Another thing I got from the interview with James Brodie yesterday was a bit of a scoop – sure, a small and specialized scoop, but a scoop nonetheless: the list of beers Brodie’s is bringing to the Copenhagen Beer Celebration! You saw it here first, folks. Here’s the full list, with some comments:
- Hoxton Special IPA (ABV 6.6) – A quite sweet, fruity/citrusy IPA, highly drinkable.
- Dalston Black IPA (ABV 7.0) – A “big fruit” black IPA, one of the better examples of the genre I’ve tasted!
- Hackney Red IPA (ABV 6.1) – A malty IPA with a tiny whiff of smoke – very flavourful yet very balanced, possibly my fave Brodie’s IPA.
- Simcoe for Breakfast (around 10 ABV) – A breakfast stout heavily hopped with Simcoe.
- Romanov Whisky Barrel Aged (Jameson) (around 10 ABV) – I’ve had the Rioja barrel-aged version of this Imperial Stout, and it had wonderful complexity and depth of flavour. I imagine it will be just as interesting with some Irish whisky notes.
- MoFo Stout (ABV 10.1) – This is the Mikkeller collaboration brew, an imperial stout brewed with liquorice and fresh cranberries. Sounds yummy!
- Pink IPA (ABV ?) – This is going to be an Aussie-style IPA with Centennial, Citra and Columbus, with some fresh raspberries added, mostly for colour. The first pink IPA ever?
- Kiwi IPA (ABV around 7) – Brodie’s have previously done a low-ABV (3.8) bitter/pale ale with NZ hops, but for CBC they’re brewing a bigger IPA version.
- Awesomestow IPA (ABV 7.1) – First brewed for Brodie’s own festival at their Old Coffee House pub, this is a West Coast IPA with lots of tropical fruit flavours and resiny hops.
- Old Street Pale (ABV 5.3) – An American Pale Ale, apparently on the smoother side of the spectrum.
So there you have it, folks. I’m pretty excited about all of these beers and I think they present a very good cross-section of Brodie’s offerings. The only thing I’m possibly missing is an ABV 3-4 session beer, something I know Brodie’s also does well, but perhaps an extreme beer festival like CBC is not the best forum for that… Anyway, all of you going to CBC: make sure to come to the Brodie’s stall – they’re a world-class brewery and this will be a unique chance to sample their beers outside the UK!
If you follow this blog (all three of you – you know who you are!) you know that I’m a big fan of East London brewery Brodie’s – I’ve written about them here and more extensively and recently here. After my writeup of the Bunny Basher festival at brewery HQ William IV in Walthamstow, brewmaster James Brodie got in touch, and today I made the trek to E10 to have a chat with James about various beery topics, particularly what kinds of beer we can expect from Brodie’s in the near future. James and Lizzie Brodie (brewery co-founder) were very friendly and enthusiastic and the interview ended with a surprising invite – more on that later.
I remember the first beer I had from Brodie’s: their Dalston Black IPA, which was excellent. Then I had the Old Street Special IPA, which was excellent. Then I had the Hackney Red IPA, which was excellent. Then, moving away from IPA territory, I had their Whitechapel Weizen (you’re beginning to see the naming theme here, right?), which was excellent. I therefore came to the conclusion that Brodie’s is an excellent brewery. Yesterday I popped in on Brodie’s annual Easter beer festival extravaganza Bunny Basher (held for the third time at Brodie’s brewpub/HQ The William IV in Walthamstow) and realised I had been wrong. Brodie’s is not merely an excellent brewery. They’re a world-class brewery, hidden in plain sight in easternmost London.
No beer I had yesterday – and I managed ten different kinds, sticking to halves for the occassion – was anything short of top-notch. The quality on display was not only astounding but so was the range and the experimental bent: Brodie’s can do extremely sessionable low-ABV beers (the Mild and the Bethnal Green Bitter stood out), monsters like the ABV 22.0 Elizabethan Ale (reminded me of Kaluha), and everything in between, with flavourful and idiosyncratic IPAs a particular speciality. Today the Mikkeller collab Mofo Stout (yes, Brodie’s has done a collaboration with Mikkeller. And with Kernel. And Redemption. And probably lots more I don’t know about) is rumored to hit the pumps. The list goes on, literally: the beer list for the event ran to about 40 different brews. I was so blown away by the whole thing I totally forgot to take any pictures except of the beers, which is why this blog post is only illustrated by several near-identical images of half-pints. Basically, I forgot that I was a beer blogger and just focused on being a beer drinker for the night.
Bit of a mixed bag at the beginning of 2012. I sampled some more of my Christmas gift beers, went to Craft Beer Co. and The Old Fountain. Of course I also had the opportunity to try Thornbridge’s sherry cask-aged (3 years!) version of their Bracia Old Ale, which sort of put all the other beers I sampled last week in the shade – but I covered this separately, as you see.
On the international front, I finally got my taste buds around the much-talked-about Jai Alai IPA from Cigar City Brewing. Since I obsessively follow London beer bars on Twitter, I know that all of them make sure to mention when they’ve got this one on, like it is a big sales argument. And now I understand why – this is a hefty Double/Imperial IPA (ABV 7.5) with lots of fruit on the nose and tounge: mango and pineapple predominantly, with slightly sour notes making me think of those fruits as unripe. The fruit gives way to a strong resiny hoppiness and an ever-so-slightly smoky aftertaste. I know Cigar City makes lots of variations on the Jai Alai (how about a juniper/cedar-aged one, or one flavoured with acai berries and mango?) and I’d be really keen to try them too if they ever show up on these shores. In comparison the Southern Tier IPA at first felt a bit flat, but I just had to get used to the fact that it was just a different take on the genre. The high ABV (6.9) does not come through at all as much as it does in the Jai Alai (or maybe those 0.6 percentage units really make a big difference) – the Southern Tier IPA feels like a much lighter, more workmanlike IPA where the malt is more in balance with the hops. There’s a clear bread-and-butter taste, and where the Jai Alai has unripe fruit, Southern Tier goes for overripe, with quite sweet apple, orange and tropical flavours. All in all a very smooth drink. I’m a big fan of Southern Tier and this did not disappoint.
Ok, so this post takes a bit of explaining. I’m Swedish, which you know if you’ve been paying attention, so as it happens many (ok, three of them, which still leaves them in the majority) of my readers are Swedish. And if there’s one thing I’ve picked up from the Swedish beer geek scene after observing it from a distance these past nine years, it’s that British beer gets a bad rap there. No Swedish beer geek I know really enjoys British beer except maybe for BrewDog (who prefer to be called Scottish, I’m sure, though calling them “British” will certainly go over better than calling them “English”) – British beer is generally thought of as bland, stale, sour (in a bad way, not in a Cantillon way) and only one small step up from generic lager.
I did my Christmas warmup at The Old Fountain (no surprise there) and focused on two breweries: brilliant newcomer Magic Rock Brewing (based in Huddersfield) and East London institution Brodie’s Brewery (in the context of the London craft brewing scene I think it’s fair to call something an institution if it’s been around since 2008).
What can I say about Magic Rock that hasn’t already been said? Meteoric rise to fame among the beer cognoscenti, a pub presence throughout the land – all thanks to their excellent, US-influenced beers. Three of their beers were on at the Old Fountain. First High Wire, their West Coast IPA (ABV 5.5), which is an excellent example of the style. It’s very fruity, with citrus and tropical notes like mango dominating and a hefty dry citrus rind bitterness at the end. Then Cannonball, their Double IPA (ABV 7.4), which is an even better, extremely well-balanced IPA: it starts off suprisingly sweet, with molasses and fruit syrup flavours, quickly giving way to some serious, sour and citrusy bitter hoppiness with a layer of tropical fruit. Cannonball also has a big brother, Human Cannonball, a 9.2 ABV Imperial IPA – the best of the Magic Rock stable (they did not have Human Cannonball on at the Old Fountain, but I’ve tried it before). It’s a cranked-up version of the Cannonball, which means even more sweet malts and even more hops – the Human Cannonball is slightly more resiny and has a faint pine needle flavour that sort of goes on top of the other sweet tropical fruits. Third and last, they also had Magic Rock’s sessioner Curious NZ on, a version of their basic pale ale sessioner Curious (both at 3.9 ABV) which uses only NZ hops (so I guess that’s what they would call a South Pacific Pale Ale these days). As a sessioner, it’s great as it packs a lot of flavour into those 3.9 – it’s more tropical and less citrusy than the Curious. It’s good, but this tasting session showed the importance of the order in which you taste things… after the High Wire and the Cannonball, Curious NZ felt a bit bland, but I’ve loved it when I’ve had it on its own!
It’s a crying shame that I did not discover The Old Fountain sooner. It’s in EC1, I’ve lived in EC1 for six years, and for about four of those, Wetherspoons pub The Masque Haunt was my local. I simply did not know any better (not that The Masque Haunt was bad, really – it’s just that The Old Fountain is so much better). I’ve missed so many beers! But that’s London for you – so big and impossible to get to grips with that you can live practically on top of one of London’s best little beer pubs for six years without noticing.
The Old Fountain is a proper old-school pub with poor lighting, worn wooden furniture and pale, near-bare walls (there’s a dartboard, though) – in other words, absolutely wonderful. At this time of year the white ceiling is also decked-out with Christmas garlands, which somehow adds to the shopworn quality of the Old Fountain rather than detracting from it. I love this kind of pub in an entirely non-ironic way: the moment you step in the door, you feel that this is a pub that does not put on airs, it just quietly goes about the business of being excellent.