Crooked Stave Taproom, Source Market Hall, Denver, October 2018

A beautiful sunny Sunday in downtown Denver. I spent the morning exporing the Civic Centre Park, the State Capitol area and the area around Union station. After grabbing a sandwich at the station, I decided to walk up to the “RiNo” district (short for River North) to visit a brewery or two (or three).

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As soon as I knew I was coming to Denver, there was one place that was on the top of my list. Crooked Stave. They appeared on my radar in 2015, as part of the 2015 Rainbow Project. Together with Hawkshead Brewery, they produced Key Lime Tau (2π), a mixed culture fermentation ale aged in oak with lactose, fresh lime peel and fresh lemongrass. It was gorgeous. On a trip to the Hawkshead Beer Hall in 2016, I picked up some more of their beers…

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You can spy a 2015 Progenitor (funky apricot, amazing nose, lots of tart fruit and fizz, with a few hops floating in there somewhere), a 2015 Surette Provision Saison (interesting fizz and funk, lots of barrel aged character), an Origins Burgundy Sour (fruity, acidic sourness) and that wonderful lime bomb that is Key Lime Tau.

Some of those descriptions will give you a bit of an idea as to what’s coming next, although I did choose a few items that you might not expect to find at Crooked Stave, known for their wild, sour and barrel-aged beers.

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So we start with Von Pilsner, an unfiltered Keller Pilsner, which was lovely, super fresh tasting. I didn’t know that they did a lager, and I’m so glad that I chose it.

Next is the imaginitively titled IPA, a lovely hoppy nose with well rounded bitterness. Really good stuff. There was only one way to go after that.

That was Trellis Buster DIPA (Double India Pale Ale). Double dry-hopped with Azacca, Citra, Motueka, and Simcoe to give delightfully rounded pine notes, and it was scarily easy to drink for 8%. A really great DIPA.

You can’t come here without trying some sours, so Vieille Artisanal Saison was next up. Lovely tartness and subtle oaky tones. Super sourness from this rustic ale aged in oak barrels.

To finish (because there are more places to visit this afternoon) a Sour Rosé, a wild ale fermented in oak with Washington raspberries and blueberries. A really beautiful raspberry tartness with pleasant blueberry hints. Absolutely lovely.

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What a lovely place, really nice people and a super chilled vibe on this lovely Sunday afternoon. I left with a few goodies to take home. If you find yourself in Denver, find your way here. If you prefer not to walk, the train from Union Station to 38th and Blake gets you pretty close.

MOFAD approved, of course!

Brewdog Fanzine issue 10

I’m still in the club, but it’s getting to be something that needs reviewing on a regular basis, with Brewdog coming out with so many “stunts” that are really leaving a nasty taste in the mouth.

Interestingly, this selection didn’t have the usual tracking information, so it arrived slightly by surprise.

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The details haven’t been published online (edit: 2 weeks on and they still haven’t). So I’ve just quickly typed up what’s in the box.

Heist Monkey – 5.4% – American pale ale with Hallertau Taurus and Blanc, Mosaic, Simcoe and Columbus in the mix. That would suggest lovely hoppiness, but this one turned out to be very ordinary.

Coin-op Kaiser – 6% – dry-hopped “imperial” pils. This sounds like a remix of last year’s small batch imperial pilsner, which was a nice idea but didn’t quite work. It was actually better than that, but still nothing too special. More Hallertau Taurus in this one.

Choco Libre – 8.2% – nitro Mexican chocolate stout. A stout with cocoa nibs, cinnamon, chilli, coffee and vanilla. ark chocolate mixes with mocha, vanilla and spice, all layered over a smooth nitro-styling you never saw coming. This set-up finishes with a delicate habanero drop kick as the bell sounds. Should be interesting, it needs to be to make up for the other two.

Brewdog fanzine issue 7

We are off again into the world of the Brewdog fanzine, I think I’ve tried 8/15 so far, and nothing has set the world on fire yet, although the first of this batch might do that…

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Clown King – 12% – American Barley Wine

Chewy toffee malt, overlaid with a driving bitterness, sticky fruit character, and surprisingly light finale. Lots of hops in here, Magnum, Simcoe, Mosaic and Artanum. This sounds like a perfect blend to me.

Jet Trash v2 – 6.9% – IPA

Double dry-hop edition with Cascade and Columbus in the kettle and Citra, Simcoe, Cascade, Chinook and Mosaic added as dry hops. I should drink v1 before I have this one I suppose.

Zip Code – 4.2% – Lager

Lager with a Franconian accent, Perle and Mittelfruh hops in the kettle and Mandarina Bavaria in the whirlpool. This one has already been sampled and to me this one just tasted like Export 33, transporting me back to 1988.

The Bill Murray, Islington, June 2018

It’s Edinburgh preview season. And fortuitously I’m in London for work, although the fortune comes at a cost, five days of training and two exams, the second of which is two and a half hours long. I keep vowing to stop doing exams, and one day I will eventually keep that vow. This week however, I have a daily cycle of 20 minutes of sweaty tube journey, 90 minutes of learning, 15 minutes for a coffee, 90 minutes of learning, a sandwich in the park, 90 minutes of learning, 15 minutes for a coffee, 90 minutes of learning,  20 minutes of sweaty tube journey.

Anyway, on to the pub for a double bill of Edinburgh previews, a relaxing evening instead of doing mock exam papers. The Bill Murray is somewhere I’ve heard about quite a bit since I’m very much a follower of the live comedy “scene”. It’s a short-ish walk from Angel tube station (home to the UK’s longest escalator – one for you pub quiz fans).

Something that usually happens on these pub comedy nights is that you will bump into one or more of the acts at some point. This was in full effect tonight, as I followed opening act Sofie Hagen into the venue, and Mark Watson was hanging around at the interval before his set, and chatting with the audience. This is a proper preview experience, a small room in a pub, tiny stage, microphone, and a few lights. And the acts walk on from the back of the room, there’s no backstage area behind that curtain on the right hand side.

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On a warm night in London, a beer was needed to keep refreshed during the evening. Beer at comedy venues is generally pretty awful. The Soho Theatre try and break the mould by getting some reasonable cask ales in, but they need a crash course in how to look after cask ale, since it almost always suffers from mistreatment. And the way that the bar staff treat the beer engine, you’d think it was a piece of gym equipment with 50kg on the end of it. And they certainly don’t embrace the sparkler.

So it was a nice surprise to find a St Mungo from Glasgow’s WEST brewery, who produce all of their lagers and wheat beers in accordance with the Reinheitsgebot, the German Purity Law. A Munich style lager with a sweetness to it, and one of the best comedy venue beers that I’ve had. That is damning with faint praise, but it was good.

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As was the comedy. Sofie Hagen is trying out material for her 2019 Edinburgh show (nothing like being prepared), so the set was a proper tour through random bits and pieces that may or may not form a show one day. Mark Watson will be in Edinburgh in August (and likely touring after that), so his show was much more polished, although it got a bit derailed by someone finding a folder for him to balance his wine glass on (you had to be there). The show covers a few topics, but there is much about family and his recent-ish divorce. If I were in Edinburgh I’d be going to see the finished version, and hopefully we will catch it in Leicester or somewhere else local next year.

Brewdog, Camden, June 2018

Brewdog continue to court controversy and divide opinion around the country. Whatever they do, they manage to put a foot wrong somewhere along the way, and pretend that they hadn’t really thought something through completely, when they probably knew that they would get loads of publicity from whatever the stunt was (Pink IPA is probably the latest in a long line of these).

(Edit : August 2018’s “beer porn” was another new low for Brodog. It’s getting harder to continue supporting them, and it might soon be time to call it a day.)

There was a time a few years ago when they were an oasis in a desert of terrible mass market beer. But that time has passed, and there are now many oases around, whilst the quality of some BD products seems to have dwindled. This year’s launch of Fanzine is a bit of a case in point. A very convenient idea (three cans of beer delivered every few weeks) which was supposed to be “for the beer geeks”. However, some of the things have been so utterly dull that they could have been produced by any faceless brewing megacorp. The “small batch English IPA – retro IPA” from last month was as bad as Greene King IPA. How is that possible?

All that said, I will often go into a Brewdog bar if there’s one nearby, as there are likely to be some well kept guest beers on, as well as a few interesting Brewdog ones which might be worth a try.

Tonight, alongside the second half of Colombia vs. Poland, that guest beer was Shika from Wild Beer, a decent pilsner and a perfectly good football pint. No time for any more tonight as I have to be up bright and early in the morning to begin a week of brain melting training.

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Brewdog fanzine issue 4, May 2018

The next issue of fanzine is upon us. A couple of these will be sampled very soon.

Small Batch English IPA – 5.2% – IPA

An old school English IPA brewed with the addition of traditional English hops which bring lavender and bergamot to the front of the beer. Supporting the hops is a light biscuit malt flavour, followed by a dry, bitter finish with a touch of warmth.

Interstate – 4.6% – Lager

A perfectly balanced Vienna-style lager brewed with subtle spicy German hops over toasty-base malts which bring out bread crust and biscuit in the beer, followed by a bittersweet finish.

Hop Shop – 9% – IPA

This hop-forward big IPA is intense, dank and resinous, with bursts of stonefruit and citrus. Grapefruit and apricot sit on top of a building bitterness, with a honeycomb malt base followed by a dry yet bittersweet finish.

Brewdog Fanzine issue 2, May 2018

Fanzine is a completely new type of beer club, “for the fans, the dreamers, the die-hards and the geeks” apparently. Three new cans delivered every couple of weeks, and you can opt-in or out whenever you want – no annual subscription fees or long‑term commitment. Apparently we can “expect crazy fresh East & West Coast IPAs, huge Imperial Stouts, single hop pale ales, experimental lagers and fruit‑infused sours”. Brewdog will also be raiding their back catalogue of brews and bringing back some of of their biggest hits.

Here’s what’s in the first box and I’ve already made my way through them.

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Fool’s Gold – 6% – Lager

A citrus-forward lager – punchy hop bitterness and malt sweetness in perfect balance.

The gold road’s sure a long road. Winds on through the hills for fifteen days. Decent lager style.

King of Eights – 6.9% – IPA

This juicy, smooth Citra NE IPA will evolve & feature double and triple dry-hopping.

Ooh, a NEIPA, what a novelty. Murky stone fruits and low bitterness. Bjorn Again instead of Abba.

Jinx – 4.7% – Pale Ale

A light biscuity base with a hint of toasty Munich malt acts as a simple canvas for the hop expressions to shine; here, Washington hop varieties Simcoe and Centennial (two of Brewdog’s favourite hops) provide a broad palate of pithy grapefruit and pungent pine.

Intriguing nose but it delivers very little. Another Indie Pale Ale (that’s not a good thing).