The Needle & Pin craft beer club – dark beer selection box #19 – February 2020

It’s box number 49 overall. There’s no point even thinking about session beers here, these are all absolutely massive units, most of which will be saved for summer bottle share sessions…

Amundsen – Peanut Butter Caramel Chocolate Brownie – 10.5%

That’s a lot of words for a beer name. A chocolate peanut butter caramel brownie edition of Amundsen’s legendary Dessert in a Can series. Huge peanut aroma, before peanut, chocolate and caramel flavours overwhelm you. Stunning addition to the Dessert in a Can range!

Cloudwater/Track – Love in the Dark – 10%

Since Cloudwater’s good mates from Track are currently sharing their tap room space at Unit 9, they felt it was only right to brew a collaboration with their housemates. This is a true indulgence for the festive period (or beyond), a deliciously deep and smooth imperial stout, loaded with additions of cacao, hazelnut and vanilla, with a touch of fenugreek used for maple-like sweetness.

Aroma & flavour: rich chocolate dessert flavours, caramel and hazelnut
Body: Full-bodied, sweet and silky
Aftertaste: Smooth vanilla, sweet maple and light roastiness.

img_3619

It’s a triple Kees nirvana next.

Kees – Caramel Fudge Stout – 11.5%

One of the favourite dark beers ever at The Needle & Pin. This is the beer that they gave to Stu at North Riding and asked if he could brew a beer like it. That was a success, so now time to try the original. It does exactly what it says on the tin.

Kees – Caramel Fudge Stout Maple Oloroso – 11.5%

A Pedro Ximenez edition of Kees’ caramel fudge series, with maple syrup added and then barrel aged in PX barrels. PX does wonders for whisky so I’m certain it will do the same for this beer.

Kees – Export Porter 1750 – 10.5%

Black beer with a modest warm and brown head, full of dark chocolate and coffee, incorporating roasted bitterness and a very intense taste. The aftertaste is very long-lasting. This is an imperial porter that requires your time and attention. This is for an evening when you only want one beer!

Unity – Nocturnal Supremacy – 8%

Unity love their house oatmeal porter Nocturne so much that they decided to take it to the next level by doubling the malt and conditioning it on bourbon, vanilla, and single origin Brazilian Rio Verde coffee from River Coffee Roasters.

The Needle & Pin craft beer club – sour beer selection box #9 – February 2020

It’s box number 48 overall, and not a moment too soon (again), as I’m all out of sessionable beers (again). Oh, hang on, this box doesn’t have anything in the session category (again). At least there are three under 5.5%, and I’ve also picked up some other things that are definitely session so I’ll be ok. I’ve borrowed Sean’s photo for this one because I forgot to take my own one! Let’s look in to this winter wonderland…

Brick – Windfall Saison – 5.4%

Brewed in collaboration with their friends from Unbarred Brewery in Brighton. This brew used fresh apricots and quince from Boarden fruit farm in Kent to add a juicy, jammy stone fruit flavour to the spicy, dry and slightly tart beer base. The spice is accentuated from additions of cinnamon and vanilla, giving the final finish of warming and comforting autumnal fruit crumble.

Double-Barrelled – The Martingale System – 5.2%

A relatively new brewery in Reading, established in late 2018, Double- Barrelled have concentrated on brewing sours and dark beers since opening. This kettle sour is made with 600kg of raspberry, blackberry and redcurrant puree, which makes this beer a definite all in on red. High persistent acidity with soft ripe berries on the nose, the body is full of juicy forest fruits with a redcurrant twang. The finish is yoghurty, despite no lactose, with lasting redcurrant and raspberry.

Brauerei Flugge – Imperial Fill – 9.0%

The first ever beer to appear in the Needle & Pin from this brewery in Frankfurt am Main, who were founded in 2017 with a focus on sour and wild ales. This is an imperial blackcurrant sour fermented with lactobacillus, kveik and brettanomyces. A serious beer.

84990925_1089744248035519_5796205545891299328_o

Northern Monk – Culinary Concepts – 7%

This beer takes the Northern Monk experimentation in fruited sour IPAs and introduces the influence of their friends at Northern Bloc who are ice cream masters. Throw in the sour beer expertise of other guests HOMES and Ology and you have something pretty special for this gold edition culinary concept collaboration. A winning combination of raspberry, guava, passion fruit and vanilla.

The base beer was kettle-soured for 48 hours and features high portions of flaked oats, some wheat and some milk sugar, a perfect combination for a soft and creamy ice cream-like mouthfeel. It was then whirlpool hopped with 6g/l of Citra, enough for some deep tropical fruit without taking away from the 200g/l of fruit puree added through fermentation.

Pressure Drop – Promenade – 4.8%

Pressure Drop say that they always have a blast brewing with yuzu. Their now retired sour IPA, Nanban Kanpai, was all about the yuzu (alongside lots of  Citra and Amarillo) and they have missed its delicious citrus flavours.

With this in mind, and taking inspiration from Espadrille, their first triple fruited sour, they decided to take things up a notch with Promenade. Mega layers of flavour, as yuzu and apricot mingle with vanilla and smooth milk sugar, all with a small sharp kick of sea salt to finish. It’s a smoothie sour party, and it’s a whole lot of fun.

Siren – It’s My Jam – 6.3%

A trio of fruits bring this sour beer to life. There’s blueberry for tangy acidity, blackberry for delicious bramble flavours and then offsetting everything with apricot for some natural stone-fruit sweetness. The tart compote gets an extra dimension with a delicate Mosaic and Ekuanot dry-hop. This is their jam. I hope it’s as good as Acid Jam.

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 – dark beer selection box #18 – December 2019

It’s box number 46 overall, full of some big units and that rare thing, a session porter. A couple of these might make their way into my Christmas beer line up and quite a few will be saved for sharing next year.

Cigar City – Caffè Americano – 12%

Bold, strong and dark, traditional Caffè Americano is made by adding water to espresso. Bold, strong, and dark, Cigar City Brewing’s Caffè Americano is made by adding vanilla and Tampa-roasted espresso beans to a formidable double stout base. Aromas of fresh-ground espresso beans, vanilla and alcohol spiciness dominate the nose in this imposing imperial stout. The palate finds strong flavours of fudge, coffee, penuche (an Italian vanilla fudge), and raisin pudding (a sort of spotted dick) balanced by moderate carbonation and an assertive German hop flavour and bitterness, while the sweetness of vanilla rounds out the beer’s long finish.

Nøgne Ø – Porter – 7%

The first dark beer in the club from Norway’s Nøgne Ø. A very traditional (and very good) quite dark ale, where dark malts provide flavours of coffee and dried fruit.

North Riding – Fudge Brownie Stout – 7.4%

A return visit to the dark beer club for this one, a beer originally brewed by North Riding in 2016. Smooth creamy chocolate fudge, hints of vanilla, bucketloads of deliciousness.

img_3235

Siren – Barrel Aged Primal Cut – 10%

Primal Cut has been ageing in bourbon casks and Siren are thrilled with how the beer has developed. This complex porter has a beautiful blackcurrant tone with deep coffee and chocolate flavours, complemented by a wisp of smoke in the air and a distinctive bourbon character.

St Bernardus – Christmas Ale – 10%

St. Bernardus Christmas Ale is the youngest descendant in the illustrious family of delicious Abbey Ales by Brewery St. Bernardus. This beer is characterised by its deep dark colour, with a creamy, thick head and a full, almost velvety taste with a fruity nose. It’s a seasonal ale, brewed annually for the holiday season. The long winter nights are perfect moments to savour this ale with or without friends and to enjoy its unique, complex taste and aftertaste.

Thornbridge – Market Porter – 4.5%

Thornbridge make some lovely dark beers, and this is no exception. A really creamy and smooth porter, so easy to drink.

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 Needle & Pin craft beer club – dark beer selection box #17 – October 2019

It’s box number 45 overall, and more darkness to get us through the darker evenings and rainy autumn days. Most of these will probably go into storage for future sharing events as there are some more big units in here, but a few will be out to accompany some weekend puddings.

Arbor – Goo Goo G Joob – 12%

Arbor are renowned for their pale hoppy beers, but they also brew some very special dark beers, and this is a great example of Maple Imperial Stout with complex dark malt, burnt caramel and black treacle flavours. Whether it contains any actual walrus is yet to be determined.

Beartown – Imperial Crème Bearlee – 9%

A velvety stout with burnt cream, Madagascan vanilla and molasses. I’d like to tell you more than that, but there’s very little information out there.

img_2850

Chimay – Blue – 9%

The Cistercian Trappist monks of Chimay have been brewing since 1862, with their abbey being located on the site of a well which provides pure water for the beer.

Chimay Blue Strong Dark Ale is world-class Belgian elegance in a bottle. This authentic Belgian beer is complex, rich and powerful, all of which improve and transform over many years thanks to its classic bottle-conditioning.

Whilst obviously strong, the alcohol is barely noticeable, giving way instead to the beautiful aromas of spicy Belgian yeast, bread dough and toffee, the mark of great craftsmanship. Rich and intense with lovely caramel notes, it’s the lovely dry finish allows the distinct Belgian flavours to linger well into the next sip. Absolutely gorgeous.

Evil Twin – 60 Day Dry Aged Stout – 6%

Evil Twin have treated us to a lovely stout, it’s a style that is often neglected by breweries due to the big boys in Dublin. However, the style originated in London. A jet-black pour leads to an aroma of dark chocolate and tobacco. You’re then warmly greeted with a light, airy mouthfeel with a dry smoky finish. 60 days does seem like a while but some things are certainly worth waiting for. And for once, it’s a dark beer from Evil Twin that isn’t 10%+

Left-Handed Giant – That Life – 6.9%

You’ll want triple servings and you’ll dish out a triple thumbs up for Left-Handed Giant’s Triple Chocolate Stout. Hopped with Bramling Cross and packed with creamy rich ingredients such as vanilla, chocolate, cacao nibs, lactose and cocoa powder, this brew means there’s no need for dessert.

Wander Beyond – Scoop – 11%

Scoop is an Imperial Black Ice cream IPA. Based on the theme of mint choc chip ice creams, Wander Beyond added cacao nibs and vanilla to a dark milkshake IPA base before dry hopping with Fuggles, Polaris and Citra hops and steeping peppermint tea from their friends at Atkinsons of Lancaster.

I’ve been looking for a chocolate mint beer since Thornbridge’s Baize. I love chocolate and mint in my puddings and chocolate covered minty sweets that are consumed 20 hours into the day, but there’s very little out there in the beer world that will stand up to them.

The Needle & Pin craft beer club – sour beer selection box #8 – September 2019

It’s box number 44 overall, and some interesting sours for the end of summer. I enjoy them all year round, but some people think they are not for winter. Let’s dive in to the next selection of sours…

Dugges – Tutti Frutti – 6.0%

How many fruits do you need for a tutti frutti? Together with Sweden’s Wizard Brewing, Dugges decided to go for all of them. Almost. Pear, mango, passion fruit, peach, pineapple and mandarin. That’s right. Tutti Frutti! Not to be confused with Rowntree’s Tooty Frooties, that 80s tangy sweet. Although it does taste quite like them, absolutely crammed with fruitiness.

Mashionistas – As Lime Gose By – 4.1%

First brewed in collaboration with Warwick University Students’ Union Real Ale Society for their 2019 Real Ale Festival, this is a light tangy and refreshing gose made with Indian white limes, Calabrian Bergamot, and Himalayan pink rock salt. Oh, and Coventry’s finest water!

I’ve already had a bottle of this from an early batch and it has a subtle saltiness and citrus tang. Because of my obssession with lime, I want loads more lime in it. The Crooked Stave version of Key Lime Tau is probably my lime beer blueprint, with Westbrook Key Lime Pie Gose not far behind.

img_2497

Siren – Guava Script – 4.0%

Both Sean (Siren’s new Head Brewer) and Erwin (from collaborating brewery Van Moll) have been keen to experiment with pink guava, so this collaboration recipe almost wrote itself. This sour sensation is intensified with mango and passionfruit before being dry-hopped with Azacca and Mosaic. I’m intrigued by this.

Wander Beyond – Anura – 7%

Following on from Loris, (Wander Beyond’s Imperial Apricot Berliner Weisse), they brewed a high strength Berliner Weisse and refermented it on half a tonne of blueberries. This deep, dark, purple beer is ripe and bursting with tart blueberry fruit flavours.

Yonder – Goose – 6.8%

At last, something goose related that isn’t Untitled Goose Game, which has been all over social media at the moment. There are arguments over the etymology of gooseberry, but it’s quite likely that it did come from the fact that they grew in areas where geese would be found, so I like that explanation. Back to the beer.

Inspired by the wild gooseberries discovered growing in woodlands near the brewery, Goose combines those tart, fruity flavours with Cornish sea salt, for a delicous imperial take on a German Gose.

I’m a big gooseberry fan, we used to have gooseberry bushes and I’ve also made gooseberry jam, so I’m looking forward to this one.

Yeastie Boys – Heaven Up – 3.8%

Heaven Up is a refreshing, lemonade-inspired, Berliner-style pale sour ale with aromatic doses of lemon and lime and an effervescent and satisfying drinkability.

We missed out on this one at Thornbridge Peakender, so it’s time to give it a try.