Thornbridge meet the brewer at Craft Co Islington

When we were developing our taste for craft beer, the brews of Thornbridge and Sierra Nevada were instrumental in getting us hooked. Their flavourful pale ales were things of beauty in our eyes and forced us out in to the brave and exciting world of craft beer! With this in mind you can imagine our delight when we discovered that these two breweries had collaborated on a beer called Twin Peaks and that it was being launched at a special evening at Craft Beer Co. As if this was not enough, we then discovered that 19 Thornbridge offerings were going to be on tap as well as some of the brewers on hand.

It was an evening we weren’t going to miss and here are our thoughts on some of the Thornbridge beers we tried.

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The Wallonia has a wonderful golden colour in the glass.

Wallonia:
This is one of our favourite styles and to see Thornbridge’s version on tap was too tempting to resist. Saison is becoming the beer of the moment, seemingly everyone is now trying their hand at one and with examples like this it is easy to see why. Very crisp and refreshing, not quite as spiced as Belgium examples but a real hoppy flavour. It tasted like a British Saison not an imitation Belgian Saison and we can think of no better compliment!

Feallan:
Who doesn’t love a good Märzen(Oktoberfest style lager)! This is packed with wonderful toasty malt notes and just the right amount of hops are used to balance the beer. Phill had this beer the week before at Craft Beer Rising and was upset he didn’t get another half so we both went for the full pint and it did not disappoint. Whilst a standard of many US Craft breweries, we certainly hope that more in the UK follow Thornbridge’s example and experiment with this style of beer.

Twin Peaks (their collaboration with Sierra Nevada):
In one word, refreshing. Packed with citrus and a little tropical fruit, this is a really crisp style of Pale Ale. We were both impressed with its drinkability and are looking forward to downing a few more of these once the temperature increases (however this being Britain we are not holding our breath). If we were being critical though, it was almost too easy drinking – seemingly lacking a little in flavour and the body being almost too light. However we are being overly critical in saying this and hope this is the first of many collaborations between the two breweries. It is certainly the first of many pints of Twin Peaks for us.

Weizenbock:
This was another really classy take on a German beer style. A full bodied style of beer, this tipple was full of dark malty notes and sweet spice. If only we had some to hand over the Christmas period! With the spice flavours on offer it would have perfectly complimented all the desserts of the festive period. However as we shivered in the beer garden it did prove to be a thoroughly restorative beer!

Sequoia:
This amber bitter was a pure delight. Balanced in all the right ways and full of flavour. Lots of classic citrus and toffee flavours and we even thought we detected slight hints of pine, although we were uncertain if the name was just leading us to that conclusion. We only had half a pint, however looking back on the night Mike slightly regretted not doubling it, but Phill was happy to have moved on.

Saint Petersburg:
The jet black colour of this Imperial Russian Stout sets the tone for it’s great smoky and chocolatey aroma. It is smokey to taste although ends with a slightly hoppy finish. It stands at 7.4% ABV which you would not expect based on how easy it is to drink thanks to its smooth texture. We would happily pick this over a Guinness most nights.

2013-03-04 18.48.13Reflecting on the night, we had a fantastic time exploring the different beers of Thornbridge, and although Craft was a great place to do this, it’s lack of proper food forced us to make an early exit. We enjoyed the large range of styles on offer, but as you can see from our choices above, we gravitated towards the continental varieties they have attempted and were impressed every time. We hope that Thornbridge open a pub in London soon – having had much success in Sheffield – so that we can enjoy their range more often.

This evening really did encourage us that the craft beer revolution is international and that British brewers are committed to producing more than just great pale ales. It was also encouraging to see how busy Craft was when they put on a special event such as this. We hope this will be the first of many such nights at Craft and look forward to hearing your thoughts on the beers we tried.

Phill went to Craft Beer Rising 2013

Over the 22nd and 23rd of Feb, Brick Lane’s old Truman Brewery became home to a new beer festival, Craft Beer Rising. It brought together breweries big and small: the very established (Youngs, Sharps and Fullers, through theirCraft Beer pub The Union Tavern); the newly established (Brewdog and Meantime); and the upstarts, Brewers and Union, Two Cocks and Rebel Brewery, as well as many more.

Forgot to take any photos there, here's oen from when I got home.

I enjoyed Union Pub’s competition wheel (a £1 spin won me a 1999 bottle of Fuller’s Vintage Ale; Friend of the Mule Steph won a 2006 bottle). I had much fun with the app ‘Hit Me Up’ with which, by tweeting certain photos or singing songs, you could get yourself a free half pint- it saved me quite a few pennies – for instance I sung “I’ve got a brand new combine harvester” for a free half from St Austell. There were also talks, live music and quite a few street food venues, but I ate none of them and missed the music and talks.

There is a big advantage of having the brewers themselves pour their beer for you instead of volunteers as at the Great British Beer Festival. I experienced this at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver last year, the ability to have a coversation with the brewer or brewery employee about their beers can increase the satisfaction ten fold.

In Summary, my beer highs and beer lows,

Highs;

Nelson Sauvin Saison by Meantime – the Saison comeback has begun! After enjoying a pint of Saison Du Pont at Hops & Glory a few weeks ago I have begun to notice a few more Saison’s popping up. This summer expect a lot of London micro breweries to have a Saison on offer. Meantime’s is a good start using the distinct Nelson Sauvin hop.

Feallan by Thornbridge – a beer that I had wanted to try for ages and was worth the wait. However, when I went back for another the tap was already dry.

St Austell’s Admiral’s Ale – another beer that I had been meaning to try for a while – it’s a really full bodied ESB which packs a flavoursome punch. I will go out of my way to buy more of this beer in the future.

Lows;

Sharp’s Hayle Bay Honey IPA – far too sweet and a bit sickly. If you need honey in your beer go for a St Peter’s Honey Porter instead.

Meantime’s Raspberry Wheat – the taste did not sit well with me. Meatime shouldn’t try to compete with rubbish such as Fruli. This was rather disappointing, but has been the only Meantime beer I have not enjoyed so far.

Overall I welcome Craft Beer Rising to the festival circuit and hope it kicks the GBBF up the backside before August.

Our first few beers

To honour the launch of this blog we decided to have a tasting evening where we sampled a selection of beers, some old favourites and some new to us! Going forward we will do some themed tastings and comparisons however for our first we are going to be a bit more haphazard.

The beers we drank, from right to left for some reason.

Curious Brew; the product of Chapel Down winery. This beer is what happens when you add champagne yeast to well-chosen hops and malts. It is a refreshing new-age lager, packed with aromas of gooseberry and tropical fruit. All of these factors make it a very drinkable lager. The second bottle tempted our new found professionalism, but we resisted.

Camden Town Hells Lager; another wonderfully refreshing beer but nowhere near as aromatic as the Curious Brew. However, what it lacked in aromatics it made up for with its slight hoppiness. With an almost biscuity quality this made another favourable impression on us. Having drunk plenty of Paulaner Helles (argued by many to be the king) we are certain this is a worthy match in terms of quality.

Fruh Kolsch; another German style beer. This top fermented beer is not as popular in the UK as it is at home in Cologne, though that does leave more bottles for us. Really pleasing bitterness. Certainly a beer we hope will become more prominent and if you are looking for something better than a generic lager/Cobra for your curry then look no further than Kolsch.

Cantillon Iris; from the iconic Belgium brewery this is a dry hopped Geuze. To say it blew our socks off would be a mild understatement. It is a mouth-puckeringly sour beer. Mike loved it, Phill liked it. It is certainly a beer that is not to everyone’s taste but to say there was an abundance of flavour would be to undersell it. The bitterness from the dry hopping added an extra dimension to the traditional, almost cider like qualities of a Geuze.

Nogne Porter; every time we have tasted a Nogne beer we have been thoroughly impressed and once again they do not disappoint. A dense black colour in the glass, there was an array of dark chocolate and bitter coffee flavours on offer. Very smooth in body, the 7% abv was not felt at all. It would make an excellent beer to match with your pudding, or like us, have in its place.

Meantime Yakima Red; the combination of five different hops this is a robust beer and one that helped finish off the evening. Full bodied, and a slight toastiness accompanied some fruit flavours. It is a shame we had eaten our steaks by this point as this would have gone great with them. We are both eternally grateful to Meantime for making this a full time beer and not just a limited run!

We hope you have found the above recollections of the beers we drank useful. Let us know what your thoughts are on the beers we tried and please voice any recommendations for other beers based on them!

Suppliers used;

Camden Hells, Curious Brew Lager and Yakima Red all came from Grape Sense in Chalk Farm.

The Cantillon Iris came from Bitter Virtue in Southampton.

Fruh Kolsch and Nogne Porter came from The Vineking, Reigate.

Supermarket Sweep

For some time we have been quick to criticise the supermarkets. Whether it is for poor wine or beer selection or for just generally being an unpleasant place to be.  However the former is now no longer the case. Whilst we would not go so far to say that they have the most exhaustive collection of beers, they have put together a more than reasonable selection of brews in recent years. Whilst we cannot speak for all of the supermarkets, Morrisons, Tesco and Waitrose all contain an interesting range of beers.

Morrisons probably has the poorest selection of the three however they have made an effort to be improve their selection of ales. On our last visit we were very impressed to see some Harviestoun Bitter and Twisted on the shelves. What we must also commend them on is the production of brief tasting notes for quite a lot of their bitters. This is something Tesco also does and if beer is going to grow and people are going to take a chance on new beers this is essential. It gives everyone the opportunity to gain an idea of what it is they are tasting for the first time. As we know all to well, providing information on your product is the key to sales!

Tesco and Waitrose though really do stand out for us. They have a good selection of bitters, with an increasing focus on local beer, for example Mike’s nearest Tesco stocks Arundel beers as well as Hogsback (which to his great cheer appear to be going national in its popularity).

However it is the growth of more international craft beers that stands out at the moment. We would be disappointed if we walked into a large supermarket where there was no Sierra Nevada or Sam Adams. On top of this beers such as Goose Island IPA, Paulaner, Duvel and Brooklyn Lager are considered essentials and are given pride of place in Tesco beer isles. And Phill still considers it a treat to find Sierra Nevada Torpedo in a supermarket near him. The massed ranks of lagers are becoming very much hidden!

To finish we want to add that it was this picture that inspired us to write this article. we were delighted to see the return of Chimay to Tesco. It had previously stocked Chimay Red however this was removed, and now after a two year absence Chimay Blue has taken its place.  This is a serious beer and the symbol of it being flanked by Duvel on one side and Franziskaner on the other really shows the jump forward the supermarkets have made in the quality of their beer aisles!

Chimay

It’s some beer!

Our Supermarket Picks;

Mike’s

Triple Karmeleit (Waitrose); I am delighted that Waitrose stock this beer. It is expensive but it is a perfect Belgian triple. A wonderful golden colour is matched by intense stone fruit and slight honey influences. Brilliant!

Goose Island Urban Wheat (Tesco); This is a really pleasing addition to Tesco’s range. A cross between a wheat beer and a pale ale. This combines the wonderful refreshing nature of wheat beer with the body and bitterness of an ale. An excellent aperitif.

Phill’s

Samuel Adams (Morrisson’s & others); Shepherd Neame are about to start to brew this under license so it is your last chance to buy it imported from USA. It is a great starter for people new to craft beer, it’s a lager so won’t scare many people but the flavour will still really stick with you.

Jaipur (Waitrose); This is quite possibly one of  my all favourite time beers, I was almost as excited to discover it in the supermarket as to when it arrived at my local Wetherspoons. It’s an IPA which is packed with citrus and slight caramel, I can’t wait to enjoy the BBQ season with this beer.

Let us know what hidden treasure’s you’ve discovered in your local supermarket.

#beerfacts

  1. Robert Hare of Philadelphia brewed George Washington’s favourite Porter.Porter was the American colonies favourite style of beer.#beerfacts
  2. Paulaner is the largest brewery in Munich and 8th largest in Germany.Founded in 1634.Its Salvator doppelbock is its star beer. #beerfacts
  3. Drinking Mikkeller George stout and Horny Devil Belgian pale ale in a night is a great idea at the time.not in the morning. #beerfacts
  4. Kolsch is a top fermented beer from Cologne.Characterised by fruit and hoppy bitterness.Fmention of this beer is in 874AD! #beerfacts
  5. Cascade hops were developed by the United States department of agriculture and released for use in 1971 #beerfacts
  6. Until the early 20th century the most popular style of beer in Munich was Dunkel. This was overtaken by Helles. #beerfacts
  7. Nelson Sauvin is a hop from New Zealand. Prized for its aromatic qualities. Flavours imparted;grapefruit,melon and gooseberries…
  8. …Nelson Sauvin is named this as it is grown in Motueka Valley near Nelson and its flavours resemble those of Sauvignon Blanc. #beerfacts
  9. I did not know that Steam beer is a style of beer. Also that it is a style made almost exclusively by Anchor Steam. #beerfacts