Friday, 24 March 2017

`Cherried Alive`! - twobeergeeks` brewday with Hop Jacker & Jon Terry

TwoBeerGeeks were lucky enough to be invited up to Hopjacker which is located at The Dronfield Arms to do a collaboration brew with head brewer Edd and the landlord of The White Lion Jon Terry. Mike having a proper job was unable to make it but I was over the moon to be able to get involved.
Edd had already decided on the beer. It was to be a chocolate cherry mild around 4.3% and Jon came up with the name of `Cherried Alive`. The pump clip had already been knocked up so all that was left was to get cracking.

The famous Mister Edd
Edd was kind enough to pick us up on the morning of the brew and on the journey to Dronfield we had a fascinating conversation about the complexities of  the hop market. I had no idea there was such a thing a hop quota and brewers don’t just have to consider what they need this year they have to think about the following year too. It’s easy to forget as a consumer that brewers don’t just have an endless supply of citra and all your other favourite hops and actually have to work pretty damn hard to get hold of them.

Like gold dust but tastier
After a cup of tea Edd wasted no time in getting me to work weighing out the malt which consisted of Marris Otter, Munich, Cara Light, 60L Crystal, Chocolate and Black Malt.

As the Mash began the smell and steam filled the brewery and it was time to sample some beers. First up was the Kali Ipa straight out of the fermentor and it was a monster, A murky hop bomb packed to the rim with Galaxy and Chinook. I wouldn’t normally touch a 6.4% beer at 11 in the morning but I wolfed down the lot. Next up was the Hop Jacked single hopped series Citra which was again outstanding. It tasted exactly like a beer that said Citra on it should do and left me wanting more but unfortunately we had work to do.
After the sparge it was down to me to climb in the mash tun and shovel out all the grain which I was pleased to learn is passed along to a local farmer to feed his cows.
Next up was the boil into which at various stages went cocoa powder, cocoa nibs and morello cherries. We added Magnum hops for bittering and Brewers Gold for Aroma. The aroma from the steamy vapour that filled the small brewery during the boil made me giddy with anticipation of what the beer will eventually taste like and that’s before Edd adds even more cherries and cocoa nibs after a few days of fermentation.
When we transferred the wort to the fermentor it had a rich chocolatey colour with a slight tint of red from the cherries. Edd pointed out the importance of keeping the wort aerated at this stage in preparation for the yeast being added. And after that had been done all that was left was to let the magic happen.
I was pleased not to be given the job of climbing into the boiler to clean it out and generally stood around awkwardly while Edd and Jon cleaned up. They didn’t seem to mind though and I was pleased when Edd suggested we finished the day with a another glass of the Citra, this time on keg from the pub upstairs. Its an exceptional beer, unfined, hazy and delicious. It was a fitting end to a great day.

You can always find Hopjacker beers in The Dronfield Arms or The White Lion. The Kali Ipa will be available in bottles (if I don’t buy them all first). Cherried Alive will also be available at Shakespeares, The Club House, The White Lion, The Dronfield Arms and The Spireite and maybe a beer festival or two not too far away!

Friday, 3 March 2017

The Waggon & Horses (by True North) at Millhouses

New month and another new venue for the True North chain. They now have ten places dotted around the Steel City and slightly beyond with the most recent being the Waggon and Horses situated roadside next to Millhouses Park.

Excitedly approaching.......
The Waggon is an impressive coaching inn dating back to about err, ages ago. However, recent incarnations as a grill restaurant and an ill-fated period as a pesto place have flunked. Success at the Broadfield and its ilk has been based on quality in beer, food, service and the whole ambience; True North venues thus attract a discerning yet quite diverse crowd. They seem to have the formula for success in these tough times for our local boozers. Beer-wise they also have a good balance between their own house beers, which are nice enough, a few other locals like Abbeydale and Bradfield but also nationally renound breweries like Siren, Arbor and Magic Rock. On a recent visit to the Broady I was even treated to an Evil Twin Ying, or was it Yang? Anyway at 10%ish this beer and brewery are understandably known Europe-wide and found there on a Monday afternoon on Abbeydale Road. Quality.

Millhouses deserves a decent public house. The Ale House on Fraser Road is fine and attracts a loyal crowd whilst The Millhouses and the Robin Hood are very much food-orientated and rather lacking in the range and quality of ales that many of us desire.

The Waggon and Horses opened on March 1st for the first time and I couldn't resist a brief visit on the Thursday, the second day in its reincarnation. The place seems to be neatly and logically split with food tables to the left of the building from roadside and the other side being more drink-orientated. Lighting was low and the music more prominent than I expected but it was busy with a mix of ages - from early evening dining senior citizens and young families to couples and groups out for an exploratory post-work pint. Round the corner were a duo of couples with babes in arms, which was nice to see. The proximity to the park will be key to the success of this place; Millhouses Park is an oasis for families with children and enticing them in here is vital.

The Waggon and Horses' staff were polite, friendly, helpful and diligent quickly quelling any queries from their potential public. I was swiftly given a loyalty card and the benefits of it were clearly explained. (I did have a Broady one at some point but it was 'electronic' and so rarely used and rarely requested tbh). Not sure on the decor as it was a bit dim and a tad too busy to have a proper poke around. Don`t expect a Broady-like transformation though! I did see some stuffed birds though which is great news for ornithological spotter types. Or really bad news, I'm not sure....

Vocation = yum!
The choice of ale was a little less than I had expected with True North on cask x2 plus a Black Iris stout and then about similar kegwise. Early days, mind and demand will determine, I'm sure. The TN session pale contain some sexy hops but paled into insignificance compared to the belting Vocation `Heart and Soul`, which was on keg at £4.20. Black Iris also seem to have close links to True North and their Red Rye IPA on keg was 5%, ok and close to a fiver. Add on a decent back bar with 30 + gins and all in all , the rebirth of the Waggon and Horses looks to be promising at worst. I reckon the reigns are now in safe hands. Ye ha!