

Evil Twin have treated us to a lovely stout, it’s a style that is often neglected by breweries due to the big boys in Dublin. However, the style originated in London. A jet-black pour leads to an aroma of dark chocolate and tobacco. You’re then warmly greeted with a light, airy mouthfeel with a dry smoky finish. 60 days does seem like a while but some things are certainly worth waiting for. And for once, it’s a dark beer from Evil Twin that isn’t 10%+

Left-Handed Giant – That Life – 6.9%

You’ll want triple servings and you’ll dish out a triple thumbs up for Left-Handed Giant’s Triple Chocolate Stout. Hopped with Bramling Cross and packed with creamy rich ingredients such as vanilla, chocolate, cacao nibs, lactose and cocoa powder, this brew means there’s no need for dessert.

Wander Beyond – Scoop – 11%

Scoop is an Imperial Black Ice cream IPA. Based on the theme of mint choc chip ice creams, Wander Beyond added cacao nibs and vanilla to a dark milkshake IPA base before dry hopping with Fuggles, Polaris and Citra hops and steeping peppermint tea from their friends at Atkinsons of Lancaster.

I’ve been looking for a chocolate mint beer since Thornbridge’s Baize. I love chocolate and mint in my puddings and chocolate covered minty sweets that are consumed 20 hours into the day, but there’s very little out there in the beer world that will stand up to them.

The 2019 International Rainbow Project beer box

I’ve written about the International Rainbow Project every year, so I’m not going to wax lyrical about it again. You can read lots about it from my 2016 post. The good news this year is that there was no need to use HonestBrew to get hold of the box set, so it was a very simple and pleasant buying process, unlike every other year where something went wrong. The whole process was easy and a few days later it arrived safe and sound without any HonestBrew induced dramas. It looks like I’ll never have to use them again, which is good. They were also charging more for this box set than other sites!

Last year was supposed to be the swansong of this project, as the original team felt they had done enough with it, going out with a barrel-aged bang. After conversations at fesivals, Siren handed the project over to Bristol’s Left Handed Giant, who decided to pull together a group of breweries of around their age (3 years) or younger. Their intention is to manage the project with the 6 breweries for the next 3 years, before passing it on to the next generation of young breweries.

Here’s what they came up with for 2019…

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Red

Track Brewing Co. (Manchester) x Highland Park Brewery (Los Angeles, CA)
Frontier Psychiatrist – 7.0% – Fruited IPA

A deep, rich IPA hopped with Citra, Galaxy & Sabro giving huge notes of Mango & Coconut elevated by additions of Flaked Coconut, Passionfruit, Grapefruit Zest & Vanilla, all tied together with Dragonfruit giving this beer its red hue.

Just your everyday run-of-the-mill dragonfruit IPA named after a song by The Avalanches. Said no one ever. Interesting sour fruit & hops.

Orange

North Brewing Co. (Leeds) x Fieldwork Brewing (Berkeley, CA)
Golden Milk – 6.0% – Sour With Fruit & Spices

North X Field Work – ‘Orange’ in 2019’s Rainbow Project.

A 6% sour beer brewed with a 20% grist of naked + rolled oats, 15kg of fresh peeled turmeric in the whirlpool, cinnamon in the boil, coconut in the mash, whirlpool and fermenter and then triple fruited with 1.2 tons of apricot.

This one weirded me out – too much going on, it’s like a fight in a glass and no-one seems to win.

Yellow

Burnt Mill Brewery (Suffolk) x Cascade Brewing (Portland, OR)
Panacea – 6.4% – IPA

An IPA dry hopped with Lemondrop & Citra, rounded out with ginger, chamomile & local honey.

I must admit that I didn’t get any of those adjuncts, just a pleasant pale ale with a hint of pine.

Green

Deya Brewing Company (Cheltenham) x Holy Mountain (Seattle, WA)
Emerald Visions – 5.5% – Lime Wit

This one is supposed to have loads of lime and I really hope it does because I love lime.

Blue

Left Handed Giant (Bristol) x Alesong Brewing & Blending (Eugene, OR)
Why I Love The Moon – 6.2% – Blueberry Gose With Borage Flowers

Blueberry Gose with the addition of hand picked, local, Borage flowers and Oregon sea salt.

Indigo

Verdant Brewing Co. (Falmouth) x Temescal Brewing (Oakland, CA)
Indigo Tie-Dye Wolf T-Shirt – 8.8% – Imperial Stout

A strong stout inspired by baklava, the wonderful sweet of the east. Sticky and nutty from pistachios alongside flavours of cinnamon and rose.

Violet

Unity Brewing Co. (Southampton) x Alvarado Street Brewery (Monterey, CA)
Tech-Noir – 5.0% – Sour Porter

While trying to figure out what violet tastes like, they brewed a sour oatmeal porter with blueberry and vanilla. Inspired by the juxtaposition of dark nostalgic sci-fi and warm, fluffy, familiar flavours.

An interesting sour, but not a porter.

This year also had an added bonus of a 7 way collaboration between all of the UK breweries, which resulted in:-

Colour Vision – 7.0% – IPA

This beer was brewed to celebrate the spirit of the Rainbow Project. Brewed with a heavy dry hop of Galaxy, Loral, Mosaic and Voss Kveik yeast.

A mega collab which gets better as it goes on.

The Needle & Pin craft beer club – sour beer selection box #8 – September 2019

It’s box number 44 overall, and some interesting sours for the end of summer. I enjoy them all year round, but some people think they are not for winter. Let’s dive in to the next selection of sours…

Dugges – Tutti Frutti – 6.0%

How many fruits do you need for a tutti frutti? Together with Sweden’s Wizard Brewing, Dugges decided to go for all of them. Almost. Pear, mango, passion fruit, peach, pineapple and mandarin. That’s right. Tutti Frutti! Not to be confused with Rowntree’s Tooty Frooties, that 80s tangy sweet. Although it does taste quite like them, absolutely crammed with fruitiness.

Mashionistas – As Lime Gose By – 4.1%

First brewed in collaboration with Warwick University Students’ Union Real Ale Society for their 2019 Real Ale Festival, this is a light tangy and refreshing gose made with Indian white limes, Calabrian Bergamot, and Himalayan pink rock salt. Oh, and Coventry’s finest water!

I’ve already had a bottle of this from an early batch and it has a subtle saltiness and citrus tang. Because of my obssession with lime, I want loads more lime in it. The Crooked Stave version of Key Lime Tau is probably my lime beer blueprint, with Westbrook Key Lime Pie Gose not far behind.

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Siren – Guava Script – 4.0%

Both Sean (Siren’s new Head Brewer) and Erwin (from collaborating brewery Van Moll) have been keen to experiment with pink guava, so this collaboration recipe almost wrote itself. This sour sensation is intensified with mango and passionfruit before being dry-hopped with Azacca and Mosaic. I’m intrigued by this.

Wander Beyond – Anura – 7%

Following on from Loris, (Wander Beyond’s Imperial Apricot Berliner Weisse), they brewed a high strength Berliner Weisse and refermented it on half a tonne of blueberries. This deep, dark, purple beer is ripe and bursting with tart blueberry fruit flavours.

Yonder – Goose – 6.8%

At last, something goose related that isn’t Untitled Goose Game, which has been all over social media at the moment. There are arguments over the etymology of gooseberry, but it’s quite likely that it did come from the fact that they grew in areas where geese would be found, so I like that explanation. Back to the beer.

Inspired by the wild gooseberries discovered growing in woodlands near the brewery, Goose combines those tart, fruity flavours with Cornish sea salt, for a delicous imperial take on a German Gose.

I’m a big gooseberry fan, we used to have gooseberry bushes and I’ve also made gooseberry jam, so I’m looking forward to this one.

Yeastie Boys – Heaven Up – 3.8%

Heaven Up is a refreshing, lemonade-inspired, Berliner-style pale sour ale with aromatic doses of lemon and lime and an effervescent and satisfying drinkability.

We missed out on this one at Thornbridge Peakender, so it’s time to give it a try.

The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – selection box #20 – September 2019

It’s box number 43 overall, and whilst those summer evenings are rapidly shrinking into autumn, there’s still a place for lots of session pales for those evenings enjoying takeaways with friends at a camp site. This box beats the previous one, with three session beers inside, and three that are over, but all 5.5% or less.

[Edit : as these have all been easy drinkers, they didn’t last long, so all have brief reviews added. They all pretty much lived up to their billing.]

Cloudwater – DDH Pale – 5.5%

This DDH (Double Dry Hopped) pale is brewed to soup up your down time by delivering the hop flavour intensity of a Cloudwater DIPA at a moderate ABV. Doubling the standard Pale Ale’s dry-hopping rate of 8g/L, this beer delivers a bold, juicy, hazy, and heavily-hopped pale ale. Out of our hoppy beer range, this sets the marker for balance between drinkability and flavour impact.

Lovely stuff. Nice hoppy notes, hint of lavender and sensibile ABV.

Gipsy Hill – Alleycat – 4.5%

Alleycat is a pale ale pumped full of Galaxy and Citra for their big stone fruit and citrus flavours. The grist kept clean to let the hops shine.

A nice, easy drinking, pale.

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Moor – Slovenia ‘Hop – 4.1%

Part of the ‘Hop series, following on from Nor’Hop, So’Hop, Union’Hop, Italia’Hop, and Espana’Hop this edition has the same malt bill but hopped to the max with Kolihbri and Slovenian Dragon.

Lovely bit of lager business. Super easy drinking, and nice to taste two new (to me) hops.

Neon Raptor – First Incarnation – 5.2%

First Incarnation is a brand-new NE pale ale which is hopped with Mosaic, Simcoe and Chinook. It was brewed with Neon Raptor’s original New England style water profile for a soft mouthfeel.

A soft and gentle pale ale.

Red Willow – Effortless – 3.7%

New Zealand style pale ale. Ultra pale and refreshing with lots of body, gratuitously hopped with Nelson Sauvin for a full fruity flavour.

A light and easy drinking pale, but needs more hops (NMH) for me.

Wylam – It Tastes Like Us – 4.7%

A super smashable pale brewed with flaked and torrified wheat keeping everything soft and bouncy on the palette. Double dry hopped with fresh Lemon Drop, Centennial, Mosaic and Amarillo with a clean zesty bitter finish of blood orange and tangerine.

Soft and bitter, but really easy drinking.

Thornbridge Peakender 2019

This is another post that has been languishing in the drafts folder for a very long time. With the cancellation of the 2020 instalment and the subsequent inability to attend the 2021 instalment (it clashes with a wedding), I thought it was about time that I finished this one off.

Let’s start with a bit of history. July 2014 saw the first Thornbridge “Great Peak Weekender”, now known as Peakender. We were there. It was an absolutely fantastic event. Free camping at Thornbridge Outdoors, a friendly bunch of volunteers directing people to their camping areas, and several bar areas with more friendly volunteers. Lots of beers from Thornbridge and some now very familiar names such as Buxton, Redemption, Ashover, Wild Beer Co and Roosters.

You bought a pint glass for a pound (I’ve still got mine) and beer tokens were 50p each. Three tokens for a half of the “normal” beers, going all the way up to eight or nine for the stronger or rarer ones. It remains one of the best beer festivals that we’ve ever been to, a great vibe and really relaxed. When the rain came, there was enough space in the bar areas for everyone. We also had time to enjoy some nice walking on the Saturday and then back for more food and drink and good music at the festival site.

Fast forward to 2015, and some changes were afoot. Camping was now a paid for option, and all of a sudden the fields were absolutely rammed with vans and tents. Queues for the many bars got out of hand very quickly, as did queues for food. There were far too many people there and it just got worse on Saturday with even more day visitors arriving. The free shuttle bus into Bakewell was also a bit of a shambles due to confusion caused by the drivers who told loads of people the wrong pick up point which then led to big queues at the correct pick up point. The food and beers were great, but the festival experience had been diminished.

In 2016 we gave it a miss.

Fast forward to 2017, and the festival moves to the Bakewell showground. Festival tickets were still free. Camping was a paid option again, but we opted to stay at a site just out of town, and cycle to and from the festival. It got muddy pretty quickly, due to the awfulness of that summer’s weather. After enjoying a bike ride on the Saturday, we soon realised that we had missed a lot of beers that had disappeared in the blink of an eye during the Saturday afternoon session. There was a lot of rain, and a lot of people sheltering in tents trying to stay warm, even though it was August.

In 2018 we gave it a miss, because it looked like it was going to be exactly the same, except you now had to pay for tickets to the festival. You got nothing in return, not even a £1 pint glass. I kept trying to find out what we were paying for, but no-one would give me a straight answer.

So now we find ourselves in 2019. Our camping equipment has been upgraded, so we decided to go for the on site camping this year and give the festival another go. The weather forecast was far from perfect, but that would fit in with our previous experiences so we were prepared.

Which is more than can be said for most people, and for some parts of the site. We arrived on Friday lunchtime and were directed to the relevant part of the showground. The rain was starting to fall so we hoped that the ground wasn’t going to be too soft to depart from on Sunday. We will return to that later.

The rain was pretty relentless on Friday. We went over to the festival area to grab some lunch and some lunchtime pints. Nice food from the Greedy Greek Deli, and lots of interesting beers to kick things off. Three bar tents this year but they were already getting busy with people sheltering from the rain. The ground was getting soft under foot, and we were only an hour in.

I had a little run in with one of the bar team who tried to tell me that Yeastie Boys were not a brewery and that Real Fiction were a brewery. No, Yeastie Boys are the brewery, Real Fiction is the name of the beer.

After a few beers, we retreated to the dry for a while and watched more campers arrive in the rain. Then there was more rain. More people arriving. More people walking up and down the main “concourse” into the festival site. More mud being churned up. More people arriving without wellies. More muddy legs. The food area was fast becoming a swamp. The tents were pretty much full of people sheltering. The bands were playing to a hardy few who were standing in a swamp.

We ventured out for some pizza and more beer and retreated back to the dry. I popped out for another beer but the relentless rain and the lack of anywhere to sit was not ideal. Luckily the beer was great and freely flowing. Many casks and kegs were kicked – if you want something specific, you had better order it as soon as you see it, because the likelihood is it won’t be there when you go back to the bar.

The rain continued. This photo makes it look fine. It was not fine.

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Saturday dawned. A lot of tents had been flooded out and people were moving around in the middle of the night. We donned the wellies once more and waded through the swamp for some coffee and breakfast. The food traders were rather suffering from being in the swamp, but the mood was still upbeat despite the atrocious conditions underfoot. Allegedly a massive “swamp hoover” was coming out to pump away the worst of it, but if it did then it’s hard to see what difference it made. We did meet some owls though.

The sun shone and shone for most of Saturday. We headed up to the Monsal Trail for a wander and to earn some more beer points. We wandered into town for a bit of shopping and some lunch (better than standing in a swamp) and then headed back to site for some more beers.

Regular MOFAD companions Andy and Kerrie arrived (previous Peakender attendees too) and we found ourselves a spot to plonk our chairs in one of the tents, as more rain was on the way. We trudged through the never ending mud for food and drink as the evening wore on and we had a fun night of beer and chat.

The rain pretty much held off, but the damage had been done. The ground conditions were awful and the “swamp hoover” hadn’t done a thing. We squelched back through smashed plastic pint glasses and muddy tents.

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Sunday dawned. The sun shone again. The swamp was negotiated for some more breakfast. We bimbled around the craft fair at the market, we had some lunch. We stuck around for the end of the Eroica Britannia, the bike race for pre-1987 road bikes, as our friend Dan was riding it. We applauded him and lots of others across the line. We had tea and cake.

Then we had to get out of the quagmire. After a good start, we did get stuck in one of the muddy areas, and needed a combined pushing force, returning the favour that I’d done for a few others when walking around the site earlier in the day. We got out.

So how to sum it all up. The beer was great. The food was good. The site and the organisation, much less so. The amount of rain on the Friday was unprecedented (a word that has been massively overused in 2020) but we were told that they were prepared, and that the swamp hoover would save the day. It did not. The mud nearly wrecked everything. Having friends to join in the fun with saved it from being a total washout, both literally and metaphorically.

Mango Smash was probably my favourite beer. Hopefully 2022 will be a drier summer!

Beer + Burger, King’s Cross, London, 2019

I’ve been here at least 4 times this year. It is now my “pre train home” dinner stop, following a tip off on Twitter back in January. When I find myself in London for a day or more, I prefer to catch a train home around 8:30 in the evening (much less crowded, not so many rude commuters, and much cheaper). This usually means that dinner is required before getting on the train.

Beer + Burger is located around the Coal Drops Yard area of King’s Cross, between Granary Square and York Way, an area which has been massively regenerated over recent years. There are even more buildings going up right now.

Beer + Burger combines two of my very favourite things, and it does them both very well. Around 20 contiunally changing taps of keg beer, plus fantastically well stocked fridges combine with a simple burger menu (cheese, double cheese, bacon cheese, chicken, vegan, monthly special) and a few sides (fries, wings, pickles, coleslaw, gravy, jalapenos) and a couple of desserts.

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All very simple and unpretentious. Arrive, find a seat (mostly long shared benches), order beers and burgers. The food comes over to you when it’s ready.

Most beers come in halves, some in thirds, two thirds and pints. This is the only area where they sometimes trip up – if you ask for a measure other than the advertised one, they can get themselves in a bit of a mess over how to charge for it, or even if they can.

You can view the beer menu on Untappd before you arrive, and you’ll find lagers, sours, witbiers, IPAs, double IPAs, saisons, pale ales, stouts and porters all represented. The hardest part is choosing which ones to sample in your limited visiting time. I’ve had some absolute crackers this year, including North x Other Half DIPA, Northern Monk Patrons Project 16.02, Cloudwater AW18 Belgian Plum and Howling Hops Jantelagen.

It is the perfect combination of great burgers and great beers (and ciders if that’s your thing).

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I’ve also been to the O2 (Millennium Dome in old money) branch in Greenwich. Same idea, different seating (higher benches) and different food pick up (you get the vibrating light up coaster things). There are also branches in Dalston, Notting Hill and Willesden.

Recommended if you’re looking for a great beer and a great burger in any of these areas of London. This branch is also handy for King’s Place, the nearby arts venue where some of your favourite podcasts might do live recordings.