BackInMacc visit to RedWillow Brewery

No beer tour worth its salt doesn’t involve a brewery tour and as one of driving forces behind the event, Toby and Caroline agreed to host us again for a repeat of what was an excellent few hours last year.

None of the amazing pulled pork this time though I’m afraid, far too much to do in the brewery at the moment to allow time for a few hours of gentle pork massage.. ūüėČ

ba937758522e76d4353df95ecb07e606_400x400But fear not, your need to soak up the beverages with some scrumptious nosh will be sated in most excellent fashion. We (well they actually), are firing up the barby. On that fiery cremater of all fine meats will be burgers from none other than @frostybutcher, aka Lee Horsley Frost of W H Frost and Sons, Chorlton. To house these delicious hunks of meaty goodness, we also have brioche rolls from Macclesfield’s own wonderful bakers Flour Water Salt, good enough to eat on their own. All topped, provided Toby has time to deconstruct his carrot and cabbage, delicious home made slaw. Deee-lish!!

fws_logoTo wash this down, of course we need some fine and tasty beer, something interesting to intrigue those taste buds and bring out their delightfully flavoursome secrets. In a weird stroke of luck, we have just that..

79f86de366a048bdab23bd882975c5bcFor a special one-off, never to sampled again treat, we have Andy Parker’s “Elusive Brewing”, who bring us their “Aged Pomegranate Lambic”, not to be missed.

Also getting its first ever outing is RedWillow’s own, “Rioja Barrel Aged Rhubarb Sour”, which has been maturing nicely, making it really smooth and fruity.

Don’t worry, there will be something a little less challenging for non-sour lovers too, this is to be decided yet, so fret not, you are catered for.

Basic CMYKIf the rain keeps off, this looks to be another really good session, informal brewery tours will be available for those who want them but generally its more of a welcome, come in wander around and have a beer approach, which was great fun last year.

All we need now is you, so a reminder to please like the Facebook page and if possible show you are coming along. If not for Twitter users you can tweet myself @filrd, @redwillowmacc, @thetreacletap, @thewharfmacc, or @tobymckenzie, or why not all of us at once. If none of that is your thing, like the post or comment below. But most of all, please share with your friends and come along for the day, all are welcome to join, itinerary again below with a little slack for walking etc.

*Saturday 13th September 2014*

Treacle Tap ‚Äď 11am- 12:45

RedWillow Brewery ‚Äď 12:50-14:45

Wharf 15 -17:15

RedWillow Bar 17-30 ‚Äď 20:00

20:01 Feel free to circulate and do it all again..


Bottle night leaves a sour taste…

Beer, it’s a funny old thing, just when you think you know your stuff, up turns something completely different to blow your mind and set you off on another mad journey of discovery..

Thinking back about 18 months when I really seriously got into beer and not just accepting any old slops cheaply named with an “ooh err Mrs” style pump clip. Designed to attract me because it’s name had some extremely loose connection with ladies bits, or perhaps sticking one up a goblin etc etc (see Pumpclip Parade for details), anyway way back then I remember trying my first real sour beer, it was¬†Hanssens Artisanaal Oude Geuze..

If you are not familiar with Lambics, Geuze, (Geueze) whatever, that name will mean nothing, but let me tell you I thought it was foul, absolutely undrinkable and most of it ended up in the sink.

My thoughts were at the time, “if I had some fish and chips, this would make a perfect condiment, that is if it didn’t melt the food before my very eyes..). So when I was invited to a bottle night at The Wharf in Macclesfield last week, theme “sours” and the first picture I saw contained a bottle of Hanssens, you can imagine I approached the evening with a bit of trepidation.

However it’s worth saying that since then my horizons have been broadened and I’ve dabbled in the odd Lambic etc with higher degrees of success after several visits to Belgium, exploring the delights of La Mort Subite and Meoder Lambic to name but a few.

La Mort Subite is where I started actually liking some of these beers, they had a nice range, both plain and fruit flavoured which were not quite as sharp as examples I’d tried before and even the wife liked them which makes life easier all round.

Fast forward a year or so and I’m at Moeder Lambic and trying Tilquin for the first time, far more serious and actually enjoying it, so that’s what I took along as I knew I’d at least like one and that’s where we kicked of the night.

No surprises here as it’s now a firm favourite, light, fresh and refreshing I’m actually getting to like this stuff (what’s wrong with me??).

Then, my arch nemesis,¬†Hanssens Artisanaal Oude Geuze…first sips, I still have a tongue, a little more and wait, a gaping hole has not appeared where my¬†oesophagus should be, this stuff is not so bad after all. It’s stronger flavoured yes, but not harsh it’s rather smooth, I’m shocked!

We then went coincidentally to Mort Subite, strange because I wasn’t picking the order but it sort of followed an almost freaky pattern and this is where it all went a bit weird for me. After the two previous drinks this, an old favourite, my entry-level beer was pretty damned awful and the sentiment echoed around the table. It’s sooo sweet which is probably why it’s far more palatable to the novice, but far more than I ever remembered tasting rather like Appletise, another complete shocker.

Cheese, did I mention we had cheese
If not, we had cheese…

Then things started to get serious, out came the big guns Cantillon..

Now I’d had some Cantillon beers over the last year or so, but on previous occasions not got on too well, so again I was wary here. But fear not, at last I’m starting to see what this is all about and the Fou’ Foune was just divine, sour but not lip pursing, it’s a full flavoured apricot fest in a glass and in my top three beers of the night.

From then the list went like this so as not to labour the point:

  • 3 Fonteinen Oude Gueze – really fresh and refreshing
  • Cantillon Grand Cru Broucsella – a pure three-year old lambic which again was delicious. Not a firm favourite from everyone because of the lack of carbonation but definitely one to seek out and savour.
  • Boon Marriage Parfait – One of my personal favourites this and one that I’d recommend to anyone wanting to try Geuze for the first time, I always try to keep a few of these knocking around and they are reasonably priced too. Better than champagne any day of the week.
  • Gueuze 100% Organic Lambic¬†– Not a stand out favourite in this company but still really very good.
  • Ros√© de Gambrinus¬†– Probably the sour/bitterest of the lot and surprisingly one of my favourites, think juicy but under ripe raspberries, there’s so much fruit in here it’s incredible.
  • Cantillon Lou Pepe Kriek – Wow, the best well and truly until last, intense cherry fruit flavours, an absolute class act, I want more..

As you can see we had a really good range of top quality beers sitting empty on the table as we’d finished, a few that are probably having lambic lovers salivating right now and I am truly shocked at what I discovered about my own tastes and how they have developed over the last couple of years. If you’d asked me in 2010 to try some of these, I may have done so (be rude not too) but I doubt very much if I’d have really enjoyed it and no way could I see myself writing this now.

The simple fact is that I currently find myself craving them more and more, don’t get me wrong I still love a good hoppy session beer, a triple IPA and Impy Stout, but while I’m downing one I’m secretly scouring your beer fridges hoping to find something sour…


Note: Massive thanks to Chris at The Wharf in Macclesfield for the cheese and being a fabulous host

Lindemans Faro

Lambic beers generally are an acquired taste, perhaps the Marmite of the beer world one could say, you either love them or loathe them. In contradiction to that opening statement, I actually sit somewhere in the middle…

Edging towards the love, but with one foot firmly planted in no mans land…

I was recommended to try this slightly different version by a friend on Twitter some time ago, I must apologise at this point as I really can’t remember who it was and the tweet has long since vanished, but I remembered the beer which is the main thing and finally ordered a couple from Beermerchants.

(If you are that mystery Tweeter and are reading this please take one step forward)

The purists out there will no doubt cry foul in one sense of the word or another, as Lindermans when brewing Faro, add Belgian Candy sugar to the old and new Lambic mix to produce something which is openly more accessible to a wider audience. It has tart elements as well as sweet and as such I think is a great introductory beer for the less lip pursingly bold.

It’s a good beer, a little sweet for me to drink often but one I would by again and well worth trying, the wife loves it already so expect that requests for a re-order will be forthcoming..

After seeing my comments earlier this week, friend of mine from across the pond Tom Beddell, contacted me today and sent me this link to his own fine review. Tom is a member of the North American Guild of Beer Writers and such has far more experience than I, so please check out the full review on his blog here:¬†¬†TAP Beer of the Week 26: Lindemans Faro ¬ę Tom Bedell.

Let me know what you think?

GEUZE Mariage Parfait – Boon 8%

Belgian Beer Challenge 43 – Geuze Mariage Parfait – Brouwerij Boon – 8%

I was discussing the merits of Gueze, Gueuze and Lambic beers the other day as being a perfect summer drink, as we are having a very rare sunny weekend, my garden chores were done so I decided to test the theory with Brouwerij Boon’s Mariage Parfait (Perfect Marriage).

Not being a massive fan of this type of beer I was interested to see what the flagship top of the range product for Boon would be like, after all the Boon Oude Kriek was very good, reviews were great too, all the signs were promising..

Sealed in the typical Boon champagne cork style it cracked open with a reassuring fresh pop, releasing a misty mix of aromas of apples, cider even, lemons.

It pours with a quite dense white head which lasted in some form to the last, the beer being a light amber in colour, with an ever so faint haze from the bottle conditioned sediment.

Taste, unsweetened stewed apples, raisins, lemon citrus and maybe a little bitter grapefruit, it’s good, VERY GOOD. There’s an aftertaste I can’t quite put my finger on, it’s tart, malted but very more-ish.

So to the theory, is it a great summer sunshine drink? Definitely, without doubt the nicest beer of this style I have ever had the pleasure of tasting, the sunshine only adds to the experience, a perfect marriage.

Brouwerij Boon tasting notes:

All of the Boon Geuze produced is of the type “Old Beggar”, ie those in the traditional way Gueuze brewed and meets the stringent EC standards apply to the protected name.¬†The system for which the lambic is aged and blended Geuze Boon is still the same as the one by Jean De Vits (1874-1952) and Ren√© De Vits (1909-1993) was put on point.¬†When Frank Boon in 1977 geuzestekerij R.¬†De Vits over, there were still major differences in quality between different bottlings.¬†For the past mistakes to avoid frequent production, significant investments.¬†Iron mixing tanks were replaced with stainless steel tanks, mixing vessels are kept at constant temperature, etc..¬†Cleaning and bottling done automatically.¬†The secondary fermentation in the bottle is at constant temperature (formerly the lower layers in the Caveau bottles in the cold at the floor and the upper layers in summer is often too hot).

The mixture of Geuze Boon made from 100% to Lembeek brewed beer. 90% of the mixture consists of tender Lambic at least two seasons (= about 18 months old), about 5% of beer character of 3 years and 5% of very young Lambic, which provides fermentable sugars and viable yeasts. Pour into a mixing vessel of 25,000 lit mixed, chilled, clarified and then cold stored. The bottles are either in boxes or in baskets of 600 bottles. At bottling, the Lambiek back to fermentation temperature and in a climate chamber for secondary fermentation in the bottle. After fermentation followed by a ripening at low temperature.

Warning, keep your eyes on this, somebody wants some…

Cantillon – Iris 5%

Belgian Challenge – Beer 42

I have to confess to being a little wary about trying this beer, lambic beers are certainly an acquired taste and the last Cantillon beer I had tasted, the Lou Pepe, was perhaps a little too much too early for the uninitiated. It was lip pursingly acidic and at the time tasted more like something I’d put on fish and chips..

Nevertheless I have persevered and am gradually finding them more and more enjoyable. The Iris though is worlds apart from the last one being far more like a traditional hoppy bitter beer than it’s stablemate, don’t get me wrong the lambic vinous taste is still there, but in much more of a balanced way making this far easier to drink.

The Cantillon brewery is closely linked to Brussels, a city which has the iris as its symbol. As the name indicates, the “marsh iris” is a plant growing in humid areas. The historical center of Brussels is built on swamps where this flower used to grow abundantly.

Unlike other beers from Cantillon the Iris is not brewed with wheat but is only made with pale ale malt, giving it is amber colour on the pour accompanied by a fluffy head which disperses quickly.

There is a really fruity full bodied and slightly malted flavour to the beer, the acid is there, but is much less pronounced, finally you get that hop finish which is delicious.

Cantillon Iris is also different because of the “cold hopping” technique used in the latter stages.¬†After two years in the barrel, the Iris undergoes a second fresh hopping two weeks before the bottling. A linen bag, filled with hops, is soaked in the beer for two weeks. This gives the beer a more intense savour and makes the smell and the taste more bitter.

All in all a very different experience and one that has given me more confidence to try more lambic, if you fancy trying one I’d recommend going for something like a Mort Subite Gueuze or Oude Gueuze first, but I’d definitely look out for this as it is excellent.

This beer was sourced from BeerRitz, who have a highly respected speciality beer shop in Leeds as well as a mail order service.

You can follow Cantillon on Facebook here.

De Ranke Kriek – 7%

We opened this last night to mark the occasion of the 40th beer found in the challenge to find and taste as many beers from the 100 or so listed in this book, only a quick update this to note it’s passing.

I personally don’t drink a lot of fruit beers (regularly at least), but I did really enjoy this one and would recommend it to anyone who likes Belgian fruit beers, but can’t quite manage a full on Lambic. It is a little vinegrous but not lip pursingly so, it gives you a lovely sour cherry flavour with bright berry aromas. Bottled and delivered in the same style of their similarly “gift wrapped” XX Bitter which just adds to the experience in my opinion.

Sourced from Beers Of Europe, who’s tasting notes are below:

Tasting Notes: Kriek de Rank is real Belgian sour ale fermented with cherries and then blended with real lambic. It is unfiltered and unpasterized. The de Rank brewery was founded by two good friends; Nino Bacelle & Guido Devose. To them, brewing is a weekend hobby, not an occupation. For a few hours every week they make small batches of what many consider the best specialty beers. Their beers are robust and flavorful. They use the best Hallertau and brewer’s Gold varieties of hops.

Malheur 12 – 12%

I also wanted to mention this beer from Malheur, it’s another beer I’ve been led to whilst searching for beers listed in the “100 Belgian beers”, I was looking for the Malheur Dark Brut Noir which is a champagne beer, but thought I’d give this a go. Good choice it’s a lovely strong dark ale and one that will be revisited and given a full review at a later date. Lovers of these type of ales you really should give this a try, don’t let the 12% abv put you off, it’s very very good..