The Garden Brewery
Every so often a beer will come along from a brewery I know little about and blow me away. That's exactly what's happened here with The Garden Brewery and their Milkshake IPA. I'd seen this beer on the shelves in Hop Shop Aberdeen previously, but I didn't know anything about it so when I saw it on the shelves again last week, curiosity got the better of me and I picked up a can. From the look of the can, I thought the Garden Brewery were a small brewery in England somewhere and to my surprise...they turned out to be from Croatia!
Milkshake IPA is a 6.7% ABV well, Milkshake IPA. Here's the official description from The Garden Brewery:
"Sweet creamy and juicy IPA. Super Milky - With 3 times more lactose than we have ever used! Subtle sweet notes of passion-fruit, mango, strawberry, and vanilla. Fermented out with unique White Labs London Fog yeast WLP066."
I'd read nothing but good things about this beer on Instagram, so it's safe to say I had quite high hopes for it.
Milkshake IPA pours from the can a rather hazy golden orange colour, leaving decent sized foamy white head. It just looks like it's going to be great and things continue to get better from there - sweet, juicy mango, strawberry, pineapple and passion fruit aromas fill your nose. It all smells a little bit like an alcoholic fruit smoothie. You realise just how good this beer is after your first sip - those same fruits from the aromas combine with the lactose to create a sweet, juicy and creamy flavour sensation. The lactose does wonders for the mouthfeel of this beer, it is so smooth and creamy that it really is reminiscent of a milkshake. There is a warmth at the end of it all from the alcohol to remind you that you are actually still drinking a beer.
I can't state enough how much I enjoyed this beer. The moment I finished it, I immediately wanted more of it. The can states that this is part of the "experimental series" from The Garden Brewery...well, the experiment has certainly worked on me!
This beer is stunning, and frankly it's one of the best beers that I have drank this year. Do yourself a favour and get your hands on some - you will not regret it. In the meantime, I'm off to find some more beer by my favourite Croatian brewery...
Milkshake IPA gets 5 out of 5 from me 🍻
Time For a Change
The College has been an Aberdeen nightlife staple for over 20 years now - it has certainly been somewhere I have frequented over the years. Situated at the top of Union Street on Alford Place, it has been a constant stop for the people of Aberdeen to enjoy drinks, partying & live sports.
However eventually all things change and evolve to keep up with the times, and that's exactly what The College has done. Now known simply as "College", the bar has gone under a total refurbishment - promising to bring “an inclusive and metropolitan venue to Aberdeen City with something for all”.
I was lucky enough to be invited to the relaunch event on Friday evening before the doors were officially re-opened to the public.
Firstly - College looks absolutely stunning. I cannot believe the difference that has went in to the transformation of the bar. I would go as far to say that College is now probably one of the nicest looking bars in the city. The first thing you will notice is just how light it is compared to how College used to be, which I always thought was quite dark. The hanging lights scattered throughout the bar, along with the large windows which allow an abundance of natural light, makes such a difference.
The overall attention to detail is incredible, and it's hard not to be instantly drawn to the huge copper beer tanks situated behind and to the side of the bar (more on them later). The bar, as it did previously, takes centre stage - a large U shape, surrounded by stylish green stools and ample seating in the many booths.
There are two large screens at either end of the bar, meaning it will be hard for you to miss any of the live sporting action. Each booth has a small screen, along with a "press for service" panel - meaning you don't have to miss any of the match to get a drink! College have also taken inspiration from American sporting arenas by installing a custom built perspex "viewing cube" above the bar. Whilst it wasn't active on Friday, it looks like an awesome centrepiece and will instantly draw attention. There is certainly nothing else like it in Aberdeen.
Around the back of the bar, there is plenty more seating along with a stage for live bands and a well sized "dance floor" area. The toilets are upstairs as they were before, and finished to a very high standard. If I was to have any criticism, it would be that the cubicles seemed to be a tight squeeze - but you spend minutes there compared to hours in the bar.
Whilst the emphasis seems to still be on College being a sports bar - it’s clearly much more than that. For me, it looks like the perfect spot to come and watch the football, but in a luxury setting that anyone can enjoy.
Now lets talk about the big copper tank in the room - Tennent's Tank Lager. Whilst I'm not usually one to wax lyrical about Tennent's Lager, I'm also not one to diss it. I like Tennent's Lager - it’s perfectly fine. So when I heard that College were going to be the first bar in Aberdeen (and only the third in Scotland) to have Tennent's Tank Lager, it seemed like quite a big deal. And understandably so - it tastes great!
For those unaware, tank lager is unpasteurised and unfiltered lager that is straight from the brewery to the tanks. The lager never really sees the air until it hits your glass, meaning it is essentially as fresh as it comes. Not to mention the tanks themselves are an absolute standout feature for the bar itself - they look absolutely stunning, and are a welcome addition to the city.
You can just tell that it looks like a good pint! And it certainly is; crisp, and full of flavour, much more so than your standard pint of Tennent's. It's also a lot less gassy, meaning you won't get that bloated feeling that usually comes with drinking lager. I definitely recommend giving it a go, and I guarantee it will surprise you.
Beer wise, College has an awesome selection of draught beers available, including the aforementioned Tennent's tank lager, their own house City Lager, two dedicated Beavertown (haters gonna hate) taps and a Cloudwater rotational tap - now that in paricular is huge for the Aberdeen beer scene! There is also a wide range of bottled/canned beers such as a variety of Beavertown, Magic Rock and BrewDog.
They also have a vast selection of spirits and cocktails available - they have even crated a signature "PB" (PB Devco) range of cocktails that will be available across their venues in the city.
I just want to end by saying thanks to College for inviting me along to the launch event - we had an absolute blast and we will definitely be back soon. I encourage you all to go along and check it out for yourselves - I guarantee you will be shocked at the difference.
Sell-outs Or Smart Thinkers?
Beavertown Brewery are one of my favourite breweries around, they are the brewery behind what is still my favourite beer of all time - Tropigamma. So when the news broke today confirming what had long been rumoured - that Heineken were buying a minority stake in Beavertown, I was understandably, initially, slightly worried.
I've long had this notion driven in to me; partly due to the craft beer culture as a whole, and partly due to marketing from BrewDog and general craft beer culture, that all big brewing companies are evil, and any craft brewery that gives up any of its stake to them are total sell-outs. But are they really? Lets look at this realistically before we all jump to conclusions and stop drinking Beavertown. Before I get in to some of the facts and my own thoughts about it, check out the press release from Beavertown here. They also have links to a document with just the facts, and a Q & A with Logan Plant - founder of Beavertown.
“The decision to align ourselves with Heineken was all about their expertise, resource, route to market and most importantly the dynamic of the deal. They want us to continue doing exactly what we do now, and they will be there as a support network if needed.
Lets take a look at some of the facts of the deal. I'm not going to go through everything, just what I think is most important.
It’s a minority deal: Heineken are not going to own Beavertown. They are going to be a minority shareholder. Beavertown's destiny will still be their own to shape.
Logan Plant will remain founder & CEO: He's led Beavertown on this journey until now, and he'll continue leading them with his vision for the company.
Beaverworld will create up to 150 new jobs: What's not positive about jobs being created? And further to Beaverworld, they hope this deal will allow them to open up bars across the UK, which will in turn create more jobs.
There will be no recipe changes: For me, this is key. The beer has always been the key factor when it came to Beavertown for me, and as long as the beer doesn't change, then neither will my opinions of the brewery.
As for my own thoughts on this - sure, I love craft beer and everything that it stands for. But I am not going to lose any immediate sleep over this. I've read the press release, and I've read the facts - so unless Beavertown are straight up lying to us, then things sound like they are only going to get better.
Certainly in my experience there's plenty breweries out there who are either owned or partly owned by large companies and haven't compromised on quality; Ballast Point still make fantastic beer, Camden Town? I enjoy their beer, and even Goose Island to a point still make pretty good beer.
I'm not going to go on and on and make out like I'm some kind of financial expert, or make out like I know what kind of impact this might have on other breweries - I'm just saying things like I see them.
This news is understandably going to upset some people, and I have no doubt they will lose their fare share of customers, and they might have even broken some links with other breweries with this move. For me however, as long as the beer remains great - then I'll keep drinking it.
And who knows, I might even take a trip to Beaverworld one day 🍻
Magic Rock Brewing
If you have any kind of passing interest in craft beer on Instagram, then you will probably be fed up of seeing these beers by now - everyone has been drinking them! I've been keeping mine aside for a special occasion - in celebration of finishing the BrewDog Summer Run, however staying in BrewDog afterwards made sure that never happened as planned...
The Cannonball Run is a yearly event by Magic Rock Brewing that celebrates one of it's core beers - Cannonball by releasing bigger, meaner variants of it. The past couple of years has seen Human Cannonball, and Un-Human Cannonball take centre stage, but this year sees Neo-Human Cannonball enter the picture. So the beers we have this year are:
As a side note, I didn't bother picking up the core Cannonball as part of this year - I know it's a good beer, and I'd already spent a small fortune on these three beers as it was.
These beers have been picking up so much hype - they have been all over Instagram. It was so hard to not drink them and keep them aside for as long as I did. So, without further ado...
Human Cannonball 2018
First up we have Human Cannonball, the 9.2% ABV DIPA. I have crazily never tried tried Human, or Un-Human Cannonball, however last year I spoke very fondly of another DIPA - Half Cut, which was brewed with Other Half, so I was unsurprisingly looking forward to getting stuck in to this one. Here's the official description from Magic Rock:
"Meet Cannonball’s big brother; we used more malt, more hops and more magical conjuring to crank up the flavour of our explosive IPA ‘Cannonball’. Get your taste buds ready for massive pine and candied orange aromas combined with bitter/sweet grapefruit and mango flavours all complemented by a deeply composed, satisfyingly malty base. Ever wondered what it feels like to be shot out of a cannon? Here’s what it tastes like."
Human Cannonball pours from the can a murky golden orange colour, leaving a big foamy beige head. Initial aromas are incredible - huge amounts of mango & pineapple combine with a massive dollop of piney resin to leave you gagging for more. And the taste certainly does not disappoint either...from the off it's massive fruit flavours; juicy mango, sweet bitter grapefruit and a hint of orange are followed up with a massive piney bitterness - this beer makes no attempt to hide it's alcohol, that's for sure. It was great to drink, and everything a proper DIPA should be.
This beer was awesome, and hopefully a sign of things to come for the rest. Human Cannonball is up there with the best of the DIPA's that I have had.
4.75 out of 5
Un-Human Cannonball 2018
Next up we have Un-Human Cannonball, the monstrous 11% ABV triple IPA. Now, I have only had a few triple IPA's in my time, and they are usually quite a mind-blowing experience, so I'm not expecting anything less from this beer. Here's the official description from Magic Rock:
"Once a year we receive the latest crop of hops from the US, intensely aromatic and bursting with potential they’re begging to be put to work. With three times the quantity of hops of our explosive IPA ‘Cannonball’ and even more than our flagship Double IPA ‘Human Cannonball’ we’ve created a fitting tribute to the new hop release with this our annual homage to the hop.
‘Un-Human Cannonball ‘takes IPA to another dimension-balancing massive citric aroma, deep tropical fruit flavour and gravity defying drinkability to deliver a hop experience that is out of this world. We’ve done our best for the hops, don’t let them down by ageing this beer: please drink as soon as Un-Humanly possible!"
Un-Human Cannonball pours a murky golden orange colour, similar to Human Cannonball, but with much less of a head. Initial aromas are LOADS of hoppy resin, with a slight splash of tropical fruits. Taste wise, this beer is unforgiving from the off - huge hoppy, bitter flavours are laced with some slight tropical fruit bombs; orange, pineapple & mango. It is slick smooth, with loads of alcohol burn to go with it...serious heavy hitting stuff!
This beer is great...it blows your head off, but it is great. As much as I enjoyed it, I did find the levels of alcohol a bit overpowering - however I just took my time, and savoured it.
4.5 out of 5
Neo-Human Cannonball 2018
And finally we have the beer I was perhaps most excited about - Neo-Human Cannonball, the 9.2% ABV NE DIPA. NE IPA's are usually my favourite beer style (when done right), so a DIPA version using loads of oats sounds absolutely out of this world. Here's the official description from Magic Rock:
"A New England update on our Double IPA Human Cannonball, this DIPA uses a high percentage of oats and wheat in the grist for a creamy smooth mouthfeel. We eliminated the bittering and moved the majority of whirlpool hops over to the dry hopping to maximise aroma. Fermented with London Fog yeast for an estery aroma and sweet finish the beer is served way more hazy than the original to maximise the flavour expression."
Neo-Human Cannonball pours a hazy golden yellow, leaving a thin bubbly white head on top. Aromas are quite similar to those of Human Cannonball - mango, pineapple and grapefruit alongside a splash of pine, however there is a creamy backbone to it all from the oats. After the first sip, I knew this beer was phenomenal - you instantly get the creaminess from the oats just as juicy mango & pineapple take hold of your taste buds. There's then a slight bitterness - not too much, just a bit, that rounds everything off. It all works wonderfully, and the mouthfeel especially is excellent - wow.
This beer was incredible, and quite easily in my top 5 for the year so far. Everything about it is perfect, right down to the shiny, glittery can. Do yourselves a favour and grab it while you still can.
5 out of 5
Overall, these were three absolutely incredible beers from Magic Rock. All three of them are probably up with the best beers that I've had this year. It's not too late to give them a go, and I highly recommend that you do. I'm looking forward to next years Cannonball Run already 🍻
Three New Beers...Are They Great?
Following my brief break after Week 1, I am back on the Fanzine bandwagon with Week 3. If you are reading this then you are probably familiar with how it all works, but if not - refresh yourself here.
Whilst Week 1 was a relative success for me, I was still slightly sceptical to see whether this subscription turns out to be a worthwhile investment or not. I'm prepared to keep going with it though as there were some real positives for me and surely it can only get better, right?
This time round the beers are:
So a couple of big hitters in there, with the Milkshake IPA sounding particularly intriguing! I'm also interested to see if there's any improvement with Zephyr, as I really didn't get on with it in Week 1.
First up we have Pulp Patriot, the 9.5% ABV Milkshake IPA. This was without doubt the beer I was looking forward to the most. It just sounds like it's going to be good! Here's the official description from BrewDog:
"New England to the power of two. This juggernaut of a double IPA weighs in at 9.5% delivering a payload of big fruit with mango and peach front and centre. Milk sugar builds and rounds out the full juicy notes."
Pulp Patriot pours from the can a hazy golden amber colour, leaving a thin, foamy white head. Aromas are loads of juicy stone fruits; peach, mango & apricot with a hint of pine. Taste is wonderful; peach, mango and a hint of pineapple are combined with slight pine, bitter backbone. It's sweet, and silky smooth, extremely easy drinking for a 9.5% ABV beer - wonderful stuff!
This beer is stunning! For me, it is without doubt the best that BrewDog have done (Eight-Bit aside) since Hazy Jane! I certainly would not be adverse to BrewDog making this more readily available as I would snap it up in bulk.
5 out of 5
Next up, we have Zephyr, V2 - Lime Gose Edition which is a 4.6% ABV sour ale. Now, I was far from impressed with Zephyr from week 1 - I really didn't like it, so naturally I was hoping for an improvement from this one. Here's the official description from BrewDog:
"A zesty gose with a twist of lime and a pinch of salt to crank up the crisp sour character. A juicy, bright beer, with a light acidity resting on a biscuity backbone."
Zephyr pours a pale golden straw colour, with a thin white head that disperses quickly. Aromas are zingy lime from the off, with a malty biscuit backbone. Flavours are huge, refreshing sour lime backed by the slightest hint of salt and a biscuit finish. Imagine drinking a Corona - but 10x tastier & less carbonated...that's pretty much what this beer is. It's not mind-blowing, but it's good.
This was a massive improvement on V1 for me - super refreshing & very enjoyable to drink. I could easy see myself enjoying a few of these in the sun...I'm impressed!
3.75 out of 5
Ten Ton Truck
Finally, we have Ten Ton Truck - Espresso Edition, a hefty 10% ABV porter. Described as an evolution of Nebula from week 1 - a beer that I found pretty tasty, so naturally I was expecting good things from this one. Here's the official description from BrewDog:
"Fruity espresso, bitter chocolate and roastiness on the nose. Followed by a payload of bitter coffee red berry, dark chocolate and some floral notes."
Ten Ton Truck pours jet black, leaving a thin foamy beige head that doesn't hang around. Huge dark chocolate and coffee aromas with a touch of smokiness rounding it all off. There is huge amounts of bitterness from the off - bitter dark chocolate and bitter coffee combine with the slightest hint of forest fruits...this beer packs a punch!
Overall I thought this was a pretty damn good beer. I did feel that the balance was maybe slightly off and there there was maybe too much bitterness to it, however it was still very enjoyable to drink - I just took my time with it.
4 out of 5
Well, it's safe to say that week 3 has been rather impressive, and a massive improvement over week 1 for me. These have been some pretty awesome beers - Pulp Patriot in particular is incredible. I will absolutely be continuing my subscription, and I am counting down the days to week 4 already 🍻