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

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:

Abirradero



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.

NaparBCN


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!

Cheers,

Jim and Laura

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Food pairing with Tempest Brew Co - our week in pictures

Wow! What a week it's been, with a different Tempest Brew Co beer and food pairing suggestion coming out every day! We hope you've been following along and enjoying the combinations we've come up with. Just in case you missed any, here's a little round up...

MONDAY

Mexicake Imperial Stout (11%), paired with slow cooked beer brisket chilli. You can find the full recipe over on Tempest's blog here.


TUESDAY

Dios Mio! Jalapeno IPA (6.0%), paired with avocado veggie tacos.


WEDNESDAY

Starter: Double Shuck imperial oyster stout (11%), paired with haggis beignets and a Laphroaig whisky cream sauce.

Main course: Brave New World IPA (7%), paired with a celebration of Scottish seafood mac & cheese, which you can have a go at making yourself by following our recipe here.


THURSDAY

Starter: Long White Cloud (5.6%), paired with sea bass ceviche and  a pineapple and kiwi salsa.


Main course: Longer White Cloud (10.2%), paired with herb crusted rack of New Zealand lamb and creamy sweet potato dauphinoise.


FRIDAY

Mango Berlinner (4%), paired with a homemade passionfruit meringue pie.


We've had an amazing week and we're pretty gutted it's over! HOWEVER, we're also VERY excited to announce that you haven't heard the last from the Mashtun and Meow x Tempest dream team... we'll be co-hosting Craft Beer Hour on Tuesday 6th December! Please join us with a beer (and a snack!) from 9pm-10pm to chat about all things food-and-beer related.

Cheers!

Laura and Jim

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Food and Beer with Tempest Brewing Co - A Preview!


Something very exciting is coming up at Mashtun Towers. We are teaming up with our pals up at Tempest Brewing Co to bring you a series of foodie delights to match with a range of their excellent beers.

We've been big fans of the brewery for a good few years now, since the establishment of our lovely local beer shops Beer Central and Hop Hideout meant that their beers became suddenly available in Sheffield. We've been consistently impressed with the output from Tempest, with them nailing every style from juicy IPAs to luscious oyster stouts. In September last year, we were able to visitthe brewery in the Scottish Borders after frequenting The Cobbles, their charming tap room in Kelso, on our way to Edinburgh. The brewery itself is squashed into a relatively low ceilinged building designed for fabric production, somehow fitting the brew kit and bottling plant, and is a powerhouse of a space in an area which until recently hasn't been at the forefront of people's minds when you think of top quality, modern beer production.

More recently, we were able to chat with Shannon (a fellow kitty fan) from the brewery over a few drinks at Leeds International Beer Festival, with the Raspberry Radler and Dios Mio Jalapeno IPA being some of the top beers of the day for us. We soon got on to our other favourite topic aside from beer and cats - food - and so the idea to work with Tempest to create some culinary pairings to go with their amazing range of beers was born!

So without further ado, on to the beers. We don't want to give too much away just yet, but suffice to say we can't WAIT to start playing around and experimenting with flavour combinations. We've got quite a few ideas up our sleeves already - expect influences from New Zealand and Mexico, Scottish charm and a little hint of Yorkshire flair!




Watch out for further details coming soon across our, and Tempest's, social media channels!

Cheers,

L & J

Sunday, 15 May 2016

New Belgium Brewery

Neither of us have ever been keen cyclists, but after two trips to New Belgium during our time in Fort Collins we might just be tempted to dust off and re-oil our bikes (currently decaying in the cellar).

On our first trip to the brewery we met with Spokes Model and long serving employee Bryan Simpson in the tap room over a generous pour of their flagship amber ale Fat Tire (5.2%) and he ran us through some of the history of Fort Collins' biggest craft brewery. Established in 1991 after a cycling trip to (Old) Belgium frequenting many of the beer bars and Brasseries the country has to offer, husband and wife team Jeff Lebesch and Kim Jordan aimed to emulate some the beers on their garage brew kit. And so New Belgium was born.

The original brew kit

As we travelled through the state of the art facility, one of the largest craft breweries in America, we were struck by the sensitivity for tradition in the brewery as well as the want to push forward and produce modern American beer, all against an ideology of environmental care and sustainability. From the original brew kit from humble home brew origins, to the highly polished stainless steel four vessel brew system with steam recollection, to the traditional oak vats used to produce their sour beer next door, to the ultra-modern lab with stir-plates and Erlenmeyer flasks of beer samples. This approach of modern brewing technology coupled with traditional European techniques allows New Belgium to produce one of the biggest ranges of quality beers of any brewery we've been to.


As the tour continued we headed into the foudre forest, an absolutely beautiful room with more than 64 10,000l repurposed wine vats used in the making of slow sour beer, intermingled with a selection of whisky casks from Denver distillery Leopold Brothers, and a climbing wall. All the foudres are filled with one of two different base beers lovingly named Oscar and Felix, the first a black lager and the other being a golden ale. As we stood chatting surrounded by wood we were offered a glass of La Folie (GABF 2001 Gold Medal), an utterly delectable Flanders Red style sour beer with a blend that has been acidifying for anywhere between one year to as much as three. The tartness is reminiscent of apples and peaches, with a light yet lingering oaken texture toward the end. One of the best beers we've ever drunk, and in the most perfect of settings to try it... the heady aroma of the room is the sort you can conjure up just from thinking about it.


The final section of our tour through what is affectionately referred to as the Thunderdome - a frankly enormous bottling line and relatively smaller canning line which took in all around 4 minutes to stroll across. The continuous rattling of glass and clunk of machines highlights the scale of New Belgium's output (as if 64 oak vats of beer weren't enough to do that), capable of 700 bottles a minute with only a hand-full of people operating it. Slick.

We finished up in back in the tap room with a glass of La Terroir, created with the aforementioned Felix as the base then dry hopped to add a layer of complexity, that buoys all the other layers of sour freshness. Another contender for lifetime favourite beer for us both, and impossible to pick which we loved more between La Terroir and La Folie. We brought a bottle of each home just to re-test this theory but still just concluded that both were astounding.

Us with Bryan and Chris from the New Belgium team!

We spent a good couple more hours in the taproom, working our way through the New Belgium core range along with specials including their collaboration with Ben & Jerry's - a 6.3% salted caramel brownie brown ale which was SO up Laura's street (and she got to to try the ice cream the following day too). We massively enjoyed chatting to all of the staff we met, every single one of whom was bursting with enthusiasm for the company they all feel truly a part of (which indeed they are, the company being 100% employee owned). Bryan also told us a story of how Neil Fallon from one of our favourite bands, Clutch, had a go on Bryan's guitar while the band were involved in creating a collaboration beer. Bryan might just be the coolest man we've ever met.

We had such a brilliant day that for Laura's birthday we decided to return, where we joined on the general tour. This followed the same format as the first but was slightly less in-depth but still relaxed and informative. This one included a go on the brewery's helter skelter!

There have recently been a number of rumours regarding the future of New Belgium and the likelihood of it being bought out. We asked Bryan on our first trip who vehemently denied that this was a possibility. Our tour guide on the second visit was a little more vague, which could suggest that it has been mentioned throughout the company but is still by no means a certain. But as the brewery is an employee owned company, it would be hoped that their votes and opinions would be taken into consideration before making a decision with potentially a huge impact on their future.

With a second site in Asheville, North Carolina, having opened earlier this month, it will surely be the case that New Belgium's reputation as a progressive and far-reaching brewery can only increase. Although the brewery prioritises the American market and hopes to sell in every state as a priority over growing export, we are hopeful that before too long we will start to see their beer on our shores!

Cheers,

J&L

Monday, 9 November 2015

Beer and food pairing: Weird Beard Defacer and Pad Thai

It's no secret that we love going out to eat and drink, but sometimes it's just as nice to stay in and spend some time really thinking about and taking care over a meal. We often share a bottle of beer over tea, so decided that for some of the special brews lurking in our cellar we'd try to create some food which would complement them perfectly and recreate the dining out experience at home.

For our first foray into beer and food pairing, we chose Weird Beard's Defacer. Brewed using the distinctive Sorachi Ace hop (which just so happens to be Laura's favourite), this is a triple IPA weighing in at a mighty 11.1% and is also Weird Beard's 200th brew. Seeing as the ABV is akin to a bottle of wine, we thought it would be the perfect guinea pig for our experiment.

Sorachi Ace is well known for having prominent lemon and coconut notes alongside an interesting dill-y characteristic. We guessed that these qualities would pair perfectly alongside Thai food, so we decided to make a Pad Thai using king prawns marinated in coconut milk, turkey and Thai basil. We added baby sweetcorn and sugar snap peas (plus a healthy dose of fresh chilli), then a good squeeze of lime juice and a drizzle of barrel aged soy sauce (which just FYI is from Oisoi, a wonderful new addition to Sheffield's food shops) over the top and we were good to go.


The beer itself was phenomenal - a huge tropical aroma burst from the bottle immediately upon opening, and the expected Sorachi punch was dominant. Piney, bold and bitter, it worked brilliantly alongside the spicy food, with the zesty lime juice cutting through for balance and complementing the citrus notes in the beer.

Conclusion: WAY better than a Sauvignon Blanc.

Cheers,

L&J

Saturday, 3 October 2015

A Birthday Brewdog Tour

We love a bit of a roadtrip every now and again, and having been kindly invited up to the Brewdog brewery by malt master Angelos (who we first met at this excellent homebrew competition), Jim decided that a 400 mile journey up to Ellon would be a great way to spend his birthday. and frankly the only way to travel to a craft beer Mecca would be to make the quasi-religious Hajj via the various Brewdog bars on the pilgrimage.


Seeing as it's rather a long way from Sheffield, we made a proper long weekend of it, calling at as many Brewdog bars as we could on the way, just to stick with a bit of a theme! Obviously we also found many more fantastic places on our travels... look out for another post in the near future for these.

Our plan was to begin on home soil in Brewdog Sheffield, before heading up to Newcastle and then on to Edinburgh, with an overnight stay in each city, then on to Aberdeen and finally the Big Dog - the brewery itself in Ellon. The bars all follow a similar mould... always slightly industrial, with booths, matte black paint and walls clad in what can surely only be made from a sports hall floor. With slightly different offerings from Stone, Mikkeller and Boon or Weihenstephan on the guest lines and at least eight of the host beers on the other taps, there is always a beer for everyone. Whilst the beer list and venues are similar, it's the staff that set each apart and give the bars a distinctive character. Every single person we spoke to behind the bar was helpful, knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and polite enough to seem interested in our slightly odd quest!

Clockwise from top left: Brewdog Newcastle, Dundee, Aberdeen and Edinburgh
En route to Aberdeen, we decided to add in a somewhat impromptu trip to Dundee, where the Royal Exchange building plays host to the ornate bar. Due to it being only part way through our drive, as we sat twiddling our thumbs for the lunchtime opening we drew straws for the designated driver. As the bar opened, Laura opted for a Fritz-Limo apple juice. Jim clutching the figurative long straw more than made up for this, indulging in the 8% Molotov Lite from Evil Twin. For the birthday boy, this was the perfect opener to the proceedings, light, floral and a nice accompaniment to the beef and Five AM Saint pie. Moving on to Stone - Points Unknown, another ludicrously strong pre-afternoon beer in the form of a Belgian style tripel at 9.5%, which has been barrel aged in wine and tequila before being blended with a delightfully fresh West Coast DIPA, to form an awesomely rounded, hoppy, slightly tart, massively boozy and all round stunning drink.

By Monday it's definitely fair to say we were adequately warmed up to complete our pilgrimage to the brewery itself, along with the Dogtap there. Based in Ellon, a half hour bus journey north of Aberdeen, it is absolutely ENORMOUS and still clearly in the process of rapid growth.


Upon arriving at the brewery, we were greeted by Angelos who was to be our guide and beer guru for the afternoon. The bar attached to the brewery follows the same pattern as the rest, except with the reflective majesty of the pilot kit at one end. As we moved to through to the large building behind the bar, wandering through a maze of impossibly shiny stainless steel, we began to see the scale of what the Brewdog machine has become, with three massive fermenting vessels in the centre of the building and a £3million bottling plant taking up around half of the space of the main warehouse.


We were firstly shown the four main brewing vessels (mashtun, lautertun, kettle and whirlpool) - a setup that allows 4 different beers to be on the go simultaneously and up to 10 brews a day to be produced. Our tour continued along to conditioning tanks and the dry hopping stage of the process, where we were lucky enough to have a taste of the super chilled and ridiculously fresh beers. The highlights were the legendary Punk IPA, with an outrageously juicy hop character, and Tokyo - at around 17% and -1 degrees, it was practically a syrup, fruity, sticky and downright delicious. Black Eyed King, which becomes the base of the "Dog" series of beers, was also phenomenal. Many of the fermenting vessels are situated outside the brewery building itself... with 15 that can contain 800 hectolitres, it's not hard to imagine why. The sheer scale of absolutely everything just blew us away... despite being familiar with many a brewery, we'd truly never seen anything like it. Again, the enthusiasm of those working there was obvious, and the whole building felt a bit like a beehive, everyone working busily as a team and the air filled with an electric innovation. With their recent milestone of £10million through crowd funding, we will no doubt see many more exciting things coming from this remote corner of Scotland.


After a pit stop in the tap room - a Five AM Saint for Jim, and a stunning sour cherry pilot brew for Laura, it was time to get the bus back to Aberdeen and grab a good night's kip ready for the 7 hour drive home the following day. Totally worth it.

Cheers,

J&L

Monday, 31 August 2015

Dispense with the Gimmicks

Earlier this week, Buxton Brewery announced they will no longer be producing cask beer unless it's for their brewery tap house, citing concerns over cask loss and quality control, and overall a market that doesn't take kindly to more expensive casks of beer. This is a big step for a brewery to make and an interesting statement, to cut out what is traditionally the backbone of pretty much every UK brewery in terms of sales.

There are other breweries taking similar steps although not as far as disregarding casks altogether, but selling beer through different dispense such as keg, bottle and more recently can. The most notable of these is probably Beavertown, but with Magic Rock equipping their new brewery in Huddersfield with a canning line they don't seem to be far off the pace. Whilst these techniques of dispense can be all well and good, I am starting to struggle justifying them as the best thing for the beer (which is at the end of the day what really matters). For myself, whilst initially I was dismayed at the concept of drinking from a can, my discountenance soon dissipated after a can of Roosters Baby Faced Assassin, which is now one of my favourite beers. After my gateway Assassin I quickly drank through Beavertowns, with on the whole positive results, 8 Ball Rye and Neck Oil being the standout options. But... then there is Smog Rocket, a beer which I know should be a tremendous beer in taste, but for me everything else was lacking. The body was a little thin and a lot of what should've been a big smoke element was amiss. This is in contrast to the all round bolder experience gained from drinking this beer on cask (sadly a much rarer opportunity) which is surely the way the brewery intended it to taste... why, then, produce a poorer alternative of the same beer by canning it? Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad in can, just not quite right.

There are reportedly three new breweries opening every week in the UK at the moment and because of this each has to do their utmost to stand out from the continually growing roster of newbies. A new offering to the Sheffield market, North Union, has taken the decision to produce only keg and bottle, recognising that in producing cask beer in a city with coming up to twenty breweries it would be difficult to offer anything new to the market. This for me is a good example of a brewery unwilling to take part in what Buxton have highlighted as another factor in their caskless operation, "a depressed cask market place flooded with poor to average cask beer, sold cheap." Breweries desperate to sell their beer often offer much lower prices for their casks, causing some publicans to set unrealistic price boundaries for their cask purchases, ultimately resulting in poorer choice and lower quality for the drinker at the bar. As well as this, a landlord or cellar manager needs no qualifications, experience or knowledge to run a pub. You can get a pint of poorly kept cask beer that is in no way representative of how the product left the brewery stores. This lack of control over cask is also cited by Buxton as a factor in their recent decision, whilst keg beer leaves the brewery in much the same condition as it is served. But a well maintained cellar and competently kept casks for me will almost always outstrip that of the quality of other dispense methods.

The US is a big part of both the craft keg and canning market - in both respects they are at least 20 years ahead of us, and therefore can consistently rely on their own techniques and experience. By contrast, jumping in head first into the premise of canning and keg will not always end with success. As we see more breweries trying to break into the market, we are going to see hits and I fear a lot more misses in terms of how beer is provided to the consumer. Let's also not forget that all this is against the decree of CAMRA, still a powerful driver of opinion for a good portion of beer drinkers. I just hope that we can work through what could be a tumultuous time for the industry and iron out some of the lower quality canning techniques before it becomes too unreliable, which may lead to consumer mistrust. But still at the heart of everything we need to be looking at what is best for each beer, rather than a blanket approach to an entire range.

But for now, I'm going to retire with a Northern Monk Strannik... in bottle... at room temperature.

Slainte,


Jim

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, 12 August 2015

Magic Rock Tap, Huddersfield

We've been fans of Magic Rock beers for quite some time, and they're one of those that we always make a beeline for at the bar - their wonderfully juicy West Coast Pale Ale, High Wire (5.5%) is one of Laura's firm favourites (and luckily enough it's frequently available at one of our locals, the Rutland Arms) - and they're also making quite a name for themselves with some really special brews. We've been chomping at the bit to get to their brewery tap in Huddersfield since it opened in June this year, and finally made the trip through the glorious Yorkshire countryside last weekend.


We started off with something pretty light, Dancing Bear - a steam beer style pilsner weighing in at 4.5%. Refreshing and grassy, it was certainly a welcome opening act.

Next up was Big Top - an India Red Ale with humongous hop flavours, massively aromatic and tropical at 7.4%. Alongside this we grabbed ourselves a burger from Fat Hippo, usually Newcastle based but with a nifty little Burger Bar which travels around the country. The Tap invites along different food vendors each weekend, meaning there's always something different to try, and we were mightily impressed by the offering this week. We both picked the PB&J burger - succulent beef, perfectly cooked to order, topped with peanut butter and bacon jam, which may now be our new favourite condiment (a bold claim for a couple who have designated condiment shelves in both the cupboard and the fridge). Fat Hippo will be in Sheffield at the next Peddler market in October and we'd definitely recommend them to anyone in the area.


After filling our bellies, we were treated to a quick look around the new brewery itself, which has doubled production capacity for Magic Rock. The first brew had taken place just the day before, so everything was very shiny and new... we even got a sneak peek at the new canning line, which has now been officially announced! Watch this space...

Now then. Those really special brews we mentioned at the beginning of this post? Here goes. Firstly was Dark Arts stout - cocoa nib edition (6%), which had been aged in bourbon barrels for two years with cocoa nibs and vanilla added for the last few months. The aroma was incredible, intensely chocolatey and oh so inviting. On the palate was creamy chocolate with a dry pure cocoa backbone which prevented the beer from becoming cloying, and the vanilla coming through to enhance the flavours imparted by the barrel. As well as this treat, we also enormously enjoyed the Pedro Ximenez barrel aged Bearded Lady, a 10.5% imperial stout. Sumptuously sticky, it was rich with raisins and treacle whilst retaining a great level of balance, and was just a perfect example of just how good a barrel aged beer can be.


The whole experience of drinking at the Magic Rock Tap was just a delight - the staff were all friendly and keen to share their extensive knowledge of the beers on offer, the atmosphere and decor give you a great feel for what the brewery is all about, and everything is achingly "craft" without being in any way twattishly pretentious. A new favourite and definitely not to be missed!

Cheers,

J&L

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Italian beers from Birrificio Gjulia

Whilst Italy is not yet particularly well known in the UK for its craft beer production, there are more and more breweries now beginning to reach our shores and Gjulia is one of them. Made by Marco and Massimo Zorzettig, brothers with a family tradition which lies more in wine production than in brewing, all Gjulia's beers use malt grown on their very own land. The emphasis across the range is on sustainability, locality, and quality, which it certainly carries in absolute spades.

IPA, 5.8%
The newest release from Gjulia, created using their homegrown hops, this poured a little hazy, and we managed to work out from our very basic Italian that it's unfiltered and bottle conditioned. The vibrant aroma hits the nose full of fruit and juicy hop character. The bottle conditioning provides a beautiful carbonation that tingles along the tongue and hints towards a similar mouthfeel to a good white wine. Flavours of citrus, particularly pithy grapefruit, are vivid throughout, alongside a gently floral elderflower character. The hop flavours are bold without being out of balance, providing a pleasantly soft level of bitterness on the finish. Full-bodied, fruity and fresh.

Nostrana Organic Ale, 5%
Again slightly hazy, this blonde beer made entirely with organic ingredients was almost shimmery - gorgeous in the glass. On the nose, lightly perfumed with notes of orange blossom, delicate and dry with a tropical fruit esther character from the yeast. On the palate, there's tons of intense juicy fruits, in particular mandarin segments and passion fruit. This is coupled with a lovely crispness that is almost reminiscent of a Belgian-style pale ale. Refreshing and very elegant.





Overall, we were hugely impressed by the product coming out of Gjulia. The branding is superb and the bottles themselves look great, seemingly inspired by the Zorzettig brothers' background in winemaking. The beers can be approached in much the same way as a fine wine and worked really well with food - we went for homemade tagliatelle with smoked salmon, courgette and lemon to pair with the IPA, and pan fried pork fillets with apple and sweet potato to go alongside the Nostrana. With the growing demand for international beer that we're currently seeing in the UK, we certainly hope to see more of Birra Gjulia on these shores.

Cheers.

L&J

Disclaimer: we were kindly sent these two beers to review, however opinions are all our own. Many thanks to Birrificio Gjulia!

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