Omnipollo / Buxton Yellow Belly, 11% abv peanut butter and biscuit imperial stout. With no peanuts, butter, or biscuits.

From Buxton Brewery

The Rainbow challenge, which is the brainchild of Ryan Witter-Merithew from Siren Craft Brewery, brings together 14 breweries to make 7 collaborative beers themed on the colours of the rainbow. This year, we drew ‘Yellow’ out of the hat and were teamed up with Stockholm based Omnipollo. We all sat down and discussed what we could brew based on the idea of  ‘Yellow’. After some time, we arrived at the consensus that the prime meaning or idea expressed by the colour yellow is cowardice. Our next challenge was to transpose this idea, and our sentiments around it, into a beer.

The political situation throughout Europe is in turmoil right now, National Front, Sverigedemokraterna, British National Party, EDL, Dansk Folkeparti, Vlaams Belang, Lega Nord, Fremsrittspartiet, Sannfinländarna, Golden Dawn….the list goes on and on. From Omnipollo’s Henok Fentie; “One thing that struck us while the preliminary political polls where being presented during election night was that the actual support for the Swedish fascist party was in reality 40% higher than what people had disclosed when asked (face to face) what they voted for just after casting their ballot.  At the same time the polls were more or less accurate when it came to other parties on the political scale.”  What does this mean? One thing that it could mean is that although people vote extreme right they are on average not as prone to admitting to it as people voting for other parties are.  Being a coward can mean many different things, but protesting anonymously at the expense of people’s freedom and right to co-exist without showing your face is one meaning that is particularly relevant at this moment in time.

So, with all this in mind, for our ‘Yellow’ beer, we made an 11% Peanut Butter and Biscuit Imperial Stout. Except there are no peanuts or biscuits in it. And then we dressed it in the most hateful, cowardly-anonymous costume we know of. This beer, whilst attempting to make a commentary on the current political winds blowing through Europe, is above all, meant to be enjoyed as a celebration of all things new, open minded and progressive. Taste, enjoy and don’t be prejudiced.

My respect for both Buxton and Omnipollo doubled on reading this. Fuck fascism, drink beer. That’s what I always say. And so to the drinking. 

The beautiful black liquid sports a tiny little head, the aromas are well, surprising. Like an ice cream flavoured Jawbreaker. Srsly. Already intrigued my first sip is nothing short of a revelation. Imagine a vanilla ice cream milkshake swirled through with butterscotch, sprinkled with roasted and chopped peanuts, broken biscuits, and drizzled with stout and fudge sauce. It tastes absolutely, sorta, maybe something like that. I shit you not. 

I can say with absolute certainty that I’ve never tasted a beer like this before. It’s mildly carbonated, smooth and silky, bittersweet, and delivers a nicely roasty aftertaste, but it’s those damned flavours that do it. There’s definitely biscuits and nuts here amongst the others, and real, crunchy, twice baked sweet biscuits, not those savoury scones from across the pond ;). It is however the vanilla ice cream milk shake that steals the show for me, every sip caused a smile. A delicious Anglo-Swedish experiment in beer and a heartfelt statement, a truly wonderful thing from two truly wonderful breweries. Can’t wait to try the rest of this years Rainbow project. Cheers!

BrewDog Russian Doll

The beautifully labelled creations you see before you (courtesy of the fantastic Esther McManus) form the most recent of BrewDog’s special releases. Four beers brewed with the same ingredients but with the hop and malt ratio altered to suite the specific styles, which increase in strength from a pale ale to an India pale ale to a double IPA to a barley wine. Pale, cara, and dark crystal malts do the malty thing while Cascade, Centennial, Citra, and Simcoe represent the green stuff.

Without further ado (I know, right?) it’s time to try ‘em. First up is the Russian Doll Pale Ale (4.0% abv), modestly hopped with tropical fruit fruit flavours, orange, and pine needles, it wasn’t ‘til it warmed in my hand towards cellar temp that it came alive with malty goodness, caramel drizzled chopped nuts getting a nod of appreciation. Light and eminently crushable, a good start.

Russian Doll IPA (6.0% abv) moves in exactly the direction you’d expect, hoppy with stripped back malts. Freshly squeezed orange juice leads the citrus hop charge, there’s a nice resinous quality and a hint of biscuity malt. A good hit of bitterness brings things to a close, the body’s more substantial and the mouthfeel more rounded than the pale. A better suit for me.

My love of DIPA’s meant that the Russian Doll Double IPA (8.0% abv) was the one I was most looking forward to. Sweet up front with bags of chewy, resinous, citrusy, tropical hops, a touch of caramel malt that kinda pretends to reign in the hop overload for a second or two then just says “fuck it” and stands back as the bitter wave of hop aggression charges past heading straight for your taste buds. A nice US style DIPA, not their best, but highly enjoyable.

Last up, after a hour or so recuperation, was Russian Doll Barley Wine (10.0% abv). By far the most gorgeous colour of the four, it and kinda tastes like blackberry jam, caramel sauce, and grapefruit juice all stirred together with a pine bough. Being an American style barley wine it’s certainly hoppy, but the hops never overshadow the malts and drag it into DIPA territory. It’s sweet and sticky, nicely boozy but not overpowering, a real tasty brew. 

And I’m done. Of the four the DIPA and barley wine were (rather predictably) my favourites, but I can’t honestly say that any of these beers come close to surpassing BrewDog’s other examples of their particular styles. For a mere tenner though, this new piece of playful experimentation from the Scottish craft brewers has been highly enjoyable. And that artwork almost makes the purchase worthwhile in itself. Cheers!

18th Street Brewery Hunter x Hunter Coffee 

I love crowd funding. Got a great idea for a business but lack the funds to kickstart it? (yeah I did!) There may just be like minded people out there who like what you’re offering and are happy to chuck some money your way to see you succeed, for just a bit of the shiny stuff when it all works out of course. This is what happened with 18th Street. Home brewer, Mr Drew Fox, started volunteering at Chicago’s Pipeworks Brewery (another Kickstarter success) before being offered a full time position. After contract brewing with both their and Spiteful Brewing’s equipment the Foxy one decided he just had to open his own brewery and taproom. The public liked this idea and last year 18th Street Brewery was born in Gary, Indiana (twinned with Bob, Suffolk). 

I’ve been hearing excited whispers and awestruck echoes on the old copper wires ever since, but never considered that I’d ever acquire any of their wares. And then one day I stumbled across a few bottles on Mikkeller’s online shop. Awesome. The two beautifully clothed examples above are Hunter (8% abv), a double milk stout with added cacao nibs, and Hunter Coffee (8.5% abv), as above but with an added kick from that other glorious black liquid. So.

Hunter. Pours black. Aromas of heavily roasted, almost charred malts, chocolate brownies, hints of dried stone fruits. Very nice. Tastes even better. Those dark roasted malts are a indulgent delight, a slight char works well with the rich, deep chocolate, there’s sweet chocolate milk, caramel sauce, hints of vanilla and licorice, and a moderately roasty bitterness that arrives for the finish.

Hunter Coffee. You’d be expecting pretty much the same notes as those above but with the added complexity and decadence of a double espresso slowly stirred in, right? Well you’d be right. That sublime union of chocolate and coffee is handled with the utmost skill and respect, a luxurious mocha-like flavour swirling amongst the malty goodness. 

And just like that, they’re gone. As sorrowful an event as there ever was. The handful of beers I’ve been able to try from 18th Street have been, without exception, excellent. These are the two that’ll haunt my dreams though, a pair of rich, roasty, full bodied, silky smooth, flavour packed, triumphant examples of the brewers craft. Cheers!

The Bruery Sucre, 16.9% abv
The attractively presented beers from Orange County’s The Bruery are a rare sight on these shores, so imagine my delight when I stumbled across this vision of loveliness at a local apothecary (amongst the healing elixirs donchaknow). I immediately decided had to have it despite the rather extortionate amount of groats they were asking, and soon I was cycling the penny-farthing home with a weighted basket and light wallet.
Sucre is The Bruery’s 6th anniversary ale. It’s loosely based on an English old ale, fermented with their own Belgian yeast strain, and blended using the solera method whereby each anniversary ale is added to a blend of those that came before it (and has been barrel aging all this time). This is then aged again, mine in bourbon barrels though there are other varieties out there, and some will be put aside for next years anniversary brew in order to continue its beery evolution. Sounds pretty special right? 
Time to try it then, after I’ve battled my way through that lovely waxed top that is. The pour is dark, almost black until held to the light whereby its beautiful, deepest of red colouring becomes apparent. The aroma is already making me sigh and I haven’t even performed my nose hole exercises! Huge fruity notes erupt from the glass, plums, dates, raisins, there’s an unmistakable bourbon kick, lashings of caramel, just spectacular. 
A sip. Crikey. it’s like bourbon caramel sauce poured over stewed stone fruits. It’s certainly sweet, but not at all sickly, those massive fruity notes from the plums, raisins, and dates are joined by rows of fig newtons and an entire slab of rich, all butter toffee, there’s whole vanilla pods and a deep woodiness, the bourbon pulling no punches. The level of complexity is extraordinary, layer after layer of intense fruity magnificence unveils itself in all it’s glory upon my tongue. That generous amount of alcohol is certainly noticeable but never overpowering.
A half hour has passed in what seems like a minute. This is a beer to warp the very fabric of time, or at least my perception of it. It’s no secret that I find big, complex barrel aged blends rather special, but this is as delicious and intoxicating as any beer I’ve ever had. That next years Anniversary ale from The Bruery will somehow improve on this I have no doubt, and that thought makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. I just hope I can find a bottle. Cheers!

The Bruery Sucre, 16.9% abv

The attractively presented beers from Orange County’s The Bruery are a rare sight on these shores, so imagine my delight when I stumbled across this vision of loveliness at a local apothecary (amongst the healing elixirs donchaknow). I immediately decided had to have it despite the rather extortionate amount of groats they were asking, and soon I was cycling the penny-farthing home with a weighted basket and light wallet.

Sucre is The Bruery’s 6th anniversary ale. It’s loosely based on an English old ale, fermented with their own Belgian yeast strain, and blended using the solera method whereby each anniversary ale is added to a blend of those that came before it (and has been barrel aging all this time). This is then aged again, mine in bourbon barrels though there are other varieties out there, and some will be put aside for next years anniversary brew in order to continue its beery evolution. Sounds pretty special right? 

Time to try it then, after I’ve battled my way through that lovely waxed top that is. The pour is dark, almost black until held to the light whereby its beautiful, deepest of red colouring becomes apparent. The aroma is already making me sigh and I haven’t even performed my nose hole exercises! Huge fruity notes erupt from the glass, plums, dates, raisins, there’s an unmistakable bourbon kick, lashings of caramel, just spectacular. 

A sip. Crikey. it’s like bourbon caramel sauce poured over stewed stone fruits. It’s certainly sweet, but not at all sickly, those massive fruity notes from the plums, raisins, and dates are joined by rows of fig newtons and an entire slab of rich, all butter toffee, there’s whole vanilla pods and a deep woodiness, the bourbon pulling no punches. The level of complexity is extraordinary, layer after layer of intense fruity magnificence unveils itself in all it’s glory upon my tongue. That generous amount of alcohol is certainly noticeable but never overpowering.

A half hour has passed in what seems like a minute. This is a beer to warp the very fabric of time, or at least my perception of it. It’s no secret that I find big, complex barrel aged blends rather special, but this is as delicious and intoxicating as any beer I’ve ever had. That next years Anniversary ale from The Bruery will somehow improve on this I have no doubt, and that thought makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. I just hope I can find a bottle. Cheers!

Three Floyd’s Zombie Dust, 6.4% abv.

Indiana’s Three Floyd’s have a rep. If you’re reading this y’all prob’ly won’t need tellin’, but on the off chance y’r new to craft beer it goes something like this; they make good stuff. The single brew of theirs that has best captured the imagination of craft beer’s geeky collective conscience is non other than Zombie Dust.

It is of course more than mere reputation and the exclusivity that comes from unavailability, as a showcase for the mighty Citra hop it’s reckoned to be as good as it gets. Then there’s that name. Taken from the aeons old custom of zombie dusting, a dangerous process whereby some brave individual will gather the unique culture of yeasts that form on a zombies clothing. Usually they use a dustpan and brush. Traditionally this is then used to make a type of scone that’s supposed to be fatal to most forms of undead if you hit ‘em with a headshot, but those cheeky chappies at Three Floyds just use it to ferment their beer. 

'Kay, so what's it like then? I dunno! I should probably try it. That spectacularly colourful cap pops with a whispered “dude, enjoy!”, and I swear I hear music as the marmalade orange liquid tumbles into my glass. Big aromas of lemon zest spiked orange and grapefruit erupt in mini explosions inside my nose holes, and as you all know, mini nose hole explosions are the second best kind of explosions!

A sip. It’s like being locked in the stocks in the village square, again, while the haggard locals hurl fruit at me. Oranges, grapefruit, peaches, and wait, pineapple!?! You can fuc… *ouch* Whutthehell? Soothing biscuity malts give me a brief respite before more fruit comes at my face. The juicy, fruity, onslaught fades with a hugely bitter and dry finish, those citrus and tropical fruits linger for a while but they’re manageable. 

I feel I should admit that I’m a Citra addict, and Zombie Dust is, as far as I’m concerned, up there with the very finest expressions of what this wonder hop is all about. Huge tropical fruit flavours meets citrus juiciness. If it all sounds a little full on for an APA then you’d be right, it’s an IPA in all but name. One of the things that interested me the most was the lack of any real dankness, this stuff is hella bright and breezy and actually reminds me of the UK craft brewed IPA’s from the likes of the Kernel. It certainly stands shoulder to shoulder with that brewery’s incredible IPA Citra.

So yeah I’m a big fan of this and can absolutely see its reputation justified. If I lived near the brewery it’d be my go-to, no doubt about it. Thanks once again to the awesome bevans82 (follow his blog ‘kay) for the beer trade, I’m hugely grateful you parted with one of these! And as if a super tasty brew wasn’t enough, it seems I now have the ability to sense the presence of the undead from a distance of um, about fifty paces. Awesome. 

It’s my Birthday!!!  Well not quite but nearly!!!

'Twas in the chill, dwindling light of last autumn that I started posting pictures and writey bits on this here Tumblr, and as it turns out that makes it more or less a year ago. The journey really has been awesome, and that's all 'cause of you lot, as motley a collection of creative geniuses, swaggering vagabonds, and poetic pissheads as a directionless soul could ever hope to stumble across.

As it turns out I’ve come into the possession of a few rather interesting brews, some limited releases, others merely elusive in the bumbling, rambling, countryside of South Staffordshire, and over the next month I’ll be doin’ my best to drink as many of these as I can and post about them (in)appropriately as a sort of birthday celebration type thing. A special shout out has to go to the awesome bevans82 for the Zombie Dust, you sir are a gentleman and a scholar. Give his blog a visit y’all!

If time permits I may also revisit some of my earliest posts, try the beers again, furtle around with the words a bit and repost ‘em.

The first of this little lot above to be consumed were the two Three Floyd’s beers and they’ll make up my next couple of posts, Zombie Dust is on the way.

-Cheers!

Whatup. Thought I’d say hello to all my new Tumblr chums (and the old ones!), quite why you’re all clicking the follow button for this place of wonky pictures and far to many words baffles me but while you’re here you’re most welcome :)

You’ll find that I post my tasting notes / not really reviews / stuff once a week at the moment, usually Mondays, with occasional pic dumps of beer mail or from my Instagram whenever. Ooh, like those above, what a coincidence! Brief notes are in the captions if you’re so inclined, and yes I do mean brief. Like not at all rambling, off topic, don’t know when to shut up type notes. Hmm, maybe I should start doing supplementary mini posts. 

Anyhoo, thanks for taking the time to look at my page, I’m ever so flattered. Hope your weekend has been full of beery wonderment and I’ll have something new for y’all tomorrow.

Cheers!

Buxton White Wine Saison, 7.0% abv.
The Peak District is a beautiful place yet also deadly for the unwary. The rolling moors, secluded dales, babbling brooks, enchanted springs, and dark caverns are strewn with the bones and hiking boots of unprepared adventurers. If only they’d started their doomed quests in the pretty town of Buxton they may still be with us, because amidst the stone buildings (for better protection from dragon fire) lies the Buxton Brewery. It’s here you’ll find the best defence available from the ghouls, goblins, imps, and trolls (they steal your socks, but only the left ones…) that threaten our civilization, that is to say, beer. The intoxicating elixirs on offer at the Buxton Tap House not only add bonus points to your constitution, but the bottles also serve as great makeshift weapons. 
The farmland of south Staffordshire where I abide is a very different place to the Peaks just an hours drive north, there are less goblins for sure, though a magical elixir is always welcome when there’s the constant threat of roving bandits. This particular potion was a long time in the making. For ten months it stood in oak barrels that had previously held chardonnay, absorbing mysterious new flavours and powers. As today’s weather report was “sunny spells with a 70% chance of bandit raids"  I decided to see what this had to offer. 
Shining molten orange gold poured forth, heady aromas of citrus fruits, wood, and white wine vinegar tantalise my correctly presented nose holes. I take a sip. It’s tart and moderately sweet up front with orange juice, mixed citrus zest, and hints of peach cobbler. A yeasty funk with a slightly spicy woodiness follows bringing an unmistakable white wine element with it that lingers dry in the mouth through the long finish. 
As far as magical potions go, this is a great one. The fruity, yeasty saison base is all there but with added winey goodness. It’s smooth in the mouth thanks to the medium carbonation and body but also hugely refreshing with the tart fruitiness, and as a bonus I now have the ability to breath lightning. Kudos to Buxton for yet another great brew, these guys are without doubt part of the elite tier of UK breweries. Oh, and if you are thinking of adventuring in the Peaks remember; “It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this”.

Buxton White Wine Saison, 7.0% abv.

The Peak District is a beautiful place yet also deadly for the unwary. The rolling moors, secluded dales, babbling brooks, enchanted springs, and dark caverns are strewn with the bones and hiking boots of unprepared adventurers. If only they’d started their doomed quests in the pretty town of Buxton they may still be with us, because amidst the stone buildings (for better protection from dragon fire) lies the Buxton Brewery. It’s here you’ll find the best defence available from the ghouls, goblins, imps, and trolls (they steal your socks, but only the left ones…) that threaten our civilization, that is to say, beer. The intoxicating elixirs on offer at the Buxton Tap House not only add bonus points to your constitution, but the bottles also serve as great makeshift weapons. 

The farmland of south Staffordshire where I abide is a very different place to the Peaks just an hours drive north, there are less goblins for sure, though a magical elixir is always welcome when there’s the constant threat of roving bandits. This particular potion was a long time in the making. For ten months it stood in oak barrels that had previously held chardonnay, absorbing mysterious new flavours and powers. As today’s weather report was “sunny spells with a 70% chance of bandit raids"  I decided to see what this had to offer. 

Shining molten orange gold poured forth, heady aromas of citrus fruits, wood, and white wine vinegar tantalise my correctly presented nose holes. I take a sip. It’s tart and moderately sweet up front with orange juice, mixed citrus zest, and hints of peach cobbler. A yeasty funk with a slightly spicy woodiness follows bringing an unmistakable white wine element with it that lingers dry in the mouth through the long finish. 

As far as magical potions go, this is a great one. The fruity, yeasty saison base is all there but with added winey goodness. It’s smooth in the mouth thanks to the medium carbonation and body but also hugely refreshing with the tart fruitiness, and as a bonus I now have the ability to breath lightning. Kudos to Buxton for yet another great brew, these guys are without doubt part of the elite tier of UK breweries. Oh, and if you are thinking of adventuring in the Peaks remember; “It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this”.

Wild Beer / Good George / Burning Sky Shnoodlepip, 6.5% abv. 
There are good breweries and there are good breweries. Some will cause an involuntary nod of respect as they produce quality beer after quality beer, consistently nailing established styles, “go-to" kinda breweries. There’s also the nut jobs. The wild haired mad scientists never satisfied with established styles when there’s so many possibilities out there. The "am I feelin’ lucky" breweries. The Wild Beer Co. are one of these. Nestled in a hay strewn barn in deepest Somerset, they tease and charm their motley collection of ingredients into some of the most progressive, exciting beers seen on this crumpet loving island. And they have allies. 
Shnoodlepip is a collaboration of three brewers of three nationalities from three breweries. Kelly Ryan from Good George in New Zealand, Brett Ellis (from the US) of the Wild Beer Co, and Englishman, Mark Tranter, from Burning Sky. An exercise in experimentation, they came up with a beer brewed with local Sharpham Park Spelt, with pink peppercorns, saison and brettanomyces yeast strains, aged in French red wine barrels, and infused with passion fruit and hibiscus flowers. They then put it in a pink labeled bottle. There are nowhere near enough pink beer labels. There was no way I was missing this. 
I waited for the sun to come out before cracking this one open, it seemed only right. The colour is a lovely pink tinged orange, almost like the beer’s blushing. The fluffy white head does a grand job of covering its modesty. The nose is spectacular. I inhale again and again, trying to wrap my head around its bewildering bouquet. Flowery perfume, champagne, a hint of vinegar, spice, caramel drizzled biscuits, and definite passion fruit. I gotta admit, I’m struggling to isolate the aromas, I may not be up to this.
Only one way to find out. A sip. FUCKSTICKS!!! I may be in love. There’s a sweetness at first, but gentle, a mere caress. A summer picnic erupts into existence on my tongue. There’s a mountain of berries, wooden platters of dripping passion fruit, lychee, and papaya, candied wild flower petals, lemon drizzle cake, and bottles of scrumpy cider. All trampled underfoot by a gang of playful rabbits having a fight with white wine vinegar filled filled water balloons. A peppery spice and lingering dry tartness wrap up this smooth, medium bodied beer. That was fairly epic, I wanna go again!
So yeah, it’s fair to say I’m a fan of Shnoodlepip. A tart, crisp, refreshing, stunningly complex yet flawlessly balanced and dazzlingly characterful brew. it’s like drinking a funky kaleidoscope. My utmost respect goes out to these three dashing international beer heroes, and while I have no doubt there’ll be plenty of people who simply won’t like or “get” this beer, I adore it. Cheers!

Wild Beer / Good George / Burning Sky Shnoodlepip, 6.5% abv. 

There are good breweries and there are good breweries. Some will cause an involuntary nod of respect as they produce quality beer after quality beer, consistently nailing established styles, “go-to" kinda breweries. There’s also the nut jobs. The wild haired mad scientists never satisfied with established styles when there’s so many possibilities out there. The "am I feelin’ lucky" breweries. The Wild Beer Co. are one of these. Nestled in a hay strewn barn in deepest Somerset, they tease and charm their motley collection of ingredients into some of the most progressive, exciting beers seen on this crumpet loving island. And they have allies. 

Shnoodlepip is a collaboration of three brewers of three nationalities from three breweries. Kelly Ryan from Good George in New Zealand, Brett Ellis (from the US) of the Wild Beer Co, and Englishman, Mark Tranter, from Burning Sky. An exercise in experimentation, they came up with a beer brewed with local Sharpham Park Spelt, with pink peppercorns, saison and brettanomyces yeast strains, aged in French red wine barrels, and infused with passion fruit and hibiscus flowers. They then put it in a pink labeled bottle. There are nowhere near enough pink beer labels. There was no way I was missing this. 

I waited for the sun to come out before cracking this one open, it seemed only right. The colour is a lovely pink tinged orange, almost like the beer’s blushing. The fluffy white head does a grand job of covering its modesty. The nose is spectacular. I inhale again and again, trying to wrap my head around its bewildering bouquet. Flowery perfume, champagne, a hint of vinegar, spice, caramel drizzled biscuits, and definite passion fruit. I gotta admit, I’m struggling to isolate the aromas, I may not be up to this.

Only one way to find out. A sip. FUCKSTICKS!!! I may be in love. There’s a sweetness at first, but gentle, a mere caress. A summer picnic erupts into existence on my tongue. There’s a mountain of berries, wooden platters of dripping passion fruit, lychee, and papaya, candied wild flower petals, lemon drizzle cake, and bottles of scrumpy cider. All trampled underfoot by a gang of playful rabbits having a fight with white wine vinegar filled filled water balloons. A peppery spice and lingering dry tartness wrap up this smooth, medium bodied beer. That was fairly epic, I wanna go again!

So yeah, it’s fair to say I’m a fan of Shnoodlepip. A tart, crisp, refreshing, stunningly complex yet flawlessly balanced and dazzlingly characterful brew. it’s like drinking a funky kaleidoscope. My utmost respect goes out to these three dashing international beer heroes, and while I have no doubt there’ll be plenty of people who simply won’t like or “get” this beer, I adore it. Cheers!

Siren / Evil Twin BA Even more Jesus VIII, 12.4% abv bourbon barrel aged imperial stout.

Siren’s head brewer Ryan Witter-Merithew is a bit of a beery badass. Born and raised in North Carolina he started his career at NC’s Duck Rabbit brewery before moving to Denmark where, when working at Fanø, he set up the non-profit craft brewery Grassroots with Sean Hill from Vermont’s fabled Hill Farmstead and Claus Winther, the manager at Fanø. It’s here he worked with some of the biggest names in the gypsy brewing movement including Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal Ales, and brothers Mikkel and Jeppe of Mikkeller and Evil Twin respectively.  

Things changed again for Ryan a couple of years back when Darren Anley decided to start up a small US style craft brewery in the UK to produce progressive and experimental beers and needed a top tier head brewer. Ryan’s desire to avoid traditional styles met Darren’s vision perfectly, and so he set sail for merry old England and the soon to be hallowed halls of Siren Craft Brew. 

And so to this particular beer. Ryan and Jeppe had worked together on the early batches of Even More Jesus and a return collaboration was destined. Featuring muscovado sugar and liquorice root, the very limited release Even More Jesus VIII was a stunner. Some of it even made it into bourbon barrels for aging where Siren continued to play about by chucking a whole lotta coffee beans in with it. The result is what you see above. Half a litre of wax sealed liquid temptation. Time to see what it’s all about.

The wax seal puts up a fight, loath to give up it’s stewardship of the darkness inside. I go to work with a knife. I am merciless. The wax defeated I pour the sump oil like liquid into my glass, take a whiff, vanilla, liquorice, cocoa, and heavily roasted coffee. Mmmmm. 

I raise the glass to my quivering lips. Imagine dry rubbing a whole lotta dark stone fruits in ground coffee then stewing it all in vanilla pod infused molasses. You then take the fruit out and drizzle melted dark chocolate over the top and garnish with shaved liquorice and burned caramel shards before eating it with spoons carved from oak and charred black.

This is everything I wanted it to be and more. It’s mouth coatingly think and smooth as my oiled tush. There’s plenty of medium sweet, fruity notes here working with the deeply roasty malts before a dose of bitter hops arrive to finish things off. That bourbon is potent throughout but doesn’t overpower the other flavours the way it does in some barrel aged stouts, rather it adds more layers to the already intricate brew. It’s rich, intense, boozy, complex, and downright luxurious. Buy it if you see it. Cheers Ryan, Jeppe, and everyone at Siren, you lot are awesome.

Adventures in (tasting other peoples) homebrew: Part 3

Beer’s awesome. I love beer. And if you’re reading this there’s a small chance that you probably have a fondness for the stuff as well. pidgemckinney certainly does, enough to brew it herself, and being the totally awesome person she is send some via transatlantic carrier geese all the way from the States to the leafy backroads of Staffordshire, England. Where I live. In case I lost you. Or you stopped caring. S’all good. 

As it turns out Holly sent me two of her beers, a milk stout and an IPA. First up was the stout which featured “lactose sugar for milkiness, cacao for chocolateyness, and 2 vanilla beans soaked in Jura single malt Scotch for extra yuminess”. And boy was it yummy! A grin split my face the moment I popped the cap and got a face full of those malts. The brew itself was super smooth and had plenty of roasty, malty goodness leading, a rounded sweetness, and vanilla, cocoa, and espresso notes all working together before the the slightly bitter, mildly earthy, herbaceous finish. A real treat!

Onto the IPA, we get "Jade for bittering, Galaxy and Cascade at finish (aromatic), and Amarillo & Cascade for dry hopping", sounds great. I pop the cap, pour, inhale. Damn. It’s like snorting a tropical fruit punch through a straw. Can it possibly taste as good? Well yeah it can, there’s just so much juicy, fruity, fun goin’ on here. Mango, peach, tangerine, mixed citrus, hints of evergreen, there’s a nice biscuitiness from the malts as the beer warmed in the Sunday afternoon sun, and the lacing leaves lovely little archipelagos on the the side of the glass. It finishes dry and not too bitter, it’s medium bodied, and has an almost creamy mouthfeel. An intoxicating, addictive brew that I just didn’t want to end. Wonderful stuff!

And sadly the beer is no more, but with the last tantalising traces of hoppy, fruity deliciousness teasing my taste buds I reminisce on the good times we shared and I’m content. Thanks again to Holly the beer-Jedi for sending me these two brews, they were stunners! Cheers all.

Canned Beavers

Hello there you fuzzy bundles of sexyfullness! It’s been a busy few months for the young London craft brewery, Beavertown. Aside from all the dam building they’ve managed an expansion with loadsa new kit, a rebranding thanks to artistic director Nick Dwyer, and wonderful new cans for their core range. To celebrate their increased presence in beer land I paid a visit to my favourite ale emporium and returned with these beauties. And a very large grin. 

Gamma Ray APA, 5.4% abv. It’d been a while since I last had this, happily it was every bit as great as I remember. Resinous up front with plenty of tangerine and mango from the hops, subdued caramel covered biscuit malts, and more evergreen at the finish. Then there’s the +100 Awesome Points they get for that can design. 

Neck Oil session IPA, 4.3% abv. My first one of these. There’s lemon and lime zest, dry pine needles, papaya, biscuit and grass salad, a moderately bitter and dry finish. This stuff is so full of American hop goodness you completely forget about the low booze level. A fine daytime drinker.

Black Betty black IPA, 7.4% abv. This was one of the first black IPA’s I tried and my return to it is long overdue. Grapefruit and tangerine lead into roasty cocoa, coffee, and liquorice. The hop / malt balance spot on and makes for a wonderfully complex brew. Delicious.

8 Ball rye IPA, 6.2% abv. One of Beavertown’s early recipes and the first beer they ever sold gets its name from the pool balls they used to hold down the hop sack during dry hopping. It opens with a moderate resinous quality before citrus, tropical fruits, mild spice, and evergreen do their thing. A real nice, easy drinkin’ American style IPA. 

Smog Rocket smoked porter, 5.4% abv. Another new one to me and I really dunno how I’ve missed this ‘til now. A mildly smoky start and finish, roasty coffee and chocolate malts in between. Medium body and carbonation. This thing has a great balance, the smoke working with the other flavours in the malts rather than dominating. But while I enjoyed it, it was just a little too restrained to really make an impression. 

So there it is, Beavertown’s core range. I’ll certainly be picking up Gamma Ray, Neck Oil, and Black Betty with far more frequency from now on, with Neck Oil in particular standing out for it’s packed in hoppiness that puts a good few full strength IPA’s to shame. Smog Rocket on the other hand is something I probably won’t revisit for a while, I’m not saying it’s a bad beer or anything, it just didn’t work for me as well as the others did. But overall, a fine selection. And can I just mention how fudging awesome it is that those fantastic can designs match the colour of the beer inside so well! That’s next level stuff right there. Cheers!