Cloudwater Night, Needle & Pin, Loughborough, September 2017

Another themed night at the Needle & Pin. I got my name on the guest list for this one as soon as it was announced. Because Cloudwater.

My friendly Untappd list tells me that I’ve had 44 of their beers. In August 2016, DIPA v3 (a bit too old by then) got awarded beer of the month, and they’ve been clearing up in this year’s monthly round ups too.

They are making great beer, lovely hoppy beasts and the occasional darker beer such as the Christmas Cake imperial stout (with ToØl of Denmark) and a delicious Autumn + Winter Fazenda Ouro Verde Porter.

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 of nature by using seasonal ingredients at their very best, and taking inspiration from the change of lifestyle each season creates.

So we start tonight with a non-Cloudwater beer, as we had time for a swift half before proceedings began. Mount Hood by Great Heck Brewing Co was a gentle golden ale to kick things off.

On to the main event, four tasty cans of Cloudwater beer. A nice relaxed format to the evening, a card with four beers on it, take it to the bar to collect your next can and tick each one off. There was a suggested order which we followed.

First up, Spring + Summer Pale Ale Huell Melon. For a new twist on their lower strength hoppy beer, Cloudwater fermented this pale ale with a combination of Belgian yeasts. Hallertau Blanc, Amarillo, and Citra were added to the whirlpool, and it was dry hopped with Huell Melon and Hallertau Blanc in the FV.

A tasty treat to start, a little bit of fruit and pepperiness, very easy drinking. You’ll also spot my latest glassware (all included in the price), a very nice looking new Cloudwater glass.

On to a familiar face next. I had a can of this DDH IPA Citra back in July, one of my offerings for the home made Hooky beer fest.

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.

A hoppy juice bomb that goes really well with a spicy dhansak. I didn’t have any of that tonight though.

A collaboration brew next, ™ Life, an East Coast meets North West IPA collaboration celebrates some of their favourite ™ hops – Amarillo, Mosaic and Chinook, and of course the guys from Other Half NYC who they brewed it with.

Yeast: A38, JW Lees
Aroma hops: Amarillo, Mosaic, Chinook
Malts: Golden Promise, Flaked Oats, Oat Malt.

This was full of oily grassiness with big bitterness and a bit of a lavender kick to it.

A quadruple collaboration to finish the night off. Awkward Phase was brewed with old friends of Cloudwater in the shape of Northern Monk, and their new friends Verdant and Deya. This IPA features more of that Chinook hop, and a prominent, aromatic, and complex maltiness from a touch of Munich and Château Arome malts in the grist. A power outage shut things down in mid brew, but rapid service and repair saved the day and got the brewery back up and running in time to finish brewing.

A solid beer, the Château Arome shines through, with the hops turning up to the party a little later on.

On reflection, we would have put the DDH IPA Citra after the ™ Life, but overall it was another great night of beers at the N&P. I’ve said this before, but these are the kinds of events that are happening in London bars and pubs all the time, so it’s nice to see them in our sleepy East Midlands market town.

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The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – selection box #7 – September 2017

The eleventh selection from the N&P and the seventh in the “normal” club (as opposed to the dark side club).

I think I’ve finished everything from box six and five and still one left from three (Buxton Wyoming Sheep Ranch DIPA). Let’s dive in.

Alechemy – EH54 – 5.7%

A rare beer from a brewery who are always a hit when their casks pop up at the N&P. A strong hop aroma with juicy fruit notes of pineapple and mandarin. A pale malt base gives a light digestive biscuit backbone which soon gives way to the torrent of hops. Strong fruity flavours of mandarin and pink grapefruit explode in the mouth, with a finish that is hoppt and tangy, with grapefruit becoming drier. A good west coast IPA full of body and complexity.

Almasty – West Coast IPA – 7%

Canned on 8th August, these super fresh cans are crammed full of old school, new world hops in the kettle. It has then been dry hopped excessively with the new breed of U.S super hops. Big aroma, big flavour and big bitterness. West coast style.

Hops in the boil: Simcoe, Columbus, Centennial and Cascade
Dry hop: Mosaic, Eureka, El Dorado and Citra
Yeast: US-05

Brew York – Nuba – 6.7%

We loved our visit to the Brew York 1st birthday party in April. Nuba is a Vermont style hazy and dank east coast IPA. Expect grapefruit passion fruit and bubble gum (!) with a gentle resinous finish. Do not expect massive bitterness or a challenge. An easy drinker packed with Mosaic, Simcoe and Citra hops.

Fourpure – Deucebox Double Citrus IPA – 8.3%

Last year Fourpure made Juicebox, a citrus IPA. What if they made it bigger, bolder and better? Step forward Deucebox. Oranges are added to the Juicebox recipe with double the hops, double the malt and double the juice to give a punchy and tropical glass of joy. Yes please!

Thornbridge – Tzara – 4.8%

A familiar one this, you can get it in M&S! Tzara is a hybrid beer, fermented like an ale but matured like a lager. A broad, almost fruity palate with some bready notes. A crisp, refreshing beer. Voted Best Kolsch Ale in Europe in the 2013 World Beer Awards.

Wild Weather Ales – Motorcycle Emptiness – 5%

Drawing from the Manic Street Preachers’ song that inspired it, its bitter background is soon overturned by big hop notes. Sherbert and lemon contend on the nose while a full bodied grape and lime flavour cleanse the palate.

BrewDog Liverpool, September 2017

I can be a bit of a predictable creature. If you look at some of my recent city trips (Edinburgh, York, Newcastle and now Liverpool), you’ll spot a pattern. Whenever I arrive I go to BrewDog. I don’t *just* go to BrewDog, but it will usually be one of my first stops. Why? Well, it’s because I know what I’m going to get. I always want to check out local bars and brewery taps and the like that you don’t get in any other city, but I’m always happy to start off at BrewDog. As well as their always evolving line up, the range of guest beers is always interesting.

As a review printed on their new staff t-shirts says, “unless you’re into beers and trying new ones, this place isn’t for you”. I am into beers and trying new ones.

So here’s the first of those, Sidewalk Shark, part of the “Small Batch” project. It’s a light, effervescent German-style sour wheat beer; lemon peel, herbal lime leaf, notes of orange and a fresh bready malt base. Sharp, sweet and sour, with a tiny salty note – a lovely refreshing beer.

The other thing you will find in BrewDog bars is a food offering. In Liverpool, this is a burger and hot dog offering. I had the Patriot Burger, brioche bun, 6oz beef brisket patty, smoked bacon, cheddar, pickles, onion, baby gem & bbq sauce.

It was a decent juicy burger, good flavours and nicely put together. Unfortunately it was served on a silly tin tray with a silly tin cup of chips. We want plates.

To accompany this, another couple of beers. First, the Prototype Blonde Ale. I didn’t think BrewDog did bland, but this tasted of nothing. Nothing bad about it, just a very middle of the road blonde ale. I could go to most other pubs and bars in this city to find that, so I just don’t expect it here.

Thankfully, the last one was more interesting. Another of the Small Batch series, this time the Imperial Pilsner where a quintessential pilsner malt base and German lager yeast combine with some modern German aroma hops to make an interesting lager. You can feel the strength in this one.

As ever, a pleasant trip to BrewDog. Tonight was also the monthly bottle share club. Sadly I couldn’t stay as I had friends to meet elsewhere but I was sorely tempted.

The Beehive, Combs, Derbyshire, September 2017 #2

Here we are again. Last night we booked a table for tonight. We were lucky to get one, as they only had a couple of slots left, at 6 and “just after 8ish”. It’s just as well that we went for “just after 8ish”, because at 6 we were just finishing off our walk for the day (which was lovely, a perfect day for walking and we had picked a great circuit). There was just enough time to get back to the camp site for a cup of tea followed by a shower.

We arrived just after 8ish, and our table wasn’t yet vacated. No problem, we had a drink at the bar and a chat with the staff whilst things were being sorted out. Here is that drink at the bar, another pint of Thornbridge Rattlesnake, a reliable cask IPA.

Enough bantz, the table was now ready. We’d had time to peruse the menus and the specials board. We all gravitated to the specials board, and to exactly the same point on the specials board. We all ordered the cod wrapped in parma ham, with spinach mash and a cream sauce.

It was both delicate and delicious and we all demolished it in double quick time. Which left plenty of time for pudding. On our previous visit earlier this year, the chocolate and candied lime tart was a big favourite. It was on last night but someone had swiped the last one. Luckily there was a replacement on tonight, with this chocolate and candied orange tart.

It was equally lovely, but the lime one just edges it. Because lime. I’m not a squirty cream fan, but it does at least add a touch of moisture to complement the crisp pastry. No soggy bottom here.

Yet another lovely visit to this lovely pub. I’m out of praise for it, because it’s just great. I’m sure we’ll be back again next year on another camping trip…

The Beehive, Combs, Derbyshire, September 2017 #1

If this pub looks familiar, that’s because it is. This is now our fifth visit, coinciding with our third stay at the Combs Valley Campsite just up the road. A reduced party today, with just Mrs MOFAD and myself, along with regular MOFAD companions Karon & John. No ninja hound meant that we got to experience the other room. We had wondered about visiting the other pub at the other end of the road, but this pub has always been so good, so why change for the sake of change?

Speaking of change, we had to change our first beer order, because the one we wanted was not up to scratch, so the bar staff had removed it from service. Just the standard house ale to start then, brewed by Wychwood and branded here as Beehive bitter.

What else on a Friday but fish’n’chips? There were a few interesting specials on (including the fish platter that many of us have had on previous visits) but it just had to be fish’n’chips for me.

Lovely piece of fish, good crisp batter, good pub chips and some peas. Simple and tasty. If you do it right, it’s hard to beat. A great combination, made better when accompanied by a solid cask IPA in the form of Thornbridge Rattlesnake.

We had been walking this afternoon, so decided that we had earned a pudding. The tasty Beehive sundae was my choice:-

This is just a great village pub. Lovely people, lovely pub.

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.

disruptor

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…

crows

Toast launches nationwide in Tesco

Toast is an award winning beer brewed using surplus fresh bread that would otherwise be wasted. All profits go to the charity Feedback to tackle food waste. 44% of bread produced in the UK is wasted – Toast’s mission is to change that.

You may recall that earlier in the year I was one of the many people who crowd funded the launch of two new styles, a lager and a session IPA.

toast1

Toast brew with fresh, unsold loaves from bakeries and the heel ends of loaves not used by sandwich makers. They add malted barley, hops, yeast and water, and bread replaces around a third of the usual grains. They worked with Hackney Brewery in London on the recipe for the Pale Ale and have continued to refine it with their current brewer Hambleton Ales in Yorkshire, using only British hops.

In their first year, they’ve brewed with over 2 tonnes of surplus fresh bread, and their ambition is to save more than 100 tonnes of wasted bread within 3 years.

The Session IPA and lager are now available to buy in Tesco. Tesco have committed that no food that’s safe for human consumption will go to waste from its UK retail operations by the end of 2017.

toast2

You can continue to buy Toast in hundreds of independent UK retailers and nationally in Waitrose and Spar.

All images copyright Toast.