I was going to write a retrospective on how 2017 had panned out for me, and indeed I drafted some of it, but it quickly became too overwhelming and emotional (not to mention enormously time-consuming) so I’ve abandoned that in favour of my usual Craft Beer Hour update and a starting point for the wonder that is Tryanuary.
The regional theme for tonight’s Tryanuary-related Craft Beer Hour is Northumberland / County Durham. The closest I could access was Newcastle-upon-Tyne’s Wylam…hopefully that’ll do.
The Man Behind the Door / Wylam / 7.2% (IPA)
I’ve only just managed to try anything by these guys (having heard of them a while back). I had a very fine porter of theirs on New Years Eve (see the final section of this post for details) and loved it, so decided to follow up with this vibrant IPA.
It reminds me an awful lot of Black Iris’s Divine Elements – which is odd, seeing as they have completely different hop strains in them and this one is a trifle stronger, but the character feels much the same: an enormously fruity, refreshing, but bracing IPA (whatever that term means these days). There’s a lot of (gentle) citrus, mango, passionfruit and so on, but it’s all very nicely balanced. Looking forward to trying more for these guys.
And, in the context of Tryanuary…
Terry / Beeston Hop / 5.5% (chocolate stout)
These guys are ultra-local to me (less than 15 minutes’ walk away), and have always been impressive, knocking out an impressive range of artisan beer that traverses a wide range of styles – sometimes traditional, sometimes more niche.
I even sent a bottle of theirs to Sussex and Rach at Look At Brew rated it rather highly.
This is a very nice winter beer – nothing too overpowering, just nicely balanced with some very prominent dark malt notes and a coffee / dark chocolate edge from the cocoa nibs. It’s also got orange peel in the mix and this presents itself right at the end, a characteristic I remember from BrewDog’s Tropic Thunder. It also has a very decent level of carbonation, something which has very much improved from some of the earlier offerings (I should stress that they were still excellent beers, they just would have benefited from more oomph from the carbonation).
A few quick words re: Tryanuary:
I won’t attempt to explain in any great detail (the website does it far better than I ever could), but there are a number of reasons why I think this is a worthy thing to do and I’m proud to support it:
- It supports very worthy causes
- Local, small businesses need the support in what is traditionally a very tough time of year
- It’s fun and interesting to try new stuff, as well as “go local”
- Being intentionally miserable and denying yourself is illogical
So let’s enjoy January and be celebratory and mindful, and enjoy good things responsibly and in moderation.
ENCORE: A few Christmas holiday favourites.
Amundsen are quickly becoming a standard for me. They’re unmistakable – those cans look absolutely epic and stand out (this one reminding me of several fuzz-metal album covers I own) and the contents have yet to disappoint. This is one of the best NEIPAs I’ve had – I won’t go into the controversies of the style, and I haven’t had enormous numbers of them, but this one almost takes me back to the glories of Cloudwater’s DIPA V-series. Apricot jam, pineapple and citrus, gloriously refreshing and lively. The photo doesn’t do any justice to the beautiful colour, made all the more attractive by the haze.
Lacerated Sky / Black Iris / 9% (imperial red ale)
Local heroes for me, I’ve become an immense fan of Black Iris’s Divine Elements IPA (in the process putting aside my usual misgivings about Mosaic hops, as they’re balanced to perfection in that particular masterpiece).
Lacerated Sky pours an ominous, ember red, and has an aroma of sweet caramel with a massive chunk of resinous hops. I expected this to be quite challenging to drink, but I couldn’t have been more wrong – it’s almost like a classic copper cask bitter with everything (particularly toffee and caramel) slightly amplified. There’s no way I would have guessed this at 9% – it drinks more like 6%. An enormously satisfying autumn / winter beer.
Speyside Red Rye Ale / Clan Brewing Company / 8%
Exclusive (in this country) to The Whisky Shop, I’ve had the imperial stout before (it was astounding) and this one sounded a treat.
I’d originally considered this a possibility for accompanying Christmas dinner, but then bottled out of having an 8% beer at lunchtime (although ironically the one I did go for was 7.2%, which obviously makes all the difference). I’ve really started to enjoy barrel-aged beers but I don’t recall having any that weren’t massively heavy stouts, other than Innis & Gunn.
This actually reminds me of a smoother and slower-paced I&G. The flavours are huge, luxurious and warming (sherry, fruitcake, resinous hops and caramel malt, underpinned by a soaring backbone of Speyside. It’s devoid of pretension and hype, and the quality feels that much more impressive as a result.
Macchiato / Wylam / 6.5% (hazelnut praline coffee porter)
This was lurking in a recent Honest Brew case, and seemed like an appropriately luxuriant thing to savour on New Year’s Eve. Thankfully I was correct.
This could have been overpowering and sickly, but was actually rather subtle, and kept all its big flavours in check behind a big wall of coffee. Even so, it’s a mightily impressive piece of work. I had the pleasure of sampling it on draft a couple of weeks ago, so had a spoiler of sorts, but this was a pleasure to savour slowly and reverently.
That’ll do. All the best for 2018 to all who read this.