Saturday, 13 April 2013

Newcastle Beer Festival 2013, X² wins battle of the beers!

This year Newcastle Beer Festival's Battle of the Beers involved 15 entries from local brewers. Various styles were entered, and each was brewed with two hops and two malts only. Style versus style, hops against wheat, wheat against rye against best bitter against more hops. In the end, there could only be one...

That's right, that's me, Matt and the Mayor... shamone!
(photograph by Bill the Bus)
So, what was that I was saying about simple beers...

So, feeling like the bloke who just won Masterchef serving cheese on toast done to the highest standards it seemed very surreal. Sure I dream about work a lot but never anything like this. Fair enough the X² project was a simple plan that went very well - there was a lot of attention to detail involved. Attention to the basics is undeniably crucial.  

So, after winning the biggest award since Pandazilla got the silver, it was time to celebrate. Although I didn't manage to hunt out as many beers as I initially intended (mainly because I was talking to so many people). I got round a good selection of beers. Obviously my first point of call was the Mordue section, seeing how  X² and its brothers - Panda Frog Bullfrogs At Dawn, IPA and the two month aged 6% Rye IPA were doing. After this I thought it would be good to start on the lower abvs with Arbor Mild West which was pleasantly grainy-chocolate all over. Cullercoats Shuggy Boat Blonde was a very pleasant session blonde/bitter with British hops all over it. With a similar theme but with less dryness Fullers Brit Hop (Fullers Hardknott collaboration) was smooth and mildly peppery. So turning to something totally different and a tad nuts, Anarchy Grin and Bare It wasn't quite as aggressive as it sounded, loaded with both hops and wheat beer yeast there were nuances of all sorts.

Moving on, Edinburgh based Stuart Brewing Ka Pia intended to showcase a new hop that to me reminded me a little of Green Bullet (but less blunt) with citric bitter lime throughout. Tynebank Tropical Haze was a light textured wheat beer, heavily carbonated with lemon and lime and lingering mango notes then Allendale End 39 Amarillo Rye had a nice upfront hoppyness yet the rye element seemed on the subtle side. The 2012 local upstart Out There brewing showcased their excellent wheat beer Laika, smooth vanilla and subtle spice with a sweetish texture. Many people's favourites were on offer from the likes of Roosters and Plum Porter from Titanic.

For me this was probably the most memorable Newcastle Beer Festival ever. Check out the video from Sky here. I was truly honoured not only to support Mordue by winning battle of the beers but to be part of a movement driven by the collective of (largely young) new brewers entertaining the region on a whole. We're a diverse bunch, and the region's brewing scene now has never in history been this exciting. It was great to chat to all the folks from Anarchy, Allendale, Tynebank, Cullercoats and Hexhamshire. To you and the others I salute you all. Because this, this is our time.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Simply put, this is X²

Well, it's that time of year again. Basically X² is Mordue Brewery's entry to this year's Battle of the beers at Newcastle Beer Festival. Last year some may remember my post about single malt beer Killswitch 51. Well this year the rules are slightly different; the beer entered has to be between 4.5% and 5% abv and brewed with two malts and two hops.

Tight rules maybe, but the scope for diversity here could be huge. Think speciality grain, adjuncts, spices, process changes and variable yeast strains that can be employed. Think Belgian spiced blonde, wheat, rye or spelt beer or even a strong mild. However this time I chose the other route, I chose to think simplicity. To me this seems fitting from a brewery known for its straight-forward flavourful beers to come out with a straight forward competition entry.

Simplicity can be quite a powerful thing. I remember Andy McNab once mentioning that the more complicated something is the more likely it is to go wrong. Kind of true. I also love brewing simple beers. Beers that just work the way they are without turning to multiple numbers of ingredients. Don't get me wrong, as much as I love the complex master plan recipes I do admire simplicity.

So no, there's no algebra involved here, X² is basically a 4.7% IPA brewed with two base malts and two of my favourite hop varieties. Am I naive thinking this could possibly win? Well given last year's result, it can be safe to say this is anyone's prize.

Mashing in: Pale malt and lower colour pale malt

Can never get enough of these
Yeah baby!
So simply yes this is X², keep an eye out for it at this years Newcastle Beer Festival next Wednesday.