Advent Beer: Magic Rock Wayniac

Sometimes when you crack open a beer and take a big drink, you can’t help but smile.

After I’d poured the Magic Rock Wayniac in the glass, I had to stop and have a think. Only twenty four hours earlier, in the my notes, I’d been slating the way Magic Rock Hypnotist looked. Wayniac look pretty much identical, but for some reason, it looked more appealing. Go figure the human brain.

It poured a similar murky marmalade, with a similar, compact off white head. It also had a similar whoosh of hop aromas, charging out of the can the moment it was opened. That’s where, for me at least, the similarities ended.

Where Hypnotist had been flaunting dank, Wayniac was all the dank. Dank to the max, with a hint of citrus peeking round the edges. Maybe it’s the dimpled mug, but you still had to take a lung full to full appreciate it.

The mouthfeel was big, with lots of malt body, but not at all cloying. A lovely tingle run through the mouth, with touches of juiciness round the edges, which lead on into the lingering aftertaste. Bitterness build throughout, subtle citrus, hints of allium, and just general mouth coating dank hopiness. The aftertaste was all juicy, thick, bitter marmalade and went on for ages (like an hour after finishing it).

The first taste had me smiling, as I knew it was my kind of beer. The smile didn’t really leave my face. Finally, an Advent Beer I really, really like.

It would also appear to be the kind of beer my wife likes too. She got passion fruit at the death (I told you she was better at this than me) and I nearly didn’t get it back. It was one of those situations where you get told off, because you only bought one for yourself.

I might have to pop back into Cozzi & Boffa and see if they have any left…

Advent Beer: Magic Rock Hypnotist

Magic Rock Hypnotist and Wayniac, are the main reason I decided to undertake Advent Beer blogging this year. Time to find out if it was worth it…

Magic Rock Hypnotist is certainly the murkiest beer so far. It sat, opaque, a dirty marmalade in colour, with a caramel tinged, compact head. It didn’t look particularly appealing, if I’m being honest. At least it didn’t look like some of these new fangled beers that look like glasses of Tropicana.

Where the Shindigger Session had undertones of dank, Hypnotist was positively flaunting dank. Unfortunately, it was also flaunting an edge, an undercurrent of urgh. It took a while to place, but there was a definite lemony acidic edge to the aroma. This mingling with the dankness, wasn’t particularly pleasant.

It was all go in the mouth, starting with a nice tickle of upfront bitterness. Then a tartness washed through, causing massive salivation. This had the effect of thinning the mouthfeel, of making it feel watery and flabby. Luckily, when all hope was being lost, a load of malty caramel sweetness pushed through, filling the mouthfeel out a touch. A gentle bitterness led into a lingering, fruity, very juicy (read watery) aftertaste that went on for ages.

Watery marmalade was my overall impression, the intensity of which built with each mouthful. It’s was quite nice, once you got over all the juicy, wateriness caused by the tartness. Having said that, I’d rather it had been a bit more substantial, body wise, all the way through. The juicy, wateriness of it, while it might be refreshing on a hot summers afternoon, wasn’t particularly welcome on a dismally wet winters eve.

It was odd, the pleasure of each mouthful varied, depending on how much beer was in it. It was fine with small and large mouthfuls, but not so great with a middling mouthful. It left me confused and not sure what to think about it. If I hasn’t know that it was intentionally kettle soured, the tartness would really have thrown me.

I’m finishing this write up over twenty four hours after finishing the beer. I still can’t quite get my head round it. I still don’t know if I liked it or not. It is entirely possible that I like, and dislike it, in equal measure. Not sure I’d rush out and buy another can though…

Craft Keg Arrives in Cambridge

I popped into the Cambridge Brew House at lunchtime, as I was dropping off a couple of bottles of homebrew for James, the head brewer of the Cambridge Brewing Company. As he was telling me about his future trip to a hop farm to pick up some green hops, my eye wandered to the back of the bar, where I noticed a load of keg fonts coming out of a keg attached to the wall. I’ll admit to suddenly blurting out “you have Thornbridge Jaipur on keg…!?!” and stopping James in his tracks; it’s not everyday you see that sort of thing round here.

So evidently the Cambridge Brew House have installed a few more keg lines and have some national and international craft keg on tap! Today there was Camden Pale Ale and Freedom Organic Lager on the main bar fonts, plus Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted, Thornbridge Jaipur, Adnams Clump Sagin and Redhook Long Hammer IPA on the new keg fonts. If you can make out the prices on the photos above, you’ll notice that they’re craft keg prices, so a pint of the Jaipur would set you back £4.50. Which isn’t too steep if you’ve ever drank in Cask, Craft or The Euston Tap.

This is a definite step forward for pubs in Cambridge, especially as James told me that they had some Magic Rock stuff waiting to go on too. Which I’ll probably miss, due to being on holiday for the next three weeks, but those are the breaks. When I get back, I’m going to have to go down and see what they have on, fingers crossed for some Magic Rock

Un-Human Dreams

There’s no point hiding the fact that I’m a massive Magic Rock fan boy. I love what they do and just wish I could get hold of more of their stuff on cask, keg and bottles locally. So I was in raptures (my least favorite of theirs) when I heard they were going to be releasing Un-Human Cannonball, a massive Triple India Pale Ale and yes, I was there at 09:00 with my debit card in hand to buy some the moment it became available on their online shop.

I did intend to to do the full review type gubbings, but since you can’t buy it in bottles anymore and I don’t know how much is still around in keg, it didn’t feel right to gloat about having some, more on that later. So instead, I’d like to share with you how it influenced my dreams last night, as I had some seriously weird stuff floating through my head.

I’m not sure how it all started, but I found myself working, I sue the word loosely, at Thornbridge, but instead of their nice shiney new brewery, this was in some post apocalyptic ex-powerstation type location; quite steam punkish. I think I was there for a brew day or something like that, but I was just wandering around looking at stuff and getting more and more sloshed.

Then things go really weird as the brewery seemed to transform into a much smaller and more modern affair. Then there was a Magic Rock Stu type character wearing a powered exoskeleton that allowed them to pick up full barrels and run around the place like they were some sort of superhuman. It was all a bit weird and then I woke up. So just like consuming vast quantities of pongy cheese just before bed, it looks like Magic Rock’s Un-Human Cannonball can also disturb your nights sleep.

Anyway, back to that bit about the gloating. Magic Rock are heavily influenced by what’s going on in the States, that much is obvious from reading their tweets from earlier in the year when Rich and Stu when on a road trip.

You could say that Un-Human Cannonball is their attempt at what Russian River do with Pliny the Younger, a once a year limited release and distribution triple IPA. This is no bad thing in my book, it’s nice to see one of my favorite breweries producing this kind of beer and doing it well. You could say that the flavour of Un-Human Cannonball didn’t quite live up to the immense mangotastic aroma and people would probably agree with you, but at least you know it’s not a bad batch that’s been thrown in a barrel with some fruit for a bit and then sold as if that’s what was intended…

I read with interest BeerCast Rich’s blog, Will annual beer releases be the next big thing? I don’t really mind if a few new wave and progressive breweries join Fuller’s in doing a limited run annual release, but I’m not about to start camping out in front of the brewery or a pub, for a chance to buy it. Like Rich, I’m also surprised that BrewDog haven’t done something similar; I might have to ask him if I can use Simcoe Asteroid Smashdown as a name for one of my homebrews!

I hope we don’t end up going down the route of scratch cards and lotteries, just so we can have a taste of a beer. If the late Simon Johnson taught us one thing, it was that beer is supposed to be fun, it’s just beer after all. Am I glad I was sat there at nine o’clock in the morning hitting F5? Part of me thinks yes, but part of me also thinks that I’m a sucker. At the end of the day, it’s just a beer, a very nice one, granted, but just a beer.

Is Craft Beer Going Mainstream?

My Twitter timeline has been pretty full today, full of Iron Maiden and FHM; not exactly common bedfellows it has to be said. Evidently, this months FHM features a load of craft beer, as you can see from the image above. The double page spread appears to have beers from some of the bigger craft beer purveyors like Thornbridge and Dark Star, plus some from the newer, or less well known ones like Wild Beer Co. and Tiny Rebel. I’ve not actually seen the issue in question, as my local Tesco didn’t have any copies of FHM in stock when I popped in at lunch, Hopefully they’ll have some in at some point this week so I can have a proper look, as evidently, there is also a six page article featuring that Scottish brewery.

It makes me wonder though, what with events like Craft Beer Rising having just been, SIBA Beer X (with a cracking craft keg list) just about to kick off and the Liverpool Craft Beer Expo, Birmingham Beer Bash and Independant Manchester Beer Convention all still to come, are we at a tipping point? Now that lads mags like FHM are running craft beer articles, are we about to see craft beer going mainstream?

By mainstream, I mean not niche. We beer geeks live in a bit of a bubble, we’re pretty irrelevant in the big scheme of things, a tiny enclave in a world of industrial beer. I doubt that a few hipster beer festivals and lads mags articles are going to change the drinking habits of the majority of the beer drinking population, no matter how much we hope they will. However, I’m assuming the target audience for FHM is mainly late teens, early twenties, so they have the vast, vast majority of their drinking lives ahead of them. If even a few of them become curious due to articles like this and start asking for some of these beers in their chosen night time drinking establishments, then maybe, just maybe we might start to see a few places dabble with getting some more interesting beer in stock. That has to be a good thing, no…?

Update: here’s Hardknott Dave’s take on being one of the featured breweries

The Cambridge Brew House

Herbs everywhere, I wonder how long that'll last...

I posted some Cambridge Pub News the other week and I’m pleased to say that one of the pubs mentioned has now opened.

The Cambridge Brew House is located on King St and has undergone a massive refit, which has included the installation of a micro brewery on the site. I’m not going to go into any details about the history of the place, as Adam over at Pints and Pubs has already produced a fantastic blog on the subject.

I managed to visit at lunchtime on their opening day last week and enjoyed a few halves of the beer on offer (they had two of their own on, Adnams Broadside, Black Bar Standing Talking Bitter, Lord Conrad’s Pheasants Rise and Nethergate Growler Bitter). I wandered around and took a few photos, which you can see below. I’m not the biggest fan of going to the pub on my own, even though I seem to do it quite a lot and since it was a flying visit, I think I’ll reserve judgement on the place until I’ve been in the evening with some friends. Having said that, there are a few things that I think they could improve on, but given that this was their opening day, this might sound a bit on the harsh side.

Of the six hand pumps mounted on the bar, three of them were dispensing bitter, two dispensing premium bitter / best bitter / ESB (call it what you like) and just the one pump dispensing anything remotely pale and hoppy, which from my personal perspective, doesn’t bode well. I’d liked to have seen a larger selection of beer styles on offer and while they are obviously keeping it local, which is all well and good, if the local produce on offer is all a bit samey and average, then maybe you need to look a bit further afield. Instead of a couple of those bitters, I’d rather have seen one or two beers from a few of the UK’s more progressive and new wave breweries (Thornbridge, DarkStar, MagicRock, Summer Wine to name but a few).

Of their in house brews (currently being brewed in Henley until their brew house is up and running next week) the King’s Parade was nice and balanced, but tending to the maltier side of things and in my view inferior to the Black Bar Standing Talking; mainly as the later had more bitterness. The Misty River was similarly nicely balanced, but this time slightly to the bitter side of things with a pleasant bitter tickle lingering in to after taste, it also had that smoothness you get from a bit of wheat in the grist and I would happily have another. While both were good solid beers, neither of them would get a beer geeks juice salivating though, but then I don’t think either are aimed at the beer geek, so will probably do very well for the kind of clientèle that the place seems designed to attract.

They do have plans for other beers though, with a US Pale ale already having been brewed. So hopefully with the micro brewery on site, we can only hope that there will be a range of more esoteric and interesting brews to go along with the core range.

I must admit to not paying too much attention to what was was available on keg, as there was nothing that instantly stood out as being different for the norm. I think they could easily give over a couple of keg lines to something interesting from the Bacchanalia or Beautiful Beers like some De Molen, Rogue or anything kegged from the afore mentioned progressive UK brewers; it appears to be working for Benson Blakes in Bury St Edmunds and Cambridge is crying out for somewhere to do some decent craft keg properly. It was a similar story with the bottles, I stopped looking when I saw they were stocking the triumph of marketing over taste, that is Innis & Gunn.

I can’t comment on the food, as I didn’t eat any while I was there, but it sounds positive from blogs like The Moving Foodie and what folks have been saying on twitter.

I’ve not really enjoyed trying to write this bolg, as I feel I’ve been ridiculously over critical for somewhere that had only been open for only for 30 minutes when I walked through the door. I wasn’t expecting a Cask Pub & Kitchen, or Craft Beer Co type place, even though Cambridge desperately needs one. It’s just frustrating walking into a new place and being uninspired by the beer choices on offer, especially when there are plenty of pubs opening around the country with impressive cask, keg and bottle ranges on the bar. I also realise that I’m probably not the target market for this place, there’s too much herbage on the tables for my liking for a start, but I just feel like it could have been so much more beer wise.

I’ll be going back though, I can’t say how often as I’m not the biggest pub visitor, but it certainly another option along with The Mitre and The Maypole, for a quick half on the way back to the office after a lunch break in town. I’m also looking forward seeing brewing return to the City for the first time in a few years and will definitely be paying a visit to try the new US Pale Ale when it hits the bar in a few weeks time.

The guys behind the venture obviously know what they are doing, as they’ve built a pub company before and then sold it to Greene King. This begs the question, are they in this because they love beer, or are they only in it for the money, what ever the answer to that question is, The Cambridge Brew House is certainly a welcome addition to the Cambridge pub scene and I look forward to seeing how it’s evolves over the next few months.

Same But Different

The definition of craft beer in the UK raised its head on Twitter again at the end of last week, it has also appeared on a few of the blogs I read since then too (here, here, here and here). I was going to blog about it on Friday before it all blew up, but ran out of time and any motivation to make time after work disappeared once I’d cracked open a beer. After much toing and froing, it seems to me at least, that the general consensus ended up with it, yet again, meaning something along the lines of: beers made by brewers I like. Seems we’ve not progressed at all since I last wrote about this stuff.

I do think we need to stop chasing our tails on this one and just let it lie. The phrase craft beer means different things to different people, which is completely unworkable and the main reason why using it is a load of cobblers. Even though we all think we know what it means, as there is no hard and fast definition, like there in the US, it is therefore in our reality, meaningless. I still think we should be using phrases like new wave and progressive to describe brewers, although I quite like Adrian Tierney-Jones’ comment on Tandleman’s post about using the term artisanal (even though the usage of that word can end up being a bit wanky).

The main reason I was going to post though, was about a comparison between craft beer and heavy metal. The idea had been running around inside my head for a while, but it took Simon Johnson’s New Wave Of British Keggy Metal blog to give me the necessary kick to write it down. I’m not going to give a definition as that’s not what this is about, it’s more an observation. Essentially it boils down to this, I think that what is happening with beer in the UK, is just like what happened with rock and the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal.

Just as bands like Iron Maiden, Saxon, Diamond Head, Judas Priest et al replaced Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and the like, on the record players, tape decks and walkmen of the youth of the day. So brewers like Thornbridge, Dark Star, Magic Rock, Summer Wine, Marble and so forth are replacing the likes of Greene King, Wadworth, Shepherd Neame, etc, etc, etc in the glasses of the next generation of drinkers. Now I don’t know if it’s a similar thing as happened with Porter, it falling out of favour as it was seen as an old mans drink, but the whole thing does have that kind of aura about it.

Nothing happens in isolation though, the NWOBHM was built on the foundation of those that went before; we wouldn’t have the likes of Iron Maiden without Black Sabbath and their peers. They listened to those bands and used them, amongst others, as inspiration to forge their own paths and sounds. The vast majority of todays new wave and progressive brewers will have grown up drinking beer from this country’s old school regional and family brewers, but are taking their inspiration, not only from them, but from what’s happening in the rest of world, especially the US.

I suppose that if you’re main inspiration is the US Craft Beer movement, then you’re going to want to identify with that by trying to label yourself accordingly. However, the beery environment in the UK is not the same as that in the US and never has been, hence why I don’t think the phrase is transferable. At the end of the day, it’s all wet, brown* and alcoholic and I think there are plenty of other things we should be worrying about, rather than getting our knickers in a twist over the definition of two words. To be perfectly honest, I think the Magic Rock tagline sums up craft beer in the UK best; Same But Different.

* Other colours are available…

Edinburgh Independents Beer Festival

There’s two reasons why I’m blogging about an event that happened nearly two months ago, but we’ll get to those reasons shortly. I wasn’t even supposed to be up in Scotland that weekend, but my Grandma died and the funeral was on the Saturday. As I had a few hours to myself on the Friday evening and Sunday afternoon, I decided to try and get to a few of the participating pubs and try some of the beer on offer.

Friday saw me charge from Waverly station up to Bow Bar, where I managed to sink a few halves and start an argument with the bar on Twitter. I’m still sure that Buxton Axe Edge tasted of garlic. Next stop was the Red Squirrel on Lothian Road, a pub I’ve never been in before, but it seemed nice and had a good selection of beer. It was just a shame there was so many suits in the place for their end of week after work pint. But that did mean there was the opportunity to try and steer a few of them off the San Miguel and onto some of The Kernel’s India Pale Ale Galaxy.

It was a short wander from there to The Cambridge Bar on Young Street, although I have to say I wandered right passed it and had to ask for directions in Rebus’ favorite pub The Ox. I was running short on time by this point, so after just a half of Kernel Pale Ale Amarillo, I hot footed it to The Stockbridge Tap and beer paradise. I’m a big fan of the Moor Beer Company and while I can get some of their bottles locally, we hardly ever see their beer on cask, with only the odd one popping up every now and then in The Mitre.

It looked like nearly all of The Stockbridge Tap’s hand pumps and keg lines had been given over to Moor Beer, it was an amazing selection. To be honest, I could have just gone straight there and drank Moor Beer all evening and left a very happy man. Even though there were beers there that I’d not had before, I had to have a JJJ IPA, especially as they no longer sell bottles of it in the UK any more, which was followed in short order by an Old Freddy Walker.

My final beer before having to head off was a Magic Rock Bourbon Barrel Aged Bearded Lady and it was as amazing as I’d hoped. While in The Stockbridge Tap, I had a quick chat with both Andy from Summer Wine and Rich from Magic Rock, although I’m not sure I made much sense; three halves of strong beer in forty five minutes on top of all the other beer and walking, had left me a bit squiffy…

I was back in Edinburgh relatively early on the Sunday morning, which was a mistake, as I’d forgotten all about the Scottish licensing laws. So I pitched up at The Caley Sample Room an hour too early for them to be able to serve me any beer. It was gutting looking at the pump clip for the Moor Crockle Grog and knowing I wouldn’t get to try any. Things didn’t get any better when I got to Cloisters as it was still shut, things were not looking good.

I decided to take a quick wander up Bruntsfield Place to see if an offie I’d been told about was open. As it happened Drinkmonger was open and they had bottles of Tempest Brave New World IPA nestled into a great selection of Scottish and international beer. With my bag slightly heavier than before, I wandered back to Cloisters and straight into the arms of a Bristol Beer Factory Southville Hop. I’ve never had any Bristol Beer Factory on cask before, so it was a real treat to be able to try a couple. I do wish they were more readily available around these parts.

My next stop was The Southern Bar, where I only had time for a half and had to make the agonising decision between a Summer Wine Dr Paracelsus’ Bombastic Indigo Elixir and a Kernel India Pale Ale Summit. Decision made and beer quaffed, I hot footed it around the corner to the Great Grog Shop to buy some more Scottish beer to bring home. I’m going to have to go back there next time I’m up the road, as it’s a fantastic place with a great selection of beer.

The wander down to Hollyrood 9A was a bit of a chore, as my bag was now rather heavy with all the beer, but the three beers I managed to try there made the sore shoulders worth while. Firstly Summer Wine Oregon, a fantastic American Pale Ale, secondly, Tempest Pale Ale on cask and keg, the cask just edged it for me. Finally Magic Rock’s Clown Juice, which meant I kept up my record of having tried every single beer they’ve made.

It nice to finally meet a load of people I only know via Twitter, BeerCast Rich and DanDanGlover to name two. It was also great to meet Summer Wine’s Andy (thanks for the first class train tickets!) and Magic Rock’s Rich again, both great guys. Finally, a massive shout out to both Bruce Gray and Chris Mair of Craft Centric for organising the whole thing. It was fantastic to see so many pubs coming together to celebrate some of the best beer that these Isles produce, they should all be applauded for making it happen. I’ll have to seriously consider “visiting my folks” if they do another one next year.

Anyway, this wasn’t supposed to be a long and rambling post, it was supposed to be short and to the point, so back to the two original reasons for it. Firstly, I’m going to review all the beer I brought down the road with me, while I don’t really enjoy doing reviews, the Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt is upon us and I need the practice. So look out for three or four posts in the coming days.

Secondly, I won first prize in the Edinburgh Independents Beer Festival raffle, which is a brew day with Summer Wine!

To say I’m excited is an understatement…

Mout & Mocca Non-Carbonated

I picked up this bottle last week from the Bacchanalia in Cambridge. At the time Ed said that it was non-carbonated, as that’s how Menno and his team like they’re Imperial Stouts. I had my doubts, but I’ll give most beers a try, which leads us to this post.

So do I like my Imperial Stouts with no carbonation? In a word, no. I really, really didn’t like it to start with, in fact I almost poured it down the drain as I had a Magic Rock Bearded Lady chilling in the fridge and it was far more appealing. It definitely improved over time, but it was just lifeless, missing that spark to lift and separate the flavours.

I don’t really drink anything other than beer and water, no hot drinks and definitely no coffee. To me, this was just too much like a cold cup of manky beery coffee, pretty much my nightmare drink. I think I’ll stick to Imperial Stouts that have a bit of life about them in future…

28.845 Units

I thought it would be interesting to jot down everything I drank on Friday and add up the units. More to scare myself at the amount I drank, rather than to prove any kind of point. So here, in order, is what I imbibed and where (just to clarify, I drank half pints):

Pub Brewery Beer ABV Units*
King William IV Brodies Kiwi 3.8% 1.08
Brodies Citra 3.1% 0.881
Brodies Silver Bullet 4.7% 1.34
Brodies American Brown 4.8% **
Brodies Hoxton Special IPA 6.6% 1.88
Tap East Tap East Pale Ale 5.6% 1.59
Tap East Extra Stout 6.6% 1.88
Thornbridge Chiron 5% 1.42
Lovibonds 69 IPA 6.9% 1.96
Cask Pub And Kitchen Mikkeller / Redemption Mild Interpretation 3.5% 0.994
Dark Star Hophead 3.8% 1.08
Magic Rock Curious NZ 3.9% 1.11
Dark Star Green Hopped IPA 6.5% 1.85
The Southampton Arms Camden Town Show Boat 4.5% 1.28
Marble Chocolate Marble 5.5% 1.56
Magic Rock Cannonball 7.4% 2.1
The Euston Tap Magic Rock High Wire 5.5% 1.56
Thornbridge Raven 6.6% 1.88
Nøgne Ø Pale Ale 6% 1.7
Rogue Ales Brutal Bitter 6% 1.7
Total units   28.845

I was also in The Castle Inn on Tuesday lunch, The Cartlon Arms on Wednesday lunch and The Devonshire Arms on Thursday lunch. So all in all, last week was rather on the alcoholic side, not the worst week, units wise, that I’ve ever had, but certainly the worst for many, many years. I think I owe my liver a break and am planning on having this week off the booze, although there is an Adnams mini keg in the shed and my wife is away next weekend…

* Units calculated using the calculator here.
** I took this one back as it tasted funny, so it’s not inculuded in the calculation…