Saturday, 9 April 2016

Code Red 40. The 40th Newcastle Beer Festival

'Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another'
Albert Einstein

Did it again. Mordue Code Red 40 takes the prize

Newcastle Beer Festival trade session day is always a highlight of the year. In a sense like Christmas day but without the presents. A time to catch up with everybody that's anybody from the local beer scene and try various beers from the always impressive beer range. This year it was 40th ever festival and their was a special announcement from Hugh Price on the history of the festival. The venue may have changed, the faces have changed but the spirit remains the same was the jist of it. Many North East brewers and beers were in attendance. From old timers like Hexhamshire and Big Lamp to Northern Alchemy at the cutting edge of new world craft. After Hugh's talk was the announcement of the Battle of the Beers winners and that unforgettable almost agonising 10-15 second period between announcing runner-up and winner.

Code Red 40 is a name modified originally from the Napalm Death Album/song 'The Code is Red, long live the code' was our Battle of the Beers entry and winner. It is brewed with four hop varieties in fitting with this years rules of the competition  (4 hop varieties, between 3-6% abv and named after the number 40 or year 1976). Chinook, Apollo, Citra and Mosaic were the hops used and the malt profile was made rich and heavy with a deep red colour from the use of six different malts and oats compacted to a modest 4.6%.

Yet the story behind the beer goes back much further than just the last 3 or so weeks its been in production. Code Red 40 is the end point of a 12 month conquest for redemption which manifested into the campagne code named 'Operation Crimson Pheonix Thunder'.

In November 2014 a huge (speculative) brew plan was drawn up covering spring 2015. It intention was to guide the ideal conditions for SIBA and battle of the beers victories (concerning new yeast propagation etc). Taking the triple on Mordue's 20th year, the ultimate prize 'Get me in there, get me in that zone' it whispers in my head. Sadly the paternity leave says no. I never really gave the deserved accolade to Matt for running the bulk of 'Operation Gold Serpent Seige' with integrity, precision and discipline, yet like anything, playing well doesn't guarantee anything.

Another time another place a new competition with new rules. The last 3 weeks I revelled 'being back in the zone'. 2016 and brewing forces from the region were amassing in greater numbers than before for the opportunity for recognition in the fifth installment of 'Battle of the Beers' saga. It was time to be bold, this time I wouldn't be taking no prisoners.

Code Red 40 I have often compared to the the antagonist dinosaur from the film Jurassic World the Indominus Rex. It's build upon the DNA of various other beers in the Mordue park. Part Killswitch part Apollo 40 part Maximo No 5, a hint of Pandademic and others, but with (as they say in the film) 'more teeth'. Fortified juicy malt under forest fruit and citrus hop assault this beer was built to ruthlessly decimate the opposition laying waste to entrant after entrant. From the carnage only Big Lamp and Credence brewing were able to hold ground but would eventually fall (into joint second place respectably). I knew a beer with pedigree would at least score well but was apprehensive about our entrant drinking more like a plus 5% beer and thus compromising its drinkability factor.

The defiant roar of Code Red 40

So all ends well at this year's Newcastle beer festival. I got to catch up with various folk and try quite a few beers. Next year I obviously wont be returning to Battle of the Beers with a vengeance, so might just tone things down a bit. A malty hoppy ale, with a malty hoppy finish, classic tasting notes.

Check ma bad invincible award winning self!!!

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Spring Time

Spring time. The time of rebirth. I have in the past slated Spring. With its bank holidays disrupting things like workflow and isolating our friends the yeast from our near semi constant care. You can't just make days disappear without changing the game plan.

But anyway, bank holidays can also be pleasant. Time with the family, friends or homies.  I'm fairly sure I've covered the subject of spring at least a couple of times on the quest but what I've really come to learn from it is this; At Mordue Spring is where all the action happens.

First up you've got SIBA Beer X (where Killswitch 51 won big last year). Gateshead Beer Festival (still to get round to visiting that) and Newcastle Beer Festival with its 'battle of the beers'. The first Panda Frog Project beer of the year often comes out in spring so you've got seasonals/specials left ,right and centre but the local trade seems to pick up so it kind of balances itself out.

It's the time of year with the most opportunity to take awards with SIBA events and Newcastle Beer Festival fairly close to each other. So when it's all over the long brew days and often endless national orders of summer come in, you might well be able to drink beer in the evening outside again but at Mordue things certainly don't go at the same pace as spring. Face it, summer's a great season but it does tend to go on a bit.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Five years

Five years ago this month I was first introduced to the Mordue crew and brewing kit. At the time I was working as a brewer/assistant for Daleside brewery, Harrogate and was to part from their band of mostly Yorkshire folk. I first got the call on a Thursday afternoon between the hop store and mash tun from Matt (now my brother priest of the yeast) and I was ecstatic.For a long time I had been after a job in the local scene. No more renting in two different places. Although I new the job involved more responsibility little did I know I was about to embark on what has been a seemingly epic journey.

Since 2011 I have promised never to take any of this for granted. To contribute to the beer world through Mordue and Panda Frog I am ultimately gifted with two sets of children. At work, some of them I invented, others are adopted, some adopted and modified, they are the products of fermentations. At home I have my own cute little brew babies Susie and Harvey not to mention the most awesome loving caring journalist wife. Being surrounded by the humble yet beautiful surroundings of Alnwick is also an honour.

Where ultimately I have achieved feats beyond anything I imagined, it hasn't always been like that film Vanilla Sky. It wasn't always victory after victory.

Major campaigns/big tender orders have come and gone like chapters of brewing, each one like an elongated chess match relying on organisation as much as graft. Staff have come, and gone. My perspective has changed. The kit has changed. The beer world has changed. Although I realised what past Daleside brew master Craig Witty was getting at way back then with many things.

Ultimately being surrounded by a work crew wearing Panda Frog t-shirts is something I will never tire of being chuffed with. I see my work written about on blogs, social media and sometimes printed on award certificates. However small, large or relevant, my time at Mordue has granted me the chance to leave my own imprint on the world.

I can't really speculate much on what's to come but prefer to be optimistic. I can't see myself getting tired of this but perhaps envision a few care nurses at the home getting tired of that crazy old guy going off about Pandazilla, Battle of the beers, Operation Black Beaver Storm and when we won at GBBF. Because even at the worst of times I never did stop believing.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Discovering a new beer style; Grodziskie

Grodziskie is a traditional Polish style wheat beer known to feature oak-smoked wheat. The style is highly carbonated, not overly cloudy and brewed with sulphate-heavy water and moderate hop bitterness. Combined with a low abv (3.1% in this case) this style is dry and flinty.

This take on it, Piwoz Grodziska from Polish micro brewery Browar w Grodzisku pours with no more yeast than your standard bottled conditioned beer. The aroma is faintly smokey, peaty, seaweed. The taste is dry and spritzy. There's a subtle clean, but fresh, noble hop pilsner esque feel about it that doesn't distract from a soft smokeyness. Note, no banana or crazy phenolics and light on the palate (tho I certainly doesn't come across watery for 3.1%).

Obviously this is a fairly rare traditional European beer style and it would be interesting to see if this ever caught on with the UK craft beer scene one day.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

And like that the year was over

That's right, it's certainly gone quickly. 2015 has been an interesting year, for me I would say 2015 has been a year of change. That point where you think you had the game sussed, everything under control but then the game changes. Like looking after two kids instead of one for example.

me and bairn number two

While there's been sucess there's also been set backs but without a doubt the arrival of Harvey has been the highlight of the year. SIBA awards from IPA and Killswitch 51 also perked things up and on the whole it's been a good  year. Having a second kid has kicked ass more than it's been hard work, yet 2015 on the whole has been hard work. Nearly as hard work as 2012.

Mordue IPA SIBA awards

Not a great number of beers have been discovered this year hence the lack of material on the quest. There's been some intense periods of brewing (again affecting blogging duties) especially during the summer. Of course the wider beer world is changing too. More successful independent brewers being bought out by the dark side. Or is it really the grey or teal blue side depending who's opinion it is. The big get bigger, cover more territory to compete with the small brewers getting more numerous and diverse.

Locally more breweries are opening up, too many for me to keep up with. Will probably get to try the wares of many of them at next year's Newcastle beer fest, by that time another new wave of upstarts will be on the way.

One thing that has often surprised me is how much the North East beer scene has thrived in recent years. Despite the expanse of competition the respective brewers of our region are up scaling, thriving beyond the region's borders and winning awards. I am still enormously proud to be part of this region's beer scene and represent one of the oldest most respected breweries of the area.

So at the end of this very balanced year, I may not feel we totally smashed it like 2013 but I do feel the prospects ahead ain't half bad. Happy new year everyone.