Brass Castle Taphouse

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If Malton were a murky metropolis, then Brass Castle  would reside beneath a rumbling railway arch in the midst of a grimy area of, soon to be uplifted, urban desolation. Malton however, is a pleasant, traditional and still fully operational, North Riding market town which bears no resemblance to the post industrial quarters of the large cities, beloved of purveyors of post modernist beers. I dare say, If Malton were the M-place, then Brass Castle would now have amassed a cult following of trendy bods, sitting in studio flats cracking open bottles of DIPA, desperately awaiting news of the next creation!

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Having said that, Brass Castle don’t do too badly and have a lot of fans, an excellent reputation, and plenty of trade accolades. They’ve been going since 2011 and I’ve been a fan since I had a pint of Tail Gunner, a moreish, reddish, rye ale, in a local boozer. My personal rating of the brewery increased when I sank my first pint of cask Sunshine, their take on a US West coast IPA. Things got even better when I tasted the same beer dispensed from a key keg, it really is one of those beers that is better from the keg than cask. They produce a boat load of other stunning beers in cask, key keg, bottle and can, all of which are unfined, vegan friendly, and some gluten free; it’s fair to say that Brass Castle have been in the vanguard of the unfined way of thinking.

It’s not often I stick my neck out? But, Brass Castle are undoubtedly one of my favouritest breweries, a blend of the traditional and cutting edge modern British brewing, which is why, after a period of unwanted, yet enforced, restriction of my autonomy, I headed off to have look at their new Taphouse. Yeah, I know, they’ve had a tap room going on in the brewery for a while, but they’ve opened a brand new purpose built one in front of the brewery which has only been open about four weeks or so.

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If you think it’s a bit of a trek into the heart of North Yorkshire then think again, Malton is well served by a fast(ish) bus service and train. It’s also suitable for a weekend stop over, the surrounding countryside and attractions provide plenty to do. As well as the Taphouse, there’s some decent traditional pubs, shops, and the town is now proclaimed as Yorkshire’s Food Capital; think monthly food markets, food festivals, cookery schools and lots of hearty local produce. In fact Malton seems to have everything that many of the trendy urban places seem to have. The Taphouse is no different and it’s a conservatively kooky example of recycling and upcycling. Virtually everything in the bar is reclaimed; flooring from a hospital in Oldham, malt sacks for cushions, sleepers for the bar top, hogshead tables, walls finished with barrel staves and corrugated iron. Most of it crafted by a young man called Sam, who’s varied CV proclaims him as jack of all trades and master of most of them.

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There were two cask ales on; Tail Gunner and Hazelnut Mild when I was there. These are constantly rotated, as are the six keg taps poking out of the wall behind the bar, there’s also a real cider available and a chilled range of their own bottles and cans, plus some familiar, and also esoteric, Belgian ales. They hope to get a guest beer on soon which will probably be from Bad Seed another unfined and unfiltered Malton brewer. When it happens it will be, sadly, the only boozer selling Bad Seed beer in the town! You can also get tea, coffee (proper coffee from a proper coffee machine), soft drinks, Gin, and locally sourced pies and cakes, plus a complementary read of a range of daily and local papers. The toilets, although a shared single trap affair for both sexes, were very clean and well appointed with potions and lotions, and baby changing mat.

At present the Taphouse is open Friday to Sunday 10am till 8pm, but looking forward, there are plans to widen these times. At just after one o’clock on a Saturday afternoon there were around a dozen folk in of all ages, and as people went out they were rapidly replaced. I had three halves, a good chat with the team, a quick pike in the brewery, and when we left it was starting to get busier. In fact just as we were leaving, a group of smartly dressed twentysomethings wandered in asking if they could have a tour of the brewery? No problem! And one of the brewers gave them an impromptu tour of the Brewhouse. As long as the Brewhouse is open then they encourage casual visitors, which is quite nice, I think.

Beer? Superb. I tried the Hazelnut mild and Tail Gunner from the cask and Mosaic on keg. All wonderful and I wished I could have stayed all afternoon.

Verdict – A must visit. Worth an weekend overnighter if you’re travelling by car, or a day out on the train from Leeds, York or Scarbro’, or even the M-place and hinterlands! Regretfully no Sunshine OTB when I called, will have to try again, maybe a trip to Beertown 2017 in May is called for?

 

Cloudwater? I’m not Bitter!

I read Boak and Bailey’s post and all the erudite comments yesterday about Cloudwater’s decision to no longer supply their excellent ales in cask and felt quite? Er …  I’m not sure what I initially felt, actually?

I’ve followed Cloudwater’s progress from a distance, and I’ve enjoyed supping their beers, wherever I’ve encountered them, cask and keg. Which do I prefer? Both, depends on time and place. If I’m out for a pint or four then cask wins hands down every time. That’s just personal choice, based on price, enjoyability and quaffability. I can’t visit four or five bars and have a pint of, usually, 5% ++ beers at £6.00 ++ a pint, in each one without ending up pissed and broke. I can of course enjoy sitting with a half or two of excellent keg beer, having a pleasant conversation for an hour or so, leave it at that, and keep everyone happy.

I went into one local establishment the week before Christmas to be met with the distinctive, yet quite small, Cloudwater pump clip. After peering through the strongest part of my varifocals, I was able to discern the particular brew and order a pint of cask Cloudwater Bitter. Surprisingly, the manager, who was sat at the bar next to me said, ‘You’ll probably prefer that one.’ As he pointed to a cask variety of another progressive brewers excellent ales. Now I very much like this other progressive brewers beers, but I like Cloudwater better, particularly because you don’t see it as often as I always thought it should be seen in the West Yorkshire Metropolis. Since they first started brewing, I’ve always thought Cloudwater’s cask ales were often a particularly refreshing twist on cask beer, at the very edge of modern brewing.

We exchanged views regarding the merits of both brewers and although said manager accepted that Cloudwater were an acclaimed brewer the conversation ended with, ‘Well I’ve  tried all of them Rich and I’m just telling you what I know.’

Now we could discuss the merits of two different brewers all day and what I think, might be nothing like anothers view’s, it’s a personal thing is taste, and long may that stay. Thing was, and it really surprised me, the guy was right. The other progressive brewers beer was infinitely more superior, in every department!

My immediate reaction was to ask, ‘How long have you had this on?’ I needn’t have because there were none of the flavours of off beer, or beer that had been hanging around on the bar too long. My own observations – it wasn’t on the afternoon before, and the managers reply, ‘Only put it on last night,’ confirmed this.

I was a bit dumbfounded at this point. Cloudwater Bitter, yet no vibrance, no harmony, just all a bit dull and disappointing. It bothers me not the beer wasn’t bright. Basically, nothing wrong with it, just not up to the usual expected quality. Now I don’t know what had gone wrong here, although the establishment in question is not a GBG pub, it consistently turns out well above average pints of cask ales, and keg beers. Even at £4 a pint, might have been £4.50, an easy drinking, below 5% ABV beer like this would fly out.

What I do know is that if Cloudwater’s decision to ditch cask ales means I don’t get any more of their beer like this one then bring it on. After all it’s their brewery, not mine, and they do actually say in the post on their site, ‘Cask beer should take pride of place in every bar and pub’.

Will I be drinking Cloudwater keg beers and bottled beers? Probably, and occasionally, just nowhere like as often as I have been drinking them on cask. But, unless they immediately follow this up with the release of Cloudwater DIPA v666, their decision is not going to worry me.

Day 24 of Advent, and I got a dark beer at last!

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When this is posted it will be December 25th so it’s a big Happy Christmas to everyone.

Anyway back to the beer, day 24 and I got a dark beer at last in my Beer Hawk Advent Calendar! A bottle of Anchor Porter. I’ve never had one of these, even though the brewer reckons it was the first modern USA style porter, back in 1972. The definitive American Porter, they say!

We’ll see about that later, because I haven’t had time to try it and no one will be reading this on Christmas Day anyway! I’ll give you an update after Christmas when I post my thoughts and a few facts and figures about the Beer Hawk Advent Calendar case.

In the meantime, whatever your faith or outlook on life I wish you all the very best wishes and, may peace be with you, whoever you are, wherever you are

Day 23 and a Siren call of Summer

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There’s still no concordance with The ‘official’ Beer Hawk tasting video, the team today are opening a bottle of Dry Hopped Anchor Steam Beer, the bottle I got on Day 19, instead of Two Roads Espressway stout. I’ve got a hopeful eye on the larger flap to Day 24 of the Advent Calendar, and I’m dreaming of it being a pint bottle of dark beer. I’d be quite happy with a bottle of the Two Roads stout. Maybe the packers in the warehouse just got mixed up? We’ll see.

Normally, I might get all worked up about a Siren beer, this one just didn’t get my pulse racing. It wasn’t the fact that it was a 2.8% QIPA (Quarter), more the fact that the Siren web site says that Half Mast is a seasonal special that was brewed between May and October 2015. Thankfully a scan of the bottle shows a BBD of July 2017, which is acceptable. Phew … I wouldn’t have wanted a jaded, faded bottle of low ABV un-hoppiness by now. They must have brewed it again this year, it’s actually billed as the perfect summer time drink in the Siren online shop (out of stock). Get your web site updated Siren! Thing is, I’m not sure that I want a bottle of ‘the perfect summertime drink’ in a winter Advent Calendar Beer Hawk?

So, is this beer a fine example of the brewers art, flavour and balance in a low ABV beer? A brief foamy head soon disappears from the top of this hazy pale golden beer. The aroma is ripe fruits, maybe pineapple? Pineapples, grapefruit and tropical fruits continue on the palate and it finishes with quite a sharp, dry bitterness. Refreshing, tongue tinglingly zesty. I wish I was sat outside in the garden and the sun was cracking the flags. Unfortunately we’ve got the back end of storm Barbara and it just doesn’t feel right drinking this in front of a roaring fire.

I asked Mrs C what she thought? ‘That’s nice, refreshing, but it’s just lacking something?’ I then told her it was only 2.8% ABV, which met with the response, ‘That’s a cheat!’ She meant on the Beer Hawk  cost of the case front here and not the brewer. However, £2.25 online from Siren and £2.39 from Beer Hawk, so it’s not the cheapest option in the case.

I thought this was an impressive effort in the flavour stakes at 2.8% ABV. Well done Siren, I would expect no less.

Verdict: I didn’t expect a Summer beer in my case, it was nice to try it, but I think this is a bottle of old stock they wanted to get rid of?

Day 22 – Yorkshire Yankee

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If this Advent Calendar were a game of snap, playing against Beer Hawk, then I wouldn’t be winning very often! The good people commenting on the daily Beer Hawk YouTube Video are enjoying a glass of Camden IHL, whereas I’ve got a can of Roosters Yankee. Am I bothered?

There’s nothing wrong with Camden, Mrs C’s ‘go to’ beer in our local Stew & Oyster is a Camden Pale on draught, and once you get over the initial metallic hit, then it’s nice easy drinking. A regular visitor to the same establishment is Roosters Baby Faced Assassin, on cask, it’s always a big hit, even amongst the more traditional drinkers. Likewise, a few hundred yards up the road, The Pax at Thorp Arch, a smashing little traditional village pub, has a permanent hand pump with a Roosters cask ale. That isn’t unusual you say, after all this should be Roosters heart land, they only brew it just up the road in Knaresborough. Thing is, Roosters are quite a progressive brewer, who were in at the start of the trend towards more progressive styles in the British beer industry; 1993 in fact, and Yankee was one of the earlier brews that showcased American hops and a new style of beers.

What I like about Roosters is they aren’t overpowering ‘in your face’ beers. Good beers, undoubtedly, but nothing is extreme. I also like the fact they continue to evolve, they were among the first smaller, progressive British brewers to produce their beer in cans.

The 4.3%, pale golden, Yankee, is as clear as a bell in the glass. The aroma and taste is citrus, and there’s a very pale malt taste, the whole thing finishes moderately bitter, and the presence of Cascade hops is obvious. Like I said, although everything you want is in there, nothing is overstated and it all nicely balances together. The brewer rightly terms it a modern classic. Something that can be enjoyed by those with both progressive and traditional tastes alike.

Verdict: Would I have preferred the more expensive (£2.59) 6.2% Camden IHL or the can of 4.2% Roosters Yankee (2.29)? I don’t know, I’ve never tried the IHL. I enjoyed the can of Yankee, it’s excellent beer. If Santa could have granted me one wish, I would have asked for a can of Roosters 6.1% Baby Faced Assassin (£2.49), instead.

All prices obtained from Beer Hawk web site today (23-12-16)

Day 21 – Is Santa a Rogue?

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Another deviation from the official Beer Hawk Advent Calendar! Looks like I should have a bottle from Flying Dog. Instead I’ve got a bottle of Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve. Try as hard as I can, I can’t see a BBD, or even the ABV on the bottle? What’s worrying me is that most of the images of this beer I can find on the web, including the official Rogue site have red labels and mine is a green one? Even more worrying is that Journey to the Beer Store posted a review in December 2015, complete with picture of a green bottle?

The name is the obvious giveaway that it’s only a seasonal brew, a take on this Oregon brewers Saint Rogue Red ale. It actually looks a deep amber, rather than out and out red. There’s a very slight haze in the beer and the final pour released a small amount of almost granular, lumpy sediment into the glass, as though it had been bottle conditioned. It smells malty and it tastes malty and that was the overpowering taste, as opposed to the double hops that Rogue say it is brewed with. Yes, I could taste the hops, but they weren’t the vibrant angelic chimes that they should have been in this Christmas beer, more a doleful lament on a lonely old church bell.

Verdict – I suspect someone’s thrown me a bottle in that’s towards the very end of it’s sell by date? If it’s fresh beer then I’m afraid it’s only pretty average.

ADDENDUM –  Rogue have kindly been in touch with me, the 12oz bottles, that’s 330ml in Europe, do have the green label. Apologies if I have misled anyone. Indeed I my have misled myself! I will be in contact with  Rogue for further details and I will update you as soon as. They have been very encouraging with the Tweets we have exchanged, and I thank them for that.

Day 20 – V for Victory again.

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Back on the same footing as the official Beer Hawk Advent Calendar today. We both got Victory Beer  Vital IPA. Although it’s the second beer from this Pennsylvania, USA, brewery it’s a can rather than a bottle this time. I like cans, I like draught beers better, but I like cans better than bottles. The beer always tastes fresher to me and I actually don’t mind drinking out of a can, whereas I’m not keen for drinking straight from the bottle. I know you don’t get to see the beer, but there’s just something about cans. For starters they don’t smash when you drop one out of the fridge onto the floor.

Whatever. I’m glad I got this one, it’s a belter. Really, really enjoyed it. My first thoughts were it’s a Lager with attitude, real attitude. When I had a look on the Victory Beer website this was confirmed as this IPA is made with Pilsner malt and a Kölsch strain of yeast and hopped with Citra, Simcoe, and Chinook hops. If you want, a sort of a cross between an IPA and Lager, and it works big time. At least it does for me. It’s available in the USA in cans, bottles and draught. I think I could get smitten with the draught version?

Vital is ever so slightly hazy, if you hold it to the light you can see the fine suspended particles. The taste is piney, citrusy, grapefruity but it’s not ‘in your face’ and it’s nicely balanced with a silky sweetness from the malt running through it, but yet it’s crisp, clean tasting and refreshing. When I say all this, you really have to swirl it around your mouth and sieve the various layers of flavour out before you try and verbalise the constituent parts – can you tell I’ve been on a Sommeliers course? Not!

My first thoughts were, ‘this really is a session IPA’! You know one that you could drink all afternoon watching the match on TV. I think there are far too many so called American ‘Session IPA’s’ that are given that appellation on strength alone. Despite their lower ABV, they’re so hop forward, after four or five pints you end up with a mouth like a budgie cage bottom. You don’t get that with Vital because everything is in moderation and balanced. The only drawback is that it’s so balanced it doesn’t drink like it’s 6.5% ABV. I was quite shocked when I saw those numbers on the can and it’s firmly in the category of ‘fighting beer’, if drank on a proper session. For those not familiar with UK drinking habits, and I am seeing quite a few visitors from the other side of the Atlantic, for example a session would be like, a couple of hours or three and at least six pints. You can’t do that with beers much above 5%.

Verdict – Very good beer, beer made for enjoying rather than beer geeking – in my current top 3 from this case (I think). Make sure you drink responsibly folks!