Tuesday, 24 August 2010

So this is what all the fuss was about

OK I admit it, I got the dates for the Six Spoons Beer festival in Leeds wrong (24th to the 1st not 21st to the 30th of August). The hotel was already booked for a weekend away of trying my Spoons Festival ale from the pump at the actual festival and this had fallen through. So what can me and the wife do for a weekend in Leeds, I thought, a city I have very little familiarity with. Well, I have heard good things about Leeds. It's lively, metropolitan and most importantly has many good pubs. This we found out ourselves with highlights being visits to Mr Foleys, the Scarborough Hotel and the Ossett brewery owned The Hop.

Last weekend I also managed to cash in on a big opportunity. Taking the train straight from work on my way to Leeds I decided to take a short break at Headingly station. From here I could embark on a special mission to hunt and find what I was hoping would be one of the best speciality beer shops in Northern England, owned by fellow beer blogger Zak Avery.

A half hour walk the multimap assured but navigating though street after street laboured with baggage and the humid heat it felt considerably longer. This was hard core beer hunting. One man and his map hunting the beer paradise, the gateway to hopefully many different beers I have been longing to try.

After a good 35 minutes my destination was reached.

Behold; Beer Ritz/Zak's crib

A great little shop that packs in a great range of beer inside such a confined area. Legend of the video beer review Zak wasn't around though, only his minions. But this made no difference as the beer made up for it. A good number of new wave Italian beers were on offer. Various US, German and Belgian brews, some Brew Dog beers you rarely see (including a bottle of Abstrakt 01), collaborative brews and loads of Beers that are blogged about time after time in the blogosphere. Marble, Gadd’s, Thornbridge and more. The main thing restricting me from buying to excess was the fact that I would have to lug everything all the way back to the station, and then to the hotel in Leeds after that. So choices were made carefully.

What beers did I buy? Well two of them were opened on the Sunday, after returning from Leeds whilst intending to take full advantage of great weather.

Stone, Victory, Dogfish Head
Saison du BUFF. 6.8%.

A collaborative brew involving the bad ass Stone and the crazy/extreme/experimental Dogfish Head has to be at least interesting right? A Belgian Saison style brew was what they went for in the end, spiced up with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. The mixture works just fine, and if you like herbal things like me you will love it. It's bold, yet really easy drinking (like a Stone beer) for 6.8%, it’s also crazy (like a Dogfish beer) that at first tastes like a mouth full of herbs, mainly sage. When you get into it you really wish you had another and your mouth is left with a kind of dry herbal taste. My tip, pour in the yeast from the bottom of the bottle, it really enhances it.

Thornbridge Halcyon. 7.7%.
(Green Hopped IPA 2009 Harvest)

Thornbridge Halcyon pours a clouded golden colour in the glass (somebody mentioned the reasoning for it once and I can't remember if it was yeast flocculation problem or a protein-polyphenol haze from excessive hop material) with a nice fluffy head. The aroma is peculiarly on the sweet side with fruity, sherbert like notes and fresh aromatic hop oils. Don't get me wrong, this is the beer has had a lot of rave reviews and every other UK beer blogger seems to have blogged about it at some stage. I have also read this was a double IPA, which to me means ether a beautiful expression of hops or just extremely challenging. This was defiantly the first one.

It's juicy, beautifully drinkable with lovely voluptuous malt sweetness and cascading orangey, green piney hop flavour throughout. Really easy going. The very distinct fresh 'green' hop flavour reminds me of the only other fresh hop beer I have ever tried, Deschutes Hop Trip, which was outstanding. Being hopped by Target and Target hops only it doesn’t have those zesty citrus, dry resinous grapefruit like notes you would expect from this style of beer. It's zesty alright, but not in the same way. So half expecting a challenging beer loaded with brutal hops, I was pleasantly surprised, and realised what all the fuss was about. Beautiful fresh hop flavour, balance, more hop flavour, and nothing less. It rocks, and would be well suited as a celebratory beer, drank outdoors on a sunny day.


ZakAvery said...

Thanks for the kind words, but as I state on my blog, I'm not the owner - I've just run the place for 10 years.

Rob said...

An easily forgettable fact. It's a shame that most of the pubs in the local area looked quite dull. This left me fantasising about opening those lovely beers all the way to Leeds.

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