Thursday, 28 November 2013

Ryan`s Roar (5.8%) & Otters Tears (6%) by Thornbridge


A few years ago, IPAs (India Pale Ales) were a rarity this side of the Atlantic but now we almost expect to see them on the bar of any decent real ale pub. Traditionally, you can expect the ABV of an IPA to be near to 6% (or higher) and this does put off some of the more `mild` ale enthusiasts. However, the numbers that favour this style is clearly on the up. A fair amount of credit for this trend ought to be credited to Thornbridge, Bakewell`s best brewers. Jaipur was, in its time, a seminal ale and some even reckon it was at worst `very influential` in the creation of Brew Dog`s infamous Punk IPA. However, times have changed, and both are now available in major supermarkets and many run-of-the-mill tied houses too. Thankfully, we sampled these new ales at the more amenable surroundings of The Coach and Horses, Dronfield and at The Cross Scythes, Derbyshire Lane, two of the very best Thornbridge boozers.

Thornbridge 2013 produce a lot of really good ales in an wide array of styles (see earlier twobeergeeks blog entries!) but many do still associate them with strong hoppy beers, and their latest releases do little to dispel this opinion but are these two tributes actually any good?

Otters Tears was brewed in conjunction with the Indy Man Beer Con experts and weighs in at a hefty 6%. It is a tasty drop without being remarkable and is dedicated to famed scooper Simon Johnson. Hoppy, pale, fairly citrus but nowt `standout`. Not a classic and a league or two below the likes of Kipling.
Danny`s Score - 7
Mike`s Score - 7

We were both excited by the prospect of Ryan`s Roar which proclaims itself as a  "hugely flavoured New Zealand Pale Ale with passion fruit, mango and lychee tropical fruit aroma which give way to a dry bitter citrus and grapefruit created by the use of New Zealand hops Nelson Sauvin and Motueka" and is a tribute to Patrick Ryan, who was the father of Kelly Ryan, former brewer at Bakewell. The Thornbridge blurb is brave but we were undecided. Solid and drinkable but no bold flavours but easy quaffing tasting more 3.8% than 5.8%. The reassuring familiarity ensured that it was unlikely to offend the geek palate but not the banger of a beer that Jaipur was when it first started appearing at The Coach and Horses (back in the days when IPAs were more hen`s teeth than Speckled Hen).  At least Ryan`s Roar is punctuated correctly if not exactly a `punk` ale.......!
Danny`s Score - 7.5
Mike`s Score - 6.5


Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Amarillo IPA (7.5%) - Weird Beard

The Weird Beard Brew Company operates out of Hanwell, West London and the former home brewers have quickly established a solid reputation. A recent allegiance with key-keg kings Brew  Dog has resulted in Beard beers appearing in more and more bars around the capital.
The Amarillo IPA (part of their single hop series) was indeed procured at the sort of price that the Aberdeen anarchists would approve of at £6+ a pint, so a half was an apt choice given the county we`re in. There was plenty of zest and zing in this brew although there was also a little too much carbonation and too obvious an alcohol hit on the palate for my liking.  In these respects, this brew reminded me of a 10% Anarchy ale I sampled at the same venue recently. A very decent hoppy brew that does a fair job of showcasing the amarillo hop but also a good example of how keg can limit the depth and complexity that could have been offered if this beer was served from a cask. Thankfully, The Broadfield does offer an admirable selection on cask as well as kegged ales. The influence of American `craft ales` is clear with the Weird Beard.
Mike`s Score - 7

Friday, 22 November 2013

Pirate Badger Attacks! (7.8%) by Arbor & Brew Dog

Another week, another collaboration but this one is a union of a couple of hoppy heavyweights. Representing Scotland, Brew Dog are self-styled anarchist brew punks with a stylised image that courts haters and fanatics in equal (expensive) measure. From the South-West, Arbor have produced some stand-out ales with 2013 being their best year to date. Pirate Badger Attacks was never going to be dull!

A hefty 7.8% ABV ought to scare off most lost boys and then there`s the coconut black IPA label to prepare for too. Lots of taste surely but a difficult balancing act. We walked the plank taking the plunge with a full pint each at Shakespeares. PBA pours dark brown with an off-white head. Aroma is hoppy ahead of faint coconut and the taste is similar. Thankfully the coconut does not overpower this brew and, whilst it tastes strong, it`s not too boozy on the palate although it does get more gloopy towards the bottom of a pint. Enjoyable but one was enough. Some other nice beers were on show too including a Muirhouse Mango Man and Brew Company`s award winning IPA but Pirate Badger Attacks was certainly the most memorable.
Danny`s Score - 7
Mike`s Score - 6.5
(Especial mention for the creative clip design courtesy of Chris Bamford, Manager at Sheffield`s pub of the year!)

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Green Hopped IPA (6.5%) - Dark Star

English hops quite often are bullied by their tastier Stateside brethren and can appear meek and mild when compared to our antipodean outcasts; hops from the U.S.A. and from down-under dominate many ales that we sup in Blighty. Traditional English hops (e.g. fuggles, challenger, etc.) can often disappoint lacking the complexity and taste of those from warmer climes.  However, late Autumn heralds a time of year for fresh, hoppy British ales. Green hopped beers afford brewers the chance to really showcase the taste of a hop for a month or two at least.

Dark Star Brewing Company do deservedly have a very good reputation even in Sheffield, so far from their Sussex base. A fresh pungent aroma is quickly offered and GHIPA is certainly fresh. Grassy and citrus with no massive hit of alcohol in the taste despite the hefty 6.5% ABV. Personally I found it reassuring (and surprising to be honest) and that it was possible to produce such a beer using `fresh English hops`. However, a little bit of research informed me that Simcoe and Target were the main hops used, although I do believe that the former is an American variety - ?

This Dark Star ale is dangerously drinkable and does not disappoint. I was lucky enough to track it down at The Ale House (on Fraser Road, Sheffield) which is a free house that has been quietly growing since opening in August 2011. Formally known as `The Sheaf`, this pub might not be the easiest to track down but, then again, neither is Dark Star`s Green Hopped ale and that didn`t disappoint!

Mike`s Score - 8/10

Millseats` best boozer?!

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Shakespeares Autumn Beer Festival November 2013

What a year it has been for this Gibraltar Street ale house! Shakies has taken Kelham Island`s ale trail to the next level and I don`t just mean across the busy A61.

Back in March we visited the 5th festival here and then celebrated the scoop of becoming Sheffield CAMRA`s pub of the year for the first time just 2 months later, in face of stiff local competition. Therefore we made a (Blue?) Bee line for the Autumn Beer Festival as early as possible on the Friday after all the early bard catches the, err, best beers.  Having only opened on the Thursday, Shakey had already lost one beer in the shape of Abbeydale`s latest Dr. Morton hit but there was still plenty to go at. 9 locALEs were on offer downstairs plus 22 beers from further afield showcased in the Festival Bar upstairs. We did our best, fuelled by a Shakey sarnie or two.....

Arbor Triple Hop 13 (4.0%)                    Danny - 7   Mike - 7
Art Baby Anarchist   (3.2%)                    Danny - 7   Mike - 7.5
Art Anarchist Party Bitter (7.2%)            Danny - 2   Mike - 4
Hopcraft Bikini Atoll (4.5%)                   Danny - 6   Mike - 7
New Bristol Beer du Jour (4.6%)             Danny - 7.5   Mike - 7
New Bristol Angry Tom IPA (5.9%)       Danny - 8   Mike - 7.5
North Riding Screaming Bedlam (4.1%) Danny - 7   Mike - 7.5
Four Thorns Redeye IPA (5.2%)              Danny - 7   Mike - 6
Sqark IPA (5.5%)                                     Danny 7.5   Mike 7.5
Lincoln Green ? Chilli, late addition(?)   Danny - 8   Mike - 7
were our scores on the doors, carefully calculated using the beer geek guesstimate gauge.

and our favourite was . . . . .
STEEL CITY ALL HALLOWS EVE (5.2%)   Danny - 8.5   Mike - 8.5

One of the dearest ales on show (£3.00) but also one of the few locALEs we fancied (Sherry Stout, Honey IPAs - no ta, duck!). All Hallows Eve was right up our street, floating our boat all around the S3 island. Very hoppy, citrus, bitter yet dangerously quaffable. Steel City seem to have gone from strength to strength despite the brew pair being split up (and rehoused!) this year. Although having a duller name than their usual brews, this one is up with Steel City`s best, near to Angel of Death standards in this geek`s opinion.

Another cracking fest at Sheffield`s best pub.  Didn`t get any real new find gems (Tiny Rebel were case in point back in March) but still a great selection and nowt wrong with a clear win for the home, Steel City side.

Friday, 1 November 2013

The Great Alphonso (5.6%) by Magic Rock and Brodie`s

`Same but different` is the motto of Huddersfield ale heroes Magic Rock and this beer is a case in point. For me, Magic Rock are modern masters of pale hoppy ales but this one is a bit different.

The aroma is very attractive, massive wafts of citrus are an irresistible invite to this golden Mango Pale Ale. Citra is one of my favourite hops so I knew this would be good but the fruity mango and balanced bitterness take this brew to another level. 2013 seems to have been the year of the craft ale collaboration (although this one first appeared last year, I believe) and many have failed to impress but teaming up with East London`s Brodie`s has resulted in a truly Magical American-style pale ale.

This brew was supped at The Grove in Huddersfield and the carbonation, an aspect I sometimes struggle with, was spot on. Alphonso was my beer of the night ahead of, amongst others, Marble`s Barley Wine (10.7%) and Hawkhead`s IPA (7%) both of which were just too alcohol dominated for this punter`s palate. The much weaker Seasider (4.3%) by Gadds way off the mark for me or maybe it was just another example of how English hops come up well short against their stateside counterparts. Same but definitely different!

Mike`s Score - 9

London Sour (Blackberry Edition) by Brodie`s (3.7%)

Another sour special to sing about! Brodie`s beers enjoy a strong reputation but they are not seen that often in Yorkshire and so I was well chuffed to see this belter on keg at The Grove, Huddersfield.

I did wait to sample London Sour until near the end of a session fearing that it would be overpowering and maybe even gloopy so a half seemed the sensible option. It pours a beautiful purple brown colour with a thin head and a definite berry aroma. The carbonation was faint enough to allow the full taste to be enjoyed which comes through both sweet and sour with a real tart aftertaste that I enjoyed. A great balanced beer especially considering its massive taste yet low alcohol content (3.7%).

The (Holy) Grove is definitely a desireable destination for any real ale fan with its unmatched selection of cask, keg and bottled beers. Yorkshire`s finest!

Mike`s Score - 8.5