Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The eleventh Geordie beer of Christmas

Camerons Brewery Festive Frolics

Now then, an important point to make with this entry is that it's not all about virtuoso craft kids in sheds lobbing kilos of hops, orange peel, fruit or whatever else into the mix. As you may have guessed, the Hartlepool-based Camerons brewery is huge (the 11th biggest in the UK) with its own pub estate.

Like many of other Camerons' beers 4.6% Festive Frolics is unapologetically old school, bready characterful and laced with dark fruit and prickly English hops. It's simple, well composed and not so heavy you couldn't easily knock back three or four pints of it in a sitting. All in all, this is a quality pint.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

The tenth Geordie beer of Christmas

The Bridge Tavern Micro Brewery Saint Agnes Black

Aside form all breweries great and small, comes the brewpub. Newcastle's Quayside based brewpub The Bridge Tavern to be more precise. It houses a two hectolitre posh looking kit run by Newcastle's own brewing mercenary Joe Roberts, formerly of of Allendale, Tyne Bank and Anarchy.

Joe has the ultimate freedom as a brewer churning out one-off specials on a weekly basis. Saint Agnes Black is a 4.5% fruit-infused festive black ale. It drinks like a slightly weighty, creamy, smooth stout with some interesting blackberry like dark fruits building in the finish. Certainly worth a try.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

The ninth Geordie beer of Christmas

Northern Alchemy Dark Chocolate and Mint Milk Stout

I've always loved the diversity of the brewing scene. From the grand enterprises efficiently churning out vast volumes of national brands to... Well... These guys.

Northern Alchemy at present is one of the region's newest breweries. A tiny brew kit operating within a 30-foot converted shipping container run by brothers-in-law Carl Kennedy and Andy Aitchison (former Anarchy and Hadrian & Border). Together they produce beers of a creative nature, of often abstract hybrid styles that raise intrigue and curiosity all unfined, unfiltered, unpasteurised in keg and bottle form. I seem to remember Coffee and Orange Oatmeal pale generating an unforgettable  WTF moment at first sip. A complete mind bender. Raspberry and Mint Dark Saison was sensual, harmonious and professionally done.

Moving on we have a Christmas beer like no other (but from what I hear this isn't exclusively a Christmas special). Dark Chocolate and Mint Milk stout is the closest beer will ever get to After Eights. Velvety and light then dominant dark chocolate. Try it alongside an After Eight mint  only the slight bready, yeasty finish separates the two. This is a very refined stout from one of the regions most creative and technically proficient brewers.

Friday, 19 December 2014

The eighth Geordie beer of Christmas

Tyne Bank Heavenly Porter

Tyne Bank were one of the main players of the 2011/2012 new wave of North East brewers. Along with likes of Anarchy, Out There and Co they some what rejuvenated the local scene. Not that anything was wrong with the scene before this era, with the exception that many Geordies would ponder; 'where's our Bristol Beer Factory, The Kernel, Summer Wine etc?' as if they were somehow missing out. The likes of Tyne Bank and Anarchy filled that gap, and along with them came others, hence the End Range, hence Panda Frog Project, Durham Diablous and Wylam Jakehead, beer launch after beer launch and the rest they say is history.

So although not strictly pioneers, Tyne Bank Brewery are pioneers of an era. The array of beers they produce is ever-changing including various, speciality ingredient-infused stouts and pale ales. They have grafted awards from SIBA and Great Taste and have done collaboration brews with Hand Drawn Monkey and Brew Dog. Heavenly Porter is a 5.4% porter matured with Heaven Hill bourbon before being aged for six months in a Heaven Hill bourbon barrel. It's packaged in smart looking 750ml bottles that open with a pop. This bottle was courtesy of Brewery owner Julia Austin and for this I am most grateful.

Now I've had my bad experiences with oak aged beers before and will have to point out that this beer is in no way overly harsh or woody. Initial impressions are of apples and pears, an almost cider-like note overlaid with rugged, wood-coated, caramelised, mature, fruit-contrasting sweet vanilla. It's a bold, smooth woody ride that finishes with subtle crème caramel and more oaky vanilla. As far as oak aged beers go this has class and character in equal balance with approachability at its abv. I recommend this with a medium-bodied cigar and a leather swivel chair, if you've got one.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The seventh Geordie beer of Christmas

Mordue Brewery Panda Frog Project Ce n'est pas une bière de noel

OK this might be breaking the rules a little having two Mordue beers. But this is a Panda Frog beer, which is technically a Mordue beer so call it shameless self promotion. The name Ce n'est pas une bière de noel, or 'This is not a Christmas beer' in French originates back from the various attempts to name the beer. The  office/higher powers that be wanted to label the beer as a Christmas seasonal and I was trying to explain that the beer wasn't originally conceptualised as a Christmas beer.

It's been nearly three years since Mordue Brewery launched its experimental arm named after my very own home brew kit. In 2012 our first beer, Pandazilla was launched at Newcastle Beer Festival, a less than conventional black IPA. Since then my four annual brews have tended to keep things varied and a little less than predictable. Not really following what anyone else is brewing, or what anyone else wants me to brew. This year Panda Frog was proud to win the public voted beer of the festival at Durham Beer Festival. We are also chuffed with our new crazy branding courtesy of Oliver Fowler.

Ce n'est pas une bière de Noel is an all-malt 7% deep reddish-hued Belgian strong ale. No spices are involved and the beer is hopped with Bobek and Belma hops and blended with blackberry, strawberry, raspberry and blackcurrant juice post fermentation. Despite this the intial taste is all sweet, boozy, cherry rasin and caramel. There's some spice, banana and a brisk strawberry-like bitterness with some phenolics. There's an echo of Scotch Heavy going on but it's more obviously Belgian style. I am rather chuffed with it and have a marginal preference for the bottled/kegged filtered version with its more refined character.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

The sixth Geordie beer of Christmas

Anarchy Brewery Christmas Chaos

So finally I got hold of another Christmas seasonal. Late November/early December is a period where seasonal beers are bought in but no one's putting them on the bar. Some crafty thinking got me to Anarchy Brew Co itself to sample this and get a bonus bottle of something else quite special and un-released from Michael himself, the head brewer-Yorkshire man.

I remember posting a couple of times on Anarchy. The ground breaking release of Sublime Chaos was one post. In general Anarchy ether come out with aggressive, flavour-forward beers, or ones with real class. Hybrid beer styles, hopped up IPAs and speciality ingredients is the motto and owners Simon and Dawn Miles have done well expanding the Morpeth-based site and picking up SIBA awards.

Christmas Chaos is a 4.3% rum and raisin infused porter-like beer. Jet black in colour, opening with rum-like booziness before inky, roast grain and fruity raisin take over. It's fairly light-bodied and like many Anarchy beers it delivers clean-cut, concise flavours. This one certainly does what it says on the tin.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

The fifth Geordie beer of Christmas

Wylam Brewery Sheer Chai

Wylam Brewery has always been a class act to follow on the Geordie scene. I will always remember my first Silver Ghost at Newcastle Beer Festival, a moment of sheer clarity. Like Allendale, Wylam came about during the early noughties period. This was back when I started drinking real ale, shit I mean craft beer. But back then everyone called it real ale, and Wylam were one of the earliest local go-to pints.

Nowadays Wylam have moved on a bit. From their no-brainer, single-hop series to more sophisticated offerings such as Hexan Black Wit (with its recent SIBA North award) and the uncompromising Jakehead IPA. This beer I only discovered recently.

Sheer Chai is a 3.6% concoction derived from pale and wheat malts combining with Himalayan and Indian green teas. What hops were used, I would have no idea, as the peculiar feature of the beer is in its mind-bending complexity for such a low abv. Its flavour profile is said to include cardamom, pistachio, cinnamon, liquorice root. I certainly get a lot of liquorice root and cardamom in the finish. It's very light and cleansing, think fresh spearmint like palate cleansing. Sessionable and odd yet still a class beer.

Monday, 1 December 2014

The fourth Geordie beer of Christmas

Cullercoat's Watch House Winter Warmer
Cullercoat's Brewery, like others, emerged among the 2011/2012 'new wave' of Geordie breweries. A very simple yet efficient looking kit run by the former solicitor Bill Scantlebury. Bill is a splendid chap, with a liking for the RNLI. In fact his brewery is a source of charity for the RNLI and his beer names all on that theme. He has developed a small, quaint set of distinctively labelled ales that (unique to the region) are only brewed using British hops and malts.

Here Bramling Cross is the UK hop of choice known for its woody, berry fruit flavours in this 5.5% premium dark ale. Some of my old local favourites such as Silver Ghost (Wylam) and Matfen Magic (High House Farm) use Bramling cross. Here it's evident in a spicy blackberry like finish after a weighty caramel and burnt toffee malt front. The bottle conditioning gives a gentle carbonation almost is if it were from the hand pull. A winter warmer through and through.


Thursday, 27 November 2014

The third Geordie beer of Christmas

Three Kings Brewery With Respect

Now, Three Kings is a fairly new outfit to the local scene. Hailing from North Shields and run by the characterful, enthusiastic Ewan McCann who runs the two-and-a-half barrel plant known for its bottles wrapped in brown paper bags. A unique presentation feature.

I have not tried many Three Kings Beers and this was one was my first. It's a characterful, off-centre kind of beer and if you were to try it blind-folded you might think it's one of those crazy Belgian ales you find at bottle shops that have very vague labels. There's an imperial pale ale/Belgian ale thing going on. It's 7.4% and there's a fair dose of esters and alcohols combining with a decent dose of carbonation to give that untamed feel. A strong malt front with orange marmalade, bready banana, black pepper and an underpinning stab of blunt citrus bitterness sort of sums it up. If you find a more aged version it is a bit more refined with the signature cluster hop bitterness smoothed out a bit. All in all this is worth seeking out.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

The second geordie beer of Christmas

Allendale brewery End 77 Double IPA 

My second Geordie beer of Christmas comes from none other than the friendly folks at Allendale, or 'homies from the west side' as I sometimes call them. I have blogged about Allendale before here and will note that this beer is part of Allendale's END range. An exclusive range of limited run specials brain child of head brewer Neil Thomas, a quiet down to earth sort of character who keeps a low profile. Successor to company owner Tom Hick, Neil has produced some of the finest beers to come out of the region and has brought Allendale multiple awards with his generally concise, creative yet straight forward style of brewing.

Double IPA is a prime example of Allendale's brewing prowess. All orange blossom and pine to the nose. The palate is bold and balanced. Pithy citrus, mango and smooth pine over a medium bodied malt backbone. There's enough weight to it to balance out the hops with a hint of booze to remind you of the 7.4%. Overall, unlike many other Double IPA's this beer is about balance, approachability and the harmonious use of hops. It's big and hoppy without being just a mouthful of noisy resiny bitterness. All in all this is a great beer.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The first geordie beer of Christmas

Mordue Brewery Howay in a Manger

You could call this a repeat entry. But because this was on last year's 'Beers of Christmas' doesn't mean this can't open this year's 'Geordie beers of Christmas'. As you have probably guessed I have changed the concept slightly this year. Only beers local to the North East will be featured, not all of them seasonal.

Obviously this makes things a bit harder beer-hunting wise and, obviously, I have doubts on being able to pull out my dream line-up of beers. Certain restrictions, such as the more limited spare time I have these days and trying to get in the right place at the right time, come into play. But the twelve Geordie beers of Christmas is about the diversity of the local scene. It's the scene I (in a sense) grew up on, the scene I know the best, I'm most passionate about and the scene from which Rob's Beer Quest has evolved.

Here at Mordue we have often been given the label of 'stalwarts' of the local scene. An early pioneer of the 'real ale revolution', the Wallsend-based Mordue Brewery grafted through the ages, its name becoming synomous with Geordie-themed pump clips and the two Fawson brothers taking the champion beer of Britain award.

Nearly twenty years on and the focus hasn't changed but things have moved on, staff, equipment, a more diverse product range and an in-house bottling machine add to the fun. Alongside numerous awards at local and national levels and a continued drive to be one the best in North East, and remain in the spotlight.

Nonetheless the first Geordie beer of Christmas is a seasonal that's been a round a good number of years. Howay in a Manger is a 4.3% amber-hued ale featuring Amarillo and Styrian golding hops. A simple beer with a habit of outselling its predicted demand (which often leads to a short period of panic before an emergency batch is dealt with at short notice).

Pleasant sweet almond, caramelised malt and subtle, lingering citric notes bring a nice drinkability to it. As I said last year, Howay buy a bottle! Buy a case! Howay try it down the pub as well!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Kent holiday. Craft beer calling and all that.

Kent, a splendid place
As you may have guessed, I've been on holiday. To Kent of all places. Home of British hops, picturesque villages, lots of southerners like Mark Dredge (originally) and the in-laws. Kent also has some cool towns like Whistable (with its Oysters and hidden beer shop) and Canterbury. Canterbury is a bit like York with wider streets and has an awesome brew pub called The Foundry, home of Canterbury Brewery.

Pure English hop nectar. Brewed with wet East Kent Goldings hops.

In many ways Kent is a bit like Northumberland with its endless countryside but a bit more tame and sophisticated. Staying in a converted Oast house was a welcome novelty feature. Lots of time at the coast and with family. Although at one point I found myself doing battle with a hornet in the living room using a rolled up magazine.  My Gadd's Green hop as the sun sets more than out weighed this negative. Another highlight was this beer.

Itzamna Chocolate and Vanilla Porter at 9.6% was nothing short of outstanding on keg at The Foundry. A big oily voluptuous bear hug of chocolate, fruits and alcohol made it the stand out beer of the holiday. Nonetheless, all things come to an end and the bad news was the end of the holiday would overlap with the first two days of Newcastle's first ever Craft Beer Calling. A festival featuring countless keg and cask local and worldwide beers alongside street food. I for one was happy to hear that Panda Frog Dartfrog-48 Dunkel Rye Weizen sold out in three hours and was one of the first to go. Even Melissa Cole tried it.

Cask and keg lines at Craft Beer Calling 2014
 I was surprised to see a full row beer lines available. Unlike your regular beer fest the lines seemed ever changing and didn't just run out leaving a turned pump clip. This is great but I got the impression that the day 1 and Saturday night people probably got the best deal with so much turn over and lines running out and being replaced. I missed a lot of good ones but the combination we got was no let down. Allendale's Export Stout was a must with its depth and roast malt bite. Along with this, Tyne Bank Heavenly Porter, Northern Alchemy lemon and vanilla porter and a couple of good ones from Bad Seed brewery were to name a few.

Left to right: Allendale Neil, Northern Alchemy Andy, Tyne Bank Julia, N. Alchemy Karl, Mordue Matt, Me. 

It was around 2pm when a few of us brewing types got hauled upstairs for a meet the brewer's like discussion on beer and the market. This interview was conducted by Matt from Wylam, and the discussion was manly about the meaning of craft beer and the shape of the market and where it's going. Although I didn't say much it was great to hear the input from the others on how they see things.

So all in all it was a great festival, and great to hang out with brewing folk which gives you the opportunity to talk almost exclusively about beer for great lengths of time. From what I hear Craft Beer Calling is due to make a return next year. Next time I would hope to experience more of it.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

The wall of yeast thing

During my beer quest I've always seen myself as being open-minded. I have never been adverse to any specific beer style or approach to brewing. I try to appreciate every beer for what it is although admittedly have some preferences. Outside of this you have the sparkler debate. The advantages of kegged, canned and unfined beer but the thing I have never got my head round in recent times is this...

Now I have nothing against wheat beer, that's where lots of yeast is a good thing. But it seems in this modern age many 'craft' beer fans have a perception that if their pale ale/IPA has the appearance of carbonated pond water the beer is somehow in the crème de la crème of freshness and condition. What I'm wondering is how they did it? Surely from a cylindroconical vessel you couldn't get beer this cloudy unless you say... used a very non-flocculent yeast strain or added some kind of starch adjunct to the copper. Maybe a lot of yeast was added later in the process?

On top of this I have found these beers to taste a bit muddy, like the beer beneath would actually be very good but the flavours are all muddied up and all your left with is a wall of resiny hops clung to suspended yeast (which is apparently supposed to be what it's all about). Don't get me wrong, I'm not someone against the theory that unfined beer is supposedly better. Back when I was in Rome practically every beer looked like it was straight from the secondary tank and had slight haze on it. Nobody seemed to care and they were mostly all really good beers. But there's a difference between 'the slight cast' beer and the opaque sample shown above (obtained from the bottom of a fermenter for demonstration purposes). Pouring the sediment in from a bottled conditioned beer or serving from a CT = slight haze. But carbonated pond water... Just no.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Beer and Food by Mark Dredge

Not often I get hold of a book that has been written by an author I have already met. After reading enough of Dredgie's blog you sense this book sure has his stamp on it. From page to page it reads like Dredgie's work and it's almost difficult to imagine the sheer length of research the bloke has compiled here. I imagine many, many nights in the kitchen, with multiple half-empty bottles and cans scattered on surfaces. Then again everyone knows Mark's a veteran beer and food experimentalist.

OK but the first obvious question is; what separates this from all the beer/beer and food books? It covers the obvious mandatory territories such as beer styles and brewing. Food affinities for beer styles are covered. Beer affinities for various worldwide dishes are covered. Recipes including beer, also covered.

It's quirky, and Mark's writing style strays away from pretentiousness (given the inclusion of fast food and bar snacks) with a 'not taking this too seriously but keeping it real' sort of approach.
All in all for a general beer and food pairing guide I have found this the easiest to use, go to user friendly partner. So when the wife's cooking up something well known you can easily flip it open to find what beer would ideally pair with it.

So all in all I would rate this highly. Big up the Dredge.

FABPOW! (bitchin)

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Mary and Archie

For those who don't know, Mary and Archie is a craft beer bar based in Didsbury, a slightly up-market part of Manchester. It isn't all that often I get to visit quality beer outlets outside Newcastle or even Alnwick so this had to be worth a post. Right? From memory the last beer hunting adventure after a day's cricket landed me at the The Rake.

To start, I would note that myself, my old man and uncle were among the few only non-hipsters in the vicinity. The interior and ambiance is quirky, laid back and individual. It reminded me of a half-way point between the now closed 3 Wise Monkeys and some of the crazy craft beer bars of Rome. The food available was top notch and good value.

More importantly the beer range on the whole is very good. Enough to keep you interested for a day but not the ocean of choice approach some bars employ. Dark Star was leading the pack on the hand pulls whilst Camden and Brew Dog highlighted keg options. The bottle/can range was equally as contemporary but with a nice balance of classics such as Augustiner Helles and, Duvel and Rochefort 10. Tripel Karmeliet seemed a tad cold for my liking yet still a great brew. I've concluded that most Beavertown beer is very aggressively hopped, and that Brew Dog Mashtag 2014 tastes a bit like a really strong 5AM Saint with other bits like blood orange in the mix.

Overall I would recommend Mary and Archie to any beer fan passing the West Didsbury area. A quality boozer unique to anything I've encountered in the Toon.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

30th Birthday Week

As is often found in blogging, many weeks or even months can go by without anything interesting to blog about. Then somehow multiple events can come along at once without sufficient time gaps between them to rapid fire out the blog posts. Last week was one memorable week. Thirty years old and partying harder than I did at 21. Here's the highlights.

Wednsday night Apollo 40 presentation

This was a good night, where I was presented with Newcastle Beer Festival's battle of the beers award At Pleased to Meet You. All of the local CAMRA crew were there including Mordue's lead dray man Dr Dray. Apollo 40 was good on keg (although a different beer to the cask version) and the last cask of Endangered Species (now extinct... At least for now) was getting a pounding.

Thursday. My birthday and I brew what I want to.

Dartfrog transfer to fermenter

Dusting myself down for a 6am start it was back to the brew house to brew the next Panda Frog. More specifically the next Dartfrog-48 Dunkel Rye Weizen. The name really explains it all except for the inclusion of New Zealand hops. This has the makings of one crazy brew and the brew day was intensive. Got some kick ass presents from workmates also.

Thursday night. Birthday night.

Killswitch cake. A surprise from the wife.

I turned thirty. A beer dinner at home cooed by my lovely wife Helen was highlighted by a rather nice cherry wheat beer by Huyghe brewery (makers of Delirium Tremens) with Nutella Cheesecake. Got loads of cool presents including whisky, slippers and the new book from Mark Dredge. Other than that not much happened.
Friday night. Panda Frog Pandamonium re-launch night at The Free Trade Inn

Back into town again. This time to the long-standing, well-respected Free Trade Inn for the re-launch of Pandamonium IPA and its new crazy branding (soon to embrace future Panda Frog beers).

Big resinous citrucy Pandamonium was being served in bottled, keg and cask form alongside more Apollo 40 and Workie Ticket.

Saturday night - Meal at Pleased to Meet You followed by beer and cheese

Camden Wit with mussels was the highlight

So it was back to Pleased to Meet You again, this time with Helen. Some quality scran was enjoyed with a wide variety of beers. Camden beers are neatly put together and branded with a sort of clean-cut style that doesn't overly scream for your attention. Camden Wit is no different, and is simply sublime with mussels served in a cabbage and pancetta sauce. After this it was onwards to the cheeseboard...

It's not often I have a beer and cheese night but this one was one of the more memorable ones. Camden 2013 Beer Tripel with Wooky Hole Cheddar and Panda Frog Pandamonium with Northumberland Elsdon were pairings worth a mention. But the pairing of the night (and possibly the decade) was the traditional Biere de Garde St. Sylvestre 3 Monts with Vignotte. An all-French harmonious combination that's excelled by an up-front carbonation that just lifts away the creaminess of the cheese.

None the less it was a great night. Finished by a beasty looking cigar and some Yamazaki 12. It's not so bad being thirty. One thing you notice is that your older than more people now. I was getting really used to being in my twenties, it sure was fun. None the less, a great birthday week.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Northumberland Beer Festival

Here's an event we had to go back to. Northumberland Beer Festival is based in Longframlington Memorial Hall and run by the Coquetdale Round Table. Last year the festival opened its doors for the first time as a small affair driven by community spirit. This year it seemed the aim was to raise the game and double the beer range.

But wait, this wasn't just a bigger beer range, this was a fine selection of the region's beers with various new beers on offer. Starting things off I had Allendale Fermata, a 3.1% citra-hopped table beer that's made its name on the local scene. It sure goes down easily. Light malt base, citrus and melon overtones, and a light finish of more resonating citric hops. Sticking with Allendale, the slightly peculiar Belgian wit Cumulus sure hit the mark. A little like the excellent Allendale Weizen but with a big hit of raw, zesty, orange peel at the forefront. But then in the same off-centred wheat beer ballpark, Anarchy Grin and Bare it surprised as an impressive display of contemporary brewing. Soft-bodied orange and bubblegum yeasty fullness meets bold resiny hops. This beer was first released as a 2013 Newcastle Beer Festival battle of the beers entrant. Back then it seemed noisy, complicated and without a clear direction but now it seems Anarchy have made the concept work. 

Some nice session blonde ales filled out the range like Wylam Magick and Mordue Summer Tyne then we meet Five Towns Strange Brew. A big burly 7% IPA that featured soft, floral, melon-like tones with a brisk, brooding bitterness. Not entirely that strange but a little odd selection of hops I'm thinking. But hey you don't always need odd-ball new wave beers to steal the moment and from what I was told my Mordue Panda Frog Project Endangered Species was well received. As a 6% strong mild it was designed to be a big, dark, characterful old school beer. Also holding the line of the dark and traditional was Cullercoat's Polly Donkin Oatmeal Stout,.a smooth velvety chocolate led affair backed by blackberry fruit and prickly English hops that develop in the finish.

Me and the bar staff (showmon)

After the sixteenth half this was a hell of a lot of fun. The bairn seemed to like it to.

Garry the militant militia guerrilla joined us for a short period

So overall a great day was had by all and various great beers were tried. I will certainly be looking forward to a re-visit next year.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

The Return of Pandamonium

That's right. The west coast-style IPA from last year is back by popular demand. Which is officially the first time in Panda Frog history that this has ever happened. For those unfamiliar, the 2013 summer release Pandamonium is more or less a total turn around from the last Panda Frog Endangered Species. It's pale golden and brutally hopped with US hops. The inspiration for this one was basically to brew my dream IPA, and although I've often craved brewing British IPAs I (back in 2012) ended up falling for the idea of my dream Californian-style interpretation.

The thing is back in the day Panda Frog beers have always been brewed on the 10 barrel scale (like a half batch), a proportion was kegged and bottled and the few casks remaining were of an exclusive nature. Recently however there has been a push for (wherever possible i.e. the mash tun won't overflow) to brew all Panda Frog brews as full twenty barrel batches. With Pandamonium our mash tun wasn't overflowing (5.5%) but the copper got a pounding. Pandamonium carries the heaviest hops per barrel ratio ever used in a single batch in company history. Even more hops per barrel than 2013's Operation Red Thunder (you big burly red 6.8% thing). So thanks goes to Charles Farham for allowing us that hop contact extension.

Later in the day we had a special visit. A visit from the big Pandamonium fan from 2013, it was none other than North East's Twitterati elite legend Gary A.K.A @TheAleTrail. He added the post-boil hops and asked various questions.

 The Ale Trail on the copper. He wouldn't be twitterati if he wasn't distracted by his phone.
 The Ale Trail came back a couple of weeks later for some sampling and even brought a few beers from London. He's a splendid chap, and we won't forget him from his stint on US television handing out a bottle of Workie Ticket.

End of the day copper dig out; this was very, very sweaty and not pleasant hacking through layer upon layer of hops each holding wave upon wave of heat. In future may consider subbing in some pellets

So be on the lookout for Pandamonium in cask keg and bottled forms. Like last year I bloody loved brewing this one.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Beer and Metal

Mordue beer debuts at Trillians Rock Bar Newcastle

So, does beer and metal music really mix? That's a question I pondered over often during my university days. Back in the day many of my metal head mates were happy to settle on drinking anything with alcohol in it, and let's face it, trying to enjoy great beer whilst in a mosh pit has its practical difficulties.

Trillians Rock Bar has always been a well reputed venue amongst the region's metal fans. The dark, underground venue has played host to an almost endless number of great metal bands from Nile to Napalm Death. But it's never had a credible beer range. That is prior to last Friday when four Mordue hand-pulled ales were launched as a permanent fixture to the venue. I was also pleased that they managed to serve them well, and various leather wearing tattooed people gave myself and the Mordue crew good feedback on how they thought it was a good move by the venue.

From the side-lines it was almost like watching market evolution in progress. Metal fans drinking cask ale. I was already confident that the concept would work, as many metal fans seem like decent folk who like good beer, but end up just tolerating whatever tosh rock venues offer them beverage wise. But I can see the potential market here, and hopefully good beer will continue to thrive in Trillians and other Rock Themed venues.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Panda Frog Project 2014: Endangered Species

There is inevitable end point to any sequence of developments. The world of craft beer moves fast from new world styles to the biggest, boldest beers on the planet. At Panda Frog we believe there is an end point to this sequence, and this year, 2014 we are prepared unleash that end point to the world. A beer to redefine the boundaries of craft by taking craft to the next level. This is more craftier than craft, as far as craft can go. The very concept of this beer out crafts craft itself.
Endangered Species.

Continuing Mordue's Panda Frog project we bring you the first of four Panda Frog beers for this year. Endangered species is a 6% strong mild that combines balanced quantities of English hops with caramelised and roasted malts to give a malty-hoppy, hoppy-malty, malty beer with a hoppy-malty finish. Sweet toffee, licorice and tobacco with peppery subtle earthy fruity hops to be a bit more precise.

Feel the wrath of my crystal malt!
Go on laugh... I can hear you sniggering now.
Moderately hopped to a none throat destroying 35 IBU this beer is dark, strong and old school to the core brewed entirely from English ingredients. Furthermore after primary fermentation this beer is dry hopped in a secondary vessel with (a moderate amount) of Fuggles hops before it undergoes a secondary fermentation in the cask (Fuck yeah!). This lets its flavours develop even further taking it to another level. Don't get me wrong, this is not craft, this is the level beyond. This is old school craft.
Vive la revolution  

Monday, 5 May 2014

Stringers IPA with Hereford Hop

Mature cheddar cheese coated in roasted hops... With an IPA. Surely this has to be worth a blog post. Stringers IPA is a straight-forward, lovely IPA, with juicy Amarillo hops at the fore. Hereford hop is a medium to strong, slightly firm cheddar with bitter, dry English hops on the rind. The two harmonise together effortlessly with the dried hops adding that extra connection to the lovely resiny simplicity of this English style IPA.

This is a truly great beer and cheese combination worthy of any beer and cheese night. It's probably also worthwhile trying this cheese with various other IPA.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Rothaus Hefeweizen Zapfle

It's been a while since my last German Wheat beer. A dynamic beer style almost infinitely versatile with food, especially shellfish, big meaty dishes and Chinese cuisine. Rothaus Hefeweizen Zapfle
is a German wheat I have never come across. A bit less bold and boisterous than many German wheat beers Zapfle opens with light, sweet orange before soft banana and clove layers over a dry wheaty texture. It's quite easy going for the style, almost closer to some of the American versions I've tried. Could probably do with a few more of these for the summer.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Newcastle beer festival and Battle of the Beers 3

And we win again. Mordue brewery defend the BOB title with Apollo 40.

Here we go again, another award. Newcastle beer festival's Battle of the beers is a pretty much open annual competition where breweries from far and wide across the region lock horns hopeful for a shot at the prize. This year, with it being the 40th anniversary of the CAMRA branch the entrants this time were asked to enter a beer themed around 1974 or 40. Other than that no restrictions were given as far as beer styles, ingredients or alcoholic strength were concerned. Basically this was as open a brewing competition could get.

For the full list of entrants and winners see here. But I would be surprised if my Apollo 40 dominated the field by a long shot in the same manner X squared did last year. Anarchy at second had a formidable entrant with their 6% Belgian pale ale/wheat beer hybrid and Acton ales at third had an IPA that stood out with resiny citrus hops.

Yet none the less I felt we had a beer with complexity, charm and composure. I hoped it was bold enough to stand out as I was aware that any big ass stout or aggressive IPA would certainly grab a judge's attention more than this, humble balanced pale ale with it's caramel malt, orange and herbal notes from the six different hops used.

But as it turns out complexity and approachability were what the judges were after (despite the name, runner up Anarchy Punk Era is a beer packing in plenty of wheaty grain, banana and malt. Big and complex yet approachable). So none the less after meeting the Mayor of Newcastle again and getting lots of photos taken of myself and the Mordue crew it was good to hang out with the diverse set of characters that make up the region's brewing scene and try many beers.

Some of the highlights for me were Wylam's Silver Ghost Re-dux, a turbo charged hopped up version of the original regional classic. Magic Rock Ringmaster was smooth and harmonious as well as very hoppy, a lovely beer. Then we had Allendale Rye Pilsner, crisp and inviting with a spicy edge. Elland 1872 Porter (Champion beer of Britain) also turned up and was as always a class beer. But outside of them there were many interesting beers and the whole day was a great experience. This time we really out surpassed our expectations and are looking forward to entering next year's Battle of the Beers with Mordue as favourites. Obviously by then the scene will have inevitably changed a bit. But bring it on I say.  

Friday, 14 March 2014


Killswitch 51 bags gold in speciality then bronze overall in cask, keg amber wins a silver.
To me Killswitch 51 will always be remembered for Newcastle beer festival's battle of the beers 2012. The all Munich malt brew hopped with Apollo and Galaxy hop varieties fell flat on it's arse as far as winning was concerned. Deemed a total failure at the time by staff. Then somehow overnight it changed, blossoming into something profoundly different from the wall of malt it was. One twitter fan deemed it as the North East's answer to Magic Rock's Rapture. Ever since Killswitch as remained a seasonal beer with a cult following that's proven it's worth winning a regional SIBA gold last year previous to its current accolade. All in all a good consolation to falling short at BOB 2012 you might think

But aside from this Mordue haven't just won a SIBA national award, the North East on a whole has punched above it's weight at Beer X. We kicked ass. Anarchy Brew Co got a gold with surely the most high octane stout of the region, Sublime Chaos. Tyne Bank got a gold for Silver Dollar IPA on keg (still not tried the keg version) then aside from this Wylam, Sonnet 43 and Allendale also bagged medals.

I love the North East's brewing scene, as a beer drinker I was practically brought up with it. Since I have joined Mordue many of the personalities and companies have changed and evolved but I still love it. But it's under-rated. You only have to look at the many nation wide beer blogger end of year 'Golden Pint' awards to see the obvious dominance of the likes of Thornbridge, Redwillow, Summer Wine, Fullers, Hardknott, Siren, Brew Dog, Beavertown an heaps more. Respect to them I say, but it's not all about what beer bloggers think. The North East has some exciting beers, some real (dare I say it) world class beers. From the well established to the new ventures we have quality and diversity. We're not just some fringe region of the UK known for it's random set of virtually unheard of micros putting out 'samey' products.

Brewers of the toon I salute you, for many of your beers were an inspiration to me through my journey of beer. Our scene has grown and thrived and long may it continue to do so.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Gyle 3000

It has been coming, the big gyle 3000. Gyle 2800 came and went, then by gyle 2900 we knew it was creeping up on us. Speculation, what will Gyle 3000 be? A one-off exclusive brew hopefully and not some mandatory batch for an imminent order. The numbers kept rising, from 2946 to 2975 to 2990. But alas here we are, Mordue Brewery's gyle 3000.

Make no mistake that fitting this into the schedule didn't turn out to be easy. It turned out that Gyle 3000 or the G-3000 as I call it was to be brewed as the first part of a double brew (that means mashing in around 5AM). A double dry-hopped 3% table beer featuring Galaxy, Citra and Amarillo hops. So far I'd say it's tasting rather nice, the old term 'neckable grog' seems to fit quite accurately. Keep an eye out for this one in bottle and cask.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Maximo Number 5

Now I've never brewed a beer for a band before. I've brewed up new seasonal beers, beers for pub groups, wholesalers and even for the Panda Frog Project. I have yet to brew a collaborative beer  (at least not commercially) and have never brewed anything for a rock band ever.  Put it another way, I never thought anyone would ever trust me quite this much.

Nonetheless, Maximo No. 5 is Mordue Brewery's beer brewed for North East band Maximo Park. It's aimed to be a 5% American amber style beer brewed with 6 different hops. It's not aimed to be over the top (OK we're still talking over 40 IBU), but with enough going on to keep things interesting. Grape, orange and lychee is what I get, over a firm but smooth malt base.

For more on the launch read about it here or here. We even got a radio 5 live presenter cracking one open on air, that's 43 seconds of fame right there sha'mon. The first casks have left the building so not entirely sure where this could be going, maybe some other bands might gain interest. No disrespect intended but Maximo Park were never metal enough to make it into my top 10 all time favourite bands. If your reading this Dying Fetus remember a 'Fetus Number 6' beer is always possible. But hey I always count my blessings, we could well be brewing for the likes of Justin Bieber or even worse Jedward.

Friday, 3 January 2014

The twelth beer of Christmas

Batemans Vintage Ale 2012

So, finally made it to number twelve, and it's a big one. A 7.5% from Batemans, makers of Rosey Nosey, which I'm sure has been in the twelve beers line-up before. But anyway, Christmas is (just about) over and this was one of last beers in the house. So, a commemorative strong ale from a regional brewery, sounds like something similar to a Fullers Vintage perhaps?

It's a big rich boozy experience that's for sure. Plums, figs and raisins with some vanilla sweetness and a Brandy-like alcoholic warmth. But there's enough dryness to make it not too heavy going. Overall quite different yet a similar sort of breed to a Fullers Vintage. A noticeable difference being the obvious woody-oaky dryness which to me is slightly off putting. Yet everything around that is rather good. Certainly worth a try. Happy New Year everyone.