The Needle & Pin craft beer club – selection box #22 – March 2020

So here we are. The 50th incarnation of the Needle & Pin craft beer club, the 22nd “standard” box. There are only 2 people who have collected all 50 since that first one in September 2016, that’s me and regular MOFAD drinking companion Alec.

This month’s collection is brought to you by the letters I, P and A, and is a bit of an “unsung heroes” selection. Siren, featured here, were also in that first selection box, and have continued to grow alongside four of the other breweries in there, Beavertown (now minority owned by Heineken), Tiny Rebel, Thornbridge and Wild Beer Co. The only sad story from the first box is the demise of Hardknott, who closed down in 2018 after 12 years of brewing.

Here’s what is to be found in the March 2020 line up…

Amundsen – Fade to Green – 6.5%

A lovely NEIPA brewed in collaboration with Finback Brewery from New York, using Azacca, Galaxy, Citra, Simcoe and Chinook.

Arbor – Basta Rosse – 5%

A beautiful red IPA brewed with Cascade, Vic Secret & Mosaic hops, in collaboration with Italian brewery Mezzo Passo. I had this one back in 2018, a delightful hoppy red ale. It was also one of the only beers on in the taproom when we visited in March 2019.

Black Iris – Anarchists Across the Pond – 6.9%

Back in Oct, we brewed up a tasty New England IPA with renowned American home brewer, Andy Tipler, while he visited Nottingham from Connecticut. Packed full of Citra, Mosaic, Vic Secret and Simcoe and fermented with London III Ale Yeast, this NEIPA has a big fruit character with notes of pineapple and peach.

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Overtone – Citra Mosaic NEIPA V3 – 6%

The V3 New England IPA is very much the same as v2, except that it is juicer, hazier and thicker than the first time around, with more of a mouth presence. A beautiful aroma of tropical fruits comes bursting out, well balanced with the bitterness hitting you late.

Siren – Hard Rollin’ – 7%

Dry & Bitter return for the first Siren collaboration of 2020. Hard Rollin’ is one of the most pillowy, smooth and creamy IPAs they’ve ever created, with plentiful rolled oats, flaked oats and milk sugar all working their magic. It’s lavishly hopped with Ekuanot, Citra, Hallertau Blanc and Mandarina Bavaria for a beautiful dank depth with aromas of tropical fruit.

Time and Tide – Ham Sandwich – 7.4%

New England IPA packed to the rafters with Mosaic hops. This one is fruity, juicy and refreshing. I’ve had it already because why wouldn’t you want to try a beer called Ham Sandwich? Just don’t put mustard on it.

January 2020 round up

This is an attempt to try and write a little something each month, to get out of the bad habits of 2019 when I didn’t write very much at all. Rather than piling up 10 or more drafts a month and never finishing any of them, getting at least one round up published might be the way forward. It’s got to be worth a try.

So what’s been happening in January 2020? A lovely trip to the Lakes concluded with some fantastic pizza from The Sourdough Pizza Co in Ambleside. They are not really geared up for visiting customers at the moment, with a distinct lack of counter facilities, but we didn’t have time to wait for a delivery, so collection was the quickest optio. Pulled pork and apple sauce pizza? Yes please!

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There was also the customary trip to The Mortal Man, via Wansfell as usual, a lovely pub with good food and a warm welcome. The MOFAD card left many years ago is still there. It’s a fantastic walk and it was a great day to do it.

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The only other pub trip this month was a quick pint in The Ale Stop, with MOFAD companion Andy, whilst we were waiting for our curries to be cooked. A lovely little micro pub in the centre of Buxton, full of lively locals. The only other trip “out out” this month featured a pleasant new carbonara pizza at Pizza Express (no sign of Prince Andrew), before we went to see Bad Boys For Life (quality action nonsense).

Some of my favourite beers this month have been Donzoko Northern Helles (great lager, believe the hype), Escape Pod by Pressure Drop (liquid Bounty bar mixed with crude oil) and the fantastic Sunshine by Brass Castle, a good old fashioned fantastic IPA. No adjuncts, no lactose, no fruit purées. Just a great balance of malts and hops.

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The aforementioned Andy and I also shared some big unit stouts and porters like Tokyo* Death and Siren’s 2019 Barrel Aged Caribbean Chocolate Cake.

My least favourite beers were all of the Lidl ones, brewed under the made up “Hatherwood Craft Beer Company” name. They were very cheap, but not very good. If you pay a pound for an IPA, you get a pound’s worth of IPA.

Recipe of the month was probably slow cooker jerk chicken. Looking forward to refining that one a bit more.

So that was the first 2020 round up, hopefully I’ll get to do one each month. February should see a few more trips out, with the Leicester comedy festival tempting us into a couple of trips…

Beer Ambleside – #Tryanuary 2020

Shortly after our last “proper” visit to Ambleside, the nice people at Tarn Hows brewery opened up a shop and tasting room called Beer Ambleside. It’s taken me until now to visit as we’ve not been to Ambleside “properly” for quite a while.

I say “proper” and “properly” because we were in Ambleside in August 2017, but we’d walked over from Brothers Water via Middle Dodd and Red Screes and only had time for dinner and a taxi back.

After a few winters in Keswick and summers elsewhere in Cumbria, we are back in Ambleside, with a few more Wainwrights ticked off (144 down, 70 to go). Today’s weather was awful, low cloud mixing with rain, and then more rain. Rather than ticking off another Wainwright in the rain (that was October’s quest), we decided to nip over to Grasmere for a wander round the shops, then back to Ambleside for more shopping.

As well as picking up a few other bits (including a very nice new down jacket) there was time for some beer shopping. When this is just some of the selection you have to choose from (multiple fridges not pictured):-

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you know that you’ve got your work cut out for a little while, picking out a selection to have with dinner for the next few nights, and some to take home for the rest of the month of #Tryanuary.

After a long peruse, I managed to come away with a little selection from some of my favourite breweries (including one that I crowd-funded). You’ll spot lagers, pales, sours and similar styles, and just one stout from Tarn Hows brewery. This is because I’ve got shed loads of massive stouts still to get through so I don’t need to stock up on those. Session ales, table beers and lagers are what I need right now!

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There’s so much to choose from, and plenty of help available if you need it, with ciders, natural wines and gins also available alongside some merchandise and glassware (something else I definitely don’t need any more of).

Ambleside has been crying out for something like this for a good few years, so come here and buy beer, and don’t go to Tesco! You can also get growler fills of the beers that they currently have on (not available today as they are on holiday for a couple of weeks from this weekend).

The Otter, Kegworth, December 2019

For the eighth time in ten years we find ourselves at The Otter, my team’s traditional Xmas lunch venue. Every year I take my team out for lunch, a small token of appreciation for another year of hard work. I’ve written about this pub loads, so I’ll crack straight on with a quick round up of the food and drink.

Beer first, and with only two sad looking pumps of Doom Bar and Wainwright (and an awful pint of Atlantic last year), I decided to chance my arm with keg instead, Chieftain IPA from “Franciscan Well brewing”, who sound very exotic, but are just a Coors subsidiary. Simple and malty, and not much more.

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On to food. Regular readers may recall that I have very similar things every year, as they don’t change the menu massively each time (no need to change a winning formula). For the third year in a row, I opted for the duck & port parfait, this time with a “mulled Cumberland sauce” (stop mulling things!) and “toasted rustic bread”. It was grilled on one side, and better than last year’s bread which had just been waved near a light bulb. No leaves this time, or slices of radish (2017). It was very tasty. The sauce was way too thin though, it needed to be reduced.

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My main course is so predictable that everyone knows what I’ll be having. I always have the rib of beef, this time boneless, served on a bed of truffle & parsley mash (no sign of truffle), with honey-roasted carrots, glazed sprouts (no thanks) and a red wine jus. No onion rings (2015), spiced vegetable fritter (2016) or marrow (2018). As delicious as ever, and paired with some nice hot English mustard of course.

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My pudding choice is also utterly predictable, Belgian chocolate brownie with Irish liqueur ice cream. I have the chocolate pudding every year. Last year’s was probably the high point for this, but the 2019 version was also pretty good. It was the most popular pudding in our party. Thankfully they’ve finally ditched the out of season strawberries.

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Another lovely lunch at The Otter. A shame that the service was extra slow this year, despite pre-ordering for the first time. Don’t get me started on that either, it was an utter farce, with an online system that didn’t have the same options as the menu, and e-mail addresses that didn’t work. After some back and forth, everything got sorted, but it took a bit of the shine off things. It also took them about three goes to find our table.

Despite all of that, I’m sure we’ll be back next year.

The Needle & Pin craft beer club – selection box #21 – December 2019

It’s box number 47 overall, and not a moment too soon, as I’m all out of sessionable beers again. Oh, hang on, this box doesn’t have anything in the session category, but at least there are a few five percenters, and nothing over 6.5%. They probably won’t make it past Christmas because I need some easier drinking pales and lagers to offset those big imperial stouts that are calling my name.

Black Lodge – $100 Volvo – 5%

A lovely easy drinking Ekuanot Pale Ale. Hazy, fruity, lovely! Despite the name, it’s from Liverpool.

Cloudwater – The World, Just As It Is – 5%

Vienna lager is a style with a long history, pre-dating all other pale lager beers, but one that very nearly died out. Cloudwater are glad it didn’t, as the rich, elegant malt profile, and the balance between subtle sweetness and crisp bitterness create a lager that’s complex yet easy-drinking. The Cloudwater twist comes from the use of a New Zealand hop known for bright citrus and marmalade flavours.

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Cloudwater – West Coast IPA – 6.5%

The West Coast IPA style is a modern classic that changed perceptions of what beer could be, and paved the way for today’s craft beer scene. The Cloudwater approach is informed by experiences working with trailblazing brewers and diving deep into their celebrated beers, so this delivers the hallmark layered bitterness and a clean, dry, resinous finish alongside punchy flavours provided by a blend of modern and classic hop varietals.

Pomona Island – Aquarius and My Name is Ralph – 6.5%

It’s not every day that you get a beer named after a lyric found in “Float On” by The Floaters. This is an IPA that’s fermented with London Fog and double dry hopped with Vic Secret, Citra and Simcoe for juicy citrus and stone fruit flavours.

Float on.

Time and Tide – Manfred – 5%

All the way from Kent, the N&P crew are big fans of Time and Tide. Who can forget Spratwaffler? If double dry hopped beers are your thing, this one’s for you. Mosaic, Simcoe, Citra and Ekuanot all combine to give a full bodied, wonderfully spicy, fruity flavour with moderate bitterness.

Track – Half Dome APA – 5.3%

A super fruity American style pale ale. Crisp notes of pineapple and mango. A complex malt bill to give body and a beautiful yellow colour – hopped with Galaxy, Citra and Simcoe.

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 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.