Welcome to summer although as I write it is far from summer like. A chilli beer might warm things up though so check out the write up on Flying Dog’s Fever Dream IPA. It was definitely hot when I visited Rome in May so a few beers were needed to bring the temperature down and perhaps the heat affected my head a bit and made me philosophical as I started to think about what makes for an enjoyable beer. All this plus what Ruth and I are currently drinking, featured beers and all the other news from Hop Stop is waiting for you below.
Belgian Beer Tasting
Ruth and I were recently invited by one of our suppliers to a tasting of Belgian beers. Now Belgium beers can be quite daunting for people with ABV’s easily 6% and over for the non-mainstream lagers. We have heard lots of stories of people drinking a beer or two for the first time in Belgium and only realising when they go to stand up how strong they are! I think the way to approach them is to treat them like a glass of wine and sip them out of the appropriate glass, not all beers suit being sunk by the pint. With this in mind I approached the tasting with good intentions of small sips, pouring away once I had tried a beer and drinking plenty of water. The reality was something different, small sips soon add up and in my eagerness to try everything it is fair to say I left the tasting feeling very festive. Luckily I had my trusty notebook and here are some of the highlights. Look out for them in the shop soon.
Troubadour Westkust 9.2%
A dark Belgian IPA which is smooth and fruity and the flavours just keep going on and on. One of my favourites of the day.
An ager and blender rather than a brewer their three beers we tried were all superb. My pick was the version with added plums which was tart and refreshing with a gentle plumminess running through it.
Straffe Hendrik Quadruple 11%
A big beer with lots going on, roasted notes, spicy fruits, brown sugar and more all working in harmony to create a beer which lingers in the mouth long after the bottle is finished.
Beer in Rome
At the beginning of May I travelled to Rome to catch up with a Kiwi friend who was visiting there. Of course while there I would have to check out some Italian beer, if only I could write it off as business expenses! The Italian beer scene is similar to most other countries in that the market is dominated by big multi-nationals but with a flourishing craft scene present. While I had done some research beforehand to find some craft beer bars it was actually really easy to find quality beer at many bars. The local pizza restaurant and bar had 6 fridges full of different beers to try and other bars I went to randomly all had some sort of craft offering. To get a good taste of what Italian Brewers have to offer try Open Baladin which has 40 draught taps featuring beer from their own brewery and other Italian Micros. From lagers to pales and stouts and even a barrel aged smoky sour served through a hand pump it is a great place to try a few beers. My pick was the Birrificio Italiano Tipopils, crisp and dry and just perfect for rehydrating after a busy morning sightseeing in the Roman sun.
Being in Rome really made me think about something that I often get asked in the shop: Namely what is my favourite beer? In the end it is about so much more than just what is in the glass. Factors outside the beer have a huge influence. So much depends on how I feel, what the weather is like, what I am eating, where I am drinking and so on. Middle of winter? Give me that big thick stout; sunny evening after finishing in the shop? Crisp light and refreshing please. Given the right time and place even a (whisper it) mass produced lager can hit the spot. Sitting in the sunshine eating pizza and catching up with my friend the big bottles of Peroni and Moretti went down superbly. One time flying here from NZ they served canned London Pride on the plane and it really was the perfect beer to drink as I winged my way to Heathrow. Sure I have current favourites like the Revival mentioned below or the Epic Pale Ale when I am back home but do I have a single favourite? No, stick me on a dessert island and I wouldn’t know which beer to choose for the rest of my time.
Featured Bottled and Canned Beer
Flying Dog Fever Dream 7%
I am a big fan of chillies and am guilty of adding too much heat to a lot of my food but I have never before been a fan of beer brewed with chillies. Normally I find them way too harsh with the chilli heat catching unpleasantly at the back of the throat. At best I saw them as a novelty beer, always good to try on someone who wasn’t expecting the burn. Flying Dog Fever Dream is quite different in that it is a beer with chilli that I would happily drink again and have done so since first trying it. Brewed with added mango and haberno spice it has flavour from the chili not just a bludgeoning of heat. The mango adds a sweetness which dulls the heat but also complements the fruitiness of the chilli. While it is lovely to drink it on its own try it with a Thai style salad for a real wow moment.
Marble Te Arai Pilsner 5%
Another hit from Manchester’s Marble Brewery this beer is brewed with three New Zealand Hop varieties: Pacific Jade, Motueka and the ever popular Nelson Sauvin. A crisp bite is matched with the distinct grassy, herby sauvignon like notes of the hops which is such a feature of the pils that the best Kiwi brewers produce. Best to be quick on this one as we only have a case and I can see myself buying a few.
Dark Star Six Hop 6.5%
Not the best looking can in the shop by any stretch of the imagination but look past the packaging and you will find another great beer from Dark Star. With a thick, almost sticky mouthfeel and a punchy bitterness this is a beer that doesn’t hide it strength. Combine that with a fruity citrus kick and you get a beer that hits your taste buds for six.
Tiny Rebel Cali 5.6%
Tiny Rebel are probably best known for their award 2015 Champion Beer of Britain Cwtch but they do a range of other beers all of which are worth trying. Coming up this month we have their Cali, an American Pale Ale featuring loads of hops from the west coast. Expect fruitiness which is balanced by big pine resin to showcase the best of American hops.
Bristol Beer Factory Enigma 4.4%
A red ale which has been brewed to have great drinkability. The malts are to the fore with this beer with a low level of bitterness so should be a great one for a mini keg over a weekend. Bristol Beer Factory are one of those breweries who don’t seem to make a bad beer and I am sure this will be no exception.
What we are drinking now?
Currently I can’t get enough of Moor Revival, a trans-atlantic pale ale that might only weigh in at 3.8% but packs a powerful punch of citrusy goodness coupled with a bitterness which is refreshing rather than strident. The beer that I go to first when putting together a six pack to take home.
I asked Ruth what she is particularly enjoying at the moment and after some thought this is what she came up with:
“The best thing for a beer lover or some may say beer geek is to taste all kinds of beer which is what I love about Hop Stop. Mike and I spend hours researching great beer and when a new beer delivery arrives it is so exciting going through the boxes, seeing the new labels and then finally getting to try them. One of my top beers of the moment is Renaissance Collision Course IPL from New Zealand (maybe I have spent a bit too much time with Mike!). It is an imperial pilsner from the Enlightenment Series, jam packed with Citra, Mosaic and Nelson Sauvin. I never get bored of hops and this IPL has a lovely hoppiness with the refreshing taste of a pilsner which is great for summertime. However it is a bit punchy at 6.2% so maybe not one to have a session on. It has a really cool label too – perfect all round”
Last but definitely not least those of you who come in on a Saturday afternoon would have met Paul, our new staff member. Locally born and raised Paul is a keen drinker of quality beers. I know at his age I was most definitely more interested in quantity rather than quality! Without asking him first I would take a guess and say his current favourite beer is DaiDai IPA from Hitachino Nest. An IPA with added orange peel to really bring out the citrus notes a few of these always appear on the counter when he is buying his beer for the week.
South African Craft Beer
Thanks to the generosity of Andrew, one of our regular customers we were able to try a selection of South African craft beers. South Africa is currently a testing place to be a craft brewer with the exchange rate making importation of hops and malts very expensive. Think how different the UK scene would be without the diverse range of American or New Zealand hops for example which are available here. Some of the beers reminded me of the New Zealand craft industry was ten years ago where you could see where the brewers where heading but they weren’t quite there yet. One I really enjoyed was the Bone Crusher from Darling Brew, a Belgian Wit in style it worked really well drinking it on a Sunday afternoon in the sunshine while Bar Be Quing. Online it doesn’t get great reviews but maybe it is that time and place thing as at that moment it worked really well for me.
Thanks for reading our monthly ramblings, don’t forget to check out our website for the current draught beer list and always feel free to email us or tweet us with any thoughts, suggestions or questions.
Mike and Ruth