Chilling out with Zerodegrees

If you like craft beer and you want it fresh from the microbrewery, Zerodegrees is worth a look. It’s one of my favorite places in Bristol not only for the yummy freshly baked pizza but also because they serve a cracking pint. Since I haven’t had the pleasure of taking a trip to Bristol for a while, I was starting to miss their lovely Black Lager (4.6%ABV). Lucky for me, they also have a bar in Reading where my OH was working this week so the lovely chap hauled a whole 5litre keg all the way home on the train for me! How’s that for service! Now I know for some folk ‘lager’ might still be a dirty word. Most of the tateless upright-drinking chav-fuel you see in your local pint-and-fight venue unfortunately go around calling themselves lager which gives the style a bad name. Contrary to popular belief, lager is a style of beer which has been fermented and conditioned at low temperatures and can be as complex and tasty as any other style. For a cold, light, easy drink, black lager is one of my favorites. When I’m up north and near to Pivni or the York or Sheffield Tap, I’m a big fan of Bernard Black. Back in the South, if I get a chance to go to Bristol, I rely on Zerodegrees for my black lager fix.Everything on the taps at Zerodegrees is brewed on site and they prefer not to pasturise it or remove the yeast which allows it to develop character which sets it apart. However, this means the only way to get it is to go to one of their bars or have some kind and lovely soul bring a mini-keg back. There are no bottles. This is fine if you can get through 5litres in the reccomended 3 days (it does actually start to go on the turn after this – trust me). Previously this has resulted in pretty drunken long weekends in the hotels of Bristol but I’m sure we’ll be more sensible this time as this bad boy is coming to a party with us tomorrow. OK it’s a first birthday party but the kid’s gotta start somewhere.

One neat thing about getting a mini-keg is you get a little tap on the front to dispense it. I don’t know why I find this exciting – maybe it’s because I never fulfilled my secret ambition to work behind a bar. Dispensed into the glass, the lager is a deep black as you would expect and has a pretty thin tan head which fizzes away fairly quickly. The aroma is lots of dark roasted malts with coffee and chocolate characteristics. It’s packed with delicious flavors and is almost like a light, carbonated take on a porter. There’s a little bitterness at the back when I swallow it down but the sweet, smooth coffee flavours steal the show, highlighted by a small hint of dark fruit and vanilla. As lovely as it always has been.

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More dark delight in York…

Finally, back to York for the last leg of our April trip. I know it’s been a while and I’m mainly relying on my notes but the Bierebelle has been ultra-busy, building her mountain bike, riding around on it, going on a hen-weekend, celebrating Brewdog’s fifth birthday…phew! So, the story continues back in York.

Stained glass to rival the Minster at the York Tap

Spirits were high in anticipation of my mum’s wedding. Hopes were also high. Would I finally lay my hands on that elusive Rudgate York Chocolate Stout? Naturally, the first stop was inevitably the York Tap as we waited for a lift from my dad. As regular readers know, this has become a must-visit place whenever I return to York. Although I dearly love the Sheffield Tap, the York Tap is a place is becoming my favorite of the two. As a York native, I find it remarkable that they have breathed so much new life into a premises that I had never really even looked at before. The lovingly restored art-nouveau features such as the elegant stained glass skylight, real working fireplace and the mahogany finishes take this up to the next level of railway pubs; it’s such a welcoming and lovely place there’s always a danger you could miss your train. The other danger which could leave you stranded, of course, is deciding which of the draft ales, beers and ciders to sample from their dizzying selection of 32 on the huge, round bar. By the time I’ve done a few rounds of that thing, I feel like I’ve earned my drink (although smart people look at the chalk board which I always remember when it’s too late).

The coffee’s pretty awesome too- coffee nerds will understand what an awesome Electra this is!

Since it was a fairly gloomy day, I was first drawn to the rather sinister-looking black and red pump-clip of Kirkstall Black Band Porter (5.5%ABV). This bewitching black brew had a spellbinding aroma of dark treacle-toffee with a scattering of raisins. The luxuriously thick liquid envelops the taste-buds in a burnt candy flavour with blackcurrants and a little black magic which stays with you for a long finish with a hint of smoke. The seductive warming sensation and dark malt will wrap you up in velvet darkness, making the rain at the window seem a million miles away.

Not quite ready to leave the darkness, I discovered the Whitby Black Dog Brewery’s Rhatas (4.6%ABV). From the homeland of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, comes this chocolate brown beast whose bite is not really as sharp but still it’s a good stab at a dark bitter. Slightly unusual in it’s spicy brown bread flavour, it’s not as sweet as the Black Band porter but still gives way to a round vanilla finish at the end. Quite quaffable and a nice run-up to the much brighter, vibrant Chateau Rogue Oregasmic (7%ABV). Just as the sun was starting to peer through the clouds, I felt like I had the chance to taste a little bit of summer. The cloudy burnt orange echoed the late-afternoon glow and left a pretty halo on the sides of the glass. The exotic fruity aroma suggested pineapple and sunny skies and the initial sharp, vibrant flavour was enough to drag the tastebuds out of their languid darkness. The long, bitter finish is punctuated with mouthwatering pineapple-cube zinginess. Oregasmic is a livewire that keeps on twitching with flavours; getting further down the glass, toffee, bannana and pecan were all hopping around before a tangly-tingly-tongue finish.

Bouncing along next was the Magic Rock Magic 8 Ball (7%ABV), the inky black little scamp of an IPA with a wicked glint in it’s eye and a spring in it’s step. At this stage, I should make a note to self – black does not always mean it should be served at room temperature. I had a bottle of this not long ago but served it just below rooom temperature and it was awsome, but not as stand-out amazeballs as very chilled from the tap. The opaque inky black suggests a thicker liquid than this refreshingly thin delight which leaves a shimmering white lace on the sides of the glass. Attempting to do some pretentious food-matching, I would pair this with the red and black Wine Gums you just stole from your little brother (you know they’re the best ones right?). This seriously has that aroma of black Wine Gums and tastes like blackcurrant liquorice with a dry finish and tingly, slightly sour mouthfeel which leaves you sneaking back to the sweet stash to look for more. Or maybe I’ll find that chocolate instead. More to come soon…

Bierebelle gives a hoot!

Whoot whoot! My Brewdog package arrived and guess what was in it? A whole range of ow-aley goodness and fun from Hitachino Nest! Hooray! Also, may I point out the Hitachino Nest almost came in a nest – look at all the packaging! I’ll certainly be ordering from here again!

So – what do we have? Top row from left: Sweet Stout, Red Rice, Japanese Classic (matured in Cedar casks) & White Ale. Bottom row from left: Weizen, Amber Ale, Commemorative Ale, Extra High (apparently more malt & hops than usual and matured 6mth) and Ginger Ale.

There weren’t just owls hiding in the box! Here’s the rest along with some promotional Brewdog ‘Equity for Punks’ stuff we got sent recently and a lovely shiney glass I bought to put the beer in – yay for goodies!

From left: 8-Wired The Big Smoke Smoked Porter (from New Zealand!), Brew Dog Sunk Punk (fermented at the bottom of the ocean where the Kraken lives), Bear Republic Black Stout & Lost Abbey Lost & Found!

It’s what Bank Holidays were made for!