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.

Brentwood Brewing Company, May 2017

The next door neighbour of Calcott Hall Farm Shop (and hence I usually visit one after the other), Brentwood Brewing Company moved in to this, their third premises, during 2013. Not many breweries find themselves in an old potato barn, but this is a perfect site, with so much passing trade from the farm shop, where their beers are also on sale if the brewery is closed.

Their are tours and events on certain days, or you can just turn up and buy some bottles, like I did. The door might be locked, just ring the bell, there’s someone always lurking somewhere during opening hours.

Today I went to pick up some new bottles from their new “rebellious offspring” Elephant School Brewing. A British East India Company elephant training school was based in Brentwood and this remained an active army base as a depot for the Essex Regiment until 1959, when much of the site was redeveloped as the European headquarters of the Ford Motor Company.

The beers from this offspring are not your traditional cask ales, so there are plenty of different styles on offer, and they are always on the look out for new recipes…

Today’s haul contains:-

Sombrero – 4.5% – a burst of passion fruit and hint of mint start a fiesta in your mouth that you won’t want to stop. Tipping its wide brimmed hat to its European saison roots, its flavour transports you to Mexico for a party that lasts to the bottom of your glass.

Cheru Kol – 4.5% – a glorious embellishment of flavours brought together in this collaboration of styles from Belgium and England. The honeyed sweetness of the figs wrapped around the spicy, piney tang of the rosemary combine with the eccentricities of the Belgian yeast.

Porter in a Storm – 4.9% – for a taste that will have you singing in the rain, this rich porter showers your tastebuds with waves of chocolate, fruity and bitter with successive sips. Porter in a Storm is one to pour down your throat if you’re caught in a downpour or any time you want a great beer.

Looking forward to trying out this haul soon…

The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – selection box #4 – May 2017

This is the fourth selection box from the N&P,  and the seventh overall. I’ve got one left from selection box #3 and one from box #2 that I need to drink up. Let’s dive in…

Abbeydale/Magic Rock/Northern/Monk/Siren – 4 Degrees of Separation – 7%

A collaboration and reunion rolled into one. Three brewers who began their careers at Abbeydale returned for one day only from their current posts at Magic rock, Siren, & Northern Monk to take full advantage of the brewery’s massive hopstore. This beer combines Amarillo, Nelson Sauvin, Cascade & Galaxy hops to create this big, bold and oh so juicy IPA. I knew I wanted to try this one, so I also bought a can last month whilst shopping in Beer District. Now I have two 🙂

Pig and Porter – Whispering Bob American IPA – 6.5%

A lesser known brewery who featured on #craftbeerhour just last night. This beer is named in honour of the legend that is “Whispering” Bob Harris, still whispering away after 71 years. This American IPA is packed full of Amarillo, Simcoe, EXP431 (catchy name) and Citra hops to give hints of peach, grapefruit and pine, all married with a gentle toffee background from Pig and Porter’s signature Belgian aromatic malt.

Roosters – Baby-Faced Assassin – 6.1%

I had this one a couple of times last year, as these are available in Booths. Brewed with 100% Citra hops that create aromas of mango, apricot, grapefruit & mandarin orange, along with a lasting, juicy, tropical fruit bitterness, the Baby-Faced Assassin is a deceptively quaffable India Pale Ale that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Siren – Ten Dollar Shake – 6.6%

Another one that I had last year, this beer was originally brewed in collaboration with Brewdog Shepherds Bush. Siren and the Brewdog team put their heads together to create a fruit smoothie of a beer, a juice-packed IPA with the most fruit they’ve ever used in a brew (mango, papaya and passion fruit). Add to that a huge hit of lactose for a thick and smooth body and you have something as smooth as silk. A silk woven from hops and a calippo. This is a juice bomb.

Weird Beard – Little Things That Kill – 3.8%

With a low ABV beer it is difficult to smack you over the head with hops, however Weird Beard have thought of a way around this. Little Things that Kill will sneak round behind you, cut your hamstrings, then when you are on the ground, smack you over the head with hops. A session IPA hopped with Citra, Summit and Mosaic? Yes please!

This beer will have the same malt and body each time, but the hops will change depending on the whim of the brewers.

Wild Weather – Great British Opaque Off – 5.2%

With help from their friends at Bad Seed brewery, Wild Weather have tried to create their own juicy murk bomb. They think they’ve done it. I’ll soon find out. On your marks. Get set. Opaque! It will be appearing on cask at the N&P soon, alongside Skadoosh, their new 11% DIPA. I already have a can of that 🙂

Buxton Brewery Tap, April 2017

We’ve been here before. In May 2015 to be precise. Ever since that visit we’ve been wanting to come back. It took almost 2 years, but we made it 🙂

After a leisurely morning of strolling around Buxton, including a little shopping at Beer District, we were ready for some lunch. There was only ever going to be one place we were going to go. I had been singing the praises of Buxton Brewery Tap for a while, and with MOFAD drinking companions Matt & Steve as well as Mrs MOFAD, Hazel, Janette and Andy and Kerrie all in tow, I was hoping that there would be something for everyone here.

There was.

My choice was Myrica, a tasty session IPA with oaty smoothness and hazy hoppiness

Mrs MOFAD opted for the Sky Mountain Sour, a collaboration between Buxton and To Øl which has resulted in a nicely balanced sour ale. Mrs MOFAD was a fan of this.

Matt & Steve both had a Rednik Stout which was right up their street. Kerrie tried the Lemon Meringue Pie, which both Mrs MOFAD and I really like. She was not a fan, but surprisingly Hazel (the queen of tea who is not a beer drinker) liked it, and ended up with a bottle to take home.

On to that lunch, I had a buffalo burger with potato wedges, which was very tasty and a perfect portion for lunch. Mrs MOFAD opted for chicken souvlaki, marinated in yoghurt, mustard, lemon & oregano and served with sautéed peppers, tzatziki, sunblush salad & pitta breads. This which was also very nice. My burger came from the specials board, so it might not be available when you visit. Perhaps plates will be though, as this burger appeared on a board.

On then to the shopping. You can’t come here and not take away a bottle or two. Or ten. You’ll spot the “Belgians” on the left, a Bourbon Skyline (barrel aged Berliner weisse), another Sky Mountain Sour and Lemon Meringue Pie for Mrs MOFAD, a Trolltunga (just another gooseberry sour IPA), a Superluminal (sour IPA) and one more.

That last one is Bomba Generation 4, the sequel to Tsar Bomba Generation III which was almost beer of the year for me in 2016. Generation 4 of the Buxton Brett fermented Imperial Stout has been born. The yeast strain from 1978 is alive and well and has chewed relentlessly through the regular Russian Imperial Stout to bring us the Great Grandson of the original batch. This one will go into storage for a while, and come out on a special occasion. If it’s as good as Generation III then it will be rather special.

Matt & Steve also did some shopping, although none of us could convince the nice people behind the bar to thrown in a free glass, despite the amount that we were all spending…

Another great trip to the Buxton Brewery Tap. If you are ever in Buxton, go there. You will find good food and great beer to drink in and take away. End of.

Beer District, Buxton, April 2017

Today we were having a morning out in Buxton with MOFAD companions, Hazel, Matt, Janette, Steve, Kerrie & Andy. Nothing in particular planned, just wandering around the shops. There were a couple of important places that we had lined up. I won’t be reviewing the wool shop (this was Mrs MOFAD’s important destination).

This was the first of my important destinations. Beer District was opened in August 2016 by Matt and Darren, two friends who wanted to bring local beers to Buxton, as well as selling some things from other UK breweries and beers and ciders from further afield.

If it’s local you’re after, you’ll find beers from Thornbridge, Whaley Bridge Brewery and Torrside Brewing, as well as things from across the border (Manchester based breweries such as Cloudwater).

I was in beer heaven perusing the shelves, and did have to limit myself to try and avoid buying everything on display. Fellow beer lovers Matt & Steve were also drooling at the selection of beers on offer, and we all left with bulging sacks full of beer. My selection is below:-

You’ll spot the newly released Mango Halcyon from Thornbridge, two from Whaley Bridge (the first time I’ve seen them in the wild), a Double Heathen from Northern Monk, a couple from Ashover brewery (first time I’ve seen these too), and something from Swedish brewery Dugges.

Looking forward to trying these all over the coming weeks and months. This is the best selection of beers from different craft breweries you’ll find in Buxton. Waitrose have a few good ones but nothing like the variety on offer here. There’s also cider, gin, vodka, whisky and some interesting mixers too.

Get down here for great beer.

The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – Dark Beer selection box #2 – April 2017

This is the sixth selection box from the N&P, the second from the Dark Beer Club. I’ve now sampled all except one from the first dark beer selection box, as I’m saving Buxton Rainshadow for a rainy day. Let’s take a peek into box number two…

Moor – Old Freddy Walker – 7.3%

Moor, from Bristol, are celebrating their 10th 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. I’m really looking forward to this one.

North Riding – Neapolitan Milk Stout – 4.5%

I had this one just a few weeks ago. Brewed especially for the Needle & Pin, the casks sold out very quickly. They also bottled some for the Dark Beer Club. It is like childhood in a glass, the 1980s chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice cream classic in beer form.

Siren – Bourbon Broken Dream Extra Shot – 6.5%

Siren are at the top of their game when it comes to dark beers. This special edition of Broken Dream is brewed with Siren’s very own bourbon barrel aged coffee. They source the finest green beans (coffee beans) from Guatemala and age them in wet barrels for at least 12 months before roasting in small batches when required.

Stringers – Mutiny – 9%

Another champion. This time, champion bottled beer of Britain, awarded by CAMRA in November 2016. This imperial stout is brewed with seven different types of malt, oats and barley, and three types of hop. It has huge flavours of chocolate, coffee and liquorice, with vinous and hedgerow fruits. It almost impossible to get hold of, so it’s a bit of a coup to get a bottle in this month’s selection.

Tiny Rebel – Staypuft Marshmallow Porter – 5.2%

Another one that I had last month, and another that is also quite tricky to get hold of. Mallow sweetness and very smoky bitterness. Smooth too. Very nice.

Weird Beard – 7th Church of the Apocalyptic Lawnmower – 6.5%

We save the best named beer until last, a collaboration between Weird Beard and Anspach & Hobday. A lawnmower beer is somewhere between a lager and an ale, the kind of beer that you crack open and quaff whilst mowing the lawn or working out in the yard. This one has been tampered with.

Taking the A&H cream ale as a base recipe and then amping it up with flaked corn for a smooth finish, Blackprinz dark malt, and the coconut flavours Sorachi Ace hops, mixed in with some Summit hops for good measure.

Dark Beer night at The Needle & Pin, February 2017

The latest Needle & Pin event is upon us. This one turned out to have a little twist on all of the previous beer tasting events. There was a little bit of food involved, pairing some little nibbles with a selection of 5 dark beers. Tonight’s event sold out in record time, and got expanded a few times. It seems that there are plenty of dark beer fans out there.

Once again, this feels like one of those events that you expect to find in London bars and brewery taps, so it’s really great to have it in our sleepy little market town. Let’s begin…

Gouden Carolus Classic was awarded “world’s best dark ale” at the 2012 World Beer awards, and also won gold at the 2015 awards. It pours a deep red, viscous with sweet notes or raisin, toffee and chocolate.

This was paired with some cave aged Gruyere cheese, and this was a great match, bringing out the creamy flavours of the cheese, and the sweet raisins in the beer.

Moor Stout is dark, smooth and rich, with roasted barley and bitter chocolate. Simple, unpretentious and highly drinkable, it has the hallmarks of a classic black beer, no unicorn hair, solar dust or celebrity nail clippings.

There were 2 potential matches with this one. Some Bavarian smoked cheese was first, but for me it didn’t work as it was way too subtle. I like my smoked cheeses to have little wisps of smoke coming out of them (heavily smoked) but this was too subtle for my tastes. The second match was Roquefort, and that was a winner, with the tanginess standing up very well against the heavy roast flavours of the beer.

Beavertown Smog Rocket Smoked Porter was inspired by London’s industrial revolution, when smog filled the air and the London porter was the beer of the working man. This was an original home brew recipe, using 9 different malts, including plenty of smoked Rauchmaltz from Bamberg in Germany. Big flavour hits of molasses, rasins and caramel are cut through by the resinous American Chinook hop. Smoky aromas abound, reminiscent of the smoke stacks of industrial London.

This match was my favourite of the night, smoked brisket from across the road at The Hog Stop. An extra smoky brisket was commissioned, to match up with the lovely chocolate smokiness from the Smog Rocket. Both were delicious.

Thornbridge’s Eldon is named after the Eldon Hole, one of the seven wonders of the Peak District. It is a Bourbon oak imperial stout, smooth and roasty, brewed with demerara sugar, with added complexity coming from the Bourbon soured oak. Caramel, coffee and chocolate mix with a hint of vanilla and Kentucky bourbon.

The food match for this was a piece of last minute inspiration, a Medjool date to match with some of the sweetness from the demarara sugar. The match was good, although this was probably my least favourite beer of the night. It felt a bit thin and underwhelming, unusual for a Thornbridge beer.

Finally, Bristol Beer Factory Milk Stout. This award winning national champion stout is a beautifully creamy, full-bodied stout, the likes of which were brewed nearly a century ago on the very site of the Bristol Beer Factory today. Does not contain milk. Invigorating & stimulating for workers (or so they used to say). Brewed within the city of Bristol from local raw materials, sweet, black and extremely full-bodied. Unfermentable lactose sugar (added during the boil) sweetens the chocolate and black malt derived roast flavours. An historic beer, recreated for the modern drinker.

This matched nicely with one of Rebecca’s (aka Mrs Needle & Pin) hand made creations, an Oreo and salted caramel petit four. The sweetness balanced nicely between the two, and rounded off a lovely evening of beer tasting and chat, with the added bonus of some nice nibbles.

There’s always time for some shopping, usually this involves picking up things that I’ve previously reserved, and tonight was no exception. Several new Cloudwater brews (and a delicious coffee porter for MOFAD supplier Matt) as well as a couple of new IPAs, a barrel aged weisse and two imperial stouts (one for Matt).

Another great night out at the Needle & Pin, not hard to see why it was my pub of the year for 2016