The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – dark beer selection box #4 – August 2017

This is the tenth selection box from the N&P and the fourth from the dark beer club. I’ve still got one bottle left from the first box (Buxton Rainshadow), two from the second (Mutiny and Old Freddy Walker) and two from the third (Omnipollo Noa and Buxton/Stillwater Subliminal Imperial Stout). These are all big beasts, not for when you are keeping it session.

Let’s dive in to this month’s selection.

Campervan – Mutiny on the Bounty – 4.2%

Take your taste buds on an exotic adventure. Campervan are not afraid to rock the boat when it comes to giving their beer identity. This rebellious milk stout gets its unique aroma from the use of roasted coconut at the conditioning stage. Relish the chocolate and coffee infusion before soaking up the subtle vanilla flavour. A real hit when a cask of it was on in the N&P earlier this year.

Kernel – Imperial Brown Stout 1856 – 9.9%

Another of those big beasts. Kernel brewery export stout gets a lot less praise than it deserves. This deep and opulent dark beer harks back to a previous era, when London was at the forefront of the brewing industry. Layer upon layer of dark malts with a nice bitter edge, all rolled around waming alcohol undertones.

Modern Times – Black House – 5.8%

Another hard to get hold of beer from San Diego’s Modern Times brewery.  Black House is an oatmeal coffee stout bursting with coffee aromas and flavours. Modern Times roast their own coffee so they can choose exactly what beans to use and how to roast them. The result is a complex and aromatic beer, with lots of roasted character and a chocolate covered coffee bean finish. All of this packed in to only 5.8% so you could even enjoy it by the pint.

Northern Monk / Other Half Patrons Project 1.04 – Leeds Lurking – 10%

Not the snappiest of titles is it? Doesn’t actually tell you anything about the beer, a collaboration between Leeds’ Northern Monk and New York’s Other Half. It’s just your standard every day run of the mill morello cherry and Peruvian coffee imperial porter. Said no-one ever. We had this at the home made Hooky beer festival last month, lots of coffee bitterness and the cherry comes through really late.

Pig and Porter – Gothic – 7.4%

Intense, dark, brooding, sinister and really rather tasty. Gothic was apparently Pig and Porter’s first bottled dark beer, although this particular incarnation is canned. It features ten different malts and a blend of English, German and American hops, all of which combine to produce a complex, rich, dark and fruity flavour.

Apparently best drunk in a remote moorland farmhouse, on a dark and stormy night, with a full moon and a sense of foreboding.

Thornbridge – Cocoa Wonderland – 6.8%

I first had this in July 2015 at the second Thornbridge Peakender (the one that they spoilt with greed). It is a riot of chocolate flavours, a full bodied, robust porter with natural mocha malt flavours from the complex malt grist, complementing the decadent additions of real chocolate to the maturation process. I loved it so much that it was beer of the month for July 2015. Nice to have another one to enjoy.

Looking forward to enjoying some of these as the nights draw in…

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Beer of the month – July 2017 – Intensified Barrel-Aged Coffee Porter by Brooklyn Brewery

Another of those months where all the beers in the shortlist for beer of the month were not sampled in a pub, bar or similar. There were a few trips to those establishments, but one of them was so bad I resorted to lime and soda. There is a pub of the month this month, which at least beats May, when there wasn’t an award for the first time.

Several of these beers were sampled at our own mini beer festival, the home-made Hooky beer fest.

Let’s dive in.

First up we have an X-Girlfriend by Weird Beard Brew Co. This beer was specially designed to showcase what hops can do in a low ABV beer. A playful mix of Galaxy, Citra and experimental HBC431 for a fruity vibe. Happiness = hoppiness. Way better than so many so called IPAs.

Off to the camp site next for a Tropic Thunder by Dugges Bryggeri, a joint effort with nomadic brewer Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal. A sour ale with brewed with lactobacillus and fermented with mango, passion fruit and peach. Lilt. The totally tropical taste. In beer form. Bottom centre in this collage.

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To Denmark next, by way of Ulverston (Booths) for Green Gold by Mikkeller, which was full of bittersweet hoppy goodness. Just my kind of thing.

More hops now, with “I Played Trumpet On That Tune” by Verdant Brewing Co (they love an interesting beer name). This was a very good New England/Vermont style IPA, cloudy, smooth, and fruity, with an artfully refined bitterness. Hoppy and dank, and very juicy.

If you’ve been following beer of the month this year, you’ll recall that Cloudwater have already got 4 beers through to the end of year finals. They almost made it 5, but after careful consideration, they take bronze and silver this month instead.

In bronze medal place we have the DDH IPA Citra by Cloudwater Brew Co. DDH stands for “double dry hopped”. Cloudwater has doubled the amount of hops in this IPA to bring us the brewery’s first DDH IPA. Fermented with WLP4000 yeast and dry-hopped with Citra, Amarillo, Chinook and Centennial (big name American hops). WLP4000 yeast was isolated from a uniquely crafted double IPA from the the USA and produces a balanced fruity ester profile of peaches and light citrus that complements any aggressively hopped beer.

Dry hopping is the process of adding hops to a beer to add more of a hop aroma. As you do not boil the hops, you won’t be extracting any of the oils from them, and therefore will not be contributing to the beer’s bitterness. What you will be adding are hop flavour and aroma. If you are a big hop fan, dry hopping is a must.

Nom Nom Nom. An hoppy juice bomb. Perfect with spicy dhansak. Yes please!

Another big IPA next, in the form of NW DIPA Citra, also by Cloudwater Brew Co. This was a super juicy murk bomb full of relentless Citra bitterness. My taste buds appear to be perfectly aligned for this beer.

So what kept Cloudwater from the top spot this month? It was an Intensified Barrel-Aged Coffee Porter by Brooklyn Brewery. It starts as a big, chocolatey ale, ready to take on super powers. The first power is gained from months of aging in Kentucky bourbon barrels. The second arises from delectable beans harvested from Finca El Manzano Single Origin Coffee in El Salvador. The final power comes from Blue Bottle Coffee, who roast the coffee to perfection. Brooklyn advise that you brace yourself for complex notes of dark chocolate, vanilla, oak, berries, and dried fruit.

I advise that you seek this out. I’ve finally found out what bourbon barrels are for. Bourbon is not my thing, but it adds a lot to this beer. It’s a super coffee beast. Thanks to regular MOFAD drinking companion Matt for sharing it with us.

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That should spice up the end of year battle a bit!

The home made Hooky beer festival, July 2017

You may recall from last year that we went to the Hook Norton beer festival. A festival in a field on a farm. With poorly kept beer. And not much else going for it, apart from the company. We returned to the area this year, but with a different plan.

A very simple plan. We would hold our own beer festival, supplying our own beer. I even made tasting notes. Probably more detailed than they needed to be, but I’ve been exposed to plenty of Sean’s tasting notes now and it was good fun putting them together. They follow below, and then I’ll move on to the round up of the beers we had.

First, a note about sour beers…

Traditional sour beers are usually created through mixed fermentation of the beer after it has boiled. This mixed fermentation can be simultaneous (traditional yeast, wild yeast, and bacteria added all at the same time), or sequential in a separate vessel. In this case, a beer will be fermented traditionally with common brewer’s yeast until it is at or near completion. This beer will then be transferred into barrels (usually oak, sometimes stainless steel tanks) where wild yeasts and bacteria will begin to re-ferment the beer, consuming sugars that traditional yeasts are unable to eat.

One byproduct of this secondary fermentation by bacteria is lactic acid, which, along with acetic acid and other organic acids, is responsible for souring the liquid. This process often takes a long time, from months to years, but yields a complex final product that can be served as-is, or mixed with young beer to temper the sourness and add complexity (the Belgian style Geuze uses this technique). These beers will continue to develop and sour with time, including in the bottle.

If you don’t have time to wait for a beer to age in the barrel, then you can use a kettle souring process, in which the lactic acid is generated by a primary fermentation of a bacterial culture (often lactobacillus, which could come from a lab or even yoghurt) for several hours (all the way up to a few days) before a final boil is conducted to kill the bacteria, halt the production of lactic acid, and continue with a secondary fermentation by traditional yeast.

Gose is a top-fermented beer that originated in Goslar, Germany. It is brewed with at least 50% of the grain used being malted wheat. Dominant flavours in gose include a lemon sourness, an herbal characteristic, and a strong saltiness (the result of either local water sources or added salt). Gose beers typically do not have prominent hop bitterness, flavours, or aroma. The beers typically have a moderate alcohol content of 4 to 5% ABV.

That’s the science bit, now the beers…

Thornbridge – Tart – 6% – sour ale

A “Bakewell sour” brewed in collaboration with Wild Beer Co., Tart pours a golden yellow colour with a white head, and is refreshingly tart and dry with a combination of citrus hops and flavours of grapefruit and bitter lemon. The name Tart is inspired by the Bakewell delicacy where Thornbridge are based and accurately describes the flavour of the beer in a single word.

Dugges – Tropic Thunder – 4.5% – sour ale

Tropic Thunder is a joint effort with nomadic brewer Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal. This sour ale was brewed with lactobacillus and fermented with plenty of mango, passion fruit and peaches to produce something akin to an alcoholic Rio.

In 2002 Mikael Dugge Engström had a meeting with an Englishman, who was in the business of selling second hand breweries. This got Mikael thinking. How cool would it be to have your own brewery and brew your own beer?

With all the energy of a man possessed Mikael started studying Swedish alcohol legislation (which is pretty extensive), read up on everything and anything he could find on brewing beer and going on visits to anyone who would have him, getting tips and making friends. All while he started buying the parts needed to build a small brewery. In 2005, he opened one. In 2010 he moved to a bigger one. In 2017 he doubled capacity again.

Modern Times – Fruitlands Blood Orange and Hibiscus sour – 4.8% – Gose

Fruitlands is tart, fruity & frighteningly delicious. The sour, salty base beer lays down the funky refreshment, while a heavy dose of blood oranges & hibiscus turns the whole thing into a wall-to-wall citrus fiesta, with tart, floral notes from the hibiscus adding beautifully to the profile. It’s a marvelous mix of elements that collides with your mouth like a fruit-filled asteroid of flavor traveling at the supersonic speed of party.

Modern Times is a brewery from the Point Loma neighbourhood of San Diego, named after a beautifully crazy utopian community founded in 1850. Almost all of their beers are named after real utopian experiments or mythological utopias.

Wild Weather – One Eyed Iain Salted Caramel Porter – 6.2% – English porter

A collaboration with Electric Bear, where rich malts flow around a sweet caramel base creating waves of decadence as your tongue experiences each flavour. This is driven home by a slight salted note to awaken both the nose and mouth.

Boom! Came the sound of the thunder, and as the rain came down like beads bouncing from the mash tun, Wild Weather Ales was born! Brewed in Silchester (just outside Reading) and drawing inspiration from new world hops, Germany’s malts and beer styles from across the globe, Wild Weather Ales vow to make your drinking experience as enjoyable as their brewing.

Now with their own on site canning line, collaborations with some of the UK’s most inspirational brewers, and being more and more readily available nationwide Wild Weather is experiencing wild growth.

“Striking branding” you might say. Wild Weather say thank you, but they can hardly take all the credit. When they approached the punk artist and guitarist from the London punk band MÜG he jumped at the chance to have his work displayed across some of this fair land’s greatest drinking establishments.

Cloudwater Brew Co – DDH IPA Citra – 6% – India Pale Ale

DDH stands for “double dry hopped”. Cloudwater has doubled the amount of hops in this IPA to bring you the brewery’s first DDH IPA. Fermented with WLP4000 yeast and dry-hopped with Citra, Amarillo, Chinook and Centennial (big name American hops). WLP4000 yeast was isolated from a uniquely crafted double IPA from the the USA and produces a balanced fruity ester profile of peaches and light citrus that complements any aggressively hopped beer.

Dry hopping is the process of adding hops to a beer to add more of a hop aroma. Traditionally, dry hopping is done in beer styles like pale ales and IPAs, but brewers are utilising this process in many other styles as well. Since you are not boiling the hops, you won’t be extracting any of the oils from them, and therefore will not be contributing to the beer’s bitterness. What you will be adding are hop flavour and aroma. If you are a big hop fan, dry hopping is a must.

At the heart of Cloudwater Brew Co is a deep love for the changing seasons, each bringing with it an invitation to enjoy the scarcity and abundance the natural world offers. Cloudwater want to showcase the ebb and flow by using seasonal ingredients at their very best, and taking inspiration from the change of lifestyle each season creates.

Boundary Brewing Cooperative – Joyous Abandon – 4.8% – Saison

Joyous Abandon is their first bottled mixed fermentation Saison. Using a house culture, they aged this Raspberry Saison in a Pinot Noir barrel and allowed the critters to do what they do best. This beer is the future.

Boundary Brewing Cooperative are a Cooperative Brewery in Belfast owned and run by their members. Opening in 2014, they are the first brewery in NI to bring together modern US styles with the more traditional Belgian/French style beers.

That was just our beer selection. Matt & Steve also brought beers. We alternated between offerings from our various selections. No overall plan, just whatever we felt like.

Printemps from Unity Brewing (a nettle saison) which kicked off our evening (good with fish’n’chips), Project Barista : Turkish from Siren (a big coffee beast), Zuur Goosberry (gooseberry sour) and Mangomarillo from Watsons Brewery in Essex (fruity mango flavours, but not an IPA). We mixed things up with a little Tropic Thunder from Dugges (alcoholic Lilt).

The beer of the festival came next. Intensified Barrel Aged Coffee Porter from Brooklyn Brewery finally showed me what bourbon barrels are for. Making a great beer like this one. We were all blown away by this one. Apart from Hazel (who produced the facial reaction of the festival) and Mrs MOFAD (who was equally unimpressed).

More coffee came next with a Northern Monk patrons project collaboration, morello cherry and Peruvian coffee imperial porter. More coffee bitterness, but the cherry comes through very late.

That was day one. I started off day two with my Cloudwater DDH IPA Citra, which was absolutely fantastic. A hoppy juice bomb that was perfect with my spicy dhansak.

We went sour to kick things off for everyone, with another Vibrant Forest, this time Zuur Rhubarb, which was very pleasant.

Trolltunga from Buxton Brewery was up next, coincidentally we had opened some just two days before. It was just as good 🙂

My bottle of Joyous Abandon was next, a raspberry saison which would be perfect in summer. I know that it is summer, but it wasn’t quite summery enough today.

Back down south next for Tellicherry from Winchester’s Red Cat Brewing, a peppercorn wheat beer. I couldn’t detect the pepper anywhere.

Steve’s Portugese import was next, Coral Tónica from Empresa de Cervejas da Madeira. We’d all had worse, but it didn’t exactly set the world on fire.

Another Red Cat next, Naked Sour (that should get some more hits on this post), a simple and unadulterated sour.

We moved on to Essex next, for Watsons Imperial Black Otter. Allegedly a black IPA or Cascadian dark ale, the nose promises loads of hops, but they are weirdly absent from the palate. A nice dark ale, but I really wanted to taste all of those hops that my nose told me were present.

To round things off, we returned to yesterday’s lovely Project Barista : Turkish from Siren.

It is fair to say that our Hooky beer festival was way better than the official one last year. Great beers, well kept (in bottles and cans) and a good array of styles and flavours. We had all curated some of our favourite styles alongside a few different things. Thanks to Matt & Steve for their selections.

Looking forward to doing it all again in a few months! Already got some good ones lined up 🙂

Beer of the month, June 2017 – Spring + Summer IPA Mosaic Exp 431 by Cloudwater Brew Co

A holiday month often results in some difficult choices for beer of the month, as there have usually been many beer tasting opportunities. This month was no exception. These ones all came from the supermarket, but only one of them actually made it into the top ten or so. That shows what a good month it has been.

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Let’s start with that supermarket beer, which is not a derogatory term in this case. Shameless by Redwillow Brewery has a lovely hop profile, and is a cracking little IPA.

We’re off to Cheltenham next, for a Steady Rolling Man by DEYA Brewing Company, which was full of delicious tropical hoppiness. I didn’t have a copy of 461 Ocean Boulevard to hand, so I couldn’t accompany it with Eric Clapton’s cover of the Robert Johnson song.

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We stay with DEYA for Into the Haze, very chewy, soft and full of fruity hoppiness. Smooth and delicious.

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We stay with hops (as with most months) with a Tap Type APA by Magic Rock Brewing, also full of hoppy juiciness. You may spot a pattern of hops and juice – that’s the trend right now and it’s fine by me.

Psychokinesis by Magic Rock Brewing is next in the round up, very much a herby and fruity IPA with a hint of mint (and lime) in the finish. Very good this one.

A detour to Sours night for almost all of the rest of the best beers of the month.

Dark of Ages Past by Wild Weather Ales (featuring Calculon) was full of awesome blueberry flavours, one of the best sour fruit beers I’ve had for a while.

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Superluminal by Buxton Brewery was one that I was expecting to have massive hoppiness. In fact it was full of enormous grapefruit flavours but no hops. Pucker up buttercup! Mrs MOFAD loved it, the first for any beer labelled IPA.

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We take a quick trip to Newcastle for the next two. Knowledge by Rhinegeist Brewery was sampled at BrewDog Newcastle, and is made from peachy loveliness. The fruit takes over from the hops but it works so well. It took a while to work out what was going on, but it was really nice.

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Just down the road at Box Social I enjoyed this North Brewing and Het Uiltje Double IPA collaboration, full of grassy, hoppy, orangey sweetness. Yum yum!

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Back to sours night. A Vandervelden 135 Oude Geuze Vieille by Brouwerij Oud Beersel was one of our “bonus beers”. I’d already bought one of these, and after our tasting my bottle is going into storage for a large number of years. A wine amongst beers. It might just be rather special in a good few years.

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Once again we find ourselves travelling (metaphorically) to Cloudwater Brew Co. for our winner, the Spring + Summer IPA Mosaic Exp 431.

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Juicy tropical/stone fruit hoppiness is overflowing in this one. This is what a stone fruit IPA should be like. Take note BrewDog! It goes through to the end of year final.

 

Booths, Ulverston, June 2017

These posts pop up several times a year. Booths is still our best supermarket when it comes to good beer.  Tesco have made great strides this year, chucking out dozens of Heineken lines and replacing them with good beer. Asda are catching up. Waitrose are expanding their range (our most local one has just started stocking Redchurch from Bethnal Green). Morrisons are keeping up. Sainsburys are still rather average.

Booths are still better that all of those. They stock loads of local beers (Hesket Newmarket pictured here), bigger names such as Brewdog, imports such as Connecticut’s Two Roads and other smaller names from around the country such as RedWillow from Macclesfield.

As this selection shows, plenty of breweries, and plenty of different styles to tempt you. You can also buy good food there too 🙂

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.

Beer of the month, May 2017 – Blacklight Banana by Siren Craft Brew

Another of those months where all the beers in the shortlist for beer of the month were not sampled in a pub, bar or similar. This is partly the reason why there was no pub of the month in May 2017.

Let’s take a look at some of the beers in the running, sampled at home or at a campsite…

First up we have Flat White by Alphabet Brewing Company, a white coffee stout. Yes, white stout. This had a big coffee nose and a very smooth finish. My first white coffee stout and if they are all like this (which they probably won’t be) then it won’t be the last.

Next up, a Heathen by Northern Monk, full of Citra fruity hoppiness. Northern Monk are knocking out consistently good beers, I have several other cans in stock.

Off to pun land next, for a Viennese Cranberry Rye Pale Ale called This Means Nothing To Me by Alphabet Brewing Company. Oh Vienna! Hops, rye, green tea and cranberries. That’s a first. Good dryness and bitter/sourness from the fruits. A very interesting combination that I really liked. Mrs MOFAD was not so much of a fan.

A few Cloudwaters in quick succesion now. Motueka Pilsner had fruity, crisp, sweet bready notes and a nice hop profile. Cloudwater have nailed the lager market with some of their recent output.

Another May favourite was the Session IPA Chinook Mosaic, an all day IPA with hoppiness, bitterness and some resin. The Autumn + Winter IPL Vic Secret Comet had a piney nose, very lagery to start and a minty/lavender herbal finish.

We move to Weird Beard Brew for something a little different next. Out of Office Ethiopian Coffee IPA. Coffee and hops? Yes please!

Back to hoppiness with Fantasma by Magic Rock Brewing. The best gluten free beer that I’ve ever had. Hoppy, bitter, juicy, dank, orange and pineapple flavours. Lovely stuff, really easy drinking. If you have to avoid gluten, you don’t have to avoid enormous flavours.

We go back to the 2016 Rainbow Project for this month’s winner. Blacklight Banana by Siren Craft Brew. Big alcohol, big coffee, big roastiness. Yes, we have no bananas. It’s a really nice beer but I was actually hoping for a big banana flavour from this. If it’s in there, it’s very subtle (some others have tasted it).

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This goes forward to beer of the year, the second dark beer in the pot.