Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The return of Pandazilla

That's right, we have finally brought it back. It was way back in 2012 when the 7% Pandazilla made its debut as the first-ever release from Mordue's Panda Frog side project. I certainly blogged about it enough at the time and since then we've had plenty of requests to bring it back.

This up-scaled version of the original was to be a highlight brew day of 2015. Notably we didn't get quite enough carafa malt for it and hopping rates are slightly increased but overall it's pretty much the same beer. I'd comment that the big coffee front from the 2012 version isn't as obvious. I will let you make your own mind up about it.

Pandazilla it to be unleashed in cask, keg and bottle form. Long standing Panda Frog artist Oliver Fowler's new take on the original label is also very cool. Hunt it down now.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

A box from Beer 52

Having beer in the house fills one with great comfort. These days beer doesn't stay in the house all that long. As it happens the other week I was kindly sent a box of beer to review from our friends at Beer 52. For those unaware Beer 52 distributed Panda Frog Pandamonium IPA last month, and are soon to distribute Panda Frog Allelic Drift.
Beer 52 are one of a number companies that provide a monthly beer subscription. Customers sign up to receive a regular beer delivery and get the opportunity to try new beers that they wouldn't ordinarily find on supermarket shelves.

Opening the box I half expected to see an Allilic Drift (and now we're sending it back to you) but here's what I got.

Cloudwater Grisette 3.5%

Started things off at the low end of the abv spectrum. Basically it's a saison, which these days could  mean all sorts and it's from Cloudwater, a new(ish) Manchester-based brewery that's come out with some impressive stuff. Grisette pours on the hazy side with gooseberry and lemon aromas. It's a snappy affair of herbal, citric yeasty notes with some sweetish bubblegum countering the bone dry finish. It's a palate cleanser, not really a session beer but more a pre-dinner appetizer.

Vocation brewery Heart and Soul 4.4%.

Basically a session IPA with a lot of in your face citrus and tropical hops about it. A typical Citra hopped session IPA but with more tropical notes. The finish is light and clean with a good dose of resiny bite. Well brewed, good stuff.

Lervig Lucky Jack 4.1%

From Norway of all places. Nice, sappy, grapefruit over a caramelised malt backbone. A nice all round session pale with a good all round weight and balance that you would expect from a higher abv beer. Quality, straight-forward session beer.

Bronher Large Lager 4.7%

In short Spanish craft lager featuring an array of US and European hops. Lots going on, sweet citrus switching to grassy herbal notes. Feels bit heavier than it should almost under attenuated. Not my kinda thing.

Brew Fist/BeerHere Catapillar Pale ale 5.8%.

A rye pale ale with Motueka and Columbus hops. A characterful little number that comes at you with peppery tropical pithy orange and apricot. It's a tad rugged, quite individual and rather good.

Gosnells London Mead 5.5%

I'm no expert here. Last time I tried mead was many years back and I wasn't a fan. First impressions here; sparkling elderflower. Initially very refreshing. It has the drinkability of a soft drink, yet when it warms brings sweet plumb and caramelised honey. Overall rather pleasant and certainly worth a try.

6 degrees North Hop Classic

This one gets my beer of the box. A euro hopped Belgian IPA brewed in Scotland. Tropical and dried fruit, yet it's malt led. Apples & pears with some banana meet grassy herbal hops. Very nicely put together.  

Dark Sister 6.66%

This was a good one. Woody grain and plain chocolate interplay with resonating citruce and mature fruit. Bold and balanced is the overall theme.

Loved my box from beer 52. If you would like a to try out Beer 52 you could get a £10 discount via this code;  BEERQUEST10. Also check out, @Beer52HQ on twitter and

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Northumberland beer fest again

The Northumberland Beer Festival is becoming an annual highlight of mine. Based in Longframlington memorial hall, this year it pulled the same cards as previous years plus more including pies, nuts and fairly well-chosen range of local beers. This time we weren't with the kids either.


Last year the strong mild Endangered Species carried the flag for Mordue Brewery and the Panda Frog Project. This year its mirror opposite, contemporary golden ale Allelic Drift took its place. Bringing mango and pine the 5% pale golden Allelic Drift is hopped with Simco, Citra and Chinook and, from what I hear, it sold out. This year the theme seemed more about the blonde ale/pale ale and to start things off we had Solstice and Summer from the much respected Five Town brewery. Acton Ales Triple pale and Two by Two Monkey Puzzle IPA were both very good.

Fitting; Acton beer on an Acton beer mat.

Also from Acton, American Dark Knight. Sweetish caramel malt front with dark berry fruit and hints of roast grain, very smooth. I also got to finally try the highly rated Allendale Sauvin Saison. A complex 6% apostle of tart gooseberry meets earthy farmhouse yeast. A rustic sophisticated affair. Also from the more abstract side was The Dogs Nuts from Dog and Rabbit brewery. An oak aged smoked bourbon porter that to me was a bit harsh and oaky to really enjoy although some people seemed to like it. So that was it for another year of great beer and great company.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

The annual hop contract again

The opening in the forest was large, with a central island of refuge guarded by two men. Boxes upon boxes of hops towered behind these two crafty types sporting beards and tattoos. No one could remember what brewery they were from it was another new one. Piles of empty casks were stacked like sand bag walls here and there. "What can you see?" whispered the head brewer to the MD with his binoculars nestled in the undergrowth. "Motueka.. At least five boxes. Galaxy, Citra, Ella" he scoped across "Amarillo and Equinox on the right, and on the top. Simco". "Right" said the Head brewer. You distract them by throwing some of these nuts from the mash tun door while I go round the side. "Wait!" Said the MD as he inspected some more. "Land mines, the whole area's covered in them except for one path". "Right boss" he replied "I take the path you draw the other beard out got it? Now GO GO GO!!".

The head brewer broke cover, armed with a mash paddle heading towards the huge central mountain of hops whilst big beard (obviously a head brewer) moved outwards to find where the falling metal nuts were coming from. Suddenly, to the left, another younger bloke breaks cover, obviously the cask washer/assistant charging menacingly with a shive extractor in hand. Theres a 'WOOOSHH' through the air as Head brewer launches a C-spanner directly at him to take the youngster to the ground. Approaching the stack of hops the bearded brewer brandishes his weapon of choice to stop the intruder. The clever bastard had connected his transfer pump to his sparge arm to make a deadly makeshift propeller of death capable of decapitating apponents.

Head brewer bracing gripped his mash paddle as helicopter blades of death approached, spinning menacingly fast. Theres a sudden 'BOOM' as the other bearded brewer steps on a land mine. This distracted the sparge arm wielder allowing head brewer to hurl a 5kg sack of malt from his rucksack straight into the baldes. A cloud of malt dust fills the air startling to disarm the propeller wielding assailant. Head brewer quickly charges to bludgeon his opponent to the floor with his mash paddle. Immediately he's surging for the top of the hop mountain the look of sheer joy, excitement and relief on his face.

"Simco! I've got the fuckin Simco!!" he cries victoriously lifting the box of hops. A crippling blow suddenly comes from behind as an empty cask is launched at his back. Another more well-known head brewer runs over with his brew clan to start taking the boxes. They had obviously been hiding in the undergrowth also, waiting for the right time to strike. "c'mon lads grab as much as we can, quadruple IPA back on the brew schedule next year". As they were leaving they didn't realise one thing. That the MD from the undergrowth had quicky linked up the land mines with trip wires and placed drums of liquid caustic umongst the booby traps. The result was of course carnage.

Could this really be the future of hop contracting in the brewing industry? Which hop merchants would be televising 'The Lupulin Games' first (from a fully controlled arena)? What do you think?

Friday, 1 May 2015

Shot down in flames

Newcastle Beer Festival has always been an annual highlight of mine. The trade session is filled with the personalities that make up the region's beer scene from pub owners to brewers. But for myself and the staff of Mordue this festival would mark the end of the campaign 'Operation Gold Serpent Siege'. The prime objective of this campaign was to brew and represent the company with two of the most important brews of all time. The first; Mordue's 20th Anniversary ale, the second was our entry for the annual 'battle of the beers'. Big catch; the majority of the production's time I would be on paternity leave.

The second objective of the campagn was to win this year's Battle of the Beers, sealing the title for the third successive year on the company's 20th anniversary. Winning this would be more than just the ultimate dream, this would be an honour to the legacy of Mordue. The same brewery that won beer of the festival at Newcastle Beer Festival way back in 1995 was now aiming to win Battle of the Beers for the third successive year. There was a romance to the idea, like it was written in the stars.

 This year the rules were simple; to brew a beer between 3 and 6% with only British ingredients. Most entries seemed to go down the traditional best bitters/pale ale or porter route, our entry was named Best of British, which was shortened to BOB. A 4.1% deep golden best bitter brewed with Admiral, EKG and Jester hops. A symphony of English hops was the intention. Since my trial brew with Jester hops back in October I could see this working brilliantly, But the finished commercial product turned out a little differently. The tropical notes seemed lacking and cedar and pickled lime seemed most dominant early on. The beer became interesting as it developed and Admiral dry-hopping seemed to add more to its 'approachability factor'. A classic robust traditional British bitter jazzed up with Jester hops. Our 4.1% beer had a weight of flavour and complexity above it's abv. For a while their was hope.

 But sadly it wasn't to be. As it turned out this year's judges turned more attention to the porter style entries than anything else. The winner was the 5.7% Quayside Porter, brewed by the brew pub Hop and Cleaver. A smoked porter with clean, neatly orchestrated flavours of smoke, chocolate and coffee. Very well played in my mind. But after a rather quick, suspense-less announcement the dream was broken. Suddenly I could relate with the likes of Andy Murray, William Wallace, Yoda, Bobby Robson and the entire Italia 90 England football squad and anyone who strived so far to suffer failure. A part of me had seen it coming and I can see why BOB could divide the opinion of a judging panel. There's a little too much going on and it's not the most approachable of beers.

I have found British hops differ from new world varieties a bit like the French cinema compares to Hollywood. Hardened advocates love them but the majority turn straight to the attention grabbing, less-challenging Hollywood/new world hops. Our entry would have required a hardened set of best bitter fans on the judging panel to give it a chance and it's no surprise that the winning beer had virtually no English hop presence, or even fruity English yeast presence. Among the noise competitors striving in one direction or the other, Quayside Porter was obviously clean, composed and pleasant.

 Chatting away to the likes of Allendale, Cullercoats, Tyne Bank, Northern Alchemy and Anarchy a huge sense of mutual respect could be felt as we are all honorary servants to the region's beer scene. In the right form, and with the wind in the right direction, any of these respective peers could have won the very open battle of the beers. It's only now I realise just how well we have done to win it twice in a row. 

But 'Operation Gold Serpent Seige' was not just about the battle of the beers. We had to do justice to the anniversary at least. I remember 20th Anniversary Ale being a troublesome brew day. A 4.6% celebration pale ale is how I would call it, but it wasn't an easy verdict to make on what to brew. The Mordue brews of old were straight forward and characterful, and to honour the legacy this approach was taken. Amarillo and Challenger, the two all-time staple hops of Mordue, were used in abundance to bring jammy marmalade and grapefruit over a sappy toasty malt base. If this were released in the 90s it would be a beast, like a Ferrari F40 of its time. I realise the 'echoes of the past' theme might only be felt from only the hardened long term Mordue drinkers of the region but for me that's kind of it's niche.

And of course there was also the birth of our son, Harvey, to throw into the mix, our second and last brew baby.

So the final verdict at the close of this campaign, despite it beginning with the hope of joining the immortals by winning Newcastle beer fest for the third successive year, was that we are indeed not immortal. I am however very proud of the beers and children produced during the venture.