Green Shoots

Three contract brewing arrangements today, though in each case the new breweries do get involved to a lesser or greater extent. The first two are new Irish breweries (beers purchased from Drinkstore) and the final beer comes across from England.

All striking but completely different brands, all use green, the colour of new growth.
Mountain Man's beers are currently brewed at Eight Degrees. Green Bullet (4%) is an eponymous brew of that work-horse Antipodean hop as enjoyed in Bowman beers for a number of years and to my knowledge the first Kiwi hop I tried. Unfortunately this beer doesn't showcase it all that well, with a mere dusting of hops poking through the malt laden base. Hazy pale burnished gold with fluffy white head. Bready with dusty peaches. Medium carbonation, dough, dry bitterness becoming astringent. 
The branding is good but more work required on the beer.

Baile Brew Pale Ale is a bit heftier at 5% but still doesn't give the best of showing to its hops. Darker hazy burnished gold with dense white foam head. Dusty yeast esters and sweet malt on nose. Medium carbonation, slight kiss of tropical fruit balanced by biscuit malt and a touch of toffee. Fairly short finish.

And finally Northern Monk New World IPA, 6.2%: a beer I was keen to try as I've enjoyed home-brew from David before and he's one of my longest and most interesting followers/ followees. He's currently contract brewing at Hambleton in lieu of being able to afford his own kit but still has full creative control whilst Hambleton's kit gets used more fully, a win-win situation.David kindly sent me a bottle of his beer to try.
 It pours a pale amber with off-white head and caramalt sweetness, natural yoghurt and sharp lemon. Low carbonation, cheesecake, sweet malt, finishes a little quickly. 
I really wanted to like this but it didn't quite live up to expectations. This one is two months old now; so may not be a true reflection of how it tasted fresh. I've a bottle of David's collaboration (Bad Habit) with Weird Beard to try which sounds more promising and their new Imperial stout is one I'm definitely keen to try.

So not a terrible start for any of these three, but I look forward to trying more of their wares once they've had a chance to bed in a bit


Cidre World

One of my most anticipated drinks books of the year has just arrived on my doormat; so I thought I'd write a few words on my thoughts on Pete Brown and Bill Bradshaw's new book: World's Best Cider.[post title a nod to Pete's favourite cider ;)]

From Amazon
So aside from the grandeur on the dust jacket ("most successful beer writer" and "greatest cider expert" both sounding perhaps a little far fetched, but I'll let it pass as marketing exuberance) does this book pass muster? Its great to see cider put into layman's terms (it is after all the layman's drink) with some of the myths debunked and a handy guide to what to drink and apple based alcohol drink variants around the world. Yes, this beer also covers those drinks distilled from cider such as apple brandy and eau de vie. It may be pedantic, but if you're going to include Northern Ireland within the island of Ireland (makes sense in the context of the book) then the rest of the UK should be labelled "Great Britain". Politics aside (and real vs "fake" cider is also covered) its great to see the new Northern Ireland producers featured, albeit in very brief form with similar thoughts as my own.**

For me its the coverage of North American cider culture where this book excels, an area I previously knew very little about, but thanks to almost 60 pages in this book I feel like I'm well on the way to also becoming a cider expert...ahem. A short but well curated bibliography of websites and books should help those eager to find out more.

I've long admired Bill Bradshaw's photography and they look great in glossy format in this coffee table tome, including some previously unseen pics, and I'd go so far as to say these are worth the cover price (£25 but as usual cheaper on Amazon) alone. Its certainly the most attractive cider book  I've seen to date and one I'll continue to flick through long after I've absorbed the information. It certainly leaves you thirsty!

There's also a cider with food section, alternative dining options to wine being all the rage these days and there are some great suggestions I'm looking forward to trying out. Chocolate and cider brandy truffles anyone?

So pedantry aside, this is a fantastic book for the cider lover in your life, it looks great, packed full of information and out right in time for the Christmas rush. It officially launches next thursday (I paid for my copy on Amazon, no freebies this time!) so keep an eye on Pete's blog for launch events near you.

*I'm from Somerset and drink a fair amount of cider as per stereotype.
**Sadly no acknowledgement for your humble reporter but I'm sure plenty of people helped out who weren't named either!

World's Best Cider By Pete Brown & Bill Bradshaw RRP £25 Jacqui Small LLP (London) ISBN: 978-1-906417-99-4



Another new brewery in Ireland is Kinnegar, based in County Donegal, Ireland, was built commencing March this year. First beers began appearing in August, a great turnaround of less than 6 months. You can see the progress updates on their blog below.
They have a striking brand of a leaping hare on single coloured background which certainly helps them to stand out on ever increasingly full shelves. They currently have a core range of four beers with a few specials, all available in bottle and I managed to pick up three of them from Drinkstore in Dublin.

Strong branding in primary colours

Limeburner is a "Northern Pale Ale" @4.9% pouring slightly hazy pale gold  with dusty grainstore and slight nectarines on the nose. Gentle carbonation, sweet malt, minimal hops. Not unpleasant nor exciting and would appeal to lager drinkers.

Devil's Backbone is a "Northern Amber Ale"- 4.9%. Ruby amber with caramel sweetness and red berries. Gentle carbonation. Well balanced fruity bitter. Not quite as expected but well flavoured with a selection of malts making it a bit different to your typical Irish red.

Scraggy Bay IPA is 5.3% & hazy burnished gold with steady stream of fine bubbles with tight white head. Sweet mango and dusty grainstore on the nose. Medium carbonation, full bodied dry shortcake malt, touch of lemon. Dry herbal finish. Well made but unexciting.

A promising start, bolstered by their great branding, but perhaps made a little too conservatively for them to be regular beers for me, though Scraggy Bay would go down well chilled on a summer's day. I'm hoping to get hold of a bottle of their fourth core beer, Rustbucket Rye, a Rye PA. I'd like to see some darker beers too; though not necessarily a stout because we're awash with them already! But feel free to disagree with me by trying them for  yourself!


Autumn Beer Extravaganza (Wetherspoon Autumn Beer Festival 2013)

Its that time of year again, autumn is upon us which can only mean one thing...Wetherspoon are back with another selection of cask ales for their real ale festival. This time around we have an extra special treat, all ten of the collaboration (collabeeration!) beers (that's 20% fact fans!) were brewed by American brewers with UK breweries. Brewers from 7 states took part producing beers in 8 different styles. Plenty for the tickers amongst you! Remember they're all one offs too; so make sure you get along to try them out. Here's a preview of those beers and others that I'm most looking forward to.

Shaun O'Sullivan from 21st amendment in San Francisco California travelled to Wychwood to brew American Bitter Red a sessionable Amber Ale with "agressive" hopping. 
The brewery is of course named for the repeal of prohibition, without which this brewery and all of the others below would have been unable to exist. @21stAmendmentBrewery

Next up is Restoration Pale Ale brewed by Mark Wilson of Abita Brewing Co with Wetherspoon collaboration stalwarts Wadworth. Normally based in Louisiana Mark rocked up in Devizes and used a large amount of cascade to get plenty of citrus character into this beer. @TheAbitaBeer
Ballast Point are a well known US craft brewer from San Diego California; so  "session IPA" Even Keel brewed at Marstons should be something special (and is a recreation of a 3.8% regular beer in cask form). Again using new world hops; so expect plenty of citrus character but there's also some noble hops in there to provide plenty of bitterness too. @BPBrewing
There's an unusual sounding brew from Will Meyers of Massachusetts' Cambridge Brewing Co - Beatles inspired Sgt Pepper is a saison with rye malt and four types of peppercorn. I think its great that Wetherspoon make this kind of creative ale available to the UK drinking public at large and well done to Everards for collaborating on this!

Another fantastic sounding beer is Seattle's Elysian's Avatar, a jasmine IPA brewed by brewer Dick Cantwell with Thwaites on their "Crafty Dan" kit on 17th September.

via Thwaites
Featuring the fairly recent Glacier hop alongside superstar Amarillo and bittering stalwart Northern Brewer. At 6.3% its fairly hefty too and should work well as a warmer for the journey home.

 Sunshine Daydream is a 5% brew named for a Grateful Dead documentary released in 1972. It was brewed by Matt Cole owner of Ohio's Fat Head's brewery at Batemans on 9th September (welcomed by an Ohio state flag!) with centennial, citra and simcoe triple-teaming on the hop-front to produce a citrus bomb IPA.

Harpoon IPA was brewed by brewer Jamie Schier at Bank's. Its been brewed in their Boston brewery for 20 years; so great to get a UK cask version brewed over here.

Another uncommon beer style for the UK and the first outing at a Wetherspoon fest is Cream Ale. This one has been brewed by Oregon's Ninkasi at Caledonian in Edinburgh. Cream ale is a light fruity ale using simcoe and liberty for fruity apricot and mango notes, then lagered (cold conditioned) a hybrid style akin to kolsch.

Mitch from Stone has documented his trip to the UK here. He brewed Supremely Self Conscious alongside Fergus at Adnams. I'm a big fan of Stone beers and Adnams is a well respected brewer plus I love Black IPAs; so this is surely my most anticipated beer at the fest this year.

And last but not least is Spike Buckowski of Georgia brewery Terrapin's collaboration with Shepherd Neame - Treehugger. Its another rarely seen beer for the UK a German style Altbier with authentic Hallertau region hops.

I'm also looking forward to Roosters All Star Brewster's Aromatic Porter and even the GK Abbot's Confession. but there should be something for everyone with 50 beers to choose from! I think you'll agree with me that Wetherspoon have outdone themselves with the selection this year, I'm not sure how they'll raise the bar again in 2014!

All the tasting notes for these beers may be read in the festival program, along with interesting background stories for each of the brewers. All of the beers have already been added to ratebeer, so I've linked them in to the above. Remember that you can get three thirds for the price of the pint during the festival, making it easier to try the full range (don't try 50 in one day!)

Northern Ireland CAMRA and Beoir are coming together to celebrate the festival in the Bridge House Belfast on Saturday 19th October, all are welcome. Its a chance for you to meet fellow beer enthusiasts, a brewer or two and hopefully try all ten US cask beers at the same time.

Thanks are due to Gary Holmes and the marketing team at JDWcreative for sending me through a PDF with all of the pumpclip artwork, cheers guys.