Stuart Ross looking his best…
Magic Rock Brewing are one of the new kids on the block, having been operating for about eight months from their Huddersfield base (which I hope is an enormous circus big top). It says something about the state of the modern British beer scene that even given that short space of time, the Magic Rock boys could take over a pub 230 miles away and pack it to the rafters on a random Wednesday night. Co-founder Richard Burhouse stood on the bar of the Stockbridge Tap and admitted his astonishment that such a thing could be possible.
For something like that to happen, you need several things to align together. Firstly, the brewery needs to be active, garnering support for their products and building that following. Magic Rock are highly proficient on social media, and regularly put on launches and takeovers. You also need the encouragement of your customers – the Yorkshire area is a hotbed of beer bloggers, and they regularly sing the praises of their output. Finally – and of course, most crucially, you need to walk the walk. Having recently been voted second best new brewer for 2012, they are clearly off to the races.
The finishing line for the latest beer run was the Stockbridge Tap, and we arrived at 5pm to watch Archie frantically dashing from bar to cellar, vanishing like a bearded mole to make sure the beers were ready to go. Magic Rock Curious was first up – a zappy blonde ale that only clocks in at 3.9%, but runs away with a Fyne Ales Avalanche-like flavour (or even Jarl, as was suggested to us on Twitter the other night). Next, we compared cask and keg versions of Dark Arts – for a 6% stout, the cask version was wonderful – roasty, rich and slightly smoky. The keg version paled by comparison, being cool and bitter, and almost sharp.
From then on, the evening consisted of a series of stunning beers, one after the other – like going over Niagara Falls into a vast lake of drink. Cannonball on keg looked like a strange, creamy orange soup – but tasted wonderful. Magic 8 Ball (also on keg) was sublime, a fruity, hop forward assault. Following that, there was a special one-off dry hopped cask Human Cannonball – why not cask a 9% DIPA? On this evidence, it should be done more often – warm, rich caramel and toffee. I can’t even remember the Bearded Lady to be honest, but if drinking an imperial stout in five minutes is any clue, it must have been just as good.
Forgive the hyperbole in that last paragraph, but to get to this stage in less than a year is quite something. We sampled two of their beers in BeerCast #63 back in August, and stated that the beers showed potential but needed a bit more. Clearly, they had only just begun bottling then, and now they have found that bit extra and then some. RateBeer named Anchorage Brewing as the best new brewer for 2012 – they must be seriously good to outpoint Magic Rock.