Friday, 31 January 2014

Bracia (10%) by Thornbridge Hall

It is with a fair degree of hesitancy and reluctance that we add this Strong English Ale. Bracia was a Christmas present and it is one of those rich, dark beers that they reckon will age well and develop added dimensions if left to its own devices for a year or too. Truth be told, this one was mebbe a bit too complex for us despite leaving it to mature for almost an entire calendar month!

Having loved THORNBRIDGE Hall`s IMPERIAL RASPBERRY STOUT on Christmas Day, saving the beauty of Bracia for Danny`s 40th birthday seemed a canny idea. Allegedly, this one was inspired by some irn bru, or, more accurately, it was conceived after researching an Iron Age Derbyshire beverage recorded in Roman inscriptions at Haddon Hall. The historical honey (not now we realise a preferred beer geek ingredient!) was harvested / milked / pruned or whatever from some amazing bees in the cultural heart of er, cultural Italy. As bees go, these were probably Serie A, and probably Serie A in the 90`s when it wor t`best league in t`world with Gazza, Incey, Platty and other lion-hearts kicking seven bells out of local latin legends. Not wanting to pillage further, here`s Thornbridge`s own commercial description:-

Bracia is the Celtic name for a beverage brewed in Iron Age Europe with reference found on a Roman inscription at Haddon Hall,Derbyshire. Little is known about this except it was high in alcohol, brewed with cereals and, most probably, honey. Thornbridge’s Bracia has been infused with a generous amount of dark and bitter Chestnut Honey. This was sourced by Head Brewer Stefano Cossi from Beekeeper Onelia Pin in the Alpine foothills of North East Italy. Aromas are of chestnut, honey, cappuccino, white chocolate, dark fruits, vibrant fresh peel. The mouthfeel is velvety and rich, with notes of coffee, chocolate, liquorice and hazelnuts with warming alcohol, cocoa and a little peat in the finish. Malts: Maris Otter, Brown, Munich, Dark Crystal, Black, Chocolate, Peated and Roasted Barley. Hops: Target, Pioneer, Hallertau Northern Brewer and Sorachi Ace. Bracia can be cellared for up to one year, maybe longer. Its flavours will evolve so why not enjoy the experience of opening a bottle every once in a while.

Phew. Ouch. (Headache). We got some of the nuttiness, chocolate and dark fruit taste but the sweetness and alcohol hit was way too heavy for our lightweight heathen palates. (One on-line review said it smelt and tasted of `wet cardboard` and then gave it near full marks...! OK). And I knew we ought to worry when STUART Pickard`s review on you tube was hesitantly positive; £12 for a beer is not ideal in austere ever-after Yorkshire! Maybe we didn`t serve it up carefully enough - we split it three ways in spirit glasses and the temperature was about right. Should it have breathed more? Or have been left in t`cellar (empty of all alcohol always btw)? Who knows, tha knows! Still, us beergeeks are keen to sample more from the Hall! However, in this instance, no one seemed to like it and we happily schlepped back to another simple party pint of ABBEYDALE DECEPTION, straight from the cask. Doh!

Simpleton Scores
Danny 4-0 awards a sceptical 6 / 10 and Mike says 6 / 10 too!
Revised! Mike goes 9 / 10
I was fortunate to receive a second bottle of this for Father`s Day and now I get it. This time I poured it much more carefully and only had a little bit at first. The bitter honey came through in a really well-balanced way (first time I have ever really enjoyed honey in ale) alongside molasses and liquorice plus all kinds of other complexities. I actually continued drinking this over the next 2 days and it tasted great. A dark silky body with a little lacing then a tan head and slight carbonation. Long-lasting warm aftertaste too. Less is more.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The Trooper (4.7%) by Robinsons (& Iron Maiden!)

Not wanting to be the odd blogger out, I thought it was about time that this one, ROBINSONS` The Trooper, was added to the twobeergeeks` portfolio.

The trend for bands adding their brewing ideas (and their `brand`, more importantly) to ales looks set to continue in 2014. Last year saw the likes of Reverend and the Makers and Elbow attempt to scale the beery charts and, on the horizon soon, Super Furry Animals will enter the fray allegedly. However, all of them will struggle to compete with the label on this beautiful bottle which is emblazoned with Eddy, the infamous Iron Maiden mascot but what lies inside?

4.7% is the number of this beast and it proclaims Bobec, Goldings and Cascade hops to add some bitterness and zing to the malt base. It pours a nice golden colour with quite a thin but soapy head that it is difficult to imagine Bruce Dickinson concurring to. Personally, I preferred this on cask (had it on Anglesey last year) as the sparkler seemed to bring out the hoppy flavour more than was the case in from the bottle where it was a tad bland. Not exactly Run to the Hills bad but certainly not Aces High either and I couldn`t really pick up the supposed citrus hit. Trooper is very much in the Robinsons mould so if you like their beers then this ideal and, you`ll be happy to know, it is now widely available in supermarkets and off licenses.

Mike`s Score - 5

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

St. Robert by Roosters & Pretty Things

A mini-sesh betwixt The Rutland and The Sheffield Tap. What could go wrong?!

The Ruttie has recently upped its game on the ale front and it often has the Magic stuff. Also you can virtually jump into the bar off of the 43 bus thereby not getting a soaking, which is a worthwhile consideration in a British January. Rapture on cask was spot on, best we`ve tasted it for a while (certainly best this year . . . .!) but about £3.60 a pint. We were not big fans of Custard Pie either (£5.35 a pint) although you cannot complain at having the chance to try a Birra Toccalmatto/ Magic Rock kegged collab even if it is a wheat beer and so not a favoured beergeer style. Elsewhere, the bar was overloaded with Blue Bee so we buzzed off to The Tap.

My Marble Bitter went down swiftly, about 3 seconds in all, after I knocked my pint off one of those daft little tables with my size 10`s so I shot back to the bar to get a replacement and we moved seats leaving a reyt irresponsible mess behind. My Dark Star Hophead did not last much longer although this time the only floor it hit was that of my stomach, thankfully. What next? “One last pint……!?”
Danny is a fan of Roosters (North Yorkshire) and so he appeared with a couple of pints of their St. Robert effort, which turned out to be a rare surprise, brewed in collaboration with PrettyThings of Massachusetts, USA. Neither of us were over-keen on what we were faced with - a dark reddish beer that looked like a propa old school Yorkshire beer (think Theakstons, etc.) whereas we were expecting something that looked light and hoppy akin to previous Roosters fare sampled at The Sheaf View. Never judge a book by its cover, etc.

Despite looking very straightforward, St Robert is a complex chap with lots to get your palate around and it took us a while to suss what we were supping. Here you have got a British beer with Belgian aspirations. Hops are not dominant (and any in here must be from this side of the pond) but there is sweetness, malt and rye. It has a well-balanced deep, long taste that belies its 4-ish% volume and we had to go back for more, making sure not to spill a drop!


Mike – 8.5

Danny - 9

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Ilkley Dinner Ale v Wild Madness IPA

EXTRA, EXTRA! Keg kids clash in the Battle of the BROADY, January 2014!

Two beer geeks differ in their opinion of kegged ale. Danny can happily neck numerous whilst Mike is more meagre and modest in consumption of fizz. Unusually, there wasn`t a lot to go at cask-wise in the post-Xmas Broadfield Ale House: The Summer Wine  / SWB (Ten Malt!) Teleporter was great but, at that price, you might as well be imbibing wallet-whacking keg specials.

Side-by-side we spotted kegged beers from two big players in the beer world. ILKLEY are up-and-coming, a particular favourite of Danny, and they had a great 2013 dabbling successfully in an array of ale styles. Meanwhile, WILD Beer Company are South-West Superstars who again push the boundaries and produce a portly portfolio of well-crafted beer and we`re pleased to see them appear so often at this affable Abbeydale Ale House.

In all fairness, this was a catch-weight contest; the Wild beer is more than twice the ABV of the Ilkley effort, but who didn`t enjoying seeing `little` Rocky Balboa against Snakelips/Hulk Hogan . .?!
Dinner Ale (3.3%) is a `Victorian Pale Ale`. It also full of sexy Yank and Aussie hops and served on keg making it a complete ale-y oxymoron. If Victorian meal-time beer tasted like this one, then the gin palaces would`ve had more space in them than Blades` trophy cabinet / Hillsboro`s away end, and not ruined late-nineteenth century mothers! Wonder what it tastes like on cask . . . ?

Madness does indeed lie therein; 6.8% but well drinkable. A cleverly-crafted zingy, zesty, citrusy IPA is the twogeeks` preferred beer style (at least over the last 5 years) and this is an exemplar nonpareil. Wow! Keg-cold but the flavour still `hops` out and cracks you around the jaw, twice, Rocky haymaker style.

Stop the contest. Geek down and unable to defend himself.

Mike`s Scores

Ilkley Dinner Ale   -  8
Wild Madness IPA -  8

Danny`s Scorecard

Wild Madness IPA - 9.5
(Beergeek unable to continue. Would not shift from the Madness!)

  • VERDICT - TKO to Wild but valiant fight by West Yorks Welterweight Wonderkids.
(Footnote - having scanned ratebeer, it is clear that both of these beverages taste significantly better not bottled. Get thee sen to t`pub, even if you go craft / keg!)

Innis and Gunn

It`s that time of year; austere ales. No money left for t`pub. Blog Xmas gifts . . . .

Innis and Gunn are well-blogged. Several sites are inundated with these Scottish specials, everyone of them a Oak-aged, spirit-infused but are they actually any good? Available in supermarkets now, they deserve investigation . . ..

I was the recipient of 3 boxed bottles from the Edinburgh experts. The trio were all pretty decent with my first sample being the `Spiced Rum Finish` which had been `matured` for 47 days and weighed in at a convenient 7.4%, just under our beloved `tramp tax`. Toffee-coloured, this one was fairly fruity and the rum was pretty subtle. Decent drop but nowt to write home about. A bit metallic, mind.

I didn`t like the Treacle Porter but, then again, I`ve never found that this beer style suit my palate - too sickly sweet. Tastes were not over-strong though despite it also being 39 days `matured` and a solid 7.4%. Next!

Probably the pick would be the big brother `Canadian Cherrywood Finish` which had a slightly bolder taste with subtle maple syrup, no doubt developed during the alleged 49 day maturation period. These beverages all come in 330ml bottles which I`m not too keen on the aesthetics of (god damn cola!?) but, at 8.3%, the size in this case was probably apt and mature! Again though, a bit metallic, dull carbonised fizz denying the full flavour. Are this lot popular stateside? Is this marketed as traditional `Limey Juice`, that we supped in the home counties whilst trying to keep our colonies civilised? I wonder; the boxes are certainly lovely depicting highlands, heather, harbours and whatnot.

I`ve not checked but I have heard that these bottles are available in Aldi, if supermarket sups are your thing. Meanwhile, Tescos have the ale anarchists (yawn!) Brew Dog and Waitrose stock Thornbridge`s craft so what`s the odds on Arbor in Asda before long or Steel City in Spar!? Anyway, I`m going to count my coppers and get off to the pub!

Scores on the supermarket doors:-
Cherry (Cola) - 7.5
Rum (Cola) - 6
Treacle (Cola) - 4

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Magic Rock - twobeergeeks` Best Brewery of 2013

The bright idea to start this blog was only conceived 12 months ago and it is still certainly a work in progress. As newbs on the scene we can surely be allowed a few extra days to ponder our `best ofs` but let`s start with the brewers.

Whilst there are certainly a decent amount of candidates, this was relatively straight forward for us rookie beer geeks. At heart we are both cask ale kids and this, by the nature of real ale, means that most of what we sample is `local` but that is certainly no bad thing. Yorkshire has many breweries old and new, good and bad, crafty and traditional so we are blatantly blessed to reside within this Olympics-conquering county.


ARBOR have had a prolific year whilst maintaining their quality. The South-West is strong on ales but this lot are a step ahead and they are certainly beergeek contenders. ILKLEY are new on the block and one to watch whilst MARBLE are still marblelous, a rare trans-pennine success story. However, Huddersfield is at the hub of heroic ales and we lapped up MALLINSONS, Hand Drawn Monkey (HDM) and SWB but Magic Rock are as solid as the proverbial. Locally, they are the kings who hold a royal flush of ale styles, keg, cask or bottle. From Simpleton and the Sour Circus at two and a half percent-ish up to the big Cannonball bangers at 10%+ they have an unparalleled array of expertise. Many contemporaries stick to the hand that they are dealt but MAGIC ROCK will gamble and keep on coming up trumps. Same but different? Twist, twist, twist! And win!

Raise your glasses and roll out the Oakes barrel! They must be quids in in Quarmby because this lot are the pride of the Hudd. Hats off to the pubs that have purveyed Rock-solid pints to the Steel City - RUTland Arms, Sheffield Tap, and The BROADFIELD (plus a visit or two to the fabelled `Holy` GROVE Inn). Whether High Wire was atop the beer marquee, or DARK (Arts) triumphed over Alphonso is an enjoyable Rapture-ous debate. Thank you Magic Rock for your relentless pursuit of quality and variety. 2013 has truly been Magic (btw Could we not extend the Sheffield tram system over t`tops to Huddersfield?!).

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Barrel Aged St. Petersburg (9%) by Thornbridge

Now I must admit to being no fan of Christmas ales. Cinnamon, twigs and holly berries or whatever are not the sort of extra flavours I want in my pint. For me, Winter is about really good dark beers and you cannot beat an Imperial Stout.

St. Petersburg started life as a 7.7% monster before being trimmed to 7.4% to avoid the extra tax aka the `tramp tax`. However, this one is bigger still. Having been stored away in oak barrels for 2 years, Barrel Aged St. Petersburg weighs in at an impressive 9% and so decent value at the £5 price tag that the Cross SCYTHES had put on it.

With a strong line-up on the pre-New Year bar, I opted to start with a Thornbridge Chiron on keg (5.5/10) and then a pretty decent Kama Citra (6.5/10) from Elland as the Halcyon had just finished. Next up was the 1872 Porter (9/10) which was the 2013 Champion Beer of Britain for Elland. A really great drink that is full of complex flavours but very drinkable belying its 6.5% volume. The star of the show was always going to be the St. P though, or was it?

Recently, when I have had this 7.4% Russian Imperial Stout on cask and keg (at GREYSTONES and COACH n HORSES) it has not been quite balanced and just too boozy for my palate but in this version that is not an issue. There`s always a danger of this type of beer being too dominated by the alcohol, which I found with the Arbor Moor Double DARK ALLIANCE earlier in the year.  However, this one pours deep and dark with a creamy-coloured head. Time spent maturing in French oak barrels has pleasingly resulted in a smoother, fuller taste that is better rounded than previous versions in my opinion.
Worryingly, it did look as though Thornbridge were not doing anything special and strong for Christmas (not counting their Myrissty, etc.) after being blessed last year with the likes of the previously reviewed Imperial OATMEAL and the Chilli MOCHA but this certainly fits the bill. Clearly, THORNBRIDGE`s best cask beer of 2013 and I`m going back for more!
Mike - 9

(AND, btw, that concealed raffle ticket was 136 and a winner in their New Year Quiz!) :-)