Big Fish Brewing
It's shocking that it's taken me so long to get round to reviewing this beer. Firstly, Big Fish Brewing are a great local brewery that make awesome beer and secondly, the beer itself - an NE IPA (New England IPA) is is one of my favourite beer styles. This beer has been on the go for a while now, Hop Shop Aberdeen have had it on their shelves for ages, and it's even started popping up on tap in bars, but for whatever reason I've just never got round to it, until now!
Division 1 is a 6.7% ABV NE IPA, and is also Big Fish Brewing's first beer to come in a can. NE IPA's are typically packed with big, juicy flavours, so I was curious to see how this one turned out.
Division 1 pours from the can a hazy amber orange colour, leaving behind a lively off white head - it actually started escaping from the can as soon as I opened it! There's an initial sweetness in the aroma with a touch of orange and grapefruit before being rounded off by some grass/pine at the back end - so far so good. And flavour wise, it's all pretty good as well; those sweet, juicy fruit flavours are there from the off before combining with a piney bitterness that you are so used to in this style of beer. There is almost a slight creaminess there too which gives this beer a really nice mouthfeel. The alcohol is also well hidden for the ABV, making it extremely easy drinking - almost session like. This was a very enjoyable beer to drink, not perfect - but still pretty damn good!
Overall, I really enjoyed this beer and it's another solid release from Big Fish Brewing. As far as NE IPA's go - it certainly can't rival some of the greats, but for a small, local brewery like Big Fish Brewing it is excellent and a great addition to Aberdeen's beer scene. I'd definitely recommend giving this a try. Big Fish Brewing are doing some big things, including soon releasing their own gin - I'm looking forward to seeing what comes next.
Division 1 NE-IPA gets 4 out of 5 from me 🍻
Wander Beyond Brewing
Sometimes a beer comes along and I need to question whether it is actually a beer or not. Sometimes a beer can be so jam packed full of fruit flavours and creaminess that it borders on being some form of alcoholic smoothie. That's not necessarily a bad thing though, I love it. And that's pretty much what we have here.
From the minds of Manchester's Wander Beyond Brewing comes Octopod, a 12% ABV Mango & Passionfruit Imperial Milkshake IPA. Yes, you read that right. Here's the official description from Wander Beyond:
"We have brewed a hyper-viscous Imperial Milkshake IPA and re-fermented it on nearly half a ton of mangoes and passionfruit. Post-fermentation we generously dry hopped it with Citra and Mosaic. Octopod is thick, fruity and at a deceptive 12%, it's not as innocent as you think."
I'm no stranger to Wander Beyond Brewing having reviewed their Sakura Twilight Cherry Chocolate Imperial Stout on this blog previously, and having enjoyed their Mini Milkshake Table Beer also. I'd heard nothing but great things about this beer, so it's safe to say that expectations were high...
Before getting in to the beer itself, lets take a minute to appreciate the can art. Seriously, how cool is it? These guys are starting to give Beavertown a run for their money. I haven't been able to figure out who their artist is, but they are doing a helluva job!
The first thing you notice when you open this beer is the smell - It absolutely smacks you in the face as soon as you crack the can...WOW! Huge amounts of vanilla, juicy mango and sweet passionfruit fill your nose - you'd be forgiven for thinking you just cracked open a smoothie. Octopod pours from the can a thick, murky orange, leaving behind little to no head. After the first sip you realise exactly what sort of crazy witchcraft that Wander Beyond Brewing have been up to...THIS IS NOT A BEER! This is some kind of delicious, refreshing, juicy tropical fruit smoothie. Loads of mango, pineapple, passionfruit and orange combine with the creamy oats and lactose to create a flavour explosion in your mouth. But just when you thought this beer had you fooled you get hit with the right amount of hop burn to remind you that this is indeed a beer that you are drinking - and a tasty one at that!
I couldn't really fault this beer. The fruit flavours were insane on, the mouthfeel was incredible and there was just the perfect amount of alcohol there to keep you grounded.
There's not really much else to say about this beer, you really just need to get out there and try it for yourself. That's three beers now by this brewery that I've been majorly impressed with and Wander Beyond Brewing are fast becoming a firm favourite of mine. I have no doubt that this beer will be one of my beers of the year.
Octopod gets 5 out of 5 from me 🍻
What? Supermarket beer is evolving!
We're all used to being able to pick up good craft beer at our local supermarkets. The shelves at Tesco, Morrison's, Asda, Aldi and Lidl's are all packed with good beer - with beers from the likes of BrewDog, Northern Monk, Brooklyn Brewery, Camden Town, Oskar Blues and Sierra Nevada all readily available on their shelves. However, if I am being honest, I can't remember the last time I bought a great beer in a supermarket - that is until recently.
Out of nowhere, social media was flooded with posts of these new beers from Vocation Brewery that were available in Tesco. Naturally, I had to see what all the fuss is about and I picked up their Breakfast Club collaboration with Yeastie Boys, and Love & Hate - the focus of this review. Love & Hate is a 7.2% ABV New England Pale Ale, and here's the official description from Vocation:
"Traditionalists love beer that’s crystal clear, with restrained hops, and a delicate flavour. They’re going to hate this… Love & Hate is our juicily crushable, unapologetically murky, New-England pale ale. An authentic Vermont yeast strain and a big dose of oats work together with our triple dry-hopping process to create beautiful aromas and a silky mouthful. Unconventional. Uncompromising. We love it."
There was so much hype around this beer, but could it live up to it?
Love & Hate pours from the rather cool looking can a hazy, murky, golden yellow colour, leaving less than a fingers width of a foamy off-white head behind. As you'd expect from this style of beer, there is loads of tropical/citrus fruit aromas as soon as you crack the can; juicy pineapple, mango and orange fill your nose from the off along with a hint of resin - so far so good! One sip of this beer and I know that it's a winner. Just as you get with the aromas, those sweet, juicy fruits are right there at the front of it all and then there's a bitterness, maybe a touch too much, to balance everything all out. This beer is silky smooth - those oats really do their job of binding everything together and making it feel great in the mouth. The alcohol is there, but not too overpowering, which could be quite dangerous considering this beer comes in at 7.2% ABV!
Overall I really enjoyed drinking this beer and I'll definitely be buying more of it, providing there's still some left on the shelves! This beer is great, really great. And the best part? It costs three quid.
You're going to see a lot more from Vocation Brewery on this blog - they are fast becoming a firm favourite of mine and their Life & Death IPA is one of the best core beers you can pick up in the supermarket. For £3, this beer is an absolute no brainier. £3 might seem like a lot to some people for one beer, but in my mind it is incredible value for what you are getting in terms of flavour - and a in 4400ml can no less.
Love & Hate gets 4.5 out of 5 from me 🍻
Sometimes a beer is just too good to be true. We all know that Northern Monk make some phenomenal beers - in fact, I don't think I've ever had a beer from them that I didn't enjoy.
Mango Lassi Heathen is a beer that has caught my eye in the past, hell they even released a double version of it - I really have know idea why I never tried it, until now. Mango Lassi Heathen is a 7.2% ABV Mango Lassi IPA, here's the official description if it from Northern Monk:
"We always thought that our ever so popular Heathen Citra IPA tastes just like mangoes. And then we thought... why don't we put actual mangoes in it? So here it is, a twisted rendition of Heathen, infused with mangoes and lactose for a mellow fruit IPA as luscious as your favourite creamy smoothie."
I'd heard nothing but good things about this beer. And to be fair, with Northern Monk's pedigree, I just knew it was going to be good. I couldn't wait to crack it open...
Mango Lassi Heathen pours from the can a beautiful murky, pulpy, golden orange, leaving a thin white head - it literally looks like juice. Astounding start! Aroma wise, there's not really much else to say except mango, mango and more mango - loads of it! Huge juicy mango aromas combine with a slight bitterness to leave your mouth watering. After one sip of this beer, I didn't want to put it down - the flavour was incredible. As you would expect there is LOADS of mango in there, it is practically juice. There's a creaminess too, along with a hint of sweet honey before everything is all balanced off with a touch of pine bitterness, to remind you that you really are in fact, drinking a beer. It all works incredibly, I actually couldn't believe how well it all worked.
This really is a beer that is exactly what it says on the can. A real mango lassi is sweet, rich thick and creamy - and this is exactly what this beer is...the mouthfeel is sublime, and combined with the flavours, there's really not much more you could ask for.
This beer is stunning. I immediately wanted another after finishing it (unfortunately for me, I didn't have one). The flavours that Northern Monk have managed to cram in to this beer are unbelievable and you really owe it to yourself to try it while you can. We're now rapidly approaching the end of the year, and I have no doubt that Mango Lassi Heathen will be in my top five when 2018 comes to a close.
Mango Lassi Heathen gets 5 out of 5 from me 🍻
This weekend past saw the 2018 Scottish Beer Awards take place in Edinburgh, an event celebrating the best Scottish beer has to offer - and I was lucky enough to be in attendance. Now in its third year, the award ceremony was held at the Edinburgh Corn Exchange on 27th September 2018, and I was invited along by Edinburgh based PR agency KD Media to cover the event as a blogger. I was among the near 400 other beer fanatics who descended on the Edinburgh to find out the results of the 296 beers that had been blind tasted back in February.
Upon arrival at the Corn Exchange, we were treated to a drinks reception featuring beers from Harviestoun Brewery, gin & tonics and some highly entertaining live music. After some brief mingling, it was time to take our seats for the evening. My table consisted of a good mixture of people; ranging from fellow bloggers, beer industry people, various Scottish professionals and Gayle Mackail from KD Media - our table host. I must admit, that prior to the evening, I was slightly nervous that I might feel slightly out of place amongst some of the other guests, but everyone was incredibly welcoming and interested to hear my story. It didn't take me long to relax and soon the conversation (and beers) were flowing! It was a great, interesting mix of people and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing their stories and thoughts on the industry.
It was soon time for the food! We were treated to a rather fantastic three course. beer paired, gourmet meal - and it did not disappoint! The starter was twice baked Isle of Mull cheddar soufflé, pickled grapes, spiced tomato salsa and celery which was paired with Chimera (IPA, 5.9% ABV) by Drygate Brewing Co. Whilst perhaps maybe being slightly too "cheesy" for my taste, it was enjoyable and worked well with the refreshing, citrus IPA.
The main course consisted of venison and Stornoway black pudding meatballs, creamed potatoes with horseradish from the Isle of Bute, charred tender stem broccoli and crispy fried onions. This was paired with Jet Black Heart (Milk Stout, 4.7% ABV) by BrewDog. The main course was incredible! The meatballs, in particular, were delicious...I could have happily had a second helping! The Jet Black Heart worked brilliantly with them also - it really is one of BrewDog's best core beers.
And finally for dessert, we were served raspberry cranachan with whisky infused berries, whipped cream folded with toasted oatmeal. There was only really one beer this dessert could be served with - Cranachan Killer (Pale Ale, 5.5% ABV) by Fierce Beer of course! Sadly my appetite got the best of me, and the desert was the only course I remembered to photograph...check out how fantastic it looks below! Rest assured that it did actually taste as good as it looked, and of course it was made even better with the beer.
The award ceremony was again hosted by Hardeep Singh Kohli, who was back for the third year running, and Catriona Shearer who joined him in presenting duties for the second year in a row. From the off, it was clear why the pair had returned to host - they are an extremely charismatic pairing, with great chemistry, constantly bouncing jokes off each other throughout the evening...it's safe to say I laughed a lot! Their enthusiasm for the industry was there for all to see, and it really makes a difference when the hosts have a passion for what they are presenting.
There was a total of 49 awards to get through on the night and each category was contended by some amazing breweries, brewers and beers.
Edinburgh's Stewart Brewing took home the main award of the night, winning Scottish Brewery of The Year following a phenomenal business year for them. I must confess, however, that Stewart Brewing are a brewery that wasn't really on my radar this year, but I guess that this has made me sit up and take notice, as I am clearly missing out on some great beer! I did actually feature some of their beers way back when I started this blog, so I know there is quality there. Stewart Brewing also picked up the Growth Business of The Year award alongside a silver and bronze medal in the flavour categories.
Beer of The Year went to Belhaven Brewery and their Twisted Grapefruit IPA. I have to admit, I was somewhat surprised by Belhaven claiming this award. Although, again, this another beer that has passed me by this year so I can't be too quick to pass judgement. I am pretty sure it is readily available in the supermarket, so I'll be sure to check it out and share my thoughts.
The big award of the night may have stayed in Edinburgh, however, it was Aberdeen based breweries that really shone on the evening, taking home a combined total of TWELVE awards in the flavour categories. The big winners on the night were Fierce Beer who picked up an amazing FOUR gold awards, taking home the gold in the Best Barrel Aged Beer (Very Big Moose), Best Amplified Beer (Very Big Moose), Best Porter (Dirty Sanchez), Best Sour Beer (Tangerine Tart) along with a silver medal for Split Shift in the Best IPA category. Beer giants BrewDog also enjoyed great success with a total of six awards, including gold and bronze in the Best IPA award for King of Eights and Hazy Jane respectively. A special shout out must also go to local favourites of mine, Brew Toon, who picked up bronze in the Best Lager/Pilsner award for their Weekend Hooker lager - an amazing achievement to round off a fantastic year for them. Aberdeenshire based Sixº North also picked up Beer Bar of The Year for their Glasgow location.
You can find full details of all the winners over on the awards website.
And with that, the evening was over. There was an official after party being held at Sixº North in Edinburgh, that was scheduled to go on until 3am. However, having indulged in quite a few of the beers on the table over the course of the evening, my judgement got the better of me, and I decided to call it a night and head to bed.
Overall, I had a thoroughly fantastic evening at the Scottish Beer Awards, and I can't thank Gayle and the team at KD Media enough for inviting me. Just being in the same room as some true Scottish beer royalty was an incredible experience, and one I feel privileged to have been part of. Congratulations again to all the winners on the evening, especially those hailing from the North East - it really has been an amazing year of beer for Aberdeenshire.
I'm looking forward to next year already 🍻