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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The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – dark beer selection box #6 – December 2017

Christmas is coming, so luckily there’s a new dark beer box available for those cold winter nights ahead. I’m not one of those people who switches entirely towards dark beers in the winter months, but it’s always good to have a selection of delectable dark beers in stock to counteract the twenty DIPAs that are stacking up in the stock room (garage cupboard).

Arbor – The Devil Made Me Brew It – 5.5%

This oatmeal stout was brewed with seven different malts and a few generous additions of Bramling Cross hops during the boil. As much as the dark fruit flavour of the Bramling Cross hop works here, it is usually somewhat lacking in the aroma department, so the addition of Bravo, Citra, Mosaic and Simcoe after fermentation makes things a little more interesting.

Brasserie {C} – Black {C} – 8%

This imperial stout will surprise palates looking for character beers with a lot of flavour. Guaranteed non-pasteurised, non-sterilised and non-filtered, it offers roasted coffee and cocoa aromas, revealing an harmonious bitternes throughough the savouring of this beer. Black {C} refers to its impenetrable black body as well as the brewery that it originated from.

Chorlton – Dark Matter 2017 – 7.3%

Released just a few weeks ago on 10th November, a salty, dark, gently sour Gose, a little lighter in body than the 2016 version due to the addition of dark Belgian Candi sugar (not the same as invert sugar) in the boil. Madagascan single origin cocoa beans give it a subtle chocolate aroma that should vary as the beer ages.

Braueri Schloss Eggenberg – Samichlaus Classic – 14% (!!!)

The once strongest beer in the world is back! Brewed every year on December 6th, Samichlaus is aged for 10 months before bottling. This beer is perhaps the rarest in the world. Samichlaus may be aged for many years to come. Older vintages become more complex with a creamy warming finish. Serve with hardy robust dishes and desserts, particulary with chocolates, or as an after dinner drink by itself. Brewed under the exclusive licence of Feldschlösschen-Hürlimann-Holding, Switzerland.

To Øl – Mochaccino Messiah – 7%

This is To Øl’s attempt at substituting the morning mochaccino coffee with a beer. You get the nicely roasted chocolate malts, some creamy lactose for the milk and a shot of nutty espresso coffee in your glass. And then some alcohol, it seemed just as obvious as vodka in a white russian. To Øl do not recommend opting for this beer instead of coffee all of the time, that way a ‘Spoons breakfast (fry up and a Stella) lies…

Tiny Rebel – Imperial Puft – 9%

A flavour explosion that’s like a proton torpedo in your exhaust port. An Imperial march into your mouth. Return of the marshmallow that’s fluffier than an Ewok, and not annoying like an Ewok.

Tiny Rebel have taken everything great about Stay Puft and gone bigger. They’ve imperialised the delectable marshmallow porter up to 9% ABV with rich roasty notes, a sticky sweetness and rich dried fruit flavours from the massive amounts of malt working to a higher strength.

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Christmas 2017 beer gift ideas – Hawkshead Brewery

We kick off this year’s festive beer guide with one of last year’s featured breweries, Hawksead. Just like last year, it was one of my favourite brewery tap trips this year. We popped in for some shopping on New Year’s Eve last year, and we also stopped off there in August, at the end of our soggy summer camping trip.We kick off this year’s festive beer guide with one of last year’s featured breweries, Hawksead. Just like last year, it was one of my favourite brewery tap trips this year. We popped in for some shopping on New Year’s Eve last year, and we also stopped off there in August, at the end of our soggy summer camping trip.

Hawkshead Brewery started life in 2002, just outside Hawkshead where they could brew around 8,500 pints of beer a week. In 2006 they moved over to Staveley, where they have been expanding ever since, increasing their brewing capacity and developing the very brewery tap that we were visiting, The Beer Hall. This involved building a new bar around two 11,000 litre stainless steel tanks which rise up through the first floor, and dominate the upstairs dining area. This means that they can now knock out over 60,000 pints a week. That’s some expansion. Just this week they have announced plans to build another brewery on a nearby site, keeping the existing one and the Beer Hall going as well.

Here are some of the beers we picked up when shopping last year:-

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Here are some of the beers on their online store at the moment.

Sundown is a lovely hoppy ale, ITI is a New Zealand session pale ale, Brodie’s Prime Export is a big stout (I have one ready to drink soon as you can see above), Damson Stout is one I’ve not had yet and the same goes for Wild Wheat, a wheat beer with Motueka hops re-fermented with wild yeast.

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Jingle Fells is their festively spiced ale, (above right), the Dry Stone Stout (above left) is easy drinking with smoky notes. And the Solar Sour (above middle) is a supreme session sour. Mojito is a new sour IPA which I haven’t opened yet, and I’m also looking forward to the Tiramisiu Imperial Stout and Tonka (brewed with Tonka beans not Tonka toys).

Great White is a cracking wheat beer with spicy notes and NZ hops poking through, the IPA is a hoppy beast and the NZPA is similarly hoppy. The Cumbrian 5 Hop also follows in their footsteps. Key Lime Tau, the result of a previous Rainbow Project collaboration with Crooked Stave, is now a core beer, and is packed full of zingy lime loveliness. The Chuckleberry Sour is also a nice sour fruit beer.

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Their “standard” range, Bitter, Red, Lager, Windermere Pale and Lakeland Gold are all also good if you are a bit less adventurous.

There’s something for everyone to choose from. You can pick and mix a case of 12 (2 cans counts as 1 bottle) or you can buy a pre-mixed case or a case of just one of the beers. Buy online at http://www.hawksheadbrewery.co.uk/beer-shop.c.aspx

Beer of the month – November 2017 – Chubbles by Cloudwater x The Veil

Ten trips out this month, but still not a single beer that I had in a pub. All of these were bought from a pub (in fact the same pub, my local “dealer” The Needle & Pin), but none were consumed there. And all bar one of them is a can. It won’t be long before all of them are in a can I suspect. Let’s kick things off.

Beavertown’s Heavy Water (sour cherry and sea salt imperial stout) is our opener this month, and what a big beast. Richness balanced by sourness makes this scarily easy to drink.

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Staying with fruited stouts, we have an American import, a Blueberry Maple Stout by Saugatuck Brewing Company. I paired mine with apple pie for that all American experience. This beer has super sweetness from the blueberries and maple. Please tell me there’s an imperial version. Sadly, there isn’t, but there is a barrel aged version which I’d like to try.

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Our regular Cloudwater fix next, the DDH IPA Chinook Citra. I think this one has more pineapple flavours than Pineapple (also by Cloudwater Brew Co), a classic piece of Cloudwater murk. I just love it. Awesome with methi chicken. That I made.

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Another regular brewery next, with Magic Rock Brewing’s Grower Owned, a lovely west coast pine fest collaboration with Yakima Chief – Hopunion, a 100% grower owned global hop supplier. More lovely murkiness.

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Something sharp next, a Key Lime Pie Gose by Westbrook Brewing Co. I love lime. I love beer. This combines both of these loves with a little sparkle. Really lovely stuff, and something to break up all of these hop bombs in here. But what can I say, I am a friend of hops.

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So it’s no surprise that our winner is a hop bomb. Chubbles by Cloudwater to be precise. Now, I got a bit of a ribbing on Twitter for drinking it so close to its best before date. This was purely a logistics issue, as I hadn’t been able to get my hands on it as soon as it was released, having to wait until I was able to pick it up. Given its strength, its not one that you can just chug down in a session, you need to pick the right time to drink it, unless you are sharing with friends.

Juicy, thick, citrus and melon notes and more sweetness than bitterness. Drinks way below the ABV, no alcohol burn here. Really lovely stuff. Chubbles is a collaboration with The Veil from New York city, these mad people dreamt up a 10.9% triple IPA with 100% English malt, a ton of flaked oats, fermented with a specific English yeast, and hopped intensely with Galaxy, Citra, and El Dorado.

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A lovely big beast of a beer which deserves its place in the end of year final.

BBC Good Food Show Winter, The NEC, November 2017

The annual round up of the annual pilgrimage to the NEC to visit the BBC Good Food Show. And for the first time since the last century, we had a guest, with Mrs MOFAD’s sister (and regular MOFAD supplier) Jo joining us for the first half of the day. We rocked up at the NEC at just after 10am, after a quick detour to pick up our passenger. Note to future self – coming down the A446 from junction 9 is much better than going down to junction 6.

In to the show we go. More security this year, sniffer dogs trying hard not to be distracted by the smell of sausages cooking nearby. Guide dogs doing the same. As usual we set off for the drinks sections first, which were absolutely overwhelmed by gin producers. I thought that there were loads of them last year, but I’m sure there were even more this year. Fewer cider producers and way fewer breweries. No Renegade/West Berkshire (probably the highlight of the last 2 years). No BAD Co (another good one from last year). No Empress Ale. No Crafty Devil. Not even a bigger name like Wadworth.

There were a few familiar names as well as some new breweries (reports on them to come later I’m sure). Plenty of interesting food producers, but again some notable absentees. No Croome Cuisine and their lovely hop cheese. No Debbie & Andrew’s. We picked up the usual haul of Dean’s biscuits, always the most generous with their samples of whole biscuits (unlike some of the cheese producers who have samples the size of a mote of dust).

Santa tells me that there are more goodies to come in 25 days, so I’ll wait until then to do another round up 🙂

The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – dark beer selection box #5 – October 2017

Here it is. The twelfth selection box from the N&P, which is the fifth from the dark beer club. With the nights drawing in, more people turn to dark beer, but it can be enjoyed all year round. 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. There are also three left from August’s box.

Here we go with this month’s selection.

Anchor – Porter – 5.6%

With a deep black colour, a thick, creamy head, rich chocolate, toffee and coffee flavours, and full-bodied smoothness, Anchor Porter is described by its brewer as “the epitome of a handcrafted dark beer, the definitive American Porter”.

A blend of specially roasted pale, caramel, chocolate, and black malts, along with their top-fermenting yeast, creates complexity without bitterness. The brew is hopped at a high rate, and naturally carbonated. The result is dark in the glass, but surprisingly light on the palate.

Anchor Porter became the first modern American porter style beer when it was introduced in 1972. Over 40 years later, it continues to reward those who look beyond its intimidating appearance to discover its smooth, full-bodied drinkability.

Ayinger – Celebrator Doppelbock – 6.7%

originally brewed at a monastery in northern Italy, “double bock” was quickly introduced by Bavarian brewers to compete with bock. Doppelbock names end with the suffix “-ator.”

A rich, dark elixir with cascading layers of malt complexity balanced by elegant hops. Notes of toffee, caramel, elegant dark-malt roastiness, and pure malt. Pinpoint conditioning and semi-dry finish.

Celebrator has a creamy head of tight bubbles contrasting beautifully with its profound dark robe. It is full-bodied and velvety from half a year’s aging. Although it is strong, it is not overpowering. There is a wonderful and complex balance between the various malts, the alcohol and the subtle hops. A complex fruitiness of roasted malt and whole hop flowers make Celebrator great as a party drink with friends and family at celebrations. Despite its richness, it has a faintly smoky dryness in the finish.

Oh, and it comes with a small plastic goat attached. Obvs.

Brussels Beer Project – Dark Sister – 6.6%

Like many more beers, the idea behind this beer started off with a joke. In the winter of 2013 BBP were looking to make a Christmas beer without the classic herbs and high alcohol content. They came up with the “evil twin” of the Delta with a variety of roasted and toasted malts to darken his soul. The community’s reaction was clear : don’t stop making this beer. The Vox Populi reigned and the beer has risen from the dead!

A robust black IPA with flavours of grapefruit and citrus on top of deep roasted bitter malts.

Fierce Beer – Imperial Cafe Racer – 8.5%

Devil’s Peak brewery have taken Fierce’s deep and dark coffee porter to another level with rich roasted Kenyan espresso and Madagascan bourbon vanilla for a sweet little lift. The Café Racer name is inspired by the dangerous edge of leather-clad bikers, making an imperial porter to satisfy even the hardiest of tastes.

Redchurch – Old Ford Export Stout – 7.5%

Rich dark and deep black export stout. A complex malt base providing burnt chocolate, espresso coffee, molasses and leather aromas. The complexity of the malts is perfectly balanced by the warmth of the alcohol, with punchy bitterness and earthy spice provided by the Columbus hops.

If you’d like some and you can’t get the N&P, you can find it in Waitrose.

Wild Beer – Jambo – Imperial Stout + Chocolate + Raspberries – 8.5%

An imperial stout brewed with raspberries and Valrhona cocoa nibs. Rich flavours of chocolate and fruit collide with boozy heat.

Building on the Wild Beer repertoire of wild stouts they have combined our love of locally foraged fruits with their penchant for sweet dark beers. The combination of fruit and chocolate is always amazing and what better way to combat the cold nights of the changing seasons than with a rich warming stout? Specially packaged in 750ml bottles to encourage sharing, it’s a beer to be savoured and divvied out to those you deem fit.

Centro Lounge, Loughborough, September 2017

Tonight is the beginning of our weekend. Regular MOFAD companions Hazel & Matt are staying with us tonight, as tomorrow morning we’re off on a road trip to Skipton. Mrs MOFAD and Hazel are off to Yarndale 2017 on Saturday, whilst Matt & I are indulging in a cultural walking tour of Skipton, perhaps checking out the odd hostelry on the way. Other regular companions Steve & Janette will be meeting us there tomorrow night.

Mrs MOFAD and I have been to the Centro lounge a few times this year, so we chose it for tonight’s dining venue.

Drinks first, and both Matt and I opted for the Bath Ales Dark Side, which is a nice easy drinking stout when it warms up a bit.

One of the advantages of Centro Lounge is that they serve their tapas menu every day, so if you fancy a mix of different things you can find plenty to choose from, rather than just plump for burger and chips or similar.

As I’ve noted before, they aren’t too tied down by the heritage of tapas, mixing traditional Spanish dishes like chicken and chorizo, albondigas (meatballs) and patatas bravas (roast spuds and tomato sauce) with dishes from another continent, such as teryaki chicken and posh KFC style chicken goujons.

Mrs MOFAD and I shared the selection above, along with the usual freshly cooked ciabatta, and Hazel & Matt also shared some dishes. We all enjoyed our tasty dinner, and spent a lot of time examining the decor, including the painting of a weird alien/monk hybrid with a boxing glove/oven glove, and some white horses frolicking in the sea… Do check out the eclectic collection of paintings if you’re visiting.

Tasty food, a reasonable pint and a friendly atmosphere, we all enjoyed ourselves and we’ll keep coming back.