Sours night, The Needle & Pin, Loughborough, June 2017

Yes, it’s another “night” at the N&P. The latest in a long line of great evening events, including Belgian night, dark beer night, Thornbridge night, IPA night and the original (and messiest) craft beer tasting evening.

Tonight was the rearranged sours night, a month later than planned due to Sean’s man flu which caused the postponement of the original date. The best things come to those who wait, and wait we did, for the new date a month later. Mrs MOFAD was here again tonight, as sour beers are very much her thing. We were also joined by regular MOFAD companion Alec, and managed to have a table all to ourselves.

We started the night a little early, with pizza (from Peter as ever) and a beer from the bar.  This was a Platinum Blonde from Byatts, light and refreshing bitterness.

And this was a tasty pizza as usual:-

On to the main event, the sours. We began our journey with a very refreshing little number, a super sunny summer time beer, Jasmine Dragon from Dugges. Subtle jasmine notes, very nice. These Swedes know what they are doing…

Beer number two was standard saison stuff from Wylam, in the form of Le Saisonnier. The label hints at subtle rosemary and lemon balm flavours, but they were too subtle for me, because I couldn’t find them anywhere in here.

Snacks started to arrive next, humous and breadsticks first. We moved on to a “wild card” beer next, which Sean added in to the line up late in the day. Duchesse de Bourgogne is a beer that we have both come across before, in the famous Eagle pub in Cambridge (where Watson & Crick first announced their discoveries around DNA). Mrs MOFAD hated it (vinegary coke) but I quite liked it. That continued tonight, as I enjoyed the sweet, sharp and sour funky cola flavours, and Mrs MOFAD did hop face once more, despite no hop profile. Hop face appears when an unpleasant flavour is encountered.

Back to the plan next, and we journey up the A515 (or A6) to visit our friends at Buxton. In fact, you will notice the next beer in my haul from our last visit:-

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Superluminal is a collaboration with Stillwater, and they has produced a sour IPA. What you get is enoromous grapefruit flavour, but no hoppiness. Even Mrs MOFAD quite liked this one, the first time she has said that about an IPA.

Another wild card next. Vandervelden 135 Oude Geuze Vielle is a geuze released to honour the founding of Oud Beersel in 1882. It was released in the spring of 2017 and is a blend of a 1-year old lambic aged in 30-year old Tuscan Brunello di Montalcino barrels and a 3-year old lambic aged in Beersel’s own foudres. I’d already pre-ordered a bottle of this, so it was nice to “try before you buy”. It has a best before date of 20 years hence, so I can safely cellar mine for a little while. I’m going to do just that, it was like a champagne amongst beers. It also went very well with a subtle goats cheese.

We return to the plan with another collaboration, NxSE, a joint effort from Gypsy Hill (the SE), and North Brew Co (the N), who have made a kettle soured raspberry beer. This was full of raspberry tartness and no sugary nonsense. Lovely stuff.

We move on to one of my favourites, mostly for the flavour, but partly for the artwork, which appears to feature Calculon (the acting robot from Futurama). Wild Weather make great beers, and they also do great names and artwork (cf. Curse of Threepwood and its Monkey Island homage). Dark of Ages Past was a lovely blueberry beer, which matched perfectly with Rebecca’s chocolate and cherry brownies, which complemented the sweetness of the beer very well.

We end on something more subtle, Morello Cherry Gose from One Mile End, very subtle cherry flavours and a hint of saltiness.

Another great “night” at the N&P. It’s been quite a journey from that inaugural craft beer night, and a sold out sours night shows that local drinkers are ready to explore all kinds of areas on their beer journeys. Looking forward to the next one, whatever it may be.

York Tap, April 2017 #2

I said we’d be back. I was right 🙂 After a great weekend in York which started here at the York Tap and then took in Pavement Vaults, BrewDog, Brew YorkLamb & Lion and House of the Trembling Madness (and a few more), we find ourselves back at the station and waiting for a train. What better way to pass the time at a station than with another drink. This time an Electric Bear NZ Pale, a delicate floral hop flavour in a gently hazy pale ale.

We sat and reflected on the highlights of our York trip, it’s certainly a city we want to return to. And I suspect we will start and end that trip (whenever it may be) at the York Tap!

Brew York 1st birthday party, April 2017

Brew York, so good they named it once. So good, that they are already celebrating their first birthday with a series of events at the brewery over the weekend. Today we have been exploring the city, via the city walls. York still has most of the walls that surrounded the city 700 years ago. The tops of these were partly rebuilt about 150 years ago so the public could walk along most of them, and “feel safer” by having a tall parapet on one side of them. They are usually just called “the walls” although locals also sometimes refer to them as “the bar walls”, after the four main fortified gateways or “bars” where you can access the walls.

It’s a great way to explore the edges of the city. And at many points, you can descend back down to street level, and explore more things in the middle.

This is how we came to our lunch stop, descending from the walls at Red Tower (where they finish for a while) and then making our way down to Brew York, on the banks of the Foss, where they just happened to be celebrating their first birthday.

Brew York was born when founders Wayne and Lee met on the stag do of a mutual friend. A few years later they met again, when Wayne’s home brew was served at a party hosted by that same friend. Soon, they started brewing together, gaining confidence from the feedback on their home brews. What if they could open a brewery? Well, they did.

In 2015 they started the admin work of opening a brewery, converting a warehouse by the Foss. In March 2016, Viking DNA was the first beer brewed on site. This beer was a nod to the heritage of the brewery’s location (where the Jorvik Viking centre was originally built).

The birthday weekend was in full swing when we arrived at lunchtime. Raffle tickets were being handed out at the door, a local band were just tuning up, and we grabbed a couple of seats inside. I went off to the bar to order some drinks and Mrs MOFAD stepped outside to check out the street food vendors in the yard, and order some lunch.

Let’s look at the drinks first. The murk bomb on the left hand side is a refreshing raspberry wheat beer called Razberet, and the hop bomb on the right is a classic session IPA called X-Panda, featuring Citra, Simcoe and Chinook hops.

Lunch soon appeared, some tasty pulled pork baps from Smokin’ Blues Street Food, some lovely rare breed pork shoulder, and not overpowered by a sickly sweet sauce. A nice crunchy slaw, much better than that supermarket stuff.

More murk next, in the form of Triple H, hoppy, hazy and heavenly, perfect with that pulled pork. This one combines Centennial, Citra and Mosaic hops to great effect, citrus and floral flavours. It went beautifully with the pork.

Whilst this was all going on, we were also doing some quizzes, identifying beers from labels and identifying breweries from bits of logos. Visitors were also invited to suggest a new beer to be brewed. My suggestion of Richard’s Third Hop, combining English, Australian and New Zealand hops with a Richard III based pun was not a winner. Maybe I’ll brew it myself when I retire!

There was more exploring to be done, but with the sun beating down outside (it was a glorious day) it was important to be properly hydrated, so I grabbed another beer from the bar. This was Big Eagle, an American IPA with four hops and four malts battling it out from dominance. I think the malts win the battle in this one, but it’s quite nicely balanced.

The Brew York Tap Room is a cracking place, a working brewery with enough space for a decent amount of visitors. With some good food and great beers on offer, it’s the perfect place to unwind in one corner of the city centre. You could stay all day. We had more to explore, so moved along. Whilst the scenery was just a little different, with the sunshine, live music and great food and beer, it also reminded us of last year’s trip to Fat Monk in New Zealand. We’ll definitely be back again one day!

Highly recommended!

The Needle & Pin Belgian beer night, March 2017

Just moments after the inaugural dark beer night at the N&P, I was down at the bar reserving the first two spaces on the inaugural Belgian beer night (the other space for regular MOFAD drinking companion Alec). It felt like it was ages away, but time flies when you’re waiting for a Belgian beer night to arrive. Sean handed over the reins for this one to the N&P’s resident Belgian beer expert Iain, who was to guide us through the landscape of Belgian brewing past and present.

We opened with Westmalle Dubbel (7%), a rich and complex Trappist beer, which undergoes secondary fermentation in the bottle. The Westmalle monastery has been brewing beer for over 150 years, and is one of only twelve monasteries allowed to carry the “Authentic Trappist Product” label on their beer. The Dubbel is a dark brown beer with aromas of dark fruits, bread, warming spices, leading to flavours of raisins and other fruits with a dry finish.

My conclusion? Dark fruits, a little sourness and some very nice carbonation. A very pleasant Dubbel indeed.

We move on to Straffe Hedrick Tripel (9%), the winner of Belgium’s Best Belgian Style Tripel at the World Beer Awards in 2016. The Maes family have been brewing in the centre of Bruges since the mid 19th century, and this beer is now the most established product of the De Halve Maan brewery. A huge white head and big carbonation bring a hoppy aroma to the nose, unusual for many Belgian beers. Fruits and grains are apparent on the palate, but the bitterness dominates.

Does it? Kind of, those golden fruits certainly come through, and again the elegance of the carbonation is reminiscent of a good sparkling wine.

On we go, with Vicaris Tripel Gueuze. This is created by brewing two beers and then joining them together in the bottle. A creamy white head billows above a honey gold beer, with a nose of tart vanilla and spice, leading to a full body and long dry finish.

This was another with very nice carbonation, some tart vanilla flavours mixing with a little spice on the palate.

We now take a break for another Belgian classic, fries and mayonnaise. An awesome way to refuel and soak up a little liquid.

These were piping hot, salty and delicious. And lovely mayonnaise too.

Off for a little fruity number next,  Kriek Boon (4.5%). The brewery in Lembeek has brewed under different ownerships since 1680, and has been owned by Frank Boon since 1975, establishing a reputation for fine Gueuze lambic beers. This is a cheery beer made by blending different aged lambics and then ageing them again over whole cherries. This gives a tart cherry beer with a hint of sweetness, and a hint of something coming from the oak casks that the beer has aged in.

I’m not a fan of cherries, but this was a nice beer, flavours of cherry juice but with the cherries fading away. Very easy drinking, perfect for a summer BBQ.

Here we deviate from the plan. We were due to finish with Rochefort 10 (11.3%) but due to logistical issues, I had to take mine and run. Look out for a separate review later.

Before the evening began, there was time for a quick bit of shopping, with a couple of Cloudwaters and a Howling Hops IPA (which will be my first from this brewery). The photo also shows the left over Rochefort and my glass to commemorate the evening.

Another great night out at the N&P – the April instalment of the event is already sold out, but look out for another Belgian event in the autumn. Pop over to Facebook to keep up to date

Beavertown Tropigamma Tropical IPA

Another beer from the third Needle & Pin craft beer selection box.

The N&P love all things Beavertown (as do I), and they especially love this one off beer, brewed to celebrate Beavertown’s 1000th brew. Hugely fruity compared to Gamma Ray, a tropical IPA brewed with lactose, pineapple, mandarin, papaya, passionfruit, guava, mango and lime juice. Enough fruit for you?

Juicy tropical fruits combine with big bold hops on the nose to lure you in with complex aromas of citrus, ripe mango and piney hops. The flavour is fruit driven, leading with sweet mandarin, tangy passionfruit and round mango and finishing with a satisfying hop bite. The oats help make the drinking experience smooth and round. This is literally a fruit explosion in a can.

Lilt. The totally tropical taste. Tropigamma. The totally tropcial murkbomb. Not an IPA but an interesting tropical fruit attack. Produces both “hop face” and “grapefruit face” in Mrs MOFAD. Juicy and fruity, and a grapefruit hit, with smoothness from the oats. Dangerously drinkable delight.