#SuperSundayDrinking Lambic Special @ Clink

Surely the best way to spend a Sunday afternoon is at Clink with Roberto Ross drinking 10 Lambic beers?  Well that is what Dave and I were lucky enough to do, along with Jeff, Jo, Andrew and Donna, on the 6th of November.

Upon arrival Roberto told us he was worried there wasn’t enough beer (?!) so he’d brought along 3 additional beers.  To add to this we brought a bottle from our visit to Three Floyds to share with our new friends.  So that bumped the total to 14 – it was going to be a good afternoon!  It wasn’t all liquid as we’d all brought along a selection of nibbles to help soak up some of the alcohol too!  So we were ready to go…

Now I’m not planning to write you a blog on all the beers (you can see the full list in the picture) but I am going to take the liberty of picking out some of the stand out beers for me from the tasting.

imageLet’s start with the “add on” beers – there were 2 stand outs here the first being Brassiere Du Pont Avec les Bons Voeux.  This was an exciting opening as Roberto did not know what year’s vintage it was – it had expiry date of 06/2006 so it was cracking on in age!  The answer lay on the cork – 2001!  So a 15 year old beer, would it be vinegar or nectar?  I have to say that, thankfully, it was more the latter than the former.  Upon pouring it still showed a good level of carbonation and a sweet sherry like aroma.  That aroma carried over in the flavours with a slight cane sugar hit but smooth notes balanced by the light bubbles.  A real treat!  The next stand out from this set of beers was the Three Floyds Chevalier Bertram de Guesclin which we brought back from our visit to the brewery tap room last month (what a place that was!).  This is a sour blueberry ale aged in wine barrels.  Small bubble carbonation helped to deliver a fruity beer with a good level of sharp sourness.  I’m glad we’ve another bottle stored away!

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Having made a good start here we were onto the ‘main event’.  I had 4 top beers from this list, which is not to say that the others were not good – they all were (as we expect from Roberto) but these ones took the biscuit (and cheese, olives, crisps etc!).  An interesting “set” of beers for the first one – 3 Founteinen Golden Doesjel 2015.  Roberto told us that doesjel means lazy and refers to the yeasts in these brews – sometimes the just don’t wake up and there is little or no fermentation.  To test out this we had 7 bottles!  The idea here was to blend these bottles together and see what we got.  The first bottle to be opened had good carbonation but after that they were certainly “lazy” with a range of little to absolutely no fizz at all.  Mixing them together (in 2 rounds) worked well and allowed us to see how the flavour changed with the carbonation levels.  To me the less carbonated ones had a less woody flavour which was more pleasant even if they were flat.

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My next choice is Tilquin/Rulles Stout Rullquin 2015.  This is a blend of 7/8 Rulles Brune (Stout de Gaume) and 1/8 of a blend of year old lambics.  It’s matured in oak barrels and refermented in the bottle for 6 months.  The barrels certainly add to this flavour – an almost red wine note to it.  I also got a hint of chocolate from this very light and drinkable beer.  Also an interesting change to the other more traditional lambic beers we had during the afternoon.

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My third favourite of the day was the Oud Beersel Bzart Kriekenlambiek Millesime 2012. This is a 13 month old lambic made with Haspengouwse cherries (try saying that 10 beers in!).  The beer is then aged in 130 year old barrels for 6 months and finished with champagne yeast.  As you can imagine it was a complex tasting beer!  I was certainly getting a really good champagne soaked cherry flavour coupled with some dark chocolate notes too.  It all added up to a very smooth dark beer.

My final choice of the day was 3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze (Cuvee Armand & Gaston).  This is a blend of lambics from 2013, 2014 and 2015 and limited to only 10,500 bottles.  It is also the first beer to be made on their new kit without the use of imported wort.  It had much more body than the standard Oude Gueze (of which I am very fond) with a malty richness and more depth of flavour which I guess comes from the blending.  We can only hope that all the beer from the new kit is this good!

Thanks to Roberto for sourcing all these beers, many from his recent trip to the opening of the new 3 Fonteinen taproom – I have to say I remember seeing pictures of this trip on social media, I was sitting at my desk at 9am whilst Roberto was on his first lambic at 10am local time – I’m wondering if I’m in the wrong job!  Also thanks to Jeff, Jo, Andrew and Donna for the great company and impromptu picnic.  Finally thanks to Clink for hosting – a pleasure as always chaps!

Here’s to the next event – cheers!

 

 

 

MBBC Social and brewery crawl on Dec 3rd

We were very pleased over the last few days (Nov 10th – 12th) to see 6/8 cafe have a resounding success with their little mini beer festival which we had given them a bit of advice on, the main part being get local brewers involved. So it was great to see so many people come out to meet and support Chris and Rich from Burning Soul, Carl and Ritchie from Twisted Barrel, Scott from Fixed Wheel, and Gwen from Sacre Brew. This celebration of local breweries was one of the raison d’etre for starting the blog and it is with this in mind that we have organised our first social event.
drinkSo, if you enjoy drinking good beer at the source and chatting with like minded people join us on the afternoon of Dec 3rd. We will meet by Snow Hill around 11.45 and take a short walk to visit Burning Soul where Rich and Chris will open up a bit earlier for us. If you have read any of our blog posts about the Birth of the Brewery you will be aware of the hard work and passion these guys have put into this endeavour, and if you haven’t yet visited you are in for a treat. Staying in the Jewellery Quarter we’ll walk over to the Rock and Roll brewhouse to have a few cask beers, maybe marvel at the great memorabilia on the walls, and fight over who gets to sit in Nick’s Cave. From there we’ll hop on the train to Stourbridge to visit Green Duck brewery to sample what Alex Hill has been up to. And last, but by no means least, we’ll be finishing off at Fixed Wheel where Scott will have his usual fine selection of cask and keg. And if by this point we are ready for food the excellent Balti Towers is a few minutes away.
So you can either join us for the whole “crawl” or just jump in where and when you can. The plan is we should be able to spend over an hour at each venue so hopefully it won’t be too rushed, you can try a couple of beers, and you have a look around and chat to the brewers. See you there!

The Facebook Event can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1793465124250853/

Tilt Turns 1 – Swedish Takeover Weekend

p1010137      Although it was the end of October and there were a lot of Halloween themed events on, we’ve never been big fans (except of the original John Carpenter movie), so on Saturday 29th, after getting a suitably flavoursome lining on our stomach courtesy of OPM, we arrived at a very busy Tilt bar just before 6 pm to celebrate their 1st birthday. For the event they were having a Swedish tap takeover featuring Omnipollo and Dugges, the night we went it was just the former on the 8 taps. Omnipollo is an award winning brewery that was founded in 2011 by Henok Fentie and Karl Grandin, and although based in Stockholm they brew at different breweries across the globe to craft their beers. I’d been a fan of the brewery since tasting the collaboration with Buxton, Yellow Belly, a peanut butter biscuit stout with no biscuits, butter or nuts, which I’d described on my Untappd check-in as sweet, nutty, nicely alcoholic. Since then I’d had a few others and really enjoyed the big, bold flavours they produced. So whilst Deb chatted with friends I ordered the first 2 reasonably low abv beers. Deb had Cassius, a 6 % Citra pale ale which Omnipollo say isp1010140 their finest pale ale, she found it very fruity and quite easy drinking, and I went for Onda, a really good 100% Mosaic pale ale. By the second round, Zodiak for Deb and Leon for me, my wife had decided that Omnipollo was her new favourite brewery. Zodiak is described as the house ipa, although I’m not sure if so called gypsy brewers can have such a thing, and Deb said “another gorgeous hoppy beer with just right amount of bitterness”. Leon is a Belgian pale ale, a style I have a lot of time for, and this one is described by Henok as “assertively hopped and fermented dry using champagne yeast. The yeast and the hops in combination with a simple malt bill provides the beer with a quality of being rich in taste yet refreshing.” And I’m not going to argue with that. 20161029_182820At this point the birthday cake provided by Bake in Kings Heath was brought out, a blueberry cheesecake cake to go with Anagram, a 12% blueberry cheesecake stout…wow, what a beer, sweet, fruity, and boozy. We wondered if anything could match this, but fortunately our last 2 beers managed to do ok. Hypnopompa is another big 11% imperial stout, this one brewed with marshmallows and vanilla beans giving it a rich, creamy taste, and Polimango is a 9.5% imperial ipa and again was superbly hoppy and fruity, unsurprisingly tasting a bit of mango 🙂
During the evening we had a chat with Kirk who seems happy with the way the first year has gone, and I know they have some exciting plans for their second year, so kudos to him and Rich for taking the plunge to open the bar, and many thanks to the staff, past and present, for great service on the many occasions I’ve visited…

The Marston’s Re-brand & Nano Kit Launch: Our Thoughts

A few weeks ago we received the offer to attend the launch for a new Nano Kit at Marston’s Brewery in Burton. It’s the first time we have been invited to this type of event, and as Dave is a proud Burtonian, it was interesting to explore Burton’s brewing history, and Dave’s own personal history. (Disclosure: We went, drank free beer and ate fantastic pork pies).  In this blog, both Dave, and I are going to take you through our thoughts of the evening, and the re-brand of Marston’s.photo-01-11-2016-21-53-32

Bob’s Thoughts:

We thought we would write a few few words about the event and it would be no big thing….then I looked at Twitter in the morning and saw the response to the new brand launch.  As Boak & Bailey have highlighted, it was met with nearly universal dislike from all corners of the beer world.photo-01-11-2016-19-47-17

I’m going to get this out of the way now, I’m not a fan of the new artwork on Marston’s range of beers, this is just a gut reaction.  A sense of dread began to grow that the event would be about who the fella on the new Pedigree bottle was, why they chose the name Pearl Jet, and that it would have nothing to do with the exciting things we had already heard about the nano kit. 

I still don’t particularly like the artwork, however, I came away genuinely excited about the direction Marston’s are going and plans they have for the beer they produce. One of the lines we heard was ‘this is not just a brand change, but a change of attitude’. This could quite easily be a trite, empty statement, but the evidence we saw suggests that Marston’s are at least trying to change the way they do things.  Where I expected a mundane discussion on colour schemes I found people passionate about what they could add to Burton (not just consume), and where I expected a slideshow, I was met with passionate brewers, and people who really cared about the beer they were producing.photo-01-11-2016-19-47-22

As a beer fan, the most exciting element of the event was the beer the brewers have been producing on the nano kit, including a lovely stout full of dark fruits and roasty notes named Dark Current (full disclosure:may have had a few pints of this one).   As part of the re-brand Marston’s have overhauled their Visitor Centre Bar (D14) and installed a nano brew kit. Speaking to the head brewer Patrick, he spoke excitedly about getting back to basics when brewing on the kit and how excited the other brewers are to try interesting and exciting recipes (saison, sour, and chai were just some of the words thrown around).

Many of the conversations we had with the brewers were similar to the conversations we have had with microbrewery owners, a seriousness about the ingredients and reverence to the brewing process.  

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I’ve had many conversations with beer fans saying this is the way we want the big brewers to behave, make these changes and put good beer first.  But is it even possible? I was left with a feeling of damned if they do, and damned if they don’t. Marston’s seem to be trying to do things the right way, exploring new recipes, trying to make a difference to its community, and making changes to it core range to benefit the beer (bottle conditioning).  The question, I’m left with, is whether the share holders will allow this freedom,  and the wider beer community are willing to give the beers ago, to enable them to make these changes, and ‘go with it’, or if, because it’s a big brewery, and is well known for its traditional beers, it can ever successfully take a different direction, with smaller batch brews, that appeal to a different type of consumer.  Is it even possible for a brewery like Marstons to  genuinely make these changes, and if so, will beer drinkers let them? 

I’m still not a big fan of Pedigree and was not overly won over by Pearl Jet, but IF (and it’s a big IF) they produce more beers like Dark Current, their new Red IPA – Slow Mo, and continue to be serious about making a difference to the people of Burton,  I’m gonna cut them a little slack about some naff artwork.

Dave’s Thoughts:

“The old home town looks the same…”, well not really, Burton on Trent has changed a lot since I left there longer ago than I care to think about, so it was nice to go back on the 1st November. The reason for this was that our blogging colleague Lucy Kemp was doing PR for Marston’s brewery and invited us over to check out the new nano brewery that they had installed in the Visitors Centre.photo-01-11-2016-20-32-15

As well as the nano brewery launch what we didn’t know when we accepted the invite was that it also coincided with the re-branding of Marston’s which is a sure fire way to stir up the beer cognoscenti hornets nest. Suffice to say the twitterati had been out in force all day and the impression I got was that most people thought it was the work of the devil. From my own point of view I get why they feel the need to do it, they are a business after all, but it will have little impact on me personally since I don’t buy a lot of Marston’s beer. We had a talk from the people behind it and they all seemed passionate about the brand, and also about Burton, Lee Williams, the marketing manager,  said that it was “the spiritual home of brewing” and they wanted to bring a focus back onto the town and its brewing history. Well as a man of a certain age who felt like he’d had a dagger in the heart when they put the Coors symbol on the Bass tower, I concur with that sentiment. So, as a new experience it was interesting to hear things from a marketing perspective, but we were really there for the beer.

On arrival rather than trying the 2 beers from the nano kit I went for half of Pedigree, a beer I used to love in my formative years…but somewhere over the intervening years something has changed, not sure if it’s the beer or my taste, or a mixture of both. We will come back to that later. Next we tried the Slow Mo, a reasonably hoppy red ale that had been brewed on the small kit. At this point we had a brief chat with Patrick, the head brewer who was quite enthusiastic about the hands on experience of the nano kit which is only a 2.5 barrel kit as opposed to the huge scale of the regular, computerised brewing he does. And I think the fact that a lot of the new young brewers will be able to come up with ideas and get their hands dirty has a certain appeal.p1010150

After the above PR talk we had a bit of food, cheese, pork pie and scotch egg from a local vendor that went very well with the beer. Patrick also lead a little mini tasting of 2 beers, one from the big brewery and one from the nano kit. First up was Old Empire pale ale which used lightly kilned malt to produce a very clear golden coloured ale. It is a traditional IPA of the sort that was regularly sent to India back in the 19th century, and uses Goldings and Cascade hops to produce a flavour that begins sweet but then edges towards a light bitterness. The second beer was Dark Current, an imperial 7.5% stout brewed on the nano kit. This used chocolate & black malt with malted wheat and an addition of coffee beans in the kettle to give a big bold flavour. Everybody was pretty impressed by this beer, and I don’t know if this is damning with faint praise but I don’t think you’d guess this was a Marston’s beer, and judging from some of the ideas we were told about I think that might be true of some of the forthcoming brews.

After the tasting we had the pleasure of having Gen showing us the Burton Union System. This is a woman that is both passionate and knowledgeable about beer and the history of Marstons and brewing in Burton and listening to her made us both proud to be Burtonians. Although no brewing had been done that day it was still great to climb the stairs to see where the yeast (which has been used for many years) is collected. And I am in awe of the guys who clean out the wooden barrels. I’m just not sure why, if this is the way Pedigree has always been brewed it tastes so different…but as I said before maybe it’s me.

So all in all we had a very pleasant evening, I do like the Visitor Centre and hope it succeeds in attracting drinkers in to sample the new brews from the DE14 nano brewery and, although not a big drinker of Marston’s ales, I do wish them continued success in the future.

Conclusion:

Over coming months, we look forward to re-visiting Marston’s, and trying more of their small batch brews. Currently these beers are being served at Marston’s Visitor Centre, with the aim of being served in other venues in and around Burton.  If you get the opportunity to try any of the beers brewed on their nano kit, we strongly recommend you give them a go!  We’d welcome conversations with you about what you think, both of the re-brand, and their new beers.

“All the Pig, All the Time” at Peel & Stone Harborne

Only 12 hours after landing back in the UK after our holiday my husband Dave and I were sitting in the cosy surroundings of Peel and Stone in Harborne ready to start our ‘All the Pig, All the Time’ dinner and beer pairing.

The menu
The menu

Who can resist a menu that starts with something surely Dracula would be proud of ‘Pain Au Blood’!

The first beer was from London Fields a brewery I have to admit to not having tried before.  However after tasting their 3 Weiss Monkeys I shall be seeking them out.  It was a very crisp, pale white IPA with a sharp lemony flavour.  This sharpness of flavour worked well with the buttery croissant where the chocolate was replaced by black pudding, it was a great start food and beer wise – in fact the beer was so good Dave had a second!

The carbonara and beers
The carbonara and beers

The next course was ‘Proper Carbonara’.  Sounds simple and I guess it is but I’ve also had some awful ones!  This was not one of those – sweet crispy bacon, creamy but not heavy sauce and lashings of parmesan.  But the beer….this gem of a dish was paired with Purity’s Lawless Lager.  I have to say straight off this is not a beer I like, I find it far too malty and sweet.  I can see the idea of the pairing but the sweetness of the bacon cut through the sauce and I would have liked something with a bit more bite be that hoppyness or citrus flavours, it was a sentiment echoed on a few of the tables around us too.  Dave had the right idea and kept some of his 3 Weiss Monkeys back to try with it – a much better match.

A light break then with ‘Pig Ear Salad’  – pickled watermelon with crispy strips of pigs ears.  To be honest the only pigs ears I’d come across before were the ones you feed to dogs so I was a bit dubious but it was delicious.  This was paired with Twisted Barrel’s Saison from Another Place (MBBC 1st Birthday Special Edition).  I was so pleased to have a chance to try this beer as I missed out on the birthday party (by being on our aforementioned holiday) and it did not disappoint – lemon curd aroma with a floral, sherberty taste.  A very clean tasting beer with an slight lactose flavour (but of course not an ingredient as all their beers are vegan!).  It paired really well with the salad creating an almost margarita type flavour with the watermelon.  My favourite beer of the evening.

Roast pork, dauphinois and veg
Roast pork, dauphinois and veg

Moving onto the heavy hitters then it was ‘Roasted Pork Rump, Dauphinois, Date Jus and Roasted Veg’ paired with Anspach and Hobday’s Sea Salt and Chilli Stout.  I was a little nervous about the rich meal and beer pairing but it absolutely worked.  The beer has a rich chocolate, figgy aroma but is so light  and easy drinking.  There is a hint of the salt and the chilli is warming rather than blow your head off.  When paired with the food we also detected some more liquorice notes coming through in the beer which with salt and chilli worked well.

Finally the dessert, how would they get ‘pig’ into this we wondered?!  Turns out through lovely sweet bacon strips in the Bacon, Peanut Butter, Chocolate and Cherry concoction served as a little stack in a glass.  The beer pairing here was Redchurch’s Hoxton Stout.  A very light aroma to this one with a sweet, hoppy, vanilla flavour.  The pudding was very rich (but delicious) and this added an interesting bitterness to the beer that was not there when it was drunk alone.  An interesting mix of a rich beer with a rich flavoured dessert that created a balance.

I finished off my evening with a Almanac Horchata Milk Stout.  A slight bitter aroma to this with a sweet chocolatey flavour.  I didn’t get a lot of cinnamon or almonds as you would in the source drink but there was a fruitiness to it that balanced out the sweetness very well.

A cracking first evening back in the UK and we managed to stay awake through to the end! And as always great service and atmosphere in this little ‘hidden gem’.

 

 

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‘Be Our Guest, Be Our Guest, Put Our Service to the Test’

Welcome to our new Website.

We hope you like what we have done with the place, a new lick of paint and tinkering under the bonnet has done wonders. (appreciate I mixed metehors their but go with it).

We have choosen to make the switch to a self hosted site to enable us to provide a great place to find information, news and views of all things Beer in the Midlands.

We have overhauled our Upcoming Events Page and believe the new design will make it easier to find information about the beery adventures hereabouts, and it looks a lot prettier to.

We have also given the ‘People of the Collective’ a makeover, and believe it is more functional and enables you to contact any individual member.

We have a few new tricks up our sleeves that we will be unleashing over the next few days, and we will continue to use  the new feature available to us to improve what we offer.

We hope you like our new home. We welcome your comments and ideas.

Brum Beer Profiles – Rock & Roll Brewhouse

The Jewellery Quarter is rapidly becoming a must visit venue for the drinkers of Birmingham, The Lord Clifden, The Rose Villa Tavern & The Church being joined by exciting new venues  like 1000 Trades, The Pig & Tail & the subject of our latest profile.  Upon hearing Nick Cave’s new album playing as Lynne met me at the Door of the Rock & Roll Brewhouse, I knew I was going to like this place.  Dave joined us a short time later and we got to know the people with such good musical taste.

The Rock & Roll Brewhouse can be found on Regents Place in The Jewellery Quarter where we found proprietors Mark & Lynne.  Mark has long experience of brewing, starting as a home brewer and then getting involved with the Rock and Roll Brewery when it was based at the Lamp Tavern in Barford St and the Bluebell Cider house in Hockley Heath.

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Lynn used to write the “Lynn’s Letters” column in the Birmingham CAMRA magazine and met Mark when doing an interview with him for the magazine.  They soon discovered they had a shared interest in music as well as beer, and when the need arose for Lynn to get a bit of brewery work experience she turned to Mark.  The initial impetus had been the possibility of working in a pub on the Derbyshire/Leicestershire border, but circumstance made this a bit difficult, so instead she concentrated on dividing her time between her shifts at the Post Office Vaults bar in Birmingham city centre and the brewery and being Birmingham’s only female brewer.

After a while the brewery job won out, and although there was a limit on what they could brew at the pub the enjoyment outweighed that.  Recently however, the chance came to move the brewery to its own premises and within 10 minutes of viewing the current location Mark knew it would be OK, despite its quirkiness.  The pair got the keys on 1st Feb and have worked hard to create the space they wanted.  At the time it was 6 different units with a couple of long corridors, and photography studios with band rehearsal rooms taking up the space, but after a lot of hard work it has now become a working brewery and tap room.

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It has a 6 barrel kit plus a smaller pilot kit and they now have no constraints over what they can brew, which they are really enjoying, and are revelling in having control of their own product.  When we visited, they were brewing a green hop beer using hops from Mark’s garden, when a musician they had been chatting to at the Moseley Folk Festival turned up with a big bag of mulberries, which they popped into the brew because…well, why not.  One particularly impressive elements of their rebuild is their focus on sustainability, with much of the material from building being reused to create cladding and insulation for the brewery equipment.  This focus on sustainability, is fundamental to Mark & Lynne, echoed across all their practices and they have no desire to grow, as they believe small is beautiful.

When Mark came up with the name Rock and Roll Brewhouse, as well as tying into his passion for music, it enabled them to theme the beer names around songs, bands and puns, which we found quite cool…who wouldn’t want to try a glass of Brew Springsteen.  In the spirit of keeping things local they are getting their pump clips done by a manufacturer in the JQ.

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We asked Mark & Lynne what help they had received from the local organisations and were pleased to hear JQ Development Team had offered support and encouragement, as well as a community to be part of.  This has taken the form of including them in the JQDT weekend and building community through litter picks Mark & Lynne have been getting involved in.    This left me wondering what would happen if this kind of support was available for the city centre.

Besides being available at the Brewhouse on a Friday evening, and, from October, the first Saturday of the month, their vegan beers can be found at the Lamp Tavern, the Bluebell, and various local beer festivals.

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The decor of the bar revolves around the music theme with nods to the musical history of Birmingham in the shape of framed gig tickets and posters, shelves and a ceiling of 7” singles and the “beer garden” part of which featured, rather appropriately,  Nick’s Cave.  I don’t know if it is the place or the people but it wasn’t long before we moved off the subject of beer and onto a discussion music over a bottle of Bramble On, which I have to say was very nice.

Birth of a Brewery pt 4

So before I left for my vacation with Deb I found time to pop in and see Rich and Chris at Burning Soul on Tuesday 20th September for the last part of our Birth of a Brewery series. The place has changed a lot since we first visited and is looking, and smelling really good…on the day they were brewing a rye pale ale to add to their growing portfolio. This was also the first time I got to see their bottle bar…yes, although the rather poor photo shows a work in progress the results so far look p1000528-2pretty impressive. They had a visit from Robert Holmes whilst I was there and you could almost see his eyes light up, and like me he was working what he’d had. I can already see this being a great conversation piece when the bar opens. And when might that be I hear you ask… Well they will be opening in October, hopefully on the 1st if all goes according to plan, but keep an eye on @BurningSoulBrew for more information and updates, and they hope to have 8 beers ready to pour. I was fortunate enough to be able to try a few and even the ones not fully ready were pretty good. I started with the red ale that they were brewing on the pilot kit last time I visited, this was the one they split and used 2 different yeasts. Unfortunately one didn’t work so well but the one that did was nice, not overly hoppy but with a creamy taste. Next up was a blackberry saison, the fruit being freshly picked whilst Rich was walking his dog. It had a good solid fruit taste and an appealing dry bitterness at the end.  For a dark beer they had brewed a coconut porter using 3 whole coconuts and plenty of Sorachi Ace hops (natch!), and they also had a pale ale with a fairly new experimental hop called Orbit.  For the last 2 beers I tried a bretted ipa using a yeast from their home brewing days which had a great aroma, really full flavoured, but again with a dry finish, and an imperial stout.  For this Rich had soaked charred oak fingers in a bottle of bourbon for 6 months until there was none of the liquid left, and then used them during the brewing and aging process, and by golly it tasted mighty good.  They also had an ipa using Summit and Chinook that was ready for kegging, a Belgian ale that was fermenting away merrily, and plans for a double ipa soon. They seem happy with their malt and hop contracts and basically can’t wait to let more people try the beers and what works will be rebrewed on the big kit and the pilot kit will carry on being used for prototype brews.  There is still some work to do mainly the odd touch of welding that their friends are helping out with but all in all both in front and behind the scenes it is all looking pretty, pretty good…Now we just need to wait a bit longer before we can all get together and celebrate this great new venture.

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Bristol Weekend

      When we booked tickets for the Bristol Craft Beer festival we decided to make a weekend of it since we were aware of the many great places to drink in the city. And then we discovered it was the end of Bristol Beer Week on the Friday so there were a few events going on. One of these was at the Barley Mow, a pub that had been recommended several times, and was a Bristol vs USA keg match up (not a competition apparently) and since they did food it was a bit of a no brainer. We went the scenic route from where we were staying and with it being a nice, warm, sunny evening many bars in the city were quite busy.

      But the Barley Mow is a little bit out of the centre so I guess you need to be aware of it since you are not just going to stumble across it. As we got closer we could hear  a growing hubbub suggesting a few people must know about it because it was pretty busy. We settled in with swift halves of cask from Arbour & Bristol Beer Factory before going on to the main event. The beers were conveniently paired up and so we started at the top of the board with Gigantic Brewery: The Business and Moor: Return of the Empire, 2 pale ales at 6% and 5.7% respectively.  The former was from Oregon, a state we visited last year and had many excellent beers (read here and here), It was good, nice aroma but not outstanding, and somewhat surprisingly to us both we preferred the subtler, more subdued flavour from the English hopped beer from Moor.  Next we went for the two saison selections, Sorachi Ace from Brooklyn Brewery and Saison in the Rye from Wiper and True, both very decent examples of the style.  Round 3 was the dark beers, from Rogue in Oregon the Mocha Porter was nice with a good chocolate flavour but it was blown out of the water by the Arbor/Left Handed Giant collaboration, Flat White, an imperial coffee milk stout.  There was a difference in abv, 5.6% as opposed to 8.6% but the latter was stunning, so much flavour, full mouthfeel, bitterness giving way to a smooth creaminess…wow!  We finished off with two 10% beers:Torment from Heretic in California and the Bristol Beer Factory’s Unlimited Wheat Wine.  The former was a Belgian style dark ale and was quite sweet with lots of dark fruit flavours, and the latter was…well my untappd description said “quite unusual”, it’s certainly complex being bourbon barrel aged, blended with cold brewed coffee, and fermented with Bristol Beer factory’s triple strain house yeast”.  I found it quite winey and boozy but it wasn’t to Deb’s taste at all, but despite that when we added up our scores Bristol had won, not that it was a competition.  After all that there was only one thing left to do: go and visit the Moor Brewery taphouse since it was only 5 minutes walk away.  

     The staff were super friendly even though it was 20 mins to closing, and when I explained where we’d been, I was given 3 beers to try to finish the night with a bang.  I chose the Fusion, an old ale aged in cider brandy barrels which was very punchy, and suffice to say I slept very well that night!

     Saturday dawned with a forecast of rain, and, if I’m honest, a slightly fuzzy head from the previous night, plus an awareness that we didn’t want to drink too much during the day, but first we needed coffee. Kirk at Tilt and Alistair from Faculty both recommended Full Court Press and it didn’t disappoint with the coffee and pastries. After a bit of a stroll we ended up at the Wild Beer at Wapping Wharf, a place I didn’t know about until I looked on the Bristol Beer Week website, and I got the impression it was quite new. The beer board looked good and included a lot of recognisable breweries, but when in Rome etc, so I went with Sleeping Lemons by Wild Beer figuring it would go well with fish and chips. And how right I was, the flavour was good, and the food was excellent.

p1000458Fast forward to the evening which sees Deb and I following 20 guys dressed as pirates (and one parrot) on the way to Motion, the venue for Bristol Craft Beer festival which fortunately didn’t turn out as badly as this suggests. Getting in was easy, a wristband, a glass and a little booklet introducing the breweries, but no beer list. But with 30+ breweries and their employees this wasn’t a problem, much like the Birmingham Beer Bash I think the idea is to encourage a conversation. We managed to do this a little with James and his colleague from Thornbridge, the Yeastie Boys staff and a couple of others. And having paid the all inclusive price no more money needed to change hands for the beer as you could go around p1000462-2the bars having as many small taster measures as you liked… but as I write this some time after the event I still don’t know what I think about it. It was different to anything we’d been to because as well as the beer rules there were DJs playing continuously all night. Now I’m an old git and haven’t been to a club for donkey’s years, but fortunately the music wasn’t too loud and was either bearable with tunes we recognised-or fairly anonymous. And the beers were all good coming as they did from local Bristol breweries, many of the movers and shakers in the industry, and a smattering from overseas. I can’t really remember what we drank, not because we had so much but because I’d ask for an ipa or a dark beer and not really worry about the name, so no Untapping for me. A few things stand out though, Deb really enjoyed the Magic Rock Special Relationship & it was nice to try the Hop hunter from the Sierra Nevada guys, but probably the standouts for both of us were the beers from the Basqueland Brewing Project. I should also mention that the food selection was pretty good, especially the pork pie from West Country Deli. So, and this may not make sense, the blogger & ticker part of me thinks maybe I didn’t make the most of it, but the beer enthusiast really enjoyed it…and so did Deb thankfully.

Sunday breakfast was a leisurely affair at Spicer and Cole because amazingly enough we were waiting for places to open so we could have a few more beers… King Street is home to Small Bar, the Original Royal Naval Volunteer (known as the Volley), and the Beer Emporium, the latter being a well regarded bottle shop and taphouse that we will have to visit next time (and I’m fairly certain there will be a next time). But we managed to find time to pop in to the first 2 where we partook of more local beers from Good Chemistry, Wiper and True, and Left Handed Giant, the latter included a barrel aged version of Flat White which was ridiculously potent and packed a mighty alcoholic punch.  Both bars were really cool, Small Bar seemed to be the place for the brewers from the festival to wind down, and the size and selection at the Volley were mightily impressive, and the fact that they were on the same street with several other bars must be a testament to how good the beer scene is in Bristol.  After having a very good traditional  roast lunch in the Volunteer Inn we ended almost where we began at the Moor Brewery taphouse since it was on the way back to the station where we shared So’hop and Nor’hop, 2 quality beers to end a quality weekend.