Last Voyage

It’s malty, with slices of bread on its tail, but that was just the end of the voyage; with moments and levers in perfect harmony, what came before was pure IPA glory, with perfect balance in every aspect of flavour and figure.

A spicy concoction of bitterness precedes, led by an onslaught of tropical fruit with its oozing crevice hunting aroma. 

However, immediately prior to this display of wealth, it was just sat there, slowly showing off its gradually appreciating globe. 


The pour was insignificant, in that its qualities were as yet unknown. It’s removal from the fridge was as untroubled as it’s first voyage in my possession; from the bottle shop where I caught my first glance, shortly before its last voyage began. 

How was your last voyage? 

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The Cretan Craft. Part 2.

Now with the Cretan Craft safely back in Devon, I will attempt to recreate a little bit of Crete in my front room.  With the heating turned up to the max and some sea shells sprawled about the place, it’s time I retrieve the beers from the fridge.  

With bold and simple labels the beers stand out.  Don’t worry if you don’t understand Greek either, you are given the style of each beer in English, along with abv, IBU and other instructions. 

Solo labels

One thing I had noticed is that these beers are not among the freshest of the fresh.  The Greek appear to seem happier that their hoppy beers are carrying a little age as opposed to the super fresh juice we seem to crave.  Kjetil Jikiun, Solos head brewer, also tells me that the Latvians seem to prefer their hoppy beers to be presented in the same way too.  

When Solo started brewing, and their current beers are contract brewed, although this will change in the near future as Solo are intending on setting up their own brewery, they were met with some resistance, as apparently their beers weren’t what the market required.  Although Solo appear to have had the last laugh as the Saison is one of their best selling beers.

Solo were responsible for bringing the first true IPA to the Greek market, which is also selling well.  As is their Imperial IPA, which again, they were told that nobody in Greece would want a 10% beer.  However, they seem to have proved their doubters wrong yet again.

Ok, so there are no shells, I just have the branded glass I was awarded in Heraklion, but it is time to crack them open. 

Horiatiki Saison. 

  • 90% pilsner malt & 10% wheat malt. 
  • East Kent Golding, Cascade and Saaz.
  • Danstar Belle Saison yeast.

Solo Saison

If ever there was a time that a banana could be a tart, this is it.  Its rich and sharp, and its voluptuous head dominates the pour, with notes of banana billowing out.  Delve in through an almost wooded area, it’s incredibly dry, and you’re dropped right off in the middle of a cereal field.  It ends as a dry, and beautiful, classic saison.

Americana Pale ale.

  • 80% pale ale malt, 10% wheat malt & 10% caramalt 30.
  • Chinook and Centennial.
  • WLP007.

Solo Pale

Straight away you can tell the hops have faded somewhat and the overwhelming maltiness is just beginning to creep in. Nevertheless, the Chinook still stands proud and the malts begin to level out into some breaded glory.  It is a straight up, no nonsense US style pale, with a body as smooth as freshly laid tarmacadam.  It’s not overly bitter and it still retains its balance.  I really like it.

Psaki IPA.

  • 80% pale ale malt, 10% wheat malt & 10% light Munich malt.
  • Chinook, Cascade, Simcoe and Centennial.
  • WLP007.

Solo IPA

Slightly hop faded, the IPA approaches.  Apart from the step up in abv, taste wise, not a huge amount separates this from the pale.  Personally I don’t think its bitter enough; it claims to hold 50 IBU, whereas the Pale stands at 30, but it just doesn’t appear to come across with an increased bitterness.  It finishes fairly sweet too, and the Cascade lingers as a fruity fizzy sherbet.  It also has something savoury going on, not quite in the same way that Mosaic does, but pleasing.  Unfortunately though, I do feel it’s somewhat past its best; it had been in the bottle for about twelve months and I would have loved to have been able to try a slightly fresher one.  But then, this is exactly how the Greeks prefer their hoppy beers to be, so who am I to complain?

Fouriaris Imperial IPA.

  • 80% pilsner malt & 20% wheat malt.
  • Chinook, Magnum, Columbus, Centennial, Cascade and Vic Secret.
  • WLP007

Solo Imp IPA

Boy does this thing have presence, it’s in your face, but not boorish.  It’s complete and balanced.  The lack of freshness really isn’t a problem either and you remain tucked in.  The faded hops have been overtaken by the malts and it offers just a tickle of booze.  The sweet malts are at the forefront, but going deeper there is an overwhelming orangey pithy bitterness, and you get that same sherbet feeling from the Cascade as you do with the IPA.  I love this, it’s bone dry, smooth as silk and incredibly bitter.  I’d almost forgotten what it was like to taste an intensely bitter beer, and this has brought it all home again.  I don’t actually care that its hops have faded, the bitterness of this thing is incredible.  I want more.


Trying to remain true to style, these Solo beers come across well and do meet all the requirements.  But I have to admit, I was looking for a bit of a Greek twist.  I did find it too, and it is that they are intended to be consumed after they have aged a little.  Although I do wonder whether this is due to a lack of understanding or just flavour preference.  

Either way, this goes completely against everything we have become used to in the last couple of years, with the whole drink it within a week or die procedure.  But if this is what it takes to get the Greek into craft, then go for it.

 

 

Through The Grapevine

With their initial crowd funding target of £35,000 now making its way into the history books, Crossed Anchors Brewery have completely surpassed all their expectations and are now a fully up and running 6 barrel brewery.  And with two awards under their belt, the future’s looking promising.

crossed 4

At the launch party, a good number of the invited investors came down to find out exactly what they have helped to create, and of course to sample the resultant beer.

In their home at Exmouths Grapevine, which also incorporates Ruby Burgers, the three are a trio which offers everything.

Arguably the best burger joint ever to grace Exeter, Ruby weren’t a slouch when it came to beer either.  Prior to their relocation, I knew of no other restaurant to offer Brooklyn Local 1.  And I’m yet to find another, although, I do wonder where all THAT beer went after the move?

crossed 1

The Grapevine itself is a fantastic pub, a proper pub.  With a good selection of cask beer, and a worldwide collection of bottles, you’ll be hard pushed to find something that won’t satisfy.  On the bar today were two of Crossed Anchors offerings, Cascade SMASH Hopburst and Weisse Guy.

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However, I was going to be drinking these from a different set of casks, namely the gravity casks in the brewery itself.

crossed 5

As Adrian receives his dose of Billy banana and Charlie clove, in the form of Weisse Guy, I’m instantly surrounded by an aura of Cascade aroma that’s just erupted from the slightest tweaking of the SMASH’s tap.  It’s incredible, and it doesn’t stop there, I can feel the beer fizzing and tingling away along the sides of my tongue as it’s wholesome 3.8% wriggles its way deeper.  This beer is fantastic, I think I’m gonna need a refill pretty soon.

Back in the pub, Paddy and Olly make their speeches, mainly to thank the people who have put in a lot of effort to help them get where they are today, and also to thank their wives for putting up with their endless beery wittering.

But, at the end of the day, just look where that support can get you.  And you can do your bit too, by either visiting The Grapevine to sample some brewery fresh beer, or grab some bottles from various local suppliers such as Hops & Crafts, Darts Farm, Greendale and Joshua’s.

And watch out Bristol and Plymouth, the Anchors are coming for you!

A pint

Sitting before me is a pint.  A pint of beer.  Of what beer is of no consequence.

It’s just a pint, or is it?

It’s inviting.
It’s inclusive.
It’s exclusive.
It’s beautiful.
It’s admirable.
It’s enough.
It’s not enough.
It’s game changing.
It’s ice breaking.
It’s face breaking.
It’s heart breaking.
It’s heart healing.
It’s mind healing.
It’s evoking.
It’s provoking.
It’s challenging.
It’s normal.

It’s just a pint, or is it?

Golden Pints 2016

Welcome to my first ever Golden Pints.  You’ll find that it doesn’t conform to the same formula as everybody else’s.  Why should it?  This has been my year in beer, and for that reason alone I’m writing this my way and not to a prescribed formula.

So here you are.

Best bottled beer.

Marble Brewery, Portent of Usher.

portent

It’s difficult to explain exactly what this beer did to me when I drank it.  But I wished it would never end, it’s sumptuous, heavenly, warming and probably one of the best beers I’ve had this year.

Best Cask beer.

Tapstone Kush Kingdom.

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Photo credit: @forkandcarrot 

Hazy, fruity, gloriously full in the mouth.  Difficult to believe that it’s actually a cask beer.  The body and life of the thing are truly fantastic, definitely should be one of your five a day.

Best Canned beer.

To Øl Sur Mosaic.

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You really don’t need anything else in a can, but this.  Fact.

Best Double IPA.

The Number’s 55|01.

BBNo DIPA 1

It’s pretty damn near perfect, in every way.  Coupled to the way it just appeared, with no fuss.  Bang, here’s our first Double IPA.  Thank you very much.  The rest of you can stay at home.

Best Cloudwater DIPA.

V6 all the way, that aroma is just incredible.  So good in fact, that I’d quite happily have it as an air freshener.

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The order of the rest?  Oh just put the remaining version numbers into ERNIE and see what comes out.

Best use of beer tiles.

So many people have used beer tiles this year, it’s been a tricky one to conclude.  Do you go for consistency or variety?  Here’s some of my favourites of this year.

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Photo credit: @HoptimisticDude

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Photo credit: @Myles Lambert

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Photo credit: @Sparkyrite

But I think the overall winner has to be this from Matt The List.

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Best beertographer. 

Tom Denham has taken some spectacular shots this year.  Lighting and depth of field have been pretty near perfect in most of his shots, the subjects haven’t been too sloppy either.  Think he and I need a bit of a photo competition.

Best BBNo Saison.

All of them.

BBNo All Saisons

What do you mean one?  Really?

Ok, if I must.  It begins 01|

Best professional drinker.

Not saying, but here’s a link to the AA should you ever need it.

Best blog.

Has to be Adrian Tierney-Jones.  I’ve not kept up with a lot blogs as much as I should have done this year, and neither have I kept up with my own for that matter.  But I always manage to find time to read Adrians.  It’s pure beer poetry, no matter what he writes.  One could say it’s poetry in mash tun.

Best personal beery achievement.

Becoming an ambassador for St Austell’s Proper Job.

Sharing my love of this glorious beer with other like minded people and informing others of its presence has been great fun.  I’ve met some fantastic people over the last twelve months through being an ambassador, and I’m looking forward to 2017 and plenty more Proper Job.

Because as they say, it’s always Proper Job o’clock!

proper-clock

#allthesaisons Burning Sky

Knowledge, understanding and skill are three words that you don’t usually see on beer labels.  However, all three are required when it comes to making the stuff and Burning Sky’s Saisons are no exception.  With a mix of ingredients, from the typical to the foraged, these complex Saisons show off these requirements beautifully.

You mustn’t forget time either, with each of the barrel aged batches the beers evolve and have subtle differences in each iteration.  You may revisit these beer in twelve months time and discover different nuances of flavour or some other characteristic that just wasn’t there previously.

But for now, we’ll enjoy them as they stand.  So pull up a chair, grab a glass, and enjoy, all the saisons.

Saison l’Automne.

Is it really breakfast time already?  Slightly sour cornflakes overwhelm your nose.  They’re drenched in spicy saison with a rose hip topping, so it’s cool to take them now.  The beautiful cereal maltiness resists diminishment and holds up well against the spice, but the spice doesn’t let go either, lick your lips, can you feel it?

saison-automne

Saison yeast, hops, rose hips, cereal killer malts, what more do you want?  Who me?  Another bottle perhaps.  For now I’ll keep going with this though; a certain grape element is making itself known, not massively, but it lingers in your nose, your throat and on your tongue.  It softens, and becomes more cereal.  Breakfast indeed.

Saison Le Printemps.

Spicy, gingery, becoming saison funky, hoppy aroma hits you.  Not too heavy on the pepper but it gives a little warning of its presence.  Bready malts ensue, carrying along with them the fruits of the hops.  The beer’s fresh and the malts end up giving a satisfying, sweet, sugary, almost Loveheart tinge.

saison-printemps

It remains hoppy, with some lashings of citrus thrown in.  But wait, the pepper is back, it’s clinging on for dear life as the beer ends, but that warm, spicy, dry finish is so good.  And five minutes later, your lips are still peppered.

Saison à la Provision.

Bit of a tart in your hands now.  It’s still saison, but with a massive tart sourness that makes you brush your teeth with your tongue.  What else do you find in there?  Gorgeous saison yeast, beautiful bready malts, a warming spice.  White wine musk too, or is that just showing off?  The malts dominate, but don’t overpower.  The extra abv also makes itself known.  Not in a bad way, but it adds a hugging warmth that the others here don’t have.

saison-provision

The finish is still incredibly tart, and the brett is there too, but it’s right at the back.  You all know it’s there, but it’s under complete control.  Just like the naughty kid who’s been sent to the back of the class.  Still mouthy and wants to make his presence known, but if he steps out of line, you know he’s gonna get it.  And get it he does from the glorious malts.  They keep him in check alright.

Saison l Été.

Who knew you could have such a thing as a gooseberry sandwich.  Well you can, and yours is served with a fresh elderflower pressé on the side.  It’s a tart awakening that’s sweet and smooth.  The beautiful malts fall neatly in line behind that gooseberry sharpness presented at the start.

saison-l-ete

It’s luscious as it makes its way through your teeth.  But the sharpness keeps prickling away; jaws clench like a thirst quenched snare as a shoal of gooseberries meander through.  Some sour malts finish the bite as it beckons you in for more.  And as your glass becomes empty, the elderflower makes itself known.  It adds a mild floral finish to the malty saison funk.

Saison Anniversaire.

Funky, bready, white wine grape aroma.  Light herb notes with a savoury spice. Let it breathe, without forgetting to give yourself time to breathe.  Put some on your tongue.  Feel it glide around, leaving little hints of its contents behind.  Spices tickle, bubbles tickle, that wine dryness doesn’t tickle, but it mops up well leaving a nice tart bite and slightly sweet grain behind.

saison-anniversaire

Sit back, admire, but feel sorry for your empty glass.  Do it a favour and put it out of its misery.  The warmer the saison, the grainier it becomes, not in texture though.  The wine side is relaxed, becoming lemony, but retains that Chardonnay musk.  Three glasses in and things are getting a little funky.  Concentrate.  A previously hidden hoppiness is now evident, subtle, but delightful.  It does well to inhibit the musk, making this beer end just like a funky saison should.

Cuvée Reserve 2015-2016.

A relatively calm collection of earthy oak, sour grapes and apples, and bready malts sit before you.  Relaxed carbonation requires a little encouragement prior to their nasal journey.  Entry is confirmed, but due only to the funk they bring.

cuvee-reserve1

Take a sip.  Lip smack like a face plant, this sour tart unleashed.  Musk, perfumes its way around, leaving trinkets, dotted of sweet malts and the sour blend.  It’s aged, grown up perhaps, but still full of the vigour of Provision.  A late spice, hearing of the funk wants in, could it be too late?  The party is drying, but the spice takes a hold.  Delicate malts are left in the wake.  Persistent are the fruits, slightly fermented perhaps, but sweet and inviting.  And the bread is there to catch you on the way down, softening the sour blow.

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So the next time you find yourself sat in a field waiting for the sun to rise, don’t think, look at that burning sky.  Think, I need some Burning Sky.

#allthesaisons Brew By Numbers

Brew By Numbers. What does that mean to you?  Well, to some it’s similar to painting by numbers, which we will now call drinking by numbers, only you have complete freedom over which numbers you choose, and all you have to do is match each one to the most suitable glass and enjoy.

For now, we have five beers and two glasses.  The beers are all Saisons, 750ml of course, and the glasses are Brew By Numbers own.

To make it nice and easy we’ll start from the beginning, and work up a little as we go along.

01|01 Saison Citra.

750 Citra

I first came across this beer around 12 months ago and it was the first Saison that made me think ‘wow, these Saisons are alright’.  Call it a Saison epiphany if you will.  It continues to blow my mind every time I drink it.  You’ve probably seen the hashtag beergasm, well, this is it for me.  Spicetastic, funktastic, citratastic and full to the brim with the Number’s Magic.

01|01 a

This beer alone is the reason why I have chosen to do this with 750ml bottles.  Don’t get me wrong, the 330ml is good, but that extra volume takes it to another level.  The depth and intensity of flavour are unparalleled, and it starts with that aroma.

It hits you, and you know you’re in for a treat.  It’s classic Saison, with that funky spiciness coming from the yeast, but the hop pushes it forward.  The fruity funk delivery from the Citra completes the meet and greet, so you’d best taste it.

The spices used are really evident as you delve in, but there is a light maltiness there too.  Coupled to the yeast, this really does make for a satisfying drink.  And that hop, it just doesn’t go away.  With it’s relentless funky fruits hammering away at your taste buds, you’ll wonder why this doesn’t come in a bigger bottle.  I could quite happily take a magnum of this stuff.  Actually, no.  Make that a Jeroboam.

And that dry finish it leaves behind?  Well that’s your invitation to get stuck in with the next.

01|02 Saison Amarillo & Orange.

Amarillo Orange 1

The aroma, again, starts with the typical saison funk, but this time with a fistful of orange.  The taste is bittersweet orange, with the saison spice just creeping in along with a nice dose of bready malt.

It’s surprisingly quite smooth too, and doesn’t have the coarse carbonation of some Saisons.  That smoothness makes is very satisfying and so wholesome; it feels full bodied but it’s quite light at the same time.

01|02 a

The finish is a mix of bread and cereal malts, and a light orange pithy bitterness.  It’s not too dry and some bananary notes also linger.  If you’ve started this off straight from the fridge, this beer benefits from being allowed to warm slightly, which really opens the beer up to release all those flavours.

01|09 Saison Hibiscus & Chamomile.

Hibiscus & Cham

Ever had a cup of chamomile tea followed by an Hibiscus Prosecco cocktail chaser?  No?  Ever thought of mixing them?  Thought not.  But if you did, you’d probably end up with something like this.

The funky Saison yeast hits you first, but it soon fades and is followed by the sweet fruity smell of the hibiscus and a dusting of orange.  The chamomile completes the breath and offers an almost savoury end prior to the tasting.

It’s similar to Prosecco, just much smoother, in the way that it’s dry and has a certain grape like character to it; The back of your mouth thinks it’s having a glass of the stuff.

01|09 a

The dryness is also like chamomile tea.  It is exactly like the aforementioned mix would be on paper, although I doubt in practise it would be as successful.  The dryness extends and the finish builds for some time after.  It almost has an evolving woody note to it’s end, and it’s complexity will have you chewing your cheeks and lips to fully fathom it.  It’s definitely wood, or is it?  Could it be the chamomile?  It’s tricky to pinpoint, but it’s very intriguing nonetheless.

01|16 Saison Rakau.

Rakau

With a leisurely rush of bready malts, followed by a dash of funky yeast and the lightest of spice, this begins in a much more delicate way than the other beers here.  All the flavours are there but they’re chilled right out as they glance across your palate.  The beer is wholesome, and there’s a slightly sour kiwi fruit making it’s way along your tongue.  It leaves behind more of the earlier bread delivery, but contained within the sandwich is a splattering of grapes.

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The trail acts as a guide for the next mouthful, which after gaining a little warmth, becomes all the more exciting.  There’s more of everything; more funk, more spice, more sour kiwis rolling around your mouth, and more slices of malt too.  It’s still incredibly delicate, but if you allow it, you will become immersed in it.  Add a shade more warmth, and that bread becomes a freshly baked sourdough loaf.  Glorious.

01|17 Saison Enigma & Nelson.

Enigma Nelson

Think Saison, think white wine, think savoury.  Throw in some fruits and you’re close, but not that close.  There’s a good load of malt in there too.  Swill it, wake it up, and allow its aroma to unleash itself on your senses.  Peer through the faint banana and get yourself involved with the spice.  It’s got a kick, but you arrive at it in a more leisurely way than a hot curry.  Taste it; Cloves like a Kretek, and shouldn’t be rushed like one can’t either.

01|17 a

Reminiscent of white wine, but you soon realise you have something far, far better.  There’s an increase in depth that you just don’t get with your favourite Sauvignon, but it’s hard to remember that this is actually a beer.  It has exactly the same dry finish as the wine, but with the added extras that keep your senses alive and brain ticking.  And you ask yourself, again, is this actually a beer?  You answer; it is. It’s fantastically dry, grapey, funky, spicy, murky; and an immensely satisfying offering.

For months I’ve been buying Saisons, all the Saisons in fact.  But none of them satisfy me in the way that those from The Numbers do.  I don’t know what it is exactly that makes them suit my taste, but it’s been a struggle to find anything else that comes close.  And after you’ve made your way through all the Saisons above, you’ll see exactly what I mean and you’ll be on the hunt for the rest.  And if you see a 750ml bottle, make it yours.