Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA

Thursday, December 22, 2011
Stop reading this and go buy some Escondidian!

...Because there aren't a great deal of these beers around (less than a hundred in the UK), they're getting snapped up quick, and it's a beer you won't want to miss.

I was lucky enough to get my hands on a bottle in Mr Foleys last night, a 650ml bomber to be precise. At that size, and 10.8% ABV, it's a beer you'll want to share if you value your brain cells or the ability to walk in a straight line.

American Craft breweries have become renowned for beers with big, bold hopping and full on flavour profiles, and of all the American Craft brewers, Stone brew some of the biggest. They are also pretty hard to get a hold of over here, which only makes people want them more! Making this a must try beer for me as soon as I heard about it.

You may be wondering what the term Escondidian means, I know I did, and it turns out to be a bit of Gasoline on the flames of the Black IPA vs Cascadian Dark Ale argument. Here's what co-founder Steve Wagner had to say about it,

“There’s this small faction of people that seems to think it can call Black IPAs ‘Cascadian Dark Ales,’ historical accuracy be damned,” Wagner explains. “So, we thought we’d lightheartedly lay claim to our own style, dubbing it ‘Escondidian,’ both as an homage to our hometown of Escondido, CA and as a gentle ribbing to those Black IPA fans worshipping a false Cascadian idol.”

So on to the beer itself. It's a pitch black beer which has been hopped with Columbus for bittering, Citra for aroma, and then heavily dry-hopped with Nelson Sauvin and Pacific Jade. In other words, it's a proper, fully fledged Black IPA.

It pours totally and utterly black with a medium brown, foamy, stable head that sticks around and laces the glass. The aroma is initially dominated by those resinous hops but then dark, malty, chocolatey aromas of an Imperial Stout start to waft through as well. It's satisfyingly oxymoronic.

The flavour is extremely complex and powerful - there's a big bitter roasted flavour running right through everything, but also chocolatey dark malt and a bit of liquorice, along with a slight cranberry tartness, and a very dry finish with bitter dark chocolate and a bit of booze alongside lingering, resinous hops.

In many ways it's like an Imperial Stout yet the lingering aftertaste is hops. It's a great beer, so go get some!

Where to find em? You'll need to be A. Quick. and B. Lucky. But if you're in Leeds then here's where to start:

Mr Foley's (I think might be sold out now)

I Heart You I Hardcore You

Monday, December 19, 2011
There is nothing more frustrating than when you really want to try something and it let's you down or doesn't live up to the expectation. A guest blog post I did recently for about the new restaurant Rib Shakk in Leeds, highlights this exactly. It wasn't quite up to scratch.

So with this in mind I was a little apprehensive to pop the cap on one of the bottles of I Hardcore You I bought when in Belgium recently in case it didn't live up to my expectations.

I Hardcore You is a Mikkeller / BrewDog collaboration beer from a fair while ago - a mixture of BrewDog's Hardcore IPA and Mikkeller's I Beat You that's been dry hopped into oblivion. It sounded right up my street, and after reading this review by Zak I've always wanted to give it a try, but never got a chance to, until now...

Thankfully it's an excellent beer. Even if this beer isn't super fresh (I haven't got a clue if they ever made it again or if this beer is just a year old, there's no date on the bottle) I can safely say that the time in the bottle has done it no harm.

It's fresh and fruity and vibrant, and I can only imagine how good this was when super fresh. The aroma definitely has the pine and intense tropical fruit of hardcore IPA but there's a massive freshness and a really floral hop character behind a lingering sweetness.

The flavour has an initial sweet red apple lollipop flavour before the hops kick in, but when they do they are big and piney and orange peel tinged yet not overly bitter. The finish is bittersweet with sharp orange and bitter pine.

It's massively drinkable though and before I knew it the bottle was gone. Thank God I bought two.

I love it.

Golden Pints 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011
Just a very quick one today. Golden Pints. You know the drill. Here's my pick of the best of the year.

  1. Best UK Draught (Cask or Keg) Beer = Summer Wine Brewery 7Cs (Keg)
  2. Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer = Fullers Vintage Ale (Bottle)
  3. Best Overseas Draught Beer = Pretty Things Jack D'Or (Keg)
  4. Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer = Crooked Line Detour IPA
  5. Best Overall Beer = Birra Del Borgo My Antonia
  6. Best Pumpclip or Label = BrewDog Sunk Punk
  7. Best UK Brewery = The Kernel
  8. Best Overseas Brewery = Stone Brewing
  9. Pub/Bar of the Year = Mr Foleys (Dean has dragged it kicking and screaming into its position as a great craft beer bar)
  10. Beer Festival of the Year = #IPADay (It's my list!)
  11. Supermarket of the Year = Morrisons
  12. Independent Retailer of the Year = Beer Ritz
  13. Online Retailer of the Year = MyBreweryTap
  14. Best Beer Book or Magazine = BEER Magazine
  15. Best Beer Blog or Website = Mark Dredge
  16. Best Beer Twitterer = @MelissaCole
  17. Best Online Brewery presence = BrewDog
  18. Food and Beer Pairing of the Year = Mango and Stilton Burger with Caldera IPA
  19. In 2012 I’d Most Like To = Write more whimsically, more frequently, and well, better.
  20. Best Brewery that goes to show you can be big but don't have to be bad, you can be good, of the Year = Fullers

Joining the Circus: Magic Rock Brewing's newest recruits

Sunday, December 04, 2011
Magic Rock Brewing are one of the most exciting new breweries in the UK, members of an elite club of unashamedly American inspired brewers, which has historically been dominated by the Scottish punks over at BrewDog. It’s a title BrewDog deserve, but it’s good to see some new dogs on the block, nipping at the heels and challenging for leader of the pack.

Magic Rock haven't quite gained a global Beer Geek fan base like BrewDog, but after tasting two of their most recent beers I can definitely vouch for them being headed in the right direction.

Human Cannonball Imperial IPA 9.2% (Bottle)

The bigger brother of the 7.4% Cannonball IPA, Human Cannonball pours a nice medium-dark amber/orange/red as I was hoping, but the aroma isn't actually as big as I expected. Just a little faint booze and orange hoppyness. This beer doesn't show it's hand that easily, it's sneakier than that…

Then you taste it and it's an onslaught. Massive bitterness, loads of juicy grapefruit and mango hops, very assertive pine bitterness and an American IPA malty sweetness lingering in the background alongside a smack of alcohol just after you swallow, which is then bowled over by the hops once more.

It's full on, punishing, and not to be taken lightly. But it's bloody good.

Consider yourself warned.

Bearded Lady Imperial Brown Stout 10.5% (Keg)

As I’ve found with a few keg stouts the aroma is subdued, slightly colder than I'd like it too, even though I left it to warm while drinking a half of Red Willow Oyster Stout. A warm up if you will.

The flavour is dark, boozy, bitter chocolate fondant - big and rich and slightly hot with alcohol, it reminds me a little of Black Mozart, but in a good way. (It's a liqueur which any skier who's been to Austria will have seen in the airport). There's also a touch of prune, fruity espresso bitterness, even a hint of dark chocolate orange. The finish has a hit of alcohol but the aftertaste is dry and herbal, and only slightly Cocoa dusted.

Its a great beer, and from any other brewery it would probably be their best. But Magic Rock have set the bar so tight rope high that anything below excellent appears lesser in comparison.

This is a very, very good beer, but do I like it more than Human Cannonball or Rapture? (my two favourites) possibly not.

Would I buy another, or recommend it to a friend?

In a heartbeat.

Cigar City Brewing Jai Alai India Pale Ale

Friday, December 02, 2011

Just a quick one today. This is my first beer from Cigar City Brewing, an american brewer that I've heard a lot of good things about but never tried. I wasn't even going to blog about about it, but it was so good I thought I'd spread the wealth. So here we go.

The aroma is a mix of tangerine, a little fresh pine, a slight sweet butterscotch in the background and just loads of fresh citrus. It smells great.

This has got a really great fresh hop flavour that reminds me a little bit of the Crooked Line Detour IPA which I absolutely loved a while back. Despite being 7.5% it’s not got that typical resinous American IPA flavour to it, and is much fresher, less reduced, and an altogether more quaffable beer than I was expecting. Super fresh and just generally delicious, I loved it.

Buy some from you won't regret it.