Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog: Beer
Showing posts with label Beer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Beer. Show all posts

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Long it to London: Cask 2019

According to the rather sweary youth on our train, we gather that to "long it" is to spend a period of time travelling to somewhere a fair distance away. For him, this meant travelling to the legendary brewing town of Burton (we reckon not for the beer), which was somewhat fitting for us, who were headed to London for a day of drinking at Cask 2019 - a festival now in it's second year dedicated to serving and celebrating beer from cask only.


We LOVE this as a concept. Cask has so frequently at modern beer festivals been considered as almost an afterthought, seen as a "cheaper" product not worth the hassle of set up and regarded as outdated (we know we're oversimplifying things here, but we want to talk festival not beer politics), all things which organisers Affinity Brew Co aimed to overturn. And we reckon that for, the most part, they massively succeeded.

We all know that cask is being lauded as making a bit of a comeback at the moment (although personally we're not sure it ever really went anywhere in the first place), with breweries such as Cloudwater and Buxton adding it back into their roster after a few years of absence, and the queues outside festival venue TESTBED1 in Bermondsey certainly proved that enthusiasm for cask is truly alive and well.


The venue itself was an odd one - we're of the understanding that Cask was the first large event to be held there (but please do correct us if we're wrong in this). It was an interesting space, described unhelpfully on their Twitter account as "a place for testing", an ex-dairy warehouse in a railway arch. A bit on the damp side, with limited seating and even less in the way of natural light (hence lack of photos!), with the one bar located right at the end of a long and narrow archway, it didn't scream beer festival... but the atmosphere more than made it for it. We had a fantastic afternoon of both catching up with old friends and putting names to twitter handles. The festival staff were faultless throughout, with speedy and friendly service at the bar and security doing a sterling job of stopping people forming a ridiculous single file queue which snaked around the building.

The majority of beers we drank on the day were good, with a few being exceptional... we're looking at you, Brussels Beer Project "Black Swan" - a 9.9% Blackberry Baltic Porter which was in absolute top nick. The Little Earth Project "Stupid Sexy Suffolk" (6.5%) was tasting absolutely incredible as well: flinging flavour to the face, balanced, fruity and acetic with just the right level of astringency in the finish. The Partizan Lager was a very pleasant surprise, and we were smacking our lips at the first cask in existence of Fyne Ales "Deathbed", a 9.5% dark Scotch Ale which we collectively described as liquid Soreen.


However, although it was clear that the casks had been well cared for, there were a few beers that could have done with a little more condition, and we'd love to see some Angrams coming out to play. We did also find ourselves commenting on occasion that some of the beers on offer were clearly better suited to being cold and fizzy. Don't get us wrong, the variety was excellent, and it was obvious that the breweries involved had largely endeavoured to send something exciting and genre-defying, which is great, but we were definitely drawn to the pintable, more straightforward brews that work so well in cask (well done Boxcar for sending a 3.4% Dark Mild - it was exactly what it purported to be and one of our beers of the day).

Overall, we had a great day... as much to do with the company we were in as well as the beer, but hey, in the words of the great Garrett Oliver, "beer is people" and Cask 2019 certainly brought that to life for us. It's about time cask beer had a turn in the spotlight and kudos to Affinity for allowing it to shine. Well worth the trip down to the big smoke, and a festival that's firmly on our beer calendar.


Cheers!

Monday, 7 January 2019

Beer Is Our Happy Place

Why we aren't doing Dry January


To all those abstaining, reducing, limiting or quietly enjoying your alcohol intake, during this month we wish you well. We aren't writing this as an admonition, a lecture, a criticism, or as a way to undermine the decision. We appreciate your choice, and wish you well, from the sideline, or rather from a pub lounge, snug or otherwise.

Really we want to say why aren't doing Dry January, a "Dryathlon" and woe betide becoming "Dryathletes."

Just over a year ago, we went booze free for a full month. We made the decision together, around one of Jim's lowest points in his life. A stretch of emptiness and unhappiness, sleepless nights, that led into early shifts in the brewery. A period of too much whisky, which went hand in hand with bad sleep, the cycle of abuse of his body, the wearing down of mind careering to burnout, then..... Chester Bennington.

The death of a childhood icon is hard enough, but when it's self caused, after a period of self abuse despite being surrounded by his family. The situation was too close to home, and it hurt. It Hurt.

Looking back it's a turning point for that wave of unhappiness... there were still lows, but there was a maybe an exit of the quagmire, and we wondered if that could come with sobriety. We set a date, November 2017, postponed (from July) primarily due to the over full calendar of beer fests, events, birthdays and more events.

Perhaps the month would push toward clearer, happier minds. Maybe some good sleep, maybe better skin, shift some weight and have a few more quid to take towards Christmas. So, through tired and teary eyes, a kickstarter was set up, and a little hope glimmered.

The month itself was a long one, without fanfare we plodded through the days, still hoping for clarity, both of mind and skin. a lighter step, through fewer hangovers and a little weight loss? But as the month passed alcohol was replaced by cheese, and the positivity of pub companionship was replaced by boredom and restless isolation. (in no way a reflection on our friends, who were all very supportive, but a general feeling of self-inflicted inadequacy). None of the enthusiastic promises that campaigners for sobriety chime were delivered.

While we did head out occasionally, the lack of appealing choice that wasn't a saccharine pint of fizz was pretty much non existent. For those of us (which is both of us) who like the bitterness found in beer, or the dryness in a red wine, essentially the only thing to drink was tonic. While periodically we would stumble across a good Root Beer it wasn't in our usual haunts. Laura turned to tea in abundance.

And so, after a month of abstemiousness, which came to an abrupt end with the work Christmas outing on December 1st (what could possibly go wrong? Ask the Beer O'Clock Show Crimbo Crawl lot...), we had raised a massive £1000 for CALM (a charity which works to raise awareness of and make moves to combat male suicide - please do look them up if you aren't already aware of them). A humbling amount of money and overall worth it to give up something we genuinely enjoy for the cause. But we didn't feel a sense of achievement. We weren't worthy of any sort of accolade. We just stopped drinking, and largely stopped enjoying ourselves.

What this month off did give us was a reassurance that our drinking habits aren't doing us any harm. Rather they offer us an outlet for enjoyment, for shared experiences, and job satisfaction. By the end we just really clearly appreciated what we had missed - yes, the flavour, but more importantly the pubs and people and comradeship.

We are mindful of our drinking choices - always have been, but even more so following the month off. Whilst we do drink alcohol most days, often this will be one carefully selected bottle or can of beer which we'll share and enjoy. Quality over quantity is a much used mantra but it's something we like to apply to our lifestyles, not only in terms of alcohol but also in the food that we eat and the clothes that we wear. We support local businesses, we buy ethically sourced products wherever we can.

The pub is an institution, a community asset, and across the nation we are in danger of losing our locals and we will use them all year round. We'd like to at this point direct you to a campaign which we believe shares these values - Tryanuary. In championing local beers and venues, Tryanuary supports the beer industry during a month which can be particularly difficult.

Maybe this is less about the January thing and more about our love of the pub, and of what else it can bring apart from "just" a pint. They are our happy place, and if you haven't already found yours, there is a window seat, booth or corner with a beer mat waiting for you to fill it. Go and discover yours.

Cheers,
Jim and Laura

*Written in part in the pub - Pour, to be precise. We had a lovely time.

Happy Place
PS - Jim's doing ok. While there are still some times of darkness, there is much that is light. There's no magic solution, no "off" button on the brain, but we still see the decisions described above to be part of an acceptance, a self-awareness and a realisation that it's good to be open and most of all to TALK.

If any of you read this and need a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, or a pal to have a pint with, please don't keep quiet. We're both here, and we're listening.

Pps - our fundraising page is still active, justgiving.com/mashtunandmeow if anyone would like to support the work of CALM. 

Sunday, 30 December 2018

2018: Golden Pints

This year for us has been a wonderful blending of threads between people, beers, events, and countries. As such, you'll see a few themes starting to come out of our thoughts below, we've tried to avoid being repetitive but some of the things we've imbibed and the experiences we've had are just that good they needed mentioning twice. We've not massively stuck to the standard categories or formats of the original Golden Pints awards, just written about the things we've loved in the wonderful beery world in which we live.

Best UK Cask

Winner: Torrside - Rauchwine - consumed at the wonderful Smokefest at the brewery itself.
You can read more on our thoughts on the festival (caution, they're somewhat gushing) here. Fun fact - this is the third year in a row that Torrside have won this category for us, following on from Candlewick in 2016 and Route 366 last year. All totally different styles too, these guys are true champions in our eyes.

Honourable mentions: 
Fyne Ales - Jarl. An absolute classic and tasting at its fynest (see what we did there) at Fyne Fest.
Gibberish - Cole Porter (Shakespeare's). The best classic porter we've had in a long time.
Siren - Suspended In... series (Ekuanot, Cereal, Citra all good).

Best UK Keg

Winner: Siren - Odyssey 009 (Funk Fest) - This beer is quite simply a wonderful example of barrel ageing. We blagged this as a pre-release keg for Funk Fest, the beer festival we organised at our workplace Abbeydale Brewery. It's a blend of soured stout, saison and straight stout aged in PX, bourbon and sherry barrels. Layers upon layers of oaky complexity, with tart cherries and heaps of dark roast coffee. Simply wonderful and we cannot wait for the full release.

Best UK Bottle/Can

Winner: Marble - Sunshine Radler (2.8%)- wonderful in can straight out of the fridge in the garden on the hottest day of the year. Fruity, refreshing, glorious.



Honourable mention: Fallen - Double Barrel Chew Chew (Red Wine edition). OK so this was a 2017 release but we didn't drink it until early this year. Sumptuously slurpable and oh so rich and velvety.

Best Overseas Draft

Winner: Verzet - Kameradski Balsamico. Words can't describe how much Laura in particular has become obsessed with this 13.5% imperial stout/oud bruin hybrid. We first sampled this in bottle at Fyne Fest, where a kindly stranger brought it over for us to taste pre-noon. We were dubious at first but it blew us away. We then found it on draught at the wonderful Foeders in Amsterdam. We were eating a mountain of cheese with mustard and apple dips at the time and the combination of all of the things was so good Laura cried. It's sticky, it's sweet, it's deep, it's fruity, it's bold, it's elegant, it's BEAUTIFUL. And we can't find it anywhere, so please give us a heads up if you spot it!

Honourable mentions:
Oak & Dagger - Cryin' Over My Mojito Gose - drunk at Beer Temple, Amsterdam.
We also went to Krakow this year and as well as an admirable display of forward thinking tasty keg beer, we drank A LOT of very cheap (and very good) Polish lager. Warka came out on top, for anyone interested.

Best Overseas Bottle/Can

Winner: 8 Wired - Bumaye. A 16% New Zealand Pinot Noir aged Imperial Stout, need we say any more. We will though, because it was outstanding. Loads of body from the bold alcohol content, something we've stopped expecting from aged imperial stouts, which we often find thin out a little over time. A wonderful layer of deep grapey fruitiness that just lingered and lingered. Plus we drank it in a hot tub. A sure fire way to upgrade your drinking experience.


Honourable mentions:
Jolly Pumpkin - Turbo Bam. An upgraded version of the core and original Bam Biere, but with additional layers of spices including szechuan peppercorns, and lemon peel.
Magic Factory - Lickable Staves. A frankly wonderful red wine aged cherry sour. We drank this in the Rutland Arms during a slightly over the top bottle share.

Best Collaboration Brew 

Winner: De Kromme Haring and Wilder Wald - Kraftwerk. Brewed for Carnivale Brettanomyces, one of our festivals of the year (more on that below). A peach lichtenhainer with a modern twist and brewed with a yeast blend known as Mud King (a collaborative effort from Milk The Funk forum users). Soft tartness and true orchard flavour from the peaches. This beer got us both feeling better after a heavy night, sort of like the Bucks Fizz of the beer world.

Best Branding 

Winner:  Left Handed Giant. With an ever changing series of artwork across the beers, the brand always still feels cohesive and joined thanks to the intricate and cleverly crafted work of artist James Yeo. What a talent.

Honourable Mentions: 
Wander Beyond - essentially for the axolotls. Super cute.
Lewis Ryan (Lewy) - disclosure, some of our favourite beer art of the year has graced Abbeydale cans, but we feel that Lewy's eye for design, colour and theme is amazing and we feel genuinely honoured to have worked with him this year. Branding probably isn't the right word here as he's created pieces for a number of breweries (we particularly love the work he's done with Amundsen) but it seemed the most sensible place to put this.

Best UK Brewery 

Winner: Burning Sky - all round amazing at everything. But this year the standout beers of interest for us have been the Imperial Stout - a straight up stout, not a pastry in sight, just layers upon layers of malt. And their Coolship is arguably a landmark beer in the UK beer scene as one of the newest operational coolships in the country, to see this traditional method of beer production happening here with such balance in a finished product is an exciting start to this ongoing future.

Honourable Mention: Torrside, for their incredible affinity for rauch malt and putting on a jolly excellent festival.


Pub/Bar of the year

Winner (UK): Rutland Arms, Sheffield. Our adopted local and last year's winner for us too. Always an excellent selection across both cask and keg, food that inspires as well as fills bellies, and great staff who really know their stuff.

Winner (International): Foeders, Amsterdam. The sort of place where there are free monkey nuts on the bar and you are encouraged to dig in and throw your shells on the floor is inherently the sort of place where you feel instantly at home. Keg lines for days and mountains of cheese. We sat at the bar and the locals treated us like friends. Just the most welcoming bar we've ever had the pleasure of whiling away an evening in.


Best Taproom

Winner: Brew York. A great addition to the York beer scene, Brew York are doing many great things in the city. As well as the original tap room with a good number of cask lines and handful of keg taps in the corner of the brewery unit, Brew York have this year opened up a Beer Hall, with a 50 line keg wall, Asian street food and excellent beer cocktails.


Honourable mentions:
Griffin Claw based in Detroit are a brewery Jim brewed with earlier in the year, and their tap room cum full restaurant poured some of the best beers of the trip alongside some amazing food.

Best Beer Event

Winner (UK): Fyne Fest - Our first Fyne Fest but their tenth year, held in the glen behind the brewery farm, with more than 1000 people camping and a massive selection of cask, keg and small pack from some of the countries best breweries. Just the nicest vibes.


Winner (international): Carnivale Brettanomyces - A fantastic cross city collaboration across the beer bars, bottle shops and breweries across the city of Amsterdam. The festival as you may have guessed focuses on mixed fermentation, Brett beers and sours from around the Europe and the US. The bars of the city came together to showcase some awesome beers, our favourite venues included Foeders, Walhalla Brewery, and Proeflokaal Arendsnest. All totally different but all places we'd happily spend a lot of time in if we were resident over there.

Best Beer Snack

Winner: Smoked blue cheese a la Smokefest at Torrside Brewery. An absolute gamechanger.


Best New Brewery

Winner: Duration Brewing. We haven't had the opportunity yet to drink much from Duration, but what we have had has been absolutely solid and we are super excited to see how they grow and develop. Great team, too.

Twitter Account/ Beer Blog of the Year (we've combined the two as we chose the same winners for both!)

Winner: @ShinyBiscuit - Katie is a beautiful human and her writing is emotive, informative and inspiring. Personality just oozes out of every single piece.

Honourable Mention: @MarkNJohnson - honest, wry and always fair with his opinions. Bonus points for regular pictures of chickens. V pleased we've had the chance to catch up in person more this year too.

Here's to 2019.

Cheers!

Jim & Laura

BONUS CATEGORY: Beer Dog of the Year (Also potentially the reason you've carried on reading this far)

Winners (joint): Kami (Torrside Brewery resident pooch, we are excited to meet their new addition too!) and Stan (@Beerhoundergen). Two very worthy champs.





Honourable Mentions:
Marv, who we are yet to meet but want to cuddle
Marley, who we are also yet to meet, but Laura will continue to tell @MarkNJohnson she loves his dog every time she sees him
Barley, for joining us in a tent at sunrise
Alfie, for bringing the word "Affenpinscher" into our lives
Digby, our most local beer pooch who we hope to see more of now that Pour is open just down the road!
Plus a shout out to everyone who sent Laura a dog photo when she was neck deep in beer festival organisation and decided this wall was a good way to keep calm. It was a roaring success.


Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Smokefest @ Torrside Brewery

There is a growing trend of themed festivals popping up all over the country, with Hop City and Dark City hosted by Northern Monk (Leeds) celebrating hoppy and dark beers (respectively, obvs) and Sesh Fest at Magic Rock (Hudds). These festivals are a showcase of what the majority of modern beer drinkers like to hype over and while these are more obvious in terms of their appeal, more niche fests still run and function incredibly well albeit a little more under the radar. Like the one we help to organise through our day jobs, Funk Fest at Abbeydale Brewery (Sheffield) celebrating mixed fermentation, and the excellent Cask Fest at Affinity Brew Co (London) celebrating secondary fermented ales served without extraneous gas added. Then along come Torrside to showcase arguably the most controversial flavour in beer... Smoke.

You have probably been living under a rock if you don't already know that we are BIG TORRSIDE FANS. Having loved them from their humble beginnings (a little more on how we got to know them here) to having the opportunity to brew with them earlier this year, they are a fantastic bunch who make a complete roster of outstanding beers.


As we see it, their success has largely come from two ends of the beer world - well hopped light pale ales, that pack flavour and have great condition on a bar. And on the other end of the beer spectrum is what really sets them apart as one our favourite breweries and a cut above many other smaller breweries - the "Monsters". These big parti-gyled* beers pack the kind of welly that you wouldn't expect a brewery of Torrside's size to churn out other than for the occasional anniversary beer, but with a total of 37 listed on Untappd, they aren't mucking around.

Torrside's propensity for smoke and ability in using smoked malts in their beers is absolutely second to none in England at the moment, using beechwood, oak smoke and peated malts, they push all aspects of what smoke can do. Beechwood smoke being generally synonymous with the Rauchbier of Bamberg, featuring a sweet smooth smoke that works incredibly well with toasted malts. Oak smoking, which is traditionally used to dry wheat (rather than barley) showcases loads of vanilins, and is less subtle. Then peat, which the household consensus is our favorite wood for smoked liquids, but not quite so for food**. We were honoured enough to make our very own peaty Monster earlier this year, Power Stance, a parti-gyled peated ginger barley wine coming in at 12.5%, a surprisingly subtle balance of fresh, aromatic spice and sweet, almost saltiness, all dug from the earth.

Anyway. Onto the festival! The grey November day came, as did a pair of trains that journeyed us safely to our destination of New Mills (New Town rather than our usual Central***), and the unit that Torrside share with a private Marina, it's basically Monte Carlo for central Derbyshire. In the brewery we found a huuuuge selection of beers all featuring one or more of the aforementioned smokes, plus a sea of friendly faces. Smoke might be a divisive flavour in beer but it sure brought all of us together.


We opened with two Torrside beers - Hopfenrauch (Jim), a well balanced smoked bitter with a hop zest cutting through, and Sto Lat (Laura) a Grodziskie - a Polish style of light low ABV lager, featuring oak smoke that adds a layer of complexity to this eminently sessionable beer. These first beers, along with our seconds, were included in the entrance price, as was the glass to take away. The £12 even stretched to a portion of Pie***.14, with additional food (including smoked ham and a wide variety of smoked cheeses including a blue version which Laura hasn't stopped thinking about since) all being reasonably priced. Overall the festival certainly more than covered our expectation of what our ticket price offered. We even got a little goodie bag to take home, the My Little Pony chocolate coins were excellent Train Strike Return Journey sustenance.

Amongst the guest beers on offer were featured Ashover (another local favourite of ours), De Molen and Kees, but as soon as Jim saw the beer list a couple of weeks before, there were two at the top of his hit list from Yeastie Boys and Schlenkerla which feature as regularly in his drinking habits as possible but never before on draught. Rex Attitude and Helles couldn't be any further from each other, one 100% peated malt, the other no smoked malt whatsover (but made in a sufficiently smoky atmosphere to still impart oodles of flavour). We've said in the past that Rex Attitude is one of the most deliciously obnoxious beers we've had, tasting like lightly hopped Laphroaig wash wrapped up in a TCP shot, it's everything that isn't subtle, like drinking a Viking burial. Bury Jim in Rex. Schlenkerla Helles by contrast is made of 100% unsmoked pilsner malt, but with a soft vanilla cigar sweetness, that comes from the lingering smoked malt. If like Schlenkerla you make a lot of rauch it seems you only make rauch... it clings to the mill, the auger, the mashtun and beyond.

From this we obviously moved on to drink some Monsters. One of our number came across with half a pint of cask and a glint in their eye, clutching a dark brown, bordering on black cask beer. With a pale krausen and a warming waft of smoke the Rauchwine became introduced to our table far too soon (or not soon enough?!), the rest of us sat in envy after a nose and a wet and the next drinks were decided instantly. We think we've found our cask beer of the year a couple of months early. The Dogs of War series were also tasting absolutely incredible and of course we had to sample our Power Stance collab, which was delicious if we do say so ourselves.


Sat in the centre of the brewery surrounded by good friends, with a phenomenal beer range, some delicious food to accompany, relaxed and surrounded by dogs, this was really what festivals should be about. Smokefest had all of this in absolute spades and we left feeling all warm and fuzzy and not just because of all the imperial strength smoked beers we'd consumed. We definitely hope that Smokefest will become an annual fixture, but in the meantime the pub beckons... tis the season, an all that.

Cheers!

Jim & Laura

* splitting strong, first runnings from the mash to create stronger fermentable wort
** it's cherry, in case you were wondering
*** Train Strikes
***.14 Rauchwine and steak flavour! (It's a Pi joke).

Because it wouldn't be a proper post about how much we love Torrside without some Kami love...

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Happy Birthday Brew York!

Brew York celebrated their second birthday this last weekend, and having been fans of theirs from their very beginning, we just had to pop by their taproom, based right within the city walls of York, to join the party.

We've been consistently impressed since their inception by the level of balance they seem to have found between easy drinking, more traditional cask ales which suit the historical City of York and many of its locals, and the experimental, innovative and unique - often with pleasingly hilarious names. They've progressed massively in just two years and to top it off,  co-founders Lee and Wayne are lovely chaps as well.

As well as it being their birthday, this week Brew York have launched a crowdfunding campaign to support a new phase of expansion which includes the installation of a street food kitchen and a pilot kit. Work on the space for this is already well under way and formed the main area for guest bars and food offerings at the birthday party.


We arrived in the early afternoon and started off gently with a Debaser Berliner Weisse, 2.8%. However, not content with offering just one version of this beer, there were FOURTEEN different syrups to choose from to add to them - we sampled pomegranate, passion fruit and lemon. Then it was on to a Juice Forsyth session IPA, chosen for the lols of the name but bursting with flavour and an excellent beer even without the punnage. It was great to catch up with the guys from Fierce and Mad Hatter over a couple more beers as well, along with delicious Asian-inspired food from Street Cleaver.


We couldn't go home until Laura had tried the total dreamboat combination of her favourite Brew York beer and her favourite all time cocktail - an Imperial Tonkoko White Russian! As the photo evidence below shows, it lived up to the astronomic expectations. Beer cocktails, or "Hoptails", are firmly on the agenda as part of the expansion and we can't wait to find out what other concoctions the team come up with (so much so, we've pledged on a masterclass as part of their crowdfund, get on board guys!).


The event was a triumph - a brilliant showcase of everything Brew York can do (they had 8 casks and 21 kegs of their own on offer), with a great choice of guest breweries, food and cocktails, and a chilled and friendly atmosphere. The current tap room is an asset to York in its own right (it's even got a little beer garden right on the banks of the Foss) and the new space will only serve to enhance and amplify this.

Happy 2nd Birthday Brew York, we look forward to watching you continue to grow and develop for many years more.

Cheers,

Laura and Jim

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Northern Monk: Death and Glory

Northern Monk need no introduction, having produced a wide range of excellent beers since their inception. Death and Glory, released simultaneously in January this year, caught our eye as they are
some of the first beers released under the watchful eye of new Production Manager Colin Stronge (previously of Buxton Brewery) - and obviously we're suckers for the big boozes. We drank them to celebrate the start of our anniversary week off, and here's what we made of these two behemoth releases.

Glory - Triple IPA, 10.5%


Invitingly aromatic, from the nose alone this could practically be mistaken for a glass of fresh pineapple juice. More pineapple on the palate alongside ripe mango and melon with a silky caress of caramel, it's soft and sweet with a sumptuously full mouthfeel. Although we weren't drinking it at it's freshest (the best before date is next month, although at less than three months old and tasting this good we'd argue it could have longer on there) it was still absolutely bursting with an abundantly tropical hop character. Very easy drinking for the ABV and ridiculously well balanced. Glorious indeed.


Death - Imperial Stout, 12.0%


This is a BIG beer. A rich, sweet, aroma reminiscent of black treacle fills the room, let alone the glass, as soon as you pop the can. On drinking, the high ABV is definitely apparent but it manages not to overwhelm the palate, having a nicely balanced yet heavy roast character. There's freshly ground coffee with two sugars and just a dash of cream alongside decadent dark chocolate and just a hint of dried red fruit and berries. The finish reminds you that this is a boozy beer with a lingering, bold residual sweetness sitting proudly alongside a lasting bitterness.


No, we didn't Black and Tan them. Sorry.

Jim & Laura

Bonus Beercat: Tosin displaying relevant expressions to suit these two very different beers

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Beer review: Track Brewing Co.

Based in a railway arch a stone's throw from Manchester Piccadilly, Track Brewing Co have been on our radar for a good few years now. Making some of the finest cask and keg around, they made the move into bottles in November last year, so we grabbed a few of their new releases to give the range a try.


Sonoma, 3.8%

Track's flagship, and enormously popular pale ale. This beer is regarded by many as the absolute epitome of what a sessionable cask beer should be all about, so we were excited to see how the journey into smallpack had treated it. Soft citrus on the aroma as we would expect from this beer, with a beautifully delicate hoppy bitterness on the palate balanced by a sweet malty backbone. Crisp finish, perfect for it's ABV. Easy drinking, refreshing, and whilst definitely reminiscent of its counterpart in cask it's just not quite the same. We couldn't put our finger on exactly what was missing, maybe we need to start pulling our bottled beer through an Angram... but having said that it's still bloody delicious. Stock the fridge high.

Koda, 6.5%

A brand new to us lactose IPA. On the nose it's all orange sherbet; creamy, fruity and with just a hint of enticing sharpness. A good punch of vibrant hop character (it's brewed with Mosaic, Centennial and El Dorado) sits happily alongside the silky smooth mouthfeel. It's ridiculously well balanced and manages to simultaneously leave behind both bitterness and a lovely sweet reminder of what was in your glass.

Tenaya, 8.0%

A Citra and Galaxy Double IPA that pours a very pale hazy yellow. The aroma reminded us of mango Rubicon, but with that characteristic New England yeasty bite bursting through too. Tropical notes galore with flavours of passionfruit and more tasty mango, with hints of apricot lingering in the background. The bitterness doesn't overpower, which can so often be the case with this type of beer. A great example of the style.


Overall, then, it's fair to say we were pretty impressed with our first taste of Track's bottled releases, not that we expected anything less. The bottles themselves look beautiful, and it's nice to see a brewery new to smallpack choosing to package into glass rather than can - an increasingly rare move, but it certainly seems to be working for them so far. Their taproom is open on Fridays and Saturdays now too, so it looks like a trip across the Pennines is on the cards for us soon.

Cheers!

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Golden Pints 2017

This year's been full of beery highlights. From trips to Dublin, Barcelona and Copenhagen, to UK festivals including Peakender, the Beavertown Extravaganza and Leeds International, all alongside working in the industry we so love, beer's been pretty difficult to escape at times but we wouldn't have it any other way. Here are some of our favourites of the year...

Best UK Cask

Winner: Torrside - Route 366 (Torrside Brewery Taproom) a 4.2% pale ale, with masses of flavour from Cascade and Ekuanot. Exactly what we want from a cask beer, full of flavour, great aroma and condition, but also easily sessionable. Perfect.

Honourable mention: Wilde Child - Opaque Reality (Beer Engine, Sheffield). Mango and passionfruit milkshake IPA, what's not to like?!

Best UK Keg

Winner: Fierce - Cranachan Killer (Herbert Kilpin, Nottingham). Dessert beers are often a hit in this household and this one hit just the right notes - sweet, fruity and creamy without being heavy, aromatic and packed with raspberry flavour. Yum.

Best UK Bottle/Can

Winner: Beavertown x Green Cheek - The You Zoo. We'd fallen out of love a little with Beavertown's new releases over the past couple of years, but this collaboration is one of the best beers of theirs we've ever tried. Brewed with yuzu juice and oolong tea, it's PACKED with flavour yet still ridiculously quaffable with every element balanced in perfect harmony.

Honourable mention: North Brewing - Volta. A rhubarb and blood orange sour that was fresh, zingy and hit just the right spot as part of a summer's picnic!

Best Overseas Draft

Winner: Crooked Stave - Nightmare on Brett (P Mac's, Dublin). I (Jim) love this beer more than pretty much anything. Even at €9.95 a half I still went back for another after the first half. It's an incredible 9.666% oak aged dark beer, with rich acetic acidity, bold flavours of cherry and deep oak, akin to a Flanders but the additional alcohol helps with the mouthfeel, that is sometimes lost in long aged beers. The only beer that makes me pull this face...


Honourable mention: Flying Couch - Gangrene IPA (Fermentoren and Ørsted Ølbar, Copenhagen). Exotically fruity and freshly tropical IPA, balanced by delicate pine. A fine example of the style.

Best Overseas Bottle/Can

Winner: Garage - Middle Child. We drank this at the new Garage brewery in Barcelona on a scorchingly hot day. We'd been on a long underground ride followed by a ten minute walk and this was just blissful refreshment and totally kicked off Laura's love affair with Ekuanot.

Honourable mention: Funky Buddha - Wide Awake It's Morning. An imperial maple bacon coffee porter that managed to do exactly what it said on the label. Simply sumptuous.

Best Collaboration Brew 

Winner: Lervig/Mikkeller/Lindheim Ølkompani - Pop That Cherry. A turbid mashed mixed fermentation beer brewed at Lervig and fermented with cherries from Lindheim's farm in Norway, this is a beer with a beautiful balanced acidity, a really well rounded oakiness and layers of light acetic acid, making it dance across the tongue.


Best Branding 

Winner: Naparbier/NaparBCN. Kinda creepy, in a cool way. Loved their bar in Barcelona too, which seemed to embody their branding entirely - something that's not often achieved.


Best UK Brewery 

Winner: Burning Sky - This year, every beer we have had from the brewery in the South Downs has been outstanding. Burning Sky produce a great core range of exceptional while also reliable and sessionable pales and IPAs, alongside their always quality Saison La Provision. But really they are our brewery of the year down to their aged and wild beers. Favourites this year have been Saison L'été, the base beer of which was flavoured with elderflowers foraged locally to the brewery, then flavoured in secondary with whole gooseberries, and Les Amis du Brassage, a mixed ferm saison blended with three year old lambic. Both utterly delightful. With spotaneously fermented coolship beer in the pipeline from this year, and big releases of Cuvee blended with Lambic that are released annually, we fully expect their meteoric rise to continue in the new year.

Honourable Mentions:
Buxton for their continued consistency and quality.
Torrside for their incredible affinity for rauch malt.
Thornbridge for always on form core cask and keg beers as well as great specials during 2017 as part of their Year of Beer.

Best Overseas Brewery

Winner: Brekeriet - their wild fermentation beers have been part of a real awakening of sour and wild ales across the beer world, and they have been making some of the best thought out and well produced, blending traditional methods with modern techniques with absolute panache. More specifically we've loved Lilac and Cassis from bottle as well as Fruit Salad on draught at the Beavertown Extravaganza.

Pub/Bar of the year

Winner (UK): Rutland Arms, Sheffield. All of the elements of an amazing bar were already there, but the new ownership this year of Chris (formerly of Shakespeare's) and Kate (Three Tuns) has nurtured all of this and allowed it to fully flourish. The best food available in a pub (calling it "pub food" isn't really fair) in the city, ever improving beer selection and always the promise of raucous fun with the jukebox.

Winner (International): Abirradero, Barcelona. Quite simply for ticking all of the boxes... Astonishing beer range, the most delicious food, great staff and stylish inside to boot. We wrote lots more about this place here.



Best Taproom

Winner: Torrside. We mention these guys A LOT so it's probably no surprise to see them popping up more than once on this list. A brief paragraph can't do them justice, so we'll refer you back to this handy blog post we wrote after visiting them for their second birthday celebrations.


Honourable mention: Runaway - we loved their event celebrating the launch of the cross city brewery and street food collaboration project for Manchester Beer Week. A great space which although busy managed to maintain a relaxed atmosphere and all round nice vibes.

Best Beer Event

Winner: Beertown Malton. Co-ordinated by Bad Seed and Brass Castle breweries and held in the Milton Rooms in picturesque market town Malton, Beertown is a real celebration of, well, beer! The range was beyond compare, with cask and keg from all corners of the UK and beyond, the atmosphere was electric and we met so many brilliant people. Cannot recommend this festival enough.


Honourable mention: Our first visit to the Independent Salford Beer Festival was mega - we can't believe it took us four years to make it.


The top two here definitely shows that really, for us, the small and intimate is king. We enjoyed the Beavertown Extravaganza a lot, but it didn't quite have the personability that these two both did.

Best Beer Snack

Winner: Holy Crab - we've been lucky enough to come across these guys on a number of occasions this year, including at Belgrave's Food Festival event in Leeds and at Runaway's taproom in Manchester. Fresh oysters with tabasco, crayfish subs and crab fritters have all tickled our tastebuds this year and the first moment of trying their crab mayo was an epiphany.

Honourable mention: Tunnock's Teacakes, served for a brief but joyous time at the Railway Hotel on Bramall Lane.

Twitter Account of the Year

Winner: Pilot Brewery @pilotbeeruk, really who else would it be?!

Honourable Mention: Tom @Craftbeerhour for building a fantastic community. We can't wait to see what Tryanuary brings with Tom at the helm!

Here's to 2018... cheers!

Jim & Laura

Monday, 4 December 2017

Bad Seed Brewery... in CANS!

Now we've made no secret of the fact we LOVE Bad Seed, so much so we even made a beer with them last year! They were also a key player in our favourite beer festival of this year, Beertown Malton. We'd noticed a distinct lack of their bottles on the shelves of our local bottle shops over the past few months, and now we see why this might have been as they have relaunched their beers in cans! Here's what we made of the first two canned releases...

Seismic - Session IPA, 4.0%

Classically Bad Seed! Sweet grapefruit on the nose is coupled with a slightly piney hop aroma, with Mosaic coming to the fore. Crisp and clean with a delicate spicy note on the palate from the American hops (this brew also contains Simcoe, Comet and Cascade), with a decent malt backbone and a refreshing, bitter bite on the finish. Ridiculously quaffable. We reckon this is a great one for Bad Seed to get into can first, showcasing exactly the kind of brew these guys are so well known for. We'd definitely recommend this one for anyone looking for an introduction to this brewery.


Crush - New England Hopfenweisse, 4.6%

Before pouring, we got a massive hop aroma straight from the can. But once in the glass, this slowly rounds off and gives way to that familiar bubblegummy aroma with hints of pepper so synonymous with a wheat beer. Incredibly soft on the palate, with the yeast character that's left behind being well balanced with a juicy burst of hops. It's got that New England fresh hop character which we have found quite challenging in the past, but combining this with a wheat beer has led to a really interesting interpretation of the style and it's great to see something a little different being created.

A big thank you to the Bad Seed chaps for welcoming us back into the world of booze after a month off with these tasty little pods of joy!

Cheers,

Jim and Laura

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Torrside Brewery: 2nd Birthday Open Day

Since its opening two years ago, Torrside Brewing have produced some of the best beers from a new brewery we've ever had. Operating in a unit by a private marina in New Mills, they brew an excellent mix of cask, keg and bottle, nailing classic best bitters and pale ales alongside a dizzying array of high ABV small batch brews - the Monsters series.

We first met the team - Peter, Nick and Chris - at a homebrew competition that Jim was asked to judge at Brewdog Manchester, about two and half years ago during his time working at Blue Monkey. The competition was entered by numerous brewers who have since gained a foothold in the industry. Amongst over 100 entries of astonishingly high quality, all three now-Torrside brewers won an award. Whilst producing excellent homebrew in itself doesn't necessarily mean you can run a brewery, it does imply you know what you are doing... and it seems that once these three teamed up and pooled their skills and experience, there was no stopping them (not to mention that they're all some of the loveliest people you'll ever meet in the beer world).


Anyway, onto the brewery. We first visited almost exactly two years ago - the tanks were in place, and the first beer was days away from being brewed. The unit seemed cavernous at the time but they've had no problem creating a welcoming space, with plenty of seating surrounding the brewplant and an inviting bar area. 

We launched into a sunny afternoon's drinking with Route 366 - a 4% Columbus, Cascade and Ekuanot hopped pale, which instantly flung itself into contender for cask beer of the year. Reminiscent of what makes the ever popular Sonoma by Track Brewery (their brewer Matt being yet another success story of Brewdog Manchester's homebrew competition - Jim still has dreams about that brett stout!) so special. Pale in colour with a gentle malt sweetness, tempered by soft bitterness and ending with a tangerine-grapefruit character from the Ekuanot hops that absolutely dances on the tongue. Stunning, crisp, and delightfully sessionable. The Yellow Peak pale, 4.2%, was similarly quaffable with the combination of Amarillo, Summit and Mosaic providing a fresh and zesty character with a delicate herbal backbone.

At the other end of the spectrum were two collaboration beers with Elusive Brewing. The first, Creature of Havoc, is a 4.6% cherrywood smoked red, fermented at Elusive. The second forms part of the Monsters series - Coalition of Chaos, weighing in at 9% and taken from the first runnings of the bigger batch brew. Strangely, the stronger beast was the more drinkable of the two (although both were delicious), with a rich malt backbone easily carrying the smokiness of the brew.

We ended the afternoon on a peat smoked barley wine, Hopscotch, which we quaffed on whilst the frankly adorable Kami (Chris's Shiba Inu, and undisputed queen of the brewery) had a little sit on our feet and gazed wistfully upon our bowls of chilli.


Currently the brewery mainly operates at weekends, as the chaps still all have full time jobs not related to brewing. However, the guys make this work to their advantage - this shows through in the beer selection, which oozes a total attitude of care and consideration, and a massive emphasis on quality of flavour. Each and every beer is so carefully thought through, and it's clear that the team really want to create something stunning and aren't willing to compromise by making average brews.

What Torrside have created in New Mills with their brewery open days is a space which is open, inclusive and welcoming to everyone. The brewery was full all afternoon, with the crowd formed of walkers off the hills, families including children, beer industry folk, dog owners, and men and women clearly ready to hop on the train for a night out in Manchester. It reminded us of our time last year in Colorado, where there was no culture of stereotyping the beer drinker and where an industrial warehouse becomes a vibrant atmosphere.


In case it isn't clear from the above, we had an EXCELLENT afternoon. Congratulations Torrside on your first two years of brewing, and here's to many, many more.

Cheers!

Monday, 12 June 2017

Can Conditioning - What's the Point?

As canning continues its near meteoric rise as the medium of choice for small pack dispense for many small independent modern breweries in the UK, it is no surprise that developments and targeted improvements to the process are continually being worked upon.

Currently, the majority of canned beer is done through packaging a force carbonated product rather than one that naturally carbonates through residual yeast continuing to ferment the beer, creating CO2 as it does so, as is often seen in bottled beer. We are however now starting to see breweries using can conditioning instead - Moor Brewery in Bristol are one of the pioneers of the process in the UK and are the first to be granted real ale status by CAMRA for their cans.

Having briefly met Paddy of Windsor & Eton Brewery, and Kieran of their offshoot project, Uprising Craft Brewing, at a breakfast organised by The Can Makers at SIBA Beer X earlier in the year, we were invited to taste their test run of can conditioned Treason - West Coast IPA prior to them being launched fully to compare against the filtered, force carbonated version. Here's what we made of them...


Appearance: Due to the residual yeast present in the can conditioned version, it requires a slightly more careful pour than the filtered beer. For research purposes, we were sure to give the same care to the filtered version. The naturally carbonated can gave a firmer head to the beer, more like you'd see on a well poured pint in a pub, compared to the filtered which looked "gassier" with larger bubbles. The clarity of both beers was the same with a little bit of chill haze present in both.

Aroma: Much punchier in the can conditioned version. The residual yeast helps to clear up any dissolved oxygen in the beer, in theory enabling the beer to remain as intended for longer. We did detect a slight oxygenation to the filtered beer, although it's worth pointing out that had we not had the can conditioned for contrast, we probably wouldn't have picked up on it as the hop character was still present... just a lot more overtly fruity for the can conditioned version.

Flavour: Again, we preferred the can conditioned version, although there was nothing wrong with the filtered! The can conditioned had a fresher quality to it with a more vibrant hop character, and we felt that the force carbed version had a somewhat more cloying sweetness to it, perhaps due to the filtration process removing some of the hop flavour which provides a balancing bitterness. It's also worth noting that due to the continuation of fermentation, the ABV of the can conditioned beer comes in slightly higher than it's force carbed counterpart (6.0% compared to 5.8%).

Overall: An interesting experiment! We did think that the can conditioned version triumphed on all counts, however, for smaller operations lacking the space and time to invest in can conditioning, this is by no means a death knell for force carbonated beer in cans (provided the beer is well looked after throughout the brewing and canning process), as both cans were tasty and of good quality. Treason, winner of a Gold IBC award in 2015 and the 2016 Indie Beer Can festival, is currently available in Wetherspoons outlets, and it's good to see that Uprising are keen to go about things in a non-macro way and strive to improve the quality of their product.

Canning in general can be a great way for beer producers to dip their toe into smallpack, particularly with companies offering mobile canning becoming more prevalent, making canning more affordable without the need to invest in infrastructure and equipment. Although across the board the quality of canned beer has been variable, it's definitely continually improving, with breweries progressively honing their technique. Cans are also better for the environment when compared to bottles, being cheaper to transport and more easily recyclable, and also take away the chance of a beer becoming lightstruck. Whilst we didn't intend to write this post to look at the potential advantages of cans over bottles, suffice to say we believe the can is here to stay!

Cheers,

Jim and Laura

Monday, 17 April 2017

Beavertown & To Øl: Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde

The collaboration between Beavertown and To Øl was sure to produce something special. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde were born of the same base malt and mashing process, then both sent in their uniquely separate ways. The beers were both primary fermented with a fabled Scottish yeast strain that made it's way to Belgium and back to N17, where it was thrown into these worts. We managed to get our hands on these due to a fortuitously timed trip to Cotteridge Wines last April, and have been holding on to them for a special occasion. The end to a bank holiday which we worked the whole way through seemed suitable enough! On to the beers...



Jekyll


An 8.1% Muscat barrel aged bretted gooseberry Belgian pale. The beer itself sings with layers of elegant sourness, reminiscent of greengages initially then on to gooseberries, coupled with a hit of lactobacillus which builds beautiful acids across the palate. While the tartness is crisp, the tannic oak adds a delightfully savoury note, and the sweetness of the original wine softens with an apple scrumpy cider character, which goes hand in hand with the distinctive brett stone fruit funk. It leaves you with the same dancing feeling across the roof of your mouth like you've just eaten tangfastics (if thats a suitable tasting note without incurring potential lawsuits), with a zesty sherbet bite provided through the high carbonation and a lasting lip-puckering finish.

Hyde


This is a different beast entirely, an imperial stout boosted with a hit of roasted malts, beechwood smoked malts and heaps of brown sugar to help amplify the ABV to an impressive 13.7%. The beer is left to mature in Speyside whisky barrels, before being seasoned with sea salt. A bold boozy kick flies out of the glass instantly, with a waft of warm smoke and a savoury salination (Laura thought it smelt a bit like a really nice gravy?!). The same characteristics ripple across the palate, along with a rich oaky character. While the carbonation is near non existent, the sticky sweetness of molasses bolstered wort is still surprisingly light and a little delicate. The finish is warm and boozy with a twang of characteristic Belgian yeast, but this doesn't linger for more than a few seconds, with quite a short mouthfeel considering the smoked malt character.


Overall - a very cleverly crafted duo with little to suggest that they were borne of the same base beer. The Jekyll just pipped it for us, being so inherently drinkable, but both were excellent and a great showcase of what two goliaths of the industry can produce.

Cheers!

Monday, 20 March 2017

Sheffield Beer Week 2017 - A Round-Up

Sheffield Beer Week is over for another year and we've flung ourselves in absolutely head first this time! Here's a quick overview of the events we attended...

MONDAY
A relatively quiet start to the week for us as we joined in a twitter hour with @catsontap. We've long been fans of beercats Rosie and Milly, and our Tosin is a regular on their page too! We kicked off with something pretty special brought back from our trip to Brussels last year - Cantillon Kriek 100% Lambic Bio. Face-puckering, fruity and a glorious treat to kick off the week. We also imbibed Cloudwater's Seguin Biere Brut, reminiscent more of a wine than a beer and utterly delicious.


TUESDAY
Every week, Sentinel Brew Co host a film night, wittily titled Brew-vie Tuesdays. We've not made it down to this before but in conjunction with Sheffield Beer Week they decided to show "Beertickers: Beyond the Ale". Filmed in 2008 in and around Sheffield, it was so entertaining for us to look back at the beer scene as it was around the time we both first properly got into real ale, with many a familiar face amongst the footage! Great pizzas and popcorn, too.

WEDNESDAY
A Lervig tap takeover at the Rutland Arms kicked off our evening, with the highlight being Sippin' Into Darkness, a chocolate martini imperial stout at 12%. Bold, boozy and tasted like a Double Decker chocolate bar fondue.

We then headed up to Brewdog for the Mad Hatter meet the brewer event and bumped into the team from Weird Beard. Plenty of beery chat and a lot of laughs were had.


THURSDAY
An even bigger night for us on the Thursday. First off we hit up the Beer Engine's North vs South beer and food pairing, featuring four beers each from London based Fourpure and Fierce from Aberdeen. The food at the Beer Engine is some of the best in Sheffield as far as we're concerned, and a new guest chef brought in to create the pairing menus for this event elevated the offering to an even higher level. The highlight for us was Fierce's Tropical Tart, a beautifully light and tangy passionfruit sour, served with spicy prawns and crab laksa.


A short walk back to Sentinel for a tap takeover hosted by Yellowbelly Brewery where we sampled their collaboration with bloggers Wayne and Janice from IrishBeerSnob, Juice Wayne - a Rock Shandy IPA, inspired by an Irish soft drink and bursting with oranges and lemons. It took Laura until Sunday to realise that Juice rhymes with Bruce...

Finally we headed up to the launch of Abbeydale Brewery's new Brewers Emporium range at the newly refurbished Devonshire Cat, which was buzzing with a vibrant atmosphere and presented a great range of progressive beers to choose from.

FRIDAY
We started the day with a Beer Writers Breakfast hosted by the The Can Makers, giving us an insight into a truly up and coming portion of the market and with tasty pastries from Sheffield based Percy & Lily's. It was the first day of the Beer Now conference, ending with a trip to Beer Alive festival. It was the third time we've attended the festival and it's been scaled down pretty drastically this year. It's a shame that this resulted in a rather lacklustre beer selection - the lack of involvement from brewers directly, which was a great feature of last year's festival, was missed.

SATURDAY
A full on and inspiring day at the Beer Now conference, kicking off with Bob Pease of the Brewer's Association, who gave us useful insights into the American beer scene. Our favourite part of the day was undoubtedly the Live Beer Blogging featuring beers from Abbeydale, Ilkley, Lost Industry, Sentinel, Sharps, Thornbridge and Twisted Barrel - a frenzied hour of tweeting, chatting, learning and drinking.


A raucous coach journey later and we were treated to BBQ and beers at Thornbridge Brewery, a brilliant evening where we also discovered that table football is never going to be our forte!

SUNDAY
The Beer Now conference was wrapped up, with inspirational talks from Richard of Ferment magazine, Jules of Hop Hideout and of course Sheffield Beer Week fame, and Andy from the excellent Elusive Brewing.

FINALLY, we trekked up to the Greystones for a special edition of Karma Citra, pairing a selection of Tiny Rebel beers with some super spicy Caribbean food. Always a brilliant event and a fun and laid back end to a very hectic week.


To finish, it's worth mentioning that our festivities during the week didn't even scratch the surface in terms of the amount of events running. We really were spoilt for choice, and have been left feeling very lucky to live in a city with such a thriving, varied and exciting beer scene. A mighty round of applause to Jules Gray for co-ordinating everything... we're already looking forward to finding out what Sheffield Beer Week 2018 will bring! But first, a lie in and a green smoothie are most definitely in order.

Cheers!

Jim & Laura

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Peat Reek: Octomore 6.3 vs xeRRex

I love smoke. I love peat.


I love Bruichladdich and I love Yeastie Boys.

By extension, it seems only reasonable that one of the only beers I buy every time I see it should pair rather nicely against a whisky I have long lusted after, but only recently plucked up the courage to buy. 

So I give you Yeastie Boys xeRRex - a 100% peated malt 10% Imperial IPA, and Bruichladdich Octomore 6.3 Islay Barley, bottled at 64% with a phenol count of 258ppm (to put this into context, Laphroaig 10 is about 40ppm). Both barley grists were malted by the malt magicians Bairds in Inverness.


And so to the booze...

Yeastie Boys - xeRRex 10%, 30-50ppm, 50 IBU

Initially the nose is predominantly peat, as to be expected, with a subtle grassy hop aroma, not a hint of the 10% alcohol with a residual maltiness.

On the palate, there's a slight malt sweetness carried by a bold and decisive bitterness from NZ Willamette that really backs up the malt character. The sweetness is almost reminiscent of a sherry cask but the overwhelming character is unmistakably peat, with a light phenolic character. It reminds me of the wash you can taste pre-distillation on whisky distillery tours (more specifically Laphroaig), albeit more refined. 

I'm well aware this is an opinion-divider of a beer, but for me it drinks delightfully, easily carrying whopping flavours that continue to grow and develop, with a light carbonation, that allows the bold peated character to grow. Somehow there is a subtle saltiness, perhaps the addition of calcium sulphite used to highlight the hop crispness has left a slight minerality - either way it suits the beer amazingly. As the beer warms up there is a little bit more to the alcohol mouthfeel that just adds to the already warming glow. There is no restraint with this beer, obnoxiously peated with a well matched bitterness that reigns in the big smoky flavours. Yum.

Bruichladdich - Octomore 6.3 Islay Barley, 64%, 258ppm

Colour - Light copper

Aroma - Wonderfully bold peat emanates from the glass instantly. A light sweetness follows, with a touch of vanilla and punch of alcohol. Allowing the whisky to open up releases an accompanying layer of oak.

Palate - Sweet initially on the tip of the tongue, then not half a second later tidal waves of peat smoke encompass and fill the mouth. This is then softened by a touch of slight roasted apple and soft vanilla sweetness from the American Bourbon casks. Slowly the peat creeps back for a long finish. 
Conclusion - A great tide of peat smoke swells in and out and around the head like the tidal movements of Loch Indaal. The layers of peat character at every stage of drinking this beautiful dram are exquisite. Not only does it hold all the levels of smoke you could possibly want but it's contained beautifully in a well rounded and surprisingly balanced whisky.


In reality this is not a versus write up and not really a comparison between the two. Just a little muse on my love affair with overly correctly peated alcohol, showcasing the most highly peated versions of each producer's craft. Bruichladdich have the ability and technique to push the boundaries on whisky, and can be considered as one of the pioneers in barrel finishing. Yeastie Boys, led by Stu McKinlay, have a similar ability to push the boundaries for beer, and have produced one of the most divisive brews in modern beer but stand by it with pride.

Slainte,

Jim