Saturday, 17 September 2016

Mitchell`s Hop House Brewing - Independent

The recently crowned Real Ale Capital of Britain has a new brewery. Hot on the heels of potent pairing Sentinel and Little Critters comes Mitchell's Hop House Brewing.
The Meadowhead maestros of all things alcohol have now branched out and started their own micro brewery. The little Italian restaurant next door has been replaced by a shiny new brew kit aswell as an ale museum and the long term aim apparently is to of have a gin distillery too. Look out Locksley?!
The last twelve months or so have seen Mitchell's wholeheartedly jump on board the craft ale revolution with an impressively expanded range including a sizeable beer fridge with ale from near and far (from Tadcaster to Tokyo), bottled and canned. This place is on my route home from work so the visits have become increasingly frequent and inevitable. Staff at Mitchell's are friendly and knowledgeable, the range of spirits and wines is vast but what's the beer like?
The test batch of bottles disappeared crazily quickly so I missed them unfortunately but I grabbed a blonde at the first opportunity, so to speak. The brews have Mitchell's-related names and this one was named 'Independent' appropriately and offered ample reason to support local businesses if a reminder was ever needed. Stay local!
We twobeergeeks are not ordinarily blonde fans but needs must and, with this one on the shelves at well under two quid for a 500ml bottle, it was a no-brainer to add to my basket alongside the 'fruit-based' drink for the lady.
The initial aroma is nice enough; fresh and grassy. Thankfully Independent is not overly-carbonated as some new-to-bottle brewers seem to do and the late summer golden haze is topped by a thin off-white head.

This one is quaffable at 4% whilst having enough taste to keep the palate interested and the hoppy bitterness is pleasant and quite long-lasting. A good effort and it seems to improve further down the glass, or maybe I over-chilled it a touch. Possibly that could be an area to improve at HH: add some more information to the label like serving instructions, hops used or even IBUs, us geeks like that stuff. Anyways, a promising start and we look forward to seeing how Mitchell's Hop House develops up at the head of the Meadow.
The future is bright.  Maybe this place could be the first to offer a beer and cigar pairing? Now we`re talking!

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Sentinel Brewhouse revisited

We are very fortunate to have many fantastic pubs in Sheffield. We are also lucky to have a few places that have been taken over by visionary bosses and improved massively. Now in Sentinel Brewhouse we have something quite different to add to our city's ale armoury.
Head honcho Alex Barlow has an impressive and extensive CV and here on (inner) Shoreham Street his vision is coming into fruition fantastically. We first visited back in March at the back end of Sheffield Beer Week and the place was still more carpet clearance than brewery base but the space and location looked to have potential, to us, at least. The floorspace is sizeable but now six months on, with the brew kit now in place, it sits comfortably and the place has a great look overall.
The recent August bank holiday family day at Sentinel Brewhouse utilized the weather and space to full effect. Glorious. Films on a big screen indoors, in case of a downpour, and inflatables on the car park, a rare and welcomed consideration to families with a Dad / parent / carer with a discerning palette. (The bossman Barlow was here himself with a happy clan in tow too #proofinpudding ).
First visit had worried us a tad with the 'top end' beer pricing but now the range is expanded and improved (Magic Rock on keg, 'nearly ready', but for gas issues, and an array of bottles). Sentinel's own Rhubarb and Rosehip gose was beer of the (bank holi) day (and week) achieving that rarity of a big bold taste at a lovely low ABV (3.something % ), ideal sunny bank holiday fodder.
Lots of geeky beery info herein too on the above-bar boards (colour, IBUs, etc. ) plus the oft-ommited price and even glass options. Nice. Needed more in our city!? Service was suitably 'top end' too and appreciated as was the fantastic food which not many Sheffield places can match (think Beer Engine or Rutland). We are not a food blog though so.... try ... and let us know....!
In summary post-Summer - Sentinel Brewhouse? P`raps the most promising appearance on Shoreham Street since Brian Deane first arrived in a taxi from Donnie in 1988.  Give them a try.  x

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Abbeydale Brewery ; On the up!

Over the past few years, Steel City have consistently been our favoured brewery in Britain's real ale capital but this year it's certainly not as clear cut. Last year we went for Neepsend as best brewery after their superb start we they continue to build upon and more recently we have some new kids on the block in the shape of Little Critters, Sentinel and the excellent Lost Industry. Now then, add to that the improvement at the likes of Abbeydale and things just got interesting....
Pops vs Steel City @ Sheaf
 The signs were on the wall literally and metaphorically with the huge improvement at the Devonshire Cat since the S8 maestros took it over (have a look at their new `what beers are on` boards btw) and it now actually deserves its place in the Good Beer Guide. Signings from the likes of Shakespeare's mega pub, Blue Monkey and Buxton Brewery have heralded a more modern, crafty wave of Abbeydale ales.
Abbeydale? On keg? Beginning of the end?!
Having missed the (apparently excellent) 20th birthday celebrations for Moonshine (Sheffield`s most supped real ale, still) on the Friday night, I made sure that I was at Hop Hideout next morning, OK early afternoon, for the (kind of) launch of Abbeydale's first sour beer Mango Rango. A month or two earlier I had sampled (several) of what I'd rate as Abbeydale's best ever beer Hop Smash and Jim Rangley`s signature sour brew could be up in that league too. Jim is conscious of the current `craft ale` hop demands, but also of the fact that Abbeydale are well-connected and well-established in the market.  Jim reckons lagers and fruity pales are likely avenues along Abbeydale Road`s progressive beery pathway. Watch this space...
Mango pulp reality. YUIM.
                                                                                                       <(Filter `n `fine that beauty!)>
 For £3 a pint this was a real mango fest reminding me of the Great Alphonso (Magic Rock) and, more recently and closer to home,  Fruit Machine that Beer Central / Steel City produced last year (our beer of 2015 probably ) but here you get more sour elements too resulting in a quaffable yet thirst-quenching taste at about 4% ish.  Oh, yes.
Xmas past.
This `meet the brewer` event was a part of Hop Hideout's sour showcase, a canny idea from the brains-trust at 448 Abbeydale Road for the August Bank Holiday weekend. Great work all round.
Abbeydale on the UP!  

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Sheffield city pub review (rolling the dice with sheffieldalepubs!)

Different one this. First in what will hopefully be a series of collaborative blog bits. Representing twobeergeeks we have Mike up against Pete off of the esteemed sheffieldalepubs. Plan is to draw up our own separate six pub short lists of establishments we would consider putting in our respective top ten for 2016, ones on the cusp as it were, at least this was my intention. Pete meanwhile did a canny mix; a couple of his favoured boozers, a couple that he wanted our opinion of and a couple from the leftfield. We then roll the dice (or is it die in the singular?) and see what pub the number indicates, pop in, have a half, peruse and pontificate.

twobeergeeks` selection
Now sheffieldalepubs is the ideal ally in this endeavour as, since starting his webpage in January 2015, Pete has visited 198 Sheffield ale houses, most of them repeatedly and regularly in order to keep his page's information right up to date. Recently Pete launched his `weekly news` which keeps the ale city abreast of all things beery every seven days and he`s about to launch a series of pub walks which will be available to access as PDFs.
sheffieldalepubs` choices
Meeting at the Tap and Tankard over a half of Ilkley stout (me) and Pale Rider (Pete ) we set out our plan, looked at our lists and rolled a 2 meaning the Old House as my choice and the still spanking new Head of Steam as Pete's, both a conveniently short stroll away. The first two places impressed us in different ways; the smiley service at the Old House reasserted the fact that this city chain (True North) seem to have a happy knack of recruiting well. The beer range here these days has come a long way from when they used to have just a couple of handpulls and a clutch of bottles. Similar with the Head of Steam in that there was a pleasing choice of seven plus keg and my Anarchy Blonde was as good as I could of hoped in a beer style that I don`t favour from a brewery that I do. Pete was happy enough with his beer from the ever-present Cameron`s stable.

 Next up the die took us to my wildcard Gatsby and then the Red Deer, now free of ties to Stancil. My Roosters YPA was not right so the kind barman refunded my money and replaced it free of charge with the steady Saltaire Pride, the only available ale here today.  After a wrong turn or two we found the Red Deer nice and busy for a Monday but two beers down from its usual array. However my Blue Bee Reet was er,  reyt as was Pete`s Sadler`s. Good to see so many folk in there too.
The final rolls indicated The Bath Hotel and The Hop. Now, I`d cunningly added the former as one of my choices as it `might not` make the 2BG`s Top 10 if standards drop with the manager Stef having left and of course this beautiful bar barely scraped into Sheffield CAMRA`s top 20, < cough,cough >.... Sure enough, my Neepsend (2BG`s brewery of the year 2015 btw)  red one was my best beer of the night and Pete was happy with his unusually hopped Blackjack brew. Love this place.
16th best pub in Sheffield, according to CAMRA!
All evening, the dice had been very kind to us with no great hikes between brews (3 of my selections were in Kelham area!) but this came to an end as The Hop was disappointingly closed, disappointing at least until I suggested substituting it with The Devonshire Cat! Now this place is so much improved and rightly Pete continues to promote it as one of his very favourite drinking spots. It has been a staple in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide but only since Abbeydale took it over could that really be deserved for the first time in a good five years I`d suggest.The clientele here is regularly boosted by the Corporation crowd (Scandinavia`s Arch Enemy on tonight) and students being fed by visiting parents. The ale selection is vast and varied now plus there`s also a clutch of keg offerings too. We stayed `traditional` though as I went for old favourite Abbeydale Deception, one of our first blog topics, and sheffieldalepubs selected Absolution, both of us selfishly ignoring Moonshine, a few days short of its 20th birthday and still the city`s most supped ale. A predictable end to an unpredictable evening of `research`. Cheers!
*You can find Pete`s very informative web page HERE - Sheffield Ale Pubs.*

Friday, 19 August 2016

Thornbridge - Days of Creation & Love Among The Ruins

Sour season is now in full swing and the best British breweries are now making forays into this traditional beer style whilst many are bogged down with (yet another) Double IPA. The focus of Bakewell's Thornbridge Brewery this Summer has, sure enough, been the sour with the previously blogged Serpent and now the barrel-aged double header of Love Among the Ruins and Days of Creation. Last year, we weren't Wild about Tart, but it was a start,  and this year has been a sour success.
Both brews are 'top end' and will set you back a tenner or thereabouts. Ironically, a year or two back Thornbridge were oft criticised for the hefty price tag on their ales availed to the brassic city of Sheffield. Nowadays their pricetags of £3 - £4 a pint are seldom seen as steep, more of a steel city steal but these specials are a different beast. The aging process required for any half decent sour (plus the cost of barrels, I guess) goes a long way to explaining the tenner but only if the beer measures in terms of quality. Lucky 7% ABV, or not...
In short, both are excellent and Love Among the Ruins is truly outstanding, well deserving of the category gold medal achieved at this year`s world beer cup. I had expected to enjoy the raspberry flavour of Days of Creation more than its twin's cherry bomb but the additional complexity of the latter is stunning. A short-lived fizz leaves a thin beige head and an inviting dark fruity-red haze.

 Both brews seem to develop as you drink them unveiling added depth and flavour as the fruit becomes more prominent. Initially, sour and yeasty aromas dominate then a hit of balsamic before fruit. Whether the ales' changes are due to aeration or warming to room temperature or whether they are fruitier further down the drink I'm not certain but there is plenty going on here even for the pickiest of palettes. Love Among The Ruins really is a tour de force for Rob Lovatt and the team at Bakewell, their best brew for a year or two in our humble opinion.  Great work. 
*Thanks again to gentleman James Broad at the Coach & Horses, the original and best Thornbridge tap, for providing these beauties.*

Sunday, 24 July 2016

DIPA Battle #3 - Cloudwater v4 vs. v5

The latest double IPAs to hit our shelves and the latest bit of canny marketing by the chaps over at Manchester Piccadilly; two very similar beers but which works best? Cloudwater DIPA V4 and V5 are both 9% monsters made using the same hops for bittering and aroma and the same malts too. However, V4 is dry-hopped during fermentation whilst this occurs after fermentation with V5. Citra and mosaic are two of our favourites and they`re both in the mix somewhere so bound to be good......?


Never judge by appearances they say but, if you did, these two are more like half brothers than fully-fledged siblings. V4 is fairly clear and there is quite a lot of visible carbonation to start with whilst V4 has a beautiful peachy summer haze.

Aromatics are key with this style and usually a signature of Cloudwater`s seasonal agenda and so the IPAs abound with tropical fruits. V4 has a fresh, alpine, resinous hit alongside pineapples and grapefruits but the taste cannot quite live up to the aromas. Balance in both brews is good as the hefty alcoholic backbone is filled out by all the bitter sweet fruit flavours. V5 has a more pungent nose and we meet over-ripe peaches and maybe apricot in there too. The bitterness lasts alongside a boozy warmth in the mouth. V4 just tastes fresher, but maybe with less complexity. After prevaricating and pontificating, we need a winner.


After all that, I have to say that there isn`t much to choose between these two. Both good beers and at a decent price (about £4 from the ever-improving range at Mitchell`s) but I have recently had better DIPAs. In fact, you know what,  I`m calling it a draw and, I`m afraid to say, I actually preferred V3! Give them a go though. 7.5 / 10 from me.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Serpent - Thornbridge & Brooklyn Brewery

Eagerly-awaited this one. Bring Garrett Oliver straight from Brooklyn and its globally-esteemed brewery to drop him in rural Derbyshire. Add Rob from Thornbridge into the mix 'n' see what happens. Enter Serpent.
Posing at the home of football / Sheffield FC
The pair went south to enlist the expertise of Hereford's cider kings Oliver's to utilise their expertise in the use of Lees,  the natural cider yeast, and then add it to a Belgian-style golden ale in barrels, age it for a year, before bottle-conditioning.
"Dry, tart, firm, fine and funky",  an expression of "great British brewing, American boldness and Herefordshire's countryside"   proclaims the label but what do we reckon....
Belgian Golden ales are still not my favourite style of beer but there is plenty of complexity in Serpent to test the palette. Creamy head with a slightly hazy but smooth golden body; textbook. A fresh fruity feel (for an aged beverage) and balanced despite being 9+%.  Trans-atlantic success right here. The sour elements are tantalising in the aftertaste and left me wondering how this one would taste after more ageing in the bottle. Best buy another.....?!
*Cheers to King James the Broad at the esteemed Coach & Horses for securing an early purchase of this beaut. Looking forward to more sour adventures with Thornbridge soon. Watch this space.....