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…

Midnight Sun from Scotland

Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone. I had thought about a Mexican beer for tonight but there wasn’t one that took my fancy – maybe on a warmer day but after today’s chilly winds I was set for more of a wooly jumper style of beer and who knows warming cozy ale better than the Scots? Also, I am still fairly cross about a comment I re-read today flicking through the Spring issue of CAMRA’s ‘Beer’ magazine by an idiot. The idiot who calls himself Ade Edmondson went on record saying ‘there is no real beer in Wales or Scotland,’ thus losing any respect and credibility as a beer drinker from my point of view. Ade, meet my friends the Williams Brothers.  Based in Alloa (that’s Scotland, Ade), they use traditional ancient recipes to bring us some of the finest and most unusual beers in the whole of the UK and their appeal even reaches overseas.

I’ve been a fan of the Williams Brothers for a long time – I especially love their Fraoch Heather ale and have never been disappointed by any of their output. On a recent trip to Bristol, my partner discovered a rather good bottle shop, Corks of Cotham and was thoughtful enough to bring a few beers back for me, including a Williams Brothers Midnight Sun (5.6%ABV). It’s a dark, spiced porter with a little ginger thrown in. It pours out the colour of midnight with a thick, frothy head and you get a generous waft of coffee and spices. The taste is stronger than the 5.6%ABV would prepare you for. There’s a warming richness like a toasty fireside on a blustery night and a thick, almost sticky texture. The initial flavours of coffee and the dark chocolate malts give way to cloves and ginger which continue to flitter around on the tongue, keeping it warm for another sip. There’s also a long bitterness at the end from the hops. Another win for the Williams Brothers then.

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!

Happy birthday to Brew (Dog)

Brewdog Camden celebrates!

Bierebelle does not feel too good. What happened yesterday? Ah yes that would be the illustrious Brewdog’s fifth birthday party at their Camden bar where they had a total tap takeover featuring over 19 of their beers! I can’t even remember how many of those I tried but I think by the state of my wallet it was quite a few. We started the day with good intentions and I even kept notes on the first few drinks but with so much choice including some incredibly rare and never-before-seen beers it was never going to end well. The first drink was a very easy decision. I was very very excited to see Tokyo (18.2%ABV) on the taps – I’ve been putting off buying it for a while because of the price tag but this was the perfect opportunity to try. It’s an astonishingly beautiful porter ‘brewed with jasmine and cranberries, dry-hopped then aged on oak chips.’ This is one of my fantasy beers I’ve daydreamed about making in my imaginary brewery I sometimes think I’ll have one day, but Brewdog have gone and beaten me to it! Although the jasmine is quite subtle, the aroma is a generous big summer picnic of cherry jam  on brown bread. A real femme-fatale, the taste is wicked dark chocolate with dried cranberries and cherries and it feels like a mouthfull of velvet.It’s a luxurious deep  brown and so thick it leaves little legs when you swirl it around the glass.You wouldn’t leave Tokyo alone with your boyfriend.

No birthday is complete without cake (and 'IPA Is Dead' Motueka)

Moving on from the sophistocated elegance of Tokyo, I set my sights on a real bad boy for my next drink, Libertine Porter (5.9%), an ‘an irreverent, devil may care rollercoaster of a porter.’ What a rollercoaster ride indeed. Just about as inky black as a porter can be, it’s rammed with hops which dance and shout for attention but once they calm down, there’s a flash of blackcurrant and liquorice. It smells like it’s been painting the town black then crashed for the night in a hedgerow of hops and brambles. This is some bad-ass refreshment but the super-dry finish means it goes down rather quickly. Wiki says a Libertine is somebody ‘devoid of moral restraints.’ This Libertine is devoid of any restraints at all and today he had brought his crazed hound, Dog A. Oh yes, the Alpha dog was in the bar and I was faced with a dilemma – would I splash out or live to regret it? I thought about this as I shared a bottle of Lost Abbey Red Barn Ale (6.7%ABV) with my two companions which was a rather pleasant change of pace. A traditional, farmhouse-style Saison with an aroma rather like hay which made a wholesome and sunny interlude but there was a dog still jumping around, wagging it’s tail to catch my eye.

Who let the dog out of the box?!

Dog A (15.1%) is a rare beast. Everyone wants a puppy when they’re 5 and Brew Dog went ahead and got one, albeit a crazed, slightly vicious but utterly beautiful one. This Imperial Stout originally appeared as the legendary AB:04 but has made a much anticipated return for the aniversary celebrations. It contains ‘copious amounts of dark malts, pure cacao, coffee and subtle naga chilli’ so pretty much all the best things you could put into a beer. Presented in a beautifully sinister black box, you know this is gonna be pretty special. The aroma is incredible; you get so much of the chocolate and naga it reminds me of my home-made chocolate chilli but with shed-loads more awesomeness. The flavour is warming, full of dark malts with a real bitter-sweet kick of the blackest chocolate and followed with a subtle after-burn. Exceptionally silky with a tiny hint of smoke. Without a doubt the best beer of the day which is just as well since my note-taking stopped here (possibly rendered speechless by the majesty of the Dog A). Thanks for letting us come to your party Brewdog – it rocked!

Station to station

So I bid the York Tap a fond farewell and hopped aboard a train which took me all the way to the door of it’s South Yorkshire sister, the Sheffield Tap. It would be rude not to go in and the crowded train had left me feeling slightly worse for wear (nothing to do with the stupid quantities of champagne quaffed at the wedding the day before). So there was only really one way to go to regain my strength for the evening festivities ahead. Beer.

Sad beer blogger

Always impressed at correct glasswear. (Note: still clutching pen like idiot)

I was incredibly relieved to see Nøgne Ø Porter (7%ABV) on the tap as I hear porter is very beneficial for health. I have already had this one bottled a couple of times and it has quickly become a favorite so I was interested to try it straight from the keg. At home, I generally serve porters and stouts just below room temperature. I was slightly suprised to be handed my Nøgne much colder – not ice cold but cold enough to be dripping with condensation. However, I discovered that served cold it had a slightly different character, becoming almost like a grown-up iced coffee, just the thing to help a slightly fragile girl recover from her long journey! At first taste, it was slightly sour but this gave way to a well-rounded coffee flavor with a hint of liquorice and treacle toffee at the end which brought back memories of bonfire night.

All dressed up for the Dev Cat on a Sunday (poor regulars)

They also had another new favorite on the bar which I had immensely enjoyed out of a bottle recently, Magic Rock‘s Magic 8 Ball (7%). I had already decided at this point that this was (potentially) the best black IPA I have had so far. Off the tap it’s a beautiful beer to look at; an inky black with an amazingly luxuriously thick head you could write your name in. The appearance is deceptive, though, and it’s a real surprise how refreshing this is, particularly served almost ice-cold. Initially, you are hit with these incredibly bitter hops, then a wrecking ball of lemons swings right up in your face.

So, filled with beery glee, I was ready to get out to Corporation for a night of mayhem. Since (like most clubs) the ‘beer’ would actually be dishwater, we made a quick stop at the Devonshire Cat, one of my very favorite pubs in Sheffield where I treated myself to a delicious Brewdog Alice Porter (6.2%). Although by this point I was in my glad rags ready for Resistanz and without my trusty beery notebook, this is what I had to say on Untapped(my new favorite app): ‘Awesome sauce Mmmnnn. ..liquorice and dark malts. Chewy and rich.’ Just as well I had a final nice beer as all they had to offer at the Corp was San Miguel Fresca which made me a sad panda. The Untappd review I posted at the time says it all. ‘Hahaha cheapest thing on the bar. Dishwater.’ Thankfully, once we had recovered from the craziness, angle-grinders and Jagermeister Cake of Resistanz, we would be spending some time with the sister and brother-in law which would involve some rather more civilised establishments…

Angle-grinder carnage @Resistanz

Black & Blue

Atlantic Blue: Yummy Cornish Porter

Rich, dark, drinkable

So just thought I’d do a little review of this rather lovely porter from Atlantic (http://atlanticbrewery.com/) who I had actually never heard of before their beers started to appear in Bitter Virtue, my beloved local beer store. Atlantic are based in Newquay in Cornwall and boast some impressive green credentials. The whole operation is a very local affair; they grow their own organic hops, use pure Cornish water  drawn fresh from their own spring and use organic barley and wheat malts produced by Warminster Maltings. Plus, they are certified vegan!

Atlantic initially caught my eye because of the variety of styles which includes a range of ales developed with Michelin starred chef Nathan Outlaw to enjoy with food, as well as the more traditional styles. ‘Atlantic Blue’ is their porter. According to the blurb, it’s a ‘rich porter that smoothly blends five different malts. It exhibits a light smokiness fused with roasted coffee and hints of dark chocolate.’ It doesn’t disappoint. The color is deep chocolate brown and the scent is rich vanilla and hazelnut with a little malt. At 4.8%abv, it’s an average strength and goes down extremely smoothly. Just the kind of thing for unwinding after a long day. The first thing I notice is the creamy chocolate, then a slightly acidic, slightly tangy coffee. The coffee builds the further down you get and lingers. I don’t really get the smokiness but I’m not too upset since it’s a great porter for a regular evening treat.