Summer Wine Brewery in the Treacle?

Thursday night saw yet another fantastic night of craft beer, food and frolics as James and Andy aka Summer Wine Brewers laid themselves bare to friends old and new during what was yet another top-notch meet the brewer event.

This time we didn’t have to travel to Manchester, London or Edinburgh as they were two stops up the main line in Macclesfield hosted by the good folks at The Treacle Tap, one of a few of Macclesfield’s superb forward thinking drinking establishments.

This is the second event I’ve attended by this mini craft bar chain, tonight organised by Robbie and Neil of Treacle Tap fame, the other was at TT’s sister venue The Young Pretender in Congleton which was as it happens a beer and food tasting night featuring Macclesfields own Toby McKenzie and Red Willow Brewery (you can read that here). Both have been absolutely superb and I tip my proverbial hat to both bars, it’s great to see these things at a local level and a testament to both brewers and organisers that each event was well attended.

The evening started well but was perhaps not the wisest move before a MTB if I’m honest, we took a short walk up the road to The Wharf where I immediately spotted “Soulless”, a black IPA from Red Willow. The first beer of the night when you want to keep your palate fresh, a 7.2 abv black as pitch but hoppy as hell itself IPA, hmmm “wise move beer genius…” But, would I change my mind, of course not Red Willow beers rock and this was no exception.

Moving swiftly on as time was of the essence, we dropped down to The Macc Pub where I faced my second impossible dilemma. On the keg board sat “Strewth“, it’s an Aussie hopped IPA from Summer Wine Brewery and it was smiling at me all coy like. Whispering to my inner beer psyche, calling softly “drink me, drink me”.

The voice of reason in my other ear said “but it’s not called STREWTH for nothing, it’ll rip off your taste buds and leave you with a mouth like an aborigines armpit”

“But what if it’s not on at Treacle Tap” I argued, “I want to try it?”

OK, OK I’ll cut to the chase, I tried some (but then you already knew that didn’t you), it was awesome as I suspected it would be, however it scrape all but the most resilient life out of my shrivelled taste buds and left me gagging for more..

We arrived at the Treacle Tap embarrassingly or fashionably two minutes late, not the end of the world I know but we were last and folks were waiting for beers, (don’t blame us, blame Macc’s great beer scene). No sooner as I’d sat down a glass of “Zenith” was thrust into my hand and the festivities commenced, Andy and James took to the stage (well more of a step really) and started to introduce the beery flock to their fine creations.

Now don’t get me wrong Zenith is a nice session-able pale ale and I’d quite happily go straight to it on a Friday night, but after Strewth, it “paled” in comparison. (sorry, that was pun’ishing)

Now I’m not going to go through blow-by-blow (beer-by-beer) detailed descriptions of the whole beer selection but there were a few new surprises for me at least. “Shackled” for one, which was a pale ale single hopped with Citra if memory serves. This was a one off affair (perhaps not the best choice of word) brewed with friends of the brewers for their wedding, the name “ball and chain’ apparently vetoed.. After this an old favourite “Teleporter” the oldest brew in the SWB range, a delicious porter made with a blend of ten different malts.

Never a truer word spoken, chalked, written etc…

Stepping up a gear then with “Gorilla Black IPA“, or (Cascadian Black Ale), now you’re speaking my language. It’s a beast of a beer this one that grabs you with both strong dark hairy arms, pulls you close and gives you a big fat sloppy-hoppy smacker right in the chops.. SHHHWWWWACK! (in layman’s terms, I liked it)

Cohort” what can I say, I’m a fan, ever since my first taste way back in 2011 at the Newcastle #Twissup I was hooked. It’s a Double Black Belgian Rye-PA, don’t ask me to explain it, what it’s made of, why it’s called what it’s called, nothing because I just don’t know nor do I care. They should have just called it Awesome. If I don’t have a bottle of this tucked away in my beer cupboard there is something wrong, call a doctor, take my temperature and rush me to A&E (no that’s not a beer shop).

CHEESE AND MEAT, did I mention the awesome selection on offer? No, then see above…

Finally to assault my taste buds one last time like hordes of pillaging hop Vikings we have “Maelstrom Double IPA“, in the words of SWB “an unashamedly big bold American style badboy”, fine finishing beer, full on hoppy, think Bugs Bunny on acid..

A massive thanks to the guys from Treacle Tap for organising a superb night of beer and food and of course to James and Andy for travelling down after a long shift to share their obvious passion for what they do.

Words of Wisdom

Now you don’t often get many wise words when visiting Beersay, it’s normally me just rambling on about random shizzle, but today I’m going to give you three.

  1. Get to a Summer Wine Meet the Brewer night soon, if you’ve been to one before, go again, if it’s too far and you have no money, hitch hike, just go. The beers are going to be excellent that’s a given, but both guys speak with such passion about beer and if there is anyone pushing more brewing boundaries in the UK I’d be absolutely amazed.
  2. Visit Macclesfield and do the “Macclesfield Triangle”. Don’t bother googling that term for details as they don’t exist, or at least not yet as that’s a post yet to be published. The three points being The MaccThe Wharf and The Treacle Tap. All are within easy walking distance of the train station and less than a mile in total I reckon, great forward beer emporiums all friendly and welcoming. Do it!
  3. When an opportunity presents itself, grab it with both hands, or one hand if it’s glass or bottle-shaped. If I had listened to the voice of reason, I’d have missed tasting Strewth…

Cheers!

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Return of the Kat..

It doesn’t seem five minutes since I pretty much by chance arranged an impromptu mini Twitter session for the original version of Summer Wine Brewery Kopikat. It’s the breweries Imperial Vanilla Coffee Stout, stuffed to the gunnels with the finest Madagascan vanilla pods, Kopi Luwak and various other high quality coffee beans for those if you unfortunate enough not to have tried it.

I remember it very well though. The initial frenzy as people hacked furiously away at bronzed wax, desperate to get in to taste the dark and deliciousness within, (before realising they were actually pretty easy to open). Then the collective calm in the Twittersphere, as across the land beery folk sought superlatives of enough descriptive suitability to express how good this beer was and oh how it was..

Well now it’s back and it means business!

Back then, roughly around nine months ago, brewers James and Andy squirreled away some Kopikat for whisky ageing, one batch went into a Caol Ila barrel the other a Clynelish.
Some lucky folks got to taste the results of this fine work back in May at the mammoth SWB, 20 beer, meet the brewer session in CASK (Pimlico), but tonight it makes it’s debut in the North at Manchesters Port Street Beer House.

Interlude… (music plays)

OK, so I wrote the first part on the train into Manchester, fast forward three hours and multiple crazy beers later, including Brewdog Libertine, Kernel Citra IPA, Odell Dunkel Rye Zen and at least four halves of Hopping Frog Hopping To Heaven IPA.. The spelling and grammar could go way downhill from here on what is likely to be yet another semi inebriated iPhone blogpost.

First up Caol Ila, one of my all time favourite malt whisky’s, rich, indulgent and peaty. The Kopikat follows suit, at the first taste (and a little cold) quite light on the nose, with only the peat creeping through, this lifts a little as the Caol Ila warms to reveal its chocolate & wonderful coffee aroma. The taste is everything you remember about Kopikat (original) but with a humongous hairy Islay Scotsman breaking your nose and kicking shit out of your palate. It’s warm, roasty, mocha-coffee-fullameatygoodnessly yum..

Clynelish, hmmmm…. I’m really disappointed in this beer or should I say disappointed in myself..

Really disappointed because I’d been building up to this moment since the guys announced their plans. I love Caol Ila and knew it was going to be my favourite out of the two, even though everyone said the Clynelish was the better beer I still believed…

I was wrong, so very wrong.

With the Caol Ila, the whisky is upfront, the alpha male, it’s a rabid ginger Tom Kat that takes all the other flavours, sniffs them, then cocks a leg up and pisses over the lot making sure you know he’s been there and he is in charge.

The Clynelish doesn’t, it wants to join the party but not spoil all the fun. It takes the coffee, vanilla and chocolate flavours, gathers them up in big soft fluffy arms for a group hug and softens all the edges out beautifully. The result is just plain delicious, a gentle sipper that gives you a warm feeling inside and snuggles up to you like Bagpuss.

So there you have it, both cracking beers but completely different animals, I’d suggest trying both side by side as I did here to see for yourselves. You can still get them at Port Street fresh on the bar if you are quick as once they are gone they are gone, both are also available bottled direct from the SWB shop. If you have to choose and one only one to try the choice is yours, a night on the tiles with Tom or cuddles by the fire with Bagpuss, my money is on the pink and white stripes.

Thanks to Marc Scarratt for designing these fine labels..

Thanks as always to Port Street Beer House for hosting another great night, to James and Andy from SWB for setting this up and coming along to meet everyone and a big CHEERS to everyone I shared a beer or two with yesterday.

I was drowning in keg… (and loving it)

During my recent trip to London, if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you will no doubt have seen my many messages about the beer I was drinking at the time. Or as one friend kindly put it “Stop filling my bloody timeline up with pictures of bloody beer!” (Edited, “polite” version…)

There was a reason for this albeit a personal one, I wanted to try to keep track of what I’d drunk and where, over a rather hectic pub crawl.

Anyway here’s that list give or take a few that I forgot about or can’t now find.

Quite a decent list but nothing over the top, lots of hops evident of course as is my preference especially on warm spring days. What surprised me when looking back though was the dominance of keg beers amongst my selections. I hadn’t set out to purposely target these beers, each choice was made as a spur of the moment decision based upon what was presented to me on each bar top.

Oddly though my two favourite beers of the three days were from different ends of the spectrum in terms of style, strength and serving method. Shoreditch Sunshine as found at the Southampton Arms was light quaffable session beer, fresh, fruity and extremely hoppy too. I went back for another which is odd for me on a beer pilgrimage, but it was just that good.

At the other end was the Mikkeller and Three Floyds collaboration, “BooGoop” barley wine. A rich and resinous sipper, full flavoured with bags of syrupy citrus fruits, a warming mouthfeel and dry bitter hop finish to boot.

One of those beers that you could just sit swirling around the mouth allowing the taste buds to pick out more and more flavours, if only I had the time..

As you can see though, I liked it, I liked it long time.

Reminiscing over though and back to the question, why was my shopping list dominated largely by beers served via keg lines, was it simply lack of choice? No, too much on offer for that surely??

I think the answer though, does lie in the above question albeit in reverse. The type of beer I chose is the sort of beer that I actively seek out in bottled form, rarities, stronger imports, big fat juicy American IPA’s and the like. Seeing them being served fresh on the bars is just too much of a draw for me, I get that Willie Wonka kid in a sweet shop grin on my chops and am sucked into the pure indulgence of it all.

Conversely, after only a couple of days though, I have to confess to finding myself soon longing for a normal pint, a quaffer, something equally tasty and refreshing to sup and sup again without fear of being pickled in my own alcoholic juices. This I found in a pint of Summer Wine Breweries Rouge Hop at the Euston Tap, the place where all London beer tours should start and end, it was my last taste of London and was beautiful..

So what is the point I’m so long windedly trying to make I hear you groan?

It’s this, I want more keg, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it many times again, not just imported keg but good, solid British keg of all strengths and styles too to sit in harmony with it’s foreign bedfellows. I don’t want it to replace real ale dispensed from the cask, I want it to exist everywhere in harmony, giving punters across the UK a real choice of what they want to drink and how it is served to them at that moment when stood in front of the polished bar top.

I drowned in keg in London because I never see it locally or anywhere else for that matter, unless I travel to other cities specifically to get it.

When I get there I enjoy it immensely, but must miss countless other lovely local beers in the process as I’m panic buying it like stamps, petrol or bread on New Years Eve, knowing that once I leave there’s no more to be had back home…

Summer Wine Brewery – Lime and Coriander Saison

Saison, a beer for all seasons?

I think so and was particularly excited about this recent addition to the Summer Wine Brewery bottled range. Yes I prefer to drink saison in the warmer months, but hey, it was snowing outside, the heating on full-bore, I improvised…. 😉

I’d had my first taste of what the guys at SWB can do with this style at their Meet The Brewer Event at Port Street Beer House last year, on show that night was Nettle and Ginger, one of four planned for their “Summer of Saison“, see the quote from brewer James below:

So you’ve probably guessed we like to explore styles thoroughly before moving on to the next project so this leads us nicely into our SUMMER of SAISON, we are going to brew 4 gyles of saison at 6.0% abv. each with differing dominant flavours, Nettle & Ginger, Lime & Coriander, Lemongrass & Fennel & Orange & Rosemary. As for the hops we are to use, we have lined up some noble goodies in the form of ‘Perle’, ‘Sterling’, ‘Saaz’, ‘Bobek’ & ‘Tettnang’  other varieties used will include ‘East Kent Goldings’ & ‘Liberty’. The selection of hops are designed to compliment & work with the range of ingredients we’re using.

A lot of beer has passed across the taste buds since that cracking evening at PSBH, I’ve not tasted any of the others planned above and I’m not entirely sure if they ever saw the light of day, regardless of that though, if anything the Lime & Coriander pairing was the one that interested me most.

As I poured mine it had a thin fluffy head, I did try to get more but only managed about a finger width which disappeared pretty fast. The beer itself clear and lively with a sunny pale yellow hue, a constant stream of bubbles rising up the glass like a mini jacuzzi.

Aroma is quite reserved, none of the usual “Summer Wine hop craziness” in this fella, instead it’s a subtle biscuity yeast smell with big zesty lime notes and maybe a hint of black pepper. Once you get stuck in it’s a light refreshing mouthful, bitter and sweet ant the same time if that makes any sense at all. There’s plenty of lime which is quite pithy which delivers a nice sharpness, the coriander though is more subtle, it’s there but sits in the background with a herby peppery-ness that suits the lime to a tee. The whole shebang balanced beautifully by a biscuit and caramel malty sweetness, those sweet malts mingling with that lime bitterness lasting long on the palate after each mouthful.

A beer I’ve looked forward to for a long time, since July 2011 to be exact, but one that was worth waiting for as it definitely doesn’t dissapoint, not that I expected any other outcome..

Cheers