Category Archives: BeerCasts

Blog posts relating to our podcasts

BeerCast #66 – Christmas Special 2011

Merry Christmas from the BeerCast to all of our readers and listeners! Our fifth annual Christmas Special podcast is another festive frenzy, as we review six seasonal beers and give our thoughts – both on the contents of the bottle and the ‘Christmassy Factor’ of the label (i.e. whether looking at it puts us in the festive mood). Our first beer brings the seasonal puns straight away – Cotleigh Red Nose Reinbeer (5.0%), from Somerset. We then head to Belgium and sample Het Anker Gouden Carolus Christmas (10.5%), before dealing with the litre growler containing Williams Brothers Nollaig (7.0%). Our fourth beer is another Scottish entrant – Sinclair Atlas Clootie Dumpling (4.3%), named after a traditional Orcadian pudding. After that, it’s back to the continent for De Ranke Père Noël (7.0%), and we finish on a traditional note with the 2011 vintage of Anchor Special Ale (5.5%) – which we taste every year on our Christmas BeerCast. The festive panel this time are Richard, Grooben and Shovels.





1. Red Nose Reinbeer
(5.0%abv)
Cotleigh Brewery, Wiveliscombe, Somerset.
500ml glass bottle

Cotleigh began as a five-barrel startup in an old farmhouse near Tiverton in Devon. Their first beer was Tawny Owl Bitter, debuting in 1979. Success came quickly enough for them to relocate from the Cotleigh Farmhouse to Wiveliscombe in Somerset within the year. Having expanded since, they produce a range of beers – the majority named after birds of prey. Having celebrated thirty years of brewing in 2009, they continue to support the Hawk and Owl Trust with charitable donations. Their Christmas beer might not feature an owl – but it does have a robin on the label, perched on the antlers of the maniacal reindeer…

What They Say
“Guaranteed to give you a nice red glow like Rudolph, this is a highly recommended drink. A smooth long lasting finish with chocolate, toffee and nuts. Pale, Crystal and Chocolate malts; Goldings, Fuggles and Northdown hops.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Richard – I like it – toffee aroma, nice bit of roast, some fruit 7
Grooben – Doesn’t have that thick Christmassy thing going on 6
Shovels – Smoky aroma, slightly pruney, not my cup of tea 5

Label Christmas Rating
8/10 I bet that’s the reindeer Santa breaks out when he has to go through the Gorbals (Grooben)


2. Gouden Carolus Christmas
(10.5%abv)
Brouwerij Het Anker, Mechelen, Belgium.
330ml glass bottle

In 1471 a community of Beguines (a Catholic lay religious order) began a brewery in the Flanders town of Mechelen. Four hundred and one years later, the facility was acquired by Louis Van Breedam – who changed the name to Het Anker (the Anchor brewery). Fast-forward to 1960 and Het Anker produced a range of beer, owned a brasserie, and a local hotel. Their main line of beers these days are Gouden Carolus – named after the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (who was born in Mechelen; to a man titled ‘Philip the Handsome‘). Today we sample their festive Christmas beer.

What They Say
“A strong, dark ruby red beer with character, it contains an alcohol percentage of 10.5 % VOL. Brewed in August, the beer rests a few months to reach an optimal balance. Three kinds of hops and six different kinds of herbs and spices define the rich taste of this Christmas beer. Top-class!” [Official Website]

What We Say
Shovels – That’s cracking – an awesomely Christmassy beer 9
Richard – Star anise flavour, more herby than spicy, great
Grooben – Sweet but not cloying, this really is top class 8

Label Christmas Rating
10/10I don’t think you can get much more Christmassy than that (Richard)


3. Nollaig
(7.0%abv)
Williams Brothers Brewery, Alloa, Scotland.
1 litre glass bottle

BeerCast fans will need little introduction to the beers from Alloa’s Williams Brothers Brewery. One of Scotland’s most prolific producers, the company began life in the Glasgow homebrew shop operated by siblings Bruce and Scott. Having an interest in historical recipes, their Heather Ales range includes the flagship Fraoch heather ale, Kelpie seaweed ale, and Alba – a 7.5% spruce beer we sampled in BeerCast #61. Today we try a brand new release (literally; it appeared the day before our recording) – Nollaig – a 7% beer brewed ‘with Christmas trees’.

What They Say
“We have brewed this special festive ale using malted barley, a variety of high impact specialist hops and hand picked spruce tips which are only ripe for picking during a two week window in the spring. The resiny sweetness of the spruce and malt is countered by a huge hop character, which is just delicious. Limited batch of 800 bottles.” [Label tasting notes]

What We Say
Grooben – Unusual and really sweet, it’s definitely been crafted 8
Shovels – Sweet, piney, sprucey, slightly bitter, it’s a cracker 8
Richard – Like drinking a Christmas tree – the hops make a difference, there’s other things to it 8

Label Christmas Rating
7/10 It’s like a no-frills present (Shovels) Without the tinsel it would be nothing, but it’s a good package (Grooben)


4. Clootie Dumpling
(4.3%abv)
Sinclair Orkney Brewery, Quoyloo, Scotland.
500ml glass bottle

Founded by Roger White in 1988, the award-winning Orkney brewery started in untypical surroundings – an old school house in Sandwick. In June 2004 they merged with the Atlas Brewery of Kinlochleven, to form Highland and Islands Breweries – which in turn was taken over by the Sinclair Brewery Ltd in 2006. Recently we sampled the punchy Skull Splitter as part of our big abv protest BeerCast #64, but today it’s their session-strength Christmas Beer. BeerCaster Grooben – who was raised on Orkney – confirms that a Clootie Dumpling is a traditional steamed suet pudding.

What They Say
“A light tawny beer. It has an aroma of spiced fruits and dried fruits, with hints of smooth roasted malt. Clootie Dumpling has a soft rounded palate, with flavours of dried fruits, citrus fruits and spices.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Shovels – I don’t mind the additions but it needs more body
Richard – Inoffensively spiced, but nice and gingerish 6
Grooben – It falls into the “let’s put spices into a beer” trap 5

Label Christmas Rating
4/10 It looks like a Christmas pudding, that’s Christmassy (Richard)


5. Père Noël
(7.0%abv)
Brouwerij De Ranke, Wevelgem, Belgium.
330ml glass bottle

In 1994, a Belgian by the name of Nino Bacelle – who came from a lemonade manufacturing background – began brewing at the Deca brewery in Woesten. Two years later, and with partner Guido Devos on board, Brouwerij Nino Bacelle became Brewery De Ranke. In 2008, they opened their own facility in Dottignies, producing 2,000hl of beer annually (60% of which was for export). Nino’s original 1994 beer is still going – Guldenberg – but they have several more, including a festive Christmas brew called (and with a label featuring) Père Noël.

What They Say
“A fantastic Christmas beer, but one that defies the universal custom of a stronger, spicier beer for the holiday season. It combines a fine balance of malt and hops, complex character, a refreshing dryness, and a gorgeous cellar aroma – but is distinguished by its festive copper colour.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Richard – No huge departure here from Belgian beer in general
Shovels – For a Belgian, it’s not bad. I prefer the spruce beer 7
Grooben – It’s a good beer, decent amount of alcohol 7

Label Christmas Rating
7/10It’s a bit half-assed – a badly drawn Santa hugging a beer (Grooben)


6. Anchor Special Ale 2011
(5.5%abv)
Anchor Brewery, San Francisco.
535ml glass bottle

It wouldn’t be a BeerCast Christmas Special without the latest special festive ale from Anchor. Each year they produce a highly secret recipe, slightly different from all previous years – the 2011 vintage is the 37th in the series. The 2006 edition topped our beer rankings for a long time, and was eventually crowned beer of the year in our 2007 Beer of the Year show, (during which we also tasted the 2007 one). The 2008 version also scored well, before a dip over the last years with the 2009 and 2010. There are never any tasting notes as the San Francisco concern keep the exact ingredients classified, but expect spices, piney freshness and all kinds of winter flavours.

What They Say
“Created in the style of a dark and malty, strong scotch ale, with the addition of selected seasonal spices to compliment the festive season.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Shovels – Not as junipery as before, the sweetness comes out
Richard – More sprucey than other Anchors, but more balanced 8
Grooben – Backs up the aroma with flavour better than the previous couple of years 8

Label Christmas Rating
8/10 It is just a tree, but to us this beer is now synonymous with Christmas (Shovels)




Panellists
– (clockwise from top left) Shovels, Grooben, Richard

BeerCast panel verdict
Het Anker Gouden Carolus Christmas 26/30
Anchor Our Special Ale 2011 24½/30
Williams Brothers Nollaig 24/30
De Ranke Père Noël 21½/30
Cotleigh Red Nose Reinbeer 18/30
Sinclair Orkney Clootie Dumpling 17½/30


  • Listen to the episode on Soundcloud here:



Keep those comments and emails coming in – many thanks to everyone who has taken the time to comment on our website this year. Our next podcast is the big one – our fifth annual BeerCast Beer of the Year show. We’ll have the five highest scoring beers from our podcasts this year, sampled by a specially extended panel. Stay tuned for a BOTY preview…

BeerCast #65 – Bières en vacances!

After our legislation-heavy 64th BeerCast, our intrepid podcasting heroes return with a slightly different, more carefree outing. MrB departed the island shores in July for his annual sojourn on the continent, and returned with a carload of French booze. Alongside the wine, Picon, and assorted liqueurs he also brought back plenty of artisian French beer – so we decamped to his Chateau in East Lothian and sampled a few. On today’s punctuation-heavy French BeerCast – La Johannique Blanche (5.0%), from the Brasserie des Râteliers; Cervoiserie Lancelot’s Bonnets Rouge (5.5%); Le Moulin de Saint-Martin Ambrée (6.5%), from the Brasserie of the same name; and finally the salt-water infused Mor Braz La Bière Cidrée (4.0%). On the panel today – Richarde, Grooben, and Monsieur B. Apologies for the sound quality, but stay tuned for the return of our annual feature – Can you Picon it?, after the end of the podcast…





1. La Johannique Blanche
(5.0%abv)
Brasserie des Râteliers, Amilly, Loiret.
330ml glass bottle

Râteliers means ‘rack’ in French – for instance Râteliers a bicyclette [Bike rack]. There’s also the popular saying…‘Manger a tous les râteliers’ [make the most of what comes along]. Due south of Paris, the small town of Amilly is the location for the Brasserie des Râteliers. La Johannique is a Biere Blanche D’Orleans – their local Belgian-style wit. Clearly, if you’ve just read this paragraph you’ll realise we could find out very little about this beer.

What They Say
“This blanche highlights its origins from local ingredients, including grain grown in nearby Beauce and malted in Pithiviers, and honey from La Ferté St Aubin added for the secondary fermentation in the bottle.” [Beer Advocate reviewer BoitSansSoif]

What We Say
Richard – Bit of perfume, little bit of sweetness – very nice
MrB – It’s nice even though it doesn’t have much of a taste 7
Grooben – I wouldn’t have been able to pick out the honey 6




2. Bonnets Rouge
(5.5%abv)
Cervoiserie Lancelot, Le Roc-Saint-André, Morbihan.
330ml glass bottle

You may not have heard of Morbihan – but it has an interesting secret. Of the 101 French departments, it’s the only one to not be named in French. Morbihan means ‘small sea’ in Breton – this area of north-west France has a proud heritage. Le Roc-Saint André (or Roz-Sant-Andrey to the locals) has a population of 861, but it also hosts a brewery – based in an abandoned gold mine, of all places. Cervoiserie Bernard Lancelot began in 1990, and are inspired by Celtic legends. Producing seven permanent, unfiltered, beers – Bonnets Rouge is named after the red hats worn by 17th Century Breton revolutionaries.

What They Say
“This beer at the slightly fruity flavor (brought by the elderberry), of malt, is embellished with a caramel note. It is also the elderberry which allows the beer to have its bright red color, a symbol of rebellion.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Grooben – Subtle and fruity, really good looking beer too 7
Richard – Nice and refreshing, nothing wrong with that at all 7
MrB – Slight sharpness to it, presumably from the elderberries




3. Le Moulin de Saint-Martin Ambrée
(6.5%abv)
Brasseries Le Moulin de Saint-Martin, Saint Martin de Bossenay, Aube.
330ml glass bottle

If Le Roc-Saint André is small, then Saint Martin de Bossenay is positively pocket-sized. In 2003, a native Belgian father/son partnership opened a brasserie in the village of 385 souls. Part of the region of Champagne-Ardenne, it’s heavily into wine growing due to the chalky soil – and also produces a lot of barley. Named after the local windmills, the Brasserie produce three classic Belgian styles – a blonde, a brune, and an ambreé .

What They Say
“Bottle-fermented, a natural deposit of yeast formed there. Red beer with character a strong, color is both deep and intense. It is best eaten cold (6-8 °C). A more pronounced flavor than its cousin the white wheat, it remains a beer of thirst, but is also ideal to accompany dishes such as sauerkraut, grilled meat, chitterlings, endive gratin.” [Official Website][via Google translate]

What We Say
MrB – This is the best one so far 8
Richard – There’s a great malt component to this 8
Grooben – I’m a fan, it’s quite Belgian but doesn’t have the harsh Belgian-y-ness 8




4. La Bière Cidrée
(4.0%abv)
Mor Braz, Theix, Morbihan.
330ml glass bottle

We end the podcast back in Brittany, in the town of Theix (or Teiz). A quarter of the schoolchildren here attend fully bilingual schools, learning local tradition as well as their regular syllabus. One export famed from this region is Breton cider – so we put to the test an apple beer, but one with a difference. Mor Braz are owned by a Morbihan couple, so proud of their locale that they actually add seawater extract to their beers – for a ‘surprising’ taste. Apple fruit beer with seawater? Oui, monsieur…

What They Say
“What is the mystery of Cider Beer? The originality and lightness of beer brewed from seawater extracts, the flavour of apple and the sweetness of sugary hints. This beer should be enjoyed cold, but not ice-cold.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Richard – It’s a bit like a condiment flavour, very strange 6
Grooben – Not as salty as I thought. It’s kind of pointless 5
MrB – Salty cider? It smells of the sea. I like it, but I’m not sure why – maybe it’s because we’re Scottish, and appreciate salt 5




Panellists
– (clockwise from top left) Richard, MrB, Grooben

BeerCast panel verdict
Le Moulin de Saint-Martin Ambrée 24/30
Brasserie des Râteliers La Johannique Blanche 20½/30
Cervoiserie Lancelot Bonnets Rouge 20½/30
Mor Braz La Bière Cidrée 16/30

  • Listen to the episode on Soundcloud here:



Please keep those comments and emails coming in, and check back in a couple of weeks for our next BeerCast – our fifth annual Christmas Special! Join the team as we get to grips with half a dozen festive ales, fit for the Christmas season. We promise to get the sound levels sorted out beforehand. Until then, enjoy your beer – and easy on the Picon.

BeerCast #64 – Big BeerCast

Note to self…remember to take photo before drinking the beer

If you’ve been following the BeerCast for the past couple of weeks, you’ll (hopefully) know we’ve been talking a great deal about a recent piece of Government legislation. On the 1st of October, the UK Treasury raised duty on all beer over 7.5% – ostensibly to tackle ‘problem drinking’. We’ve written several posts on why we feel this is a bad idea (here, here and here) – and so today we’re holding a protest podcast. Richard, Shovels and Grooben get together to sample four British beers over 7.5%, and debate the state of UK alcohol taxation (along with vikings, addictive coffee and why you can never lose a greyhound). The four strong beers we drink responsibly are:- Sinclair Orkney Skull Splitter (8.5%), Traquair House Jacobite Ale (8.0%), Thornbridge St Petersburg (7.7%), and BrewDog Abstrakt AB:06 (11.2%). Fight the power!





1. Orkney Skull Splitter
(8.5%abv)
Sinclair Orkney Brewery, Quoyloo, Orkney Islands.
330ml glass bottle

Founded by Roger White in 1988, the award-winning Orkney brewery are another local producer who started in untypical surroundings – in this case an old school house in Sandwick. In June 2004 they merged with the Atlas Brewery of Kinlochleven, to form Highland and Islands Breweries – which in turn was taken over by the Sinclair Brewery Ltd in 2006. All the way back in January 2008, we sampled Orkney Dark Island as part of BeerCast #11. Drinkers in North America may know the brewery best for the very beer we’re sampling today – Skull Splitter is seemingly far more popular over the pond than back home.

What They Say
“Sophisticated, satiny smooth with a deceptively light character, it is a tribute to our colourful forbear Thorfinn Einarsson, the 7th Viking Earl of Orkney.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Richard – Classic Skull Splitter aroma – sweet fruity caramel
Shovels – Not as syrupy as I remember, good balance
Grooben – I do like it but probably wouldn’t drink it much 6




2. Traquair Jacobite Ale
(8.0%abv)
Traquair House Brewery, Innerleithen, Peeblesshire.
330ml glass bottle

Traquair House is an extremely impressive, and very old, country estate about an hour south of Edinburgh. Famed in Scottish history for it’s association with the Jacobites, it also contains a thriving microbrewery – which begun in the 18th Century, brewing for the estate workers. The 20th Laird of Traquair re-founded the brewery in 1965, and they specialise in Scottish styles – that are all rich, dark, and above all – strong.

What They Say
“Brewed to celebrate the anniversary of the 1745 Jacobite rebellion the ale proved to be so popular it has become a permanent addition to the range. Based on an eighteenth century recipe the ale is spiced with coriander which gives a remarkably fresh aftertaste.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Shovels – Spices linger at the end, needs a bit more body 7
Richard – Not as spicy as I was expecting, it’s a nice old ale7
Grooben – Doesn’t bash you around the head for an 8%er 7




3. St Petersburg
(7.7%abv)
Thornbridge Brewery, Bakewell, Derbyshire.
500ml glass bottle

The first Thornbridge beer to make it onto one of our BeerCasts was their chestnut honey ale Bracia, back in BeerCast #61. A 10% powerhouse of flavour, we’re following that with another of their big hitters – the fantastic Russian Imperial Stout St Petersburg (7.7%). We already know it’s fantastic, as it was awarded one of our much-prized Best New Beer Awards for 2010. Doesn’t mean we can’t put in on a podcast…

What They Say
“Rich and dark with smoke, subtle peatiness and the power of the dark malts. Molasses and liquorice and chocolate goodness all wrapped up in a smooth, warming liquid.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Richard – Black, roasty, creamy, chocolatey, smoky, love it 9
Shovels – Lovely flavours – one of my favourite beers
Grooben – Doesn’t have any bitterness at the back of the palate you get with some strong stouts




4. Abstrakt AB:06
(11.2%abv)
BrewDog, Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire.
375ml glass bottle

BrewDog are without doubt the most talked-about brewery in Scotland, with their charismatic press releases and wacky ideas. Not afraid to experiment, there’s no denying they always elicit strong opinions. What is often overlooked amidst all the hoo-hah is that they have only been going for just over three years. Their ‘concept beer brand’ Abstrakt is already on the 7th version (a whisky aged Scotch Ale), the original, AB:01, made it to our most recent Beer of the Year Show, and AB:04 (a coffee, cacao and chili Imperial Stout) might just be the best beer they’ve ever made. Can AB:06 cut it?

What They Say
“AB06 is a 11.5% Imperial Black IPA which has been triple dry hopped. This beer is savage; boasting more bitterness and more hops than any BrewDog creation to date, combining loads of awesome malts and monumental amounts of our favourite hops.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Shovels – You can definitely tell it’s dry hopped, love those hops
Richard – Very good beer, this could be a great regular
Grooben – Decent, but I expected it to be better 7




Panellists
– (clockwise from top left) Shovels, Grooben, Richard

BeerCast panel verdict
Thornbridge St Petersburg 26/30
BrewDog Abstrakt AB:06 24/30
Sinclair Orkney Skullsplitter 21/30
Traquair House Jacobite Ale 21/30

  • Listen to the episode on Soundcloud here:


Please keep those comments and emails coming in, and check back in a couple of weeks for our next podcast. In the meantime, keep drinking those strong beers wherever you are. In the UK, you can sign this petition against the duty rise. For the BBC article on responsible drinking we discussed during this episode – click here. We’ll be continuing with our strong beer month right the way throughout October. Fight the power!

BeerCast #63 – Mmmm…beer

We’re back after our summer podcast break with a cracking lineup of beers from three very enthusiastic British brewers – all of whom begin with the letter M (hence the dubious title of the podcast). Our 63rd edition focuses on the West Yorkshire town of Huddersfield – home to two very distinctive breweries. We also throw in a beer from Manchester – a mere 30miles across the Pennines. Beginning with Danger: Hops! (5.1%) from the prolific Mallinson’s Brewery, we move on to a new producer – Magic Rock – and sample High Wire (5.5%) and Cannonball (7.4%). In between those hoppy numbers we add the Mancunian interlude, in the shape of Marble’s Chocolate Marble (5.5%). On the panel this week, Richard, MrB, Stuart and Grooben.





1. Danger: Hops!
(5.1%abv)
Mallinson’s Brewery, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.
500ml glass bottle

Opened in May 2008 in a converted garage, Mallinsons are one of the busiest English breweries around, having released literally hundreds of beers (their website’s latest is #233 Io – a Sorachi Ace hopped blonde ale). Production is overseen by the brewster/owner – Tara Mallinson, ably assisted by her partner Elaine Yendall. Being so prolific, they need plenty of names for their beers – Io is the ninth ‘space themed’ – they have also done series on viaducts, wonders of the world, long rivers, and a classic British bus series. Since 2010 they have bottle conditioned four of their best sellers – Stadium Bitter, Station Bitter, Lindley Pale, and Danger: Hops!

What They Say
“A re-brew which is stronger and hoppier. Each cask is dry hopped with Citra. Pale straw coloured beer with a hoppy passion fruit and mango nose, a bitter strong taste and a long bitter citrus finish.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Richard – Smells pineappley, quite sharp citrus on the taste 7
Stu – Danger Hops should slap you around the face a bit more 6
Grooben – Every Citra beer smells the same apart from this one 5
MrB – Not even mildly dangerous, it’s actually quite tasty 5




2. High Wire
(5.5%abv)
Magic Rock Brew Co, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.
330ml glass bottle

Magic Rock Brewing are a brand new Yorkshire brewery, having also begun in Huddersfield, but in mid-2011. Brothers Richard and Jonny Burhouse founded the business, after employing ex-Kelham Island, Acorn and Crown head brewer Stuart Ross to be their head brewer. The Burhouse brothers already run the online beer shop mybrewerytap, and also their family business which wholesales new age gifts – leading to their brewery name Magic Rock. High Wire is their tribute to the pale ales of the West coast of America. But how does it compare?

What They Say
“Let your taste buds walk this test of balance. Mango, lychee and lip-smacking grapefruit flavours harmonise against a smoothly composed malt base, which develops into a crisply bitter finish. Are you ready for our tightrope of taste?” [Official Website]

What We Say
MrB – There aren’t many beers in the UK like this, it’s really good 8
Richard – Not as hoppy as Sierra Nevada, good in it’s own right
Stu – Not enough of a kick in the nuts, but I’m warming to it 7
Grooben – Smells great, I don’t think it’s flavoursome enough




3. Chocolate Marble
(5.5%abv)
Marble Beers, Manchester.
500ml glass bottle

Our dark offering for the podcast doesn’t hail from Hudders, but then Manchester is only 30 or so miles away. The Grade 2 listed Marble Arch public house in the city has had a microbrewery operating since 1997. They have been a fantastic success story, winning numerous awards and going from strength to strength. All their beers are vegan, many are organic, and they are branded with distinctive pantone-eqsue labels that clearly state what they are about. Their session beer is rather brilliantly called Pint. Today however, we’re tasting their porter(ish) beer – Chocolate

What They Say
“Strong, rich and stout-like, full plated malts balance against an assertive bitterness. Organic.” [Label Tasting Notes] “Bittering herb notes blossom in the swallow, with dark roasty malt on the finish still characterised with a sweetish chocolatey slick and some gritty mineral notes.” [Des de Moor]

What We Say
Richard – Chocolatey background, some bitter coffee in there, I think that’s great 8
Grooben – More flavoursome than other beers, I’m liking this
Stu – Great full, rounded flavour, I’d drink a few of these
MrB – Smells particularly malty, it’s like a session stout




4. Cannonball
(7.4%abv)
Magic Rock Brew Co, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.
330ml glass bottle

Magic Rock currently have a small plant situated in an adjacent building to their crystal business, and as they concentrate on American-style bold, hoppy beers, have a large hopback to get the flavours into their products. Cannonball is Magic Rock’s strong IPA – although they also release a 9.2% Imperial IPA called Human Cannonball. They also produce a 4.6% red ale called Rapture, a 6.0% stout called Dark Arts, and Curious, their 3.9% flagship pale ale. In case you hadn’t guessed it, they have a circus theme – and at a recent launch at the North Bar in Leeds the entire pub was converted into an impromptu big top.

What They Say
“Crack the cap and let the flavour explode on your palate. Tropically fruity, resinous hops compete against a sweet malty backbone, while a rasping bitterness builds to a mouth puckering crescendo. Our hop bomb might just blow you away…” [Official Website]

What We Say
Stu – I like it better than their High Wire, this brewery has potential
MrB – Sweet and toffeish, amazing that an English brewer is doing this
Grooben – I just think you need to put more flavour in 7
Richard – These guys only just started, this is very impressive 7




Panellists
– (clockwise from top left) Richard, MrB, Stu, Grooben

BeerCast panel verdict
Marble Chocolate Marble 30½/40
Magic Rock High Wire 29/40
Magic Rock Cannonball 29/40
Mallinsons Danger: Hops! 23/40

 

  • Listen to the episode on Soundcloud here:



Please keep those comments and emails coming in, and check back in a couple of weeks for our next podcast, which should be from our Southern branch of BeerCasters – as they work their way through the beers of Edinburgh micro Knops Beer Company…

BeerCast #62 – Hardknott Showcase

The leap from enthusiastic homebrewer to full-scale production is one that happens with some regularity in the world of beer – but there are other routes available. Making the switch from owning a pub to owning a brewery is rarer, and no less difficult. Dave Bailey, landlord of the Woolpack Inn near Boot in Eskdale is such a brewer. Wanting to increase traffic into the pub, and with some empty outbuildings, back in 2005 he set about producing his own beer to supply his regulars.

Five years later the Hardknott Brewery (named after the Hardknott Pass, behind the inn) were doing so well that Dave reluctantly sold the pub to concentrate on the brewing. Now located on an industrial estate in Millom, the distinctively branded beers are now being seen with more regularity around the country. We haven’t seen any north of the border as yet, but a trip to London gave us the chance to buy four of Dave’s beers for a brewery showcase. On the panel today – Richard, Shovels and Blair, making his second and last BeerCast appearance…




1. Dark Energy (4.9%abv)
Hardknott Brewery, Millom, Cumbria.
500ml glass bottle

What They Say
“Dark, fruity, bitter, spicy. Galena and Willamette hops are added to a grist mix as complicated as an astrophysicist’s equation.”

What We Say
Blair – I like a lot of the tastes, but it maybe lacks body
Richard – High carbonation and sour finish, has a lot of good properties but some unusual ones
Shovels – Dry prune taste, little bit of smoke, sour aftertaste 5




2. Infra Red (6.5%abv)
Hardknott Brewery, Millom, Cumbria.
500ml glass bottle

What They Say
“This IPA is not particularly Pale. In fact it’s a deep ruby red. Based on a modern American style beer from Oregon using Cascade and Centennial hops in appropriate proportions, for bittering, aroma and dry hopping balanced with a strong Crystal malt backbone.”

What We Say
Richard – Really nice, great bitter hop flavour coming through 8
Shovels – Good hop flavour, but better beers out there for this style
Blair – A little bit more floral or citrus would be nice, but I like it 7




3. Queboid (8.0%abv)
Hardknott Brewery, Millom, Cumbria.
500ml glass bottle

What They Say
“A double IPA. Strong and flavoursome.”

What We Say
Blair – Even-keeled beer, Belgian influence on an American style
Shovels – I’d like a bit more hops in this one 7
Richard – Sweet at first, then dry when the hops arrive 7




4. Granite 2009 (10.4%abv)
Hardknott Brewery, Millom, Cumbria.
500ml glass bottle

What They Say
“Created using natural Lake District water extracted from volcanic rock. The heat of our copper drove the malt sugars to twice the concentration producing a burnt toffee flavour.”

What We Say
Blair – I’d call it an imperial smoked porter, but I really like it 9
Richard – Alcohol but no sweetness, it’s really interesting
Shovels – To be honest, I like it because it doesn’t taste like a barley wine 7




Panellists
– (clockwise from top left) Shovels, Blair, Richard

BeerCast panel verdict
Hardknott Granite 2009 (23½/30)
Hardknott Infra Red (22½/30)
Hardknott Queboid (21½/30)
Hardknott Dark Energy (18/30)


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    Stay tuned for our 63rd BeerCast, as we assemble the London chapter for another Brewery Showcase. Our Southern branch will be tackling the beers of the Knops Brewing Company – no strangers to our Edinburgh team – but how will Rob’s beers go down in the other capital? Find out in a few weeks…
    Hardknott Brewery website

    BeerCast #61 – Beer of Yesteryear

    Beer is one of the oldest creations of mankind, stretching back thousands of years to when the properties (if not the exact science) of fermentation were discovered. Whether a happy accident or not, crude recipes were devised to create drinks that made people feel bolder, more relaxed, or just forget about themselves for a few hours (or days). Fast forward to current times and some of these ancient styles are enjoying a renaissance at the hands of creative modern brewers. In our latest BeerCast, we sample four of these Beers of Yesteryear (title inspired by this article written by Mark Dredge on the subject).

    We begin this podcast with Daleside Morocco Ale (5.5%), which dates back to Elizabethan times. We then move back 2,700 years to a tomb in Turkey, where the recipe for Dogfish Head Midas Touch (9.0%) was discovered. The Vikings are up next, as we sample the pine and spruce ale Alba (7.5%), resurrected by Heather Ales – the traditional arm of Alloa’s Williams Brothers. We finish on the mighty Thornbridge Bracia, a 10% old ale loosely based on an indigenous British beer from Celtic times. Buckling up on this Bill and Ted style adventure are Richard, Shovels and BeerCast debutant Blair…



    1. Daleside Morocco Ale
    (5.5%abv)
    Daleside Brewery, Harrogate, North Yorkshire.
    500ml glass bottle

    Back in the mid-19th Century feasts were all the rage amongst British landowners and the wealthy elite. Levens Hall in Cumbria hosted a shindig in May of every year – at which they served a beer that had been brewed and left to mature for 21 years. At the time, Charles II had married Catherine of Breganza – who brought with her as part of her dowry the city state of Tangiers. Things Moorish became popular, so this dark, spicy ale was named Morocco Ale. When originally served at Leven’s Hall guests were required to stand on one leg, drain a large glass and then recite “Luck to Levens whilst t’Kent flows”. With this version, recreated by Harrogate’s Daleside Brewery, our panellists merely have to score it out of ten…

    What They Say
    “This is a very dark, rich and mysterious ale brewed to an ancient recipe dating back to Elizabethan times. Full bodied, malty with spicy overtones this complex beer is only brewed occasionally.” [Official Website]

    What We Say
    Shovels – Slightly spicy, like a milder Old Peculier 7
    Richard – Fruity but missing alcohol oomph
    Blair – Watery and sessionable, I’m looking for more 6


    2. Midas Touch Golden Elixir
    (9.0%abv)
    Dogfish Head, Milton, Delaware.
    355ml glass bottle

    One of the kings of the American Craft Beer movement, Dogfish Head pride themselves on their pioneering spirit. With that (and ignoring the oxymoron) they have turned to the past for inspiration. With the collaboration of molecular archaeologist Dr Patrick McGovern (a world expert on ancient beverages) they established a line of historical beers. One of these is Midas Touch, based on an ancient Turkish recipe developed from the residue found on drinking vessels recovered from the tomb of King Midas. Will it turn to gold in the hands of our panel?

    What They Say
    “Our recipe highlights the known ingredients of barley, white Muscat grapes, honey and saffron. Somewhere between a beer, wine and mead, this smooth, dry ale will please Chardonnay or I.P.A. drinker alike.” [Official Website]

    What We Say
    Blair – To hit as many home runs as them you take a couple misses
    Richard – Tastes like Battenberg cake, sweet and flat 5
    Shovels – Well-balanced but I’d not want a lot of it 4


    3. Heather Ales Alba
    (7.5%abv)
    Williams Brothers, Alloa, Scotland.
    330ml glass bottle

    Our third ancient ale predates the arrival of the mighty hop on British shores. Back in the day, people who wanted to make beer flavoured it with the natural ingredients they could find around them – herbs, spices, plant extracts. The Vikings (who liked to work up a thirst) added spruce and pine to their alcohol, and as these ingredients are endemic to Scotland that type of beer was soon copied here. Shetland spruce ale was said to “stimulate animal instincts”, and if women drank it they would give birth to twins. With the podcasters on board today, anything could happen…

    What They Say
    “Alba is a triple style ale brewed to a traditional Highland recipe from Scots pine and spruce shoots pickled during early spring. A tawny brown strong ale with spruce aroma, it has a rich malt texture, complex wood flavour and lingering finish.” [Official Website]

    What We Say
    Richard – Resinous sappy flavour, I quite like it 7
    Blair – I get a lot of raspberry jam from this 7
    Shovels – Sweet, caramelly, quite interesting, bit too sweet 5


    4. Bracia
    (10.0%abv)
    Thornbridge Brewery, Bakewell, Derbyshire.
    750ml glass bottle

    The first Thornbridge beer to make it onto one of our BeerCasts (although we have featured them on the website before), Bracia is a powerhouse of flavour containing six malts, four hops, roasted barley and Italian Chestnut honey. The original recipe vanished into the mists of time with the ancient Iron Age Celts (reference to Bracia was found in name only, inscribed by Romans at a Derbyshire fort). A honey beer high in alcohol, Thornbridge have recreated it pretty much from scratch, head brewer Stefano Cossi sourcing the honey from the Alps himself (possibly using elephants, we aren’t sure)

    What They Say
    “Aromas are of chestnut, honey, cappuccino, white chocolate, dark fruits, vibrant fresh peel. The mouthfeel is velvety and rich, with notes of coffee, chocolate, liquorice and hazelnuts with warming alcohol, cocoa and a little peat in the finish Bracia can be cellared for up to one year, maybe longer.” [Official Website]

    What We Say
    Blair – Big bodied, the alcohol comes out well, really good 8
    Richard – Every sip gives something different, just lovely 8
    Shovels – Quite medicinal, really complex aftertaste


    Panellists
    – (clockwise from top left) Shovels, Blair, Richard

    BeerCast panel verdict
    Thornbridge Bracia 23½/30
    Daleside Morocco Ale 19½/30
    Heather Ales Alba 19/30
    Dogfish Head Midas Touch Golden Elixir 15½/30

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  • Please keep those comments and emails coming in, and check back in a couple of weeks for our next podcast. We have two brewery showcases lined up – our Northern panel sample four beers produced by the Hardknott microbrewery in Cumbria, and our London crew tackle the beers of Robert Knops…