52 Week Beerday present

Parcels come and go at regular intervals in our household at this time of year, what with beer orders, a touch of wine and lots of online Christmas shopping deliveries. Yesterday was no different, with a large box which was instantly recognisable as being from My Brewery Tap arriving mid morning.

I glanced at the address and saw it was addressed to the wife and so instantly put it down again thinking it was something for me that I shouldn’t really be gawping at.

So there it sat, all alone in the cold porch all day until Rach arrived home from work and announced,”it’s for you ya plonker (in typical semi cockney tones), it’s your 52 week beer club case”.

“WHOOPEE”!! Said I, in probably far too a high pitched screech than would be passible under current health and safety regulations…

To explain, Rach ordered/enrolled me into the UK 52 week beer club for my birthday last year, hence her name being on the parcel when it arrives. What I like about it so much, (apart from the contents of course), is that I never quite know when it is going to turn up and as such it always comes as an extremely welcome surprise. As a receiver of presents lover it’s an absolute dream, as you get to celebrate your birthday four times a year, even old Queenie can’t manage that! 😉

The 52 week club is a great idea, basically you get one bottle of hand crafted ale per week from breweries spread right across the UK. It’s then sent to you in a case of 13 for each season or once a quarter, this means that you get to try lots of beers that under normal circumstance you might never come across.

The beers are normally seasonally biased, so for example this quarters case has a real dark winter ales sort of focus, although it’s not ALL stouts, strong ales and porters. So what’s in the Winter selection?

  • Ilkley Brewery – Stout Mary
  • York Brewery – Yorkshire Terrier
  • Oakham Ales – Hawse Buckler
  • Inveralmond Brewery – Santas Swallie
  • Wensleydale Brewery – Black Dub
  • Fyne Ales – Vital Spark
  • Derby Brewery – Business as Usual
  • Hawkshead Brewery – Brodies Prime
  • Woodenhand Brewery – Cornish Buccaneer
  • Buxton Brewery – SPA
  • Marble Beers – Manchester Bitter
  •  Black Isle Brewery – Scotch Ale
  • McMullen – Hertford Castle.

For me it’s a mix of old favourites, some from the wants list but have not tried yet and I’ve never heard of, but that’s the exciting part as it’s all a bit of a mystery.

Of course there’s always the odd one that you don’t like so much, but that’s no different to a pub night out on the guest ales or at a beer festival, all part of the experience.

It’s been a great Beerday present that’s just kept on giving and giving, as you can probably tell, I’ve loved it.

Thanks My Brewery Tap and the wife of course..

Cheers 🙂

P.S You can join the UK 52 Week Beer Club here

A blog about a blog about a blog… Featuring Thornbridge Hall Coalition Old Ale 7%

This is a beer review with a twist as it’s not actually me reviewing the beer, having more to do with the outside influences that really enhanced my enjoyment and the fantastic way that social media can be used at it’s very best.

The beer in question was Coalition Old Ale. Brewed in 2009, Coalition is the result of a collaboration between two of my favourite breweries, Thornbridge and Dark Star.

I saw a review of this beer back at around the time of launch and thought, “I have to try that”! I seem to remember it being this post on The Thornbridge Blog which tells the tale of how the beer came about, although I recall there also being a lot of excited chatter going on at the time on various blogs, Twitter, Facebook etc. Anyway to cut a long story short, a purchase was made and on arrival I put the beer away waiting for the right moment to drink it to arrive.

Flicking through Twitter last night, I noticed a note from @LeighGoodStuff announcing a new post on his blog The Good Stuff.

I had a moment of clarity thinking, “I’ve got a bottle of that in the fridge”, replied as such and before I could read all the responding tweets telling me as such it was open.

I took my beer outside to sit in the cool evening air and so sitting down at the garden table, glass in hand, I started to read Leighs fine blogpost (read it here).

As I was doing so @baron_orm chirps up on twitter that I should also check out his blog post too (there is a connection to Leighs), also to listen to the inclusive audio review on his own blog The Ormskirk Baron.

So now I find myself not only enjoying one of the finest beers I’ve had for some time, I’m also reading the extensive tasting notes and listening to the live beer rating chat from three established beer critics, this including @BGRTRob from Hopzine.

It was I can honestly say a really enlightening experience, akin to having an actual live tasting event in my own back yard. As each aroma and flavour was described I’d take another taste or sniff and think to myself “oh yeah, I can really get that”. Marvellous!

Now some folk may say that they would prefer to try and glean that information for themselves so as not to be influenced by the opinions of others, that could be true, that said for me, at that moment it really enhanced the experience.

As a consequence of the initial twitter conversations and my own continuing tweets on how things were progressing, we were joined in twitter conversations by several others including
@Darkstarbrewco @tuff86 @baron_orm @abarth50010 @leighgoodstuff @mybrewerytap @thornbridge
and @GhostDrinker amongst others. Essentially we now have brewers, retailers and customers all busily chatting away about how much of this wonderful beer was made, what is it like, is it still available (it is) and where from. All this of course, being visible the many hundreds if not thousands of followers not actually actively involved in conversation, a marketeers dream.

From a personal perspective, I’d just like to say a big THANKS to everyone above for a cracking evening of beer enjoyment!

If you want to try Thornbridge/Darkstar Coalition, I know of at least two online retailers: www.beerritz.co.uk and www.mybrewerytap.com, there may be more out there on tinterweb, specialist beer shops and I suspect at the Thornbridge brewery shop, so I’d definitely advise grabbing one now before it’s too late.

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

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


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