The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – selection box #9 – December 2017

Just in time for Christmas, it’s time for the latest Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club selection box, which I think is the fifteenth in total. Today’s photo is not the most glamorous of backdrops, but this is about the contents, not the presentation! Let’s dive in…

Green Flash – Soul Style – 6.5%

Green Flash are one of San Diego’s finest breweries, and I’ve already had three of their beers, West Coast IPA (heavy pine, malty sweetness), Passion Fruit Kicker (subtle passion fruit and wheat) and GFB (an acronym with two definitions).

Soul Style IPA is their manifestation of a single IPA, just to prove that there are still some out there in this world of DIPAs, TIPAs, IIPAs and the like. Simcoe, Citra and Cascade hops are layered, allowing bright tropical waves of flavourful citrus and floral notes to break gently on the palate.

Omnipollo – Zodiak – 6.2

A rather conformist beer from the Omnipollo team, Zodiak is their new house IPA. A blend of grains, untouched post fermentation and aspiringly hopped with Simcoe, Citra and Centennial.

Poppels – West Coast IPA – 5.4%

Brewing since 2012 and certified as organic since 2016, Poppels are a Swedish brewery who seem to be in the shadow of some of the more illustrious Scandinavian breweries.
West Coast IPA originates from the American west coast, known as the beer lover’s beer. This brew is packed with bouquet & bite from the variety of hops used to create an ever-evolving beer style.

Pressure Drop – Domino Topple – 7.2%

Located just around the corner from Beavertown, and brewing some great beers, Pressure Drop are a popular brewery. Bosko has been my favourite so far. Domino topple is full of chewy, mango fruitiness with that lovely hoppy bitter bite, a lovely dank IPA.

To Øl – Tangerine Dream – 4.6%

Tangerine Dream is a soft, balanced cream ale infused with ripe tangerines and ideas of balance. It is also named after one of the coolest electronic bands ever. You should listen to The Myth of Dragons or Light Flux while drinking this beer.

Yeastie Boys – Bigmouth IPA – 4.4%

It’s a bit of a surprise that this is the first Yeastie Boys beer to feature in the Craft Beer Club. I’ve had three of their output already, Digital IPA, Pot Kettle Black and Gunnamatta, all handily available in my favourite supermarket Booths. Their beer was brewed under contract in the UK at Brewdog, and they have just announced that their new UK brewer is West Berkshire Brewery shortly, after that relationship ended earlier this year.

Bigmouth is an extra pale, unfiltered, hoppy session ale. It is full of tropical, grapefruit, lemon and white wine notes from the Nelson-grown New Zealand hops (Nelson Sauvin, Wakatu, Taiheke). A luscious mouthfeel, from the heavy use of wheat and oats, carries the hop flavour across the palate before easing out with a dry, bitter finish.

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The second Thornbridge night at The Needle & Pin, December 2017

A year ago, as part of the “twelve days of Thornbridge”, I went to the inaugural Thornbridge night at The Needle & Pin. The theme was “Serpent – deconstructed”, and we tasted our way through the components that make up Serpent, a collaboration between Thornbrige, Oliver’s Cider in Hereford, and Brooklyn Brewery. I think the bottle I bought last year will be the accompaniment to this year’s Xmas dinner.

The twelve days of Thornbridge are back, and this year’s event was a more relaxed affair, but still great fun. Meg from Thornbridge was back again to lead the event, but it was very much a choose your own adventure event, with a choice of 4 Thornbridge beers in any order, and cheeses to match.

I started out with Sampo and a little goat’s cheese. The Sampo is a Galaxy hopped pale ale, brewed with pineapple, which produces soft pineapple flavours, a nice cask pale ale.

Next up, a new version of an old classic, Dry Hopped Jaipur, which appears to take Jaipur back to its early days of what it used to taste like, creamy, hoppy and a nice bitter finish. Goes well with mature cheddar.

Whilst this was slipping down, a Thornbridge pub quiz was in full flow. Meg had 10 questions for us, although I still maintain that her clues made some of the questions too easy. No matter, as My Pointess Friend Richard thrashed the opposition to take home the prizes of Thornbridge merch and bottled beers.

Victory complete, more beer. Brock is a soft session stout. I had this at Peakender this year, in fact it was the last beer of the festival for me, but it was probably not in the best condition then as it was rather thin and light. Today it was much better, a smooth and easy drinking session stout.

We travel to the final beer for tonight. Lord Marples, the classic English bitter, and the first beer ever made by Thornbridge. This might help you in a future pub quiz, as it was one of the answers tonight. You might also need to know that it has never been bottled 🙂

I’ve had it three times, twice here, and the first time at Peakender 2015, and it’s still a classic pint, and not hard to see why it is such a big cask seller in the Thornbridge heartland of Derbyshire and Yorkshire. Nice with a bit of Gouda too.

And if that wasn’t enough, we all left with bottled beers, some included in the price, some bonus gifts from our lovely Thornbridge friends.

Another classic night at the Needle & Pin, lots of fun, good chat (and not just about beer), a bonus quiz, and new friends made as I shared a taxi home with two of them. A good pub with a good community feel is the original social network, and the N&P is definitely one of those.

Looking forward to the next tasting night already, by happy coincidence from the brewery at the other end of the Monsal Trail, Buxton Brewery.

Christmas 2017 beer gift ideas – Hawkshead Brewery

We kick off this year’s festive beer guide with one of last year’s featured breweries, Hawksead. Just like last year, it was one of my favourite brewery tap trips this year. We popped in for some shopping on New Year’s Eve last year, and we also stopped off there in August, at the end of our soggy summer camping trip.We kick off this year’s festive beer guide with one of last year’s featured breweries, Hawksead. Just like last year, it was one of my favourite brewery tap trips this year. We popped in for some shopping on New Year’s Eve last year, and we also stopped off there in August, at the end of our soggy summer camping trip.

Hawkshead Brewery started life in 2002, just outside Hawkshead where they could brew around 8,500 pints of beer a week. In 2006 they moved over to Staveley, where they have been expanding ever since, increasing their brewing capacity and developing the very brewery tap that we were visiting, The Beer Hall. This involved building a new bar around two 11,000 litre stainless steel tanks which rise up through the first floor, and dominate the upstairs dining area. This means that they can now knock out over 60,000 pints a week. That’s some expansion. Just this week they have announced plans to build another brewery on a nearby site, keeping the existing one and the Beer Hall going as well.

Here are some of the beers we picked up when shopping last year:-

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Here are some of the beers on their online store at the moment.

Sundown is a lovely hoppy ale, ITI is a New Zealand session pale ale, Brodie’s Prime Export is a big stout (I have one ready to drink soon as you can see above), Damson Stout is one I’ve not had yet and the same goes for Wild Wheat, a wheat beer with Motueka hops re-fermented with wild yeast.

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Jingle Fells is their festively spiced ale, (above right), the Dry Stone Stout (above left) is easy drinking with smoky notes. And the Solar Sour (above middle) is a supreme session sour. Mojito is a new sour IPA which I haven’t opened yet, and I’m also looking forward to the Tiramisiu Imperial Stout and Tonka (brewed with Tonka beans not Tonka toys).

Great White is a cracking wheat beer with spicy notes and NZ hops poking through, the IPA is a hoppy beast and the NZPA is similarly hoppy. The Cumbrian 5 Hop also follows in their footsteps. Key Lime Tau, the result of a previous Rainbow Project collaboration with Crooked Stave, is now a core beer, and is packed full of zingy lime loveliness. The Chuckleberry Sour is also a nice sour fruit beer.

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Their “standard” range, Bitter, Red, Lager, Windermere Pale and Lakeland Gold are all also good if you are a bit less adventurous.

There’s something for everyone to choose from. You can pick and mix a case of 12 (2 cans counts as 1 bottle) or you can buy a pre-mixed case or a case of just one of the beers. Buy online at http://www.hawksheadbrewery.co.uk/beer-shop.c.aspx

The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – sour beer selection box #1 – November 2017

If you cast your mind back to June 2017, my favourite pub The Needle & Pin held its first sour beers night where we travelled from Sweden to Newcastle to Belgium via Buxton and Baltimore, and then Reading, Leeds and London all via the medium of funky, tart, sweet and sour beer.

Following on from this, they have been selling a lot of sours, saisons, gose, Gueuze and Lambic beers, and demand has grown for a Sour Beer Club, to complement the existing Craft Beer Club and Dark Beer Club.

This then is the first selection of weird and wonderful and very different beers.

Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen – Oude Geuze – 6%

A true Geuze – a blend of 1, 2, and 3 year-old lambic, unfiltered and unpasteurized, and aged in the bottle for at least a year after blending. Refermentation in the bottle gives this Geuze its famous champagne-like spritziness. The lambic that goes into it is brewed only with 60% barley malt, 40% unmalted wheat, aged hops, and water, spontaneously fermented by wild yeasts, and matured in oak casks.

Brekeriet – Rhuboise – 6%

A fruity, tart and elegant ale with brettanomyces yeast. Loads of raspberries and rhubarb are added during the secondary fermentation at this interesting brewery in Landskrona, Sweden.

Dugges x Stillwater Artisinal – Mango Mango Mango – 4.5%

This collaboration with Stillwater Artisanal explores the true depth of mango flavour. Three layers of taste and aroma from fruit and hops. Go mango go! If you’re going to put fruit in a beer, there’s no better fruit to use than mango. At least that’s what Magnus at Dugges Bryggeri says. So, when there was time for another Dugges x Stillwater Artisanal collaboration, Magnus posed the idea of a mango beer to Brian of Stillwater. Turns out, Brian had the same ideas about mango and beer as Magnus. To make it sour was an easy decision. The mango flavour comes from two types of mango and mosaic hops. Mango, mango, mango!

Good Chemistry – Field Work – 5.1%

Refreshing and rustic beers were traditionally brewed by farmhouses to sustain seasonal workers out in the fields. The malts used in this are pretty simple, as they should be – Extra Pale Propino malt, Pilsner malt, Wheat and Rye. It’s hopped with classic continental hops – Tettnang and Hallertau. The yeast produces most of the flavour and aroma though, and eats through almost all the sugar to leave a dry and tart finish to the beer.

To Øl – Gose To Hollywood – 3.8%

To Øl got starstruck and went to Hollywood to creat a salty, sour and light gose brewed with the best fruits California can offer. Best consumed on warm summer days or on the red carpet. I had one of these in March, it wasn’t sunny, and there was no red carpet, just sour fruits and zingy tartness – it was very nice.

To Øl – Sur Amarillo – 7.5%

Sur Amarillo is a sour pale ale brewed with wheat and dry-hopped over and over again with Amarillo hops to give a flowerful tart imperial pale ale. The Amarillo gives a burst of orange to this sour wild/IPA crossover.

Looking forward to trying out some of these interesting beers.

Beer of the month – November 2017 – Chubbles by Cloudwater x The Veil

Ten trips out this month, but still not a single beer that I had in a pub. All of these were bought from a pub (in fact the same pub, my local “dealer” The Needle & Pin), but none were consumed there. And all bar one of them is a can. It won’t be long before all of them are in a can I suspect. Let’s kick things off.

Beavertown’s Heavy Water (sour cherry and sea salt imperial stout) is our opener this month, and what a big beast. Richness balanced by sourness makes this scarily easy to drink.

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Staying with fruited stouts, we have an American import, a Blueberry Maple Stout by Saugatuck Brewing Company. I paired mine with apple pie for that all American experience. This beer has super sweetness from the blueberries and maple. Please tell me there’s an imperial version. Sadly, there isn’t, but there is a barrel aged version which I’d like to try.

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Our regular Cloudwater fix next, the DDH IPA Chinook Citra. I think this one has more pineapple flavours than Pineapple (also by Cloudwater Brew Co), a classic piece of Cloudwater murk. I just love it. Awesome with methi chicken. That I made.

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Another regular brewery next, with Magic Rock Brewing’s Grower Owned, a lovely west coast pine fest collaboration with Yakima Chief – Hopunion, a 100% grower owned global hop supplier. More lovely murkiness.

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Something sharp next, a Key Lime Pie Gose by Westbrook Brewing Co. I love lime. I love beer. This combines both of these loves with a little sparkle. Really lovely stuff, and something to break up all of these hop bombs in here. But what can I say, I am a friend of hops.

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So it’s no surprise that our winner is a hop bomb. Chubbles by Cloudwater to be precise. Now, I got a bit of a ribbing on Twitter for drinking it so close to its best before date. This was purely a logistics issue, as I hadn’t been able to get my hands on it as soon as it was released, having to wait until I was able to pick it up. Given its strength, its not one that you can just chug down in a session, you need to pick the right time to drink it, unless you are sharing with friends.

Juicy, thick, citrus and melon notes and more sweetness than bitterness. Drinks way below the ABV, no alcohol burn here. Really lovely stuff. Chubbles is a collaboration with The Veil from New York city, these mad people dreamt up a 10.9% triple IPA with 100% English malt, a ton of flaked oats, fermented with a specific English yeast, and hopped intensely with Galaxy, Citra, and El Dorado.

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A lovely big beast of a beer which deserves its place in the end of year final.

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 🙂

The Buck’s Head, Camden, November 2017

After a swift exit from The Elephant’s Head, we proceeded to the cranium of a different mammal, The Buck’s Head. This was more like it, a more comfortable environment, and actual, real beers on the bar, both cask and keg.

The world still needed to be put to rights, even though our group had dwindled from 6 down to 3. We hung around for a couple of drinks and a lot more chat. First up a good cask session pale ale, London Pale Ale from Southwark Brewing Co, just a few miles away and south of the river.

After that a pint of N7 from Hammerton Brewery, who are a few miles in the other direction in Islington. Lots of hops in the mix for this one but the malt bill makes it just a decent pale ale.

Good pints in a good pub. Will definitely come back next year…