Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Mosaic Single Hop IPA - Arbor

Another nomination for beer of the year! Also a lesson in how different an ale can taste in two different establishments.

Arbor Ales have shown themselves to be one of the most reliable producers of fine beer recently, possibly the best in the South-West, and it is a pleasure to see them appearing with increasing frequency around the Steel City. The Broadfield and The Sheffield Tap have recently housed their beers but I stumbled across this delight in Sheffield`s pub of the year, Shakespeares. Although it was early and my first beer of the day, I had to have a pint and was delighted that it was just £3.30, which I knew to be very reasonable for a proper IPA (6.8%!) from a top notch producer; I was not disappointed. Served in one of Shakey`s over-sized pint pots this beauty is full-flavoured showcasing a tremendous hop. Mosaic is complex, earthy and floral with a quite pungent aroma. It is quite a hazy amber colour and citrusy enough to suit my taste nicely. Wow! The rest of the day`s beer was never going to live up to this!

However, the day after I spied the same beer at The Rutland and opted for a half, baulking at the way higher price tag (£4.25 a pint, I think). It was served in a posh glass which, to be fair, can help bring out the flavour in such complex beers, but it just did not measure up. I think the main problem was the temperature; it was a little on the warm side so the `zing` was not quite there. The difference in price is also astounding. A real shame but at least I didn`t have a full pint to bemoan.

Mike`s score - 8.5 (10 for the one at Shakey`s but 7 for Rutland`s)

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Coalition Barley Wine - Thornbridge / Birrificio

Thornbridge have been quite prolific in the number of beers that they have produced over the past year or so, many of them being collaborations. Recently we have had The University Challenge brews, the Reverend and the Makers Summer Ale, the home brew winner and currently the staff at Thornbridge pubs are taking their turn to brew their own ale at Bakewell. Success has been varied at best. However, we knew that The Cross Scythes had been sitting on this collaborative rarity for a while and hoped for a return to quality and complexity. Birrificio were the co-conspirators in this case.

Coalition weighs in at 9.3% but does not taste that strong which has to be a good thing, mostly (the strength hit me 20 minutes later!). It has a beautiful amber colour with a thin white head and tastes of caramel and toffee. The fruit flavours add to but don`t overpower Coalition making it, all in all, quite drinkable. I only had a half but more would have been fine.

Thornbridge are often criticised for the price of their beer. Coalition cost £2.50 for a half which I thought was acceptable in this case, more so than the £3+ charged for some of their afore-mentioned `amateur` collaborations. If the beers are expensive then that is acceptable but only so long as the quality is as consistent. Pubs like the Rutland and The Broadfield also ask a lot for their ale but maybe it is time for Thornbridge to set another trend and have a house beer at their pubs that costs nearer to the £2.50 mark? After all, `Innovation` is a integral part of their slogan.

Mike`s Score - 8.5

Friday, 9 August 2013

Diablo IPA - Summer Wine Brewery

Over the past couple of years, it seems that the best breweries prove themselves with innovative cask ales before graduating into kegs. Locally, we have seen Magic Rock, Thornbridge (to some extent) and Summer Wine Brewery follow this `progression`.

I was delighted to see an SWB ale on cask recently at The Broadfield. Furthermore, it was alongside its Huddersfield amigo, Magic Rock in the form of one of our favourite ales, High Wire. The Broady has had a whole host of great beers on recently, mostly on keg, but to see these two in their old-fashioned form was a real double-take moment. High Wire (5.5%) tasted very good even though it was the bottom of the barrel (can be a negative with some cask ales) but I could not wait to tuck into the Diablo.

At 6.0% Diablo is a devil of a beer. Bags of taste but none of it that overly alcoholic hit you can get from many strong ales and from some less successful IPAs (eg Thornbridge`s Rattlesnake). Citra is the dominant taste but this is showcased superbly whilst surrounded so skilfully with tropical fruit flavours. The tasting notes proclaim pineapple, papaya, mango and lychees so all very Indian Ocean. I`m not a big fan of fruity beer but, when balanced this well, they really take some IPAs into a league of their own and Diablo is a case in point. Some Yorkshire folk might baulk at the £4+ price tag, especially for a local cask ale, but this one is worth it.

Hailing from Huddersfield (well Holmfirth actually), SWB are one of the best brewers out there in our opinion. Although we differ slightly in our palates, I feel that beers like Diablo really allow you to sample the complexity of flavours therein when served on handpull without the distraction of added carbonation and cooling you get with keg products. That said, we have both enjoyed SWB kegged ales sampled this year at The Broadfield and at The Harlequin but a cask of the stuff is becoming quite a rarity even though the Hudd is only a `short` train journey away!

Mike`s Score - 10! (only improvement could be if it was 6.66%!)

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Ale on Anglesey

Nowt like a holiday to make you appreciate what you have on your doorstep eh?!

Extensive research had high-lighted a small number of pubs that had to be visited on Anglesey (Ynys Mon to the Celt locals!) and I did my best within the realms of a family week away. I heard that Purple Moose were a known brewery in this sparsely populated part of our kingdom but I didn`t spot them at all.

In fact, my first taste of North Wales beer came in Bangor? Nope. Conway? No.  Holyhead? No. It was actually in the esteemed Kelham Island Tavern! Great Orme Brewery appeared in our award-winning tourist tavern (and also in The Sheaf View) a couple of days before I set sail (well drove on the M56) to Anglesey. However, I was not enamoured with my half of Ynys Mon, a thin malty drop belying its 4%+ ABV.

On the island, my first beers were bottled ones form the Conwy Ales. Looking at their website, they have an interesting range and I tried Rampart (4.5%) and Welsh Pride (4.0%). Both were very amenable but I really enjoyed the Pride (aka Balchder Cymru) which was zesty but unusually orangey rather than the more sour fruits you expect in Summer ales with a spicy notes too. (These were purchased from Waitrose in Menai Bridge so I shall be paying for them in instalments over the the next 48 months.) Da iawn!

Looking for the perfect beach we ended a day at The Ship Inn which is a GBG stalwart. An isolated gem, this place stretches the wallet and offers an array of tasty food for passing pirates, okay scouse tourists. On the bar were Adnams, a Derby Brewery one (too close to home to bother with!) and so I enjoyed the  Kenneally`s house beer (named after proprieters for last 40 years) sat in the late afternoon sunshine.

However, other Beaumaris bars were not so noteworthy. The Sailor`s Return looked great but the badly-kept Bass was the only ale on offer and I showed my true colours by sipping half of it before running out of the door, wife-in-tow. The Robinson`s house George and Dragon was next. Unusually they had opted for a Friday night quiz to draw in the punters. I`m not sure what the four locals doing the test were drinking but I do know that answer number 4 was ZZ Top and that that my Trooper by Robinsons (4.8%) was not too bad actually. I would have had another but we were in danger of winning a prize in the quiz mainly due to our combined ability to breathe and sit.

Hancock`s HB was my ale of the night in Ye Olde Bull`s Head. The beer was average but this hostelry oozes with quirky character and, I suspect, has done so since Stuart times. More recently Dickens supped here; I wonder if it was as busy as when we bobbed in and I wonder if he ended up in the window seat too. Small bar with handpulls secreted away but worth the effort.

In very brief summary, Anglesey is a great place to holiday but beer geeks will likely be starved of suitable sustenance and will welcome their return to (Sheffield) civilisation. Funnily enough, my first venture out after my sojourn and I spied `Celtica` by Great Orme OTB at the Sheaf View which was a fruity reminder of my holiday, just a shame that the beer is kept so much better in S8 than in LL75!