The second Thornbridge night at The Needle & Pin, December 2017

A year ago, as part of the “twelve days of Thornbridge”, I went to the inaugural Thornbridge night at The Needle & Pin. The theme was “Serpent – deconstructed”, and we tasted our way through the components that make up Serpent, a collaboration between Thornbrige, Oliver’s Cider in Hereford, and Brooklyn Brewery. I think the bottle I bought last year will be the accompaniment to this year’s Xmas dinner.

The twelve days of Thornbridge are back, and this year’s event was a more relaxed affair, but still great fun. Meg from Thornbridge was back again to lead the event, but it was very much a choose your own adventure event, with a choice of 4 Thornbridge beers in any order, and cheeses to match.

I started out with Sampo and a little goat’s cheese. The Sampo is a Galaxy hopped pale ale, brewed with pineapple, which produces soft pineapple flavours, a nice cask pale ale.

Next up, a new version of an old classic, Dry Hopped Jaipur, which appears to take Jaipur back to its early days of what it used to taste like, creamy, hoppy and a nice bitter finish. Goes well with mature cheddar.

Whilst this was slipping down, a Thornbridge pub quiz was in full flow. Meg had 10 questions for us, although I still maintain that her clues made some of the questions too easy. No matter, as My Pointess Friend Richard thrashed the opposition to take home the prizes of Thornbridge merch and bottled beers.

Victory complete, more beer. Brock is a soft session stout. I had this at Peakender this year, in fact it was the last beer of the festival for me, but it was probably not in the best condition then as it was rather thin and light. Today it was much better, a smooth and easy drinking session stout.

We travel to the final beer for tonight. Lord Marples, the classic English bitter, and the first beer ever made by Thornbridge. This might help you in a future pub quiz, as it was one of the answers tonight. You might also need to know that it has never been bottled 🙂

I’ve had it three times, twice here, and the first time at Peakender 2015, and it’s still a classic pint, and not hard to see why it is such a big cask seller in the Thornbridge heartland of Derbyshire and Yorkshire. Nice with a bit of Gouda too.

And if that wasn’t enough, we all left with bottled beers, some included in the price, some bonus gifts from our lovely Thornbridge friends.

Another classic night at the Needle & Pin, lots of fun, good chat (and not just about beer), a bonus quiz, and new friends made as I shared a taxi home with two of them. A good pub with a good community feel is the original social network, and the N&P is definitely one of those.

Looking forward to the next tasting night already, by happy coincidence from the brewery at the other end of the Monsal Trail, Buxton Brewery.

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Tryanuary​ ​returns​ ​in​ ​2018,​ ​supported​ ​by​ ​a​ ​team​ ​of​ ​over​ ​60​ ​volunteers throughout​ ​the​ â€‹UK

And I’m one of them. More on that story later…

Now entering its fourth year, Tryanuary is a nationwide campaign to encourage support
for the beer industry throughout January. None of this “dry January” nonsense, it’s all about getting out and trying new things. Don’t go crazy in December, and you can still enjoy January like a normal person.

The brainchild of Mancunian beer blogger Andy Heggs and brewery owners Stuart
Swann and Shane Swindells, Tryanuary was created to encourage beer fans to support
independent breweries, pubs, bars and other retailers during what can be a challenging
month for the industry. Since its inception in 2015, the campaign has garnered huge
support.

I’ve involved myself as a participant in the last couple of years. Every month for about the last two and a half years, I’ve been doing a monthly round up of my favourite beers of the month, so in January 2016, that formed the basis of my first #Tryanuary round up.

Last year, I put up a quick preview of this year’s campaign and that was followed by a round up at the end of this January, my contribution to #Tryanuary 2017. This brings us nicely to 2018.

Tryanuary-Facebook-Banner-Landscape

Spearheading the 2018 campaign is Tom Stapley, who is best known for Craft Beer
Hour (#craftbeerhour) a weekly gathering on Twitter that embraces all aspects of the industry and showcases many independent brewers. Tom’s vision for the continued growth of the campaign involves co-ordinating a nationwide team, each championing the beer on offer in their local area.

“A campaign like this needs local people to galvanise local businesses,” said Tom, “it
needs people all over the country to celebrate the beer on their doorstep and share that
with the nation through the different mediums of Tryanuary.”

Following an overwhelmingly successful recruitment drive for volunteers, 2018 will see the campaign being advocated by an ever-growing team of over sixty beer lovers and enthusiasts who will have exclusive access to the Tryanuary website and social media profiles. Volunteers like me.

Although the campaign will be driven using the wide reaches of social media, the
ultimate aim is to inspire people to show support for their local enterprises.

Even though the UK is still enjoying a boom in all things beer and we now have over 1700 breweries, these hard-working independent businesses still need your vital support! By celebrating, sharing and enjoying what’s out there, you can help. Research on spending by local authorities shows that for every £1 spent with a small or medium-sized business, 63p stays in the local economy, compared to 40p with a larger business.

Supporting your local micropub helps your local community. They host events with local groups and they may have live music on. So why not pay them a visit? Try some new beers, maybe pick up a few to take away? Then share your discoveries and see what others have been up to via the #tryanuary hashtag.

This isn’t about drinking more.
It’s about trying something different.
Tasting something new.
Experiencing something interesting.

For more information, including details of how to get involved, visit www.tryanuary.com
or contact Tom on hello@tryanuary.com or call 07921 470803.

If you are a local business then do get in touch so that we can help to promote your beers and ideas for #tryanuary

The Geese & Fountain in Croxton Kerrial have already been in touch to say that they are planning a #Tryanuary event with new breweries from the 12th of January all the way through to the 31st. There will be lots more to follow as plans are confirmed.

Enjoy beer responsibly!

American craft beer night, The Needle & Pin, Loughborough, November 2017

Another night at the N&P. We were on holiday last month, so missed the Scandinavian night (although I received remote taunting from Alec who was in attendance). No clash tonight, so it was time for another collection of interesting beers and some good chat. Tonight’s theme was American beer, all IPAs, from a couple of regions of the USA.

We kicked off with Evil Twin Citra Sunshine Slacker, a collaboration between Evil Twin of New York, and 7venth Sun (that’s not a spelling mistake). A light golden beer with a thin layer of white foam on top, and light lacing down the glass. A decent session pale but I’m not sure I’d agree with Evil Twin’s definition of this as a session IPA. Good notes of Citra hop, the classic lemon/citrus flavour.

All the way to the west coast now for San Diego’s Green Flash, who have been brewing for 15 years. Well known to coastal dwellers, the legendary Green Flash is one of nature’s marvels. Only under perfect weather conditions, just for a sudden second, the day’s last rays of sunshine turn a blindingly brilliant emerald green on the horizon. It is said, by those lucky enough to witness it, that it makes the perfect ending to the perfect day. At Green Flash, it is the inspiration to explore and discover perfect ingredients and brewing conditions to craft unique, awe-inspiring ales.

Passion Fruit Kicker is a smooth beer with a sweet yet tart fruity flavour, made by layering passion fruit tea and passion fruit juice with wheat malt and malted barley. It has a subtle passion fruit flavour, full of fruity and fizzy fun.

Down the road next to Point Loma, also in San Diego, and Modern Times brewery. Modern Times is named after a beautifully crazy utopian community founded in 1850. Some people got together on Long Island who thought they could demonstrate to the world what a more perfect society might look like. They bartered, lived without a state, sometimes ignored the conventions of marriage, and generally experimented with creating a less exploitative, more pleasurable world. Naturally, the whole thing eventually imploded when some other people from New York City found out about the “free love colony” just a train ride away and overran it. It’s now Brentwood, NY. It sounds a bit different to Brentwood, Essex, where I went to school for 7 years…

Fortunate Islands shares the characteristics of an IPA and an easy drinking wheat beer. A dose of Citra and Amarillo hops gives tropical flavours of mango, tangerine and passion fruit. A malt bill of 60% wheat malt gives a smooth malty backbone and restrained bitterness. I couldn’t detect any of that wheaty goodness, this was a standard Citra pale ale which is just fine with me. We agreed that this should have come before the Passion Fruit Kicker, but when you only have the brewer’s tasting notes to go on (and no spare cans to taste), it’s always difficult to put together a running order.

Off into the mountains just outside San Diego next, to Alpine Brewing Company, who are a subsidiary of Green Flash. Windows Up is an IPA made with Mosaic and Citra hops. It pours a hazy straw colour and is topped with a bright white foam. Piney aromas mingle with fruity notes and hints of citrus, alongside a lingering resinous quality. This all mixes together to create a bitter beast, not the easy drinkers of earlier on, but something to be taken seriously.

The final beer for the night was due to be Founders Fedankulous DIPA. This bold, 9.5% Imperial Red IPA pours a pleasing burnt amber colour. Caramalt and roasted barley introduce a subtle sweetness, but the hops are the true headliner in this big IPA. The spicy, piney and tropical complexities of Chinook, Mosaic and Simcoe hops hit you right away with their dank aroma – and they stick around. It’s not just ridiculous. It’s reDANKulous.

However, you’ll have to wait to hear about that, because I had to get to get up for work in the morning, so had to duck out early and take mine home with me. Watch out for a review of that another day. Maybe. It’s joining an ever growing queue of DIPAs in the beer cupboard 🙂

Another great night of beer exploration at the Needle & Pin. Looking forward to the next one (which is only a few weeks away!)

The Coach and Horses, Kibworth, November 2017

A sunny Saturday stroll today, with regular walking friends and a couple more who we hadn’t seen for a while. We started in Glooston (yes, it’s a real place) and had parked next to the village hall and village pub. We walked almost 7 miles, and got back to our starting point at just after 2:30pm.

Sadly this was too late for the village pub, as they stop serving food at 2pm, one of my pet hates. Luckily we had already catered for this eventuality, and had found a sensible pub that doesn’t close their kitchen at 2pm. So along with Mrs MOFAD and regular walking and dining companions Karon and John, I took a short drive, taking in part of the route home, and we arrived in Kibworth and walked straight into this lovely welcoming pub, with a fire crackling away in the corner.

They’ve recently had a refurbishment, and they’ve done a nice job, keeping the character of the pub, but just making everything clean and fresh. We turned right into the small dining room, perused the menu and then popped up to the bar to order.

A late lunch for us today, so drinks and sandwiches were in order. A couple of decent cask ales on (Hobsons Best, a familiar face from near Ludlow, and Purity Mad Goose from Warwickshire).

Some nice sandwiches to choose from, Mrs MOFAD opted for the tuna melt on sourdough, and the rest of us chose the posh fish finger sandwich.

And a posh fish finger sandwich it was indeed. Lovely soft bloomer, delicious crispy beer battered fish goujons, tasty fat and crispy chips, and a little pot of lightly mushed peas, which make a good dip for your chips.

Lovely food, friendly staff and a nice atmosphere. A cracking little pub right on the A6, so it’s very easy to get to. We’ll be back when we’re next in the area.

The Narrowboat #1, Skipton, September 2017

After a gentle bimble around Skipton this afternoon we wandered back to the hotel and then back out again for dinner. We’ve booked a table somewhere for tomorrow night (a lesson learned from 2015) but tonight we just decided to wander until we found somewhere. We didn’t take long to find our dinner destination, settling on The Narrowboat, which we’d visited as part of 2015’s walking tour of Skipton.

The first reason for visiting was because I had spotted Hawkshead’s Passion Fruit Gose on the bar. Mrs MOFAD has been looking out for this beer since it was first announced, and we missed it at this year’s Thornbridge Peakender (along with many other great beers which came and went in the blink of an eye). It looked like it was finally time to try it.

So near, and yet so far. I’d ordered it at the bar, but the last few drops dribbled out of the keg. The pub let Mrs MOFAD have it for nothing (to compensate for the sadness), and she had to choose something else. Pogo by Wild Beer Co is fruit salad with a little hop character.

My first was Sorachi by Bristol Beer Factory, a decent cask ale but for me the Sorachi Ace hop was too muted. It’s a Marmite hop but I love its flavour which is why I was looking for more here.

A gentle golden ale next, in the form of Mallisons American SIPA. A decent pint but nothing to really excite.

Just in case you weren’t sure that we were in the North. Chips and gravy. Northern gravy. Although sadly Hazel’s pie had to go back, as during the likely reheating they had burned it rather badly, and it was inedible. It was eventually replaced with pizza, but they didn’t refund the difference.

No such problems with my pizza which they got right first time. A porky fest with bacon, sausage, pulled pork and black pudding.

Black pudding is northern filth, so it was distributed to other plates… Apart from the filth, this was a tasty, porky and crisp pizza, just what I wanted on a Friday night. If that wasn’t good enough, then Mrs MOFAD was even more delighted, as they had found some more Passion Fruit Gose. Her review was simple:-

“OMG. Best. Beer. Ever.”

Fairly clear cut.

My final pint tonight was Citra Star from Northumberland’s Anarchy Brew Co, one that I’ve had before in a can, and it’s even better on cask.

A shame that they burnt the pie, and didn’t really sort the situation out properly, but we did all eventually have a nice dinner and some great beer.

Needle & Pin, Loughborough, September 2017

I’ve written more than enough about my favourite pub by now. The only thing better than writing about it to get someone to go there, is to actually take them there. So that’s what happened tonight. After dinner at Centro Lounge, we took a short stroll down to the Needle & Pin for a few drinks and some games, accompanied by some good old fashioned vinyl. I’m not sure that the other customer upstairs was too impressed by our choice of Now 17, but we love the past, even if it is full of cheese. On with the night…

A pint of Exmoor Ales Silver Stallion for me, a perfectly pleasant cask bitter. Matt had the Exmoor Beast, amusingly coming in at 6.66% – thick, smooth and full of flavour.

This was accompanied by a game of KerPlunk, which is 50 years old this year, and is a game that I’ve probably not played for more than 30 years. The newer version looks a bit different to the original, but the basic premise is the same. Pull sticks out without disturbing marbles. The person with the fewest amount of marbles in their tray at the end is the winner.

Even grown adults can still enjoy this simple game, a great laugh.

We moved on to our next drink and our next game. My next drink was from San Diego’s Green Flash Brewing Company in the form of GFB. This acronym has two possible expansions. The clean one is Green Flash Blonde, the other one rhymes with Food Clucking Deer. A nice beer with good carbonation and a hint of honey. Matt had the Framework Treacle Stout, and we both struggled to spot the treacle that appears on the nose in the palate…

Our next game was the classic word game Taboo. To make things fair we played boys vs girls, and managed to get a good few rounds played in between the laughter.

Another great night out at the N&P, and we somehow managed to avoid coming home with lots of cans and bottles in tow! That won’t be the case when we come back from Skipton though…

Augustus John, Liverpool, September 2017 #2

Here we are again. More student pub fun. This was supposed to be the meeting point for a walking tour of the city. But all the local conference visitors appeared to have buggered off home, and nobody else felt qualified to lead people around, so we just stayed for a drink before dispersing to different pubs.

This was a can of Triton, an American pale ale and another from Maghull’s Neptune Brewery, who featured yesterday.

A decent slightly hazy (intentionally) pale ale.