Fresh From the Mountains [GIFTED]
There's a new lager in town! Brewed in Insch, Aberdeenshire, under the shadow of the mighty Bennachie comes Torr Lager. Brewed by the team at Beer Story Tor Lager is the latest entry into Scotland's bustling lager scene. The team at the brewery were kind enough to drop off some samples and glasses so I could try this beer out for myself.
Named after a torr rock foundation, it is hoped that this lager will help put Aberdeenshire on the map as a premium lager producer. Here's the official description from the brewery:
"Torr Lager is a Scottish lager made with pure ingredients and a traditional brewing method to create a golden lager with a crisp and refreshing taste. Our yeast is propagated in water from the mountains, taken from a river that begins in the Cairngorms and flows for over 80 miles through Aberdeenshire before entering the North Sea at Aberdeen. Only 4 ingredients are used in our lager. No rice or corn. No chemicals. No fish bladders. No GMO corn syrup. 100% natural, giving Torr a uniquely malty taste."
I've spoken before on this blog about how lager isn't my go to style of beer - but I do appreciate a well made one, and the work that goes into it, so I was intrigued to see what this one was all about.
Torr lager pours from the bottle a crystal clear straw colour, leaving a thin white head at the top. Initial aromas are extremely fresh, and refreshing with notes of malts, bread and some fresh citrus. On the first sip, there is an overriding sweetness there, that I can't quite put my finger on where it's coming from - it's not at all a bad thing though. This is then followed up by some crisp, zesty citrus flavours, ending on a slight grassy taste. All in all this beer is light, crisp and refreshing, and the sweetness really sets it apart from a lot of other lagers.
Overall, in a week where I've drank a few different lagers; including this, Lost Lager from BrewDog, and the lager that was in the Tiny Rebel box, Torr has definitely been my favourite. I don't think that a lager is ever going to blow me away, but Torr lager is different enough to stand out amongst the crowd in Scotland's lager scene. If you are a lager drinker, then I would 100% recommend giving Torr a try, and even if you're not - I'm sure you will appreciate the work that has gone into it.
Torr Lager gets 3.75 out of 5 from me 🍺
Back when I was busy brewing up a storm with Brew Toon, I hinted that hey had a beer in the pipeline that I was incredibly excited about. Well, that particular beer has now been released, and it is Dark Nite, a 4.3% ABV Nitro Vanilla Milk Stout. This beer is quite special for a few reasons; firstly it is Brew Toon's first stout, secondly, it is a nitro stout, and thirdly it is the first bottled nitro stout available anywhere in Scotland. Now, that is quite a feat for a little old brewery in Peterhead don't you think?!
As I said earlier Dark Nite is a 4.3% ABV Vanilla Milk Stout, that has been infused with nitrogen. Here's the official description from Brew Toon:
"The 70/30 split of Nitrogen and CO2 in this one has a dramatic effect on mouth feel and when poured properly, creates an amazing cascading effect inside your glass. Roasted malt and vanilla flavours create the foundation of this velvety smooth milk stout."
I've already tasted this beer - I know how good it tastes, and I couldn't wait to find out how it had developed since I had my first sip. Head over to Brew Toon's website and read all about it.
Before we get in to the beer itself, a quick word on the label - Brew Toon have supplied instructions on how to get the optimal pour from this beer, they've even cleverly included a QR code that you can scan to watch a video of "the perfect pour", which is pretty handy if you ask me!
So, now that you've popped the bottle open, and followed the pouring instructions, you are now ready to drink this beer! Dark Nite pours from the bottle a deep black colour with a beige head that cascades all the way from the bottom of the glass to the top, as it settles (think Guinness). It is a really cool effect, and one you need to check out for yourself. There's LOADS of of vanilla in the initial aromas, followed by those roasted malts and a hint of sweet chocolate - mouth watering stuff!
One sip and you know you are in good hands with this beer; silky smooth, sweet vanilla and chocolate combine with the roasted malts and touch of coffee to make this one incredible tasting beer. It's not too sweet, too rich, or too boozy either...making it almost sessionable - I would happily sit and have a few of these in one go.
This is one of the tastiest milk stouts I have had in some time, it's certainly one of the best locally produced beers I have had recently. I would also go as far as to say that it is a better example of this style of beer than Jet Black Heart by Brew Dog.
Brew Toon has done a fantastic job here with Dark Nite, and I really urge you to go out there and try it. This is the first of three new beers in three weeks, and if the quality of this is anything to go by - I can't wait to try the others.
Dark Nite gets 4.5 out of 5 from me 🍻
Seven Beers, For Seven Years
Tiny Rebel, are without doubt one of my favourite breweries in the UK - they make some great beer, have a fantastic core range and they've featured on this blog several times. So when I received the Hop Shop Aberdeen newsletter, advertising their 7th birthday collab pack, I pre-ordered it straight away.
Now, I'm not usually one for ordering special edition boxes of beers, or beer advent calendars; I usually wince at the price, thinking that there's no way I can justify the outlay, but when I seen the lineup for this one (and the glass!) I just had to have it. Tiny Rebel have joined forces with some of the biggest hitters in UK craft brewing to put together a special collection of beers. The 7th birthday collab pack consists of seven collaboration beers with some of the hottest breweries in the UK, and a limited edition glass - all packaged in a rather awesome looking box (that can even be coloured in!). Each can, is a whopping 440ml and is wonderfully designed by the extremely talented Tamsin Baker, with each a interesting spin on a popular style.
Unfortunately, due to a supplier issue, I was a few days late in getting my hands on the box - but when it finally arrived, I didn't hang around in working my way through the beers...
Beer #1 - Citra Session IPA, 4% ABV, feat. Magic Rock
First up was a beer brewed in collaboration with one of the hottest breweries in the UK - Huddersfield's Magic Rock Brewing. The make some of the most drinkable session IPA's around, so that's exactly what they've brewed up - a 4% ABV Citra Session IPA. Magic Rock are a firm favourite of mine, so this was teed up nicely to be a hit.
The beer itself pours a murky dark golden colour leaving a foamy off-white head behind. There's a huge hoppy citrus aroma up-front, just as you'd expect to see from a citra IPA - lovely stuff so far. Flavour wise, there are loads of citrus flavours in there from the off, with grapefruit and a hint of pineapple, before it all becomes a bit of a hop bomb with some sharp bitterness rounding everything off.
All in all this was a very drinkable beer, and a really tasty session IPA, reminding me ever so slightly of Cybernaut from BrewDog. Overall, an excellent start to the collab box.
BEER #2 - DDH Pilsner, 5% ABV, fEAT. Fourpure
Next up, in collaboration with Fourpure was a 5% ABV DDH (double dry hopped) Pilsner. Now, I'm not usually a pilsner/lager drinker, but I do appreciate one when it's made well, and those are both styles that Fourpure have a reputation for. I also don't recall ever having a pilsner from Tiny Rebel, so it was certainly an intriguing prospect.
DDH Pils pours an almost crystal clear amber colour, leaving a fingers width of a foamy off-white head. Initial aromas are notably grassy, hoppy, and some citrus lemon. The first sip, is clean, crisp and refreshing with some nice citrus flavours before being followed up by a harsh hoppy backbone, and a touch of resin - which, if I'm being honest, don't think worked too well for me.
Overall, this was a decent enough beer, whilst not quite suited to my taste. But I'm maybe being too harsh on it as this isn't really my preferred style.
Beer #3 - Tropical Sorbet IPA, 4.8% ABV, Feat. Neonraptor Brewing Co.
The next beer is one that I was particularly looking forward to - a 4.8% ABV Tropical Sorbet IPA, brewed in collaboration with Nottingham's Neonraptor Brewing Co. Neonraptor are a brewery that I've yet to experience first hand, but their beers are always eye-catching, and come with a good reputation. So that, combined with the beer itself - a Tropical Sorbet IPA, things were already looking good.
Tropical Sorbet IPA pours from the can (how cool is it?!) a quite clear golden orange colour, leaving less than a fingers width of a bubbly white head behind. Initial aromas are very pleasant - sharp, zesty, citrus aromas with loads of lemon, grapefruit, pineapple and a hint of mango fill your nose. One sip and you are met with tart, juicy fruit flavours; more lemon, grapefruit, and loads of pineapple all come together nicely to make this very drinkable.
Overall, this was a very enjoyable beer - absolutely jam packed full of juicy flavours and extremely drinkable. The only thing I would say is that I would have probably said it was more a sour than an IPA? But that doesn't take away from how tasty this beer was!
Beer #4 - Dark Chocolate & Cherry Barley Wine, 11% ABV, Feat. Siren
The next beer, is certainly an interesting one for me, as it's a style that I'm not overly familiar with - barley wine. This beer, in particular, is a dark chocolate & cherry barley wine brewed in collaboration with Siren, that comes in at 11% ABV. Siren are usually on point when it comes to interesting flavours, so I was pretty excited about this one.
The beer pours from the can (how cool is this can, by the way?!) a deep burgundy colour, semi translucent, leaving a small beige head, that disperses pretty fast. Initial aromas are very sweet, with chocolate & cherry immediately noticeable, with a hint of caramel running through it. Much like the aromas, the initial flavours are very sweet, with caramel, chocolate & malts, laced with black cherries - it was a bit like liquid black forest gateaux. The flavours all balance out pretty well, and there's a warming boozy finish that packs quite a punch.
Overall, I quite enjoyed this beer - the flavours were complex and interesting, and whilst it wasn't perfect - it definitely left me wanting to try out more barley wines in the future.
Beer #5 - NEIPA, 6.8% ABV, Feat. Deya
Next up is the beer that I was probably most looking forward to in this box - the 6.8% ABV NEIPA, brewed in collaboration with Deya, who are quite the masters of this craft. A particular favourite beer style of mine - there's not much better than a juicy, hazy, NEIPA hop bomb when it comes to beer.
This NEIPA pours from the can, a surprising haze-less dark orange colour, leaving a small foamy white head behind. Firstly, this beer smells absolutely wonderful, with loads of peach, apricot and citrus up front, which is backed up with a piney resin aroma. However, after the first sip - things aren't as great as they first smell. Something is amiss here, sure the peach and apricot show themselves, but they aren't quite working, and I think that there's also slightly too much carbonation. There's a good helping of hoppy bitterness at the end to rescue things slightly, but overall I was left unimpressed - this certainly wasn't what I was hoping for from these two.
Sure, it was a perfectly drinkable beer, it just didn't deliver on the levels that I was hoping for.
Beer #6 - Imperial Mocha Vanilla Shot Stout, 0.5% ABV, Feat. Big Drop Brewing
Next up we have a really interesting one. When I first ordered this box, I thought that this beer was actually 10.5% ABV, and then about a week before it was released, it came to my attention that it actually was 0.5% ABV. Initially I was a bit gutted, as this box was already expensive enough, but the more I thought about it, the more this beer intrigued me. For this one, there was only really one way to do it - join forces with the biggest low alcohol breweries around, Big Drop.
Firstly, I just want to mention the can. It is easily the coolest looking can in the box, featuring an awesome pixel art, video game style - I think it actually could be the coolest looking can I've ever laid hands on. This beer pours from the can, a dark black colour, leaving a thin beige head around the top of the glass. There's not much else to say about the aromas other than vanilla and coffee - loads of it! One sip of this beer, and you think you are drinking a rather tasty iced coffee; lots of sweet vanilla combine with lovely coffee and chocolate flavours to bring this beer together nicely. It is incredibly sweet, silky smooth and the lack of alcohol make it very easy drinking.
I was very impressed by this collaboration. If this is what low-alcohol beers can be, then I am all for it. It is about time we had a bigger, tastier selection on the shelves.
Beer #7 - Pomegranate & Molasses Belgian Strong Ale, 8% ABV, Feat. Yeastie Boys
Finally, we have a 8% ABV Pomegranate & Molasses Belgian Strong Ale, brewed in Collaboration with Yeastie Boys. Yeastie Boys have been part of some of the biggest collabs around over the last year or so (including the epic stout with Vocation), so it only makes sense for Tiny Rebel to team up with these guys to celebrate their birthday. This was another style that I was unfamiliar with, but the flavours sounded extremely interesting, so I was rather keen to check it out.
This beer pours from the glass an amber brown colour, leaving a thin beige head at the top of it. Initial aromas are caramel, orange, sweet fruits with a hint of spices. The first sip is full-on sweetness, with brown sugar, caramel and molasses followed by a hint of pomegranate and some orange. There's then a warming finish from some festive spices to round everything off.
Overall, I found this beer to be...Ok. There was something with it that I couldn't quite put my finger on that didn't work for me. It certainly wasn't horrible, and I drank the whole thing, but I think the combination of all the flavours just wasn't my thing.
And that's it! Although there were a couple of slight mishaps along the way, I really enjoyed working my way through special box of beers. In particular, my favourites were the Citra Session IPA (the first one I had!) with Magic Rock, and the Tropical Sorbet IPA with Neon Raptor, followed by the low alcohol stout with Big Drop.
If you are up for trying some really interesting flavoured beers, along with an awesome glass, all packaged together in a really cool box, then I would highly recommend picking this up whilst you still can. I guess the only thing left to say is happy birthday Tiny Rebel, here's to the next seven years! 🍻
As much as I love beer, my knowledge of how beer is actually made is very limited and I had no real idea of how a typical brewing day went. So when I was invited along by Cameron Bowden, Managing Director at Brew Toon in Peterhead, to join them for a brew day - I jumped at the chance. It just so happened that on the brew day in question, they were brewing up a very special beer, with an exceptional bunch of lads. Brew Toon had joined forces with the guys from the Peterhead Lifeboat Crew, to brew up a very sessionable, New England IPA.
The brew was due to kick off at 9am, and what better way to start the day with one of my favourite Brew Toon beers - M'ango Unchained. Seriously, I love this stuff, the smell is unreal! If you haven't tried it for yourself, then I assure you that you are missing out. Beer in hand, we began to learn about the brewing process from Head Brewer Trevor (more on him later), and what the schedule for the day was.
We (Trevor) kicked things off by starting the long process to create the mash*, which involved adding the malts to the water, and then basically waiting around until it's ready.
*mash - the hot water steeping process which hydrates the barley, activates the malt enzymes, and converts the grain starches into fermentable sugars.
While this was happening, it gave us all a chance to have a chat, find out a bit more about the brewery and how it worked, as well as what was going on at Brew Toon in general. This involved getting to sample one of their latest beers, directly from the fermentation tank - I'm not going to say anymore until Brew Toon reveals it, but I can confirm that it is a very special beer, that I am incredibly excited about!
When the mashing process was over, the wort* was then transferred over to the boiling tank for the boil to take place. This was another two part, lengthy process that involved a lot of waiting for things to happen. The first part of the process was the transfer between the two tanks, which was a relatively slow process as not to spoil the brew. The second part was the boil itself, which is also the part of the process where the hops are added - more on that later.
*wort - the liquid extracted from the mashing process during the brewing of beer.
When the wort was transferred into the boiling tank, and the boil began, it was time to start cleaning up - Trevor told us that 60% of the brewing process is actually waiting around and cleaning up after yourself. The first part of this task was cleaning out the mash tank, by removing the malts. One of the great things about brewing is that there is very little waste; all of the leftover malts (loads of them!) extracted from the tank are given to a local farmer to be used for feed, and used bottles are washed, cleaned and given to local home brewers.
While this was happening, we also used this opportunity to break for lunch, and whilst I was enjoying myself so far, it was good to get outside for a walk, and some fresh air. Once lunch was over, it was back to the brewery and it would then soon be time for probably what I'd been most excited for all day - THE HOPS! As soon as I arrived at the brewery, I'd been looking forward to the hops. The smell of hops in a beer, is one of my favourite smells, so I was incredibly excited to have the chance to smell fresh hops in my own hands, and whilst they are brewing.
Trevor measured out all the various hops that were to be used in the brew (again, I'm not going to say to much, and let Brew Toon reveal it themselves), letting us feel them in our hands and smell them, before bagging them up to be added to the boil. The way that the hops are added, is pretty much like adding a tea bag to tea - they are tied up in a muslin style bag and steeped in the boil for various intervals to add aroma and flavour to the brew. They can be added at different stages throughout the boil to change the intensity of the aroma or flavour.
Just a quick word on Trevor - I'm pretty sure he much be one of the most knowledgeable guys on the planet when it comes to beer! During each stage of the process, he took his time to explain it in detail to us, as well as a bit about the history of it too. He was also more than happy to answer any questions that we had during the day - and would always give the most detailed answer he could. He was a highly eccentric character, but obviously extremely intelligent - he was a bit like a non-drug lord, non-murderous, version of Walter White from Breaking Bad...
The aromas that filled the brewery whilst the hops were in the boil were unbelievable! I don't think I've ever smelt anything like it before. It was like the smell of baking filling your house, but even better!
Whilst we were waiting around a local home brewer by the name of George turned up. George helps Brew Toon out by brewing up small scale batches of any potential new beers that they may be trying to perfect - he is in the process of helping them out with one at the moment. George also brews his own beers under the name of Bold Brewing (check him out on Instagram), and he very kindly brought along a selection of samples for me to try. As you can see from the picture below, they are no ordinary beers, and I can confirm from what I've tasted so far - he really knows what he's doing! George then headed back home, to get to work on his latest batch for Brew Toon.
With the hops in the boil, me and Cameron took a trip to visit George at home, and check out his home brew set-up. When we arrived, I was quite amazed to see what George had done in his garage - he'd build himself a room for his own little brewery in the garage. Whilst it was on a much smaller scale of what I'd just seen at Brew Toon, the principles were the same - and I left highly impressed at what I'd just seen. It's amazing what George is doing in his garage, and it must be so helpful for Brew Toon having such a knowledgeable guy close by who is happy to help out.
When the boil came to an end, it was time to transfer the beer to the fermentation* tank, where the yeast would be added, and it would then stay for around four weeks. And with that, we were done for the day. The beer would require further hopping during fermentation, a process known as "dry-hopping", this is in order to further enhance the flavours and aromas, but this wouldn't happen for another few weeks.
*fermentation - the chemical breakdown of a substance by bacteria, yeasts, or other microorganisms, typically involving effervescence and the giving off of heat.
After the brew was finished, I got the chance to accompany Cameron and Brew Toon's PR intern, Shaun down to Peterhead harbour so they could get some shots of the lifeboat crew on their boat to promote the collaboration. Now whilst this was pretty cool to see...IT WAS FREEZING, and I was more than happy to get back inside - although it did allow for some quite spectacular views of the harbour as the sun was going down.
I had a great day in Peterhead with Brew Toon. I can't thank Cameron enough for inviting me up, thanks to the guys from the lifeboat for letting me gatecrash their brew day, and thanks again to George for the beers! For as much as I claim to be such a beer fanatic, I'd never really taken the time to learn about how it's made - so this really opened my eyes, and educated me quite a bit!
I'm really excited for this beer to be released - I can't wait to taste it! I'm also equally excited for some of the other beers that Brew Toon have in the pipeline, I really think that they are going to do some big things this year. If you haven't already been along to check them out, then what are you waiting for? 🍻
Following on from my review of Liberty APA by Reids Gold, I'm keeping things local again with the latest beer from one of my favourite local breweries - Brew Toon. I'm a massive fan of these guys, especially their Mango Unchained and Purple Reign offerings. I originally planned to have this beer over Xmas, but for whatever reason, I just never got round to it. The beer in question is Ship Launch, a 6.2% ABV Brut IPA - an interesting style of beer that grew in popularity over the last year. Here's the official description from Brew Toon:
"Ship Launch is a new style of IPA which originated in San Francisco, fermented down to a bone-dry gravity using champagne yeast (and some glucoamylase enzyme), to create a hop-forward IPA that is crisp, sparkling and full of flavour. We’ve filled this one up with a full tank of hop fuel, so expect big citrus grapefruit aromas when you let this ship launch."
It certainly sounds like a very interesting beer and I was curious to see how it turned out.
Ship Launch pours from the bottle an almost crystal clear amber colour (the picture really doesn't do it justice), leaving about two fingers width of a lively white head. The first whiff of this beer was huge champagne aromas - it was quite a weird sensation actually... expecting beer and getting bubbly! This is followed up by some melon, a touch of biscuit and some floral notes. The first sip is again champagne, followed by a combination of grape, melon, and a touch of biscuit. The flavours are crisp, dry and come together excellently alongside the light carbonation. For being 6.2% it's a real easy drinking beer, and one I really enjoyed drinking.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this beer - it was jam packed full of interesting flavours, and it was something different from what I usually go for, which made it more enjoyable in my eyes. If you are looking for something a bit different, then I definitely suggest giving this one a go.
Ship Launch gets 4 out of 5 from me 🍻