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.

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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.

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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.

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

All images copyright Toast.

Beer of the month, May 2017 – Blacklight Banana by Siren Craft Brew

Another of those months where all the beers in the shortlist for beer of the month were not sampled in a pub, bar or similar. This is partly the reason why there was no pub of the month in May 2017.

Let’s take a look at some of the beers in the running, sampled at home or at a campsite…

First up we have Flat White by Alphabet Brewing Company, a white coffee stout. Yes, white stout. This had a big coffee nose and a very smooth finish. My first white coffee stout and if they are all like this (which they probably won’t be) then it won’t be the last.

Next up, a Heathen by Northern Monk, full of Citra fruity hoppiness. Northern Monk are knocking out consistently good beers, I have several other cans in stock.

Off to pun land next, for a Viennese Cranberry Rye Pale Ale called This Means Nothing To Me by Alphabet Brewing Company. Oh Vienna! Hops, rye, green tea and cranberries. That’s a first. Good dryness and bitter/sourness from the fruits. A very interesting combination that I really liked. Mrs MOFAD was not so much of a fan.

A few Cloudwaters in quick succesion now. Motueka Pilsner had fruity, crisp, sweet bready notes and a nice hop profile. Cloudwater have nailed the lager market with some of their recent output.

Another May favourite was the Session IPA Chinook Mosaic, an all day IPA with hoppiness, bitterness and some resin. The Autumn + Winter IPL Vic Secret Comet had a piney nose, very lagery to start and a minty/lavender herbal finish.

We move to Weird Beard Brew for something a little different next. Out of Office Ethiopian Coffee IPA. Coffee and hops? Yes please!

Back to hoppiness with Fantasma by Magic Rock Brewing. The best gluten free beer that I’ve ever had. Hoppy, bitter, juicy, dank, orange and pineapple flavours. Lovely stuff, really easy drinking. If you have to avoid gluten, you don’t have to avoid enormous flavours.

We go back to the 2016 Rainbow Project for this month’s winner. Blacklight Banana by Siren Craft Brew. Big alcohol, big coffee, big roastiness. Yes, we have no bananas. It’s a really nice beer but I was actually hoping for a big banana flavour from this. If it’s in there, it’s very subtle (some others have tasted it).

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This goes forward to beer of the year, the second dark beer in the pot.

Duncan Murray Wines, Market Harborough, May 2017

Our final stop was much better, Duncan Murray Wines. They hold regular tastings each Saturday, so they really knew what they were doing. We tasted Brynne Vineyard Phoenix, a white wine with “an English hedgerow and cutgrass nose, leading to a smooth, soft, citrus fruit finish.” We then had a couple more beers from Market Harborough Brewery, as well as some different ones from The Langton Brewery. There was also time for a bit more shopping…

My friend and former colleague Adrienne used to be a regular here when she lived in Harbs. She has since emigrated to Aberdeen and rather misses this place. It’s amazing that the granite city can have such an effect on a person that it would make them miss Market Harborough…

(Edit : three months on and I’ve only sampled one of these beers!)

Brentwood Brewing Company, May 2017

The next door neighbour of Calcott Hall Farm Shop (and hence I usually visit one after the other), Brentwood Brewing Company moved in to this, their third premises, during 2013. Not many breweries find themselves in an old potato barn, but this is a perfect site, with so much passing trade from the farm shop, where their beers are also on sale if the brewery is closed.

Their are tours and events on certain days, or you can just turn up and buy some bottles, like I did. The door might be locked, just ring the bell, there’s someone always lurking somewhere during opening hours.

Today I went to pick up some new bottles from their new “rebellious offspring” Elephant School Brewing. A British East India Company elephant training school was based in Brentwood and this remained an active army base as a depot for the Essex Regiment until 1959, when much of the site was redeveloped as the European headquarters of the Ford Motor Company.

The beers from this offspring are not your traditional cask ales, so there are plenty of different styles on offer, and they are always on the look out for new recipes…

Today’s haul contains:-

Sombrero – 4.5% – a burst of passion fruit and hint of mint start a fiesta in your mouth that you won’t want to stop. Tipping its wide brimmed hat to its European saison roots, its flavour transports you to Mexico for a party that lasts to the bottom of your glass.

Cheru Kol – 4.5% – a glorious embellishment of flavours brought together in this collaboration of styles from Belgium and England. The honeyed sweetness of the figs wrapped around the spicy, piney tang of the rosemary combine with the eccentricities of the Belgian yeast.

Porter in a Storm – 4.9% – for a taste that will have you singing in the rain, this rich porter showers your tastebuds with waves of chocolate, fruity and bitter with successive sips. Porter in a Storm is one to pour down your throat if you’re caught in a downpour or any time you want a great beer.

Looking forward to trying out this haul soon…

Beer of the month, April 2017 – Cloudwater DIPA V13

This is a rather Cloudwater heavy month. When you’ve got a lot of them, you drink a lot of them, as they don’t keep so well. Cloudwater are very strong with their drink fresh message. As well as those Cloudwaters, there are three “out of the home” beers, including a lovely cask IPA, which is a rarity.

We start as we mean to go on, with Cloudwater Spring + Summer IPA Chinook Vic Secret. Delicious tropical dankness (a word that’s appearing a lot in these monthly round ups). Juicy and fruity and very easy drinking. Cloudwater are dominating this sector of the market.

A trip out next, for a Small Batch: Double IPA by BrewDog at BrewDog York. Big bitter grapefruit flavours! Yes please!

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A birthday treat followed, a DIPA V11 by Cloudwater Brew Co. Vicious bitterness and murky pineapples. Very smooth thanks to the oats. Only two left to go in the DIPA series now…

Staying at home we have a Smac My Brew Up by Arbor Ales. An excellent pint of hoppy American pale ale from Bristol. A good mix of hops and very easy drinking. Good carbonation too. I’m really liking Arbor Ales…

Out out again, for a Green Devil IPA by Oakham Ales (at Ye Olde Nags Head in Castleton). A cracking cask IPA, which is a rarity.

Staying out out, we have an experience as well as a beer. The launch of the 2017 edition of Bloody ‘Ell by Beavertown happily coincided with our visit to The House of the Trembling Madness in York. It’s rare that I get to go to beer launches, particularly not living in London, so it was always on the cards to try this. Super tasty hop and orange flavours.

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Back inside now, for Even Sharks Need Water by Verdant Brewing Co. Hoppy, bitter, juicy, dank, a real murk bomb! Right up my street.

The rest of the line up is all Cloudwater. The Autumn + Winter IPL El Dorado Mosaic is currently the best IPL and best lager that I’ve ever tasted. IPA with a lager finish, and there’s some lavender in there somewhere. Delicious stuff.

To the penultimate in the DIPA series next, with DIPA V12. Heavy alcohol, heavy bitterness and hoppiness. Only one can left until the end of the DIPA journey. Spoiler alert – we’ll be seeing it very soon!

Another Cloudwater IPA, this time the Autumn + Winter IPA Mosaic Exp 431. The DIPA series is dead. But with beauties like this in the range, I’m not crying. Tropical dankness and juicy loveliness.

Back to that dead series. DIPA V13 was like a fruit smoothie with added hops. V3 is still my favourite but the oaty smoothness brings this one into second place in the DIPA list. Au revoir DIPA!

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It goes through to the end of year final. That’s 3 out 4 for Cloudwater now. Getting a bit embarrassing…

Powderkeg – Cut Loose – Happy Pils

It’s time for the third visit toThe Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – selection box #4. The winner of the World’s Best Lager in 2016, this is a traditional pilsner pepped up with a touch of the Motueka hop from New Zealand. This gives a dry, satisfying lager with invigorating citric fruitiness.

Lager is a dirty word. It shouldn’t be, as when it is done well, it is a very pleasant drink. A tastily hopped pils, very clean, very crisp, and a hint of citrus from those hops. If your last experience of lager was some fizzy nonsense from a global megacorp, try this instead.