Friday, 31 August 2012

Red Fox Brewery - Foxymoron 4.5%

The name Black IPAs is here to stay it would seem, usurping Cascadian Dark as a more encompassing term for thin, dark (black!) hoppy beers, and they really have to be hoppy.I think anyone who's had Brodies Dalston Black IPA for example, as I did at this years GBBF will attest to how big, gutsy and downright fantastic they can be.

I've singled out Brodies on purpose as had their black IPA been brewed prior to 1965, before the new administrative area called Greater London swallowed up the south western-most extremes of the county, then it could have rightly claimed to have been the first commercially brewed in Essex. This honour now, however belongs to the Red Fox brewery in Coggeshall.

Red Fox was founded in some specially refurbished chicken sheds in 2008 by Russ Barnes, former head brewer at Crouch Vale. They use only East Anglian malts and produce a wide range of traditional, an some not-so-traditional beers, the Wily 'Ol Fox and Coggeshall Gold are particular favourites, and whereas the aforementioned Brodies Dalston Black is a big 7.0%, Foxymoron is a more modest 4.5%. I picked it up at a local off-licence, the Shenfield Wine Co. that has a good range of local ales as well as a surprisingly good range of German beers. Foxymoron, according to the bottle is an 'American style black IPA' brewed with American Chinook hops, and as this is a favourite of mine I have high expectations.

It pours a very very dark brown, a shade off black, with a ruby red edge and a light beige head, It has a rather pleasant sweet-shop fruity liquorice aroma with hints of aniseed and basil. Initially smooth as silk over the tongue with a light herbal wash, it leaps to the top of the mouth and back of throat with a huge crashing dryness. Flavours of liquorice mixed with tarragon and basil explode slap-bang in the middle of the tongue with a little soya milk sweetness outlining it. There's some milk chocolate in the finish drying to a sharp herbal note with some tropical fruit flavours right at the end.

Essex's first black IPA isn't half bad, certainly scoring well in the flavour stakes and while it's obviously not as in your face as higher abv examples it's one I'll looking out for again. Yet another beer that makes me proud to be an Essex boy.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Beer Reviews - Two From Kona Brewing Co.

Born on the Big Island of Hawaii in 1995 and based Kailua-Kona from which it gets its name, the brewery was started by father and son team Cameron Healy and Spoon Khalsa out of their dream to create fresh, local island brews. The flagship brewery is still there, but now they have stretched to three pubs and additional breweries in Portland, Oregon and Portsmouth, New Hampshire producing mainland draft (draught) beer and bottling beer under strict guidance.
I've been wanting to try beers from these guys for a while, not least of all because I ride a Kona Coiler Dee-Lux 2005 mountain bike, which although now 7 years old and, in truth, a bit of a heavy-weight, is still my pride and joy.
I picked these two up at the House Of Trembling Madness in York which really is an essential stop for any beer lover heading to that city. It has a good, if slightly unusual upstairs bar but an astonishing selection of local, UK and foreign beers, as well as some interesting beer-related books. Visit it late in the day because you'll want to take a good few beers away with you. Better still, stay in York which has many fantastic pubs and bars to distract you, and then you can do lots of trips back and forth to your hotel or guest-house.
Let's get stuck into those beers.

Kona Brewing Co. - Longboard Island Lager 4.6%

This premium lager was first brewed in 1998 and is fermented for 5 weeks at cold temperatures.
It pours a pale golden yellow with white pillowy head with a tart, slightly spicy, malty and sharp aroma with a hint of white pepper. Sharp and a little prickly over the tongue, it's a little watery at first with more white pepper and satsuma juice combined with the merest drop of good extra-virgin olive oil. This sounds a touch strange, however it's quite rounded as corn and malt highlights really balance it out. The finish has a little watermelon juiciness and a little crispness too.
It has some classic pilsner flavours mixed with some different but not unwelcome ones and is very good indeed.

Kona Brewing Co. - Fire Rock Pale Ale 6.0%

One of the first beers Kona produced, it is brewed with liberal amounts of Galena, Cascade and Mount Hood hops.
It poors a deep orange amber with a light, fluffy beige head. I was expecting something something a little, well ... paler from a Pale Ale, but apparently this colour comes from an unique blend of speciality roasted malts. The aroma has lots of malty orange cointreau marmalade and caramel with some pine lurking in the background. It's a little thin side but the sharpness when it comes, although fleeting, is quite biting. The initial intense maltiness melts delightfully, via a very brief chocolate orange hit, into a sticky orange sauce with whispers of grapefruit and resinous pine. The finish is sweet with orange marmalade foamy dryness which coats the tongue and lingers a while.
This beer, whilst being less intense than other American Pale Ales is quite laid back, true to its Hawaiian roots I guess and it's creeping, increasingly orange flavours make it a little different and a little special.

I've been quite impressed with these two from Kona. They don't have the over-whelming, sensory-overload of many US offerings I've had of late and I'll certainly be seeking out more of their ten regularly brewed beers. If you want something that isn't a hop-bomb hit that is nonetheless quite flavoursome you could do a lot worse than give these a try.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Beer Review
The Kernel - Pale Ale Motueka CCC 4.9%

I do love a Kernel beer, and in fact I can't recall a reviewer or blogger who hasn't praised at least one of this south London brewerys fabulous brews (I am half-expecting to be contradicted about this, but such is life).
I picked it up at Utobeer earlier this week, and as Motueka was a hop variety I wasn't familiar with I was anxious to try it.
The Motueka hop was developed by New Zealands HortResearch agriculture institute by crossing a New Zealand breeder selection (approx. 2/3) with the Saaz hop (1/3), it was initially called Belgian (or "B") Saaz as it was first selcted by a notable (and undisclosed) Belgian brewery. Named after the third largest area in the Tasman Region of the South Island (Nelson is the largest, a name familiar to New Zealand hop lovers), its high alpha acid content and pedigree make it a useful dual purpose (bittering and aroma) hop.
As to the CCC on the label, I'm guessing that it may have the addition of ome other hop varieties to further balance the flavour and aroma, possibly Cascade, Columbus and Challenger, and would be grateful if anyone could confirm this or put me straight.
Time to taste.
It pours a cloudy dark orange with a yellow-amber edge with an off-white head.
The initial aroma is big with tropical fruits, lime and grapefruit but with a surprising dusting of nutmeg.
Smooth and a little watery over the front of the tongue, when it gets to the back however it grasps and prickles before slipping nicely down the throat.
There's the merest hint of spicy white pepper in the taste before some sharp and dry pineapple mixed with lemon and lime juice bursts in the mouth backed with a wash of sweet caramel.
The finish has some light dryness with the ghostly echo of tropical fruit and toffee, before fading ever-so slowly.
Another lovely beer from The Kernel, perhaps a little lacking in strength of flavour but this is only in comparison to their stronger 6-7%+ beers. It is certainly more flavoursome than most sub-5% Pale Ales, and exceptionally well balanced.
Catch it if you can.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Beer Review
Butternuts Beer And Ale - Moo Thunder Stout 5.0%

Another canned craft beer!?!!
After the Brooklyn Brewery - Summer Ale I reviewed on Saturday, I had the opportunity to purchase some more tins of US craft ale from Utobeer in Borough market yesterday so I took the plunge. I'll be reviewing them all over the next few weeks, but today it's time for a drop of stout from Butternuts Beer And Ale.
The brewery is based in upstate New York on a converted dairy farm, and was started by Chuck Williamson who, in his own words, was "intent on creating a brewers utopia. And opening a can of whupass on the craft beer world."
Although it calls itself a stout on the can, the lactose sugar used in the brewing would make it more of a milk or sweet stout. It was created as a tribute to the brewerys former life.
It pours a beautifully opaque dark, dark brown, that's oh-so-nearly-but-not-quite black. The tan head flares and fades to a ring around the edge of the glass. A touch of coffee with a big milk-gum sweetness and a hint of vanilla in the aroma make for a wonderfully inviting smell. Some nice prickly carbonation over the tongue leads to a nice big flavour hit of those milk-gum sweeties that I used as my go-to during my A-level exams, some 24 years ago! This is nicely edged with milk chocolate and the merest notion of coffee and vanilla with some hazelnuts in there for good measure.
The finish has some wonderful dry and sweet lactose creaminess that lasts for a long, long time.
This is an incredibly easy-drinking milk stout from a brewery I had never even heard of before yesterday although they have been going for 5 years, such is the proliferation of up-and-coming craft brewers in the US. I try hard to keep up with as much as I can online and through 'Draft' and 'All About Beer' magazines that I get delivered to me but with 1,989 breweries operating in the US at the end of 2011 (statistic from The Brewers Association), it's practically impossible. That makes discoveries such as this one all the sweeter.
If you want a bit of a treat you could do a lot worse than visit their website which I have deliberately left until last so as not to spoil it for you. Alternatively try and get hold of some of their beer, I'm sure you won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Beer Review
Moor Beer Company - Nor'Hop 4.3%

I've been hearing good things about Moor beer for a while so have been anxious to try some. I've had this bottle about 2 months but the weather, and my mood haven't been quite right.
Tonight however this is the beer for me.
It's been hot and humid all day, I haven't got work tomorrow and I wanted something cool and hoppy to slake my first. This has been the only beer on my mind since lunchtime.
I was surprised to read that Moor Brewery was started in 1996 in Pitney in Somerset. However having become a victim of its own success it contracted out of brewing and was relaunched  in 2007 when Justin and Maryann Hawke took over the company.
Nor'Hop is the counterpoint to So'Hop, their (Ultra) Pale Ale brewed using Riwaka hops from New Zealand. This is also described as an Ultra-Pale Ale, brewed using an undisclosed limited availability hop from America.
Time to taste it.
This bottle-conditioned beer pours a very (ultra?) pale, white gold colour with a pure fluffy white head that quickly fades to a smart thin lid atop the beer. There's a huge hit of gorgeous juicy grapefruit in the aroma with some nice lime and elderflower counterpoints.
Smooth but with a sharp edge over the tongue, lip-smackingly juicy grapefruit coupled with the juice from tinned peaches flood the mouth with gorgeous flavour. Some prickly elderflower dryness bursts through before fading away, leaving some more sweet grapefruit in the finish.
This is a real cracker of a beer, packing as much taste as many twice it's strength. It delivers all that it promises in the aroma and despite, or because of, it being bottle conditioned it was a little hazy on the second poor but there were no big clumps of yeast and it didn't affect the flavour adversely at all.
I'll certainly be trying more Moor Brewery beers (pun intended) and am wondering why I didn't have them sooner.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Beer Review
Brooklyn Brewery - Summer Ale 5.0%

Canned beer.
Last month Gareth Jones @gareths121 wrote an interesting post about canned beer to which I made some disparaging comments (about the beer, not about Gareth). If you want to read the article and my comments you can do so here.
You'll have seen that I'm not a huge fan, so why am I reviewing a canned beer.
The answer is simple : The Olympics.
Let me explain.
Last Saturday, 4th August, I was fortunate enough to be at the Olympics in Stratford. More precisely we had tickets to the Handball at the Copper Box in the morning. The atmosphere was fantastic and the whole thing was a wonderful experience however, perhaps inevitably, late in the afternoon we 'found' ourselves in Tap East.
We were there a while, sampling many beers including the fantastic Brewfist Spaceman IPA and Tap Easts excellent selection of own brews as well as several plates of pizza.
The atmosphere in Tap East was pretty good too. The television was on, showing the action unfolding a few hundred metres away (it was Super Saturday) but we couldn't stay there indefinitely and I wanted to get some beer to take out.
The Brooklyn Summer Ale cans were strategically placed by the end of the bar and had been catching my eye all evening.
Perhaps it was the beer I'd drunk, perhaps it was the brightly coloured packaging, perhaps it was the atmosphere, maybe it was all of them, but before I knew it I had bought six cans (and a couple of bottles of Cantillon beer) and we were on our way.
I'd done it ! But what had I done ? Would I regret it ?
Brooklyn Summer Ale, is billed as a modern interpretation of a "Light Dinner", "Luncheon" or "Family" ale, as they were called in the 19th and early 20th centuries because they were both light (in alcohol and/or appearance) and refreshing. This beer is given a twist with the addition of German Perle, American Cascade, Fuggle and Amarillo hops on a Two-Row British malt base.
The only thing to do is open it (no bottle opener required - *gulp*).
It pours a glorious golden orange sunset with a gorgeous fluffy white pillow of a head.The aroma is soft grassy lime and lychee, underlined with some juicy peaches. It skips and dances over the tongue at first, then in rushes a refreshing wave of prickly floral hoppiness, sweet and beautiful in its subtlety. In the taste there's a hint of lime, a little hay, some soft white bread and a touch of mango juice all combining to make some delicate liquid gold. The finish is crisp and slightly sharp, quickly fading with some cream soda/vanilla notes.
A big beer this most certainly isn't, but a wonderful, tasty, fresh and refreshing summer ale it most definitely is.
Has this single offering changed my mind about canned beer?
Well, not totally, but it has made me more open to them and I will certainly be trying more. I think it is the freshness of the beer that impressed me most, with some subtle flavours neatly captured and encased in a 12 fluid ounce can.
Give it a go.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Beer Review
Brewery Lindemans - Gueuze Cuvee Rene 2010 5.5%

And it was such a good idea.
First day of the Great British Beer Festival but we're not going until tomorrow, let's have a barbecue and a really summery beer to celebrate all things beery.
It was a little cloudy when I lit the charcoal (or rather the bag it was in), but the sky cleared and we were bathed in glorious sunshine. What could go wrong?
Let's talk about the beer.
Brewery Lindemans is in Vlezenbeek, a small Flemish town south-west of Brussels. It produces spontaneously fermented lambic beers using wild yeast, which include Faro (a lighter beer), fruit beers and gueuze, of which this is an example. It is a blend, made from different aged lambics, typically 2/3 young lambic to 1/3 old and this blending it important in order to get the end maturation (attenuation or intensity of finish) just right.
So, what could go wrong?
My first clue was that it was raining at the Olympic Stadium. That's only about 20 miles from where I live so I started to get concerned.
Then it got very dark.
Then it rained.
Well the weather let me down, but the beer didn't.
It pours a sparkly pale golden colour with a lively bright white head.
Sticking my nose in the glass.after the head had dissipated of course, there's a big smell of dry sour apples, but with some floral notes, hay, yeast and a touch of smelly summer drains.
Lively, fresh but a little heavy, sharp and sour over the tongue, there's more unripened sour apple in the taste with some lemony honey, but with the merest undertow of sweet cherry juice particularly when it hit.s the back of the tongue and rolls down the throat.
Refilling my glass and drinking it through the foam I'm getting some zingy peach juice with some grapefruit sourness which transforms into some sharp apple peel.
It was at this point that I passed it to my wife for a taste. "Vinegar and feet" was her verdict, although she did admit to not being overly familiar to the taste of feet!
The finish is sour dry and sharp apples but while the taste fades far too quickly, the dry and sourness last a fair while.
We still had the barbecue.
I stood out there in the rain with my umbrella dutifully cooking the burgers and sausages, and rather good they were too.
The real star however was the beer, because no matter what the weather was doing outside there was plenty of (sour and slightly sharp) sunshine in my glass.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

International IPA Day
Thursday 2nd August 2012

Today is International IPA Day, so here comes a potted history in case you didn't know!
IPA Day was pioneered by Ashley Rouston (@TheBeerWench) & Ryan Ross (@RyanARoss) to both celebrate and promote a style (particularly when hoppy) that many would claim was their introduction into the wonderful world of tasty beer.
The first was held on the 4th August 2011 (the first Thursday in August) and today is the second of a global event that is gaining momentum. While there are lots of great IPAs being produced by lots of fantastic brewers and plenty of drinkers ready and eager to drink them this could grow and grow. This year I have a couple of IPAs just itching to be drunk so I'll dive right in.

First up is:
To Ol - First Frontier IPA 7.1%

I've been meaning to have this IPA for a while so this seems like the perfect opportunity to do so. I have previously had To Ol / Mikkeller collaboration beers and have given some of their history here and here, so if you want to know a bit about them you may want to have a read.
Tonight though I want to concentrate on the beer.
Described as an IPA "the American way" and dry-hopped with three US hop varieties, warrior, simcoe and centennial with a little caramel malt to 'balance the alcohol'.
It pours a slightly cloudy amber with an off-white head that billows and fades to a gentle frothy topping. The aroma is deep boozy peach and grapefruit peel with some pepper spiciness and a hint of varnish. Bitingly sharp over the tongue, it's surprisingly alcoholic and a little heavy initially then in sweep some bitter aloes which are hurried through by some honey-coated grapefruit peel.Next comes a burst of tropical fruit with a little caramel edge which fades to a coriander seed, white pepper bitter sharp finish.
A lovely way to start.
Time to drink some water to clear the palate and move on to:

To Ol - Final Frontier D IPA 9.0%

Well it's certainly got darker, and it's raining, see how I suffer for #IPADay !
So this is the sequel to First Frontier, but I know that you'd all worked that out for yourselves you clever lot.
It's got more of everything in relation to its predecessor they say, more body,hops, alcohol and kick to the perineum apparently, their words not mine!
Let's have a closer look.
Pouring a darker amber but clearer than the First Frontier it has the same billowing off-white head collapsing to a similar frothy topping. Lots of honey-caramel with grilled pineapple and toffee-apple grapefruit in the aroma, this seems an altogether richer, sumptuous and more complex offering. Smooth and a little fizzy over the tongue, layer upon layer of tropical fruit caramel, dark honey, tangerine, concentrated peach juice and some herbal notes, build and build on the tongue creating a wonderfully gooey mix of sweet caramel and heavily intense fruit. This is a big beer which coats the mouth with a gorgeously sticky melange of flavour. There is a little dryness in the finish but it is the latter flavour that stays with you for a deliciously long time.

These are two fabulous IPAs and well worth having one after another, with First Frontier quite obviously being Final Frontiers under-developed brother.
It's been a great IPA Day 2012 - here's to 2013. I may have one or two more so you may wish to follow me on twitter @1970sBOY to find out what I'm up too.