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.

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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 – 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.

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.

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.