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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The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – selection box #14 – November 2018

The 30th box of beery delights to cross my threshold. Two familiar brews in here and four new ones, a couple of session beers, a few mid strengths, and a big DIPA beast.

Black Iris – East Midlands Pale – 6.0%

One that I had last month, a lovely clean hop bitterness to this one.

Cloudwater – DDH Pale Citra Ekuanot Mosaic – 5.5%

This 16 g/L double dry hopped pale features Citra BBC backed up by Ekuanot BBC and Mosaic BBC, whilst the malt base includes dextrin malt, flaked oats and wheat malt for body and texture. A classic Cloudwater hop profile and very easy drinking.

Cloudwater – System Failure – 9.0%

Here comes the big beast.

Brewed with Bagby Beer Co. in San Diego, this Imperial IPA is fully West Coast, using a staggered blend of classic US hops in the kettle for a complex flavour and bitterness, and a neutral West Coast ale yeast for a bright finish to let the hops shine. I’m looking forward to this one.

Magic Rock – Saucery – 3.9%

A supernatural session IPA made for drinking all day long. Lightly sweet and malty Golden Promise malt, a balanced bitterness and layers of tropical fruit filled Citra and Ekuanot hops in whirlpool and dry hop. Fermented with London Ale II yeast to add more fruity body, and enhance malt and hop profile…. Same again? Yes please! Lovely session bitterness and hoppiness.

North Brewing – Sputnik – 5.0%

Or “SPTK” if you just read the can through a fridge door with no access to further information. A gently hoppy pale ale that I first found in the Hawkshead beer hall, and you can also find it in Booths.

Tiny Rebel – Mosaic Milkshake – 4.2%

The second instalment of the Milkshake series, where the tropical and herbaceous notes of Mosaic are smoothed out by the creaminess of loads and loads and loads of lactose. Creamy, tropical, bitter, sweet. This milkshake brings all the hops to the yard.

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The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – dark beer selection box #11 – October 2018

The nights are drawing in and the beers are getting darker. That’s not to say that there’s no place for a super hoppy IPA in these shorter months, but a few more winter warmers find their way into the shelf of delights.

Here’s the latest selection, two for now, four for later…

Amundsen – White Crow – 10.5%

A White Imperial Stout packed full of cocoa beans, vanilla beans, tonka beans as well as coffee beans. This beer has all the characteristics of a full bodied imperial stout, whilst at the same time being white.

Brew York – Viking DNA – 5.0%

A smooth well balanced porter with subtly smoky character formed from a rich blend of 6 different malts.

Cloudwater – Parkin Cake – 10%

To celebrate their 500th gyle, Cloudwater brewed an homage to Parkin, the oatmeal and ginger cake much favoured in Yorkshire. In the Imperial Brown Ale base is a rich blend of malts, oats and treacle for sweetness, and added ginger and spices for that distinctive aroma.

Kasteel – Bruin – 11.0%

A strong Belgian brown ale. After extensive tasting, trying to fulfil increasingly strict requirements, the brewmaster found themselves with a creamy, dark Belgian brown ale: Kasteelbier. The quality of the past is still unmatched and the beloved taste is very much of the present. Kasteelbier is a dark, artisanal beer, soft and mild, full and creamy. It can age for many, many years, as indicated on the bottle.

Left Handed Giant – Choc Orange Milk Stout – 5.1%

Deeper Water is a seasonal milk stout, brewed with lactose, vanilla and cacao nibs – this time it’s been given the chocolate orange treatment! Gemma would hate this, I might just love it.

Stillwater – Critical Thinking – 11%

Stillwater brew some incredible beers across the spectrum. This does not disappoint. An opaque black colour with a lovely tan head. Roasted malt flavour with notes of bitter chocolate and liquorice. Big sticky mouthfeel and warming alcohol notes.

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The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – selection box #13 – September 2018

There have been 28 versions of the craft beer club, in standard, dark and sour forms. Only two people have had all 28. One of them is me, and the other is regular MOFAD drinking companion Alec. That’s a stat I like. Let’s dive into this month’s box which has a very welcome 4 session ales, one just over the edge of session and an interesting looking milkshake IPA.

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Brew York – Triple H – 4.3%

Triple H is a refreshing Hazy, Hoppy & Heavenly murk-bomb of a pale ale. The beer is intentionally hazy as the steps normally taken to clarify the beer have been skipped. And a few steps have even been taken to encourage haze formation. This better retains the delightful citrus & floral flavours of the Centennial, Citra & Mosaic hops within the beer. I had this one at the Brew York birthday party in 2017 and it was lovely

Cloudwater – Summer Pale – 4%

Summer Pale is a 4% abv Citra-led pale ale to sit back and unwind with. It’s the start of a seasonal offering of a straightforward, full-flavoured beer for catching up with friends, after work, or just to have for the everyday moments that make up our days. Cloudwater do session really well, they just need to do more of them.

8 Arch – Square Logic – 4.2%

Pale golden with a haze and a white head. Grapefruit, lemon and hints of green tea can be detected in both the aroma and the taste. Quite dry and easy to drink. Another one that I’ve had before, a refreshing golden ale.

Fierce Beer – Easy Shift – 4.5%

This light and easy drinking pale ale is something that can be enjoyed at any time of the day. Citrus flavours and a light hoppy character mean that refreshment is guaranteed.

Gipsy Hill/Unity – Razend – 4.7%

Razend is a collaboration between Gipsy Hill and Unity Brewing Co. Fermented with Belgian yeast, it’s a crisp, spicy, fruity, refreshing beer. Perfect for hot summer days at the quay. Not many of those left but it sounds like a good beer for an autumn evening.

Neon Raptor – The Yard – 6%

The Yard milkshake IPA is a passion fruit and mango IPA infused with lactose and vanilla to give a smooth and refreshing mouthfeel. Low quantity hot side hops lead to a low bitterness allowing more of the hop flavour from the Citra led dry hop to come through, supporting the fruit additions and silky body.