Category Archives: Uncategorized

Hops, Haze and Hype.

 

Hops + Haze = Hype, or so it seems currently. The hype surrounding UK beers maybe isn’t the same as, for instance, the insane queuing (or “standing in line” as they would say) that some crazy cats do over in the States, as recently reported by the NY Times regarding Brooklyn’s Other Half’s limited can releases. I mean, apparently you can actually hire someone to queue for you. I love it. Or you could just drive 6 hours there and back as someone does on a regular basis. I’m not sure whether this happens to Cloudwater, who are releasing the most sought after beers right now in this country. Something makes me doubt it.

I’ve had each incarnation of Cloudwater’s DIPAs since v2. That’s not supposed to be an accolade nor an achievement, and it shouldn’t be. It’s just a way of me comparing. This latest one is different in at least the way that it’s the first in a can, and being a can that holds 440ml, it means there’s a third more beer. Not a bad thing in my book. PS: I’m also not a snob about aluminium cans vs glass bottles: more a celebrator. And so, here we are. I’m sitting here writing this to introduce two of them: Cloudwater’s DIPA v12, and their Birthday DIPA. v12 goes first.

The first sentence on the back of the can starts with: “Mosaic takes the lead” -and I am indescribably happy at the number of beers popping up at the moment showcasing Mosaic hops. They’re my favourite, as I mention ALL THE TIME TO EVERYONE. The aroma is huge. One of those “I can smell the can opening” ones. Pineapple, mango, orange in a big, fruity hit. Resinous, pine notes in the back. Cloudwater have a knack for getting their beers to taste like they smell, and this isn’t really an exception. It’s medium bodied with a lovely mouthfeel, low carbonation (a big yes from me) and a lasting bitterness that leaves an aftertaste that reminds me of that of a pineapple and orange juice. The drinkability of this is silly, but I’m never one to shy away from a strong beer, and 9.0% like this is could be dangerous for some. This could well be my favourite so far. Big words, huh? I can almost hear the echoes of “But… what about v3?!” ringing in my ears…

Birthday DIPA was gifted to me from a very generous friend, and for that I am grateful. It was only sold at the brewery (a mere 4.5 hour drive each way -nothing!) and on Eebria, where you’d have to buy several cans to make it worth it. Unless you’re happy to pay the same amount for the can as for the delivery, which I passed up on. It was made to celebrate Cloudwater’s 2nd birthday: the fact that this brewery is churning out beer this good after only 2 years is just insane, and is little surprise to me that they were recently in the Top 10 breweries in the world.

It’s a super hazy orange colour. Like, think of the “iceman pour” photos of The Veil, Other Half and Omnipollo beers (for the record, I think it’s ridiculous) that you see on Instagram and Untappd. It’s got that “glass of orange juice” look about it, which I suppose is pretty apt. The aroma is all tropical: lots of mango, pineapple and maybe a hint of passion fruit. It’s got that amazing tropical taste following through (again, as it smells) with a decent hit of bitterness at the end. That tends to resonate through at the back of your throat for a little while, with the fruity sweetness lingering, too. It’s a fantastic beer. It really is. It’s two weeks old today, and it’s probably the best it’ll be. To quote the bottom of the can, “Hypey Bday”, Cloudwater.

 

 

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Beer-vent Days 9&10 -Going Stateside.

*Star Spangled Banner starts to play*

Mikkeller hitting it out the ballpark with this classic American-style IPA. Stateside packs a punch at 6.9%, and has a big citrus and pine aroma. I wish this was a little fresher (it’s been sitting around in my stash for at least 4 months) but is tasting pretty good still, considering it’s in middle age for an IPA. 

More of the same citrus and pine coming through but with some booziness at the end. I’d grab one again. Especially if it was new.

Time for one of the actual American beers I have -this is a blackberry sour from Black Market Brewing Company in California.

The smell of it reminds me of cough syrup. Sweet, fruity and artificial.  It’s not got that E-number quality to it that you can get with beers (or any consumables, really), and tastes like sour Ribena. It’s decently sour without making your face feel likes it’s melting, and leaves an aftertaste not too dissimilar to a red wine. At the same time, it feels like I’m drinking a tart cider. There’s nothing I can really pick out that I dislike, but it’s not blowing me away.

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Beer-vent Day 8 -Literal Christmas Beer.

Welp. I knew this was going to turn up at some point. I have to be in a particular mood to really enjoy a spiced beer and wondered if that would affect my opinion.

So Day 8 is the day of reckoning for Northern Monk’s Xmas Mocha Porter. I really, really hate the abbreviation to “xmas” anyway, so went ahead and ignored that to focus on the task at hand: drinking the beer.

I’ve had their regular Mocha Porter, which is a great, creamy coffee porter and easy to drink at 5.9%. This is essentially that, but with added cinnamon and nutmeg. And it works. It’s an attractive beer: black as they come with a tan head that dissipated a little too quickly. A rich aroma of, well, Christmas (even with my blocked nose): cinnamon and nutmeg spiciness like a mulled wine, but with coffee sweetness. There’s very little carbonation and without it being overly rich makes it easy to gulp down (I wasn’t trying to, I was thirsty). The flavours don’t immediately hit you, but rather builds after, leaving a coffee bitterness and lingering spice.

Overall, it’s nice and I would recommend it if you were specifically looking for a spiced porter/”Christmas beer”. It doesn’t feel like it’s been rushed out as a marketing ploy, and I appreciate that greatly.

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Beer-vent Day 7 -Dessert Beer.

One week down, and a second Mad Hatter brew has made an appearance. Day 7 is proof that beer can be a dessert in its own right with Mint Choc Chip stout.

There’s no pretending what this is. Aroma full of sweet chocolate and a faint mintiness. I’d prefer a little less carbonation and a creamier mouthfeel. It’s full-bodied, rich and tastes like mint chocolate, so the complaints are minimal.

Overall, a really enjoyable beer to drink. Or indulge in.

NB: macaroons not included.

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Beervent Days 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 -Playing Catch-Up/Brettanomyces Ate My Beer.

I’ve been getting home in the early hours of the morning for the past few days (yay for working night shifts) and as such, haven’t had my daily beers. I’d like to say that these three beers all happened to be fairly strong by coincidence, but it think it’s highly likely that 90% of all of them will be over 7%. Cause screw you, session beers.


On the second day, God gave us Siren. Jesus could apparently turn water into wine, and I’d be more than happy if this is what he had in mind; over a White Zinfandel, at least.

This isn’t the blood of Christ, nor can I imagine this being supped by a plaid shirt wearing yokel sitting in the back of a truck. No, this is a sophisticated IPA. It’s a slap in the face aroma of passion fruit, pine, and a vanilla sweetness. It’s an attractive beer -hazy and amber, and the fruit particles in it don’t detract from that, for me. On first sip, it’s more of the same. Boozy tropical fruit, a little sweetness and a mild oakiness. 

I’ve had this for a couple of months now but decided to chuck it in my calendar, because of how many rich stouts and porters I have already amassed. So, Day 3 is a Mexican affair with Mikkeller’s Mexas Ranger, a stout brewed with masa harina (tortilla flour), horchata syrup (horchata is a sweet rice drink made with cinnamon and often other spices), black turtle beans, chocolate, avocado leaves, epazote (a Mexican herb apparently similar to oregano) and chilli.
It’s a pretty extensive and unusual list of adjuncts, which is always intriguing. Even moreso when I have to Google what ingredients are. I’m not sure how I feel about this. On one side, this is a rich, bitter stout with a little chilli heat at the end and pretty enjoyable to drink. On the other, any of the various flavours aren’t discernible and seem a bit gimmicky.

Day 4 is Siren II: V.I.P.A. It comes fresh from IndyMan and is inspired by Vimto. They can’t actually say that, though, so it’s referenced as “a famous fruity soft drink”.

Copyright issues or not, this is a great homage. You only have to pop the cap for the raspberry and blackberry to be unleashed. The use of Belgian yeast gives it a bit of a saison-y quality, which is lovely. There’s a really tartness at the end which isn’t a bad thing, but I’d maybe want some lactose in there to soften that and add creaminess. Definitely looks the part, either way.

I’ve sampled many a To-Øl beer now, them being a firm favourite of mine. Day 5 gives us Frost Bite: a December seasonal pale ale with orange and pine needles. 
This is my kind of Christmas beer: not overly done, and in a considered, complimentary way. The flavours are fairly mild. Orange comes through in the aroma which is not exactly unusual in an pale ale.The pine needles are much more subtle, but again aren’t too unusual with the piney flavours found in various ‘Merican hops. It makes for an extremely drinkable ale and can probably be summed up in: I drank it in all of 7 minutes.

This is the third and last Siren effort of this Beer-mas. Day 6 brings this collab with Omnipollo and is one of 2000 bottles.

It’s a peach cream IPA aged in Chardonnay barrels so should have all these amazing fruity, delicate flavours, but… Oh, you, Brettanomyces. You’re so greedy. It’s not all gone as there’s some peach in the aroma and the aftertaste is fairly wine-y, but the taste is all Brett. 

At least it’s still drinkable. The Fatamorgana I had was like horse wee. Silly Brett.

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Beer-vent Day 1 -Crisis Avoided.

Given the fairly expensive option of the To-Øl calendar and the various multi-brewery versions that would no doubt have a bunch of bottles that I wouldn’t enjoy, I decided to get my creative hat on (not literally) and make my own. Sure, it’s not in a fancy box with perforated circular windows, but they’re all beers I have a extremely decent chance of enjoying.

So, the first beer that was destined to be Day 1 was Hold Your Plums – a sour made with plums, damsons and rose petals by Mad Hatter Brewing in Liverpool. I can’t tell you what it was like, however, because it ended up in the sink. I’m guessing there was some kind of infection and I’m going to contact Mad Hatter to ask if anyone else had the same problem. In need of a replacement, I went back to the stash and found another Mad Hatter beer in the form of Marmalade Cake, so I’ll tell you about that instead.

If you really look for it, you can pick up some orange in the aroma. It’s mainly a sweet spiciness. It’s much more marmaladey in the taste, with a rich mouthfeel and lasting orange bitterness. It’s a pretty big IPA at 6.8% and I liked it, but I expected a lot more orange.

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Fuck Lager: This Is Beer.

To Øl. Those brilliant Danish brewers with an affinity for unusual concoctions and fantastic branding. Chances are, if you have to pick up the bottle to see who it’s by, it’s likely to be one of theirs. Previous bottle artwork has included: hamburgers, rainbow watercolours, and the Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang. That’s right. The North Korean monstrosity features prominently on their Fuck Art: This is Architecture bottle.

I’ve been unable to write anything substantial recently due to my ridiculous 7 day working week. However, I’m having a much needed break this weekend to Copenhagen, where I will absolutely be paying a visit to the new To Øl brewpub. So, in honour of that, here’s a little write-up of three of their badass brews I had recently.

First up, with a 100 rating on RateBeer, is Black Malts & Body Salts. This coffee IIPA is a heavy hitter at 9.9%, although I found it very drinkable and not heavy at all. It’s got a big coffee aroma, with the hoppiness coming through underneath. Full-bodied, and the right amount of carbonation. Really gorgeous stuff.

On the opposite end of the scale is Berry White: a white ale brewed with blueberries and blackberries. At 5% it’s very easygoing, for me, and this was lovely and tart rather than sweet, which I was happy about. It’s a beautiful pour, and it was like I was drinking some sort of mildly alcoholic raspberry juice. Although I have to be in the mood for a beer like this, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Lastly, but certainly the least, is the Sur Citra. There’s a range of their sours, and this is, rather obviously, the citra edition. At 5.5%, it was again very drinkable. It’s a fantastic example of what a sour beer is like, and the wonderful citrussy notes coming through prevent it from being too overpowering. It’s super sour at first, but finishing with the hop flavour. As the weather gets warmer, I’m definitely having more of these. Really thirst-quenching, and better than knocking back the DIPAs…

Black Malts & Body Salts and Sur Citra should still be in stock at Bison Beer, where I got them from, along with a whole bunch of other To Øl beauties. The Berry White was from Trafalgar Wines, who have recently got the Sur Mosaic in stock. That’s definitely one on the wish list.

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Crafted Crate Part 2: Sussex(ish) Edition.

With over 50 breweries in the Sussex area now, we’re spoilt for choice down here, so it came as no surprise that out of the 12 beers in this month’s Crafted Crate, 5 were from Sussex. Vibrant Forest are actually from Hampshire, but they’re honorary Sussex members for the sake of beers grouping nicely together in my posts. (Sorry not sorry).

Gun Brewery in Sussex only recently came to my attention, and I had thus far only tried (well-executed) classic beers from them, such as their gorgeous milk stout, Parabellum. I was excited to try this out, and it did not disappoint. This was huge on flavour, but not overwhelming at 4.7%. The initial smokiness really hit you, before giving way to a whole complexity of flavours. Rye beer has dry, spicy characteristics, and this is paired perfectly with the smoked malt. It’s surprisingly not too heavy, and has a wonderful lingering smoky finish. Great stuff.

I’ve been getting more into white beers recently, and when they’re as tasty as Vibrant Forest’s Belgian Wit, it’s more than worth it. At 4.4%, it’s a great session beer, and this is packed with flavour. It’s got massive carbonation, which can take a little adjusting to at first. The typical orange and coriander tastes are there, but coupled with almost creamy banana notes. Refreshing and enjoyable.

Proving their versatility, it’s back with Vibrant Forest in the form of their 6.5% Kaleidoscope IPA. The aroma is intense hops and bread, which gives way to an almost herby, citrusy taste alongside caramel malts with a dry bitterness on the finish. Tasty, and the ABV is fairly well hidden. This Hampshire based microbrewery was also in fact for responsible for brewing the very first batch of…

Bison Beer’s See Side APA. Only previously been available in bottle, this is the first canned batch of their signature brew, See Side. This is the Citralicious edition: made with a hop oil derived from Citra hops, which are currently in global short supply. The result is a hoppy, easy-drinking brew, with a whole canful of flavour. You can really smell the grassy hops in it, and that follows through to a bitter finish. It’s a little light bodied, but overall, a great session beer.

I love supporting the smaller breweries and discovering others, which is exactly what Crafted Crate are about. It’s great to see more and more great beers from my beloved county, and I’m excited to see where it goes.

 

 

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Crafted Crate Part 1: Franklins Brewing Co.

Crafted Crate is an awesome new beer subscription service from Brighton. They’re promoting beers from some of the best breweries in the UK, although the just-released first ever Crate just has those from the South. What sets them apart from the pack is that 50% of profits go back to the breweries: better beer all round for everybody.

You can find my reviews for each of the 12 beers from this months Crate in the accompanying magazine if you’re a subscriber, but I thought I’d chuck them up here for the whole world to see.

Following last nights #CraftBeerHour hosted by Franklins Brewing Co., I thought I might as well kick it off with my little write-ups of their two beers from this month’s Crate: Mama Knows Best and Ahumado.

Franklins Brewing Co.’s Mama Knows Best is a 4.1% British Best Bitter. Admittedly, bitters are not my favourite beer style, although this is about as quintessential as it gets. It’s one for pub-garden, summer drinking. Heavy on the malt, with not overwhelming sweet toffee notes.

In total contrast is Franklins’ rebranded Old Smokey: Ahumado, a 5% chipotle porter. This is a smooth brew, with roasted notes and a warming chipotle chilli finish. “Ahumado” means smoked in Spanish, and this is a lovely foray into smoked porters. It’s very well-balanced, and nicely done.

Franklins aren’t reinventing the wheel, but I’m okay with that. Not everyone has to do something weird and wonderful, and these guys are keeping it traditional. More importantly, the wealth of Sussex breweries is only growing, and this can only be a good thing.

 

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When The Kernel took over Brighton.

On Thursday April 14th, the beerilliant The Kernel took over the Craft Beer Co. in Brighton with 15 taps of deliciousness. It’s pretty well established that Kernel are one of the very best breweries in the UK right now, which is saying something considering the strength of competition. Excellent beer is turned out, one after another. And, of course, no two batches are the same. Different hops are used, and different brewers produce each set. I’ve had countless Kernel pale ales over the years, from a tiny village in Wales to one of the top restaurants in London. The consistent fantastic quality of them all are what sets them apart from the rest.

There are certain beer trends around at the moment -everyone seems to be dabbling in the beer du jour: the double or even triple IPA. I have no complaints whatsoever about this, naturally, but Kernel haven’t seemed to announce a similar brew. I got talking to one of the brewers about what to expect next, and I was amused to hear that no, they will continue to tread their own path as to what they brew and not base it on current trends. So, sadly, don’t expect a mindblowing Kernel DIPA coming any time soon. However, with the likes of Cloudwater and Kernel neighbours Brew By Numbers coming out with some of the best beers I’ve ever had in the form of their DIPAs, I’ll settle. Instead, Kernel will apparently be focusing on saisons, and judging what was on offer at the takeover, I have no problem with this whatsoever. Of course. We spoke briefly about their famous Table Beer, and how flavoursome it is for a beer with such a low ABV. I’m pretty sure I haven’t come across a beer like it that is so unanimously liked by everyone who tries it, and that in itself is something special.

Sadly, the beer that I first asked for, the Pale Ale Galaxy/Mosaic/Simcoe/Centennial had just gone. As anyone I’ve ever had a remote conversation about hops knows, I ❤ Mosaic. It’s just got a beautiful tropical fruit quality to it. No such luck, so I went for the IPA Citra/Nelson Sauvin/Galaxy instead. I wasn’t intending to go headfirst into a 7% beer before I’d had anything to eat, but this seems to be an unintentional trend of mine. Anyhow. Super hoppy, with a beautiful citrus flavour, obviously, from the Citra. It went down very easily.

That lead quickly onto the Biere de Saison Barrel #30. I was too busy talking while drinking it to note down much, but this was a lovely saison: lemony without being too tart. More of this from The Kernel is nothing to complain about.

They’re not only experts in producing beautiful pales, as proven by their Export India Porter. It’s a lovely beer: dark and rich with roasted coffee notes, but not heavy like a lot of dark beers. Exactly what you’d want from a porter.

I finished on an India Pale Ale Simcoe. It was outstanding, and I wish I didn’t have to down half of it to run down the road to make the bus home. 7.1% of hoppy, tropical fruit deliciousness.

To conclude? Kernel produce amazing beers. No surprises there. They will continue making pale ales that really set the standard for others, in my opinion. Everything about The Kernel is simplistic: the name itself -a kernel is a piece of barley, in a very simple sense; the label did just used to be a stamped piece of brown paper and now still looks the same; the pump clips were and I believe still are pieces of cork; and the head brewer/founder Evin O’Riordain doesn’t like the term “craft beer”, which is somewhat amusing for someone widely regarded as a purveyor/leader/guru (rightly, I’ll add) in the industry. But when you’re making beers this good, you don’t need to be anything else.

 

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