The Needle & Pin Craft Beer club – dark beer selection box #14 – April 2019

The nights are getting lighter, the days are getting longer, but there are still times when only darkness will do. This is another month of big beasts, with one sessionable mild in the mix. That was a deliberate choice when we brewed it back in January.

This box has new beers, new breweries, new styles, an old classic, one of the best in the world and one for laying down.

Dig – Durr – 6.8%

Durr is a brand new stout made with milk sugar and conditioned over organic vanilla and roasted cocoa nibs. It comes from Birmingham’s Dig Brew Co, and was released only a few weeks ago.

Erdinger – Pikantus – 7.3%

A wild card beer this month, to demonstrate how beautiful a dark weiss bock can be. There won’t be the usual hit of coffee, vanilla and chocolate in this one.

Framework – Anything But Mild – 3.5%

I made this, along with Alec and those lovely folks at Framework. I’ve already mentioned that we brewed it back in January, and there are only 36 bottles of this little beauty in existence. Mild, gentle, with little hints of coffee, chocolate and maple syrup. A deliberately session mild to provide something other than chocolate laden imperial monsters for the dark beer lover. Here it is in being made…

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Lervig – Three Bean Stout – 13%

A collaboration brew with Way Beer from Brazil. Contains that common trinity of vanilla, cocoa and tonka beans, equating to a big dollop of deliciousness. The N&P team say that this is one of the greatest dark beers ever brewed…

Museum Brewing – P2 Imperial Stout – 8%

This exceptionally smooth stout is produced from the original recipe that was shipped to the Russian port of St. Petersburg for the Tsar’s Imperial Court. The smooth mellowness derives from the long maturation time in cask before being bottled in very limited numbers.

Three Hills – Faba – 11%

This is a very special beer indeed, brewed by Andrew and Zak at Three Hills. There are only 400 bottles of it and 48 of them have gone to the dark beer club. A big Imperial stout brewed with tonka, cacao and vanilla beans. The body is viscous and flavour decadent and rich. Best shared inside by the fire. This one is going into storage for a couple of years…

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Tiny Rebel 7th Birthday box

Tiny Rebel appeared on my radar back in 2014 when I came across “Dirty Stop Out” which was smoky, malty, oaty and with a hint of hoppiness. I also came across Urban IPA that year, and Cwtch the following year. It wasn’t hard to see why Cwtch was voted Champion Beer of Britain. More great beers came my way in the years that followed, like the wonderfully named Clwb Tropicana and Frambuzi.

I was very much looking forward to getting my hands on their 7th birthday collaboration beer box. It contains:-

– 1 x Limited Edition Birthday Glass (a thing of beauty)
– 1 x 440ml Tiny Rebel x Deya 6.8% NEIPA
– 1 x 440ml Tiny Rebel x Fourpure 5% DDH Pilsner
– 1 x 440ml Tiny Rebel x Neon Raptor 4.8% Tropical Sorbet IPA
– 1 x 440ml Tiny Rebel x Magic Rock 4% Citra Session IPA
– 1 x 440ml Tiny Rebel x Siren 11% Dark Cherry & Chocolate Barley Wine
– 1 x 440ml Tiny Rebel x Yeastie Boys 8% Pomegranate Molasses Belgian Strong
– 1 x 440ml Tiny Rebel x Big Drop 0.5% Imperial Mocha Vanilla Shot Stout
– a packet of balloons (can’t have a birthday party without balloons)
– a packet of colouring pencils (to colour in the box)

That last line might appear confusing. See below:-

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Let’s have a look at each of the beers. If you’re lucky, I will update this post with brief reviews, but I’ve said that before, so don’t keep checking every day, because I’ve got about 90 posts still to catch up with…

Tiny Rebel x Deya 6.8% NEIPA

A meeting of two breweries who are very comfortable with putting lots of hops in their beers, I’m looking forward to this one.

Tiny Rebel x Fourpure 5% DDH Pilsner

A collaboration with London-based Fourpure who make some very tasty and accessible beers. Some of which you can get in Tesco. This was always going to be one of the first to get opened, and it was a lovely flavourful lager, some biscuit malt hints and a nice floral hoppiness. I like a hoppy pils.

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Tiny Rebel x Neon Raptor 4.8% Tropical Sorbet IPA

Neon Raptor come from just up the road from me. They produce consistently good beers and are also no stranger to the hop. The Tropical Sorbet IPA was also likely to be one of the early ones to be opened, and it did not disappoint. Sherbert lemon sorbet with lots of citric fizziness.

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Tiny Rebel x Magic Rock 4% Citra Session IPA

Magic Rock are another of my favourite breweries, and yet another who are not a stranger to the hop. No surprise to see them collaborate on a Citra session IPA, and no surprise that this was the first one that I opened. Lots of lovely citrus hoppiness that we’ve all come to know and love from Citra.

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Tiny Rebel x Siren 11% Dark Cherry & Chocolate Barley Wine

This one is going away for a while. Siren know a thing or two about making big beasts, and a 440ml can of 11% barley wine is ideally one for sharing. I think this one will be in storage until camping season at least when we can look forward to creamy chocolate and cherry goodness.

Tiny Rebel x Yeastie Boys 8% Pomegranate Molasses Belgian Strong

Another on the “beast” side, it’s not every day that you come across a pomegranate molasses Belgian ale. I’m hoping that the pomegranate is dominant here, maybe a hint of sweet and sour, maybe some wine-like properties.

Tiny Rebel x Big Drop 0.5% Imperial Mocha Vanilla Shot Stout

Yes, you read that right. One of the birthday beers is a 0.5% imperial stout. Big Drop specialise in making beers of 0.5% and below. I wasn’t impressed by their lager, but the stout is genuinely impressive for 0.5% and is probably the best “no/low” alcohol beer I’ve had so far (I have a few new ones in the fridge to try). I’m going to save this one too, and will take it somewhere where I’ll be driving.

Looking forward to celebrating the Tiny Rebel 7th birthday for a while yet!

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The Needle & Pin craft beer club – dark beer selection box #13, January 2019

The dark nights are getting shorter, bit by bit. However, there’s still time for plenty of dark beer. We are in to the 34th overall selection box. I’ve only had one from the previous dark selection box so far (plenty of big beasts in there), but I have already finished all of the ones from the last “main” selection box from December, due to their excellent sessionable status.

Let’s dive in to the first selection of 2019…

Buxton – Gatekeeper – 4.1%

When it comes to dark beers, I associate Buxton with big beasts like Kentucky Woods (13.8%), Rain Shadow (11.5%) and Arran (11.5%). So it’s very good to see a traditional porter from them. Bitter coffee and roasted malts lead the charge with more than a hint of liquorice.

Firestone Walker – Mocha Merlin – 5.5%

With an infusion of local roast coffee, a dash of cocoa nibs and touch of seasonal sorcery, Velvet Merlin milk stout has been transformed into Mocha Merlin. This beer is brewed with the Colombia La Granadilla blend from HoneyCo Coffee Roasters. The Colombia La Granadilla coffee meshes perfectly with the chocolatey character from the cocoa nibs, providing an oatmeal stout experience like no other. A touch of lactose provides suggestion of rounded sweetness on the finish. I’ve already polished this one off and there’s no false advertising here, coffee, chocolate and creaminess, a nice gentle stout.

Gipsy Hill – Percolator – 5.0%

Percolator is a coffee oatmeal brown ale collaboration with Dugges. It’s a Café Latte of a beer with three different types of oat, and premium English Cara and Vienna malts. It’s then blended with around a thousand litres of Volcano’s finest cold brew coffee. It offers smooth, full-bodied mouthfuls of oat milk latte.

North Riding – Coffee and Walnut Stout – 7.4%

The Needle & Pin’s 1000th unique cask ale, bottled. Brewed by the team and a few customers at North Riding in September 2018, this is a seriously good coffee stout brewed with a huge sack of locally roasted coffee beans in the FV. It has a little sweetness from the walnuts at the end. I don’t like walnuts, but I’m told this is not an issue.

Redwillow – Restless – 8.5%

Think chocolate fondant meets coffee. Loaded with Vietnamese coffee beans; it’s dark and full bodied with sweet nutty chocolate notes. Good Morning Vietnam! All the Redwillow beers I’ve had so far (quite a few on cask, and lots in cans from Booths) have been great.

Three Hills – Anglian Porter – 5%

From one of the UK’s most up and coming breweries. You may not have heard of them before, but you’re sure to hear lots in the future. Look out for a collaborative brew with them in March. This light, hoppy porter is designed to suit the local water profile and to find the sweet spot between drinkability and flavour.

Wilde Child – Beast Master – 10%

This one is the beast, in name and strength. A salted caramel and cacao nib Imperial Stout. The salted caramel really stands out. Apparently this is up there with Amundsen Zygoat.

Some of these won’t last, some will go into storage for a bit…

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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!

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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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.

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A pleasant evening of chat and beer and food.

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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