ReetGood Rides the Zeitgeist: Thornbridge’s Halcyon

Thornbridge's Halcyon

Thornbridge's Halcyon

My blog ain’t usually at the forefront for beer related news, or reviews of the newest concoctions, bottles or brewing methods. It’s more just me occasionally rambling about stuff I’ve drunk, when I get round to drinking it.

For example, I’ve not yet reviewed Flying Dog’s Raging Bitch, when every other bugger has. I will drink it some time and review it then, but I’ve not got round to it yet.

But this time I’m writing about a beer only a matter of days since everyone else has. Which is novel. Zak Avery wrote about it here, Real Ale Reviews kind of did it here and HopZine did it here. Others have banged on about it too.

What is it (if you haven’t followed the link yet)? It’s Thornbridge Brewery‘s Halcyon. Why are people writing about it? Well, because 1) it tastes good, 2) it smells good, 3) it has a nice attractive bottle (look at my photo) and 4) it’s quite novel in terms of brewing.

Most beers dry hop (i.e. used dried hops for hop flavour/nose), while Halcyon is hopped with fresh hops (from Mr Capper’s farm, Hertfordshire, no less). This method probably does all kind of smart, chemically things to the beer to make it taste good, the main thing for me though, is that this beer tastes fresh, the hops taste ripe, vibrant and, because I can’t think of a better word, zingy. It’s dry, bitter and also has a long, lurking fruitiness that picks up on about every tropical fruit you could ever desire. Plus a lovely warm, refreshing pineyness.

Which is all very nice.

As Zak pointed out in his lovely video blog, this beer isn’t quite perfect, there’s quite a lot of, erm, “gunk” in it from the hops. But then I’m not a massively discerning individual. The gunk don’t bother me, and I can deal with it for making such a great tasting beer.

Finally, I should mention why I decided to pop this bottle open in such a timely manner. It’s not to be newsworthy, or interesting. It’s because I figured it’d be a lovely bottle of beer and, therefore, a bloody great way to celebrate LEEDS UNITED GETTING PROMOTED TO THE BLOODY CHAMPIONSHIP! HOORAH!

Sheffield Taps: Meet The Brewer – Thornbridge

I went to a meet the brewer event at the Sheffield Taps last night. I drank more than I should for a school night, have a slight haze in my memory, took no notes, took no photos and now can’t really write much.

So here are a collection of thoughts, in note form about the evening in general. It’s not going to tell you much, you could find out loads more by reading Mark from Real Ale Reviewsfar more proper post.

1) My primary drinking companions Mark from Real Ale Reviews and Rob from HopZine are thoroughly good chaps, and a pleasure to go out drinking with

2) Sheffield Taps is a GREAT pub. It looks amazing with its wooden panneling and old tiles,  and the beers, just row. Loads and loads of ale on hand pull, some great world beers on tap and one of the best bottle selections you’re likely to see

3) It’s worth a £9, 45 minutes train journey to visit Sheffield Taps

4) Thornbridge make some truly great beers. Kipling and St Petersburg  especially

5) Take away cartons of beer are a brilliant invention

6) Taking away beer on the train when you’re already quite drunk is NOT good for a hangover

7) Skate kids like getting free beers from brewers

8 ) The smell of hops never gets old

9) Having a pub on a train station doesn’t help make sure you get your train. Oops.

10) (last one) I should have listened to the brewer more, and chatted less. Oops again.

IPA Craving: Thornbridge Jaipur

Jaipur on my mantlepiece

Jaipur on my mantlepiece

I recently started reading Pete Brown‘s Hops & Glory, having already read his previous two books. In the opening chapters, his rhapsodising about the glory that is Indian Pale Ale got my taste buds tingly and my thirst hankering for a taste of the oh-so bitter, peppery, citrusy blast of a good strong IPA.

Now, I’m not talking Deuchars (much as I love the stuff) but proper , strong IPAs, with a real alcoholic punch and packed full of gorgeous hops. Who cares that they were designed to be drunk in the intense heat of India, and therefore aren’t quite as warming as a nice thick stout or a rich, fruity barley wine? It might be bloody cold out, but if you’ve got a thirst for something, there’s no avoiding it.

So, I popped down to my cellar and picked out a bottle of Thornbridge’s Jaipur. Now, blogging about Jaipur seems, in some ways, a bit futile. The bloody thing has won loads of awards, has been a favourite at loads of beer festivals and has had countless words writtem about it already.

But then surely we get into this weird, obsessive world of beer blogging to share experiences of our drinking? It’s not there to show off how obscure and interesting our tastes are (or at least it’s not for me). So, then, Jaipur.

It’s bloody good. Obviously. As much fun as it would be to say, ‘it’s so overrated, blah blah’, this beer is just great. The golden pour, the floral, grape-ish nose and, best of all, that taste as you gulp it down. There’s hops and hops and hops. It’s not all overhwelming bitterness though, far from it. It’s sweet and slighty honeyed. The sweet malt flavours battle it out with the hops, creating a great sensation on the tongue.

And then, 10 minutes after your last sip, it’s still there, lurking, a long, long balanced finish. A great beer.

Thornbridge Hall

Thornbridge Hall

On a side note, while we’re here. Thornbridge Brewery must be one of the most pictaresuqe breweries there is, based in the gorgeous Thornbridge Hall in Derbyshire. Surely worth a visit for the beer and the views?

Thornbridge Brewery’s website is here (careful, mind, it keeps breaking my browser).

A Tale of Two Cities: Drinking in Leeds & Sheffield

A pictureless, detail-scant blog (I made no notes while drinking, I feel odd doing that in bars, with friends – it’d just be rude) from me to sum up my drinking experiences fron the last few days – in Leeds and Sheffield (hence the witty name of the blog).

We begin on Thursday night, in Leeds. A friend comes up to visit and we have an invite to the first birthday of Veuve Bar de Champagne in Chapel Allerton, Leeds. On our way to the bus, we pass North Bar and just can’t resist popping in (it being the favourite bar of me and my girlfriend).

It’s Christmas time, which means North Bar are doing their advent calendar beer. So, for each day of Christmas the first person into the bar gets a free beer from the calendar. Then for the rest of the day that bottle is available for cheap. I’m lucky, for when I go in the beer of the day is Goose Island Matilda – an American craft beer brewed with a heavy nod to Belgium.

It rich, dark gold in colour dry and very easy drinking for a 7% beer with slight wild, spicy notes that recall that king of beers that is Orval.

We went on from there to Chapel Allerton and Veuve, where we enjoyed a free glass of prosecco and more than our fair share of canapes (we’d had no dinner, see) but left when we saw that no more sparkle was going to be offered.

Luckily, just up the road is North Bar’s tiny sister bar Further North (cleverly named because is pretty much exactly in line with North Bar, but further north, see). What to order was a no-brainer when I spied that they had Marble Brewery‘s Ginger on tap. It’s light in colour and, surprisingly very gingery to taste. But, unlike a lot of ginger beers, Marble’s offering doesn’t allow the sweet spice to overwhelm their beer. While it’s very definitely there, the bitterness and alcoholic kick still packs a punch in the background. I finished my night with a half of Roosters Outlaw Stout that I don’t remember a great deal about, it was nice though.

Friday night was Sheffield (after a half of Elland‘s powerfully hoppy Nettle Trasher at The Reliance [which has some link to North and Further North]) and firstly Richard Hawley live at The Crucible. It was good, slow, sonorous and powerful – with some good Northern wit from the one-time Pulp man. But this ain’t a music blog, so I will move on.

I was up in Sheffield with my brother, a friend of his and my brother’s girlfriend (who lives in Sheffield). Post-gig it was decided that we’d go to Champs. It sold, I was told, real ale at amazing prices (with several Kelham Island brews for as little as £1) but it was a sports bar and a regular pre-club bar. Sounds odd, I thought, and I was right.

Champs does not look like a place that should be selling great real ales. Its walls are full of sporting memorabilia, the clientele are mainly enjoying lagers and spirits and the staff seem positively pissed off that they have to spare you (they’re much more interested in creatively stacking shot glasses in interesting patterns). When we finally get served, I get excited by spotting Thornbridge‘s Jaipur on tap, and persuade two of my companions to join me in a pint. I’m shocked as our bartender yanks it out of the pumps with no grace or care at all and passes it up far too cold.

It didn’t stop the beer tasting great though, powerfully hoppy but with an underlying honey-d sweetness, and very suppable, despite being 5.9%. Where it weaker, I would have had another half, but I stopped myself and went for a pale ale from Thornbridge whose name escapes me, it was light, a little sweet and with a nice hoppy finish, mind. Then midnight came along and we were swiftly kicked out with little grace. Suffice to say that, if it weren’t for its great beer selection, I wouldn’t darken Champs’ door again. If I do go back it will be during the day when, so I’m told, it’s much quieter and the staff are nicer.

So then, Saturday. The day starts well with a trip to Elland Road for Leeds v Huddersfield. We draw 2-2, but it’s a good game, even if Town are dirty buggers. This bears no relevance to anything else in this blog.

That evening, my girlfriend and I decide to head out to Cross Keys (thus making it four out of four of the North Bar-associated drinking holes in three days) for a slap up dinner. It’s a great pub, all roaring fires, exposed brickwork, beams and brilliant service. The food, traditional English grub done to an astonishingly high standard, was superb, as always. I had a great smoked haddock fish cake with a poached egg and tartar sauce followed by duck breast with chesnut stuffing. I washed that all done with a couple of pint of Saltaire‘s Winter Ale a slightly toffee-flavoured dark winter ale, a real warmer for this time of year. My girlfriend enjoyed a couple of bottle s of the splendid Flemish red Duchesse de Bourgogne – it comes with a sour kick at first, then a sweet, strawberry-esque finish.

In related news, I decided to use the NHS iPhone app for tracking your drink intake. Suffice to say that if I want to stay averaging 4 units per day (the recommended amount for me) I’m going to have to have a relatively sober week.

Find out about North, Further North, Cross Keys and The Reliance here. I’m sure you can find out about Champs somewhere if you want, but I don’t really recommend it.