After a brief hiatus (none of that silly Dryanuary nonsense) just been busy.
So what’s grabbed my beery attention in the last seven days.
The big one on everyone’s lips has been Thornbridge Jaipur X. I managed to grab and bottle and drank in this past weekend. I liked it, all the characteristics you expect from the regular version bug with more “oomph”. The booze was evident but not as heavy as the likes of Unhuman Cannonball and Hardcore IPA can sometimes be. A really nice effort but I still can’t figure out why some American breweries can nail this style, hide the stength and deliver the favour without the heat.
The bottles I recently had from Spanish brewery Naparbier have really impressed me. First I opened was their Aotearao Hoppy Pils, with was fantastic stuff, that pilsner yeast had completely cleaned it out allowing bountiful amounts of Pina Colada-like hops to really shine. Hop bitterness is all well and good but personally I love lots of hop flavour and this was up there towards the likes of Alpine’s Nelson.
The Pale Ale was along the same lines but at a slightly lower abv it seemed a bit more simple with a similar hop profile but less impact, still very good tho. Their Aker India Pale ale took everything to the next step up with more rounded malt sweetness and a more diverse hop profile. Naparbier and really one to watch this year.
Once again I ask myself “What have I been drinking this week?”.
Monday saw me venture into Bradford for “Mama Beers” a Italian food and beer matching event put on by The Sparrow and neighboring restaurant Mama Mia’s.
The evening unfolded with a waistband expanding seven courses and accompanying beers. My pick of the bunch were Birra Del Borgo ReAle Extra and Brewfist / Prairie Spaghetti Western (aged in Grappa barrels). I have fond memories of ReAle Extra from drinking halves at Open Baladin in Rome. A near on perfect IPA with lots of juicy orange and punchy grapefruit. The Grappa aged Spaghetti Western is a imperial stout with coffee, chocolate and made with pasta water. It’s a truly immense beer displaying all the flavours that it promised and worked beautifully with the Tiramisu.
Last night I paid a visit to my new local beer bar, Cap & Collar in Shipley (full review coming soon) and enjoyed a cracking half of Brass Castle Bad Kitty. I recently appeared on the Beer O Clock Show Podcastand this was the beer we were drinking. The bottles we drank were not the freshest but nonetheless were very nice but this cask offering was full of lovely sweet and silky vanilla, a real joy.
Back for another weekly run down of the libations that have been delighting my taste buds this weeks.
This week’s main event was Rule of Thirds, a collaborative brew between Siren , Beavertown and Magic Rock. Probably the “coolest” beer brewed this year which is a 6.4% IPA/Pale Ale pulling together equal parts Siren Soundwave, Beavertown Gamma Ray and Magic Rock Cannonball. With such high billing it had a lot to live up to hype, loads of juicy tropical fruit and stupidly drinkable as I was reminded of this on Wednesday morning. The initial release was brewed at Siren but both Magic Rock and Beavertown plan to brew a version too. Magic Rock’s Richard Burhouse expressed that he thought Cannonball was the dominant beer in the mix. Leeds beery legend Matt Gorecki did a couple of us an actual blend of three thirds of each beer and that was exceptional too and probably a smoother seamless blend…but by this time I think I’d had at least four halves.
This past weekend I hosted a bottle share for a couple of friend’s birthday which resulted in an epic line-up of bottles and 10 hours of sampling. One of the highlights for me was Brooklyn Black Ops. I bought this bottle a number or years ago when I managed to snaffle one of the six bottles delivered to Beer Ritz. Its not the kind of beer you just crack open on a Friday night, this type of beer is for sharing. Its essentially Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout aged in Bourbon barrels and then re-fermented with champagne yeast. I really enjoyed it, yeah it may not be the most thick bodied stout but the bourbon really filled in the holes you can find in the base beer and I think a good four years of aging in my cellar took away any lingering heat from the alcohol. Masterfully done.
The beers I’ve enjoyed this week once again highlights how great the British brewing scene is at the moment. First up is Northern Monk New World IPA. On yet another visit to the on-site tap room and kitchen I sampled a number of halves of their flagship IPA. The first beer brewed by Northern Monk is a massive improvement from their days cuckoo brewing in North Yorkshire. Head brewer Brian Dickson has ironed out all the kinks and given it a super-charged hop injection. Loads of juicy orange, grapefruit yet balance with fresh pine and sugary malts.
Next up another Yorkshire brewery and a surprise I expect for most people reading this blog…Wharfebank. The Otley based brewery are in most people’s minds a traditional brewery creating cask ales like Tether Blonde, Camfell and Celtic Glory, nothing wrong with them but nothing much to get excited about. Brewer Steve Crump has whipped up a wonderful new pale ale named Oberonchoc-full of citrus laden Centennial hops and a rounded off with a smattering of Chinook a real “Juicy Banger”. Oberon is one of the best cask ales I’ve drank in quite sometime and if this is an impression of what Wharfebank have in store for the future then things are looking good.
Inevitably this weekly round-up wouldn’t be complete without some bottles I quaffed at home and yes a big chunk of them end up being from across the Atlantic. As well as seeing the return of one of my all-time favourites Founders Breakfast Stout once again hit the shops near me. The bottled highlight was without doubt Westbrook Brewing Mexican Cake, a imperial stout with cocao nibs, cinnamon, vanilla and Habanero chilli peppers. This was epic stuff, one of the best beers I’ve had all year if not one of the best ever. With big chocolate, smooth vanilla and well measured whack of chilli heat this is one special beer.
The new My Brewery Tap 52 US Beer club arrived on my doorstep last week and I started digging into that. One of the early highlights has been New English’s Dragoon American Red Ale. I usually have a rather low expectations for amber ales as I see them often as American’s answer to a Best Bitter, less taxing than a big hopped-up pale ale and with much more sweetness. Well this one went in another direction; punching at 6.9% this is nor ordinary Amber Ale and many did it deliver a big hop onslaught.
While in San Diego there seemed a bit of excitement surrounding Belching Beaver’s Peanut Butter Milk Stout and why not…what’s not to love? It’s bulging at the seams with sweet peanut butter and vanilla flavours. Not many flavoured stouts actually taste that strongly of its intended additional ingredient but this does, its really does. It never becomes too sickly sweet and is an extremely well balanced beer.
Not a third American beer I hear you cry…yes sorry it is and it’s a real winner. Stone’s 18th Anniversary IPA is billed as a “golden?brown” India pale ale. I’m a big fan of Stone’s output in general but this worked really well and pulled off a tasty new angle on such a well-worn beer style. Amber with a reddish-brown hue in its appearance lets you know this is no ordinary IPA but who would have thought that the addition of a bit of brown malt would make such a difference. As you’d expect this is a really juicy hop-fest of an IPA but it’s the malt bill that shines through and contributes wonderful flavours of coffee and caramel. Such a great beer and just different enough to make you notice.
Last week saw the latest collaboration brew created by BrewDog, this time its with “the oldest brewery in the world” Weihenstephan. The beer in question is India Pale Weizen, a blend of IPA and hefeweizen n styles the each brewery are well known for. Personally I think they nailed it by producing a beer that contained the sweet wheat notes and banana of a hefeweizen along with a masterful hop blast.
A Disneyland for beer. We arrived at Stone before they opened and there was probably at least 40 people ahead of us in the queue. Stone World Bistro and gardens is a wonderful place. A huge brewhouse is somehow tucked away behind a high-end restaurant (sadly didn’t get to dine there) and two well-stock bars serving Stone’s ever expanding range of beers and masterfully selected guests. The thing that is the real cherry on the cake are the gardens, not only could I drink some of the very best beer in the world but in the stunning setting of their grounds. The brewery tour ended up being more of a talk and not much of a look around the facility, but I over looked that after my final taster of Stone Russian Imperial Stout post-tour. Visiting Stone was always going to be a highlight of my journey, I only wish I could have stayed longer.
Cimmerian Portal (stout), Stochasticity Project Grapefruit Slam IPA and Stone Ruination IPA with Yuzu, Kumquats, and Red Pomelo
Not many things excited me more than the idea of visiting Alesmith. A Short car journey from White Labs to a rather non-descript corner of an industrial park we found one of the best breweries in the world. Inside it reminded me of a posh insurance brokers office…if it wasn’t for the bottling line and racks of oak barrels. Alesmith is a relativity small place considering its reputation. I didn’t record too much video footage but I couldn’t pass up a chance of reviewing the special Vietnamese coffee version of Speedway stout. Speedway is one of my favourite beers of all time and this variation was sublime. While at the brewery a had slightly embarrassing moment, Peter Zien Alesmith’s head-honcho met and shook hands with other members of our party, I was stood on the other side of a barrel/table, he turned to me, and as I stuck out my hand to press some fresh with the big boss man he turned away for me to retreat into my sample of Speedway red-faced. Thankfully my face was already scorched from strolling along the harbor the day before. For the last 20-30mins of our time at the brewery I stood and chatted to too very friendly locals talking about the local beer scene. A truly great experience.
Beers drank – Speedway Stout Vietnamese Coffee, Speedway Stout (regular), Nut Brown Ale, Old Ale, Lil Devil, Ramblin’ Rye (Cigar City collab)
Lost Abbey / Port Brewing
Personally I’ve always preferred the less lorded output of the Port Brewing arm of this brewery. Yes, I agree Lost Abbey create some wonderful and creative twists on Belgian inspired and barrel-aged beer. On the day we visited it was during the collection day for Lost Abbey’s most recent uber-rare and super pricey release named Veritas. To get your 4 bottle limit of this beer you had to order a week or two in advance and the select a day and time to come and collect your allocation at a hefty $40 per bottle. WOWZERS! Lost Abbey make some lovely beers, Red Barn Saison, Saint’s Devoltion a hopped-up brett pale ale and Serpent Stout to name a few. As with most breweries a food stall or van is often found outside and on this day we troffed down some greasily tasty grilled cheese sandwiches to soak up the sample of Grand Cru and glasses of Ryan’s first sour that he’d brought along to share with friends. Lost Abbey typifies one of the less attractive elements of American beer culture for me, over priced exclusive beers that actually aren’t all that good. But that is just my personal taste.
Beers drank – Port Brewing: Board Meeting, Mongo, Anniversary Ale, Lost Abbey: Framboise de Amarosa, Angel’s Share Grand Cru
I admit it; I’m full of big idea. I start these new regular blog posts and then do them once and never again. This idea comes as a result of listening a few of my favourite beery podcasts Beyond the Pour, Beer O’clock Show and live Google+ hangout Beer Dweebs United.
Some weeks I’ll have a guests chiming in on what they have been drinking recently but mostly it’s going to be me recalling what beers I’ve been drinking this week.
The big one for me this week has been Northern Monk. I visited the brewery on one of their preview nights before the opening of their on-site taproom and kitchen called The Refectory. My favourites on tap were Dark Arches, a great Black IPA with a good balance of roast and hops. The highlight was Northern Star, a mocha porter brewed using North Star coffee. Located in the Holbeck part of Leeds Northern Monk has become an instant must-visit for all Leeds bound beer drinkers.
The bottles that have been rocking my week are Prairie/Evil Twin Bible belt and Dieu du Ciel Moralité. Bible Belt is a massive 13% imperial stout with coffee, chocolate and a fizzle of chili heat. Full flavoured, full-bodied and oh so wonderful. Quebec’s Brasserie Dieu du Ciel hooked up with The Alchemist from Vermont (of Heady Topper fame) to create one of the best IPA’s I’ve had all year. Moralité is truly stunning stuff, big juicy orange, sweet pineapple and bitter grapefruit, my kind of IPA.
The beer scene in Leeds is growing all the time and Twissup is going to take in both the best of the new and some old classics too.
Starting at 12.30pm on Saturday 29th November 2014 here is the plan for the day.
Over to Si with the rundown of the day’s activities:
Itinerary for the day then:
12.30pm – Northern Monk Refectory
Only opened on 24th October. Over 15 taps to choose from. If you are feeling peckish food on site from Grub and Grog Shop. This is a small walk out of town, from the station. Thought it would be good for people who don’t live in Leeds to see this great new place. Leave here around 1.45pm.
2pm - Bundobust
Great selection of keg beers and bottles. Also the Indian Snack food is bloody good
3.15pm – Tapped
Probably the bar with the largest keg / cask / bottle selection in Leeds. Beers from all over the UK and the rest of the world. Pizza anyone?
4.15pm – Friends of Ham
The refurb has made space for over 50 bums on seat. Much bigger bar giving a wider choice of beers. Lots of beers in the fridge too.
5.30pm – Whitelocks
If the weather is ok, I thought it would be good to take a trip to Leeds oldest pub. I say weather depending, as we will end up being outside. Bit cramped inside for a large group of people. Cask only, you may get a bottle of blue moon if you are lucky.
6.15pm – Belgrave Music Hall
Thought we would go here to re-charge and re-fuel before we go to North Bar. Resident pizza guys, Dough Boys, will give you a slice to keep you going that bit longer, or there will be a guest street food vendor on site. e.g Patty Smiths
Much like the River Aire, the beer scene in the Leeds/Bradford Area never stops moving as exciting, new breweries and pubs frequent the landscape. Bradford’s front runner in the scene is The Sparrow. Since it opened in 2012 The Sparrow has been the place to go to get your fix of flavoursome, modern beer from all around the globe but also from our best local breweries. In addition to the Bradford bastions of Real Ale like The Corn Dolly and Fighting Cock, there are the new additions of The Fox in Shipley, the recently moved Oddfellows and on the horizon, The Record Café.
Regarding the important bit, the stuff in your glass, Saltaire Brewery continue to expand and evolve adding beers to their range and in 2014 collaborated with Dark Star from Sussex and Leeds’ Northern Monk on IPAs, Bocks and Smoked Porters. Nearby Ilkley Brewery continue to experiment to exciting conclusions with whisky barrel aged beers like their Speyside Siberia. Opening late 2014, brewing returns to the city centre in the form of Bradford Brewery.
Bursting at the seams with beery delights, Leeds has recently seen the opening of numerous new places to drink; most notably Bundobust. A joint venture between the people behind Bradford’s The Sparrow linking up with the critically acclaimed Prashad restaurant, Bundobust is a fine blend Craft Beer bar and Indian Street Food café. Lining their bar are the likes of Magic Rock, Camden Town, the much lorded Mikkeller (gypsy brewer from Denmark) and permantant spots for their house beer, a Czech Brewed Corriander Pilsner and Saltaire Gold.
Leeds has also welcomed Tapped, a brewpub in the US style brought to us by Pivovar, the people behind York Tap, Euston Tap, Harrogate Tap and a number of others bars who have introduced quality beer to discarded buildings in/near railway stations. The ever popular Friends of Ham have taken over the unit next door, making their small yet perfectly formed space into a more spacious beery, meaty heaven. Scottish purveyors of hoppy delights, BrewDog, are soon to relocate to a bigger premises and remodel their current location into BottleDog, supplying the city centre with a much-needed bottle shop.
I cannot mention our local beer scene without mentioning Northern Monk Brew Co. Born in Bradford and realized in Leeds, Northern Monk are the newest kids on the brewing block and after collaborations with Saltaire, Quantum, Bad Seed and Atom have finally planted some roots in the city’s Hollbeck area. They launched the brewery in late August with the taproom opening in the near future.
Its never been such an exciting time to be a beer drinker in this area, whether it’s from a cask, keg, bottle or can the beer is flowing and it’s tasting great!
This article was first produced as part of the programme for Saltaire Brewery Beer Festival. Big thanks to Tony for asking me to write this piece.