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):-

img_3389

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!

img_3390

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.

img_3219

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.

img_3220

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.

img_3221

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.

img_3222

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.

img_3234

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!

img_2976

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…

img_2595

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.

Fuller’s and Friends 2019 “box set”

The 2017 Fuller’s and Friends box set was a set of collaboration brews that had piqued quite a lot of peoples’ interest. Some of the biggest UK brewery names in the form of Cloudwater Brew Company, Fourpure Brewing Company, Hardknott Brewery (sadly now defunct), Marble Beers Limited, Moor Beer Company and Thornbridge Brewery were all invited to brew a beer with Fuller’s. I think Galleon was probably my favourite.

Everyone was looking forward to the next set of collaborations, whenever they may come. Then in January 2019, Fuller’s sold their entire drinks business to Asahi for £250,000,000 in order to concentrate on running its chain of pubs and hotels. So there was a bit of a backlash, as there has been every time a brewery has been bought by another one over the last couple of years.

The dust has settled, so let’s have a look at the new set, available in your local Waitrose. This year, it is actually available, rather than the myth that the first box set became (it took quite a while to acutally get out into the wild). This year the beers are also available in Fuller’s pubs on cask and keg (I’ve already had one in Greenwich).

Let’s have a look inside…

img_2116

Misprized – Magic Rock

Mild – an undervalued beer style? Not anymore. A celebration of this classic English style, with some tweaks on a traditional recipe from 1920 by adding rum barrel oak chips to give a sweet, nutty depth of flavour. This is the one that I had in The Pilot in Greenwich and I don’t think they had kept it well as it was rather meh.

Respect your Elders – Tiny Rebel

Old brewery meets new brewery and bonds over their mutual appreciation of ESB – that’s the story behind this beer, which gives the classic style a contemporary tropical twist. With a trio of new world hops, this malty, marmaladey beer beautifully bridges the generation gap.

Kroke – Mack

Named after the Norse word for ‘Crowberries’, the sloes come fresh from the Arctic Circle and give this lager a slight tartness to offset its sweet, honeyed notes. Learning from Viking tradition, dried meadowsweet is used to add a slight bitterness to this crisp, pale gold lager.

Love on the Run – Woodstock

This hop-forward IPA is the perfect marriage of London town and Cape Town. The African Queen hop and native African cereal Sorgham are combined with British Olicana and Bramling Cross hops. Fresh blackcurrant and lemongrass aromas offset a dry, earthy malt base in what is a very sessionable IPA.

Way Down Ale – Stone and Wood

A trio of Tasmanian hops – including an unnamed experimental hop – combine to create a beautifully balanced beer, full of tropical fruit flavours. A fitting homage to Tasmania’s hop growers.

Huvvy Dug – Pilot

A Caledonian classic, this Wee Heavy is made using six malts – with not a new world hop in sight. Smooth caramel and biscuit notes come to the fore in this rich, full-bodied ale. Huvvy Dug? Well because it’s ‘huvvy like a huvvy dug’ of course.

Brewdog fanzine issue 25

Remember these round ups? There hasn’t been one since October, when BD stopped updating their web site with details of what was being sent out. It obviously existed electronically because they still had a print out in the box. However, they were not interested in sending this out to subscribers. During this time, they’ve also stripped it back to a monthly box, but at least they’ve kept the price the same so far.

I think that Transatlantic Telegram and Old World Russian Stout (which featured in that October box) have been my favourites in the last six months or so. Here’s what’s in the July box…

Humulus Helmsman (5.6%) – West Coast IPA

Setting a course for the West Coast with some true American muscle. Seven different US hops have been deployed to proudly fly the flag for America’s favourite craft beer style in Humulus Helmsman – Simcoe, Cascade, Citra, Centennial, Ahtanum, Mosaic and Chinook. A who’s who of IPA, all involved in this tropical, citrus and pine-led new world hero. I have very high hopes for this one, so let’s hope it’s as good as the description might lead us to believe.

Coffee Caramel Curfew (5.0%) – Caramel Macchiato Coffee Porter

Get off the streets and take refuge with this night-black porter, brewed with five different malts and five different additions. You’ll find milk sugars, honey, Demerara sugar, vanilla and coffee pairing with crystal and dark malts to create a smooth, roasty coffee and chocolate porter with notes of mellow Macchiato and a sweet nuttiness. Another one that sounds very good, and nice to see they’ve included two below 6% for once.

Pulp Patriot V4 (9.5%) – Single Hop Double IPA

I really hope this is better than the first two that I had. V1 and V2 didn’t have much more than strength going for them. It’s about time that I had V3, because then I can have this one which is a tribute to Mosaic, introduced into the whirlpool and at the dry-hop stage. This single-hopped superpower is a classic Mosaicathon – tropical fruit, mango, stone fruit and citrus. Resinous pine also gets a look in but the wheat and flaked oats balance the body and lift the mouthfeel as the near-10% ABV brings the flavour home, and then some.

img_2042