Tuesday, 24 April 2012

3 Wise Monkeys

I can tell Justin Pringle is a guy who's taken a look at all the competition around him then decided to do something completely different. This is admirable. He's a beer geek entrepreneur, and maverick completely fascinated by flavour and that's not just in beer.

3 Wise Monkeys is a fairly maverick operation to say the least. 50% of it speaks of a very individual character with an eye for a certain style, the other 50% says 'Alnwick beer scene, welcome to everything you're missing from the 21st century'. The inside comes across quickly as dark, shady and atmospheric. A mixture of various old ornate armchairs and stools provide seating. The walls set the tone in a kind of deep crimson making the place look slightly smaller, more intimate. Combined with the decor and low-level lighting I got a slightly sinister feel to the place. You could easily imagine Jack Nicholson's portrayal of the Joker sat enjoying a few beers in the corner armchair. Yet at the same time it still doesn't fail to deliver a modern slightly European vibe (think more Italian craft beer bars) than anything close to a straight-forward pub.

Another thing you notice about the place is its more or less a work in progress. Most of the work  had just been done and all the draught beer is served by gravity from the large back bar area with the handpull situation not quite in place. Yet overall it has its own unique personality, worlds apart from anything else in this little old town of Alnwick.

Last Friday night was Cider tasting night with many offerings from the Thistly Cross Cider company on offer to sample. But behind the bar there's more than just cider in bottled form. Various bourbons, whiskys, liquors, mixers and artisan spirits, and not to mention bottled beers.

The cask beers available included three offerings, Blonde Star and Sinistar from Brew Star and the freshly tapped Mordue Panda Frog Pandazilla, the very first cask ever to enter Alnwick soil. Starting things off Brew Star Blonde Star was a beer worth checking out. Very clean textured, subtle citrus, quite elegant and quaffable.

Moving on I managed to get a try of some Tyne Bank Piccolo Black in bottled form for the first time. This literally black well-carbonated number offers roasty, grainy coffee and chocolate interluding into tropical citric hop notes over a fairly light-bodied frame. I can imagine this appealing to both fans of stouts and pale ales as a sort of hybrid style. Though despite all of Tyne Bank's more adventurous numbers, my favourite, Monument Bitter was still conditioning and due to replace the Blonde Star when it had finished.

Next up, a real curve ball of a beer. No, not Pandazilla. Tempest Unforgiven Ale (Oak Smoked Rye Juniper) is another 'upstairs downstairs mixup', like liquid smokey sausage straight from the fish and chip shop is what I got from the aroma. It's got sour notes, big smokey, peaty, grainy notes with rye spice, resiny hops and a juniper hit in the finish. I'm thinking, could this be a good beer for smoked blue Wensleydale? Now that would be a good experiment.

By the time I was ready to hit the Pandazilla, Justin had a certain trick up his sleeve he was ready to show me. This was a cocktail he had invented involving Pandazilla, stag cherry bourbon, illy coffee liquor and ice.

cocktail (left), Pandazilla (right)
As far as cocktails go I found it top notch and pretty interesting. Normally I only like cocktails that are either whisky or rum based, but this was both whisky and beer (my beer) which makes me even more biased. But really, it did rule. Try it alongside Pandazilla itself and it's a taste bud overload.

So for the rest of the night the discussion was mostly beer related, we handed out a few free Pandazilla samples and I even got to check out the home brew kit upstairs. I can tell any collaborative brew with this guy would yield fairly mental results. Macerated in 'X', matured with 'Y' then possibly even blended with something else. All in all it was a great night.

Some of the more reserved bottled offerings
In a nutshell 3 Wise Monkeys is about dark walls, ambient music pleasant company, knowledgeable staff and a great drinks selection. I for one will be there again without a doubt, and the Mrs seemed to enjoy herself as well - now that's even more reason to go back.


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