Centro Lounge, Loughborough, September 2017

Tonight is the beginning of our weekend. Regular MOFAD companions Hazel & Matt are staying with us tonight, as tomorrow morning we’re off on a road trip to Skipton. Mrs MOFAD and Hazel are off to Yarndale 2017 on Saturday, whilst Matt & I are indulging in a cultural walking tour of Skipton, perhaps checking out the odd hostelry on the way. Other regular companions Steve & Janette will be meeting us there tomorrow night.

Mrs MOFAD and I have been to the Centro lounge a few times this year, so we chose it for tonight’s dining venue.

Drinks first, and both Matt and I opted for the Bath Ales Dark Side, which is a nice easy drinking stout when it warms up a bit.

One of the advantages of Centro Lounge is that they serve their tapas menu every day, so if you fancy a mix of different things you can find plenty to choose from, rather than just plump for burger and chips or similar.

As I’ve noted before, they aren’t too tied down by the heritage of tapas, mixing traditional Spanish dishes like chicken and chorizo, albondigas (meatballs) and patatas bravas (roast spuds and tomato sauce) with dishes from another continent, such as teryaki chicken and posh KFC style chicken goujons.

Mrs MOFAD and I shared the selection above, along with the usual freshly cooked ciabatta, and Hazel & Matt also shared some dishes. We all enjoyed our tasty dinner, and spent a lot of time examining the decor, including the painting of a weird alien/monk hybrid with a boxing glove/oven glove, and some white horses frolicking in the sea… Do check out the eclectic collection of paintings if you’re visiting.

Tasty food, a reasonable pint and a friendly atmosphere, we all enjoyed ourselves and we’ll keep coming back.

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The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – dark beer selection box #4 – August 2017

This is the tenth selection box from the N&P and the fourth from the dark beer club. I’ve still got one bottle left from the first box (Buxton Rainshadow), two from the second (Mutiny and Old Freddy Walker) and two from the third (Omnipollo Noa and Buxton/Stillwater Subliminal Imperial Stout). These are all big beasts, not for when you are keeping it session.

Let’s dive in to this month’s selection.

Campervan – Mutiny on the Bounty – 4.2%

Take your taste buds on an exotic adventure. Campervan are not afraid to rock the boat when it comes to giving their beer identity. This rebellious milk stout gets its unique aroma from the use of roasted coconut at the conditioning stage. Relish the chocolate and coffee infusion before soaking up the subtle vanilla flavour. A real hit when a cask of it was on in the N&P earlier this year.

Kernel – Imperial Brown Stout 1856 – 9.9%

Another of those big beasts. Kernel brewery export stout gets a lot less praise than it deserves. This deep and opulent dark beer harks back to a previous era, when London was at the forefront of the brewing industry. Layer upon layer of dark malts with a nice bitter edge, all rolled around waming alcohol undertones.

Modern Times – Black House – 5.8%

Another hard to get hold of beer from San Diego’s Modern Times brewery.  Black House is an oatmeal coffee stout bursting with coffee aromas and flavours. Modern Times roast their own coffee so they can choose exactly what beans to use and how to roast them. The result is a complex and aromatic beer, with lots of roasted character and a chocolate covered coffee bean finish. All of this packed in to only 5.8% so you could even enjoy it by the pint.

Northern Monk / Other Half Patrons Project 1.04 – Leeds Lurking – 10%

Not the snappiest of titles is it? Doesn’t actually tell you anything about the beer, a collaboration between Leeds’ Northern Monk and New York’s Other Half. It’s just your standard every day run of the mill morello cherry and Peruvian coffee imperial porter. Said no-one ever. We had this at the home made Hooky beer festival last month, lots of coffee bitterness and the cherry comes through really late.

Pig and Porter – Gothic – 7.4%

Intense, dark, brooding, sinister and really rather tasty. Gothic was apparently Pig and Porter’s first bottled dark beer, although this particular incarnation is canned. It features ten different malts and a blend of English, German and American hops, all of which combine to produce a complex, rich, dark and fruity flavour.

Apparently best drunk in a remote moorland farmhouse, on a dark and stormy night, with a full moon and a sense of foreboding.

Thornbridge – Cocoa Wonderland – 6.8%

I first had this in July 2015 at the second Thornbridge Peakender (the one that they spoilt with greed). It is a riot of chocolate flavours, a full bodied, robust porter with natural mocha malt flavours from the complex malt grist, complementing the decadent additions of real chocolate to the maturation process. I loved it so much that it was beer of the month for July 2015. Nice to have another one to enjoy.

Looking forward to enjoying some of these as the nights draw in…

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 🙂

Beer of the month, May 2017 – Blacklight Banana by Siren Craft Brew

Another of those months where all the beers in the shortlist for beer of the month were not sampled in a pub, bar or similar. This is partly the reason why there was no pub of the month in May 2017.

Let’s take a look at some of the beers in the running, sampled at home or at a campsite…

First up we have Flat White by Alphabet Brewing Company, a white coffee stout. Yes, white stout. This had a big coffee nose and a very smooth finish. My first white coffee stout and if they are all like this (which they probably won’t be) then it won’t be the last.

Next up, a Heathen by Northern Monk, full of Citra fruity hoppiness. Northern Monk are knocking out consistently good beers, I have several other cans in stock.

Off to pun land next, for a Viennese Cranberry Rye Pale Ale called This Means Nothing To Me by Alphabet Brewing Company. Oh Vienna! Hops, rye, green tea and cranberries. That’s a first. Good dryness and bitter/sourness from the fruits. A very interesting combination that I really liked. Mrs MOFAD was not so much of a fan.

A few Cloudwaters in quick succesion now. Motueka Pilsner had fruity, crisp, sweet bready notes and a nice hop profile. Cloudwater have nailed the lager market with some of their recent output.

Another May favourite was the Session IPA Chinook Mosaic, an all day IPA with hoppiness, bitterness and some resin. The Autumn + Winter IPL Vic Secret Comet had a piney nose, very lagery to start and a minty/lavender herbal finish.

We move to Weird Beard Brew for something a little different next. Out of Office Ethiopian Coffee IPA. Coffee and hops? Yes please!

Back to hoppiness with Fantasma by Magic Rock Brewing. The best gluten free beer that I’ve ever had. Hoppy, bitter, juicy, dank, orange and pineapple flavours. Lovely stuff, really easy drinking. If you have to avoid gluten, you don’t have to avoid enormous flavours.

We go back to the 2016 Rainbow Project for this month’s winner. Blacklight Banana by Siren Craft Brew. Big alcohol, big coffee, big roastiness. Yes, we have no bananas. It’s a really nice beer but I was actually hoping for a big banana flavour from this. If it’s in there, it’s very subtle (some others have tasted it).

banana.

This goes forward to beer of the year, the second dark beer in the pot.

#RainbowProject16 – beer #5 – blue – Blacklight Banana

Here it is, the fifth of seven posts from my #RainbowProject16 box of beers.

For more about #RainbowProject16, read my earlier post…

For the 2016 Rainbow Project collaboration with Garage Project, Siren drew the colour Indigo. After much research on both sides, the idea that excited them all was that of the Blacklight Banana. Ripe bananas uniquely glow bright indigo under UV (black) lights, with researchers putting it down to the unique way that bananas break down chlorophyll as they ripen.

This led them to brew a beer with 200kg of molasses, 100kg of blow-torched bananas and another 100kg of banana puree. Then they added 25kg of roasted bourbon barrel aged coffee.

As well as these bottles, they also put a small amount into Rum and Bourbon barrels, no sign of those yet…

Blacklight Banana by Siren Craft Brew is indeed an imperial stout with coffee and banana.. Big alcohol, big coffee, big roastiness. However, I could not detect any bananas. It’s a really nice beer but I was actually hoping for a big banana flavour from this. If it’s in there, it’s very subtle (some others have tasted it).

banana

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.