The Needle & Pin craft beer club – dark beer selection box #9 – June 2018

Off we go with another dark beer selection box, some interesting flavours to explore here, even in the height of summer.

Anderson Valley – Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout – 5.8%

With its deep, dark brown-black colour, thick, full-bodied, velvety-smooth mouth feel, mocha character, and, strong (yet subtle) hop bite, Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout is one of the thickest, richest, and most complex stouts on the market today.

Bear Republic – Big Bear – 8.1%

Big Bear is a big, black stout that you can really sink your teeth into. The bold, roasty, caramel malt flavour is balanced by those American favourites Centennial and Cascade hops.

Elusive Brewing – Invisible Wall – 8.2%

For their 100th brew Elusive pushed the boat out and brewed something big and decadent. This rich milk stout was taken to the next level by organic cacao nibs that were soaked in Bourbon and a single-origin coffee from Hasbean.

Marble – Decadence – 10.5%

Another big beast from Marble, a double mashed Russian Imperial Stout, barrel aged for nine months, so that it gives a satisfying viscosity with dark and firm bitterness, Black Forest fruits and a hopped aroma.

Odyssey – Grievous Angel V3 – 9%

The third in the series of Odyssey’s Imperial Oatmeal Brown Stouts. The colour is a deep brown and the aroma is all about the coconut and vanilla. A big, smooth body initially yields more coconut and vanilla before chocolate and coffee flavours round the beer out beautifully.

Tiny Rebel/Fierce Beer – Orange Mocha Frapp – 7%

Tiny Rebel’s friends up at Fierce are some of the best in the business when it comes to adding other flavours to beer. Tiny Rebel also think they’re pretty good at it, so they collaborated on a beer with LOTS going on. Inspired by Derek Zoolander’s coffee of choice, Orange Mocha Frapp Stout does exactly what it says on the tin. Orange, chocolate and coffee. It’s reported to be awesome.

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Brewdog Fanzine issue 3, May 2018

The next issue of fanzine is upon us. Might be a while before these ones get sampled as there are a couple of big beasts.

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Ten Ton Truck (Espresso Edition) – 10% – Stout / Porter

An evolution of previous Fanzine release, Nebula with the addition of espresso coffee. Fruity espresso, bitter chocolate and roastiness on the nose. Followed by a payload of bitter coffee red berry, dark chocolate and some floral notes.

Pulp Patriot – 9.5% – IPA

An amped up spin on our previous Milkshake IPA, this fruited NEIPA combines peach, mango and milk sugar with low bitterness. A juggernaut of a double IPA that delivers a payload of big fruit with mango and peach front and centre. Milk sugar builds and rounds out the full juicy notes.

Zephyr V2 (Lime Gose Edition) – 4.6% – Sour Ale

The latest twist on our Fanzine session sour, emulating a sour German wheat ale, with lime and salt. A zesty gose with a twist of lime and a pinch of salt to crank up the crisp sour character. A juicy, bright beer, with a light acidity resting on a biscuity backbone.

 

The Needle & Pin craft beer club – dark beer selection box #8 – April 2018

No time for preamble, I’ve got loads of posts to catch up on. You must know the score by now. Six new beers, a couple that will get drunk soon, some others that will be laying down for a while…

Brooklyn – Black Chocolate Stout – 10%

This is the famous Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout. In the 18th century, Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, ordered a stout to be sent to her from England. This beer was brewed strong and hoppy to survive the sea voyage, and it arrived in perfect condition. Soon “Russian Imperial Stout” became the toast of the Russian aristocracy.

Brewed since 1994, the Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout has become heralded the world over. It achieves its dark chocolate aroma and flavour through the artful blending of six malts and three distinct mashes. Properly kept, it will improve in the bottle for many years, in a cool, dry spot away from light sources.

Malts: 2-row, caramel malt, malted wheat and a blend of American roasted malts
Hops: Willamette and American Fuggle

Cloudwater – Baltic Porter – 7.2%

The first Baltic Porter from Cloudwater, brewed with a rich malt base featuring caramel, Vienna, Munich and Carafa Special malts. They used WLP833 (yeast) for fermentation and 6 weeks of lagering, and the resulting beer was brightened up with a very light dry hop of Ekuanot.

De Struise – St Amatus Oostvleteren 12 (2013) – 11%

Saint Amatus, also called St. Aimé, was a Benedictine monk. He took the defecse of the lesser man who was exploited by the Merovingian king Thierry III. Oostvleteren in Belgium is the only parish to patron St Amatus as saint. De Struise started brewing at Deca in Vleteren in early 2006, and started their own micro brewery in Oostvleteren during 2009.

A strong dark quad aged on Woodford Reserve barrels from Labrot & Graham in Kentucky. A complex character of prunes, plums and raisins combined with Belgian yeast and hints of chocolate, with a warming caramel malt body. Brewed in 2013, bottled in 2016, this will age effortlessly for many years.

Marble – Lost Your Marbles – red wine barrel aged – 10.4%

An imperial stout aged in Pinot Noir barrels containing cherries, blackberries, blackcurrants, raspberries and redcurrants. What else needs to be said?

North Riding Brewery – Choc Fudge Brownie Stout (Ski Sundae edition) – 7.4%

The original Choc Fudge Brownie Stout was brewed on the request of the N&P and appeared in the February 2018 selection box. Hot (ish, it’s still only spring) on its heels comes the Ski Sundae edition, with added raspberry and vanilla.

Old Sawley Brewing Company / The Needle & Pin – Plummeth the Hour, Plum Crumble Porter – 4.5%

The very first N&P collaborative brew, brewed at Old Sawley. A plum porter, with plums on the nose and a big hit on the palate, with a finish of muscovado sugar and vanilla, as the crumble overtakes the plum. An imperial version is already in the planning stages.

The Marquis Cornwallis, Bloomsbury, March 2018

A lunch stop in London. The Marquis, affectionately known (by Mrs MOFAD and I at least) as the Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames’ character from Pulp Fiction) is a pub that has featured here before. Having stayed at the hotel opposite a number of times, it’s somewhere I’ve been to quite a bit.

As I was in the area, I popped in for lunch, and there was time for a drink and a sandwich. The drink was another Thornbridge beer, thanks to their craft beer residency also being here. This was Ena, a nitro milk stout that was smooth, sweet and creamy. Little coffee hint and plenty of roastiness.

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Lunch was a posh fish finger sandwich (I love a posh fish finger) and chips, and was perfectly pleasant.

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It’s good to see that the Marquis is still on good form after a recent refit. More than can be said for our more local Marquis Wellington, which we are still boycotting.

The Needle & Pin craft beer club – dark beer selection box #7 – February 2018

The seventh dark beer selection, perfectly timed for the depths of winter. Let’s peer through the gloom and into the darkness…

8 Wired – Flat White Coffee Milk Stout – 5.5%

Honourably named after New Zealand’s national style of barista coffee. A title that has been wrestled away from freeze dried instant coffee and made NZ one of the best coffee destinations in the world. Brewed with coffee, vanilla beans and lactose.

Buxton x Stillwater – Subluminal Coffee Imperial Stout – 10%

The second brew of Subluminal, this time with coffee. An imperial stout brewed in collaboration with Sillwater Artisanal (NY, USA). Delicious, pitch black, chewy, and unmissable. The latest addition to Buxton’s decorated lineup of impy collabs. Drink me. Love me. Never forget me.

Brouwerij De Molen – Rasputin – 10.4%

Rasputin is a sweet imperial stout with subtle chocolate and coffee notes accompanied by plums, the first brew from De Molen. The beer is brewed only in limited numbers once or twice a year. A heavy, bitter stout with a traditional high alcohol content to prevent the beer from freezing during the icy crossing from England to Russia. Strong yet not overwhelming. Try ageing it for a couple of years to unearth its full complexity. I already have one of these, so I might just do that 🙂 Don’t drink straight from the fridge or you’ll miss out on those complexities. Take it out around 15-20 minutes before you want to drink it.

Wild Weather Ales – Bello Di Mamma Tiramisu Stout – 6%

Vanilla and lactose make way for a rich Italian coffee centre. Notes of Amaretto and biscuit leave behind the memory of Mamma’s classic Tiramisu.

North Riding Brewery – Choc Fudge Brownie Stout – 7.4%

Brewed by Stu at North Riding brewed this beer on request from the N&P, and also bottled some especially for the Dark Beer Club. Brewed as a tribute to the Brouwerij Kees Fudge Brownie Stout that was a big hit in bottles last year (I’ve got one of these waiting for me in the garage). Think chocolate fudge, brownie, vanilla and little hints of red fruit and nuts. There are two casks also being aged, to be served when they are about a year old.

Buxton x Omnipollo – Yellow Belly Imperial Stout – 11%

A peanut butter and biscuit imperial stout. Brewed without peanut butter. Brewed without biscuits.

The Rainbow Project (created by Siren Craft Brew) brings together 14 breweries to make 7 collaborative beers themed on the colours of the rainbow. I’ve written about this a few times already. In 2014, Buxton drew yellow out of the hat and were paired up with the Stockholm based Omnipollo.

They sat down and discussed what they could brew based on the idea of yellow. After some time, there was consensus that the prime meaning or idea expressed by the colour yellow is cowardice. The next challenge was to turn this idea into a beer.

The political situation throughout Europe was in turmoil at the time, with lots of far right wing movements on the rise. “One thing that struck us while the preliminary political polls were being presented during election night was that the actual support for the Swedish fascist party was in reality 40% higher than what people had disclosed when asked (face to face) what they voted for just after casting their ballot. At the same time the polls were more or less accurate when it came to other parties on the political scale”, Omnipollo’s Henok Fentie said.

One thing that this could mean is that although people vote extreme right they are on average not as prone to admitting to it as people voting for other parties are. Being a coward can mean many different things, but protesting anonymously at the expense of people’s freedom and right to co-exist without showing your face is one meaning that that the team felt was relevant.

So, with all this in mind, the yellow beer became an 11% Peanut Butter and Biscuit Imperial Stout. Except there are no peanuts or biscuits in it, and it is in no way yellow. It was then dressed it in the most hateful, cowardly-anonymous costume they knew of. Taste, enjoy and don’t be prejudiced.

Another tasty selection, a few to store for a while, a few to start drinking a little sooner.

Beer of the month – January #tryanuary 2018 – Amber Rocket by Eden Brewery

#tryanuary has been good fun. Learning about lots of new beers and breweries from around the country. I even hosted one of the days on social media, bashing out loads of tweets about pubs and breweries from all across Leicestershire.

I’ve also been sampling new beers from near (Framework tap takover night) and far (Cumbria and Hampshire feature in this line up as well as a couple of Scandinavians). The year starts much like many of 2017’s monthly round ups, with all beers featured here being sampled in bottle or can at home (or on holiday). Other good beers were had in the pub, but they didn’t beat these ones.

We start with Dugges from Landvetter, near Gothenburg in Sweden. They have featured here before, with Jasmine Dragon and Tropic Thunder both featuring in previous round ups. You would hope that a beer called Mango Mango Mango would have lots of lovely mango flavours and no overbearing sweetness. That’s exactly what it does have, one of my favourite mango beers (they seem to be so hard to get right).

The wonderfully named Murk Du Soleil from Marble Beers next. A New Zealand take on the New England IPA style and a collaboration with their Kiwi friends at Hop Burns and Black in London. A pale, oat-laden grist gives a full, silky-smooth body, setting the stage for fruity South Island hop character – passion fruit, papaya, nectarine, kiwi and mango. The pine and fruits are nicely balanced, but where is the murk? Maybe it had all settled in the last few millimetres of the can.

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To another regular star of these round ups, Vibrant Forest Brewery and their Rum-Barrel Aged Kick-Start, full of smooth and sweet stoutiness. Something barrel aged under 6% – very much welcome! Classic Vibrant liveliness too.

Another interloper now in the shape of Tropical Super Itchy by Evil Twin Brewing, the Danish nomadic brewery who are making some of the best beers right now. TSI is a sour wheat beer packed full of lovely sour passion fruit flavours. A tropical super winner.

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Something that hasn’t featured in the round ups so far is a sour farmhouse IPA, and U.F.I.P.A from Redchurch Brewery rectifies that, an IPA that has been introduced to some Brettanomyces. My initial review began with the words “slam dunk da funk”, but this reference to a 1997 song by tedious boyband 5ive is probably lost on most people. You should be glad of that, my head is filled with this kind of useless trivia. A really interesting funky flavour from the souring, with no hops noticeable. Another great example of what #tryanuary is all about.

Familiar territory again next, and where would we be without a Cloudwater in the round up? More Danes involved too, as this was a collaboration with Dry and Bitter, and I foresee more of their beers in my future. Mobile Speaker was smooth, fruity, juicy, and had a delicious thickness. A lovely dry hopped beast with Citra and Galaxy hops swirling around.

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We are up to third place, and off to Tottenham next, for Domino Topple, a Mosaic IPA from Pressure Drop Brewing, and there was a hint of strawberry about it. Delicious with Sri Lankan black pork curry (what I cooked), and easy drinking too.

To Cumbria for this month’s silver medal, Mutiny from Stringers, my favourite of their beers so far. Dark fruits, dark chocolate and coffee and maybe a little bit of liquorice somewhere in the mix. A dark and smooth delight.

To this month’s winner then, in the shape of Amber Rocket by Eden Brewery, a “supercharged” American amber ale. One of the top 5 of this style too, up there with Hawkshead Sundown, Vibrant Forest Cydonia, and Cwtch (which I’d put in this category). Probably half of my top 10 come from Cumbrian breweries, which is interesting. 

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Lovely hoppiness and a deserving winner but it probably won’t be beer of the year because there’s some amazing stuff to look forward to in 2018, and that’s just the stuff that I’ve got in stock. Who knows what wonders are being brewed or dreamt up right now?

Beer of the month – December 2017 – Double Heathen by Northern Monk

December can be a tricky month when it comes to choosing a beer of the month, because there are often special edition beers knocking around, and there are bound to be some Xmas specials like last year’s beer of the month for December, Christmas Cake Imperial Stout from Cloudwater and To 0l. This year it’s another month where there’s only 1 beer that was drunk in a pub, the rest are bottles and cans sampled at home or elsewhere.

There are quite a few “honourable mentions” this month, such as Wyoming Sheep Ranch by Buxton Brewery (sweet and strong pine forests),  Spring + Summer Session IPA Amarillo Citra by Cloudwater Brew Co (tropical citrus, hint of peach, some dryness, some bitterness), Catch My Eye (another Cloudwater), The Tropical by Wild Weather Ales (very nice peach sour), Mormora Sour (different from Cloudwater, a coffee sour with classic coffee bitterness, almost a green coffee bean flavour).

On then to the main event, where we find sours, stouts, IPAs and something a bit different.

Sour first, with Summer/Hallertau Blanc Double Sour by Chorlton Brewing Company, a massive sour beast which was really nice. Probably a perfect summer sour but still worked in December.

An old friend next, Bourbon Oktober by Vibrant Forest Brewery (winner in October 2016). As it has aged, the former liveliness has dissipated but the big flavours are still there.

You knew it wouldn’t be long before Cloudwater came along, so here’s their first in the round up, DDH IPA Amarillo, full of delightful hoppy bitterness, very nice indeed.

Beaverillium by Beavertown is up next, another brewery who have featured reasonably regularly in these round ups. Beaverillium was full of smooth and silky mango, with bitterness and some malt creeping in later on.

Two more Cloudwaters next, a DDH IPA Nelson Sauvin Galaxy which was super smooth and fruity juice with a nice rounded flavour. And to prove that they do other stuff as well, we have our only pub beer, Black Forest, served from the newly installed keg lines at the Needle & Pin. It was a delightful beast, cake in a glass, a festive delight and another winner for #evilkegfilth (yes, that’s an ironic hashtag).

We return to bottles for third place, and a Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) by Founders Brewing Co. This was smoother than a sand blasted smooth thing, big stout flavours with coffee on the nose and chocolate swirling around. No alcohol burn which is often a danger with these big stouts.

We have literally finished off the year with a New Year’s Eve bottle of Serpent by Thornbridge, a suitable celebratory beer, because it’s not really a beer, more of a beery cider, and it feels right for the annual celebration as another year closes.

On then to the winner for December 2017, Double Heathen by Northern Monk, another brewery that have featured a few times in the end of month round ups, but haven’t won since January 2016 (with Eternal their session IPA).

The “normal” version of Heathen featured in May 2017’s round up, and Double Heathen takes that beer to the next level, full of fantastically vicious bitterness, some sweet pine and madly easy drinking for a 10% DIPA. Love it.

So that’s another 12 months in beer. Now to try and choose the beer of the year.