Tag Archives: craft

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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7 days of beer.

The coming week is playing host to a number of beer events (tap takeovers all over the place) that I thought I’d preview briefly here.

Today, Thursday 7th April, sees Siren land at BrewDog Clerkenwell for the next in line of their Tap Takeovers. I am so, very jealous of anyone going to this. Siren are one of the top UK breweries, and the tap list is spectacular. Without a shadow of a doubt, the Siren x Cigar City collab, Caribbean Chocolate Cake (on nitro, no less) is going to be absolutely phenomenal.

Meanwhile, Wylam take over 8 taps at the Brighton Beer Dispensary, proving there’s a whole lot more to Newcastle’s beer scene than Newky Brown. Brews on offer include Little Fluffy Clouds, the Wylam x Mad Hatter collab, a lemon meringue pie beer that I sampled last week; a refreshing session strength IPA with a lovely lemon tang on the finish. Also on tap is the fantastic Jakehead IPA and the luxuriously thick stout, Club of Slaughters. I’m hoping I’ll get the chance to swing by, and if I do, I’ll beeline for the Wylam x Yeastie Boys collab, WxY IPA.

Friday 8th to Sunday 10th April sees the Brighton Tap Takeover. 10 pubs, 10 breweries. My personal highlights: The Mash Tun will be hosting Cloudwater, who are launching their DIPA v3 (hands up, who’s excited), which is surely going to be
mindblowing. Northern Monk have collaborated with their hosts, Hope and Ruin, and brewed a Tuaca and Orange Stout, based on the venue, and probably Brighton’s, favourite shot. Worthy mention to the 822 DIPA they’re launching, too, which I’ll be getting my hands on. Last, but absolutely not least, the new version of Bison’s APA: See Side Citralicious and Two Tribes’ new launch, Supersonic Saison will be over at East Street Tap. I’ll do a little write up afterwards, and I’m sure there’ll be something totally random that I fall in love with. The whole beer list, event schedule and other general information is over here.

I was seriously considering making a trip to Huddersfield, but the good people over at Craft Beer Co. are saving me the hassle by bringing the 4th annual launch of Magic Rock’s Un-human Cannonball Triple IPA to Islington on Wednesday 13th April. Magic Rock consistently turn out some of the best beers around, and this will not be an exception.

Back in Brighton on Thursday 14th April, The Kernel will be bringing their best to Craft Beer Co. Brighton for a tap takeover. I’ve been informed that the full beer list will be released soon, and it’s definitely one to watch out for.

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A late, late review.

I’ve been crazy busy and haven’t had a chance to actually get something fully written and edited, so this is a lot later than I wanted it to be. The beers I’ve chosen to write about weren’t exclusive, so it’s not entirely redundant…

Last, last Thursday saw the opening of the annual Craft 100 festival at Craft Beer Co. Clapham in London. I’ve been a loyal attendee since its inception, so duly went along.

The premise is simple: a varied selection of 100 beers, both cask and keg, from all over the world. The rare or hard to find brews are the ones I home in on usually, but there are always a few (often festival exclusive) from some of the best breweries in the UK. There’s always some kind of food on offer as well, and this year saw the return of the ridiculously good Philly cheesesteaks from the Liberty Cheesesteak Company. I had a half hogie, and went back for a whole one about half an hour later. Eh, sue me. It’s always sunny.

So, to the beer. I’ll mention a couple of what I had, partly because I stopped checking in to Untappd after a while, and without a proper record of them, I probably wouldn’t be able to do them justice.

Unintentionally, although I should’ve known, I went straight in with the strongest (by some margin) beer on offer, with the Evil Twin x Lervig collaboration, Big Ass Money Stout. It’s a 17.5% imperial stout brewed with pizza. Yep. That sentence contains no typos. I don’t think I can better the actual description on Lervig’s site because it’s bloody brilliant, so a direct quote:

This bold 17,5% ABV Imperial stout was aged in two 3000L foeders. We mashed in with frozen pizza, and we dry money’d it to poke fun of modern Norwegian culture. The beer itself has a velvety smoothness easy drinking body despite its huge alcohol content. It’s got some ass, it’s got some stout, and it costs a lot of money.

Food pairings

Cohiba Behike cigars, Iranian Beluga caviar, Kobe beef, Foie gras, Grandiosa microwaveable pizzas.

Malts

Pale malt, Roasted malts.

Hops

Aurora, Chinook, Cascade.

Aroma

Warming chocolate, brandy nose and freshly minted bank notes.

Serve in

Gold chalice, or platinum-plated hand-crafted artisan-inspired crystal flute.

Regardless of what may or may not have gone in it, it’s a wonderfully intense stout to drink. You can smell the alcohol in it, which I don’t think comes through as much in the taste. It’s full bodied, warming, and rich. It’s definitely a sipper, and I enjoyed it. I think this was my personal highlight.

On recommendation, I then went for the Breakfast Sour by High Water Brewing. I love a good sour, and this one was excellent. It comes in at 6.5%, and looks lovely. It’s got wonderful lemon, grapefruit and lychee notes, with a dry finish. Total tart.

I’m not sure whether it was down to the intense flavours of what I’d been drinking, but the Kernel x Jester King collaboration of Farmhouse Table Beer (Tettnanger/Centennial) fell a little flat. I think if I’d started with this 4.3% saison I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more, as it was light and refreshing. Anything by Kernel is going to be good, and I hope to find this again to give another go.

I do regret not going to the Outside Bar a little earlier, as the Clwb Tropicana (the w is a little homage to their Welsh heritage, which I like) by Tiny Rebel went out as I was ordering one. It was the first barrel to finish of them all, and was certainly lauded by those who had sampled it. Unfortunately, it was down as a festival exclusive, but occasionally these things turn up again.

Overall, it was another great CBC, and lovely to see familiar faces.

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What’s that noise? It’s the Yeastie Boys!

The Yeastie Boys of New Zealand have been around for a little while now with their multi-multi-multi award-winning Pot Kettle Black Black IPA, but have recently become a lot more prominent, due to a nice little agreement with Brewdog to brew three of their most popular beers for them up in Aberdeenshire (the rest are still coming out of New Zealand -it will say on the bottle). The Scottish beer-lords have previously done something a little similar with Mikkeller, but gained exclusive import and distribution rights rather than a brewing arrangement. While the demand of Mikkeller rose sharply, no doubt because of the massive publicity that any association with Brewdog brings, I can see this partnership being even more lucrative.

Prior to 2015, Yeastie Boys’ Digital IPA was a highly rated 7% beer. It’s now been taken down a notch or two to a more widely-palatable 5.7%. It’s probably a smart business move, and I could see it becoming the “new” Punk IPA. To have a commercially-viable beer is a good way to gain ground, especially if you’re putting it out there in somewhere like Brewdog -a place that you know will have decent beer, but also has something to cater for your Heineken-drinking mates. Yes, it’s a nice little IPA, but there isn’t really much else to say about it. Something of a decent quality to have a few of and not pay much attention to.

Stairdancer is their 4.4% Pacific Ale. I don’t want to be lazy, but it’s a little more of the above. The label describes it as a “lawnmower beer” and I think that’s pretty accurate. It’s got a good malty flavour to it, and is very refreshing, but it falls a little flat at anything more.

I always like a bit of an odd beer, and so I was looking forward to having Gunnamatta, their Earl Grey IPA. I’ve always been interested in teaspired beers since Fyne Ales did a limited edition green tea beer, which was lovely. I don’t recall ever having had Gunnamatta, and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s got a lovely floral, fruity flavour, which develops into the tea notes at the end. I don’t think it’s one for everyone, but I like that. Not everyone has to like everything you brew.

A few years ago, around 2011, Dark Star ran their anti-Hophead campaign. It was to encourage people to not drink their own beer, because they had so many other fantastic, not-just-another-IPA beers. I can’t actually find anything pertaining to the exact logic behind it and I’m just relying on my own memory, because it seems to have been deleted from their archives. On one hand, I feel like something similar should be encouraged against the overload of 4-5.5% pales currently that are often indistinguishable from one another. On the other, the influx of DIPAs from the likes of Cloudwater v2 and the upcoming v3, the aforementioned Beavertown Double Chin and Skull King and BBNO 55/01 are more than making up for it. I guess I’ll settle.

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The Beaster Weekend.

I’ve been a little busy of late and haven’t seemed to have the time to sit down and properly write about anything. Here’s a little of what I’ve been drinking, and what this long Easter weekend will consist of (lots of beer)…

  • Ginspired IPA – Siren x Magic Rock collab on tap at Bison Beer Crafthouse. Being the first ever gin and tonic beer I’ve ever heard of, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was lovely, but I thought that the gin notes were quite subtle. Maybe that’s just an indication of how I take my G&Ts… Good stuff, though. Highly, highly doubt there would be any left now.
  • Rakau – BBNo also at Bison. Hoppy, bitter, and exactly what you want from an IPA. Excellent.
  • Wheat Purple – Dark Star on tap at the Shakespeare’s Head. Blackberry wheat beer. Sounded promising, even if it was a wheat beer. Turned out to be a rare Dark Star blip. It was like a slightly alcoholic, weak Ribena. Didn’t try it anywhere else, so if someone has had a better experience, please let me know. It was only 4.2%, but I drank it like it was Ribena, and it therefore lasted about 10 minutes. The stout on (Idle Bo by Bartleby’s) was better with a lovely chocolate/burnt coffee taste, but the (famous) sausages and mash were the best thing about the pub. (PS: Shoutout to whomever used to drink my Ginbena (self-explanatory) with me on Fulham FC away days. When in Rome Sunderland.)
  • Craft100 returns to Craft Beer Co. Clapham on Thursday for the duration of the Easter weekend. It’s a handsome beer list, and I will be sampling many of these delights. Making a beeline for: Molotov Cocktail (Simcoe Edition) (DIPA 13%) – Evil Twin. I’m not sure anything could sound more appealing. Orange Haze (Orange IPA 6.4%) – Dugges. Interesting to see how it compares to Beavertown’s Bloody ‘Ell. BA Bearded Lady (Grand Marnier Edition) (Imperial Stout 10.5%) – Magic Rock. Every damn year I try to get to this before it sells out. This year, it will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine. Peated Soul (Scotch Ale 8.4%) – Northern Monk x Soul Rebel. Whisky + beer = win.
  • Bison are celebrating their 1st Birthday this weekend, and are doing so by having the outstandingly gorgeous aforementioned Bloody ‘Ell on tap, and in cans. EXCITED.
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Tinnies – Part Two.

 

Beavertown recently celebrated their 4th birthday. They threw a much discussed birthday bash, and brewed their latest addition to their Barbarian Series – a collection of limited edition double and triple IPAs. A collaboration last year with Boneyard resulted in the first beer of this collection, Power of the Voodoo: an outstanding triple IPA, and one of my favourite beers of 2015. Naturally, I was very excited to get hold of Double Chin, a double version of Neck Oil, their very first beer.

I know I’ve said it several times, but the can is literally a piece of art. It’s a beautiful vessel for a beautiful beer. The complex blend of 7 different hops lends it a tropical, fruity flavour and at 8.5%, it packs a punch. It’s a wonderfully balanced brew, and I’d highly recommend it, if you can get hold of a can. Two wishes for Beavertown: 1) Make this is a permanent addition. Actually, throw Voodoo in, too, while you’re at it. 2) I want this as framed artwork.

Fine. I’ll stop talking about the damn can now…

Moving on.

Mosaic hops are my favourite, and so I chose a can of Bibble by Wild Beer Co. purely for that. It’s a session IPA, coming in at an easy 4.2%. “Bibble” apparently means “to drink regularly” in Somerset, and I can see where they’re going with that. It’s not a statement beer by any stretch, but one you could knock back without trouble.

Grapefruit. Seems to be everywhere. I tried the Magic Rock offering in the form of High Wire Grapefruit a little while ago. Lovely, as can be expected from Magic Rock, but subtle. I picked up a bottle of Siren‘s Pompelmocello, which was nice, but the grapefruit lending more of a sourness to the IPA than really hitting home. I’ve always liked Brewdog, and so was intrigued by their take on it: Elvis Juice.

My God. The smell of the stuff. It’s amazing. There’s certainly no question about the grapefruit notes. I personally like it, but then I love grapefruit. It’s more about the fruit than the beer itself, which I think is where it would be unfavourable to some beer drinkers. It’s certainly refreshing, and stupidly easy to drink. At 6.5%, that could start being a problem for some. As for the name? Who knows.

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East Street Tappin’.

Something always seems to be changing in Brighton, and East Street is no exception. The Bison Arms will soon be opening, Geishas has become Dirty Blonde (where I recently had the weirdest Negroni ever), and The Fishbowl is now the East Street Tap. I decided to check it out on Saturday night.

It promised to be an East Coast American influenced craft beer joint. While it was a generally great bar, I’m not sure it’s really hitting the mark with its identity. I mean, the 8 kegged craft beers on tap included three from Brighton alone. The only American brews were the magnificent Falco by Evil Twin (unsurprisingly and unfortunately totally sold out), and a Brooklyn APA. Thinking about it, I’m not sure Evil Twin can even be classed as that, seeing as they’re originally Danish. Sure, they had a decent bottle selection, but from what I could see, aside from the pretty varied Flying Dog selection and the ubiquitous Brooklyn Lager, it was mostly British. As a side note, these are all in fridges behind the bar, and I don’t think there were any bottle lists, which would’ve been a good addition. There’s some fantastic stuff coming over from America at the moment, and I feel that they’re doing the Land of the Free a little disservice. No lite beer in sight which is, y’know, absolutely fine.

What I did have:
Two Tribes Nitro Milk Stout (5%) – I wanted to give this a go straight off, partly because I was drinking their Island Records Session IPA the other day, and partly because I love a good milk stout. Or stout in general. This was beautifully smooth.

Two Tribes Weekender Pils (5%) – Again, because of the brewery. I wouldn’t normally go for a Pilsner, but the honey notes of this make it very drinkable.

Bison Beer Beast Street IPA (5%) – solid IPA from the guys across the road. Hoppy, citrus notes, dry finish.

Time and Tide Calista IPA (6.1%) – Super-hoptastic! Haven’t ever had anything from these guys in Kent, but I would definitely keep a look out in future.

Flying Dog Raging Bitch (8.3%) – Belgian style IPA. The only American beer I had. Fantastic stuff from these guys as usual. Dangerously easy to drink.

Northern Monk New World IPA (6.2%) – This was a lovely, safe bet to end the night with. It’s made with some American hops. Maybe that half counts. Leeds is a long way from NYC, though.

I’d go back, for sure. The bar had a great atmosphere, the beers that were on were decent, the staff were lovely and it’s open til 4am. But it’s another nice beer place, not an East Coast homage.

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Tinnies -Part One.

It seemed almost revolutionary when Beavertown started putting their beers out in 330ml cans back in 2014. “What’s that decent stuff in a little blue can with the spacemen?”, I was asked at a festival. That description absolutely does not do Gamma Ray the justice it deserves, but it was amusing all the same. Now, everyone seems to be canning. Not least, because it’s a great idea. I recently picked up two cans from two local breweries I hadn’t yet come across: Island Records Session IPA by Two Tribes, and Project Babylon by Gun Brewery.

The story behind the Island Records brew isn’t particularly straightforward, as I found out while trying to find out more. If you want to, you can read the whole story here, but basically, Robin Pearson, creator of Soundwaves Brewing, was asked by Island Records to create a beer for them back in 2014, and this is the new batch brewed with Two Tribes. It’s a very drinkable 4.5%, typically citrusy, tropical IPA with a decent amount of hops. What is very cool, though, is that it’s the world’s first Shazamable can. Mine didn’t want to play, literally, but the Spotify playlists are available on beer’s own website. First craft beer to have it’s own website too, maybe? Either way, veritable party beer.

So, Gun Brewery, of Gun Hill. The logo means “Man With Gun Lives Here”. I’m going to attempt to avoid any gun-puns, because they really don’t deserve that. Project Babylon is a lovely 4.6% APA. It mentions on the can that it’s vegan, which I’m sure will go down an absolute treat in Brighton. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s a classic brew. It’s refreshing, hoppy and a little grapefruity, with a bitter finish. I will absolutely look out for the other beers they’ve got going on, particularly if there’s any of the Small Batch Imperial Whiskey Stout left…

 

 

 

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