Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Sheffield city pub review (rolling the dice with sheffieldalepubs!)

Different one this. First in what will hopefully be a series of collaborative blog bits. Representing twobeergeeks we have Mike up against Pete off of the esteemed sheffieldalepubs. Plan is to draw up our own separate six pub short lists of establishments we would consider putting in our respective top ten for 2016, ones on the cusp as it were, at least this was my intention. Pete meanwhile did a canny mix; a couple of his favoured boozers, a couple that he wanted our opinion of and a couple from the leftfield. We then roll the dice (or is it die in the singular?) and see what pub the number indicates, pop in, have a half, peruse and pontificate.

twobeergeeks` selection
Now sheffieldalepubs is the ideal ally in this endeavour as, since starting his webpage in January 2015, Pete has visited 198 Sheffield ale houses, most of them repeatedly and regularly in order to keep his page's information right up to date. Recently Pete launched his `weekly news` which keeps the ale city abreast of all things beery every seven days and he`s about to launch a series of pub walks which will be available to access as PDFs.
sheffieldalepubs` choices
Meeting at the Tap and Tankard over a half of Ilkley stout (me) and Pale Rider (Pete ) we set out our plan, looked at our lists and rolled a 2 meaning the Old House as my choice and the still spanking new Head of Steam as Pete's, both a conveniently short stroll away. The first two places impressed us in different ways; the smiley service at the Old House reasserted the fact that this city chain (True North) seem to have a happy knack of recruiting well. The beer range here these days has come a long way from when they used to have just a couple of handpulls and a clutch of bottles. Similar with the Head of Steam in that there was a pleasing choice of seven plus keg and my Anarchy Blonde was as good as I could of hoped in a beer style that I don`t favour from a brewery that I do. Pete was happy enough with his beer from the ever-present Cameron`s stable.

 Next up the die took us to my wildcard Gatsby and then the Red Deer, now free of ties to Stancil. My Roosters YPA was not right so the kind barman refunded my money and replaced it free of charge with the steady Saltaire Pride, the only available ale here today.  After a wrong turn or two we found the Red Deer nice and busy for a Monday but two beers down from its usual array. However my Blue Bee Reet was er,  reyt as was Pete`s Sadler`s. Good to see so many folk in there too.
The final rolls indicated The Bath Hotel and The Hop. Now, I`d cunningly added the former as one of my choices as it `might not` make the 2BG`s Top 10 if standards drop with the manager Stef having left and of course this beautiful bar barely scraped into Sheffield CAMRA`s top 20, < cough,cough >.... Sure enough, my Neepsend (2BG`s brewery of the year 2015 btw)  red one was my best beer of the night and Pete was happy with his unusually hopped Blackjack brew. Love this place.
16th best pub in Sheffield, according to CAMRA!
All evening, the dice had been very kind to us with no great hikes between brews (3 of my selections were in Kelham area!) but this came to an end as The Hop was disappointingly closed, disappointing at least until I suggested substituting it with The Devonshire Cat! Now this place is so much improved and rightly Pete continues to promote it as one of his very favourite drinking spots. It has been a staple in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide but only since Abbeydale took it over could that really be deserved for the first time in a good five years I`d suggest.The clientele here is regularly boosted by the Corporation crowd (Scandinavia`s Arch Enemy on tonight) and students being fed by visiting parents. The ale selection is vast and varied now plus there`s also a clutch of keg offerings too. We stayed `traditional` though as I went for old favourite Abbeydale Deception, one of our first blog topics, and sheffieldalepubs selected Absolution, both of us selfishly ignoring Moonshine, a few days short of its 20th birthday and still the city`s most supped ale. A predictable end to an unpredictable evening of `research`. Cheers!
*You can find Pete`s very informative web page HERE - Sheffield Ale Pubs.*

Friday, 19 August 2016

Thornbridge - Days of Creation & Love Among The Ruins

Sour season is now in full swing and the best British breweries are now making forays into this traditional beer style whilst many are bogged down with (yet another) Double IPA. The focus of Bakewell's Thornbridge Brewery this Summer has, sure enough, been the sour with the previously blogged Serpent and now the barrel-aged double header of Love Among the Ruins and Days of Creation. Last year, we weren't Wild about Tart, but it was a start,  and this year has been a sour success.
Both brews are 'top end' and will set you back a tenner or thereabouts. Ironically, a year or two back Thornbridge were oft criticised for the hefty price tag on their ales availed to the brassic city of Sheffield. Nowadays their pricetags of £3 - £4 a pint are seldom seen as steep, more of a steel city steal but these specials are a different beast. The aging process required for any half decent sour (plus the cost of barrels, I guess) goes a long way to explaining the tenner but only if the beer measures in terms of quality. Lucky 7% ABV, or not...
In short, both are excellent and Love Among the Ruins is truly outstanding, well deserving of the category gold medal achieved at this year`s world beer cup. I had expected to enjoy the raspberry flavour of Days of Creation more than its twin's cherry bomb but the additional complexity of the latter is stunning. A short-lived fizz leaves a thin beige head and an inviting dark fruity-red haze.

 Both brews seem to develop as you drink them unveiling added depth and flavour as the fruit becomes more prominent. Initially, sour and yeasty aromas dominate then a hit of balsamic before fruit. Whether the ales' changes are due to aeration or warming to room temperature or whether they are fruitier further down the drink I'm not certain but there is plenty going on here even for the pickiest of palettes. Love Among The Ruins really is a tour de force for Rob Lovatt and the team at Bakewell, their best brew for a year or two in our humble opinion.  Great work. 
*Thanks again to gentleman James Broad at the Coach & Horses, the original and best Thornbridge tap, for providing these beauties.*

Sunday, 24 July 2016

DIPA Battle #3 - Cloudwater v4 vs. v5

The latest double IPAs to hit our shelves and the latest bit of canny marketing by the chaps over at Manchester Piccadilly; two very similar beers but which works best? Cloudwater DIPA V4 and V5 are both 9% monsters made using the same hops for bittering and aroma and the same malts too. However, V4 is dry-hopped during fermentation whilst this occurs after fermentation with V5. Citra and mosaic are two of our favourites and they`re both in the mix somewhere so bound to be good......?


Never judge by appearances they say but, if you did, these two are more like half brothers than fully-fledged siblings. V4 is fairly clear and there is quite a lot of visible carbonation to start with whilst V4 has a beautiful peachy summer haze.

Aromatics are key with this style and usually a signature of Cloudwater`s seasonal agenda and so the IPAs abound with tropical fruits. V4 has a fresh, alpine, resinous hit alongside pineapples and grapefruits but the taste cannot quite live up to the aromas. Balance in both brews is good as the hefty alcoholic backbone is filled out by all the bitter sweet fruit flavours. V5 has a more pungent nose and we meet over-ripe peaches and maybe apricot in there too. The bitterness lasts alongside a boozy warmth in the mouth. V4 just tastes fresher, but maybe with less complexity. After prevaricating and pontificating, we need a winner.


After all that, I have to say that there isn`t much to choose between these two. Both good beers and at a decent price (about £4 from the ever-improving range at Mitchell`s) but I have recently had better DIPAs. In fact, you know what,  I`m calling it a draw and, I`m afraid to say, I actually preferred V3! Give them a go though. 7.5 / 10 from me.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Serpent - Thornbridge & Brooklyn Brewery

Eagerly-awaited this one. Bring Garrett Oliver straight from Brooklyn and its globally-esteemed brewery to drop him in rural Derbyshire. Add Rob from Thornbridge into the mix 'n' see what happens. Enter Serpent.
Posing at the home of football / Sheffield FC
The pair went south to enlist the expertise of Hereford's cider kings Oliver's to utilise their expertise in the use of Lees,  the natural cider yeast, and then add it to a Belgian-style golden ale in barrels, age it for a year, before bottle-conditioning.
"Dry, tart, firm, fine and funky",  an expression of "great British brewing, American boldness and Herefordshire's countryside"   proclaims the label but what do we reckon....
Belgian Golden ales are still not my favourite style of beer but there is plenty of complexity in Serpent to test the palette. Creamy head with a slightly hazy but smooth golden body; textbook. A fresh fruity feel (for an aged beverage) and balanced despite being 9+%.  Trans-atlantic success right here. The sour elements are tantalising in the aftertaste and left me wondering how this one would taste after more ageing in the bottle. Best buy another.....?!
*Cheers to King James the Broad at the esteemed Coach & Horses for securing an early purchase of this beaut. Looking forward to more sour adventures with Thornbridge soon. Watch this space.....

Friday, 8 July 2016

DIPA battle #2 - Beavertown `Bloody Notorious` vs Vocation `Smash & Grab`

We told you: The Double IPA is THE beer style of the year. All the big boy brewers have been duking it out in this corner of the beeriodic table. In a previous bit we saw Magic Rock's Human Cannonball triumph over Cloudwater (prolific DIPA dons in 2016) and Buxton Brewery's Kingmaker.

 Next match up sees Vocation of Hebden Bridge representing Yorkshire and the North against southern behemoths Beavertown and their heralded and hyped Notorious, Blood Orange DIPA. Both brews were sourced from the ever-reliable Hop Hideout, after a Mikkeller running club meet, but that's a story for another day.....!

 Both beers are canned and very stylish. Vocation are distinctive and quietly stylish. We like the clear and descriptive information that tells us this Smash and Grab is `Golden`, `Tropical & Citrus` and tastes of `Hop Juice`, 8.5% hop juice, that`ll be then. All true and helpful pre-purchase as is the price of just under four quid whilst the Notorious is nearly a quid more, ah tell thee! Beavertown are also distinctive and stylish but louder, London style, and price - ?

 Both have crisp, citrus, fruity aromas but nothing particularly hefty, maybe you'd expect more.

 Appearance after pouring they differ more. Vocation are big on the unfined, unpasteurized and unfiltered process resulting in a cloudy body particularly as you add the dregs of the can. CAMRA marking would probably score this down ironically but for many beer geeks it's fine to be unfined, unless you're big into fish guts!
Meanwhile, Bloody Notorious is bloody full of bloody fizz bit this does disappear quickly in the mouth and fades pretty swiftly in the glass leaving the brew looking more marsala than DIPA after a few minutes bemusingly. Taste-wise the alcohol is prominent (after a brief orange hit) but it is 9.1% afterall. S & G has a different and longer-lasting aftertaste with a diminishing bitterness after a citrussy start. Both good beers undoubtedly but DIPA is the most competitive area of craft at the moment so I'm going:-
Bloody Notorious - 7 / 10
Smash & Grab - 7.5 / 10
A narrow but deserved win for the North. Cheers gents!

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Small Batch Series #1 Waen at the Broadfield

Now then. Is beer science or art? We offer, no assert, the latter because, although colloidal stability and whatnot might well be fascinating banter in the labs, in the real world it is certainly not. Dull, dull, dull.

Beer should be music in the mouth. Collaborations were de rigueur in music-land and then, sure enough, in ale they were in abundance. `Limited editions` are a muchly-collected musical thing and now breweries produce `small batch brews`. With me? And so blogs...

Twobeergeeks shall henceforth and forthwith produce the occasional blog bit but with less wordage. Think All Day IPA; kind nice really just a taste of what you would normally read, I mean drink. Idea for this can be blamed (or credited?) / apportioned upon Magic Rock (fantastic small batch brews) not upon the fact that we have little time what with jobs, kids `n` that making writing oft muy difficile. Honest.

Small batch, big taste
Anyhow, Test brew really. Writing this in the Broady; great pub but not been in for a bit (see above excuses / reasons) and, this time last week, I was drinking a can of Guinness at Laycock`s at a 5th birthday party. Yay. The Waen Brewery 54 46 is good though. Low-ish ABV, drinkable with a nice calm body. Their beers seem to hit the spot better from cask than bottle I`ve found and the Pamplemousse from their Llanidloes taphouse takes some topping. 54 46 keeps its head well, clear and fresh. Hoppy enough to retain interest (summit and others, I think). Other folk seem to say `Way-en` but I say `wine`. Correct answer from head honcho Sue Hayward hopefully. Or Plaid Cymru. Cheers.


Wednesday, 11 May 2016

DIPA Battle of 3 Counties - Cloudwater DIPA v3, Magic Rock Human Cannonball & Buxton Kingmaker

Straight up head-to-head here. The Double IPA seems to be de rigueur at the moment, or is it now a little passé? No (unhuman) triples allowed today. Anyhows, big breweries represented with Cloudwater from Manc-side, Magic Rock from the Hudd of West Yorkshire and also the Buxton boys from the heights of Derbyshire. All three are lauded and awarded and respected but which one knocks out the best DIPA for the Spring season 2016? Beer is so damn fashionable, eh?!

3 likely suspects

First up the much hyped Cloudwater DIPA v3. Big smell of peach on the nose showcasing superbly the aroma hops here which are comet, mosaic, chinook and, of course, citra. A healthy haze appearance with fantastically fruity taste and daftly drinkable at 9%.  Wow. £4.25 from Beer Stop, Dronfield. No wonder these Cloudwater chaps shift their product so swiftly; It`s not all hype.
I`m going 8/10

 Kingmaker by Buxton Brewery next. Smelling strong no disguise really for the 10.5% brew. Alcohol hits the nose but a tad musty, rustic. A much grittier taste than the previous brew and also doesn`t nail the bitter sweet aspects that can be so captivating in DIPAs. Still tasty mind but less drinkable. Unfiltered but clear as a bell instantly which surprised me with a thin boozy head. Tasting more rounded as it warms a touch from fridge. Nice and hefty.  Preferred this to barrel-aged Double Axe but not Buxton`s best. Noteworthy name, `Kingmaker`, with cool labelling and a battle cry quote, probably off of Shakespeare. Or Game of Thrones. Cost unsure but from Hop Hideout, probably.
I`ll go 7/10

 Finally it`s Human Cannonball by Magic Rock Brewing. Instantly more citrus aroma here. Very powerful and spring-like. Embodies the beautiful haze that I want. Fresh as with a bitter sweet balance to die for. Lingering bitter taste with bit of booze, slowly warming on the aftertaste. Drinkable, almost swiggable and 9.2%. Costing £3.95 in a craty can from Beer Stop, Dronfield. Last certainly was not least tonight!
Winner. 9/10

Cheers. Stay safe out there.