It's that time of year again - beer festival time.
This year saw Newcastle Beer Festival enter its 36th year as faces from the entire region's beer scene gathered together at Northumbria University Students' Union. Everyone from the the brewers to the pub landlords to the bloggers, brewlab students, organisers, CAMRA folk, beer geeks and all those just coming along for the crack, they were all there. To get things going as the sponsors and industry people had just arrived, focus was turned to the conclusions from regional battle of the beers competition. Here brewers were invited to enter a brew between 4-5%, brewed with only a single malt as the only fermentable, no restrictions on hops. Looking at the entries and brewers involved it was looking like it could be tough battle.
Here Mordue's Killswitch 51 would go head-to-head against creations from the likes of Jarrow, Tyne Bank and Allendale in a brutal showdown so epic that it could only be comparable to that battle at the end of the Transformers movie between Optimus Prime, Megatron and all the other ones.
However, in the end the winning beer came as a shock to many. Hadrian and Border's Grainger Ale just went to show that among all those Munich malts and crazy hops it was a simple pale session beer that really did the business. But at the end of the day it was interesting trying the various entries and finally getting to meet and chat to the likes of Tyne Bank Joe and Allendale Neil. It's cool to chat about brewing stuff almost endlessly with those in a similar position as oneself and it seems recently the region is turning out a new generation of interesting and talented brewers.
|What I imagined Allendale Neil to look like, but he didn't. |
("If you take the green hops, lovely Allendale Pale Ale will emerge, but if you take the blue hops... Well that's just weird")
Ed is an old Heriot Watt uni mate of mine. I remember once encouraging him to work with me somewhere in the North East. But when he said he wouldn't for the main reason that its full of northern monkeys it became obvious he would stay in the south east. Never before have I come across his beers from Old Dairy brewery so here's what I made of them.
Old Dairy Spring Top was a soft-natured, mid-golden session bitter with subtle bitter sweet citrus, subtle peppery hops and jammy malt. All in all quite pleasant, and the Blue Top IPA, another easy going affair dominated by caramelised creamy malt over pear and citrus and more citric bitterness in the finish. Arguably unchallenging for the style but I could happily sink a few of these in an evening.
That's a thumbs up from me Ed, and after this it was time to mingle some more and hunt out more beers. A few Mild ales were in order (especially for that time of day) and the Brew Star Sinistar was an intriguing and individual offering of slightly oily, grainy deliciousness. But at the end of the day one of the main highlights for me was seeing my very own creation/baby go to market for the first time.
Everytime I try Pandazilla I get something slightly different. Even though I've tried it at least a thousand times now right from early in the fermentor to from the handpull. I think I've just about got my head round it.
This beer was never designed to be like any other black IPA, and it isn't. It makes only a vague reference to the style. This beer is all about the Prunes, molasses, coffee, liquorice, mature fruit, orange pith and whatever else you derive from it. The complex hopping regime mingles those six varieties into the finish. It comes in waves, one moment its doing one thing, something else the next. It's big yet at the same time integrated in a sort of layer upon layer upon layer upon layer upon layer of subtlety that on a whole doesn't smack you round the face like a Diablo, or a Ruination or Nuclear Penguin. It's almost like picking out the notes from a Michael Angelo Batio guitar solo. Often the first response is 'what the fuck happened there!'. Some are instantly drawn and intrigued into the whole Pandazilla experience, whereas others find it just oddball. Watching the reactions of those trying it is entertaining enough, especially from the brewers.
|Even the bloke from Alnwic'ks new bar 3 Wise Monkeys thought it was propper bo.|
|Mordue's Dave, AKA the wing man|
|The Mordue office crew. To the crew at Daleside brewery reading this, I'm not bragging here but but make note, zoom in and admire.|