Saturday, 31 December 2016

New year post 2016-2017

And behold, the end of the year is nigh. It hasn't been a popular year for many, but politics and celebrity deaths aside for me it's been fairly vanilla.

Blog posts have been sparse. A little territory was gained here, yet lost elsewhere. Say when family life is good, it doesn't matter that you didn't win a single SIBA award (and on some occasions weren't even nominated) right? Yet 2017 at Mordue brewery looks all the more interesting. We have better equipment in development and a better team of dedicated individuals running the place than I have ever witnessed in my time at the place. We continue to venture out against a vast array of competitors and constantly evolving market.

As for back in the crib/home not a great lot has changed. I recall the eldest bairn saying she no longer wants to be a hairdresser when she grows up and now wants to be "king of the world". Good luck Susie with that one. Harvey now has lots more teeth, can walk, almost talk and chuck things around he disapproves of. He too can now say "Beer" (proud moment). So yes, aside from April's 'Battle of the Beers' 2016 hasn't been much of a roller coaster. I'm finishing this year with a variety of beers including this big gun acquired from an Amsterdam trip.

Evil Twin Freudian Slip is a US style barley wine. It's got that signature boozy cognac soaked almond like depth all over it. It's a big, juicy 10.3% monster. I'm getting Columbus hops and clean fermenting yeast. Splendid stuff. So all in all 2016 has been a good year. Not a favourite year by any means, they would be;

2001 (goodbye school)
2009 (Wedding, Daleside and all things glorious)
2013 (awards, Panda Frog, a blaze of glory)

Notable mentions/also very good years;


But on reflection most years are nether entirely bad nor good balancing success and discovery against failure all dependant upon circumstance  So traditionally every new years Eve I normally listen to this song, ideally whilst drinking some whisky.  Happy new year everyone from Rob's beer quest.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Pandafrogs; class of 2016/17

The year comes to close here at Mordue breweries side arm, the Panda Frog Project. It opened with Allelic Drift not quite getting that SIBA award then the summer was quiet. During the latter half of the year some anticipated projects were put to rest. A 6.3% Belgian stout Pandadora and Hibanator Bock 6.3%  for the winter season.

But things are changing here at Panda Frog. Some lovely new kit will facilitate more kegging, bottling and for the first time canning. To increase availability we are also adopting a core range of select Panda Frogs including Pils and Allelic Drift  opposed to having them all as seasonals.

Next year will also involve the brewing of five new Panda Frogs including a 5th Anniversary IPA (yes it's been that long) and a raspberry-chocolate porter. I won't give too much away.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Beers of Autumn

This post title should maybe read Alnwick beers of autumn as these were locally sourced. Well locally as in some were from supermarkets but hey, they were all purchased in the local vicinity. Autumn is the best season even if seemingly the shortest it's best accompanied by beer.

The Purple Panther

From the shelves of Lidl. A slick and slightly light bodied porter with a dollop of sweet toffee and chocolate. A kind of chocolate digestive aftertaste.

Toon Broon

The first beer I have came across actually paying homage to Newcastle Brown Ale. I personally don't think it needs to be done but find this better than the original. An old school feel is dominant. It's 4.7% and closer to deep russet than brown. Caramel malt and almond aroma, palate brings licorice and caramel, charred grain and a flinty bitterness. Very much traditional through and through.

Distiller's cask range

A new one from Theakstons obtained at Morrisons. A 6.5% ale 'acquainted with the flavours of Speyside malt whisky'. I was expecting an Innis and Gunn like experience and its vaguely similar but nowhere near as sweet. The thing that isn't clear form the label is whether this is genially oak aged in speyside whisky barrels or blended with speyside whisky. None the less is aint half bad. Candied almond meets woody vanilla, an American oak influence for sure.


Familiar to most Hobgoblin is clearly an autumn beer. Dominated by sweet nutty malts, chocolate and a hint of fruity English hops. For supermarket beers it isn't half bad although my preference is for the cask version.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Rochefort 10

Delving into its boozy, figgy depths at the John Bull

There are times in one's journey of beer when a throwback to the old is revisited. A chance to re-live the experience that once changed one's very perspective of beer. It so happens that Alnwick's The John Bull has recently restocked its Belgian beers and after a long time Abbey St Remy Rochefort 10 is now back in stock (after a long time).

Rochefort 10 for me was a world-changing beer of its time. Like the Judas Priests Painkiller Album, a classic masterpiece of metal that still sounds awesome today. The Metallica/Slayer era came along, so did Nirvana and the dark days of 'Nu-metal'. German power metal cheese and new wave American metalcore came in and out of trends but Judas Priest, like Rochefort 10 still evokes great memories. Amongst the various passing beer trends it never really got lost in the crowd and always remained one of the bench mark Belgian strong ales. Rochefort 10!

Thursday, 28 July 2016

North East Brewers Market

Matt and Josh man the Mordue/Panda Frog bar

The North East craft brewers market was was a craft beer showcase held at the Palace of arts in Exhibition Park near Newcastle University. The basic back story is Wylam Brewery have moved site. Their new 'brew' palace is equipped with a big fancy brew kit (which I forgot to photograph) bar area, some kind of barrel aging program and nice interior design.

Wylam keg fonts

The event featured seven breweries of the region on the Friday night session; Wylam, Tyne Bank, Errant, Trufitt, Mordue, Credance and Out There, alongside guests Cloudwater brewery from Manchester. Some quality scran was also on offer.

I got a tour of the new brew kit yet the event was mostly about good beer, good people, good food and camaraderie. Sorachi Dollar from Tyne Bank was an early choice for me, a variant from the much respected Silver Dollar. Pine mouthfeel and not overly lemony compared to some sorachi ace hopped beers. Overall impression was quality premium strength pale ale.

Moving on Trufitt from down Middlesbrough way had a very smooth almost creamy Vanilla Porter. I also got to meet the folks at Errant Brewery, relative newcomers to Newcastle's collection of breweries. The Waimea-cascade hopped Blonde ale  Clever Girl brought pleasant mild orange and pine. Credence brewing also had a nice Red ale, a development of their very straight forward core range.

There were familiar sights like Wylam Jakehead and Hexan as well as the Panda Frog/Mordue bar serving our new Sterling-Hersbrucker hopped Pilsner alongside Northumbrian Blonde IPA and Panda Frog Allelic Drift. I also tried a rather nice Cloudwater Centennial IPL. Overall a rather splendid evening.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

The annual Longframlington Beer fest post

It's becoming an annual post is the Longfram beer fest post. One of the highlights the month of June has to offer. From humble beginnings I have always admired head man Andrew Findlay and the Coquetdale Round Table's efforts on it. A bouncy castle and face painting for the kids meets respectable scran and that's without mentioning the beer.

On the whole the beer range is well selected and balanced despite not being expansive. This is a pleasant change from some other beer fests that seem to overplay the same cards thinking the more session blond/bitters gives the broader the appeal. In other words it's easily possible to have twice the number of beers but half the amount of diversity and choice at the same time.

This year the first one on the hit list for me was North Utsire by Cullercoats brewery. A dark Rye influenced 4.1% bitter. Lots of bready doughy caramelised malt meets peppery Rye finish. Quite straightforward and loads of character for the abv. The two Mordue entries were also on form, Poznian Pils and Breakfast pale. Bad Seed Jester Pale was then fresh with floral summer fruit yet with an odd savory tobacco note. Out of the ordinary was Mosaic Saison by Two By Two brewery. Blueberry and fruity bubblegum with a definite Belgian yeast presence and residual sweetness. Worth a try yet a little unusual.

Brass Castle Session IPA was the final note of the evening. More fruity Mosaic Hop-esque influenced with a decent mouthfeel for 3.5%. Overall we had a splendid day, the bairn had her face painted and now thinks all beer festivals provide this.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

There is beer in the house

One of the most comforting thoughts of them all, the knowledge that beer is in the house. Although the majority of the time, some beer is in the house. Normally it's from a tank or cask at work or found locally, the expanding range of the local Aldi (aka Wonderland, where every man's a rich man) for example.

On this occasion we have none of the sort. Stone Pataskala Red X IPA is a relatively new release from San Diego based Stone brewery yet to be released on the UK market (my aunty Wendy from California is to thank for this). It's a big red 7.3% Red IPA brewed with Mosaic, Cascade and Amarillo hops and the German malt variety BESTMALZ. A unique take on the Red IPA as it says on the bottle and seems reminiscent of so many other Stone beers. The flavours are smoothed out yet big and burly with a perfumed pine aroma from aggressive dry hopping that doesn't compromise approachability (as with many Stone beers). Sweet red fruit, grapefruit like citric notes mix with boozy toffee and thick malt. A big mouth feel contrasted by hop pine. All in all certainly worth a try if you can get hold of it.  

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Code Red 40. The 40th Newcastle Beer Festival

'Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another'
Albert Einstein

Did it again. Mordue Code Red 40 takes the prize

Newcastle Beer Festival trade session day is always a highlight of the year. In a sense like Christmas day but without the presents. A time to catch up with everybody that's anybody from the local beer scene and try various beers from the always impressive beer range. This year it was 40th ever festival and their was a special announcement from Hugh Price on the history of the festival. The venue may have changed, the faces have changed but the spirit remains the same was the jist of it. Many North East brewers and beers were in attendance. From old timers like Hexhamshire and Big Lamp to Northern Alchemy at the cutting edge of new world craft. After Hugh's talk was the announcement of the Battle of the Beers winners and that unforgettable almost agonising 10-15 second period between announcing runner-up and winner.

Code Red 40 is a name modified originally from the Napalm Death Album/song 'The Code is Red, long live the code' was our Battle of the Beers entry and winner. It is brewed with four hop varieties in fitting with this years rules of the competition  (4 hop varieties, between 3-6% abv and named after the number 40 or year 1976). Chinook, Apollo, Citra and Mosaic were the hops used and the malt profile was made rich and heavy with a deep red colour from the use of six different malts and oats compacted to a modest 4.6%.

Yet the story behind the beer goes back much further than just the last 3 or so weeks its been in production. Code Red 40 is the end point of a 12 month conquest for redemption which manifested into the campagne code named 'Operation Crimson Pheonix Thunder'.

In November 2014 a huge (speculative) brew plan was drawn up covering spring 2015. It intention was to guide the ideal conditions for SIBA and battle of the beers victories (concerning new yeast propagation etc). Taking the triple on Mordue's 20th year, the ultimate prize 'Get me in there, get me in that zone' it whispers in my head. Sadly the paternity leave says no. I never really gave the deserved accolade to Matt for running the bulk of 'Operation Gold Serpent Seige' with integrity, precision and discipline, yet like anything, playing well doesn't guarantee anything.

Another time another place a new competition with new rules. The last 3 weeks I revelled 'being back in the zone'. 2016 and brewing forces from the region were amassing in greater numbers than before for the opportunity for recognition in the fifth installment of 'Battle of the Beers' saga. It was time to be bold, this time I wouldn't be taking no prisoners.

Code Red 40 I have often compared to the the antagonist dinosaur from the film Jurassic World the Indominus Rex. It's build upon the DNA of various other beers in the Mordue park. Part Killswitch part Apollo 40 part Maximo No 5, a hint of Pandademic and others, but with (as they say in the film) 'more teeth'. Fortified juicy malt under forest fruit and citrus hop assault this beer was built to ruthlessly decimate the opposition laying waste to entrant after entrant. From the carnage only Big Lamp and Credence brewing were able to hold ground but would eventually fall (into joint second place respectably). I knew a beer with pedigree would at least score well but was apprehensive about our entrant drinking more like a plus 5% beer and thus compromising its drinkability factor.

The defiant roar of Code Red 40

So all ends well at this year's Newcastle beer festival. I got to catch up with various folk and try quite a few beers. Next year I obviously wont be returning to Battle of the Beers with a vengeance, so might just tone things down a bit. A malty hoppy ale, with a malty hoppy finish, classic tasting notes.

Check ma bad invincible award winning self!!!

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Spring Time

Spring time. The time of rebirth. I have in the past slated Spring. With its bank holidays disrupting things like workflow and isolating our friends the yeast from our near semi constant care. You can't just make days disappear without changing the game plan.

But anyway, bank holidays can also be pleasant. Time with the family, friends or homies.  I'm fairly sure I've covered the subject of spring at least a couple of times on the quest but what I've really come to learn from it is this; At Mordue Spring is where all the action happens.

First up you've got SIBA Beer X (where Killswitch 51 won big last year). Gateshead Beer Festival (still to get round to visiting that) and Newcastle Beer Festival with its 'battle of the beers'. The first Panda Frog Project beer of the year often comes out in spring so you've got seasonals/specials left ,right and centre but the local trade seems to pick up so it kind of balances itself out.

It's the time of year with the most opportunity to take awards with SIBA events and Newcastle Beer Festival fairly close to each other. So when it's all over the long brew days and often endless national orders of summer come in, you might well be able to drink beer in the evening outside again but at Mordue things certainly don't go at the same pace as spring. Face it, summer's a great season but it does tend to go on a bit.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Five years

Five years ago this month I was first introduced to the Mordue crew and brewing kit. At the time I was working as a brewer/assistant for Daleside brewery, Harrogate and was to part from their band of mostly Yorkshire folk. I first got the call on a Thursday afternoon between the hop store and mash tun from Matt (now my brother priest of the yeast) and I was ecstatic.For a long time I had been after a job in the local scene. No more renting in two different places. Although I new the job involved more responsibility little did I know I was about to embark on what has been a seemingly epic journey.

Since 2011 I have promised never to take any of this for granted. To contribute to the beer world through Mordue and Panda Frog I am ultimately gifted with two sets of children. At work, some of them I invented, others are adopted, some adopted and modified, they are the products of fermentations. At home I have my own cute little brew babies Susie and Harvey not to mention the most awesome loving caring journalist wife. Being surrounded by the humble yet beautiful surroundings of Alnwick is also an honour.

Where ultimately I have achieved feats beyond anything I imagined, it hasn't always been like that film Vanilla Sky. It wasn't always victory after victory.

Major campaigns/big tender orders have come and gone like chapters of brewing, each one like an elongated chess match relying on organisation as much as graft. Staff have come, and gone. My perspective has changed. The kit has changed. The beer world has changed. Although I realised what past Daleside brew master Craig Witty was getting at way back then with many things.

Ultimately being surrounded by a work crew wearing Panda Frog t-shirts is something I will never tire of being chuffed with. I see my work written about on blogs, social media and sometimes printed on award certificates. However small, large or relevant, my time at Mordue has granted me the chance to leave my own imprint on the world.

I can't really speculate much on what's to come but prefer to be optimistic. I can't see myself getting tired of this but perhaps envision a few care nurses at the home getting tired of that crazy old guy going off about Pandazilla, Battle of the beers, Operation Black Beaver Storm and when we won at GBBF. Because even at the worst of times I never did stop believing.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Discovering a new beer style; Grodziskie

Grodziskie is a traditional Polish style wheat beer known to feature oak-smoked wheat. The style is highly carbonated, not overly cloudy and brewed with sulphate-heavy water and moderate hop bitterness. Combined with a low abv (3.1% in this case) this style is dry and flinty.

This take on it, Piwoz Grodziska from Polish micro brewery Browar w Grodzisku pours with no more yeast than your standard bottled conditioned beer. The aroma is faintly smokey, peaty, seaweed. The taste is dry and spritzy. There's a subtle clean, but fresh, noble hop pilsner esque feel about it that doesn't distract from a soft smokeyness. Note, no banana or crazy phenolics and light on the palate (tho I certainly doesn't come across watery for 3.1%).

Obviously this is a fairly rare traditional European beer style and it would be interesting to see if this ever caught on with the UK craft beer scene one day.