Old Ale - 4.1% mild, dark red brown in colour with an aroma
of toffee and nutty chocolate. The toffee and chocolate also come
through on the palette along with hints of red fruits, malt and roast
grain, all balanced by a smooth bitterness, 2012 Champion Beer of East Anglia
Well months and months later Chris & I finally got around to testing it out as we finished our Christmas Baron Rating evening with a couple of bottles of the ale and some fine English cheeses (Five Counties and some Lancashire Creamy and Tasty).
The beer really worked nicely with the cheese, the sweet aspect challenging nicely the slightly tart bitter edge of the cheeses in a similar way to a fruity chutney would.
It was a fitting end to an amazing year of Baron Ratings and I would like to say thank you so much to all the breweries who have helped the Baron out over 2011, my website would be nothing without the support that you have given!
Jon from Stringers comes through Ormskirk quite a bit on his way to deliver casks to various lucky Liverpool pubs (no idea why no Ormskirk pub doesn't think to get some Stringers ales in!). He called in on Thursday this week to hand over a Christmas present for the baron, a 750ml bottle of Spice Weasel:
We arrived and were given our strip of five raffle tickets, each one was swappable for a 1/2 of a particular beer - the first 'welcome ale' was a half of Curious. A 3.9% pale gold ale it had a crisp slightly sulphurous smell with a cracking bitter grapefruit taste and fruity bitter finish.
As we were waiting for the evening to start we opted to get a 750ml cork & caged bottle of Schneider Weisse Mein Nelson Sauvin in, a 7.3% peachy-lemon-smelling ale, a weisse beer with some lovely soft tropical fruits added (thanks to the Nelson Sauvin hops) which meant that even Chris and I (non-weisse beer lovers) really enjoyed it.
We were about to get another big bottle of something when the Meet the Brewer night started with Rich from Magic Rock taking centre stage and talking through the ethos behind the brewery and it's beers.
Unlike most breweries they don't add hops to the boil, they have a dedicated 'hop back' which they circulate the beer through in which to enrich it and pick up that massive hop presence - it can hold 30-40kgs of hops! They've not had to use it to it's full potential, even the massively hoppy Human Cannonball double IPA only fills the first 25kgs of it. They also use dry hopping in the fermenting vessels to gain more hop presence.
They are inspired by the US-style big tasting and smelling beers, and the brewery was custom built by Stuart. The kit is designed to produce American-style beers and they have been very lucky that they have been able to skip the local pub market and deliver straight to the craft beer bars throughout the UK.
After the initial talk halves of Curious NZ were handed out, this was the same malt bill as the regular Curious but with New Zealand hops, this resulted in a much softer rounded taste compared to the grapefruit-like flavour of the original but then with a massive pithy bitter finish - a great variation!
Following that beer was High Wire, their West Coast Pale Ale. We loved this in bottled form but were in for a real treat when it was served via KeyKeg - it was hazy with a mega fruity taste, superb bitterness,simply wonderful (I loved it so much that once the Meet the Brewer was over I opted for a pint of this over all the other great ales on offer in PSBH - it's awesome!)
Next up was Dark Arts, a 6% stout with a pale malt backbone and topped up with black, amber and brown malts for roastiness and colour. It was lovely, nice roasted flavours, some plummy fruitiness and very smooth. All this from a brewery that's just six months old!
The Queen of the night was brought out next, the first public tasting of Bearded Lady - a 10.5% imperial stout, the big sister of Dark Arts. Heavily dry-hopped with 'the cannon' - a device that can hold between 5-10 kgs of hops, the lady was slowly cycled through Amarillo hops for 3-4 days. It had massive coffee aromas, and tasted of sweet dark coffee with a hint of booze but it was hiding the 10+% very well. I can't wait to try this in bottled form...
We stayed around after the official meet the brewer ended, chatting with Rich and Stu from Magic Rock as well as talking to some fellow beer lovers (esp. @Filrd and @Jamesbwxm) that I know from Twitter. I got to try De Molen's Vuur & Vlam which was awesome as well as a few others that I can't remember.
Port Street Beer House is a wonderful craft ale bar, within easy walking distance from Manchester Piccadilly - a must-visit bar when you are next in Manc!
We thought that the beer was very nice but the excessive sediment in the bottle was off-putting. Stonehouse got in touch with me and said that what we experienced wasn't normal and so would send through another bottle of KPA.
I'm always happy to re-rate a beer especially if we downgraded it due to it's condition. Stonehouse went above and beyond and sent their whole bottled line-up through for review:
I've always been interested in snacks that work well with beer - crisps, scotch eggs, pork pies, etc. but I've never really gotten into pork scratchings. Maybe it's something in the name that puts me off, but these times may be behind me once I've tried these:
Mr Trotter's Great British Pork Crackling is different from normal pork scratching in that they use 100% British pigs rather than Danish rind. So you can enjoy a tasty snack with your British pint knowing that you are supporting British farming as well (more than just enjoying the barley-based drink!).
Mr. Trotter's are available from all Selfridges stores (London, Birmingham & Manchester) for the rather royal sum of £1.89 per 60g pack (does anyone else think that's bit steep?)