The Needle & Pin craft beer club – dark beer selection box #17 – October 2019

It’s box number 45 overall, and more darkness to get us through the darker evenings and rainy autumn days. Most of these will probably go into storage for future sharing events as there are some more big units in here, but a few will be out to accompany some weekend puddings.

Arbor – Goo Goo G Joob – 12%

Arbor are renowned for their pale hoppy beers, but they also brew some very special dark beers, and this is a great example of Maple Imperial Stout with complex dark malt, burnt caramel and black treacle flavours. Whether it contains any actual walrus is yet to be determined.

Beartown – Imperial Crème Bearlee – 9%

A velvety stout with burnt cream, Madagascan vanilla and molasses. I’d like to tell you more than that, but there’s very little information out there.

img_2850

Chimay – Blue – 9%

The Cistercian Trappist monks of Chimay have been brewing since 1862, with their abbey being located on the site of a well which provides pure water for the beer.

Chimay Blue Strong Dark Ale is world-class Belgian elegance in a bottle. This authentic Belgian beer is complex, rich and powerful, all of which improve and transform over many years thanks to its classic bottle-conditioning.

Whilst obviously strong, the alcohol is barely noticeable, giving way instead to the beautiful aromas of spicy Belgian yeast, bread dough and toffee, the mark of great craftsmanship. Rich and intense with lovely caramel notes, it’s the lovely dry finish allows the distinct Belgian flavours to linger well into the next sip. Absolutely gorgeous.

Evil Twin – 60 Day Dry Aged Stout – 6%

Evil Twin have treated us to a lovely stout, it’s a style that is often neglected by breweries due to the big boys in Dublin. However, the style originated in London. A jet-black pour leads to an aroma of dark chocolate and tobacco. You’re then warmly greeted with a light, airy mouthfeel with a dry smoky finish. 60 days does seem like a while but some things are certainly worth waiting for. And for once, it’s a dark beer from Evil Twin that isn’t 10%+

Left-Handed Giant – That Life – 6.9%

You’ll want triple servings and you’ll dish out a triple thumbs up for Left-Handed Giant’s Triple Chocolate Stout. Hopped with Bramling Cross and packed with creamy rich ingredients such as vanilla, chocolate, cacao nibs, lactose and cocoa powder, this brew means there’s no need for dessert.

Wander Beyond – Scoop – 11%

Scoop is an Imperial Black Ice cream IPA. Based on the theme of mint choc chip ice creams, Wander Beyond added cacao nibs and vanilla to a dark milkshake IPA base before dry hopping with Fuggles, Polaris and Citra hops and steeping peppermint tea from their friends at Atkinsons of Lancaster.

I’ve been looking for a chocolate mint beer since Thornbridge’s Baize. I love chocolate and mint in my puddings and chocolate covered minty sweets that are consumed 20 hours into the day, but there’s very little out there in the beer world that will stand up to them.

Advertisements

The Needle & Pin craft beer club – dark beer selection box #16 – August 2019

Despite the recent deluges, flooding, abandoned international scout and guide camps, dams bursting and everything else, it’s still summer. However, there’s always a place for some big dark beers in your cold storage area, and most of these ones are absolute units, great for sharing with friends around the camp fire when the nights are cooling a little. This is the first dark beer selection to be exclusively all cans.

img_2135

Abbeydale – Methuselah – 10.5%

An absolutely huge Imperial Stout which has been finished in wooden ex-whisky barrels. Big, bold and boozy – a hugely full bodied malt-driven stout with a hint of Brett funkiness on the nose and just enough tartness to provide balance on the palate. Sumptuously smooth and strikingly robust.

Box Social – Union Black Jamaican Stout – 6%

Based around Skindred’s fourth album, 2011’s Union Black, this beer is full of soul and flavour. Allspice and vanilla give an unctuous sweetness which plays against the roasted notes of coffee and dark chocolate from the malt. Vegan friendly, so that all of the members of the band could enjoy it, this stout is full bodied, rich and moreish.

Polly’s Brew Co –  Cassie – 7%

Everything about this beer is all about decadence – from the silky mouthfeel, to the 10kg of Arabica coffee beans that were added. Cassie rocks up with a metric tonne of roasted coffee, dark chocolate, and raisin notes. Cassie, named for the horse that occupied Polly’s stable before Polly, is the biggest beer that Polly’s (formerly Loka Polly) have ever brewed.

Northern Monk – Patrons Project 17.03 – Pete’s Dark Past – 7%

To accentuate hints of biscuit, the grist contains plenty of munich malt; a more heavily kilned German base malt with a prominent flavour, plus some lightly roasted amber malt which compliments and offers notes of toast and cinder toffee. This is backed up by light crystal and Special B to add depth and dark fruit character, chocolate roast malt, plenty of flaked oats and maltodextrin to build out the body.

To recreate the outer layer of a chocolate bar, they added a load of lactose and a touch of vanilla for the basis of that classic milk chocolate flavour. They then went even further adding chocolate during fermentation and copious amounts of caramel late fermentation to boost the ABV and add a decadent dessert sweetness to this rich, deep brown stout. Twix in a glass!!

Pressure Drop – Escape Pod – 10%

Polish your diamonds & find your fanciest hat, because this collaboration is quite a lot
of luxury. Pressure Drop have wanted to brew an intense milk stout for a while, and the Left Handed Giant crew know what they are doing around milk sugars and lactose. If you’re going big on a milk stout, you might as well take it all the way to massive. Escape Pod is maxed out with vanilla, coconut and cacao nibs. Brewed with milk sugars, it is smooth and shamelessly sweet.

Stillwater – Thsi Iiis Nlya Tst 006 – 8%

Yes, it’s really called that. A collaborative brew with Oliver Brewing Co and Ceremony Coffee, both of Baltimore. They all joined together to make a cappuccino stout brewed with coffee, cocoa, vanilla and milk sugar. The beer needs a gentle shake before opening to release the nitrogen to create a silky smooth finish.

The Needle & Pin craft beer club – dark beer selection box #15 – June 2019

It’s box number 40, and whilst the evenings are getting lighter (it’s light until 10pm in Cumbria at the minute), the beers in here are getting darker. These ones are pretty much all absolute units, with just a couple of five percenters in the mix. As I don’t have my selection yet, I’m borrowing N&P photos again 🙂

db1619

Arbor – Breakfast Stout – 7.4%

An elegantly creamy strong stout whose soothing and silky character combines evocative coffee notes with luxurious bittersweet chocolate.

Atom – Into the Abyss – 10.5%

For this collaboration Atom drew inspiration from eating s’mores. They took a biscuity, roasty and chocolatey imperial stout, boiled it for 12 hours to intensify the flavours then added a copious amount of vegan marshmallows.

Box Social – Cry Agony – 7%

A bit of a wildcard this one. Its nether dark nor pale, but Box Social brew some great quirky beers, and this is one of them! A pale beer, with a rich, rounded mouthfeel and savoury sweetness from peanut essence. Real oak wood provides a depth of flavour layered with peanut notes. Hops give a further layer of sweet/vanilla aromas. Safe for those with peanut allergies.

db2619

Moor – Stout – 5%

Moor were asked if they would ever consider a simple request to brew “something purely enjoyable to drink, not a curiosity beverage to tick off.” This is that beer. No unicorn hair, solar dust or celebrity nail clippings. Pontificate if you must, but please just drink and enjoy.

Prairie – Double Dunk – 11.9%

Imperial Stout from Tulsa, Oklahoma (the home of the Danny Flowers song “Tulsa Time”) brewed with Oreo Cookies. A deep dark stout with no head. In aroma, sweet fruity chocolate malt with light vanilla, alcohol warmth, very nice and smooth. In mouth, a nice sweet fruity chocolate malt with loads of vanilla, coffee crisp, oily mouth feel, alcohol warmth, very nice and rich.

Three Hills – Rhubarb Crumble Stout – 5%

This is a very special beer indeed, brewed by three N&P customers at Three Hills. It was launched back in March. It has got better and better over the three months or so that it has aged for so far. Dark roasted flavours with a sweet twang of rhubarb and a hit of dark sugar and vanilla.

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…

IMG_0722

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…

img_1191

Meet the Brewer – Three Hills – Needle & Pin – March 2019

Another lovely meet the brewer event at the N&P. Three Hills owner Andrew cut his teeth as a brewer in China, and now he is back home in the UK brewing up some sensational beers. Named after local neolithic tombs, Three Hills Brewing is a garage nano-brewery based in Woodford, Northamptonshire.

Their mission is to produce high quality, innovative and experimental small-batch beers for those who love to explore new taste sensations (that would be me). Rather than reproducing the same beers, they focus on creating a new recipe every time to keep things interesting. When they say small batch, they mean it: whether it’s IPA, saison, stout, wheat or unhopped gruit, their 225-600L batches allow them to brew with love and creativity. The result is truly unique, limited edition beers. There’s a lot of debate about core ranges versus constant evolution, but I think there’s room in the market for both.

One of the main reasons for tonight was to launch the collaboration brew between Three Hills and the N&P, a 5% Rhubarb Crumble Stout called “Giant Leap”. It was sweet and smooth with definite rhubarb notes. Paired well with a little rhubarb cakey treat too!

The other beers available were:-

Three Hills IPA V4 – sweetness, maltiness and a little bitterness. Well rounded.

Woodford Experiment Pale – smooth cask pale with a tasty hop profile and a nice bitterness.

Kveik – ooh that’s Belgian. I mean technically it’s Norwegian because it’s their word for yeast but a definite Belgian flavour profile. Very farmhouse!

Small Steps V3 – mint on the nose and some grapefruit on the finish. Light and refreshing, a lovely summer beer.

Due to having to catch an earlier bus (curse work in the morning!) I didn’t get chance to have a good natter tonight, but there’s always next time. I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more from Three Hills in 2019.

Self guided Bristol brewery tour, March 2019

A kind of “winter camping” weekend, with regular MOFAD companions Matt & Hazel and Steve & Janette. We get together a lot in the summer to go camping (and share and drink beer), but there’s always a long gap at the end of camping season, so we planned a city break in order to combat this.

We had loads of plans about how exactly we would do this, but poor transport options and various other factors meant that we opted for staying in a Holiday Inn in the city centre, rather too close to a very unsavoury area known as “The Bearpit”. Stay away from the subways…

The ladies were off on a wooly tour, we had planned a walking tour of the city, which just so happened to take in some brewery taps. Not all of them, since a few have different opening hours in the cooler seasons. Our plan was Moor -> Dawkins -> Arbor -> Fierce & Noble -> Wiper & True -> New Bristol -> Croft and then back to the hotel.

This changed pretty quickly along the way, as we received some updated opening hours information, which then changed again. More on that story later.

We were camped on the doorstep of Moor, waiting for them to open at 12pm sharp. We were straight in, and seleced a couple of beers each, enjoying a nice relaxed start to the day. Others soon started to arrive and it started to get noisy with conversations and music.

I had a “Dead Punk All Dayer”, which was full of flavour wrapped up in just 3.5% – a super session IPA, and the right way to start! I also had Claudia, a session hoppy wheat ale, which was also really tasty.

img_0979

You can also see “Stout” and “B-Moor” which were favoured by Matt & Steve. A few items were picked up to take away.

At this point, had they been open, we could have gone to Left Handed Giant and Good Chemistry, but that wasn’t an option.

We were going to go to Dawkins next, but they had changed their own plans, so we made our way to Arbor instead. The Arbor tap room at the moment is just a portakabin in the car park, but they do have sockets so you can charge your phone (important when live tweeting a walking tour of the city).

Unfortunately they had no beer on cask (at a brewery!), and only a couple of things on keg, with lots more cans in the fridge. The problem with the cans is that Arbor favour the pint can for their beers, and that’s not necessarily what you want when you go to a tap room. I’m looking forward to thirds or halves of various different beers. Some people like pints, and they are almost always available everywhere, but it’s nice to have the choice to try different ones in smaller measures.

As it was they were only selling halves or pints of a couple of keg beers, so we were rather limited. I had Brut’n’Free, a gluten free Brut IPA brewed with Amarillo, Simcoe and Mosaic hops. It was one of the better Brut IPAs that I’ve had, a style I’m interested in but haven’t really found “the one” yet.

img_0981

Because they didn’t have much on, we didn’t linger. Matt & Steve had Basta Rosse which I really like, but they are not such big fans of the hoppiness. No takeaways here.

We were off to Dawkins next. Yesterday they tweeted to say that they would be open early for the rugby (not why we were going), and their new opening time of 2pm fitted perfectly into our revised schedule. However, upon arrival, there was a distinct lack of activity. We poked our heads in and were told that they weren’t opening as planned as they had to clean up after a large party the previous evening. So we left and went to Fierce and Noble instead. If you say one thing and do another, your customers will go elsewhere…

Fierce and Noble definitely had the rugby on, in the “main room” next door. We hung out in the bar area, and took the opportunity to grab some rolls and crisps for lunch (a simple thing to sell ham rolls, cheese rolls, etc. behind the bar, but many places won’t). A half of session IPA, nice and easy drinking, and a Masquerade Pale, full of lovely fruitiness.

img_0984

You can also see the black IPA (simply called Black IPA) which was tolerated by my drinking companions. Not pictured is Pain au Chocolat Stout, which one of us had but another couldn’t due to the presence of chocolate, which is something which doesn’t agree with many drinkers.

A very interesting building to have a tap room in, lots of wood panels, and much nicer than Arbor’s portakabin 🙂 A few takeaways were picked up here too.

Off to Wiper and True next. This was the moment when I slightly rued having taken up the offer of some rolls, since they had a pizza oven out in the car park. I love pizza and beer, a great combination, but always better to eat instead of hoping there will be something on…

I’ve had a few W&T beers over the years, so it was nice to find some new things on. I started out with a Sicilian Sour, which was just that, with gentle lemon notes. Perfect for a sunny summer afternoon, but not bad on a cool spring one.

After that was Phantasmagoria, fresh from the tank, a tap room exclusive and a balance of juiciness and bitterness. Right up my street.

You can also see the darkness behind, with a Pink Peppercorn Porter (not much peppercorn, but pleasant) and a Milk Shake Stout, which was very nice, but the presence of lactose ruled it out for one of our number.

img_0985

The next destination was New Bristol brewery. We didn’t quite time this right, as the England rugby match was about to start, and it was rather packed out. This prevented much conversation, and also meant that plastic drinking vessels were in use. Boo to that, but you can understand why.

Pictured are Lemon Jelly IPA (smooth sherbert lemon zinginess) and Pineapple Pale (a metric megatonne of pineapple which has stomped all over any other flavours that might have been present).

img_0989

Steve had the Coffee Maple Bacon stout. Nothing available to take away, so off to our final destination, Croft Brewery.

Nice to see glasses again. In them you can see B52 (simple session ale), Beast (a classic hoppy bitter) and Black Book (thin but tasty dry stout).

img_0992

Lots of different cans available here so we grabbed quite a few each as it was the last leg of our tour.

A lovely day out exploring Bristol breweries. On this particular route, there wasn’t much else, so you definitely need to take advantage of food where it’s offered (there’s a branch of Iceland next door to Dawkins). Moor was probably the nicest tap room, Arbor was a bit too “rustic”. Wiper & True opt for the long benches and trestle table approach but there was a nice atmosphere. New Bristol needs judging when there’s not rugby on, and Croft was a nice end to the day. I liked the character of the Fierce and Noble building.

Definitely a grand day out, as Bristol created Wallace and Gromit would have had.

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:-

img_0858

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.

img_0886

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.

img_0867

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.

img_0859

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!

img_0857