Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The week in Utopian beers.


      despite my rather bold forays out soon after I contracted an illness which had clearly intended to steal my internal organs via my throat and break my ribs from heaving (sorry for the graphic description!), its been an otherwise quiet week, during which I have been out and about only twice, but with excellent beers found on each occasion.  Here's what happened either side of the ebola virus.

Drinks for the workers

On Tuesday a wearying exercise in work based indoctrination made me and Mr C remember that alcohol is a great soother of sore brains, even if ironically, its also the path to making sore their housing. So we escaped from work and headed for Shakespeares. You know, for a change. Bearing in mind that I mentioned my surprise on Friday at discovering that the beer festival was on, its worth admitting that Robin and Chris were actively preparing the line up just 2 days earlier, on the Tuesday. Clearly the inner head sieve wasn't up to retaining that.

One salient piece of info however was that having sorted Mr C out with a lager, I immediately found myself awash on a sea of hoppy goodness. Without even first checking which brew it was, as so often happens when I spot a Mallinsons pumpclip, I went for a pint of that. Which was Chinook, a fantastically well balanced fruity, hoppy, delight with layers of perfectly matched sweet, dry,  and citrus hops and complimentary malts.

On arriving on Friday night it was no surprise to find that the Mallinsons Bramling Cross had been the first to go. If it was even a patch on the Chinook it would have been surprising if it lasted  more than a couple of hours. Whilst here, I also had a half of the tasty Blue Bee 5o'choc shadow, and, inevitably, more yummy Mallinsons.

Off to DAda next and it was time for pork pie and olives and beers, with Mr C going for a Bernard Light, myself a pint of the Blue Bee Bees Knees, followed by an entire pint of Thornbridge Halcyon. Despite a mishap with some slippery bush fruit and an unforgiving incline, we had a fantastic hour or more talking nonsense sat on a leather settee at an impossibly low table. Just as a night out should be.

Next on our route was the Red Deer, and it was halves only, and mine possessed mind altering, or more precisely mind wiping qualities. Sorry for the umpteenth time to the Red Deer for failing to remember, in this case even the slightest bit of information about my visit.

Harrisons 1854 beckoned after that and it was nice to pop in for a pint after quite a spell without attending, I was on a very enjoyable jar of Abbeydale Deception. We had a good catch up here and a brief chat with Dave, before heading off to the Bath Hotel. I know this, because I had Thornbridge Brock on the understanding that it was better than usual. I was assured it was. Alas, owing to the late hour, the parameters of said thermometer of quality were undefined....

On Sunday, myself and my soon to be Giant amongst Chinese men, met in the Rutland for a pint or few. I was meeting at 18.00 and had enough time to pop in the Sheffield Tap for a "quick one". Choosing halves of the excellent Truefitt Ironopolis Stout (nice to see its brilliance first time out wasn't a flash in the pan) and Arbor Yakima Valley American IPA, I was a bit surprised, even at Tap prices, to be charged £3.95 for the privilege, so belatedly looked at the Arbor pumpclip. It was 7.0%. Good.

Despite this we converged on time at the bar in the Rutland and after initial disappointment at the mild running out my companion Mr J opted for a pint of Marstons EPA to start, and I a fantastic dry, bitter pint of Blue Bee Shake Rattle and Roll. I was surprised to find this on (ahem, someone was supposed to let me know...) but was glad I did, and had two pints. Mr J on the other hand made a slight climb in ABV in his unbounded youthful recklessness, buying a half of Magic Rock Human Cannonball. This was so incredible that on the next round, he had a further half, and I followed suit, despite its strength.

BOOM! And the doubts are gone...*

Human Cannonball, brewed to 9.3%, is probably about 10 times better than the Magic Rock Cannonball, and represents the better aspects of UK American influenced super hopped pale ale brewing. Whereas Cannonball has an awkward dryness fighting throughout with a needless sweetness, making me think it was neither what I had wanted or expected, Human Cannonball is so well balanced as to almost be a lesson in strong ale brewing.

And, whilst it may pack as much alcohol into a pint as three of session beer, its not difficult to drink. Indeed, really the only thing to slow the drinker down is advisable and understandable caution. Were it 4% I think both of us could happily have drank it all night.

Human Cannonball has a tantalising aroma of spicy, floral hops. It delivers everything you could want from a strong pale ale by unleashing wave after wave of juicy zesty bitterness that mingles on the palate, lingering long in a heavenly aftertaste, before joining an understated but formidably well executed mellow, balanced malt in the background. Its bittersweet, potent and rewarding, and theres no jarring sweetness or ascorbic bitterness in there to spoil things, just a seamless procession of glorious flavour.

Once again, Magic Rock, who's output I have been disappointed with quite a lot of late, have produced a superlative strong beer. And the fact that it was a strong UK brewed pale ale, served from Keykeg with a nod to the USA style of pale ales, and which I really loved, made it all the more pleasing.

Next, if only to prevent us succumbing to the cost and impact of yet more Human Cannonball, we headed to the Tap to get the end of the Arbor Yakima Valley IPA, which was a shame, since I had made quite a job of recommending it. I also had a half of the Ironopolis again, whilst my companion had a half of some fearsome sounding Hardknott offering on Keykeg. Its not really fair to offer any kind of specific details of any of the post Human Cannonball beers - because there was no way they could match it.

So, a great way to spend four hours on a Sunday, and a perfect way of wiping away the memories and feelings of dread experienced during the middle of last week. I might have had to drag my sorry arse into work the next day but the buzz of the Human Cannonball kept me going, as I thought about whether or not I could persuade Mr P to go to the Rutland on Wednesday instead of our usual Wanderiains route...


Wee Beefy.   

*please note, this is in no way intended as a subtle endorsement of a well known branded product, neither is it meant to claim that "all of a sudden" Magic Rock are back to their very best. That said, it goes a damn long way towards doing so....

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