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 🍻
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 🍻
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 🍻
Manual Brewing Co.
It's always exciting when a new Scottish brewery pops up, especially in the rather mysterious way that Dundee based Manual Brewing Co. did. Cryptic posts from their social media accounts started popping up all over the place, showcasing their rather awesome sounding beers. It was all very exciting, and intriguing, and I was looking forward to getting my hands on some of their beers.
Hop Shop Aberdeen was on the ball as usual, and I managed to pick up Tickets, Please - which is an 8.5% ABV NE DIPA (my favourite style of beer), coming in a 440ml can, and here's the official description from Manual Brewing:
"Dry-hopped with Mosaic, Amarillo and Azacca, fermented with a blend of London Ale III and Burlington yeast strains = tropical, stone fruit, pine, wheat, haze. Suitable for vegans."
I was really looking forward to this beer. There was a lot of hype surrounding it, and naturally, I was hoping it lived up to it.
First up, starting with the pretty cool looking can art. I don't know why, but the rather minimalist style of their designs instantly remind me of Cloudwater for some reason...nothing wrong with that however - I like it.
Tickets, Please pours from the can a hazy, bright, golden orange colour, leaving a finger of a foamy white head. Aromas are huge, sweet, juicy fruits; peach, mango and pineapple combine with a slight creaminess and a hint of pine to leave your mouth watering! Flavour wise, this beer does not disappoint either - those juicy stone fruit and tropical fruit flavours are at the forefront with lashings of peach, pineapple, mango and orange before a touch of bitterness from the pine rounds it all off - lovely stuff! This is a full-on NE DIPA, if maybe only ever so slightly lacking in the bitterness for me. The beer has a slight creaminess to the texture, and the alcohol is well hidden amongst the fruit flavours, making it extremely drinkable and I certainly enjoyed every single second of it.
Overall, I really don't think I can fault this beer, and it's almost everything I look for in a NE DIPA. It's certainly a promising start for Manual Brewing, and I now look forward to working my way through their other beers, and of course what comes next for them. I highly recommend checking them out, and this beer, in particular, is absolutely worth your money.
Tickets, Please gets 4.75 out of 5 from me 🍻
Wander Beyond Brewing
As glorious as my two week break in Mexico was, there is only so much Sol and Dos Equis XX a man can drink! So, as a result I decided to make my first beer review on my return a special one - step forward Wander Beyond Brewing. This also happened to be my celebratory beer following Crathes Half Marahon. Having only discovered this Manchester based brewery recently, there was one beer that immediately caught my eye and as ever, Hop Shop Aberdeen had it in the fridges in no time at all (they even kept it back for me whilst I was away).
The beer in question is Sakura Twilight, a 11% ABV cherry chocolate imperial stout and here's the official description from Wander Beyond Brewing:
"This special release of our Imperial Stout was carefully infused with Morello cherries and cacao nibs to produce a highly drinkable cherry chocolate stout"
I've stated numerous times on this blog regarding my love for cherry flavoured things...so a cherry chocolate imperial stout certainly seemed right up my street.
Before we go any further, we have to applaud the can design. JUST LOOK AT IT! Seriously, how pretty (can pretty be used to describe beer cans?!) is it?
Sakura Twilight pours from the can a slightly opaque dark brown colour, leaving a thin tan head. Initial aromas are sweet, floral cherry, some forest fruits, along with dark chocolate malts and a slight hint of coffee. Flavour wise, I got loads of bitter dark chocolate, with a hint of roasted coffee and vanilla before a touch of sweet, tangy, juicy cherry comes in to play and rounds the flavours out perfectly. Very tasty! It's also worth noting that this stout wasn't heavy at all like some can be, it was silky smooth and incredibly drinkable for being an 11% ABV beer.
Overall, I was highly impressed with this beer and it was very enjoyable to drink - it was the perfect beer following my near three week exodus from the craft world! It's safe to say that Wander Beyond Brewing are firmly on my radar now. I already have my eye on a few of their other releases that Hop Shop Aberdeen currently have in stock, and I look forward to seeing what they do next.
Sakura Twilight gets 4.25 out of 5 from me 🍻