The Needle & Pin Craft Beer club – dark beer selection box #14 – April 2019

The nights are getting lighter, the days are getting longer, but there are still times when only darkness will do. This is another month of big beasts, with one sessionable mild in the mix. That was a deliberate choice when we brewed it back in January.

This box has new beers, new breweries, new styles, an old classic, one of the best in the world and one for laying down.

Dig – Durr – 6.8%

Durr is a brand new stout made with milk sugar and conditioned over organic vanilla and roasted cocoa nibs. It comes from Birmingham’s Dig Brew Co, and was released only a few weeks ago.

Erdinger – Pikantus – 7.3%

A wild card beer this month, to demonstrate how beautiful a dark weiss bock can be. There won’t be the usual hit of coffee, vanilla and chocolate in this one.

Framework – Anything But Mild – 3.5%

I made this, along with Alec and those lovely folks at Framework. I’ve already mentioned that we brewed it back in January, and there are only 36 bottles of this little beauty in existence. Mild, gentle, with little hints of coffee, chocolate and maple syrup. A deliberately session mild to provide something other than chocolate laden imperial monsters for the dark beer lover. Here it is in being made…

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Lervig – Three Bean Stout – 13%

A collaboration brew with Way Beer from Brazil. Contains that common trinity of vanilla, cocoa and tonka beans, equating to a big dollop of deliciousness. The N&P team say that this is one of the greatest dark beers ever brewed…

Museum Brewing – P2 Imperial Stout – 8%

This exceptionally smooth stout is produced from the original recipe that was shipped to the Russian port of St. Petersburg for the Tsar’s Imperial Court. The smooth mellowness derives from the long maturation time in cask before being bottled in very limited numbers.

Three Hills – Faba – 11%

This is a very special beer indeed, brewed by Andrew and Zak at Three Hills. There are only 400 bottles of it and 48 of them have gone to the dark beer club. A big Imperial stout brewed with tonka, cacao and vanilla beans. The body is viscous and flavour decadent and rich. Best shared inside by the fire. This one is going into storage for a couple of years…

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The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – selection box #16 – March 2019

The 36th selection box overall.  Spring is upon as and the days are getting longer. There are still dark beers for the dark nights, but when the sun starts shining, there’s definitely a need for something pale and hoppy. Let’s get stuck in, there are four in the session category (most welcome) and two bigger beasts.

Abbeydale – Heathen – 4.1%

Formerly called Mosaic. Wonderfully refreshing pale session beer showcasing the marvellous Mosaic hops from America. Bursting with tropical fruit flavours and a pleasant citrus bitterness. Just in case there wasn’t enough in the initial brew, Abbeydale have dry hopped with even more Mosaic for good measure. A lovely session pale ale that I’ve had a few of.

Magic Rock x Cloudwater – Big Dipper – 8.3%

A revisit of the collaborative Double IPA brew with their friends from over t’hills Cloudwater Brew Co. Golden Promise, Wheat, Oat and Crystal Malt were used for a smooth, golden, malty body. A combination of Citra, Simcoe, Eureka and Mosaic T90 hops were used in the whirlpool and dry hopping, with additional Citra & Mosaic LupulN2 Pellets added in the dry hop. Fermented with London Fog yeast, the result is a fruit-filled DIPA with loads of mango and peach aroma and flavour, a little residual sweetness and a gravity-defying drinkability. Strap in for a ride on the Big Dipper…

Northern Monk x Deya – Patrons Project 9.06 – Skelatory DDH IPA – 6.8%

This IPA utilises a blend of New Zealand, Australian and American hop varieties, with NZ Motueka taking the lead with its distinctive upfront lime character, Vic Secret and Mosaic contributing hints of passion fruit, dark berries, and grapefruit. Continuing a bit of a theme in projects with DEYA, Northern Monk put together a multi grain grist, with the earth and spice flavours of malted rye prominent once again, this time backed up with malted oats and flaked barley for a robust, complex backbone. And a little bit of politics thrown in.

Northern Monk – Striding Edge – 2.8%

A former Patrons Project beer which is now a core beer for Northern Monk. Patrons Projects beers usually explored working outside of the classic four brewing ingredients, introducing different coffee, fruits, and other additions more common to the culinary world, and most of them have also been very much towards the higher end of the ABV scale.

Striding Edge had no fruit additions, and was without the firm canvas that higher ABV gives, so the team set about creating a low ABV session beer with a flavour, intensity and mouthfeel of a drink of much higher strength. Starting with the base, they made sure the water was super soft and well balanced. Enough sulphates to lift the hops, enough chloride to smooth out the mouthfeel. For the malt they trialled a new super pale variety, making this by far the palest beer they have ever brewed, and made up a quarter of the grist with oats for their creamy mouthfeel.

Ensuring the mash temperature was as high as possible whilst ensuring some enzyme activity, they filled the wort with complex sugars to ensure a higher finishing gravity and consequently a chunkier body. Then add as much hop flavour across 3 dry-hop additions, going with west coast favourites Simcoe, Amarillo and Mosaic for an intense pine, grass and citrus character, backed up with hints of orange and mango from a bonus Citra addition.

It’s one of the best sub 3% beers around, big flavour in small ABV.

North Riding x Needle & Pin – Cryo for Help – 4.3%

A limited edition pale ale brewed with The Needle & Pin to commemorate their 999th different cask ale since opening in late 2015. Brewed back in September 2018, with customers Alex, Matt, Nick and Scott, this is a very powerful Mosaic hopped beer with a strong bitter finish.

Wild Beer – Bibble – 4.2%

Another familiar one that I first had back in summer 2015, a fruity pale ale that goes down nicely. Brewed with Vienna malt and oats, for an unusual mouth filling malt base. Hopped with Mosaic hops, renowned for their tropical fruit beauty. It is unfined, and so naturally hazy. A moreish bitterness is complimented by tropical fruit tastiness. The name ‘Bibble’ in Somerset dialect means to drink loudly, often and well.

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The Needle & Pin craft beer club – sour beer selection box #6 – February 2019

We are up to the 35th box overall. The Uncle Brett IPA from the previous box was definitely a highlight, with Dust Rings also an interesting sour with a citrus undertone. Let’s dive in to the spring selection…

Almasty – Passion Fruit Sour – 5%

The sharp summer bite of a sour, smoothed off with the delights of the subtle fruity juicy flavours of passion fruit – looking forward to this one.

Brick – Pink Gose – 3.1%

Fresh pink grapefruit juice and zest adds a lip-puckering quality to the sour base. Pink peppercorns offer a soft citrusy spice and pink Himalayan salt provides a clean saline finish. Sounds like a super session sour.

Lindemans – Cuvée René – 5.5%

Oohhh, René….

Gueuze Cuvée René contains one-third old lambic, aged for at least two years, and two-thirds young lambic, which is at least one year old, matured in large oak barrels called foudres. It is then bottled in a beautiful champagne bottle where a second fermentation takes place. After 6 months, the gueuze obtains a golden colour and is slightly carbonated and tart. Kept in a cellar for a few years, it becomes truly exceptional.

The use of a champagne bottle dates back to an uncertain time period when lambic brewers specialised in recovering empty bottles from great restaurants and other establishments where a lot of champagne was consumed.

This beer can be stored for a number of years in a cool, dark place where its taste will continue to evolve. Lindemans Oude Gueuze Cuvée René was elected the “World’s Best Gueuze” at the 2013 World Beer Awards. Lindemans is one of only eight breweries that, to this day, brew an authentic lambic beer in the Valley of the Zenne near Brussels.

Omnipollo – Moa – 3.5%

Moa lemon curd sour is an attempt by Henok Fentie, one of the founders of Omnipollo, to piece together the different elements of a beer that his girlfriend would enjoy. It is not for the faint hearted. It is as sour as lemon can be. Incredible, but incredibly sour. Be ready!

Three Hills – Fermentum – 7.5%

A Bretted IPA first fermented with a Saison strain and subsequently inoculated with two different strains of Brettanomyces in bottle. Best shared after a little aging to allow esters and carbonation to develop. This one needs a minimum of a year in the bottle…

Track – Visalia – 5.5%

A big fruity cherry sour. A nice and simple “does what it says on the label” beer to end the club this time around.

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The Needle & Pin craft beer club – dark beer selection box #13, January 2019

The dark nights are getting shorter, bit by bit. However, there’s still time for plenty of dark beer. We are in to the 34th overall selection box. I’ve only had one from the previous dark selection box so far (plenty of big beasts in there), but I have already finished all of the ones from the last “main” selection box from December, due to their excellent sessionable status.

Let’s dive in to the first selection of 2019…

Buxton – Gatekeeper – 4.1%

When it comes to dark beers, I associate Buxton with big beasts like Kentucky Woods (13.8%), Rain Shadow (11.5%) and Arran (11.5%). So it’s very good to see a traditional porter from them. Bitter coffee and roasted malts lead the charge with more than a hint of liquorice.

Firestone Walker – Mocha Merlin – 5.5%

With an infusion of local roast coffee, a dash of cocoa nibs and touch of seasonal sorcery, Velvet Merlin milk stout has been transformed into Mocha Merlin. This beer is brewed with the Colombia La Granadilla blend from HoneyCo Coffee Roasters. The Colombia La Granadilla coffee meshes perfectly with the chocolatey character from the cocoa nibs, providing an oatmeal stout experience like no other. A touch of lactose provides suggestion of rounded sweetness on the finish. I’ve already polished this one off and there’s no false advertising here, coffee, chocolate and creaminess, a nice gentle stout.

Gipsy Hill – Percolator – 5.0%

Percolator is a coffee oatmeal brown ale collaboration with Dugges. It’s a Café Latte of a beer with three different types of oat, and premium English Cara and Vienna malts. It’s then blended with around a thousand litres of Volcano’s finest cold brew coffee. It offers smooth, full-bodied mouthfuls of oat milk latte.

North Riding – Coffee and Walnut Stout – 7.4%

The Needle & Pin’s 1000th unique cask ale, bottled. Brewed by the team and a few customers at North Riding in September 2018, this is a seriously good coffee stout brewed with a huge sack of locally roasted coffee beans in the FV. It has a little sweetness from the walnuts at the end. I don’t like walnuts, but I’m told this is not an issue.

Redwillow – Restless – 8.5%

Think chocolate fondant meets coffee. Loaded with Vietnamese coffee beans; it’s dark and full bodied with sweet nutty chocolate notes. Good Morning Vietnam! All the Redwillow beers I’ve had so far (quite a few on cask, and lots in cans from Booths) have been great.

Three Hills – Anglian Porter – 5%

From one of the UK’s most up and coming breweries. You may not have heard of them before, but you’re sure to hear lots in the future. Look out for a collaborative brew with them in March. This light, hoppy porter is designed to suit the local water profile and to find the sweet spot between drinkability and flavour.

Wilde Child – Beast Master – 10%

This one is the beast, in name and strength. A salted caramel and cacao nib Imperial Stout. The salted caramel really stands out. Apparently this is up there with Amundsen Zygoat.

Some of these won’t last, some will go into storage for a bit…

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The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – selection box #15 – December 2018

The final selection for 2018, and the 33rd box overall. Three session pales and a few stronger ones to see you through the Xmas period. Probably too late for any of them to get in to my selection for #12beersofxmas but perhaps a late substitution could occur. Let’s get on with it.

Almasty – IPA – 6%

A beer with few words to describe it, so a calculated gamble from the N&P, because they’ve never had a bad beer from Almasty. Neither have I, a lovely coffee stout, Passion Fruit pale and Camillo (a tribute to Negroni) being my favourites so far.

Gipsy Hill – Galaxy – 4.3%

Galaxy is a part of a single hop series. Built around the hops, the grist is simple, designed to pull out the nuanced flavours of Galaxy.

Siren – Vu Du Yu Lu – 7.3%

Siren have always celebrated brewing milestones with amped-up versions of their favourite flagship beers. This time Yu Lu gets the treatment, turning a delicate loose leaf pale ale into a fully fledged IPA. Big hitting citrus and fruity hops lead the charge, followed up with Earl Grey tea and bergamot notes echoing the quintessential Yu Lu flavours. The original Yu Lu was very light with hints of citrus, also well carbonated and refreshing.

Summer Wine – Pacer – 4.1%

Rides a relatively modest ABV yet still has a basket brimming full of aromatic American hops. I had a tasty pint of this on cask in September.

Verdant – Neal Gets Things Done – 6.5%

With lashings of Simcoe, Citra, Mosaic and Nelson Sauvin hops, Neal Gets Things Done is the latest juicy banger from juicy banger specialists Verdant. Everyone that I know who has had this tells me it’s an absolute classic.

Wilde Child – Beyond Redemption – 4.0%

A Pineapple Milkshake IPA. Yes, that is a thing nowadays. Big American hops are at the fore with a massive dose of lactose for that creamy mouthfeel. And so much concentrated Pineapple Juice that you will think you are sat on a Caribbean beach.

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The Needle & Pin craft beer club – dark beer selection box #12 – December 2018

Selection box number 32 and some big dark beasts for the festive period. As the nights get darker (for the next 19 days anyway), so do the beers. Let’s enter the black hole…

Amundsen – Chocolate Marshmellow – 11.5%

Which idiot came up with the idea that you should pair your beer with a dessert? Why not just make a beer that would be dessert in itself? Save yourself making dessert and just crack one of these open. Amundsen decided to pick out three of their favourite dessert flavours to incorporate in a flagship imperial stout. Dark, sweet and delicious. This version brings back memories of marshmallows and hot chocolate around a camp fire. Will probably go well with smores. Although it’s probably not the season for them.

Left Handed Giant – Woodland Creatures V2 – 6.9%

Pistachio & Honeycomb Milk Stout collab with Uiltje Brewing Company with Bramling Cross hops, Maris Otter, Carafa III, Caramalt, Chocolate, Crystal in the malt bill and pistachios, honeycomb and lactose added in order to turn this into liquid Crunchie.

Moor – Old Freddy Walker – 7.4%

Moor, from Bristol, are celebrating their 11th birthday this year. Old Freddy Walker was Champion Winter Beer of Britain in 2004, and is one of Roger Protz’s “300 beers to try before you die”. A cult ale, described as “one for the connoisseur”, it’s a rich, dark, and full bodied old ale that really has to be tasted to be appreciated. This beer is usually the first to sell out at beer festivals, thanks to its blend of Pale, Lager, Crystal, Wheat and Black malts that are fermented with an English yeast. Bramling Cross hops are added to provide a hint of orange and a balancing dose of bitterness.

If these words sound familiar, it’s because this is the first beer to make a second appearance in the craft beer club, this time in a can instead of the large bottle of April 2017. It really is a classic old ale.

It seems to have creeped up by 0.1% since last time too…

Stillwater – Big Bunny – 8.0%

Imperial chocolate milk stout, a collaboration with Arizona Wilderness. Aromas of cocoa nibs, burnt toast and dark, roasted coffee followed by an intense, smooth chocolate flavour. It finishes with a terrifically smooth roastiness.

Weird Beard – Dirrty Hands – 9.8%

Imperial Schwarzbier. Those loveable rogues at Weird Beard collaborated with Haand Bryggeriet to make a dark, sticky, filthy beer worthy of getting your hands dirty. Being an Imperial Black Pilsner, they wanted to get those dark malts pumping, getting just a little naughty at 9.8%

Westbrook – 7th Anniversary Chocolate and Sea Salt – 10%

For their 7th Anniversary Beer, they went big on the chocolate and added a little salt to make it interesting. Luscious notes of liquid cocoa and a smooth salinity make this beer deliciously decadent.

Sean adds: I bought this beer in January and have kept it all year for this beer club. A one off brew to celebrate Westbrook’s 7th Birthday and imported from South Carolina.

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The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – sour selection box #5 – November 2018

The nights may be drawing in fast but there’s still a place in my beer store for some super zingy funky sours. Let’s see what’s in this sour box of delights this month, celebrating the first anniversary of sour smackers.

Brekeriet Beer AB – Uncle Brett IPA – 6.5%

A crisp and fruity Brettanomyces IPA with Citra, Centennial, Columbus, Mandarina Bavaria and Eldorado hops. The fermentation with different yeast strains adds a great complexity. Complexity for days. So much going on from the brett, even some vanilla. Hops are lurking somewhere. Clean and sour and dryer than a desert.

Brasserie de Blaugies – La Vermontoise – 6%

Collaboration with Hill Farmstead. A spelt saison (Saison d’Epeautre) with American hops (Amarillo). Looking forward to this lively little number.

Moor Beer Company, Left Handed Giant Brewing, Lost And Grounded Brewers – Berry Lush – 4%

An ode to Bristol as the original home of Ribena. Berry Lush is a tart and refreshing Blackcurrant Witbier. Pils malt, wheat malt, flaked wheat & oats have been combined with 300kg of blackcurrant puree to produce a beer that is slightly tart and refreshing with a magnificent red colour and pink foam.

Gipsy Hill – Moxie – Fruit Salad Sour – 4.5%

For this version of Moxie, Gipsy Hill added 200kg of raspberry and 200kg of pineapple to fermentation and cold side. A nod to an old, fruit salad, classic, gently tart, refreshing sour. Goes well with courage and spirit apparently.

Gipsy Hill – Dodger – Lemon Sherbert Sour – 5%

Dodger is a Lemon Sherbert Sour. A traditional kettle sour, with late citra hops in the boil and dry-hopped with lemongrass. Aroma hops are Citra, bittering hops are magnum, with lemongrass and lactose in the mix. Goes well with treats and sweets.

Union Craft Brewing, Stillwater Artisanal – Dust Rings – DDH Sour

On September 15th 2017 at 7:55:46 a.m. EDT NASA lost contact with the Cassini space probe as it made its final approach to Saturn. Approximately 420 minutes later, NASA received a strange message from the probe: “Yo! This is Strumke. Tell UNION I’ve got the dust for our collab.” Dust Rings was born, a very special Stillwater x UNION sour ale, dry-hopped with Lupulin space dust to commemorate the 9th Annual Baltimore Beer Week.

A nice sour with a citrus undertone, but NMHP. That’s “needs more hop powder”, a new variant on NMH (needs more hops).

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