Monday, 15 June 2015

Punchy feather-weights ?

Light-weight but heavy hitters? You know the type; a low ABV beer with big bags of taste.
It wasn't so long ago that anyone wanting lots of taste had to be looking at your classic IPA % of 5.8 to 7% and similar with the stouts. Even then, plenty of them tended to be overly boozy rather than full of flavour. And again, similar with stouts.

However, one trend that we are both fond of is the hoppy brews that weigh in at 4% or less meaning that you can have a few without forgetting your name or the way home.

We reviewed Powermouse by Great Heck back in 2013 and this one was a really good pint. Hoppy, bitter, quaffable and only 3.6%, Powermouse was one of the first beers that made it clear that hoppy taste didn't have to mean 6%. Unfortunately, it`s now been replaced by Chinook-driven Chopper in the Great Heck range and we look forward to trying that one. The Sheaf View or The Harlequin were your best bets of spotting this little creature in the Capital of Beer.

Simpleton by Magic Rock has appeared in a couple versions : one at 2.6% and one at 3%.  Again this one offers the option of less alcoholic content without compromising too much on the taste. Sure, Magic Rock have more exciting wares in their ( recently expanded) locker but Simpleton scores well for a little un. Really enjoyed this at The Broady a while back but the price was still steep, if memory serves (and it should for once at 3%!).

I was also pleasantly surprised by the Thornbridge effort on Stitch. OK this one is a relatively hefty 4% ( bantam weight?!) but the Bakewell boys don't always manage to hit the high notes of taste without an ABV to scare off many a mere mortal. For me, Stitch  is a better drink than the AM PM attempt at an all day IPA but then I find the seminal Founders AD IPA to be transatlantic blandness.

There's also plenty of little gems available in bottles from the likes of Beer Central, Hop Hideout and Beer Stop as the craftiest brewers seem to be working hard at both ends of the ABV scale. Siren / Hill Farmstead recently offered Love of Work, or was it Work of Love, which was very tasty at 3.6% and there are other good ones on them there shelves. Wiper & True`s Small Beer is below 3% and was recommended to us by the beer sages at The Broadfield and, sure enough, it is a one of the best to come of Bristol recently.

Unfined is fine by us.

The other alternative if you want big taste without an ABV to match is to look at the sour stuff. Again Siren is a great starting point but mebbe that line of drinking thinking will save for another day and another blogbit. It could be a Sour Summer ahead, ideally dry-hopped! Cheers!

A noticeable floral aroma here!

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Three Valleys Beer Festival

Now then, neither of us are big on traditional beer festivals. Standing around for hours in a village hall or a sports centre with a luke-warm twiggy brew in a half pint pot isn't our idea of a good day out. There are exceptions though with some innovative 21st century beer fests but essentially we are both pub people.

However, this weekend sees a real highlight in the annual ale err annual with the 3 Valleys Festival. This event is now in it's fifth year and encompasses an impressive 18 pubs around this corner of North Derbyshire. Even with our ale-y expertise and local knowledge (sophistication? I've been to Dronfield), we couldn't possibly comment on all the pubs but here are some highlights:-

The Travellers Rest, Apperknowle

On the outskirts of the Drone Valley this one so bus or hike here but expect an easy on the-eye aspect and an outdoor marquee bar. Ales are scheduled to include Salopian (a rarity in these parts), Hawkshead and Fyne Ales. Plus then the secluded Miners Arms at Hundall with an inflatable pub and Pictish a-plenty is walkable too!

The Dronfield Arms

First stop for those arriving by train ought to be The Dronfield Arms. This place has been on the up since it changed it's name from the Sidings half a dozen years back but it is still improving under the leadership of Edd ex of The Bath Hotel. Ale quality has definitely been upped and the Dronny Arms is quite a tidy boozer. Expect best beers to include Brass Castle, Bad Seed, Great Heck, Waen plus locals Raw. Sure the White Swan is close by,  The Three Tuns too, but the bottle experts The Beer Stop are closer and they will have handpulls a-ready too. Just don't tell anyone else about this little gem or it'll be crowded out!

The Coach and Horses

No surprise to see us recommend this place eh as it is nearest to Sheffilisation and thereby an ideal first or last stop of the day. Beautiful beers inside and out showcasing Thornbridge's finest (fancy some Tart?!) plus other highlights like Magic Rock, Brooklyn and Black Jack. And gourmet salads in the early Summer sun, or your money back!

Other top tips / sound sage advice:-

Suncream - It is wam dan Saff.
Don't get stranded at Barlow Brewery, although it is worth a visit. Take a tent.
If you manage to get a pint in all 18 pubs, we congratulate you and commiserate with your liver. Write off Sunday too.

Have fun and be careful out there!