The 2019 International Rainbow Project beer box

I’ve written about the International Rainbow Project every year, so I’m not going to wax lyrical about it again. You can read lots about it from my 2016 post. The good news this year is that there was no need to use HonestBrew to get hold of the box set, so it was a very simple and pleasant buying process, unlike every other year where something went wrong. The whole process was easy and a few days later it arrived safe and sound without any HonestBrew induced dramas. It looks like I’ll never have to use them again, which is good. They were also charging more for this box set than other sites!

Last year was supposed to be the swansong of this project, as the original team felt they had done enough with it, going out with a barrel-aged bang. After conversations at fesivals, Siren handed the project over to Bristol’s Left Handed Giant, who decided to pull together a group of breweries of around their age (3 years) or younger. Their intention is to manage the project with the 6 breweries for the next 3 years, before passing it on to the next generation of young breweries.

Here’s what they came up with for 2019…

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Red

Track Brewing Co. (Manchester) x Highland Park Brewery (Los Angeles, CA)
Frontier Psychiatrist – 7.0% – Fruited IPA

A deep, rich IPA hopped with Citra, Galaxy & Sabro giving huge notes of Mango & Coconut elevated by additions of Flaked Coconut, Passionfruit, Grapefruit Zest & Vanilla, all tied together with Dragonfruit giving this beer its red hue.

Just your everyday run-of-the-mill dragonfruit IPA named after a song by The Avalanches. Said no one ever. Interesting sour fruit & hops.

Orange

North Brewing Co. (Leeds) x Fieldwork Brewing (Berkeley, CA)
Golden Milk – 6.0% – Sour With Fruit & Spices

North X Field Work – ‘Orange’ in 2019’s Rainbow Project.

A 6% sour beer brewed with a 20% grist of naked + rolled oats, 15kg of fresh peeled turmeric in the whirlpool, cinnamon in the boil, coconut in the mash, whirlpool and fermenter and then triple fruited with 1.2 tons of apricot.

This one weirded me out – too much going on, it’s like a fight in a glass and no-one seems to win.

Yellow

Burnt Mill Brewery (Suffolk) x Cascade Brewing (Portland, OR)
Panacea – 6.4% – IPA

An IPA dry hopped with Lemondrop & Citra, rounded out with ginger, chamomile & local honey.

I must admit that I didn’t get any of those adjuncts, just a pleasant pale ale with a hint of pine.

Green

Deya Brewing Company (Cheltenham) x Holy Mountain (Seattle, WA)
Emerald Visions – 5.5% – Lime Wit

This one is supposed to have loads of lime and I really hope it does because I love lime.

Blue

Left Handed Giant (Bristol) x Alesong Brewing & Blending (Eugene, OR)
Why I Love The Moon – 6.2% – Blueberry Gose With Borage Flowers

Blueberry Gose with the addition of hand picked, local, Borage flowers and Oregon sea salt.

Indigo

Verdant Brewing Co. (Falmouth) x Temescal Brewing (Oakland, CA)
Indigo Tie-Dye Wolf T-Shirt – 8.8% – Imperial Stout

A strong stout inspired by baklava, the wonderful sweet of the east. Sticky and nutty from pistachios alongside flavours of cinnamon and rose.

Violet

Unity Brewing Co. (Southampton) x Alvarado Street Brewery (Monterey, CA)
Tech-Noir – 5.0% – Sour Porter

While trying to figure out what violet tastes like, they brewed a sour oatmeal porter with blueberry and vanilla. Inspired by the juxtaposition of dark nostalgic sci-fi and warm, fluffy, familiar flavours.

An interesting sour, but not a porter.

This year also had an added bonus of a 7 way collaboration between all of the UK breweries, which resulted in:-

Colour Vision – 7.0% – IPA

This beer was brewed to celebrate the spirit of the Rainbow Project. Brewed with a heavy dry hop of Galaxy, Loral, Mosaic and Voss Kveik yeast.

A mega collab which gets better as it goes on.

The Needle & Pin craft beer club – dark beer selection box #16 – August 2019

Despite the recent deluges, flooding, abandoned international scout and guide camps, dams bursting and everything else, it’s still summer. However, there’s always a place for some big dark beers in your cold storage area, and most of these ones are absolute units, great for sharing with friends around the camp fire when the nights are cooling a little. This is the first dark beer selection to be exclusively all cans.

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Abbeydale – Methuselah – 10.5%

An absolutely huge Imperial Stout which has been finished in wooden ex-whisky barrels. Big, bold and boozy – a hugely full bodied malt-driven stout with a hint of Brett funkiness on the nose and just enough tartness to provide balance on the palate. Sumptuously smooth and strikingly robust.

Box Social – Union Black Jamaican Stout – 6%

Based around Skindred’s fourth album, 2011’s Union Black, this beer is full of soul and flavour. Allspice and vanilla give an unctuous sweetness which plays against the roasted notes of coffee and dark chocolate from the malt. Vegan friendly, so that all of the members of the band could enjoy it, this stout is full bodied, rich and moreish.

Polly’s Brew Co –  Cassie – 7%

Everything about this beer is all about decadence – from the silky mouthfeel, to the 10kg of Arabica coffee beans that were added. Cassie rocks up with a metric tonne of roasted coffee, dark chocolate, and raisin notes. Cassie, named for the horse that occupied Polly’s stable before Polly, is the biggest beer that Polly’s (formerly Loka Polly) have ever brewed.

Northern Monk – Patrons Project 17.03 – Pete’s Dark Past – 7%

To accentuate hints of biscuit, the grist contains plenty of munich malt; a more heavily kilned German base malt with a prominent flavour, plus some lightly roasted amber malt which compliments and offers notes of toast and cinder toffee. This is backed up by light crystal and Special B to add depth and dark fruit character, chocolate roast malt, plenty of flaked oats and maltodextrin to build out the body.

To recreate the outer layer of a chocolate bar, they added a load of lactose and a touch of vanilla for the basis of that classic milk chocolate flavour. They then went even further adding chocolate during fermentation and copious amounts of caramel late fermentation to boost the ABV and add a decadent dessert sweetness to this rich, deep brown stout. Twix in a glass!!

Pressure Drop – Escape Pod – 10%

Polish your diamonds & find your fanciest hat, because this collaboration is quite a lot
of luxury. Pressure Drop have wanted to brew an intense milk stout for a while, and the Left Handed Giant crew know what they are doing around milk sugars and lactose. If you’re going big on a milk stout, you might as well take it all the way to massive. Escape Pod is maxed out with vanilla, coconut and cacao nibs. Brewed with milk sugars, it is smooth and shamelessly sweet.

Stillwater – Thsi Iiis Nlya Tst 006 – 8%

Yes, it’s really called that. A collaborative brew with Oliver Brewing Co and Ceremony Coffee, both of Baltimore. They all joined together to make a cappuccino stout brewed with coffee, cocoa, vanilla and milk sugar. The beer needs a gentle shake before opening to release the nitrogen to create a silky smooth finish.

Brewdog fanzine issue 25

Remember these round ups? There hasn’t been one since October, when BD stopped updating their web site with details of what was being sent out. It obviously existed electronically because they still had a print out in the box. However, they were not interested in sending this out to subscribers. During this time, they’ve also stripped it back to a monthly box, but at least they’ve kept the price the same so far.

I think that Transatlantic Telegram and Old World Russian Stout (which featured in that October box) have been my favourites in the last six months or so. Here’s what’s in the July box…

Humulus Helmsman (5.6%) – West Coast IPA

Setting a course for the West Coast with some true American muscle. Seven different US hops have been deployed to proudly fly the flag for America’s favourite craft beer style in Humulus Helmsman – Simcoe, Cascade, Citra, Centennial, Ahtanum, Mosaic and Chinook. A who’s who of IPA, all involved in this tropical, citrus and pine-led new world hero. I have very high hopes for this one, so let’s hope it’s as good as the description might lead us to believe.

Coffee Caramel Curfew (5.0%) – Caramel Macchiato Coffee Porter

Get off the streets and take refuge with this night-black porter, brewed with five different malts and five different additions. You’ll find milk sugars, honey, Demerara sugar, vanilla and coffee pairing with crystal and dark malts to create a smooth, roasty coffee and chocolate porter with notes of mellow Macchiato and a sweet nuttiness. Another one that sounds very good, and nice to see they’ve included two below 6% for once.

Pulp Patriot V4 (9.5%) – Single Hop Double IPA

I really hope this is better than the first two that I had. V1 and V2 didn’t have much more than strength going for them. It’s about time that I had V3, because then I can have this one which is a tribute to Mosaic, introduced into the whirlpool and at the dry-hop stage. This single-hopped superpower is a classic Mosaicathon – tropical fruit, mango, stone fruit and citrus. Resinous pine also gets a look in but the wheat and flaked oats balance the body and lift the mouthfeel as the near-10% ABV brings the flavour home, and then some.

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Joiners Arms, Bakewell, July 2019

Bakewell has been crying out for a decent pub for a long while. For somewhere that’s the home of the Thornbridge brewery, you’d expect something a little better than some Greene King and Marston’s houses, but that’s what you’ve had to put up with.

Until May 2019, when the Joiners Arms opened its doors for the first time, serving 6 cask lines of local and further afield beer, alongside 6 keg lines which included on opening night (and still do today) Pravha, Staropramen and Aspall’s cider. We’ll come back to them later.

The Joiners Arms is cast in the classic micropub mould, a nice minimalist design based around joinery (I love the planes inset into the bar). It’s all about the beer, which is kept in excellent condition. Food wise, there are some crisps, nuts and other small snacks around, and they have a selection of wines and smaller batch gins as well as soft drinks for those not wanting a beer. They are dog friendly too, with free snacks for your canine companions, and a water bowl for them as well.

I spent a few hours here (with a break for fish’n’chips down by the river) with regular MOFAD drinking companion Steve, and much less regular drinking companion (and friend to badgers everywhere) Andy. Our fourth member was unwell so had stayed back at base.

In different orders, we worked our way across all of the cask ales. The keg lines were ignored, as two of them were empty, one had Thornbridge Satzuma (a permanent fixture, which some of us had yesterday), and the other three contained the offerings mentioned above. On a weekend, you’d expect all of the keg lines to be in action, so it was a shame to miss out on some potential bangers. The cask line up was pretty decent though, so let’s explore what we sampled.

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I started out with West of the Sun from nearby Torrside Brewing, a lovely NZ hop profile coming through. Fruity hoppiness continued with Downdays from Rivington Brewing Co which was mellow and superbly sessionable. A more familiar name came next, Deception from the just over the border Abbeydale Brewery. A classic showcase of another New Zealand hop, Nelson Sauvin.

After our lunch break, the final three beers, all of which were familiar to me. My third encounter with Hawkshead Red, sweet maltiness and much better on cask than the bottled versions that I’d had a few years ago.

I passed on the Jaipur as I’ve had it (and variants like Jaipur X and Dry Hopped Jaipur) many times. That left one more beer, Lucaria from Thornbridge, which I had twice. I first had it back in December 2016, and remember it fondly as chocolate ice cream in a glass, a smooth, milky vanilla porter. There are now four other variants (strawberry, salted caramel, rocky road and mint choc chip, which sounds like old Thornbridge favourite Baize).

It was a nice way to round off our afternoon in the Joiners Arms, which is a pleasant micropub in the centre of Bakewell. You can’t miss it, it’s on the big roundabout on the A6, and passengers in cars can spot you as they pass.

I think the lady behind the bar was having a bit of an off day today, since she got very confused when being offered £11 to pay for £6 worth of drinks.

If I still had time to do my pub of the month round ups, this would definitely be in contention for July 2019. Given that I’m 18 months behind with that, I can’t see them coming back any time soon I’m afraid!

Self guided Bristol brewery tour, March 2019

A kind of “winter camping” weekend, with regular MOFAD companions Matt & Hazel and Steve & Janette. We get together a lot in the summer to go camping (and share and drink beer), but there’s always a long gap at the end of camping season, so we planned a city break in order to combat this.

We had loads of plans about how exactly we would do this, but poor transport options and various other factors meant that we opted for staying in a Holiday Inn in the city centre, rather too close to a very unsavoury area known as “The Bearpit”. Stay away from the subways…

The ladies were off on a wooly tour, we had planned a walking tour of the city, which just so happened to take in some brewery taps. Not all of them, since a few have different opening hours in the cooler seasons. Our plan was Moor -> Dawkins -> Arbor -> Fierce & Noble -> Wiper & True -> New Bristol -> Croft and then back to the hotel.

This changed pretty quickly along the way, as we received some updated opening hours information, which then changed again. More on that story later.

We were camped on the doorstep of Moor, waiting for them to open at 12pm sharp. We were straight in, and seleced a couple of beers each, enjoying a nice relaxed start to the day. Others soon started to arrive and it started to get noisy with conversations and music.

I had a “Dead Punk All Dayer”, which was full of flavour wrapped up in just 3.5% – a super session IPA, and the right way to start! I also had Claudia, a session hoppy wheat ale, which was also really tasty.

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You can also see “Stout” and “B-Moor” which were favoured by Matt & Steve. A few items were picked up to take away.

At this point, had they been open, we could have gone to Left Handed Giant and Good Chemistry, but that wasn’t an option.

We were going to go to Dawkins next, but they had changed their own plans, so we made our way to Arbor instead. The Arbor tap room at the moment is just a portakabin in the car park, but they do have sockets so you can charge your phone (important when live tweeting a walking tour of the city).

Unfortunately they had no beer on cask (at a brewery!), and only a couple of things on keg, with lots more cans in the fridge. The problem with the cans is that Arbor favour the pint can for their beers, and that’s not necessarily what you want when you go to a tap room. I’m looking forward to thirds or halves of various different beers. Some people like pints, and they are almost always available everywhere, but it’s nice to have the choice to try different ones in smaller measures.

As it was they were only selling halves or pints of a couple of keg beers, so we were rather limited. I had Brut’n’Free, a gluten free Brut IPA brewed with Amarillo, Simcoe and Mosaic hops. It was one of the better Brut IPAs that I’ve had, a style I’m interested in but haven’t really found “the one” yet.

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Because they didn’t have much on, we didn’t linger. Matt & Steve had Basta Rosse which I really like, but they are not such big fans of the hoppiness. No takeaways here.

We were off to Dawkins next. Yesterday they tweeted to say that they would be open early for the rugby (not why we were going), and their new opening time of 2pm fitted perfectly into our revised schedule. However, upon arrival, there was a distinct lack of activity. We poked our heads in and were told that they weren’t opening as planned as they had to clean up after a large party the previous evening. So we left and went to Fierce and Noble instead. If you say one thing and do another, your customers will go elsewhere…

Fierce and Noble definitely had the rugby on, in the “main room” next door. We hung out in the bar area, and took the opportunity to grab some rolls and crisps for lunch (a simple thing to sell ham rolls, cheese rolls, etc. behind the bar, but many places won’t). A half of session IPA, nice and easy drinking, and a Masquerade Pale, full of lovely fruitiness.

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You can also see the black IPA (simply called Black IPA) which was tolerated by my drinking companions. Not pictured is Pain au Chocolat Stout, which one of us had but another couldn’t due to the presence of chocolate, which is something which doesn’t agree with many drinkers.

A very interesting building to have a tap room in, lots of wood panels, and much nicer than Arbor’s portakabin 🙂 A few takeaways were picked up here too.

Off to Wiper and True next. This was the moment when I slightly rued having taken up the offer of some rolls, since they had a pizza oven out in the car park. I love pizza and beer, a great combination, but always better to eat instead of hoping there will be something on…

I’ve had a few W&T beers over the years, so it was nice to find some new things on. I started out with a Sicilian Sour, which was just that, with gentle lemon notes. Perfect for a sunny summer afternoon, but not bad on a cool spring one.

After that was Phantasmagoria, fresh from the tank, a tap room exclusive and a balance of juiciness and bitterness. Right up my street.

You can also see the darkness behind, with a Pink Peppercorn Porter (not much peppercorn, but pleasant) and a Milk Shake Stout, which was very nice, but the presence of lactose ruled it out for one of our number.

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The next destination was New Bristol brewery. We didn’t quite time this right, as the England rugby match was about to start, and it was rather packed out. This prevented much conversation, and also meant that plastic drinking vessels were in use. Boo to that, but you can understand why.

Pictured are Lemon Jelly IPA (smooth sherbert lemon zinginess) and Pineapple Pale (a metric megatonne of pineapple which has stomped all over any other flavours that might have been present).

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Steve had the Coffee Maple Bacon stout. Nothing available to take away, so off to our final destination, Croft Brewery.

Nice to see glasses again. In them you can see B52 (simple session ale), Beast (a classic hoppy bitter) and Black Book (thin but tasty dry stout).

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Lots of different cans available here so we grabbed quite a few each as it was the last leg of our tour.

A lovely day out exploring Bristol breweries. On this particular route, there wasn’t much else, so you definitely need to take advantage of food where it’s offered (there’s a branch of Iceland next door to Dawkins). Moor was probably the nicest tap room, Arbor was a bit too “rustic”. Wiper & True opt for the long benches and trestle table approach but there was a nice atmosphere. New Bristol needs judging when there’s not rugby on, and Croft was a nice end to the day. I liked the character of the Fierce and Noble building.

Definitely a grand day out, as Bristol created Wallace and Gromit would have had.

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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Thornbridge night, The Needle & Pin, Loughborough, December 2018

Oh yes it’s Thornbridge night, and the feeling’s right, oh yes it’s Thornbridge night, oh what a night.

The annual Thornbridge night at The Needle & Pin. Now in its third year, but with a new host, as Meg has moved on to Beavertown (a gentle and fairly playful boo and hiss rippled around the room from the people who hadn’t already heard this news). We met James, field sales manager for Thornbridge.

We talked all things Thornbridge. Having (between us all) been to the previous two Thornbridge nights, been on the brewery tour, and been fairly regular attendees at Peakender (just me on that one), we had a fair bit of Thornbridge knowledge (we wiped the floor with everyone else in last year’s quiz) so bandied around a few topics for discussion, including the popularity of of good cask beer, getting so many beers into Tesco and future beer plans.

And of course there was beer. One of the new variations of Lucaria, Salted Caramel Lucaria, full of toffee, coffee, chocolate and creaminess. A lovely pint to savour.

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Whilst that was going down, so was Thornbridge bingo, Sean’s latest game. Pretty much as you would imagine, bingo cards with names of Thornbridge beers on, and then beer names drawn out of a box to tick off on your card. We had time for a couple of rounds, and we won a couple of lines on our table, with prizes on all of the other tables too. Great fun.

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More chat, and then James remembered something. He disappeared downstairs and returned with two bottles of Serpent to share around. Serpent was the subject of our first Thornbridge night, so once again I think we scared James a bit with our knowledge of it. I bought a bottle that night, and we had it on New Year’s Eve last year. It had aged well.

We had some more tonight, surprised that there was still some in existence. It has continued to age well, still dominated by apple, with some bourbon smoothness in the background. It continues to be the beer that is not a beer.

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There was time to sample Necessary Evil, an absolute malt bomb full of all the malts.

Another great night out at The Needle & Pin. Great fun with lovely people, and perfectly kept beers as usual. Looking forward to the 2019 version already!