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

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!

Thursday, 12 May 2016

DIPA Day

Double, or Imperial, IPAs are all the rage at the moment, with an array of big-hitting breweries all coming out with new releases recently. We had a few of the most highly regarded and eagerly anticipated brews lurking in the fridge, so decided to do a bit of a taste test. Here are our thoughts...

New Belgium - Rampant, 8.5%

Brought back direct from the brewery itself from our trip to the states,  Rampant roars with a chewy, resinous nature but hides its ABV well (probably a good thing as it's the lowest of our selection today...) - surprisingly easy to drink with a delicate floral blossom characteristic. The combination of Mosaic, Calypso, and Centennial hops provide masses of fruit and the malt backbone gives a sweetness which keeps the hop bitterness in check. A lasting bitter, piney finish rounds off what is a very well-balanced beer indeed.


Cloudwater - DIPA v3, 9%

We had this on keg on release day at the wonderful Small Bar in Bristol, where the main delicious concern was whether some wily devil had switched our beer for peach juice. In bottle, pleasingly, much the same is true... Fresh and oh so fruity, with a bite of bitterness that doesn't overpower the sheer peachiness of the brew. For this reason it's not in our opinion a massively true to style IPA (this isn't a criticism). The hops (Mosaic, Comet, Citra and Chinook) come together in such harmony that the effect isn't really a "hoppy" flavour, it's just JUICE, and like the Rampant before it the booziness is hidden by waves of flavour. By contrast the finish is a massive thwack of bitterness that keeps the tongue a-tingling for AN AGE. One of the most-hyped beers of the year so far and we reckon deservedly so. It's delicious.

Tempest - Longer White Cloud, 10.2%

Deliciously boozy and absolutely oozing with a rich toffee penny character. Alongside this are notes of apricot softness and something akin to honeydew melon. This was the only beer we've had in our possession for longer than a few weeks (having bought it just after Christmas) so it's worth considering that some of the freshness experienced in the rest of our selection may well have once been present here too... but we have to say, it's aged incredibly well over the past few months and become almost barley wine-ish in character.

Buxton - King Maker, 10.5%

Obviously, we chose to drink this whilst watching Game of Thrones, it felt only right! Surprisingly creamy in aroma with floral notes and a hint of pine. On the palate, a chewy, tacky sweetness is followed by an intense bitterness and a wonderfully robust mouthfeel. Ever present is a big hit of Sorachi Ace hops which, though delicious, don't really seem to meld particularly well with the rest of the beer but provide an interesting overarching character which reminded Laura a little of those fruity coconut mushroom-shaped sweets! An intriguing brew.


Human Cannonball, not pictured, is lurking in the wings for a Cannonball x3 tasting!

Cheers,

L&J

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Buxton Tap House

An impromptu camping trip to the peaks brought us merrily to Buxton - and at a great time too. You might have noticed we're big fans of Buxton Brewery (you can find our review of Battle Horse here, and see how Two Ton IPA got our anniversary off to a cracking start here) and a visit to their homeland was long overdue. Our trip fortuitously coincided with a tap takeover from Stockholm's finest, Omnipollo, which was truly something to behold - featuring twelve of some of the most outlandish gypsy brews we've ever come across, served both via cask and keg, in the low ceilinged and cosily decorated snug of the Buxton Tap.


Our opening round was of a glass of Magic #4.21 and Magic #90,000, the former a raspberry and vanilla smoothie IPA and the latter made with blueberry, pecan, almond and again vanilla. Both of these beers were richened and emboldened with lactose, giving body to the fresh fruitiness of the berries. The raspberry IPA was a lip smacker at every sip, and the blueberry version, whilst the nuttiness was not overly pronounced, was bold and tart with fruitiness and had an inviting cheesecake-style aroma.

To follow we had Bianca (6%), surely the first (and perhaps only!) mango lassi gose. Mango puree provided a tropical hit, with lactose to add to the body, and salt which prevented everything from being too sickly. Fairly odd, but an interesting and tasty beverage. To accompany this, Mr. M had the similarly bonkers-sounding protein shake IIPA, reportedly made with pure protein, which gave a chewiness to the beer that balanced really well with the hop bitterness. Who knew 8% double IPAs worked so well with Ovaltine flavours?!

It was at this point that we intended to buy some of the food that had been specifically curated for the takeover event, but as we reached 3 o'clock the menus were all removed from the table by a surly looking gent, who assured us that it was our mistake when we said the sign outside suggested food was available all day. Obviously if a chef wants a break in the quieter middle period of the afternoon there's nothing wrong with that whatsoever, but we were a little taken aback by the rude treatment and (incorrect) information we received, and left in a bit of a hungry huff. EXHIBIT A.


However a chip butty from the local chippy followed by a pint of the always outstanding Titanic Plum Porter at the Cheshire Cheese down the road soon alleviated our disgruntlement, and we returned back to the Tap to be greeted by a new set of staff behind the bar - pleased to report these were all friendly and helpful. Perhaps the man from earlier was just hungry too...

Upon our return, menus had been placed back on the table, so we ordered a selection of the platters of the smoked food and a pair of half pints and retreated to conquer the rest of the spectacular beer. Ham hock terrine accompanied with a tomato salsa soon arrived, along with smoked duck with wilted spinach and garlic. On the side we opted for a chilli and garlic mac & cheese. 


The food went down beautifully with a couple of Buxton beers - the Rednik stout's light smoky nature balanced with the rest of the malt and paired really nicely with the ham hock, and Axe Edge IPA, who's hop character features Amarillo, Citra and Nelson Sauvin, worked well to cut through some of the fattiness of the duck.

Then we came to the main reason we travelled the hour from Sheffield... last year's Buxton and Omnipollo Rainbow Project collaboration, a peanut butter biscuit stout... Yellow Belly.


We're talking Yellow Belly not just on keg, not even just a barrel aged version with vanilla beans, cocoa nibs and lactose on cask, but also to top that all off a Yellow Belly candied bacon toffee cheesecake. This triumvirate of dark, sticky luxuriousness was just spectacular. With each iteration offering a different perspective, this was a treat that literally brought tears to Mrs M's eyes. The cask "Yellow Belly Sunday" at 12% was enormously rich and boozy, and tasted almost like there had been a shot of bourbon sneaked into the glass, with a smooth creamy sweetness that came through at the end. The standard version at a lowly 11%, served on keg, had an odd but pleasant bubbling sensation across the tongue from the carbonation, which soon died as the thickness of the almost treacle textured beer grew. In both versions, the lightly salted nut character of peanut butter came through intensely with a delicate biscuit maltiness. The cheesecake just exacerbated all of this deliciousness in spades - and we are now firmly of the opinion that all puddings should come with a liberal sprinkling of candied meat. Ridiculously good - this is one of the few colossally hyped beers that went further than just meeting our expectations and blew them out of the water.  

Having drunk our way through the majority of the beer board (bettered by our good beery pal Steve, who managed to sample them all... reckon Buxton should do medals for this) it was time for a stumble back to the tent ready for tomorrow's adventures with a Derbyshire Wayfarer.

Cheers,

J&L

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Barrel Aged Beers from Siren Craft Brew

Siren are one of those breweries that you just can't help but get excited about. Established in 2012 with the intention of pushing barrel ageing to the fore, Siren have quickly become renowned for their innovative brews, and clever ways of crafting complex, intriguingly good beers. The brewery even contains a specially built ageing room to accommodate the many product lines and experiment with barrelled beers.

From Siren's most recent wave of barrel aged releases, Long Forgotten Journey is a barley wine flavoured with honey and orange peel and left to sit in a Grand Marnier cask. On the nose, it's initially quite boozy (as you'd probably expect from the 10% ABV), with wafts of light citrus, and a definite sweetness which lingers beyond that. The taste itself is fragrant and sweet, with a nicely robust fresh honey flavour tempering what can often be a pretty bold beer style in the form of a barley wine. A welcome pithy bitterness comes in right at the end. Undoubtedly absolutely yummy, but it tastes a little unfinished... with a best before date of 2018 on the bottle we were left wondering if we'd cracked this open too early, or if perhaps it would have benefitted from a little longer in the barrel. All the right flavours are there, but the overall impression doesn't quite have the harmony we've come to expect from a beer that's been barrel aged.

Which leads us quite nicely on to the second of this evening's beers: Maiden 2014. Like the Long Forgotten Journey, Maiden 2014 (11.1%) began life as a barley wine, but has undergone a more complex journey to reach the bottle... a journey which has taken time. Created from a multitude of barrels, and comprising 10% last year's Maiden release, the beer is meticulously selected and blended to produce a real labour of love. Hints of sherry come through on the nose with pleasing sweetness. At first sip light and delicate, the extra time left for the flavours to develop really comes through on the palate, which becomes sumptuously rich and well balanced, reminiscent of fruit cake. A dark chocolate bitterness hovers on the roof of the mouth for an age after drinking. A very well executed beer, to be sipped on in much the same way as a fine wine.


Patience is most definitely a virtue.

Cheers,

J&L

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Wild Beer Co: Sourbeest

At the moment Wild Beer Co are one of the most innovative breweries in the UK, using techniques that are generally far more commonplace on the continent, whether it's in producing excellent saisons or delicious barrel aged sours all the while experimenting with wild yeasts to produce unique flavours seldom tasted from modern British breweries.

Sourbeest is one of a few variations of beer that all stem from one - which happens to be one of our favourite beers from last year, Wildebeest. Wildebeest itself is an 11% imperial stout flavoured with coffee, vanilla and cocoa nibs, a big drink that is best appreciated and savoured. To produce a beer like this you don't always get all the sugars first time around, so rather than feed cows with malt of such potential, the guys at Wild Beer add more hot water and start again - and lo, Sourbeest is born.

The wort is left to spontaneously ferment as it cools, giving wild yeasts and bacteria chance to make some magic. After fermentation is complete at 5.9%, the beer is barrel-aged for nine months, at which point it is bottled ready to be imbibed.

And so, on to the drinking...

This pours fairly flat with a deep ruby colour, and instantly the tart aroma comes forth. There's just a hint of the chocolate and coffee we remember so well from Wildebeest, but this is overridden by a blast of tangy dark fruits, full of cherries and blackcurrants.

It's definitely a sipper - absolutely massive on the palate, despite weighing in at under 6%. Initially sour, there's raspberries with a touch of rich balsamic vinegar, which dance on the tongue with a pleasing sharpness. As the beer disappears down the throat you definitely get much more of a feel of dark chocolate and malted coffee, a stunning twist that almost makes this feel like drinking two beers in one.

Very clever indeed.

Cheers,

L&J

Friday, 3 April 2015

A Firkin Beer Festival at Picture House Social

Since the bar under the old Abbeydale Cinema, right in the heart of our local stomping ground on Abbeydale Road, was re-opened last year as Picture House Social, it's quickly become one of our go-to places for a relaxed meal and a good drink. So when we heard there was a beer festival curated by the excellent bottle shop Hop Hideout (conveniently located just across the road from the Picture House) we had to pop in for a few.


With 18 beers on the festival bar and another 3 on keg, the range of beers was excellent for such a fledgling festival. Tons of variety and oodles of quality were on offer, with intriguing beers and exciting collaborations aplenty.

First up was a collaboration brew from Fyne Ales and Siren, Wee Milky Way - a 3.1% Black IPA brewed with lactose. Creamy, rich and smooth with a powerful hoppy aroma. A great example of how a lower ABV doesn't mean the taste has to be comprised.

Bad Seed and Northern Alchemy have teamed up to create a Belgian Rose ale (4%), with rose petals added in to the fermenter. Rose tends to be one of those flavours that divides people, but we really enjoyed it - delicately balanced, with just the right amount of floral headiness. Lovely.

With Dinner for Two and Dinner for Three, Vienna pale ales from Siren and Elusive Brewery, both available,  a little taste comparison seemed a good idea. Sampling the releases side by side, the high vienna malt bill gave a biscuity quality to both. Dinner for Two had a tad more bitterness, with Dinner for Three being slightly more floral. While both of these beers are made using similar recipes we each had a different favourite of the two.

We ended the evening on a Cromarty Anniversary III Belgian Quad at the lofty strength of 11%, and crikey was it good. Big fruity flavours, figs and caramels combined with the characteristic belgian floral yeastiness that comes with a quadruple stout overwhelmed the palate deliciously, and frankly despite the high strength it was altogether too easy to drink. We had another.

Alongside all this festival fun, it has to be said that Picture House Social has quickly made a reputation for itself as a purveyor of excellent pizza and snacks. Our favourites are the anchovy and salsa verde pizza, the anchovies giving a real salty hit, with the fresh herby nature of the salsa providing a good level of balance, and the meatball piadina - a cross between a pizza and a sandwich, stuffed full of tasty meatballs, spicy tomato sauce and some leafy greens.

The arancini, served with salsa verde, are the perfect little snack - a crisp outer shell with the perfect amount of melted cheese in the middle. They're just about bitesized, but don't be fooled to gobble a whole one as the centre remains at a molten temperature for an AGE. These went brilliantly with Buxton Brewery's Ace Edge - a Sorachi Ace hopped variation on their Axe Edge IPA.

The regular drinks menu is extensive and interesting, with unusual draught beer, a great bottle menu from Hop Hideout, and a cocktail menu which changes monthly. An eclectic mix of 60s tunes, psychedelia and indie vibes, played at a volume that doesn't instantly put a stop to all conversation, provide a laid back atmosphere.

The whole complex is ever-improving, with one room being brought back to life at a time. Alongside the broodingly elegant main bar, and the diner-style eating area, the festival area is usually a games room complete with table tennis tables. Most recently, there's even a mini-cinema, a brilliant nod to this building's former purpose.

The festival is running throughout the Easter bank holiday weekend, so still plenty of time to try some of these brilliant beers for yourselves!

Cheers,

L&J

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Buxton Brewery: Battle Horse

Buxton have fast become one of our go-to breweries, with every beer of theirs which we've sampled being creative, original and oh-so-tasty (here's looking at you, Wyoming Sheep Ranch). We thought that for our first blog post reviewing a single beer, they'd be a great place to turn, and we found something a bit special to shout about...

Buxton Brewery's 100th brew since moving to their current brew kit is Battle Horse: a bold Double Black IPA bottled at 10.5%. First things first, it looks ace - Buxton's branding is contemporary, clean and eye-catching, and the beer itself is a pure, deep black.

Battle Cat Horse
The nose sings of pine and oak, almost as if aged, but at the same time it is vibrant and fresh with oodles of dark berries.
The malt bill, containing prominent roasted malts, is bold and chocolatey, bringing a dry roasted coffee body. With tropical passion fruit lying in wait underneath all that richness, despite the high ABV it is beautifully soft and deceptively easy to drink. This shows how the imperial-style malty notes in the beer are balanced by the more classical IPA characteristics: the variety of hops in the brew give a great oiliness and body whilst also providing a very fresh, almost floral character throughout the drink. So complex, but it all comes together with absolute panache and completely fills the head with chewy, extravagant goodness.

This landmark brew from this wonderful Derbyshire brewery is truly something to behold - I highly recommend keeping an eye out for it.

Cheers,

Jim