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Movies, Craft Beer and Geek Stuff

Musings

Being a Human

The most heartbreaking thing I’ve seen in recent times is the media making people truly believe that those who are in genuine need and those who just want to cheat the welfare system out of every penny they can are one and the same.

When I talk about the poor, stop thinking that I’m talking about an able-bodied working age person who would rather claim benefits and watch his 60″ TV than work and contribute to society. Stop thinking about the mother who churns out child after child to increase the amount of money the state will give her to spend on fags and booze.

Think about the disabled 20-something who can’t leave his or her bed without 24-hour, hands-on care (from a carer not earning enough to live above the poverty line). Think about the guy who built a career in a job that the government privatised and forced into a minimum wage role because none of the skills he acquired over the last 40 years are relevant. Think about the willing and able, skilled young person who is diagnosed with cancer and has to give up work to fight for his very life.

These people aren’t stealing your taxes. They’re not trying to cheat you. They are other human beings who, given one simple turn of events, you could find yourself side by side with in the hospital or the queue at the job centre. Be compassionate. Just be a good human being.

Brewery: Buxton / Omnipollo
Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 11.0%
Serving: 330ml Bottle
Price: £6-7

Today beer died. It’s over for me now; I need to find a new passion.

Last year, for the Rainbow Project, Buxton collaborated with Omnipollo to create a very special and unique beer, Yellow Belly. This is a peanut butter biscuit imperial stout without any peanut butter or biscuits in it. Yeah, I know. Well I didn’t get to try any last year but, honestly I wasn’t too fussed because the sound of it didn’t really grab me. This year it was brewed again, much to the delight of the beer’s very vocal advocates the first time around.

So this week, Sam and I took a ride out to Buxton Tap House to sample some delights and meet a couple of fellow beer geeks who were down on a short break from Edinburgh. Before I get into it, I should take a moment to tell you to get to that pub. It may be out of your way but, as well as it being situated in the most beautiful town you’re likely to ever see, the beer and service is unparalleled. They do cask beer better than I’ve ever had it (I had half an Axe Edge on cask and it was the best that beer has ever tasted) and also rock about 8 great keg lines. Anyway, I digress. I bought a bottle of Yellow Belly to take away and as I write this, I’ve just finished the bottle. Here’s what I thought of it.

A photo posted by Dan Schönhaar (@minute44) on

As you’d expect from an 11% Imperial Stout, it pours pitch black with a very dark brown two-finger head which goes away quickly, but not as quickly as you might expect given the ABV. As with other Buxton impy stouts this stuff clings to the glass and has a shiny, somewhat oily appearance in the glass. It leaves some alcohol legs behind as well as some nice lacing.

The aroma is nothing short of ridiculous. You get sweet biscuits, peanuts, a metric fuck-tonne of vanilla bean paste and a really great pipe smoke character. I’m sniffing the dregs in my glass as I write this very line. I don’t want anything to smell of anything else but this beer ever again.

The flavour totally delivers on the promises that the aroma made. Sticky, syrupy vanilla toffee, sweet peanut butter and an almost burnt brandy snap biscuit edge makes this beer as complex as it is decadent. There’s just a slight hint of an acidity that makes the sweet notes just sing. Small, slow sips, swirled around your mouth deliver an onslaught of the best flavour combo I’ve ever experienced in a beer. As the beer warmed the dessert characteristics just became more intense with rich sticky toffee pudding making an appearance which went perfectly with the creamy vanilla bean ice cream notes. A total delight.

Mouthfeel is as good as you could hope. Silky, coating and full-bodied. A perfect match for the favour profile.

All I can think right now is that I hate all other beers for not being Yellow Belly. I fully intend on picking up a few more bottles of this before they disappear. It is, quite simply, the best beer I have ever tasted and I don’t see how it can be beaten.

Verdict: 5/5

Brewery: Wild Beer Co. (Somerset, UK)
Style: Saison / Farmhouse Ale
ABV: 9%
Serving: 750ml Sharing Bottle
Price: I paid £7 but expect to pay up to £15

Celebration beers. They’re a pretty intangible thing, really. Each brewery does something slightly different. Sierra Nevada for instance release an annual celebration ale which is essentially just a standard wet hop IPA. Siren do Ratchet which is a blended, dry hopped saison (which I also tried recently and was kind of weirded out by). A lot of beer heads name Wild Beer Co’s Ninkasi as one of the best in the category and it’s certainly gained high praise on sites like RateBeer. My fellow beer geek, Sam (@samogotchi) recently snapped up the last bottle of Ninkasi at my local craft beer pub, much to my disappointment. However to my delight, I went in this weekend and they had more! Yay!

The carbonation on this beer is brisk for sure, but nothing like Siren’s Ratchet which, despite a week in my fridge motionless, still spunked about a third of its contents when I opened it. This ours two to three fingers of bubbly white head which does disappear quite quickly. I think if I’d settled this properly and poured more carefully it would have been pretty much clear, but because I got too excited I ended up with some haze. The brewery recommend drinking from a champagne flute but, lets face it, I was never going to do that. I poured in my trusty teku which did the job just fine.

A photo posted by Dan Schönhaar (@minute44) on

The aroma is a lot like a very dry cider with the apple character toned back a bit. It also brings a champagne note in the form of a bit of sharpness. You do get a tonne of that wild yeast which brings a definite Belgian style funk to the aroma and there are also some tropical fruit notes, likely from the NZ hops used. There’s a lot going on but nothing too overpowering.

In terms of flavour, this stuff is absolutely killer! You get a big sharp champagne-like hit of grape and light citrus up front which leads into a complex, spicy Belgian yeast character which definitely lets you know you’re drinking a great saison. Finally, you get a lovely lingering sweet apple and tropical fruit flavour and a very reserved bitterness from those NZ hops that just tease you enough to want to dive in for another sip. All the flavours are so perfectly balanced it’s scary, and that’s pretty much the main motif with this stuff; balance. I’m told the Grand Cru version of this beer is even better but I’m not sure how that could be possible. Very tasty stuff indeed!

The beer has a nice prickly mouthfeel from the carbonation and sharp flavours and the body, considering its a 9% beer, is light as a feather! You’d guess 5-6% alcohol, tops. Definitely not at all boozy.

Verdict: 5/5

Brewery: Founders Brewing Co.
Style: Impreial/Double IPA
ABV: 9.4%
Serving: 355ml Bottle
Price: Around £4 Bottle Shop / £6 Bar

I had a goal at the beginning of the weekend; to try a beer that I’d never had before. On Saturday night on the way home from a friend’s house, I stopped in at a pub near me, The Alexandra Hotel, to pick up a couple of bottles. My intention was to get a bottle of Sierra Nevada Narwahl imperial stout but they had unsurprisingly sold out of that. So I leafed through their impressible bottle menu for something I’d never had. When I spotted Founders Double Trouble I knew I had to go for it. Nothing I’ve had from Founders has been bad and as I’m a sucker for Imperial IPA, this was a no-brainer.

Double Trouble

I’ll come right out and say this before I start; This bottle was a fair few months old so I knew the hop flavour and aroma would have taken a hit. Still, going in with that in mind, I found there was a nice balanced sweet, dank aroma of ripe grapefruit, peach, orange and melon. There was some pine there as well. There was definitely a sweet brioche malt presence like you’d expect from an East Coast IPA. None of these aromas blew my socks off but I was under no illusions that this was a result of the age of the bottle. There was a tiny amount of booze on the nose but nothing to write home about.

Flavour wise, I was pretty surprised at how much hop character remained. It was sweet from the heavier malt backbone but those hops still punched through with dank, resinous pine, mango, grapefruit, pineapple. orange and melon. There was a good crisp, dry bitterness in the finish that was really nice after the sweetness up front. The 9.4% was almost undetectable. I’ve had 4% beers that have tasted more boozy but it somehow still hung on to a medium to big body and sticky mouthfeel. I get the feeling that this beer has aged the way you’d want a barley wine to age. The hops have dropped off and lost a bit of the aggressive edge and have left the sweet malts to come through and deliver wintery, ripe fruit and sweet bread flavours.

I can imagine what this would have been like fresh and, honestly I don’t feel cheated by the hop dial being turned down here. I can only speculate but I imagine the flavour would have been a little too astringent and dry early on. I would like to have hung onto the punchy aroma though.

Verdict: 4/5

Directors: Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen
Starring: Seth Rogen, James Franco

Sound the controversy klaxon! Wait, should that be the ballsy marketing campaign klaxon? The cynic in me thinks the latter. At the very least Sony have employed an extremely opportunistic marketing team to take advantage of the publicity surrounding their security hack and recent cyber-attack. (Who says cyber anything these days? It reminds me of chat rooms off of the 90’s and MSN messenger. ASL?) Anyway, after a pulled mainstream cinema release, Sony decided to do a limited Indy theatre release in conjunction with a more widespread on demand release through YouTube, Google Play and Amazon Prime. Personally I think this is the way it should always be because, well frankly I hate big multiplex cinemas. Again, I digress. Last night I checked out the long awaited follow up to This Is The End, The Interview.

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Brewery: BrewDog
Style: Barrel Aged Imperial Stout
ABV: 15%
Serving: 330ml Bottle
Price: Around £16

About a month ago I started thinking about my Christmas Day beer selection and what I decided was that I definitely wanted a really special imperial stout to finish out the evening. At first I had the choice of three BrewDog beers; Tokyo*, Dog C or the mighty Paradox Heaven Hill. But when my local bottle shop, Hopology tweeted that they had some of the increasingly hard to come by 2012 release of BrewDog’s Christmas Paradox in stock, I just had to go for it!

Christmas Paradox 2012

The beer pours absolutely black as night with a mocha coloured film of fine bubbles that disappear in seconds. You get definite legs running down the side of the glass from that very high ABV. Just as with Heaven Hill, the beer is almost oily and stains the glass as you swirl it.

The aroma is insanely complex! You get liquorice, bonfire toffee, banana, rum-soaked raisins and burnt honeycomb. Interestingly, I got almost no alcohol on the nose which considering it is 15% was a mystery. I could sit and sniff this beer all day.

Flavour wise this beer is a slam dunk. So massively intense yet still complex with a hundred different flavour notes to pick up on. The ageing process has almost certainly mellowed out the alcohol burn and instead you get intensely sweet rum and raisin ice cream, vanilla, dark toffee, honeycomb, and liquorice. Again, as with Heaven Hill, there is no coffee here but you do get a similar Riesen caramel flavour instead. The use of rum casks rather than bourbon casks brings a whole different dimension. Instead of banana, grassy, wood notes you get rich dark brown sugar and buttery fudge. As the beer came up to room temperature the chocolate toffee flavours gave way to boozy dark fruit like blackberries and cherries. Again there was a sense of those boozy fruit chocolates you get around Christmas time.

Mouthfeel was just super luxurious. Just as with Heaven Hill I took about two hours drinking it letting the syrupy feeling coat my palette and the flavours evolve as the beer warmed. This is definitely another “treat yo self” beer but boy, what a treat! I might have to track down another bottle in a couple of years to see how it tastes then.

Verdict: 5/5

BrewDog are known for pushing boundaries with their brewing. From brewing beer under the sea, or ice distilling IPA to make the strongest beer in the world they put a lot of stock in the value of experimentation. Each year they produce a range of prototype beers, each with their own little (or perhaps not so little) twist and let the customers decide which one is best and should be turned into a permanent fixture.

Some amazing beers have come of this process, including probably the best IPA BrewDog make, the mighty Jackhammer! So this being the first time I’d been able to try all four entries I was pretty excited to see what the team had produced. On Saturday I popped over to the Nottingham bar and racked up a flight board of the four offerings and got stuck in. Here’s what I thought…

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Brewery: Buxton Brewery
Style: Saison
ABV: 6.3%
Serving: 330ml Bottle
Price: Around £3

My first venture away from mass produced shitty lager was into the world of Belgian beer. Duvel, Chimay and the like were regulars for me and I was always up for trying new ones when they appeared at my local. As such, I’ve always had a lot of love for Saison as a style. The spicy yeast and lively carbonation are always winners for me. Trouble is, I’ve had a few average-to-poor examples from otherwise great non-Belgian craft brewers. Since Buxton always kick ass I just had to give their dry hopped, New World Saison a shot.

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Brewery: BrewDog
Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 15%
Serving: 330ml Bottle
Price: Around £10

It’s that time of year. Winter coats are on, central heating goes on timer and Ant and Dec start selling Christmas stuff on every channel. That’s right, it’s Stout Season! I’ll admit, this is the first year I’ve really been fussed about switching to stout as the weather gets colder, mainly because I love hops so much I tend to drink IPA all year round. This year, though I’m finding myself drawn to the toasty, smooth, sweet, warming characteristics of a great imperial stout. The last couple of times I’ve visited my local BrewDog bar I’ve had RipTide, or even the legendary RipCore (Black and Tan made with RipTide and Hardcore IPA). I’ve also had a couple of stouts from the likes of Thornbridge and Buxton that have really hit the spot in the colder weather.

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Brewery: Knee Deep Brewing Co.
Style: Triple India Pale Ale
ABV: 11.25%
Serving: 650ml Bottle
Price: Around £12

Every so often I like to treat myself to a beer that’s a little more expensive than I would normally go for. In August, for my birthday I treated myself to a couple of these; 8 Wired’s Hopwired IPA and Stone’s Enjoy By 08.16.14. Both were in the £10-15 price bracket. This month my treat beer was one that Rob from HopZine raved about during his recent trip to America, Knee Deep Brewing’s Simtra. This triple IPA weighing in at 11.25% ABV certainly has a lot going for it on paper, not least the inclusion of one of my top three hop varieties; Citra. When I saw a local bottle shop had this, I didn’t hesitate, even with the £12 price tag.

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