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!

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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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Brewdog fanzine issue 13 – October 2018

Still hanging on by the skin of its teeth, another fanzine has popped itself into my hands. At least this time there are some new brews, and not just rehashed NEIPAs.

Old World Russian – Stout – 9.5%

All full bodied taste, this opulent whirl of hops and malts even rivals the most colourful of imperial Faberge eggs.

Originally created to celebrate the Russian Royal Family. This beer is a fitting tribute with which to toast your own empire.

Brutalist – Brut IPA – 6%

Pop the cork on this Brut IPA. German and American hops unite to give a subtle sauvignon blanc and fruity flavour profile. Stone fruits duke it out with apricot and peach winning the day, followed by a deft touch of grass and gooseberry to finish. A delicate effervescence and white wine character deliver this brutalist into polite society.

Nope. Don’t get it. Posh lager? Perhaps better on keg…

Flux Factory – West Coast IPA – 6%

Yuzu and bergamot flow into pine and grapefruit peel in this ever-changing West Coast IPA. This experimental pale utilises late hopping; delicate hop oils bring mango and lychee, running alongside toasty Crystal malt, with an underlying resinous bitterness bringing order to chaos.

Once again it appears that the canned version is meh and the kegs are better.

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Brewdog Fanzine issue 11

Like issue 10, this selection didn’t have the usual tracking information, so it arrived slightly by surprise again (and a day later than usual). Also like issue 10, the details haven’t been published online (edit: 2 weeks on and they still haven’t, neither have issue 10). So I’ve just quickly typed up what’s in the box.

My fanzine subscription is still hanging in the balance.

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Alter Ego – 8.5% – DIPA

Another West Coast IPA. Punchy and aggressive, it puts American hops front and centre. A deft touch of caramel and toast runs alongside massive hop aromas of pine, mango, grapefruit and lychee and a bitter finale.

King of Eights V4 – German Hop Edition – 7.4% – NEIPA

Another recycled beer idea, the 4th version of King of Eights. A duo of new German hops (Ariana, Huell Melon) deliver massive tropical fruit notes with efficiency. This European powerhouse of flavour visits New England with cantaloupe, peach, mango, papaya, lime peel and kiwi. The full rounded texture is complemented with a smooth oatiness and a touch of alcohol warmth.

Ten Ton Truck – Black Forest Edition – 10% – Imperial Stout

More recycling. This rig is hauling a forest of flavour. Deep and intense, with bitter chocolate and espresso layered over vanilla and cherry character. Dark stewed fruit notes combine with coffee, running full tilt into cocoa and mocha and hint of almond. A complex and rewarding payload aided by the addition of honey, vanilla and cherry.

Brewdog Fanzine issue 10

I’m still in the club, but it’s getting to be something that needs reviewing on a regular basis, with Brewdog coming out with so many “stunts” that are really leaving a nasty taste in the mouth.

Interestingly, this selection didn’t have the usual tracking information, so it arrived slightly by surprise.

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The details haven’t been published online (edit: 2 weeks on and they still haven’t). So I’ve just quickly typed up what’s in the box.

Heist Monkey – 5.4% – American pale ale with Hallertau Taurus and Blanc, Mosaic, Simcoe and Columbus in the mix. That would suggest lovely hoppiness, but this one turned out to be very ordinary.

Coin-op Kaiser – 6% – dry-hopped “imperial” pils. This sounds like a remix of last year’s small batch imperial pilsner, which was a nice idea but didn’t quite work. It was actually better than that, but still nothing too special. More Hallertau Taurus in this one.

Choco Libre – 8.2% – nitro Mexican chocolate stout. A stout with cocoa nibs, cinnamon, chilli, coffee and vanilla. ark chocolate mixes with mocha, vanilla and spice, all layered over a smooth nitro-styling you never saw coming. This set-up finishes with a delicate habanero drop kick as the bell sounds. Should be interesting, it needs to be to make up for the other two.