I've been waiting for this.
Ever since the news of their partnership with Heineken was announced, I've been waiting for Beavertown to release a beer to remind everyone just how good they are. As I said in my blog post, as long as they continue to make the same great beer that we've come to expect from them, then I'll be happy to keep drinking it. Sapling is a 7.1% ABV IPA and here's the official description from Beavertown:
"Mellow Raspberry, ripe nectarine and white peach. Super soft mouthfeel masks the 68 IBU’s with a lingering malt sweetness. A heavily dry hopped IPA showcasing two of our favourite Australian hop varieties: Enigma & Galaxy. Fermented with London Fog for fruity yeast notes and gentle sweetness."
Ever since this beer was announced, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it, and Hop Shop Aberdeen as always, came up with the goods.
First off - I can't talk about a Beavertown beer without talking about the can art. Kudos to Nick Dwyer, who really is at the top of his game with this one - check out how cool it looks?!
Sapling pours from the can a HAZY, pulpy, dark golden yellow colour, leaving a big foamy off-white head. This beer looks incredible! Aromas are fantastic - loads of sweet juicy fruits; mango, pineapple, peach and orange combine with some slight piney bitterness to leave your mouth watering. Taste wise, everything is quite similar to the aromas with loads of juicy fruits up front, then there's some slight bitterness and lingering bread/biscuit aftertaste that I wasn't overly sold on - but it wasn't in anyway off-putting. I enjoyed drinking this beer, it tastes great and it has a nice, full mouthfeel.
Overall, I highly enjoyed Sapling and whilst it's not quite up their with their best, it's another fine example of just how good a Beavertown IPA can be. If you had any doubt in your mind about the quality of their beer dropping - then I urge you to get out and try this one to put your mind at ease.
Sapling gets 4 out of 5 from me 🍻
Fierce Beer have been doing some awesome things this summer - most notably with their "scream" series. Next up we have PBJ (Peanut Butter & Jelly) Riot - a twist on their classic beer 'Peanut Riot' but with added raspberry jam. PBJ Riot is a 6.5% ABV peanut butter & jelly porter, and here's the official description from Fierce Beer:
"Our 'Peanut Riot' is an awesome beer; you’re immediately transported to the confectionery counter after one sip. But we wondered how it would taste as a classic PBJ, with raspberry jam - so we added some in. Try it with toast if you dare!"
Peanut Riot is a pretty damn good beer so the addition of some big raspberry flavours is surely going to make for an interesting beer.
PBJ Riot pours from the can a deep black with a very lively foamy beige head that took quite some time to settle. There's loads of sweet raspberry in the aroma with a slight sourness and some roasted nuts and a hint of chocolate. You get huge sharp, tangy raspberry flavours up front - so much you that you think you're drinking a sour and not a porter. You are then subtly reminded you are indeed drinking a porter with a combination of some roasted peanut flavours combined with a touch of bitter dark chocolate. It all comes together quite well, albeit maybe ever so slightly too sour for a dark beer in my opinion - but that doesn't stop it being enjoyable. There was also quite a bit of sediment in this beer, it didn't bother me too much - but it may bother some people.
Overall this was another pretty awesome beer from Fierce - the mixture of porter and sour certainly turned out to be an interesting one. Whilst it is maybe just slightly too sour for my liking, you can't deny that this beer is jam packed full of flavour. I'd certainly recommend giving it a go while it is still around.
PBJ gets 3.75 out of 5 from me 🍻
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 🍻