Brewdog Camden, November 2018

At least my sixth visit to this Dog house, following three in the scorching hot summer of 2018, one this time last year, and another a good few years back.

Tonight it was time for a couple of relaxing drinks to unwind, after an evening of networking with the day job. After around five hours of talking shop, it was time just to kick back and chill for a bit. No football on tonight (this was my World Cup venue during my week here in June), so just time to unwind with a couple of interesting beers. This was Buck Craft by Moncada, a collaboration with this very bar.

img_0218

When was the last time that you had a kettle sour inspired by Buckfast Tonic Wine, brewed to the Flemish Red style? No, me neither. Loads of grapes mixed with lactic acid results in a refreshing kettle sour, although not as awesome as it should be given the description.

I also had another collaboration beer, Crossover by La Calavera, a Berliner Weisse sour with Lactobacillus, a pretty standard sour with not much on the finish. It was nice just to kick back here for an hour. Off to bed now as I’m an invited speaker at a conference tomorrow…

Hotel Teatro, Denver, October 2018

A spooky evening and another quick Denver post. This evening picks up where this afternoon left off, networking with the people that I met at The Renaissance earlier on today, along with a few more who couldn’t make it, as they have only just rolled into town.

Another buffet meal, with the usual selection of meats, breads, salad bits and other things. There was an added tasty bonus here, lots of plates full of churros, the Spanish doughnut which is probably from Portugal by way of China. These were lovely, as they almost always are, crunchy and sprinkled with lightly spiced sugar.

Tonight I got to sample Sour Apricot from Dry Dock brewery in Aurora, Colorado. A nice balance of sweet apricots and sourness, tart and fruity with sourness from the brewing process. It went well with some nice bits of cheese from the buffet.

There was also a Tivoli Helles Lager, another Denver brewery, who are based on the Auraria College campus of Metropolitan State University in Denver. A very easy drinking lager with a very German taste, which is probably because it is brewed from entirely imported ingredients.

Finally a “Face Down Nitro Brown” from Telluride Brewing, also in Colorado. A bit of a hybrid of an English and American style brown ale (the beer that your Uncle drank in the 1970s) that is silky smooth and super malty.

Afterwards, I found out that this is a four time award winner, taking gold in 2012 and 2014, and bronze in 2016 at the Great American Beer Festival for “American Style Brown,” and also a gold at the 2012 World Beer Cup.

img_0103

A pleasant evening of chat and beer and food.

Mockery Brewing Co, Delgany Street, Denver, October 2018

In my “research” so far, I have uncovered some simple facts about Denver. One of them is that you can almost trip over brewery taps and great bars on every corner, on every block. I have been doing that this afternoon, and the final stop on my city stroll (before catching a train back downtown) was Mockery.

Another friendly welcome awaited here, and once again I picked a couple of beers for my final flight of the day, with advice from the bar staff for the other ones. A nice atmosphere inside, but given the sun was about to set over the Rockies I sat outside to enjoy the glorious pinks and reds of a Colorado sunset, and to enjoy some more beers.

img_0035

Continuing the musical theme from earlier, I started with Wish You Were Here, where the fruit was very subtle, and it was a nice easy drinking golden ale.

Blue Steel was next, another blonde ale with an interesting flavour, lightly balanced malts.

Something a little more lively next, a gose called Spruce the Goose, packed with super funky forest fruit flavours. Lovely stuff.

Proceedings closed with Farmhouse Ale, another one packed with dark fruit flavours, from 12 different malts, farmhouse yeast and rooibos tea.

And here’s that sunset.

img_0037

A lovely quiet space in the city, well worth seeking out.

Great Divide barrel bar, 35th Street, Denver, October 2018

The past!

If there’s one thing better than a brewery tap with a great selection of beers, it’s a brewery tap with a great selection of beers that’s playing a great selection of 1990s Americana, on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Only a short stroll away from my previous refreshment stop, and I was soon settled in at a table here, and off to the bar for my next tasting flight. I asked one of the friendly bar staff for a few recommendations and picked some of my own, to sit back and enjoy on this wonderfully lazy Sunday afternoon.

img_0031

Let’s run through them from left to right.

Colette Farmhouse Ale, a 7.3% saison, had a subtle fruity note and there was a slight wheatiness to it. A nice starter to go with some Counting Crows on the jukebox (well, I think they call it Spotify nowadays).

Strawberry Rhubarb, a fruity sour with mellow fruitfulness and a nice touch of rhubarb, one of my favourite vegetables to feature in a beer.

Fresh Hop (2018) is this season’s freshest beer, brewed with “wet” whole cone hops from the Pacific north west, to give something that’s a little malty with light hoppiness. I think we’d moved on to Hootie & The Blowfish at this point.

Hazy IPA does exactly what it says on the tin, full of hazy hoppiness and a nice bitterness. A decent NEIPA that puts some of the others that I’ve had recently to shame.

It was a lovely drop, but I think it’s fair to say that I saved the best for last, in the form of Barrel Aged Hibernation Ale. Sticking an old ale into whisk(e)y barrels produces wonderful results, a beautiful maltiness in this grand old ale.

A great place to hang out on a Sunday afternoon, relaxed and with a very chilled vibe. If you want to stretch your legs then there are tours every hour from 2-6 at weekends. There’s a food truck parked outside if you get peckish. Oh, and they love yetis.

Crooked Stave Taproom, Source Market Hall, Denver, October 2018

A beautiful sunny Sunday in downtown Denver. I spent the morning exporing the Civic Centre Park, the State Capitol area and the area around Union station. After grabbing a sandwich at the station, I decided to walk up to the “RiNo” district (short for River North) to visit a brewery or two (or three).

img_0007-effects

As soon as I knew I was coming to Denver, there was one place that was on the top of my list. Crooked Stave. They appeared on my radar in 2015, as part of the 2015 Rainbow Project. Together with Hawkshead Brewery, they produced Key Lime Tau (2π), a mixed culture fermentation ale aged in oak with lactose, fresh lime peel and fresh lemongrass. It was gorgeous. On a trip to the Hawkshead Beer Hall in 2016, I picked up some more of their beers…

img_4178

You can spy a 2015 Progenitor (funky apricot, amazing nose, lots of tart fruit and fizz, with a few hops floating in there somewhere), a 2015 Surette Provision Saison (interesting fizz and funk, lots of barrel aged character), an Origins Burgundy Sour (fruity, acidic sourness) and that wonderful lime bomb that is Key Lime Tau.

Some of those descriptions will give you a bit of an idea as to what’s coming next, although I did choose a few items that you might not expect to find at Crooked Stave, known for their wild, sour and barrel-aged beers.

img_0029

So we start with Von Pilsner, an unfiltered Keller Pilsner, which was lovely, super fresh tasting. I didn’t know that they did a lager, and I’m so glad that I chose it.

Next is the imaginitively titled IPA, a lovely hoppy nose with well rounded bitterness. Really good stuff. There was only one way to go after that.

That was Trellis Buster DIPA (Double India Pale Ale). Double dry-hopped with Azacca, Citra, Motueka, and Simcoe to give delightfully rounded pine notes, and it was scarily easy to drink for 8%. A really great DIPA.

You can’t come here without trying some sours, so Vieille Artisanal Saison was next up. Lovely tartness and subtle oaky tones. Super sourness from this rustic ale aged in oak barrels.

To finish (because there are more places to visit this afternoon) a Sour Rosé, a wild ale fermented in oak with Washington raspberries and blueberries. A really beautiful raspberry tartness with pleasant blueberry hints. Absolutely lovely.

img_0030

What a lovely place, really nice people and a super chilled vibe on this lovely Sunday afternoon. I left with a few goodies to take home. If you find yourself in Denver, find your way here. If you prefer not to walk, the train from Union Station to 38th and Blake gets you pretty close.

MOFAD approved, of course!

North Sea Bridges project 2018

The beer world is an exciting place to be. More breweries, more styles and more choice than ever before. The global explosion of beer festivals has helped forge brewing links around the world, and as friendships grow opportunities arise. There are many reasons to collaborate with other brewers: marketing in new areas, learning new brewing techniques or even just as an excuse to hang out with pals and visit new places. New ideas can be taken home to be twisted, contorted and reframed.

The Rainbow Project is probably the most well known example of this, a long running collab-fest that has brought us some great beers. 2018 was supposed to be the end of it, but the buck has passed from Siren on to new breweries. North Sea Bridges is the “Rainbow of the north”, an annual collaboration project building on the ancient trading links between Scotland and Scandinavia. Six of Scotland’s finest brewers (Black Isle, Fallen, Fierce, Fyne, Pilot & Six Degrees North) paired with six of Scandinavia’s best (Amundsen, Beerbliotek, Dry & Bitter, Dugges, Rocket & To Øl).

No plans, no gimmicks, no hooks, just six great beers brewed every year, this year in Scotland, next year in Scandinavia. North Sea Bridges will showcase Scottish brewers in Scandinavia, England & Wales and hopefully further enhance the reputations of our Scandinavian friends in the UK.

The 2018 North Sea Bridges beers were brewed across Scotland over the summer and are now out in the wild.

The beers and collaborating brewers are:-

– Fyne / Rocket – Cowberry Heart (5.3%) – Lingonberry Rye IPA.
– Fierce / TO OL – Blood of Nidhoggr (7.0%) – Black Sour
– Six Degrees North / Amundsen – Amundsix (6.7%) – Dry-hopped Sour
– Black Isle / Dry & Bitter – Flame Out (8.0%) – DIPA
– Pilot / Dugges – Tropisk (7.4%) – DryPA
– Fallen / Beerbliotek – Tap Saff (8.5%) – Saffron & Spruce DIPA

Extra bonus point for the “tap saff” joke. Looking forward to trying these interesting collaborations.

img_9945

The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – sour selection box #4 – September 2018

After the warmest summer on record in England, it’s time for just a few more funky and refreshing brews to enjoy in the early autumn sunshine.

Almasty – Raspberry Saison – 6%

A funky aroma meets a full body and the sharp sweetness of raspberries in this refreshing twist on a traditional summer farmhouse ale.

Amundsen – Loosh – 5.3%

Loosh is a happy place, an ever evolving series using whatever fruit that the Amundsen team could lay their hands on. A rich tropical fruit explosion rounded off with the sour tang of kalamansi, a Philippino fruit that is a hybrid of mandarin and kumquat. When was the last time you had a beer with that in? No, me neither.

Blaugies – Saison D’Epeautre – 6%

Saison D’Epeautre is a saison beer made in a unique traditional style, using spelt and barley malt in the mash. Very dry and light in body, with a hint of wheat tartness and a hardy texture that expresses the character of spelt, a primitive strain of wheat. It is one truly feisty brew, with an outrageous pop and a natural long-lasting head. And ah, the aroma! It has a wonderfully heady, musty, cellar character that is unmistakably Belgian and a lot like champagne. The taste delivers on the promise of the nose. Very enjoyable, and perfect for summer, but wonderful at any time of year.

Chorlton – Saffron bretted Marzen Weisse – 6.8%

One of two 2018 expressions of the annual Märzen Weisse release. Bottle conditioned with Brettanomyces isolated from a 1972 bottle of Hoschule Berliner Weisse. With a subtle addition of saffron.

Redchurch – Urban Farmhouse IPA – 6.7%

A dry hopped sour. A combination of juicy acidity, hoppy flavour and bitterness from the Citra hops combined with the Redchurch house lactobacillus strain create a suggestion of sweetness and a tropical nose.

Stillwater – Sake Styled Saison – 4.2%

Brewed with rice and dry hopped with Citra, Hallertau Blanc and Sterling. Designed to mimic the subtle and drinkable flavour of the Japanese wine, sake, without its typical strength, this low alcohol saison is the softer side of Stillwater.

img_9622