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!
Through this blog you will come to know that as well as beer, I am also a massive fan of coffee so when you put the two together, I’m a very happy girl. On the South Coast, we are very fortunate to have our own experts in this heavenly partnership, Dark Star. Their Espresso remains high on my list of favorite beers and it’s always easy to find bottled (at least in the South of England). My first experience of it was shamefully from out-of-date bottles being sold off in a local off-licence, but it was exceptional even then!
There's something not quite right here...
Alongside their regular pemanent selection, they also do an imaginative selection of seasonal ales throughout the year, as well as monthly specials. February’s offering was a Black Coffee Pilsner, apparently inspired by a trip to the Czech Republic and the ‘intrinsic coffee flavour in the unfiltered dark Budvar.’ I was very excited to learn that my local ‘Bitter Virtue’ had procured a cask of the stuff this week. So excited that I have been checking the website obsessively twice a day to watch for the ‘coming soon’ to turn into ‘available now.’ Last night it finally came on so off I went, milk carton in hand to have it filled straight from the cask. It’s a good job I did too – they only had a pint left after filling my carton!
Another breakfast beer?
There’s something kind of fun about buying beer off the cask and carrying it home in a milk carton. It makes me feel like I’m recycling and getting a nice fresh beer at the same time. It also means I have to drink it all up on the same day (that’s what I tell myself). I had already been allowed a small taste in the shop so I was eager to get stuck in as soon as I got home. After a hard day of practically re-building my bike with muscles still burning from the kettle-bells session the night before, I needed a little pick-me-up and by gosh, that’s exactly what this is!
In the glass, it’s such a deep brown it’s almost black. You could mistake it for black coffee! It even smells just like coffee but this ain’t no cheap instant. This is a chic, sophistocated dark-roasted espresso. There’s a hint of malt there just to remind you that this is actually a beer. The coffee flavour runs all the way through from start to finish with a delicate sweetness. According to Dark Star, this is down to the intrinsic coffee flavor of the imported Czech malts as well as the coffee beans added after fermentation. I was rather surprised at how refreshing this is for such a dark beer. It’s rich and full of flavor without being too strong. It definately shares a lot in common with the dark Czech lagers I have tried (Budvar & Bernard Dark).
I really really hope that Mr Dark Star will make us some more of this lovely stuff (pretty please). It would be another worthy addition to the growing list of beers for breakfast (as a weekend treat of course). For tomorrow’s treat, I’ll have to make do with my humble bottle of Mikkeller Koppi IPA – I might even review it if it’s any good…
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.