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!

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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 – 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 – dark beer selection box #10 – August 2018

More darkness awaits within…

Arbor – Amarone Bristol Porter – 8.4%

One of the favourite N&P breweries have excelled themselves here with a rare dark beer brew, a barrel aged imperial porter brewed with eight different grains and Bramling Cross hops. The recipe for this strong porter was devised to create complex notes of chocolate, burnt caramel and stone fruit. After fermentation, it was matured in Amarone barrels, which allowed these flavours to mellow and contributed additional touches of raisin & vanilla.

De Struise – Cuvee Delphine – 13%

After the success of the De Struise in a recent Dark Beer Club,  it was time for another one. Their beer Black Albert was used in a new barrel aging project. More than a year ago, Carlo was able to get his hands on a stock of Four Roses Bourbon barrels, and filled them up. This unique creation was originally to be named 4 Black Roses in honour of its heritage, but Four Roses strongly advised against it. As the disowned offspring of Black Albert, the name Cuvée Delphine imposed itself. Savouring the Belgian irony, the artwork on the label is by Delphine Boël.

Rudgate – Ruby Mild – 4.4%

Time to go a bit old school. A dark cherry, ruby red mild, with an aroma of sweet, strawberries, and smoke, tasting soft, rich and complex.

To 0l – Mr Brown – 10.0%

This year’s Mr. Brown is very brown. An intense and full bodied stout, brewed with coffee and matured with cognac oak chips and cedar spirals for richness.

West by Three – Chocolate Milk Stout – 4.5%

This was on draft a few months ago and everyone loved it. This deep and creamy stout is built on a rich chocolate malt foundation and laden with toffee aroma from the Amber and Crystal malts. Is it the closest thing you can get to liquid cake? The rolled oats and lactose sugar work together to create a velvet smooth mouth feel. The sweetness is balanced with a touch of bitterness and some subtle chocolaty notes from the cacao nibs. Enjoy this decadent ale with your favourite roast dinner or rich dessert.

Wylam – Macchiato – 6.5%

Wylam have appeared occasionally in the N&P since opening, but you can expect to see a lot more of them in the fridges and on the taps. This hazelnut praline coffee porter has a complex grain bill for extra body and mouth feel, and a cold brew hazelnut coffee shines through in this winter warming porter.

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The Needle & Pin craft beer club – dark beer selection box #9 – June 2018

Off we go with another dark beer selection box, some interesting flavours to explore here, even in the height of summer.

Anderson Valley – Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout – 5.8%

With its deep, dark brown-black colour, thick, full-bodied, velvety-smooth mouth feel, mocha character, and, strong (yet subtle) hop bite, Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout is one of the thickest, richest, and most complex stouts on the market today.

Bear Republic – Big Bear – 8.1%

Big Bear is a big, black stout that you can really sink your teeth into. The bold, roasty, caramel malt flavour is balanced by those American favourites Centennial and Cascade hops.

Elusive Brewing – Invisible Wall – 8.2%

For their 100th brew Elusive pushed the boat out and brewed something big and decadent. This rich milk stout was taken to the next level by organic cacao nibs that were soaked in Bourbon and a single-origin coffee from Hasbean.

Marble – Decadence – 10.5%

Another big beast from Marble, a double mashed Russian Imperial Stout, barrel aged for nine months, so that it gives a satisfying viscosity with dark and firm bitterness, Black Forest fruits and a hopped aroma.

Odyssey – Grievous Angel V3 – 9%

The third in the series of Odyssey’s Imperial Oatmeal Brown Stouts. The colour is a deep brown and the aroma is all about the coconut and vanilla. A big, smooth body initially yields more coconut and vanilla before chocolate and coffee flavours round the beer out beautifully.

Tiny Rebel/Fierce Beer – Orange Mocha Frapp – 7%

Tiny Rebel’s friends up at Fierce are some of the best in the business when it comes to adding other flavours to beer. Tiny Rebel also think they’re pretty good at it, so they collaborated on a beer with LOTS going on. Inspired by Derek Zoolander’s coffee of choice, Orange Mocha Frapp Stout does exactly what it says on the tin. Orange, chocolate and coffee. It’s reported to be awesome.

Brewdog Fanzine issue 5

A new set of beers have arrived. Hopefully none of them are as bad as the English IPA from issue 4, which was very poor by BD standards, like a tribute to Greene King IPA (and why would you do that?)

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Origami Orangutan – 8.5% – Tangerine Double IPA

A big, classic American IPA brewed to double strength and packed with C hops and tangerine. The addition of tangerine carries itself through the beer with notes of pine, citrus and fresh cut grass also making an appearance.

King of Eights v2 – 7.4% – East Coast IPA

This juicy, smooth New England IPA has returned, and this time around it’s been double dry-hopped with an increase in ABV. Hopped with just Citra (but a lot of it), the hops take the spotlight and show exactly what they are capable of. After tasting it, there’s a lot of Citra but not much else in there.

Alice Porter – 6.2% – Nitro Porter

The first #ReBrewDog for Fanzine is here, and it’s pretty darn special! The enigmatic porter Alice Porter is back, brewed with the addition of vanilla and put into nitro cans exclusively for Fanzine.

Brewdog Fanzine issue 3, May 2018

The next issue of fanzine is upon us. Might be a while before these ones get sampled as there are a couple of big beasts.

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Ten Ton Truck (Espresso Edition) – 10% – Stout / Porter

An evolution of previous Fanzine release, Nebula with the addition of espresso coffee. Fruity espresso, bitter chocolate and roastiness on the nose. Followed by a payload of bitter coffee red berry, dark chocolate and some floral notes.

Pulp Patriot – 9.5% – IPA

An amped up spin on our previous Milkshake IPA, this fruited NEIPA combines peach, mango and milk sugar with low bitterness. A juggernaut of a double IPA that delivers a payload of big fruit with mango and peach front and centre. Milk sugar builds and rounds out the full juicy notes.

Zephyr V2 (Lime Gose Edition) – 4.6% – Sour Ale

The latest twist on our Fanzine session sour, emulating a sour German wheat ale, with lime and salt. A zesty gose with a twist of lime and a pinch of salt to crank up the crisp sour character. A juicy, bright beer, with a light acidity resting on a biscuity backbone.