The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – dark beer selection box #6 – December 2017

Christmas is coming, so luckily there’s a new dark beer box available for those cold winter nights ahead. I’m not one of those people who switches entirely towards dark beers in the winter months, but it’s always good to have a selection of delectable dark beers in stock to counteract the twenty DIPAs that are stacking up in the stock room (garage cupboard).

Arbor – The Devil Made Me Brew It – 5.5%

This oatmeal stout was brewed with seven different malts and a few generous additions of Bramling Cross hops during the boil. As much as the dark fruit flavour of the Bramling Cross hop works here, it is usually somewhat lacking in the aroma department, so the addition of Bravo, Citra, Mosaic and Simcoe after fermentation makes things a little more interesting.

Brasserie {C} – Black {C} – 8%

This imperial stout will surprise palates looking for character beers with a lot of flavour. Guaranteed non-pasteurised, non-sterilised and non-filtered, it offers roasted coffee and cocoa aromas, revealing an harmonious bitternes throughough the savouring of this beer. Black {C} refers to its impenetrable black body as well as the brewery that it originated from.

Chorlton – Dark Matter 2017 – 7.3%

Released just a few weeks ago on 10th November, a salty, dark, gently sour Gose, a little lighter in body than the 2016 version due to the addition of dark Belgian Candi sugar (not the same as invert sugar) in the boil. Madagascan single origin cocoa beans give it a subtle chocolate aroma that should vary as the beer ages.

Braueri Schloss Eggenberg – Samichlaus Classic – 14% (!!!)

The once strongest beer in the world is back! Brewed every year on December 6th, Samichlaus is aged for 10 months before bottling. This beer is perhaps the rarest in the world. Samichlaus may be aged for many years to come. Older vintages become more complex with a creamy warming finish. Serve with hardy robust dishes and desserts, particulary with chocolates, or as an after dinner drink by itself. Brewed under the exclusive licence of Feldschlösschen-Hürlimann-Holding, Switzerland.

To Øl – Mochaccino Messiah – 7%

This is To Øl’s attempt at substituting the morning mochaccino coffee with a beer. You get the nicely roasted chocolate malts, some creamy lactose for the milk and a shot of nutty espresso coffee in your glass. And then some alcohol, it seemed just as obvious as vodka in a white russian. To Øl do not recommend opting for this beer instead of coffee all of the time, that way a ‘Spoons breakfast (fry up and a Stella) lies…

Tiny Rebel – Imperial Puft – 9%

A flavour explosion that’s like a proton torpedo in your exhaust port. An Imperial march into your mouth. Return of the marshmallow that’s fluffier than an Ewok, and not annoying like an Ewok.

Tiny Rebel have taken everything great about Stay Puft and gone bigger. They’ve imperialised the delectable marshmallow porter up to 9% ABV with rich roasty notes, a sticky sweetness and rich dried fruit flavours from the massive amounts of malt working to a higher strength.

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The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – selection box #8 – November 2017

The thirteenth selection from the N&P and the eighth in the “normal” club (as opposed to the dark side club). This is going to get even more confusing going forward, as a Sours Club has just been announced. That’s a good confusion to have to deal with though 🙂

I think I’ve got one left from box 3 (Buxton Wyoming Sheep Ranch DIPA which really needs drinking), and three from box 7, although probably not for long. Let’s dive in to November’s box.

Anarchy – Citra Star – 4.1%

A familiar one this. Bought some back at Easter and had it on a camping trip, and then had it on cask at The Narrowboat in Skipton in September. This hoppy blonde is loaded with grapefruit, lemon and lime flavours but is light bodied enough to keep you coming back for more. Highly hopped with a big, bitter finish.

Drygate – Disco Fork Lift Truck – Mango Pale Ale – 5.1%

Another familiar one, as I bought some in Sainsbury’s in August. How can you resist a beer with the name Disco Fork Lift Truck? A great name but the beer didn’t live up to it for me. It’s so hard to get a mango ale right. The brewers say that this is a juicy pale ale loaded to the gunnels with US hops and mango. I think they needed to add some more gunnels and put more mango in them 🙂

Flash House – Tiny Dancer – 5.4%

Flash House beers have been very popular on cask at the N&P, so it was about time they made their way to the craft beer club. This one doesn’t disappoint, a big juicy and fruity American pale. That will do nicely!

Marble – Lagonda IPA – 5%

The use of 6 different types of hop are what this IPA owes its broad range of hop flavours to. Lemon and tropical fruit flavours merge seamlessly with a grassy, resinous background, pine and nettles to give a masterclass in how to balance hops and control bitterness.

Camra ‘Real Ale in a Bottle’, Champion Beer of Britain, Silver 2012. A proud contemporary classic, just like its namesake the 1927 Lagonda.

ShinDigger – IPA – 5.6%

ShinDigger was born whilst Paul and George were living together at Manchester University. They invested their spare cash into a home-brewing kit. The beers were brewed in the kitchen and fermented in the basement of their student house, and then sold at house parties. Back then, they were producing 50 pints a week.

In Autumn 2013, armed with a small loan from the government they started delivering kegs to bars around Manchester out the back of Paul’s banged up hatchback. They are “shadow brewers” who develop their recipes on their own pilot kit and then brew them on another brewery’s spare capacity.

To date they have released over 20 beers that are available from Newcastle to Brighton. They’ve moved on from pints a week to 50,000 pints per month.

The name ‘ShinDigger’ embodies their ethos that beer is about having a good time with your friends and enjoying the moment.

Their IPA contains a plethora of big American juicy hops thrown in over a juicy malty backbone. A lovely balance to this one.

6 Degrees North – Wanderlust Wheat – 5%

All the way from Aberdeen to complete a set that are all from north of LE11.

“Lustful” creamy aromas bounce around with orange citrus, coriander seed, barley sugar and macadamia nut. The palate is balanced, refreshing and carries on where the nose left off. Typically cloudy and whiter like a good wheat beer should be. A good match for goats cheese and caramelised onions.

The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – dark beer selection box #5 – October 2017

Here it is. The twelfth selection box from the N&P, which is the fifth from the dark beer club. With the nights drawing in, more people turn to dark beer, but it can be enjoyed all year round. I’ve still got one bottle left from the first box (Buxton Rainshadow), two from the second (Mutiny and Old Freddy Walker) and two from the third (Omnipollo Noa and Buxton/Stillwater Subliminal Imperial Stout). These are all big beasts, not for when you are keeping it session. There are also three left from August’s box.

Here we go with this month’s selection.

Anchor – Porter – 5.6%

With a deep black colour, a thick, creamy head, rich chocolate, toffee and coffee flavours, and full-bodied smoothness, Anchor Porter is described by its brewer as “the epitome of a handcrafted dark beer, the definitive American Porter”.

A blend of specially roasted pale, caramel, chocolate, and black malts, along with their top-fermenting yeast, creates complexity without bitterness. The brew is hopped at a high rate, and naturally carbonated. The result is dark in the glass, but surprisingly light on the palate.

Anchor Porter became the first modern American porter style beer when it was introduced in 1972. Over 40 years later, it continues to reward those who look beyond its intimidating appearance to discover its smooth, full-bodied drinkability.

Ayinger – Celebrator Doppelbock – 6.7%

originally brewed at a monastery in northern Italy, “double bock” was quickly introduced by Bavarian brewers to compete with bock. Doppelbock names end with the suffix “-ator.”

A rich, dark elixir with cascading layers of malt complexity balanced by elegant hops. Notes of toffee, caramel, elegant dark-malt roastiness, and pure malt. Pinpoint conditioning and semi-dry finish.

Celebrator has a creamy head of tight bubbles contrasting beautifully with its profound dark robe. It is full-bodied and velvety from half a year’s aging. Although it is strong, it is not overpowering. There is a wonderful and complex balance between the various malts, the alcohol and the subtle hops. A complex fruitiness of roasted malt and whole hop flowers make Celebrator great as a party drink with friends and family at celebrations. Despite its richness, it has a faintly smoky dryness in the finish.

Oh, and it comes with a small plastic goat attached. Obvs.

Brussels Beer Project – Dark Sister – 6.6%

Like many more beers, the idea behind this beer started off with a joke. In the winter of 2013 BBP were looking to make a Christmas beer without the classic herbs and high alcohol content. They came up with the “evil twin” of the Delta with a variety of roasted and toasted malts to darken his soul. The community’s reaction was clear : don’t stop making this beer. The Vox Populi reigned and the beer has risen from the dead!

A robust black IPA with flavours of grapefruit and citrus on top of deep roasted bitter malts.

Fierce Beer – Imperial Cafe Racer – 8.5%

Devil’s Peak brewery have taken Fierce’s deep and dark coffee porter to another level with rich roasted Kenyan espresso and Madagascan bourbon vanilla for a sweet little lift. The Café Racer name is inspired by the dangerous edge of leather-clad bikers, making an imperial porter to satisfy even the hardiest of tastes.

Redchurch – Old Ford Export Stout – 7.5%

Rich dark and deep black export stout. A complex malt base providing burnt chocolate, espresso coffee, molasses and leather aromas. The complexity of the malts is perfectly balanced by the warmth of the alcohol, with punchy bitterness and earthy spice provided by the Columbus hops.

If you’d like some and you can’t get the N&P, you can find it in Waitrose.

Wild Beer – Jambo – Imperial Stout + Chocolate + Raspberries – 8.5%

An imperial stout brewed with raspberries and Valrhona cocoa nibs. Rich flavours of chocolate and fruit collide with boozy heat.

Building on the Wild Beer repertoire of wild stouts they have combined our love of locally foraged fruits with their penchant for sweet dark beers. The combination of fruit and chocolate is always amazing and what better way to combat the cold nights of the changing seasons than with a rich warming stout? Specially packaged in 750ml bottles to encourage sharing, it’s a beer to be savoured and divvied out to those you deem fit.

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.

The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – dark beer selection box #4 – August 2017

This is the tenth selection box from the N&P and the fourth from the dark beer club. I’ve still got one bottle left from the first box (Buxton Rainshadow), two from the second (Mutiny and Old Freddy Walker) and two from the third (Omnipollo Noa and Buxton/Stillwater Subliminal Imperial Stout). These are all big beasts, not for when you are keeping it session.

Let’s dive in to this month’s selection.

Campervan – Mutiny on the Bounty – 4.2%

Take your taste buds on an exotic adventure. Campervan are not afraid to rock the boat when it comes to giving their beer identity. This rebellious milk stout gets its unique aroma from the use of roasted coconut at the conditioning stage. Relish the chocolate and coffee infusion before soaking up the subtle vanilla flavour. A real hit when a cask of it was on in the N&P earlier this year.

Kernel – Imperial Brown Stout 1856 – 9.9%

Another of those big beasts. Kernel brewery export stout gets a lot less praise than it deserves. This deep and opulent dark beer harks back to a previous era, when London was at the forefront of the brewing industry. Layer upon layer of dark malts with a nice bitter edge, all rolled around waming alcohol undertones.

Modern Times – Black House – 5.8%

Another hard to get hold of beer from San Diego’s Modern Times brewery.  Black House is an oatmeal coffee stout bursting with coffee aromas and flavours. Modern Times roast their own coffee so they can choose exactly what beans to use and how to roast them. The result is a complex and aromatic beer, with lots of roasted character and a chocolate covered coffee bean finish. All of this packed in to only 5.8% so you could even enjoy it by the pint.

Northern Monk / Other Half Patrons Project 1.04 – Leeds Lurking – 10%

Not the snappiest of titles is it? Doesn’t actually tell you anything about the beer, a collaboration between Leeds’ Northern Monk and New York’s Other Half. It’s just your standard every day run of the mill morello cherry and Peruvian coffee imperial porter. Said no-one ever. We had this at the home made Hooky beer festival last month, lots of coffee bitterness and the cherry comes through really late.

Pig and Porter – Gothic – 7.4%

Intense, dark, brooding, sinister and really rather tasty. Gothic was apparently Pig and Porter’s first bottled dark beer, although this particular incarnation is canned. It features ten different malts and a blend of English, German and American hops, all of which combine to produce a complex, rich, dark and fruity flavour.

Apparently best drunk in a remote moorland farmhouse, on a dark and stormy night, with a full moon and a sense of foreboding.

Thornbridge – Cocoa Wonderland – 6.8%

I first had this in July 2015 at the second Thornbridge Peakender (the one that they spoilt with greed). It is a riot of chocolate flavours, a full bodied, robust porter with natural mocha malt flavours from the complex malt grist, complementing the decadent additions of real chocolate to the maturation process. I loved it so much that it was beer of the month for July 2015. Nice to have another one to enjoy.

Looking forward to enjoying some of these as the nights draw in…

The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – selection box #6 – July 2017

This is the sixth Craft Beer Club selection box from the N&P,  and the ninth overall. I’ve still got one left over from selection box #3 (Buxton Wyoming Sheep Ranch DIPA) and two left from box #5 (Whispering Bob and 4 Degrees of Separation). I’m also way behind of my reviews of the individual beers, with no sign of catching up any time soon (at least another 40 posts to write!) Let’s take a look inside box number six…

Brewski/Ale Farm – Stone the Crows – 6.5%

A one-off collaboration that is sold out everywhere, but luckily some was procured in time for CBC subscribers. A meeting of Brewski from Helsingborg in Sweden and Ale Farm from Køge in Denmark. This will appeal to fans of big, juicy American-style IPAs (aka me!). Hazy and dank, with lemon peel and pine on the nose, followed by an explosion of grapefruit, melon and tangerine. Yes please!

Fallen Brewing – Just the Ticket – 4%

Whenever any Fallen beers arrive at the N&P, they fly out of the door. Brewed in Kippen near Stirling, this is described on the can as “hoppy extra pale”. The brewery is situated in an old station house, which leads to plenty of railway punnage in the beer names. The beer is hoppy and pale, brewed with NZ and US hops to make a refreshing light beer. Dominant flavours and aromas are lemon, lime, tropical fruits and orange zest.

Mikkeller – Session IPA Citra – 4.5%

A session IPA from Mikkeller who need no introduction. This is crisp and clean and packed full of Citra hops. Bitter notes on the nose from the Citra hops combine with an earthy and citrusy palate to create a fresh session beer. The robust bitterness is balanced by sweet tropical fruit flavours, followed by notes of tart grapefruit and pine needles. WIth a juicy character and spritzy carbonation, the finish is light and refreshing.

Pressure Drop – Bosko – 6.5%

We reach the first one that I’ve had before. This beer was inspired by classic American beers like Flying Dog IPA, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Stone Pale Ale. Bosko has a more balanced approach, loaded with aromatic American hops but brewed with crystal malt to give the sweetness that Pressure Drop wanted to emulate in the beers they were inspired by. When I had it last there were good fruity notes and a good balance of hoppiness, bitterness and sweetness.

Three Fiends – Bukowski All American IPA – 7%

This was a big hit when a cask of it was served in May of this year.  This is an American style IPA, with intense fruit flavours and resinous hops, hints of grapefruit, tropical fruits and pine, with a pale malt base.

Wiper & True – Kaleidoscope – 4%

Wiper & True are an inventive bunch of people based in Bristol who are never afraid to experiment. They are a favourite of the N&P, always turning out flavoursome beers packed with interesting tastes. Just like the three mirrors that make up the internal chambers of the titular optical instrument to create an ever-changing picture, the Kaleidoscope series combines three different hops to create a seasonally evolving flavour profile. Whilst the hops change, the intention remains the same – to create a beer that is harmonious, bright and refreshing. This bottle is from batch 31 – it contains Ahtanum, Amarillo and Columbus hops. This produces a juicy whopper, refreshingly light but with big summer fruits and exotic aromas such as lychee and mandarin. It retains a rustic edge to remind you that beer is an agricultural product. A dreamy watercolour of a beer.

The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – Dark Beer selection box #3 – June 2017

This is the eighth selection box from the N&P, the third from the Dark Beer Club. I’ve now sampled all except one from the first dark beer selection box, and still have four left from the second one. Let’s take a peek into box number three…

Buxton/Stillwater – Subliminal Imperial Stout  – 10%

From Buxton and Stillwater, a downright delicious imperial stout. Pitch black, chewy and unmissable, a collaboration 10% Imperial Stout that scored 99 on Ratebeer, a real rarity. This sold out when it was launched and the N&P have held this back for a few months to give it time to mature…

Dark Star – Espresso – 4.2%

An old favourite, ready for a comeback. A black beer brewed with roasted barley malt and Challenger hops, with freshly ground arabica beans, blended especially for Dark Star, added at the end of the boil to provide a rich and complementary coffee aroma.

Einstök Ölgerð – Toasted Porter – 6%

One that I’ve had before (in Suffolk), with clear notes of toffee and dark chocolate, this porter is roasty and rich, offering a medium body that is robust, yet smooth on the palate. Toasted and chocolate malts give it an apparently “sinister” black colour, but its easy-to-drink taste will have you believing that there’s no need to be afraid of the dark. This was tasty with gentle smokiness.

Omnipollo – Noa – 11%

From the genius that is Omnipollo in Sweden, Noa is their 11% Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Toffee Imperial Stout. This came about from the head brewer’s childhood ambition to be a pastry chef, evoking subltle notes of maple syrup and burnt sugar.

Ticketybrew – Tea and Biscuits Mild – 3.5%

This is a recognisable mild, but Ticketybrew have used amber malt for a biscuit taste, without the bitterness that biscuit malt can sometimes bring. They have added lactose for a milk flavour, then literally made a big pot of tea and thrown it in. When using tea you need to avoid steeping the teabags either in a slurry to use in the beer, or by way of “dry hopping” otherwise you’ll get a lot of tannins in the beer.

Tollgate – Old Rasputin Stout – 4.5%

Another local beer, brewed just down the road near Calke Abbey. With a rich caramel and fruity aroma, and mellow toffee and vanilla notes, this is a silky smooth old school stout.