The home made Hooky beer festival, July 2017

You may recall from last year that we went to the Hook Norton beer festival. A festival in a field on a farm. With poorly kept beer. And not much else going for it, apart from the company. We returned to the area this year, but with a different plan.

A very simple plan. We would hold our own beer festival, supplying our own beer. I even made tasting notes. Probably more detailed than they needed to be, but I’ve been exposed to plenty of Sean’s tasting notes now and it was good fun putting them together. They follow below, and then I’ll move on to the round up of the beers we had.

First, a note about sour beers…

Traditional sour beers are usually created through mixed fermentation of the beer after it has boiled. This mixed fermentation can be simultaneous (traditional yeast, wild yeast, and bacteria added all at the same time), or sequential in a separate vessel. In this case, a beer will be fermented traditionally with common brewer’s yeast until it is at or near completion. This beer will then be transferred into barrels (usually oak, sometimes stainless steel tanks) where wild yeasts and bacteria will begin to re-ferment the beer, consuming sugars that traditional yeasts are unable to eat.

One byproduct of this secondary fermentation by bacteria is lactic acid, which, along with acetic acid and other organic acids, is responsible for souring the liquid. This process often takes a long time, from months to years, but yields a complex final product that can be served as-is, or mixed with young beer to temper the sourness and add complexity (the Belgian style Geuze uses this technique). These beers will continue to develop and sour with time, including in the bottle.

If you don’t have time to wait for a beer to age in the barrel, then you can use a kettle souring process, in which the lactic acid is generated by a primary fermentation of a bacterial culture (often lactobacillus, which could come from a lab or even yoghurt) for several hours (all the way up to a few days) before a final boil is conducted to kill the bacteria, halt the production of lactic acid, and continue with a secondary fermentation by traditional yeast.

Gose is a top-fermented beer that originated in Goslar, Germany. It is brewed with at least 50% of the grain used being malted wheat. Dominant flavours in gose include a lemon sourness, an herbal characteristic, and a strong saltiness (the result of either local water sources or added salt). Gose beers typically do not have prominent hop bitterness, flavours, or aroma. The beers typically have a moderate alcohol content of 4 to 5% ABV.

That’s the science bit, now the beers…

Thornbridge – Tart – 6% – sour ale

A “Bakewell sour” brewed in collaboration with Wild Beer Co., Tart pours a golden yellow colour with a white head, and is refreshingly tart and dry with a combination of citrus hops and flavours of grapefruit and bitter lemon. The name Tart is inspired by the Bakewell delicacy where Thornbridge are based and accurately describes the flavour of the beer in a single word.

Dugges – Tropic Thunder – 4.5% – sour ale

Tropic Thunder is a joint effort with nomadic brewer Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal. This sour ale was brewed with lactobacillus and fermented with plenty of mango, passion fruit and peaches to produce something akin to an alcoholic Rio.

In 2002 Mikael Dugge Engström had a meeting with an Englishman, who was in the business of selling second hand breweries. This got Mikael thinking. How cool would it be to have your own brewery and brew your own beer?

With all the energy of a man possessed Mikael started studying Swedish alcohol legislation (which is pretty extensive), read up on everything and anything he could find on brewing beer and going on visits to anyone who would have him, getting tips and making friends. All while he started buying the parts needed to build a small brewery. In 2005, he opened one. In 2010 he moved to a bigger one. In 2017 he doubled capacity again.

Modern Times – Fruitlands Blood Orange and Hibiscus sour – 4.8% – Gose

Fruitlands is tart, fruity & frighteningly delicious. The sour, salty base beer lays down the funky refreshment, while a heavy dose of blood oranges & hibiscus turns the whole thing into a wall-to-wall citrus fiesta, with tart, floral notes from the hibiscus adding beautifully to the profile. It’s a marvelous mix of elements that collides with your mouth like a fruit-filled asteroid of flavor traveling at the supersonic speed of party.

Modern Times is a brewery from the Point Loma neighbourhood of San Diego, named after a beautifully crazy utopian community founded in 1850. Almost all of their beers are named after real utopian experiments or mythological utopias.

Wild Weather – One Eyed Iain Salted Caramel Porter – 6.2% – English porter

A collaboration with Electric Bear, where rich malts flow around a sweet caramel base creating waves of decadence as your tongue experiences each flavour. This is driven home by a slight salted note to awaken both the nose and mouth.

Boom! Came the sound of the thunder, and as the rain came down like beads bouncing from the mash tun, Wild Weather Ales was born! Brewed in Silchester (just outside Reading) and drawing inspiration from new world hops, Germany’s malts and beer styles from across the globe, Wild Weather Ales vow to make your drinking experience as enjoyable as their brewing.

Now with their own on site canning line, collaborations with some of the UK’s most inspirational brewers, and being more and more readily available nationwide Wild Weather is experiencing wild growth.

“Striking branding” you might say. Wild Weather say thank you, but they can hardly take all the credit. When they approached the punk artist and guitarist from the London punk band MÜG he jumped at the chance to have his work displayed across some of this fair land’s greatest drinking establishments.

Cloudwater Brew Co – DDH IPA Citra – 6% – India Pale Ale

DDH stands for “double dry hopped”. Cloudwater has doubled the amount of hops in this IPA to bring you the brewery’s first DDH IPA. Fermented with WLP4000 yeast and dry-hopped with Citra, Amarillo, Chinook and Centennial (big name American hops). WLP4000 yeast was isolated from a uniquely crafted double IPA from the the USA and produces a balanced fruity ester profile of peaches and light citrus that complements any aggressively hopped beer.

Dry hopping is the process of adding hops to a beer to add more of a hop aroma. Traditionally, dry hopping is done in beer styles like pale ales and IPAs, but brewers are utilising this process in many other styles as well. Since you are not boiling the hops, you won’t be extracting any of the oils from them, and therefore will not be contributing to the beer’s bitterness. What you will be adding are hop flavour and aroma. If you are a big hop fan, dry hopping is a must.

At the heart of Cloudwater Brew Co is a deep love for the changing seasons, each bringing with it an invitation to enjoy the scarcity and abundance the natural world offers. Cloudwater want to showcase the ebb and flow by using seasonal ingredients at their very best, and taking inspiration from the change of lifestyle each season creates.

Boundary Brewing Cooperative – Joyous Abandon – 4.8% – Saison

Joyous Abandon is their first bottled mixed fermentation Saison. Using a house culture, they aged this Raspberry Saison in a Pinot Noir barrel and allowed the critters to do what they do best. This beer is the future.

Boundary Brewing Cooperative are a Cooperative Brewery in Belfast owned and run by their members. Opening in 2014, they are the first brewery in NI to bring together modern US styles with the more traditional Belgian/French style beers.

That was just our beer selection. Matt & Steve also brought beers. We alternated between offerings from our various selections. No overall plan, just whatever we felt like.

Printemps from Unity Brewing (a nettle saison) which kicked off our evening (good with fish’n’chips), Project Barista : Turkish from Siren (a big coffee beast), Zuur Goosberry (gooseberry sour) and Mangomarillo from Watsons Brewery in Essex (fruity mango flavours, but not an IPA). We mixed things up with a little Tropic Thunder from Dugges (alcoholic Lilt).

The beer of the festival came next. Intensified Barrel Aged Coffee Porter from Brooklyn Brewery finally showed me what bourbon barrels are for. Making a great beer like this one. We were all blown away by this one. Apart from Hazel (who produced the facial reaction of the festival) and Mrs MOFAD (who was equally unimpressed).

More coffee came next with a Northern Monk patrons project collaboration, morello cherry and Peruvian coffee imperial porter. More coffee bitterness, but the cherry comes through very late.

That was day one. I started off day two with my Cloudwater DDH IPA Citra, which was absolutely fantastic. A hoppy juice bomb that was perfect with my spicy dhansak.

We went sour to kick things off for everyone, with another Vibrant Forest, this time Zuur Rhubarb, which was very pleasant.

Trolltunga from Buxton Brewery was up next, coincidentally we had opened some just two days before. It was just as good 🙂

My bottle of Joyous Abandon was next, a raspberry saison which would be perfect in summer. I know that it is summer, but it wasn’t quite summery enough today.

Back down south next for Tellicherry from Winchester’s Red Cat Brewing, a peppercorn wheat beer. I couldn’t detect the pepper anywhere.

Steve’s Portugese import was next, Coral Tónica from Empresa de Cervejas da Madeira. We’d all had worse, but it didn’t exactly set the world on fire.

Another Red Cat next, Naked Sour (that should get some more hits on this post), a simple and unadulterated sour.

We moved on to Essex next, for Watsons Imperial Black Otter. Allegedly a black IPA or Cascadian dark ale, the nose promises loads of hops, but they are weirdly absent from the palate. A nice dark ale, but I really wanted to taste all of those hops that my nose told me were present.

To round things off, we returned to yesterday’s lovely Project Barista : Turkish from Siren.

It is fair to say that our Hooky beer festival was way better than the official one last year. Great beers, well kept (in bottles and cans) and a good array of styles and flavours. We had all curated some of our favourite styles alongside a few different things. Thanks to Matt & Steve for their selections.

Looking forward to doing it all again in a few months! Already got some good ones lined up 🙂

Buxton Brewery Tap, April 2017

We’ve been here before. In May 2015 to be precise. Ever since that visit we’ve been wanting to come back. It took almost 2 years, but we made it 🙂

After a leisurely morning of strolling around Buxton, including a little shopping at Beer District, we were ready for some lunch. There was only ever going to be one place we were going to go. I had been singing the praises of Buxton Brewery Tap for a while, and with MOFAD drinking companions Matt & Steve as well as Mrs MOFAD, Hazel, Janette and Andy and Kerrie all in tow, I was hoping that there would be something for everyone here.

There was.

My choice was Myrica, a tasty session IPA with oaty smoothness and hazy hoppiness

Mrs MOFAD opted for the Sky Mountain Sour, a collaboration between Buxton and To Øl which has resulted in a nicely balanced sour ale. Mrs MOFAD was a fan of this.

Matt & Steve both had a Rednik Stout which was right up their street. Kerrie tried the Lemon Meringue Pie, which both Mrs MOFAD and I really like. She was not a fan, but surprisingly Hazel (the queen of tea who is not a beer drinker) liked it, and ended up with a bottle to take home.

On to that lunch, I had a buffalo burger with potato wedges, which was very tasty and a perfect portion for lunch. Mrs MOFAD opted for chicken souvlaki, marinated in yoghurt, mustard, lemon & oregano and served with sautéed peppers, tzatziki, sunblush salad & pitta breads. This which was also very nice. My burger came from the specials board, so it might not be available when you visit. Perhaps plates will be though, as this burger appeared on a board.

On then to the shopping. You can’t come here and not take away a bottle or two. Or ten. You’ll spot the “Belgians” on the left, a Bourbon Skyline (barrel aged Berliner weisse), another Sky Mountain Sour and Lemon Meringue Pie for Mrs MOFAD, a Trolltunga (just another gooseberry sour IPA), a Superluminal (sour IPA) and one more.

That last one is Bomba Generation 4, the sequel to Tsar Bomba Generation III which was almost beer of the year for me in 2016. Generation 4 of the Buxton Brett fermented Imperial Stout has been born. The yeast strain from 1978 is alive and well and has chewed relentlessly through the regular Russian Imperial Stout to bring us the Great Grandson of the original batch. This one will go into storage for a while, and come out on a special occasion. If it’s as good as Generation III then it will be rather special.

Matt & Steve also did some shopping, although none of us could convince the nice people behind the bar to thrown in a free glass, despite the amount that we were all spending…

Another great trip to the Buxton Brewery Tap. If you are ever in Buxton, go there. You will find good food and great beer to drink in and take away. End of.

Beer District, Buxton, April 2017

Today we were having a morning out in Buxton with MOFAD companions, Hazel, Matt, Janette, Steve, Kerrie & Andy. Nothing in particular planned, just wandering around the shops. There were a couple of important places that we had lined up. I won’t be reviewing the wool shop (this was Mrs MOFAD’s important destination).

This was the first of my important destinations. Beer District was opened in August 2016 by Matt and Darren, two friends who wanted to bring local beers to Buxton, as well as selling some things from other UK breweries and beers and ciders from further afield.

If it’s local you’re after, you’ll find beers from Thornbridge, Whaley Bridge Brewery and Torrside Brewing, as well as things from across the border (Manchester based breweries such as Cloudwater).

I was in beer heaven perusing the shelves, and did have to limit myself to try and avoid buying everything on display. Fellow beer lovers Matt & Steve were also drooling at the selection of beers on offer, and we all left with bulging sacks full of beer. My selection is below:-

You’ll spot the newly released Mango Halcyon from Thornbridge, two from Whaley Bridge (the first time I’ve seen them in the wild), a Double Heathen from Northern Monk, a couple from Ashover brewery (first time I’ve seen these too), and something from Swedish brewery Dugges.

Looking forward to trying these all over the coming weeks and months. This is the best selection of beers from different craft breweries you’ll find in Buxton. Waitrose have a few good ones but nothing like the variety on offer here. There’s also cider, gin, vodka, whisky and some interesting mixers too.

Get down here for great beer.

House of the Trembling Madness, April 2017

After a lovely dinner at the Lamb & Lion, we took a short stroll to the House of the Trembling Madness. We’ve been here once before, back in 2012, when we visited the bottle shop on the ground floor, bewildered by the array of beers and ciders on offer.

This time round we were less bewildered (we’ve seen a few lovely beer shops like this now), and so we made our way upstairs to the bar. By some happy coincidence (or perhaps I’d been keeping an eye on these things on Twitter), the first kegs of Beavertown Bloody ‘Ell Blood Orange IPA were released today, and THOTTM were one of the places to have a keg on.

The beer menu is impressive, basically anything that’s in the shop can be drunk, and they also have a number of beers on keg and cask, as well as bottles in the fridges along with hot drinks and some food.

Mrs MOFAD opted for something all the way from San Diego, Passion Fruit Kicker from Green Flash Brewing, a wheat beer with subtle passion fruit flavours, very gentle and tasty.

There was no choice for me, it had to be the Bloody ‘Ell, a super tasty mish mash of hops and blood orange. It’s a really good modern beer.

To contrast with that, I went for The Devil Made Me Brew It from Bristol’s Arbor Ales. It wasn’t quite as contrasting as I was expecting, an oaty stout with hoppiness and massive burnt flavours. I really enjoyed this one too, and a dinky half pint dimple pot was also pleasing.

We’ve had plenty of great beers today so curtailed our drinking activities. However, you can’t leave without passing through the shop, so we had to look around. As we were travelling by train, we had to be strict and limit ourselves to just one thing each. Otherwise I could happily have had one of everything. You might spot beers from Thornbridge, Siren, Wild Beer, Vocation, Chorlton and Beavertown (to name but a few) in this slightly blurry photo.

The one thing I didn’t get chance to capture was the total and utter quirkiness of the decor upstairs. A medieval style drinking hall could be expected to have lots of mounted animal heads on the wall, and it does.

A fantastic pub and beer shop all in one. No trip to York would be complete without a trip to the House of the Trembling Madness. Just take it easy so you don’t get the DTs 🙂

The Needle & Pin, March 2017

A little “halfway between birthdays” event for us. We had a bit of a think about where we wanted to have a little event with a little group of friends. Often these happen in various chain pubs about the area, but I wanted our one to happen in my favourite pub. So we made it happen (with thanks to Sean who let us reserve the entire upstairs area for the evening).

My evening began with a pint of Beer Hub Brew #1 from The West End Brewery, a new Leicester brewery that opened up last year. This was a cracking session pale ale with good hoppy notes.

Some pizza arrived from Peter Pizza. We tucked in.

This was accompanied by North Riding Brewery’s Neapolitan Milk Stout, which is like childhood in a glass, the 1980s ice cream classic in pint form.

Downstairs, it was bar manager Jet’s birthday. Sean had very kindly rebranded one of the pumps to celebrate this 🙂

Whilst one or two people were confused by this, Mrs MOFAD was choosing another beer, Curse of Threepwood from Wild Weather Ales, a fruity and tart rhubarb and hibiscus sour wheat beer. If you don’t recognise the name, Guybrush Threepwood was the main character in the Monkey Island series of games. One for you 90s gamers!

One more pint to celebrate, a Thornbridge favourite, Lord Marples, a classic bitter.

A lovely night out with friends and beers.

Beer of the month, February 2017 – Autumn + Winter Fazenda Ouro Verde Porter by Cloudwater Brew Co

(Editor’s note – I had fallen a bit behind with these posts, so they’ve gone up a lot later than they should have done – let’s dive right in.)

A good month for beers. When you consider that some of the “also rans” could have been winners in other months, it shows what a strong line up we have.

Tropigamma Tropical IPA by Beavertown is a tropical murk bomb, full of hoppy Lilt flavours.

Day Tripper #1 by The Gipsy Hill Brewing Company was packed with flowery citrus hoppiness.

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Luponic Distortion: Revolution No. 003 by Firestone Walker Brewing Company was a happy slice of hoppiness. Just my kind of thing.

Bosko by Pressure Drop Brewing was a nice balance of hoppiness and bitterness.

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Harveys Prince of Denmark was a contender – coffee, liquorice, dark fruits and bags of treacle. Powerful stuff. Nom!

More hops are on their way, in the form of Five o’Clock Shadow by Weird Beard Brew Co. I loved this. Piney. Hoppy. Resinous. Really nice balance and low bitterness. Massive flavours. One of my favourites of the year so far.

Hops again? You know it. Hepcat by The Gipsy Hill Brewing Company was an awesome session IPA. Better than many so called IPAs. Bitter hoppiness.

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Sorachi Face Plant by Weird Beard Brew Co. features the Marmite of hops, Sorachi Ace. Although it tastes more like a Stilton and mango chutney sandwich. Love it.

We’ve nearly made it to the end of this round up. Export India Porter by The Kernel Brewery is the runner up this month. The eternal battle of hops versus heavy roast malts. Lovely stuff, really works well. Good carbonation too.

Our winner is not a hoppy beer. Autumn + Winter Fazenda Ouro Verde Porter by Cloudwater Brew Co. Some beers call for eloquence and considered words. How to sum this up? ALL THE COFFEE!!!!!!!! ☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️

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A very worthy winner.

Dark Beer night at The Needle & Pin, February 2017

The latest Needle & Pin event is upon us. This one turned out to have a little twist on all of the previous beer tasting events. There was a little bit of food involved, pairing some little nibbles with a selection of 5 dark beers. Tonight’s event sold out in record time, and got expanded a few times. It seems that there are plenty of dark beer fans out there.

Once again, this feels like one of those events that you expect to find in London bars and brewery taps, so it’s really great to have it in our sleepy little market town. Let’s begin…

Gouden Carolus Classic was awarded “world’s best dark ale” at the 2012 World Beer awards, and also won gold at the 2015 awards. It pours a deep red, viscous with sweet notes or raisin, toffee and chocolate.

This was paired with some cave aged Gruyere cheese, and this was a great match, bringing out the creamy flavours of the cheese, and the sweet raisins in the beer.

Moor Stout is dark, smooth and rich, with roasted barley and bitter chocolate. Simple, unpretentious and highly drinkable, it has the hallmarks of a classic black beer, no unicorn hair, solar dust or celebrity nail clippings.

There were 2 potential matches with this one. Some Bavarian smoked cheese was first, but for me it didn’t work as it was way too subtle. I like my smoked cheeses to have little wisps of smoke coming out of them (heavily smoked) but this was too subtle for my tastes. The second match was Roquefort, and that was a winner, with the tanginess standing up very well against the heavy roast flavours of the beer.

Beavertown Smog Rocket Smoked Porter was inspired by London’s industrial revolution, when smog filled the air and the London porter was the beer of the working man. This was an original home brew recipe, using 9 different malts, including plenty of smoked Rauchmaltz from Bamberg in Germany. Big flavour hits of molasses, rasins and caramel are cut through by the resinous American Chinook hop. Smoky aromas abound, reminiscent of the smoke stacks of industrial London.

This match was my favourite of the night, smoked brisket from across the road at The Hog Stop. An extra smoky brisket was commissioned, to match up with the lovely chocolate smokiness from the Smog Rocket. Both were delicious.

Thornbridge’s Eldon is named after the Eldon Hole, one of the seven wonders of the Peak District. It is a Bourbon oak imperial stout, smooth and roasty, brewed with demerara sugar, with added complexity coming from the Bourbon soured oak. Caramel, coffee and chocolate mix with a hint of vanilla and Kentucky bourbon.

The food match for this was a piece of last minute inspiration, a Medjool date to match with some of the sweetness from the demarara sugar. The match was good, although this was probably my least favourite beer of the night. It felt a bit thin and underwhelming, unusual for a Thornbridge beer.

Finally, Bristol Beer Factory Milk Stout. This award winning national champion stout is a beautifully creamy, full-bodied stout, the likes of which were brewed nearly a century ago on the very site of the Bristol Beer Factory today. Does not contain milk. Invigorating & stimulating for workers (or so they used to say). Brewed within the city of Bristol from local raw materials, sweet, black and extremely full-bodied. Unfermentable lactose sugar (added during the boil) sweetens the chocolate and black malt derived roast flavours. An historic beer, recreated for the modern drinker.

This matched nicely with one of Rebecca’s (aka Mrs Needle & Pin) hand made creations, an Oreo and salted caramel petit four. The sweetness balanced nicely between the two, and rounded off a lovely evening of beer tasting and chat, with the added bonus of some nice nibbles.

There’s always time for some shopping, usually this involves picking up things that I’ve previously reserved, and tonight was no exception. Several new Cloudwater brews (and a delicious coffee porter for MOFAD supplier Matt) as well as a couple of new IPAs, a barrel aged weisse and two imperial stouts (one for Matt).

Another great night out at the Needle & Pin, not hard to see why it was my pub of the year for 2016