BBC Good Food Show Winter, The NEC, November 2017

The annual round up of the annual pilgrimage to the NEC to visit the BBC Good Food Show. And for the first time since the last century, we had a guest, with Mrs MOFAD’s sister (and regular MOFAD supplier) Jo joining us for the first half of the day. We rocked up at the NEC at just after 10am, after a quick detour to pick up our passenger. Note to future self – coming down the A446 from junction 9 is much better than going down to junction 6.

In to the show we go. More security this year, sniffer dogs trying hard not to be distracted by the smell of sausages cooking nearby. Guide dogs doing the same. As usual we set off for the drinks sections first, which were absolutely overwhelmed by gin producers. I thought that there were loads of them last year, but I’m sure there were even more this year. Fewer cider producers and way fewer breweries. No Renegade/West Berkshire (probably the highlight of the last 2 years). No BAD Co (another good one from last year). No Empress Ale. No Crafty Devil. Not even a bigger name like Wadworth.

There were a few familiar names as well as some new breweries (reports on them to come later I’m sure). Plenty of interesting food producers, but again some notable absentees. No Croome Cuisine and their lovely hop cheese. No Debbie & Andrew’s. We picked up the usual haul of Dean’s biscuits, always the most generous with their samples of whole biscuits (unlike some of the cheese producers who have samples the size of a mote of dust).

Santa tells me that there are more goodies to come in 25 days, so I’ll wait until then to do another round up 🙂

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Mini beer festival, Slimbridge, September 2017

An increasing highlight of our camping trips this year has been the opportunity to have a mini beer festival. With myself, Matt & Steve all actively seeking out new and interesting beers all year round, every time we get together then we just have to crack a few open to share.

Matt’s newest discovery is Drop The Anchor Brewery in Christchurch, and he’d been down there to pick up bottles of all of their beers for us to try. Silent Stones was a sweet and malty ale which went down well in the afternoon sunshine.

Tucktonia (named after a short lived 1970s theme park in Christchurch) was a nice easy drinking pale ale.

After checking these beers in on Untappd, we discovered that the brewery is owned by Neil, an old school friend of my work friend Jono. Via an Untappd conversation, I brought him a bottle back to try.

Later on in the evening, we moved on to something a little older. Sixteen years old to be precise, a bottle of 1851, brewed by St Austell Brewery in 2001 to celebrate their 150th anniversary. It’s a barley wine, so can take some ageing, but I think we all agreed that it was probably past its peak, although there’s still quite a bit going on, with that barley wine sweetness still lingering.

The theme of this weekend’s camp is cake weekend (in honour of Hazel’s birthday, and also now Hazel & Matt’s anniversary). So the cake themed beers came out next. First, an old friend, the Cloudwater/To0l collaboration Christmas Cake Imperial Stout. This was Matt’s bottle that I had procured last Xmas and it had aged nicely in the bottle. Christmas cake in a glass. Boozy dried fruits, gentle winter spices. Lie back and think of Christmas. Lovely stuff.

We then moved on to my weird offering. When was the last time you had a lemon doughnut beer? No, I can’t remember the last time either. I had bought this on novelty value alone, and that proved to be a mistake as this was just chemical weirdness, I think Matt’s comment of “toilet cleaner” was the most flattering one applied to this odd liquid. It could have been epic, but it was just excrement.

On to a sure fire winner next, Imperial Biscotti Break from Evil Twin. Matt & I had already had this one so knew what was coming, Steve was yet to sample it. Pleasantly surprised is probably somewhat of an understatement, and we all enjoyed this one, super tasty almondy biscuit base.

Where do you go from Imperial Biscotti? To the lord, of course, Even More Jesus is a thick and oily delight, a hefty beast of a beer which left Steve speechless.

Another excellent mini beer fest, I suspect this theme will continue into 2018’s camping season. I’ve already got a few bottles stashed away for it…

Beer of the month, August 2017 – Stone the Crows IPA by Brewski

Another month almost entirely dominated by beers at home. This is despite several pub trips, a brewery tap trip and 2 visits to a good beer festival. With so many rotating lines on at the beer festival (and the rotations not always synchronised with the availability of the customer who wants to try them) you won’t always find the beer you want to taste.

However, to the beer festival we go first, for a Passionfruit And Blueberry Tart by Thornbridge Brewery. This one beats the standard version of “Tart” hands down. Sweet and sour and delicious. Lovely fruits balanced by sourness.

Everything else is a beer at home. The next one came to me fresh from Brass Castle Brewery. Earlier in the year I was one of their many crowd funders who started their “Crowler Club”. In this context, a crowler is a 990 ml can, filled fresh from the brewery and then sent straight out to customers. The crowd funding campaign enabled the brewery to purchase a special canning machine to make this all happen.

It was certainly worth it. The first beer that I tried was Disruptor, my first crowler beer, full of hoppy, fruity and juicy loveliness. Tropical goodness and super fresh.

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To another favourite brewery for Wyoming Sheep Ranch by Buxton Brewery. This was a little different for Buxton as there was absolutely nothing on the nose but big sweet pine on the palate. It was lovely stuff which made for a gentle sipper.

We now go to the dominant force in 2017’s beer of the month ratings, Cloudwater Brew Co. The Spring + Summer Pale Ale Ekuanot was a great beer for such low ABV. Not everything has to be a 9% monster to have good hoppy flavours and a nice body.

Something a little bit different next, a Peanut Butter Milk Stout by Belching Beaver Brewery. Not the kind of can that you might be able to show to more sensitive members of the family which is how come it was held over a week or so and made it into the August list. It was an utterly delicious peanut butter milk stout. Awesome nutty aroma, smooth flavours.

Who’s next? Well, it’s Cloudwater again, with Tremendous Ideas by Cloudwater Brew Co. A super tasty murk bomb (that’s a very cloudy beer that’s full of flavour). Thick with hops and juicy bitterness with fruitness to balance it out.

However, a new winner this month, on their first ever appearance. Stone the Crows IPA by Brewski from Sweden was full of super juicy grapefruit bitterness. Maximum citrus flavours and really lovely stuff. Very lively and sharp. A worthy winner to mix with all those Cloudwaters at the end of the year…

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The home made Hooky beer festival, July 2017

You may recall from last year that we went to the Hook Norton beer festival. A festival in a field on a farm. With poorly kept beer. And not much else going for it, apart from the company. We returned to the area this year, but with a different plan.

A very simple plan. We would hold our own beer festival, supplying our own beer. I even made tasting notes. Probably more detailed than they needed to be, but I’ve been exposed to plenty of Sean’s tasting notes now and it was good fun putting them together. They follow below, and then I’ll move on to the round up of the beers we had.

First, a note about sour beers…

Traditional sour beers are usually created through mixed fermentation of the beer after it has boiled. This mixed fermentation can be simultaneous (traditional yeast, wild yeast, and bacteria added all at the same time), or sequential in a separate vessel. In this case, a beer will be fermented traditionally with common brewer’s yeast until it is at or near completion. This beer will then be transferred into barrels (usually oak, sometimes stainless steel tanks) where wild yeasts and bacteria will begin to re-ferment the beer, consuming sugars that traditional yeasts are unable to eat.

One byproduct of this secondary fermentation by bacteria is lactic acid, which, along with acetic acid and other organic acids, is responsible for souring the liquid. This process often takes a long time, from months to years, but yields a complex final product that can be served as-is, or mixed with young beer to temper the sourness and add complexity (the Belgian style Geuze uses this technique). These beers will continue to develop and sour with time, including in the bottle.

If you don’t have time to wait for a beer to age in the barrel, then you can use a kettle souring process, in which the lactic acid is generated by a primary fermentation of a bacterial culture (often lactobacillus, which could come from a lab or even yoghurt) for several hours (all the way up to a few days) before a final boil is conducted to kill the bacteria, halt the production of lactic acid, and continue with a secondary fermentation by traditional yeast.

Gose is a top-fermented beer that originated in Goslar, Germany. It is brewed with at least 50% of the grain used being malted wheat. Dominant flavours in gose include a lemon sourness, an herbal characteristic, and a strong saltiness (the result of either local water sources or added salt). Gose beers typically do not have prominent hop bitterness, flavours, or aroma. The beers typically have a moderate alcohol content of 4 to 5% ABV.

That’s the science bit, now the beers…

Thornbridge – Tart – 6% – sour ale

A “Bakewell sour” brewed in collaboration with Wild Beer Co., Tart pours a golden yellow colour with a white head, and is refreshingly tart and dry with a combination of citrus hops and flavours of grapefruit and bitter lemon. The name Tart is inspired by the Bakewell delicacy where Thornbridge are based and accurately describes the flavour of the beer in a single word.

Dugges – Tropic Thunder – 4.5% – sour ale

Tropic Thunder is a joint effort with nomadic brewer Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal. This sour ale was brewed with lactobacillus and fermented with plenty of mango, passion fruit and peaches to produce something akin to an alcoholic Rio.

In 2002 Mikael Dugge Engström had a meeting with an Englishman, who was in the business of selling second hand breweries. This got Mikael thinking. How cool would it be to have your own brewery and brew your own beer?

With all the energy of a man possessed Mikael started studying Swedish alcohol legislation (which is pretty extensive), read up on everything and anything he could find on brewing beer and going on visits to anyone who would have him, getting tips and making friends. All while he started buying the parts needed to build a small brewery. In 2005, he opened one. In 2010 he moved to a bigger one. In 2017 he doubled capacity again.

Modern Times – Fruitlands Blood Orange and Hibiscus sour – 4.8% – Gose

Fruitlands is tart, fruity & frighteningly delicious. The sour, salty base beer lays down the funky refreshment, while a heavy dose of blood oranges & hibiscus turns the whole thing into a wall-to-wall citrus fiesta, with tart, floral notes from the hibiscus adding beautifully to the profile. It’s a marvelous mix of elements that collides with your mouth like a fruit-filled asteroid of flavor traveling at the supersonic speed of party.

Modern Times is a brewery from the Point Loma neighbourhood of San Diego, named after a beautifully crazy utopian community founded in 1850. Almost all of their beers are named after real utopian experiments or mythological utopias.

Wild Weather – One Eyed Iain Salted Caramel Porter – 6.2% – English porter

A collaboration with Electric Bear, where rich malts flow around a sweet caramel base creating waves of decadence as your tongue experiences each flavour. This is driven home by a slight salted note to awaken both the nose and mouth.

Boom! Came the sound of the thunder, and as the rain came down like beads bouncing from the mash tun, Wild Weather Ales was born! Brewed in Silchester (just outside Reading) and drawing inspiration from new world hops, Germany’s malts and beer styles from across the globe, Wild Weather Ales vow to make your drinking experience as enjoyable as their brewing.

Now with their own on site canning line, collaborations with some of the UK’s most inspirational brewers, and being more and more readily available nationwide Wild Weather is experiencing wild growth.

“Striking branding” you might say. Wild Weather say thank you, but they can hardly take all the credit. When they approached the punk artist and guitarist from the London punk band MÜG he jumped at the chance to have his work displayed across some of this fair land’s greatest drinking establishments.

Cloudwater Brew Co – DDH IPA Citra – 6% – India Pale Ale

DDH stands for “double dry hopped”. Cloudwater has doubled the amount of hops in this IPA to bring you 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. Traditionally, dry hopping is done in beer styles like pale ales and IPAs, but brewers are utilising this process in many other styles as well. Since you are not boiling 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.

At the heart of Cloudwater Brew Co is a deep love for the changing seasons, each bringing with it an invitation to enjoy the scarcity and abundance the natural world offers. Cloudwater want to showcase the ebb and flow by using seasonal ingredients at their very best, and taking inspiration from the change of lifestyle each season creates.

Boundary Brewing Cooperative – Joyous Abandon – 4.8% – Saison

Joyous Abandon is their first bottled mixed fermentation Saison. Using a house culture, they aged this Raspberry Saison in a Pinot Noir barrel and allowed the critters to do what they do best. This beer is the future.

Boundary Brewing Cooperative are a Cooperative Brewery in Belfast owned and run by their members. Opening in 2014, they are the first brewery in NI to bring together modern US styles with the more traditional Belgian/French style beers.

That was just our beer selection. Matt & Steve also brought beers. We alternated between offerings from our various selections. No overall plan, just whatever we felt like.

Printemps from Unity Brewing (a nettle saison) which kicked off our evening (good with fish’n’chips), Project Barista : Turkish from Siren (a big coffee beast), Zuur Goosberry (gooseberry sour) and Mangomarillo from Watsons Brewery in Essex (fruity mango flavours, but not an IPA). We mixed things up with a little Tropic Thunder from Dugges (alcoholic Lilt).

The beer of the festival came next. Intensified Barrel Aged Coffee Porter from Brooklyn Brewery finally showed me what bourbon barrels are for. Making a great beer like this one. We were all blown away by this one. Apart from Hazel (who produced the facial reaction of the festival) and Mrs MOFAD (who was equally unimpressed).

More coffee came next with a Northern Monk patrons project collaboration, morello cherry and Peruvian coffee imperial porter. More coffee bitterness, but the cherry comes through very late.

That was day one. I started off day two with my Cloudwater DDH IPA Citra, which was absolutely fantastic. A hoppy juice bomb that was perfect with my spicy dhansak.

We went sour to kick things off for everyone, with another Vibrant Forest, this time Zuur Rhubarb, which was very pleasant.

Trolltunga from Buxton Brewery was up next, coincidentally we had opened some just two days before. It was just as good 🙂

My bottle of Joyous Abandon was next, a raspberry saison which would be perfect in summer. I know that it is summer, but it wasn’t quite summery enough today.

Back down south next for Tellicherry from Winchester’s Red Cat Brewing, a peppercorn wheat beer. I couldn’t detect the pepper anywhere.

Steve’s Portugese import was next, Coral TĂłnica from Empresa de Cervejas da Madeira. We’d all had worse, but it didn’t exactly set the world on fire.

Another Red Cat next, Naked Sour (that should get some more hits on this post), a simple and unadulterated sour.

We moved on to Essex next, for Watsons Imperial Black Otter. Allegedly a black IPA or Cascadian dark ale, the nose promises loads of hops, but they are weirdly absent from the palate. A nice dark ale, but I really wanted to taste all of those hops that my nose told me were present.

To round things off, we returned to yesterday’s lovely Project Barista : Turkish from Siren.

It is fair to say that our Hooky beer festival was way better than the official one last year. Great beers, well kept (in bottles and cans) and a good array of styles and flavours. We had all curated some of our favourite styles alongside a few different things. Thanks to Matt & Steve for their selections.

Looking forward to doing it all again in a few months! Already got some good ones lined up 🙂

Spirit of Harborough festival, May 2017

You may already have read all of the individual posts from the places that we visited when strolling around Market Harborough for the Spirit of Harborough festival. This is just a quick wrap up to look at the event as a whole.

The Spirit of Harborough festival is a new event for 2017, set up to be a celebration of the finest locally produced wine, beer, gin and cider. Over the weekend there are a number of activities taking place such as taste tours, tastings from local brewers and tours and demonstrations from local producers.

We embarked on the “Taste Harborough Mini Taste Trail”, which started out at “The Square” in the town centre, where a pop up stall was available for you to collect your map and booklet (ÂŁ3 per person) to take to the various outlets to receive your samples. The first sample was on the stall itself, a genuine Leicestershire pork pie, which was a delicious start. We studied the map and then plotted our route around the town.

Our next stop was the indoor market, where we strolled around the stalls and then sampled some tasty cakes from  – we also ended up buying a box of gin and tonic cupcake bites to enjoy later (we have a plentiful supply of doughnuts but it’s nice to have other cake-y offerings).

We then strolled along the River Welland and down to The Oat Hill, to sample some local vodka and beers from the Langton Brewery (just to the north of MH).

This was a lovely pub which we would like to come back to one day, and it was lovely to sit out in the beer garden sampling the beers and vodka. There was more taste touring to do, so we crossed over the river and then down to Beerhouse, who were hosting Market Harborough Brewery for the day. They didn’t have far to travel, situated as they literally across the road from Beerhouse.

Down in the “back room”, we met Ivan from the brewery, who took us on a little tutored tasting of five of their bottled beers. More details on that here.

Our next stop was Emerson & Wests, a delicatessen and bakery who had some sweet and savoury treats to sample, including the lesser known Harborough Cheesecake, a baked cake with a pastry base, curd and sultanas. I also stocked up on a few beers from Langton Brewery as well as a little something else for Mrs MOFAD 🙂

We had to make some tactical decisions, because not all outlets were open all day. Tip for next year – get everyone to offer their wares for a longer period to stop this from being necessary. We gambled on The Angel Hotel, who had some sausages and meatballs on offer to try. I’m not sure that they really entered into the spirit of Spirit of Harborough though, since they just had a couple of plates of food in the reception area, and they had just about run out of sausages. A bit of a token effort really, no-one to engage with about the food.

Our final stop was much better, Duncan Murray Wines. They hold regular tastings each Saturday, so they really knew what they were doing. We tasted Brynne Vineyard Phoenix, a white wine with “an English hedgerow and cutgrass nose, leading to a smooth, soft, citrus fruit finish.” We then had a couple more beers from Market Harborough Brewery, as well as some different ones from The Langton Brewery. There was also time for a bit more shopping…

Our tour was over, so we retired to Square Cafe Bar for some lunch. We then headed off to the final stop, Farndon Fields farm shop. We went by car as it was on our route back to the camp site. Sadly, they had run out of free samples (more bad planning) so we had to make do with a wander round and a spot of shopping instead:-

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We had a lovely time exploring Market Harborough. The good weather (the threatened rain never materialised) really helped things. I hope that this festival goes from strength to strength. Given time and with more producers on board, it could grow to rival Ludlow (our favourite town food/drink festival).

Wollaton Cricket Club – the sixth annual beer festival

A departure from the norm here. An advert. I am not for sale, but when Comrade Chairman (a former colleague) comes calling then the rules can be bent a little bit. Next weekend there is a beer festival occuring. I can’t be there, but maybe you can.

Wollaton Cricket Club would like to invite you to join them for their sixth annual beer festival, at the Wollaton Sports Association Ground from the evening of Thursday 25th May until Bank Holiday Monday 29th May.

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The festival will offer beer and cider drinkers a choice of up to 20 fantastic quality ales and ciders from a wide range of the country’s best breweries.

Prices start from under ÂŁ3.00 a pint, with the bar open from 6.00pm until 11.00pm on Thursday 25th May, 12 noon until 11pm Friday-Sunday, and 12-6pm on Monday 28th May.

There is outdoor seating available, from where you will be able to enjoy your tasty beverage whilst watching the weekend’s cricket at one of the most picturesque grounds in the county.

You can also tuck into some food with your beer. There will be a BBQ on the Friday evening and other delicious snacks such as pasties and samosas, from local suppliers, available during the festival.

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The Wollaton Sports Association Ground is situated on Wollaton Road, NG8 2AN, and is only a two-minute walk away from the NCT 30 and Trent Barton Rainbow bus stops.

Enjoy cricket and beer, a match made in heaven.

Easter Monday lunch, The Old Hall Hotel, Hope, April 2017

Easter Monday traditionally sees a visit to the pub for lunch. This is a tradition in Mrs MOFAD’s family, and is something we have done together for many years. It is often followed by some form of sporting activity, usually a game of rounders or cricket. Weather permitting. I say weather permitting, but we have been known to play on a snowy pitch before now. Not for a good few years now though, we’ve had quite a few mild Easters.

This year’s gathering just happened to be taking place at the Old Hall Hotel in Hope. Venue for the Hope Valley Beer and Cider festival that has been mentioned already on this blog. Pure coincidence surely? Or all part of the caring, sharing MOFAD plan to allow others to sample local ales? The MOFAD is all about the sharing 🙂

Mrs MOFAD began today’s proceedings with Elderflower by Pulp, from the beer festival tent outside. It was sweet with elderflower hints.

My choice was JW Lees Manchester Pale Ale, an inoffensive golden ale. If the name is familiar, that could be because you’ll often find their yeast strains in beers from Cloudwater Brew Co.

On to the starter next, and just like the last time we came here for Easter Monday, it was a pate which was supposed to be served with a pear chutney, but this didn’t materialise… The pate was nice though, with a few cheffy smears  of balsamic glaze having to make up for the lack of chutney.

Another drink to accompany the main course, this was Plane Jane by Long Hop, a gentle blonde ale.

Mrs MOFAD had a Tempted Medium Sweet from Tempted Irish Craft Cider, which was quite dry and would probably work better with a curry.

On to the main course, and just like the starter, it was similar to the one in 2015. The biggest difference was probably that it was served on a plate this year, and not a board! Hurrah! A nice piece of fish with a nice pesto crust, sweet potato chips and small bowl of peas.

Instead of pudding, I finished off my meal with a Sleepy Badgers by Little Critters from Sheffield, a smooth stout with chocolate notes.

Another pleasant trip to The Old Hall, everyone enjoyed their meals.