Viven Imperial IPA – 8% abv – #7POINT5

I first discovered Viven Imperial IPA back in May 2011 when I visited Bruges for the first time, it was in a large spacious lounge style bar call De Republiek. This is what I had to say about it back then:

De Republiek – Described as an American Diner meets Student Union, we had no idea what to expect when we made our way to De Repbliek. On entering it’s a large open plan room with small raised alcoved areas and a wooden floor, a large bar with details of cocktails, food and upcoming events dominate one side. This though was where I made my personal best beer discovery of the week (Westveleren aside), it was the Viven Imperial IPA… It’s a really outstanding beer, pouring a reddish amber colour with punch you in the face fruity American hops.

Now for a beer that I rate so highly you may be thinking that’s a pretty piss poor review and you’d be quite right, however this has to go in my top beers list so I plan to revisit again to revel in it’s full glory…

So here we are almost six months down the line, probably a dozen or more bottles sunk and hopefully in a better place to comment on a truly outstanding imperial IPA.

Well here goes, it’s hazy reddish-orange in the glass with busy bubbling white head which lingers around the glass from the first sip to the last dregs.

The aroma, oh my goodness THE AROMA! Great big nose filling fruity aromas of Tomahawk and Simcoe hops, for a Belgian beer it’s very much in an American IPA style with tropical fruits aplenty. Lychee, mango, grapefruit tangerine all with a light strawberry undertone. This follows through on the taste, a real flavour bomb medley of citrus fruit, with hints of strawberry and lychee completing the 5 a day in a glass. A freshly cut fruit salad mouthful….

This beer is a real hop monster, but it also has a great mouthful of caramel malty balance, all of which hides it’s beefy 8% ABV dangerously well. A beer you just don’t want to end and definitely one of my favourite beer discoveries this year.

Available by mail-order from BeerMerchants or at least that’s where I get mine from, if you stock it and would like to be listed give me a shout.

Please sign the petition in support of #7POINT5 which unfairly targets high strength beers:

#7point5, what’s that all about?

Please sign the Government petition against unfair taxation on beers over 7.5% ABV, click HERE

Buxton Brewery – Axe Edge at Brown and Green

This post is unashamedly aimed at people in Staffordshire and the surrounding areas, but please check it out even if that doesn’t apply. There are still some fantastic beer reviews on show (although I hasten to add, not from myself). I will say from the outset though that I have no connection (financial or otherwise) with either brewery or store. I just think they are both fantastic and hope you will too, if you give them a try.

Brown and Green are folks that in their own words are “passionate about providing you with great local, ethical and artisan food and drink which we have selected personally with care“. I know this to be true as I’ve experienced it first hand. I met the guys at B&G properly for the first time at an event they held with Brad and Viv at the fantastic Lymestone Brewery.

Anyway, as the evening went on and the Lymestone brews flowed, I took the opportunity to tell them about a range of new beers that I’d heard about from the then newly established Buxton Brewery, knowing that they were keen to stock local beers from local brewers.

Anyway to cut a long story short, within a few weeks they had duly arrived at the Trentham store as a new addition to the established beer section and ever since dashing up excitedly to buy and taste them myself, clearly then seeing what all the fuss was about, I became a massive fan.

Now I’ve read loads of posts and video reviews about Buxton beers and Axe Edge in particular, not one bad report at all and quite a few copied as links below for your perusal.

As such I am not going to reinvent the wheel and wax lyrical with a review of my own here. I was compelled though to write this blog post after watching this video review made by Simon at the Real Ale Guide. It just reminded me of how I reacted when I first tasted Axe Edge (and every time I have since).. 😉

All the Buxton range are brilliant in my opinion but Axe Edge sits head and shoulders above the rest it’s phenomenal. They do stock a good range of Buxton beers at Brown and Green but if you are trying one, try Axe Edge.

Don’t just take my word for it though check these reviews..

Dave from Broadford Brewer talks about Axe Edge and the Buxton range – “It was Axe Edge that introduced me to their beer, which is probably a little unusual as I would guess that a standard bitter or pale ale would usually be the first beer you might try as a way of introduction, followed by specialty beers or stronger niche varieties like the Double IPA.  For it’s mighty 6.8% it does not wield any destructive sharp edges, it is smooth and rounded and delivers more of a pleasant bludgeoning.  In short, I love it and its complex flavours and it goes straight onto my list of ‘beers of the year’.” Read more here…

Note: Dave’s blog page has moved since the above review, for new posts see here:

Eating Isn’t Cheating  – “These Buxton beers do something very difficult. They are both complex and hugely drinkable. You can concentrate and enjoy the depth of flavour, or simply sit back, drink them and enjoy. Which is exactly what I’ll be doing with the next bottle of either of these little lovelies.” Read more here…

Leigh at The Good Stuff (talks about the Buxton range) – “This is my first set of Buxton Ales, and they’ve really been a pleasure to drink. As a person, I like the juxtapostition of complex flavours, but carried out well so that each element stands out; Buxton certainly tick that box. Easy drinking, light beers with complex noses are the way to go with Pale Ale, and Axe Edge and Moor Top will probably go on to do great things.” Read more here..

Note: Leigh’s blog page has moved since the above review, for new posts see here:

A Swift One – “This is a 6.8% double IPA. Not for the faint hearted, it is just crammed with hop flavours from the selection used. How can a beer with nelson sauvin, citra and amarillo hops not be full of diverse and interesting fruit flavours, there is everything there, from orange to pineapple to lychees. A real classic beer.” Read more here…

Zak Avery (beer writer and owner of Beerritz) blog on Are You Tasting The Pith, talks about Moor Top – “Of the four beers in the boot, it’s not the never-ordinary, ever-dazzling Thornbridge beer that I’m excited about, nor the soon-to-be-crowned-classic Ilkley Mary Jane, but the Buxton Moor Top. I can’t think of a beer that is more of the moment than this one. Pale, low %abv, but absolutely stuffed full of hop character, it’s at once both no-nonsense and spectacular.” Read more here..

So it’s a big thanks to Brown & Green from me for doing what they do best, stock great local produce from equally great producers. Please pay them a visit, not just for Buxton, the rest of the local beer range is brilliant and it’s a foodies paradise too. BONUS!

If I’ve helped drive you there don’t forget to tell them Phil from Beersay sent you, you never know it may get me a few Brownie (and Greenie) points..  😉

Cheers

IPA Day Thursday 4th Aug 2011

A Celebration of IPA, IPA DAY 4th AUGUST 2011 – #IPADay

This is just an update really from a post created a few weeks back to remind you that it is International IPA day TODAY and there’s still time to get involved.

As far as I can find out there are no events planned in the Stoke On Trent, Staffs or local Cheshire areas, which is a damn shame, especially if you look at some of the other fantastic things organised in places like Mr Foleys Bar in Leeds as an example.

Sadly I can’t get to this as we have an early start on the 5th, when we’re on a mission to hit GBBF, so it looks like a night in with my own IPA collection, but I’m open to ideas…

What will YOU be doing?

……

The following is the extract of the piece from Raise The Bar:

Announcing International #IPADay: A Social Celebration of Craft Beer 
Attention all craft beer evangelists, brewers, bloggers, and suds-savvy citizens! OnThursday, August 4th 2011, you are cordially invited to participate in the largest international craft beer celebration and virtual conversation the world has ever seen.
International #IPADay is a grassroots movement to unite the voices of craft beer enthusiasts, bloggers, and brewers worldwide through social media. On Thursday August 4th, craft beer drinkers across the social sphere and across the globe will raise pints in a collective toast to one of craft beer’s most iconic styles: the India Pale Ale. This celebrated style represents the pinnacle of brewing innovation with its broad spectrum of diverse brands, subcategories, and regional flavor variations – making it the perfect style to galvanize craft beer’s social voice.

#IPADay is not the brainchild of a corporate marketing machine, nor is it meant to serve any particular beer brand. #IPADay is opportunity for breweries, bloggers, businesses and consumers to connect and share their love of craft beer. Getting involved is easy; the only requirements are an appreciation for great beer and the will to spread the word. Anyone can participate by enjoying IPA with friends, making some noise online with the #IPADay hashtag, and showing the world that craft beer is more than a trend!http://ipaday.eventbrite.com/

Tips on How to Take Part:

1.       Organize an #IPADay event at your brewery, brewpub, restaurant, bar, home, or office (Ex:  An IPA dinner/cheese pairing/comparative or educational tasting/cask night/tap takeover…). Share your events on the official #IPADay forum at http://www.ratebeer.com.

2.       On August 4th, share your photos, videos, blog posts, tasting notes, recipes, and thoughts with the world. Be sure to include the #IPADay hashtag in your posts Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WordPress, RateBeer, Foursquare, Gowalla, Yelp, Untappd or any other social media site.

3.       See what other people are saying by searching “#IPADay” on Google,search.twitter.com, et cetera…

4.       Track down your favorite IPA’s, ones you’ve been meaning to try, and ones you’ve never heard of; share them with friends and share your thoughts with the world.

5.       Have a good time and know that by sharing your experiences online, you’re strengthening the craft beer community at large.

We have managed to team up with some of the UK’s top craft beer outlets, The Port Street Beer House, Manchester, The Free Trade Inn, Newcastle, The Rake, London, The Southampton Arms, London, Mr Foleys, Leeds & others TBC…  To run #IPADay events, mini fests, live blogging, tastings & more! Also being the week of The Great British Beer Festival what could tie in better with the UK’s largest beer festival than a day dedicated to the world’s most loved beer style!

You are encouraged to share links, blog & tweet about the event & above all use all types social media to promote International IPA Day on August 4th. The twitter hashtag is #IPADay.

Get involved in this Worldwide collaboration & give IPA it’s very own day!!

Register Yourself on the Event Brite IPADay Page.


International IPA Day

A Celebration of IPA, IPA DAY 4th AUGUST 2011 – #IPADay

If you follow beer blogs or Twitter feeds I suspect you need to read no further as you will have already seen this announcement several times.

I received the attached update from a very excited Summer Wine Brewery, understandably so as they were chosen to be the European Host for the event. I love a good IPA and SWB are brewing some really exciting stuff at the moment, so the accolade I can assure you is well deserved.

Now all I need to do is decide whether to attend an event, organise one or join in the fun from the comfort of my living room, any ideas??

The following is the extract of the piece from Raise The Bar:
Announcing International #IPADay: A Social Celebration of Craft Beer 
Attention all craft beer evangelists, brewers, bloggers, and suds-savvy citizens! OnThursday, August 4th 2011, you are cordially invited to participate in the largest international craft beer celebration and virtual conversation the world has ever seen.
International #IPADay is a grassroots movement to unite the voices of craft beer enthusiasts, bloggers, and brewers worldwide through social media. On Thursday August 4th, craft beer drinkers across the social sphere and across the globe will raise pints in a collective toast to one of craft beer’s most iconic styles: the India Pale Ale. This celebrated style represents the pinnacle of brewing innovation with its broad spectrum of diverse brands, subcategories, and regional flavor variations – making it the perfect style to galvanize craft beer’s social voice.

#IPADay is not the brainchild of a corporate marketing machine, nor is it meant to serve any particular beer brand. #IPADay is opportunity for breweries, bloggers, businesses and consumers to connect and share their love of craft beer. Getting involved is easy; the only requirements are an appreciation for great beer and the will to spread the word. Anyone can participate by enjoying IPA with friends, making some noise online with the #IPADay hashtag, and showing the world that craft beer is more than a trend!http://ipaday.eventbrite.com/

Tips on How to Take Part:

1.       Organize an #IPADay event at your brewery, brewpub, restaurant, bar, home, or office (Ex:  An IPA dinner/cheese pairing/comparative or educational tasting/cask night/tap takeover…). Share your events on the official #IPADay forum at http://www.ratebeer.com.

2.       On August 4th, share your photos, videos, blog posts, tasting notes, recipes, and thoughts with the world. Be sure to include the #IPADay hashtag in your posts Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WordPress, RateBeer, Foursquare, Gowalla, Yelp, Untappd or any other social media site.

3.       See what other people are saying by searching “#IPADay” on Google,search.twitter.com, et cetera…

4.       Track down your favorite IPA’s, ones you’ve been meaning to try, and ones you’ve never heard of; share them with friends and share your thoughts with the world.

5.       Have a good time and know that by sharing your experiences online, you’re strengthening the craft beer community at large.

We have managed to team up with some of the UK’s top craft beer outlets, The Port Street Beer House, Manchester, The Free Trade Inn, Newcastle, The Rake, London, The Southampton Arms, London, Mr Foleys, Leeds & others TBC…  To run #IPADay events, mini fests, live blogging, tastings & more! Also being the week of The Great British Beer Festival what could tie in better with the UK’s largest beer festival than a day dedicated to the world’s most loved beer style!

You are encouraged to share links, blog & tweet about the event & above all use all types social media to promote International IPA Day on August 4th. The twitter hashtag is #IPADay.

Get involved in this Worldwide collaboration & give IPA it’s very own day!!

Register Yourself on the Event Brite IPADay Page.


It’s all because of the Magic (Rock)

Shazzaaamm!!

I was lucky enough on Thursday night of last week, to be able to attend the Magic Rock Brewery launch at North Bar in Leeds. Hordes of happy punters flocked in on a school night to sample the magic at North Bar in terms of the tasty brews available and the circus sideshows that ran throughout the evening.

All the current range of Magic Rock beers were on sale, Curious (3.9% abv ), Rapture (4.6%abv,) Highwire (5.5%abv), Cannonball (Double IPA, 7.4%abv ) and Dark Arts (6%abv), the latter being the only dark beer on show. It’s really hard to pick a favourite as my taste buds kept changing their minds as the night wore on, in truth they were all great and I think I’ll have to settle for a draw between Rapture and Dark Arts. (Although I have ordered a mixed case to re-evaluate..)

I took no real notes to speak of on the night to be able to confidently review each beer but to be honest it was never my intention, the night was about enjoying the experience, meeting some fabulous friends old and new and sharing it with my Mrs.(box ticked,DONE)

If you want to read a bit more detail about the night, the beers and brewery check out the Magic RockLeighGoodStuff and Beerprole blogs, which all capture the event perfectly. From me, I couldn’t let the occasion pass without marking it on my blog so I’d just like to share a few photographs I took on the night which hopefully capture some of that magical atmosphere.

The start of a quiet night..NOT!

The beer wall…

The Master of Ceremonies at work…

Viewing space is at a premium…

As the Anne Summers display team roll into town..

Beer banter in full flow, plenty of Rapture on show here methinks?

MrFrosty trying to make his Dark Arts disappear!

A classic in the making..

A late night nightcap at Mr Foleys on the way home. I blame this one for my later losing my hotel..

Thanks again for a great night guys, CHEERS!

It’s been a Hardknott Dave’s night..

…well not just a Hardknott Dave, it’s more of a “@HardknottDave@HardknottAnn, @HardKnottSooty, @HardknottAlfie and @HardknottSarah‘s days night”, as this brewery seems to be a truly full family embracing business. Check them out on Twitter and Facebook, there’s always one, two or all of them chattering away to beery folk, generally about beery things.

I first fell in love with Hardknott beers after tasting the marvellous Æther Blæc. It’s an Imperial Stout aged in Whisky casks to add some wonderfully complex flavours to the beer. There are two of these, each aged in 27yr and 28yr casks respectively and both bottled in small numbered batches. I had intended to do a bit of a taste off after aquiring a bottle of each, but then my good friend @GhostDrinker had the same thought and completed the task in fine style using his in depth knowledge of both beer and whisky. Check out the results here, they make a great read, but don’t just take our word for it, get some Æther Blæc and try it yourselves, it’s superb.

Those done, I decided I’d opt for a full night on the Hardknott stuff with these four beers, Dark Energy, Infra Red, Queboid and Granite.

Dark Energy – 4.9%

Dark Energy is listed on Ratebeer as a stout, although as far as I can see on the bottle it has no mention of that fact. It looks like a stout, pouring black as pitch with a brown foaming head that thins quickly, but there’s more there too, which is probably where the quoted description comes from, “as complicated as an astrophysicist’s equation”.

Aromas are quite light, wafts of milk chocolate with hints of smoke. The initial mouthfeel is quite thin for a stout but in a very quaffable way that doesn’t disappoint. It has flavours of smokey burnt malt, dark bitter chocolate & coffee, but then more, there’s a sort of IPA fruitiness too with hints of orange & dates. This is a lovely dark beer in true Hardknott style.

Infra Red – 6.5%

I had tried Infra Red once before, but wanted to revisit and review this beer as it was so good the first time around. It’s a rich ruby coloured IPA from Hardknott.

Infra Red is full on from the word go. On opening the bottle you get sumptuous aromas of strawberries, fruit salad chews & sherbet, a veritable kid in a sweetshop variety of smells on the nose. The big flavours follow very much in the same vein, but with a rich malty mouthfeel, there’s a citrussy zest in the background and a long balanced bitter finish. One of my beers of the year, I urge you to try this very soon.

Queboid – 8.0%

Hardknott get all European here with Queboid, it’s their take on a Belgian style Imperial IPA.

Queboid pours a lazy, hazy sunset red. Aromas are typically hoppilly tropical fruity, maybe some orange and even banana. The mouthfeel is resinously rich and full, with deep, strong flavours of orange marmalade and bitter citrus peel. Alcoholic strength is evident but not too in your face masked by the wonderful flavour battle going on in the mouth. A heartwarming slow sipper..

Granite – 10.4% 

As I was considering opening the Granite, I consulted with the First Lady at Hardknott towers @HardknottAnn. I needed guidance on whether to drink it or store it after reading the advice on the label.

“Hide it away in your deepest darkest cellar to avoid the temptation to consume before it’s best.”

“A long maturation on dry hops ensures a big beer that will continue to improve rendering the best before date an irrelevant contradictory semantic.”

Ann kindly duly obliged:

Who am I to argue, let’s get it on….

Granite is luxuriously rich barley wine and I was drinking bottle number 200 out of 504. On pouring the colour is a deep, dark chocolate brown, dense to almost black. The aroma is smoky, mocha, there’s a hint of Stilton cheese too, hitting the nose as soon as you crack off the crown cap. Once in the mouth it’s smooth, thick & sweet, with slightly oily texture. There is a smokey almost burnt toast taste at first, then you get that Christmas cake fruit sweetness, dates, more Stilton and undertones of citrus. A full on festive meal in a glass, with the warming alcohol after dinner glow that normally goes with the occasion.

After tasting this now, I’m definitely going to grab a few more bottles to age as suggested to see what flavours develop. Watch this space in about 4 years for updates…..

In summary I can honestly say that these are all superb beers in their own right, my personal favourite overall was definitely the Infra Red, it has massive flavours without being overly strong therefore allowing me to drink more. 😉

If you’d like to get to know a little more about Dave the brewer and his rise to his current levels of brewing prowess, check out @BeerReviewsAndy‘s website where he has a meet the brewer section. Dave from Hardknott appeared back in January 2010 and although a lot has undoubtedly changed since then, it is still all good reading.

To get a more up to date view, Dave also has his own Hardknott blogspot page where he shares his words of wisdom, the latest brewery news, sparks in depth debate and generally imparts his accumulated beery knowledge to the masses. Another cracking read too, check it out.

So where can I find some? At various good pubs, bars and beer festivals for starters, but also at quality online and local specialist beers shops too. I’ve listed a few below for info:

My Brewery Tap

Ales By Mail

BeerRitz

If you enjoyed reading this post please spread the love, Facebook share it, RT on Twitter or send on by email. I’d love to hear your comments and shared experiences too in the comments section of this page. Cheers Phil

Beautiful Belgians!

For those of you who clicked the title to this post hoping to see something more aesthetically pleasing than beer, sorry but just copy and paste the title into Google and hope for the best. (Don’t bother I tried out of interest as I wrote this and you’re better off here…)   Seriously though, this is actually about three beautiful Belgian beers, two old favourites of mine and a recent discovery.

HOUBLON CHOUFFE Dobbelen IPA Tripel

I first tried this at the fantastic Delirium Cafe in Brussels, they hold the Guinness World Record for the most varieties of beer commercially available. They had when I visited 2004 beers and listed them in a 233-page beer menu. If you haven’t been then put it on your to do list… The name “Houblon Chouffe” apparently is taken from several sources: “Houblon” is French for Hop, “Chouffe” from the brewery Brasserie d’Achouffe, Dobbelen and IPA are in homage to good old English India Pale Ales and American Double IPA, finally Tripel is the owners favourite style of Belgian beer. As the description from their website listed below suggests, the idea was to create a harmonious new style of brew that pulled all of these factors together.

“The HOUBLON CHOUFFE was brewed for the first time in 2006.  It is an ‘Indian Pale ale’ type of beer, with a harmonious balance between a marked bitterness (three types of hops are used to make it) and a pleasant fruitiness.  The HOUBLON CHOUFFE is unfiltered, and re-fermented in the bottle as well as in the keg.   See: http://www.achouffe.be/en/nos-bieres/nos-produits/”

The Beer itself pours with a lively head and is a bright golden colour with a reassuring haze. Pour carefully to avoid the most of the bottle conditioned sediment mixing or not if you prefer, it won’t do you any harm and some prefer the added taste this brings to the beer. There are big old hop tastes and aromas here, with citrusy grapefruit, yeast and that lovely dry hoppy finish.

Moinette Brune 8.5%  

BAMMM! Sweet sticky malt smacks you right in the chops and gently smothers away any resistance. As you can guess I really liked this and as a Brucie bonus it’s a new beer for me which will definitely be a regular. You may be more familiar with seeing one or more of Duponts other offerings, the Saison being the most readily available in supermarkets and such, but for me personally this definitely presses the right buttons.

A light bubbly head at first which quickly disappears to almost nothing at all, with the lovely aroma of hops and malts. Simply gorgeous!

Notes from Dupont: “The “Moinette brune” is a top fermentation beer with refermentation in the bottle.
Since its creation in 1986 this beer becomes more and more famous.
A melange of 4 special malts results into this unusual colour, light darkbrown going into russet. The aromas of hop and special malts are creating the dominating taste in this beer.
The “Moinette brune” combines a slightly bitterness with a fruity touch.
A real refermentation in the bottle, which will continue for many months in your cellar, will transform this product into a quite surprising”

beerhttp://www.brasserie-dupont.com/dupont/en/6966-moinette-brune.html

Caracole Nostradamus – 9.5%

Described as a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, the first thing that grabs you about this and all the beers from Caracole is the label. Bright comical cartoons of what appear to be characetuers  featuring the shell of snails? The theme apparently features the spiral snail shell to signify the name of the brewery itself. The snail is the emblem of Namur and the translation in the local dialect is “Caracole”.

So, enough about the pretty pictures, what about the beer! Well it’s another sweet sticky ale that is perfect for that late night final hurrah, although I’d also say that it would pair very nicely with some strong cheeses, something like a creamy Stilton or vintage Cheddar (now there’s a future project..)

Has a lovely creamy head that lasts to the end of the glass, with malted fruit and chocolate aromas. The taste is sweet and rich like drinking a liquid plum pudding whilst chewing strong liquorice, hints of Christmas spice and hops in the finish. All in all VERY more-ish…

I’ve added a link below to the Caracole website via a Google-Translate search result as most of the site is in Belgian, still worth a look though.

http://www.brasserie-caracole.be/

All the beers listed were sourced from Beers of Europe –  http://www.beersofeurope.co.uk/