Merry Xmas from the Ministry!

It’s the big day. Hope you’ve had lots of tasty food and drink related gifts, alongside all of the other stuff like jumpers, socks, smellies and books. I’m sure some of you have received some new or exotic ingredients or chutneys or chilli jams or similar.

After a traditional breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, there will be a full Xmas roast dinner later on. I’m on duty as usual, with MOFAD sous-chef Jo, recreating our Xmas dinner team of 2014. I love cooking Xmas dinner, dancing and singing around the kitchen (if no-one’s watching) and bringing everything together to create an enhanced version of the usual Sunday roast. A cheeky drink or two helps things along nicely.

Wine with turkey? Red or white? Sparkling? Or beer? Or cider? Or perry? The choice is yours, there are so many drinks that will match nicely to your Xmas meal. We have a few things to choose from.

The rest of the day will be all about rest, maybe a few Xmas games, bit of telly, and exploring some new presents perhaps. And then a turkey sandwich or two later on.

Have a lovely Xmas, normal MOFAD service will resume shortly. Pass the port!

(If you were wondering about the header image, it’s from one of our favourite days this year, when we cycled the “Wineries Ride” in Hawkes Bay. Our lunchtime of wine tasting, beer tasting, pizza and live musiclunchtime of wine tasting, beer tasting, pizza and live music was a blissful few hours…)


Supermarket beer buying round up – Christmas 2016

You’re cutting it a bit fine aren’t you? You haven’t got your Christmas beers yet? Or bought some beers for friends as gifts? Looks like it’s a trip to the supermarket for you, either via their web site (if you can still get a delivery slot this week – many of them start selling the slots in October!) or via joining the masses traipsing around the aisles filling trolleys with far too much food and drink, forgetting that the supermarket will only be closed for one day.

However, if you live near to some of these supermarkets, you’ll be in luck as there’s still plenty of good beer to choose from on our supermarket shelves.

If you live near a Booths, then you probably have the best selection to choose from. You need to be in the north west for this (Lancashire, Cumbria, Chesire, Greater Manchester) or visit one of the three stores in Yorkshire. I think all of the following are available in all of their branches:-

Flying Dog
Magic Rock
Wye Valley
Moor Brewing

I’m also informed that they now have some Mikkeller on the shelves too, the Danish “cuckoo” brewery who don’t have their own home but collaborate with other breweries to produce interesting brews. The following list may also be available in your local Booths, but I think these ones vary by region:-

Fell Brewery
Wold Top
Settle Brewery

Here is an example of one of my Booths shopping trips:-


Next, and probably more accessible to most, we have Morrisons. They have a great range of beers from many smaller names, some of which you may already be familiar with.

Oakham Ales
Wye Valley
St Peters
Leeds Brewery
Wold Top
Kelham Island
Wharfe Bank
Crafty Dan (the Thwaites spin-off)

Next we come to Ocado, our most unique supermarket. They are online only, there is no physical Ocado shop that you can visit. There are 22 warehouses around these islands, and it is from these that your shopping arrives in a series of different vans such as Apple, Onion, Raspberry, Lemon and Cabbage. They text and e-mail you to tell you which one to look out for. There is often confusion that it is Waitrose’s online supermarket. It is not. They have a 10 year agreement to supply many Waitrose products, but they are not Waitrose.

There are a few interesting beers currently available, including products from:-

Fyne Ales
Goose Island

And a new one to me called Wooha!

Waitrose are another good supplier for your beer needs. They have some of the bigger names that you’ll know and recognise, as well as some smaller names such as Bristol Beer Factory and Wold Top. They also have some regional variations depending on where you are in the country. Here are some of their highlights:-

Oakham Ales
Hook Norton
St Peters
Wold Top
Bath Ales
Bristol Beer Factory
Butcombe Brewery
Cambridge Brewery

Some of the beers in this picture came from my last Waitrose shopping trip:-


Tesco really just concentrate on the more established brands, such as most of the things from the Marston’s empire. They do have some other names in there such as:-

St Austell
Timothy Taylors
Shepherd Neame

You may also find some cans of Vocation beers in your local Tesco, they have recently appeared in mine. Apparently Tesco are also increasing the range in their Express stores.

Our high street round up starts to lose a bit of momentum now. Sainsbury’s generally have the bigger names, alongside one or two of the smaller breweries such as Williams Bros and Harbour. Their “craft beer” selection seems to consist only of BrewDog and Innis & Gunn. Other brands available include:-

Timothy Taylors
Bath Ales
Williams Bros

We move to Asda, and it’s a pretty poor show with regards to smaller names here. There are four slightly less well known names from the north west, but that’s about it.

Lancaster Brewery
Coniston Brewing

Much like Sainsbury’s, their “Craft” selection seems to consist only of BrewDog and Innis & Gunn.

We finish with our discount friends. First up, Aldi, who commissioned their own beers from some British breweries a year or so ago. All 4 One lager is brewed by Hogs Back, Land of Liberty American IPA is brewed by Sadler’s, Red Rye IPA is brewed at Twickenham Fine Ales, Spill the Beans Coffee Porter is brewed by Brains and Sunny Dayz Golden Ale is also brewed at Hogs Back. Spill the Beans is my favourite so far.

They have also commissioned a new range from Marston’s, under the name Harper’s. The first one of these that I tried, Golden Crown, was 100% meh.

Lidl have taken a similar path, creating their own Hatherwood “craft” brand. Which is of course all brewed by Marston’s. I’ve never had any beer from Lidl because we don’t have one readily available. There’s planning permission for one nearby, but you can’t buy beer from some drawings.

So, in conclusion, if you live near Booths, you’re a winner. If not, get down to Morrisons. The rest are all ok if they are the most convenient, and certainly don’t dismiss Aldi for some good beers.

Christmas 2016 gift guide – Tiny Rebel Brewing Co

It all began in a garage in 2008 where Brad and Gazz were weekend homebrewers. In 2010 the idea for Tiny Rebel was born, with a few thousand pounds investment into some decent 50 litre homebrewing equipment and a pallet load of ingredients to kick start things. They made lots of test brews, and launched in 2012 with FUBAR and Urban IPA. Cwtch and Dirty Stop Out followed soon afterwards.

In April 2013 they decided to go global and began exporting to Denmark and Australia. They also created Hadouken, an “amplified IPA”, and entered the Great Welsh Beer Festival for the first time, taking gold, silver and bronze. In January 2015 the brewery expanded to allow them to produce 850,000 litres annually. And then in August, the big one – Cwtch became Overall Supreme Champion Beer of Britain.

In 2016 they also picked up a few trophies at the Intentional Beer Challenge Awards, including UK brewery of the year 2016, gold medals for Cwtch and Cali and a Bronze for Dirty Stop Out.

I’ve had many of these already. Dirty Stop Out is smoky, oaty, malty and gently hoppy. The Urban IPA is bursting with citrus hoppiness and it’s not hard to see why Cwtch was champion beer of Britain, great hoppiness with a red malt backbone.

Cali American Pale Ale is a classic modern American pale ale, full of good hop flavours. Clwb Tropicana is essentially Lilt with hops. Tropical fruit IPA happiness. Clwb Tropicana drinks may not be free but they are very tasty!


If you want some, you have just over 24 hours to get your order in.

Christmas gift ideas 2016 – Springhead brewery

Time is running out for my Christmas 2016 beer ideas, because there are not many delivery days left before Christmas.

Springhead are a relatively local brewery to me, over the border in Nottinghamshire. In September 2014, we were camping just down the road from The Bees Knees in Laneham, which just happens to be their brewery tap. There’s good food as well as the chance to sample their beers at the freshest. You can also pick up lots of beer to take home. Which we did, of course.

You can also e-mail or phone your orders through, and then pop in to the brewery for your beers, collect from their central Nottingham pick up point, or they can deliver the beers straight to your door within their normal delivery area, which includes most of the Midlands and South Yorkshire. They also ship canned and bottled beers nationally.

Here are some of their beers that I’ve had recently.  Outlawed was a well flavoured pale ale, whilst The Leveller is a Trappist style ale, a dark Belgian beer full of coffee, toffee and chocolate flavours. The Bees Knees is a golden beer made with local wildflower honey, golden and mellow and very easy drinking.


Roaring Meg is their flagship beer that they have been brewing for over 20 years. A strong pale ale with a sweet citrus and honey aroma and a long dry finish. Maid Marian was first brewed in 2010 in honour of the new Robin Hood film, another pale ale with hoppy and fruity aromas. Ginger Pig is one that has divided opinion a bit. A pale beer based on a 13th century recipe that includes rosemary. It has subtle flavours of ginger, rosemary and lime. I loved it.

You can find some of these, and other beers, here:-

Christmas 2016 beer gifts – Salopian Brewery

We are reaching the end of my “things I’ve liked and would recommend you buy people for Christmas” series for 2016, because we are approaching the shipping deadlines for most of the suppliers. There are still a few to round up for you.

Salopian Brewery was founded as Snowdonia Brewery in 1994 by Brewer Martin Barry at his pub in North Wales.  In 1995 he relocated  to Shrewsbury and renamed it Salopian. A Salopian is a person from Salop (an abbreviation of Anglo-Norman Salopesberia, from Old English Scrobbesbyrig), the old name for Shropshire.

They have been growing ever since, a new 30 barrel brewery was installed in 2010 to cope with demand and when this was overwhelmed the brewery relocated in 2014 to a purpose built 50 barrel plant.

I’ve enjoyed several of their beers recently, including Automaton, which is like a smack in the mouth with a boxing glove full of Citra hops. This is only a good thing in my books!

Darwin’s Origin was first brewed to commemorate the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Darwin in Shrewsbury in 1809, and takes its name from On the Origin of Species. It’s a copper coloured beer with a spicy hop character and refined malt finish.

Polygraph is a stout with toast, liquorice, hints of dark fruit, chocolate and coffee and a lovely hop character.

Order by midnight 21st December for Christmas shipping.

(Images copyright Salopian Brewery)

Christmas 2016 beer gifts from Ales by Mail

There are lots of statistics bandied around about how many people you tell about a good customer service experience, and how many you tell about a bad one. The numbers vary, but it’s something between twice as many or ten times as many people that you tell about a bad experience.

Ales by Mail are nice people who give good service. The last time I ordered from them, they gave me good service. So I like them. They have a great range of beers (and some cider) on their web site. So I like them. They do deals. So I like them. They have special offers. So I like them.

There are over 100 breweries to choose from, including many of those that have already featured in this year’s gift guide posts. They have things you see in shops (BrewDog, Flying Dog, Fyne Ales, Hardknott, Thornbridge) and well as things that you only usually get direct from breweries (Cloudwater, Time and Tide, De Molen). This was the composition of my last selection box (all hand chosen by me, but they have several pre-mixed cases available if you want them to choose for you).


There’s so much to choose from that you’ll find plenty to please the beer lover in your life. Or just yourself if you’re stocking up your Christmas stocking for the festive season. Last orders for Xmas delivery should be made by midday on Monday 19th December, so get moving!

Christmas beery gifts 2016 – Wild Beer Co

I came across Wild Beer Co back in 2015 when I had a few cans of their Bibble pale ale. I’ve had quite a few more in 2016, picking up some at Booths, my favourite supermarket, and also quite a few from The Needle & Pin.

Starting with cans, the Madness IPA has a massive hoppy nose and delivers about 90% of that on the palate. “Fresh” is another crisp and hoppy American pale ale, and Pogo is another good can of beer with a super fruity nose and a slightly more relaxed palate.


There are lots of bottles too, and I’ve had some great ones so far. Wild Goose Chase was my first this year, full of fizzy tartness, sweet, sour and a dry finish. Just a shame that the late hops get lost in the mix. Sourdough was another good one, like a cider with the sweetness removed, a very nice sour. Somerset Wild is another “cider that’s not a cider”, a pale, sparkling sour with wild yeasts and bacteria from apple orchards. Zingy!

You’ll spot that they do these tart/sour beers quite well. Modus Operandi (Modus Vivendi) is another example of this, sweet, sour, blueberry, blackberry, red wine, fizz. So much going on, so little time. Epic Saison is also a super zingy thingy, sherbet lemons in liquid form. Although it is perhaps the most divisive beer ever seen in MOFAD towers, with Mrs MOFAD describing it as “like drinking a mouldy shed”.

You can buy all of these and more from their online shop:-

Order by the 20th of December to guarantee delivery in time for Christmas.

Christmas Gift Guide 2016 – Magic Rock Brewing

Magic Rock Brewing began life in 2011 when their first batch of Cannonball IPA was brewed. They bottled beers by hand, capped them by hand and boxed them by hand. They went from strength to strength, opening a tap room and expanding their brewery at a new site in Birkby, Huddersfield.

They are committed to making a full range of modern, flavourful, hop forward and ‘big’ beers using the best available ingredients and techniques for drinkers unwilling to compromise on flavour. This uncompromising attitude runs through all of their beers.

This year I’ve had Dark Arts, a mix of four malts and hops that brings chocolate, coffee and toasty toffee notes. A can of Highwire Grapefruit was one of the highlights of a summer camping trip, a real fruity hit. More hoppy delights awaited with a few cans at The Needle & Pin, including High Wire and Inhaler, and then the original Cannonball at the IPA night back in October.

Common Grounds was my most recent can, chocolate bitterness and some coffee notes. You can buy all of these (and more) from their online store:-

Christmas 2016 beer ideas – Vibrant Forest brewery

Here we go again with another in this year’s series of beer gift ideas. Vibrant Forest have been on the go for a good few years now, I first came across them in 2015 when I had a pint of Cydonia at The Filly Inn, which was hoppy, fruity and delicious. They had my attention!

In 2016 they have been all over my radar, thanks to MOFAD drinking and camping companion Matt, who has kept several of us well stocked with their beers. We enjoyed some Bourbon Oktober in July, and a very vibrant Salted Liquorice Stout in September (it’s now called Cambrian Root (after the “Cambrian explosion” around 541 million years ago, when most major animal phyla appeared on Earth).

In October, we held our own mini beer festival, at which many VF beers made an appearance. We loved the smooth coffee notes of Umbral Abyss, the mellow tartness of Zuur, the piquancy of Black Forest and the very special Imperial Red IPA (Special Edition). I also enjoyed a Summit, a classic hoppy modern pale ale.

If you want to buy some, their brewery shop and bar is open on a Friday from 12pm until 6pm and Saturday from 11am until 3pm. They will also be open on the following days leading up to Christmas:

December 22: 11AM to 6PM
December 23: 11AM to 6PM
December 24: 11AM to 3PM

You can also buy online direct from the brewery via Eebria:-

Christmas 2016 beer gifts – Thornbridge

I can’t really do a round up of beery gifts to buy your friends without mentioning Thornbridge can I? One of my very favourite “craft” breweries who have been brewing since 2005. I can still remember my first pint of Jaipur IPA from way back then. It was an instant hit with us drinkers and for Thornbridge. And they have gone from strength to strength ever since. I wrote about The Great Peak Weekender back in 2015 (we attended in 2014 too).

Their tagline is “Innovation. Passion. Knowledge.” Whilst most of these things are usually just corporate guffspeak, this one really fits. They know what they are doing, they are passionate about it, and they love to innovate. They produce lots of classical style ales light light ales, stouts, brown ales and bitters. That’s the knowledge and passion.

When it comes to innovation, they will have a go at lots of things. A peanut butter brown ale called Charlie Brown? Why not (it tastes lovely). A chocolate mint stout called Baize? Yes please! A beer to go with minty foods at last. A porter flavoured with Parma Violets (Parma Porter). Certainly. And it works. A sour ale or a strawberry sour ale? A 10% IPA that is insanely drinkable (Jaipur X). And a barrel aged Belgian golden ale that’s almost a cider. It’s called Serpent, and you could drink it with your Xmas turkey instead of wine.


They have lots of styles to suit various palates. Classic lagers, IPAs, imperial stouts and even a Christmas selection box.

You can buy many of these online here as well as some clothing and a few books:-

Standard delivery is 3-5 days so I’d suggest you order by the 19th of December…