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

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

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Mashtuns on Tour - Exploring Barcelona

In a city that oozes history from each and every rambling street, a new and exciting modern beer scene is beginning to emerge. Our hosts for the week, the team from Instituto de la Cerveza Artesana (ICA) in the south of the city, informed us that just a few years ago craft beer was almost unseen in Barcelona (their own bar, Abirradero, opened in 2015), yet today – if you know where to look – there are numerous hidden gems and a real underground culture just waiting to be discovered by the discerning beer drinker.

Here are just a few that we visited, all of which we would hugely recommend:


A short walk outside the main city centre, in the area of Poble Sec, and an absolutely incredible bar. 40 taps showcase a huge array of some of the most innovative beers we've ever come across, mostly brewed at ICA, ranging from ice cream stouts to berry berliners via Belgian New England IPAs and everything in between. Literally every beer we tried of ICA's massive range completely hit the mark - we really can't recommend this bar highly enough.

The food menu was just as varied, and in the few days we spent in Barcelona we were lucky enough to work our way through most of it, much of which incorporates beer into the dishes. Particular highlights for us were the rich and luxurious oxtail, braised for hours in Belgian Quadrupel, the “Fisherman’s Rice” with mussels, clams and enormous, juicy prawns, and the stout infused “Birramisu”.

The “Musico cervecero” was a wonderful Catalan experience – nuts, fruits and raisins served alongside a “porron” (a drinking vessel we’ve never encountered before!) filled with ICA's delicious Belgian Quad, which was passed around the group and shared in a celebration of friendship. The absolute perfect way to end an evening!

Garage Beer Co

Two venues in one here! Garage started life as a brewpub in central Barcelona, but has recently made the move to a larger production brewery in the Sant Andreu suburb of the city. Known for their American-style brewing, and producing mostly hop-forward pale ales, they are a popular choice in Barcelona with locals and tourists alike.

We visited the new brewery first, at an exciting time for the team as they've recently started canning, and have just installed their own (very shiny) canning line - we tried some fresh cans of Middle Child (5%), an Ekuanot single hopped IPA, which was incredibly vibrant and a fantastic fruity thirst quencher. The new facility has enabled them to up production substantially already, but they still have plenty of space to expand into in future, a good sign given the inevitable growth of Spanish craft beer. A bar on the premises currently only opens for special events, but is a great space - modern and spacious, with a feature window looking through onto their barrel store and foeder (which was due to be filled for the first time the week after our visit).

The brewpub is still open as a bar, with the small kit currently not in use, although brewer Joe informed us that they do hope to use this for more experimental brews in the future. As a bar, it's fantastic - a laid back, relaxed atmosphere, with quirky artwork adorning the walls and ten of their own beers on tap.

Black Lab

Let's face it, we were always going to have a nice time in a bar named after a pet! The black lab in question, Lola, sadly wasn't present when we popped by but we enjoyed a tour around the brewkit with owner and head brewer Matt, who hails originally from America. All beer made on the premises in sold on the premises, quite out of choice to ensure that the beer is always looked after and served in exactly the way Matt and the team intend.

Their core range is relatively small without being limiting, led by their flagship IPA Claudia (7%). To keep things that bit more exciting, they also have an entire menu dedicated to beer cocktails and "beer with a surprise" - Laura loved the raspberry Berliner Weisse Sour Lady (4.3%) served with a shot of white chocolate syrup!

The bar itself is down by the harbour in a trendy part of the city - a great place to relax and enjoy some beers, and beer infused food (try the nachos with beer cheese sauce!) after a few hours on the beach.


With a post-industrial, "diesel punk" feel, and serving modern and progressive beers from around the globe, we felt more like we were in an American rock bar than in the centre of Barcelona. NaparBCN is a brewpub branch of the larger NaparBier, with around half of the beers on the menu brewed on site - our favourite was the Breakfast of Champions Pancake IPA (7%). The guest selection was impressive, with beers from renowned breweries such as Hill Farmstead, Jolly Pumpkin and Alesmith.

We didn't have chance to try the food during our trip, but discovered the kitchen is run by Michelin-starred chef Miquel Aldana. One we've bookmarked for our next visit!

Brewpub le Sec

Tucked away up a side street, this rustic brewpub was a complete polar opposite to the industrial sheen of the other breweries we've mentioned in this post, but it had a charm all of it's very own.

Despite it's small size, the beers brewed on site packed a mighty punch - the MegaSeth Session IPA (3.4%), hopped with Magnum and Simcoe, had bags of flavour and the IPAtti Smith (5.5%) was a lemony Sorachi Ace dream. Well worth seeking out.

Homo Sibaris

Run by the charismatic and very knowledgeable Guillem, Homo Sibaris is a small but bustling bar located a short walk from the Sants train station.

The beer range is impressive, with a wide selection of local brews showcased alongside a few carefully chosen international beers. The bar does food despite having an absolutely tiny kitchen - we had one of the best cheese boards we've ever eaten, comprised entirely of locally sourced produce.

This seemed to be a real "regulars" pub, with everyone in there chatting to each other, sharing drinks, and Guillem behind the bar boosting an already brilliant atmosphere. We were quickly invited to join in the beery chat and treated to a bottle of Reptilian's Apokalypse Imperial Stout to share around our group. We were made to feel so welcome, and it was just a great bar to while away an evening - it knows it's strengths, sticks to them, and does a bloody good job of it.

Obviously this isn't an exhaustive list - other bars we enjoyed included Kaelderkold, Mikkeller BCN, El Drapaire and Bier Cab, but we feel the selection above gives a good indication of the whole spectrum of the Barcelona beer scene.

We visited Barcelona on a business trip - an enormous thank you to Abbeydale Brewery for the opporunity, and for trusting us with the company's first ever international event (you can read more about that here!) and to Dani, Ivo, Nacho and the rest of the team at ICA and Abirradero for being so welcoming and looking after us so well. We had an absolute blast, built some wonderful friendships, and it's definitely a city we plan on heading back to as soon as we can!


Jim and Laura

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Brewtown Tours

We were recently invited on a little adventure round York on one of the very first ever trips run by Brewtown Tours - an all new brewery tour experience run by ale enthusiast Mark Stredwick.

We met up at the York Tap to start the tour, which is the perfect convenient location for both locals and those travelling in (and means you can grab a pre-tour beer should you feel so inclined!). A picturesque 40 minute drive out through the suburbs to the east of York, whilst discussing our first, last, and favourite beers, took us to our first destination of the day, Half Moon Brewery. Located in an old blacksmith's forge, Mark quite appropriately described Half Moon as a micro-micro... a small yet perfectly formed 5 barrel plant run by Tony and Jackie Rogers.

The beers produced by this tiny brewery are big hits with local country pubs and are starting to gain headway in the venues of the cities nearby. An entertaining introduction to the brewing process was provided by Tony, followed by a mini food and beer pairing showcasing other local producers led by sensory consultant Jo Menneer. We both thoroughly enjoyed the F'Hops Sake golden ale (3.9%) paired with Mounfield's "hogg roast" herby pork sausage! As we boarded back onto the comfy Brewtown minibus, we were all given a goodie bag containing a bottle of Half Moon beer along with a block of St Helen's farm goat's cheese and Guppy's chocolate from the pairing, which was a really lovely touch.

The next stop a short drive later was The Hop Studio, the brewery of the three on today's itinerary that we were most familiar with. Famous for their hop forward pale beers, The Hop Studio are a staple on many a bar around Yorkshire since their inception in 2012. Clutching a glass of their Beerjolais, we toured the mezzanine level which has been recently converted into a bar, but houses the original malt store, auger and cold liquor tanks. The tour continued downstairs with a look at the wood clad brew system and fermentation room, where their process was described eloquently and passionately by founder Dave Shaw. On our return to the bar we tried our favourite beer of the day, a limited release of a beer simply called "Chocolat" - a white chocolate stout that sings of vanilla from the bourbon barrel it was aged in.

Finally, we pulled up at relative newcomers to the York brewery scene, Ainsty Ales, just as it was getting dark. Another beautiful location, situated in a barn overlooking both the farm and field, which will eventually be used to grow a small hop crop to be used in the brew house in a few years time. We were given a tour of the brand spanking brewhouse by head brewer Alan Hardie - previously of York Brewery - and were treated to some tastings of their core releases, of which the delighfully named golden ale Wankled Waggoner (try saying that after a few pints!) was the one we enjoyed the most. The tasting room there is not quite yet up and running, but it's sure to be a fantastic space in the near future - a quirky, rural bar with great potential.

Brewtown Tours currently offers two different routes around York (with at least a third in the pipeline) as well as a tour around Leeds. We had a relaxed yet informative day and thoroughly enjoyed our experience. It was great to get out into the suburbs and visit places that on a trip to York we would never usually think to travel to, but which were all well worth the journey... especially when being chauffeured in style!


Jim and Laura