Fierce Beer x Brew York / BrewDog x Fierce Beer
Over the last couple of weeks I've had two versions of Very Big Moose. Initially brewed as a collaboration with BrewDog as part #COLLABFEST2017, it has since been re-released as a collaboration with Brew York using Tonka beans & again with BrewDog in celebration of #PUNKAGM2018.
Since I had both these versions just days apart, I decided to review them together. Hop Shop Aberdeen again delivered the goods in getting these two awesome collaborations on the shelves in no time at all.
Very Big Moose: tonka - fierce Beer x Brew York
First up we have Very Big Moose: Tonka edition, a beer that was my beer of the show at #northhopabz recently. VBM: Tonka is a 12% ABV imperial chocolate stout that has been brewed using Tonka beans in collaboration with york based brewery, Brew York. If like me, you didn't know what Tonka beans were...here's a quick explanation from Google:
"Tonka beans are a somewhat exotic ingredient that is becoming more and more common in home cupboards. The beans are about an inch long and look similar to raisins in texture and are actually seeds from a type of flowering tree found in South America. They are often used as a substitute for vanilla in recipes and have their own vanilla-like flavour – but with fruity, spicy notes. Tonka beans pair well with chocolate as well as sweet fruits such as strawberries and is often used in puddings and in ice creams."
So, now that we're all educated, here's what Fierce beer had to say about this beer:
"When deciding on what beer to make with the amazing guys from Brew York,it really was an easy decision. Taking our multi-award winning Very Big Moose, and using their expertise in the use of Tonka beans has produced something superspecial. A robust stout with a velvety mouthfeel, cacao notes and – wham! – Tonka awesomeness."
I'd heard very good things about this beer, so naturally when I seen it on the Fierce Beer tap list at North Hop, I had to try it - and wow, it blew me away. The flavours were incredible! So much so, that the very next morning, I got myself round to Westhill Service Station to pick up a can.
VBM: Tonka pours a deep, oil black colour, leaving a thin brown head that disperses pretty rapidly. The aromas from this beer are incredible; sticky, sweet toffee, combined with loads of chocolate & vanilla are rounded off with a touch of coffee - almost like a sticky toffee pudding in a glass! Unsurprisingly, the flavours do not disappoint either - huge vanilla flavours are combined with bitter chocolate, sweet treacle, roasted coffee & a warming alcohol finish. Wow. This beer is so good. For being 12% ABV, it is extremely drinkable too, very slick mouthfeel with little fizz.
Overall Very Big Moose: Tonka gets 4.75 out of 5 from me 🍻
Very Big Moose - BrewDog x Fierce Beer
Unfortunately for me, I missed out on last years collaboration between Fierce Beer & BrewDog. So when I heard from Hop Shop Aberdeen that it was being released again to celebrate this years #PUNKAGM then I made sure I wasn't missing out again. Very Big Moose is again, a 12% ABV imperial chocolate stout and here's the official lowdown from BrewDog:
"Not only did crew from BrewDog Aberdeen assist in the brewing of this beer for #Collabfest2017 - but it came out on top as the winner, beating 33 other beers for that top spot!
Together they brewed up a super-imperial version of Fierce Beer's session chocolate - Moose Mousse. They used the best Colombian Cacao and Madagascan Vanilla. It drinks really well at room temp, chilled, or with an ice cream float.
We brought this one back by popular demand for #PunkAGM2018!"
Yeah, this is going to be something special...
Very Big Moose pours from the awesomely designed bottle a dark black with a thin tan head that doesn't hang around very long. The aromas here are again awesome - roasted coffee, sweet brown sugar & marshmallow are combined with loads of vanilla. Flavours are out of this world - rich milky chocolate combine with vanilla, brown sugar & roasted coffee to create almost the perfect imperial dessert stout. For a 12% ABV beer there also isn't too much sign of the alcohol either, which is pretty dangerous! The mouthfeel is excellent too - luxurious, silky smooth, slightly creamy & very little carbonation make this extremely enjoyable to drink.
It's understandable why this beer has a 100 overall rating on RateBeer. Wow. For me, it just pips the Tonka version. Overall, Very Big Moose gets 5 out of 5 hops from me 🍻
So overall, these are two incredible versions of the same beer & one that I'm glad I finally got round to drinking. Hopefully we can expect to see more awesome collabs between BrewDog & Fierce, especially with them being practically neighbours now!
The Final Fling
Over the past weekend, North Hop descended on the AECC to celebrate its final fling as we know it. I was lucky enough to get invited along & attended the opening session on Friday night.
Having been to North Hop previously, and its sister festival - The Spirit of North Hop last year, I was super excited for this. The list of breweries, food vendors & everything else made for such an awesome lineup.
There were loads of great beers at North Hop this year. There were beers from great local breweries I'd already had plenty of experience with like Brew Toon, Beer Story & Fierce Beer and then there were breweries that were new to me such as Out of Town Brewing & Top Out Brewery. It was great to have such a range of beers to enjoy throughout the night and also being able to chat to the people from the breweries themselves - they were all extremely friendly, sharing stories about the breweries & the beers.
Overall, the beer of the show for me was Fierce Beer - Very Big Moose (Tonka), their 12.5% ABV imperial chocolate stout. This beer was immense...I had one sip of my friends beer & knew straight away I had to get one for myself. Unfortunately this was towards the end of the night, so my photography skills had greatly diminished, and I wasn't able to get a photo of the beer. Keep an eye out for a full review of this one in the near future.
Other highlights for me included M'ango Unchained by Brew Toon, the new Outsiders IPA from Beer Story, Orange Pale Ale & Property IPA from Out of Town - I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more from these guys. A quick note on the creme brulee doughnut crush from Out of Town - I didn't get much doughnut taste in the beer, I would definitely be interested in trying this again to see if it is just a gimmick or if you can actually make out the flavours.
My only regret is not taking my glass home! Every time I have been at North Hop I have headed out afterwards so on each occasion I have unfortunately had to leave my glass behind.
There was also some top notch food on show at North Hop with Aberdeen favourites Melt on hand with their epic cheese toasties. I opted for the classic mac & cheese with Kerry going for the haggis one. As always, they were awesome, and the perfect way to kick off the night. My only regret was not buying one of those cream egg brownies (seriously, what was I thinking?!).
Aberdeen restaurant So...were there showcasing their "On Fire" street food menu. For me, the food highlight of the evening was their Firecracker loaded fries - they were EPIC. Perfectly seasoned crispy fries, topped with cheese, chillies & coriander. So... is a restaurant that I have crazily never actually visited. They often hold pop up events with their street food menu, and for whatever reason - I have never actually gone along. However, this will definitely change following my experience with these fries...they were SO damn good!
Aside from the awesome beer & food, there was plenty else to enjoy at North Hop including an array of awesome music throughout the night. Ranging from a piper in full highland dress kicking things off, a host of acoustic acts, before things being rounded off by the electric "Sweet White" who put in an excellent performance full of energy.
Along with the fantastic beer selection there was also the first ever North Hop bar, which showcased a bunch of really cool cocktails served up by a team of local barmen. These cocktails were expertly made & looked great and whilst I never had any myself, Kerry had one and assured me it was great.
Overall, we had a fantastic time at North Hop and I would like to thank the North Hop team again for putting on such a great event & for inviting me along. While it's a sad farewell for now, I'm incredibly excited to see how the next chapter looks - and if this is anything to go by, then I will be first in line 🍻
The Final Fling
With a little just over three weeks to go, Aberdeen's premier craft beer festival North Hop is nearly upon us. Dubbed "The Final Fling", because it is the last North Hop festival in its current form, this year's North Hop Aberdeen will again be held at Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre on 30 and 31 March (Easter weekend).
North Hop Festival Director, Michelle Russell, said: “This is our 4th Aberdeen festival and it will be our 12th festival since North Hop began in Inverness in 2014. It has been an amazing journey so far and we have worked with some awesome producers and folk from across Scotland and beyond. But the time has come to take a step back and some time out to come up with fresh ideas for the future of the North Hop brand.”
Michelle continued: “We have always been at the forefront of new trends and like to keep things fresh and unique. Aberdeen has always massively supported North Hop and we love running festivals in the city and that is exactly why we have chosen Aberdeen for our final fling to send the current festivals out in style!”
Having been to the festival a couple of times over the last few years, I can say from experience that festival goers are in for a great time.
As always North Hop will be bringing along some of the best breweries & food vendors that the North East has to offer, with several returning from previous festival years along with some first timers.
Alongside the wide range of beer, cider & street food on offer, there will be a cocktail lounge & a specially designed "North Hop Bar" that will feature five spirits from Berry Bros & Rudd (including a newly-launched London Dry Gin), natural mixers from Lamb & Watt, and the finest ice from Edinburgh Ice Co.
In the cocktail lounge, there will also be a special pop-up market place featuring hand-crafted goods from local creative curated by the Aberdeen Etsy team.
On the music front, the line-up very much echoes the "support local" message with all acoustic acts and bands linked to Aberdeenshire. Sweet White headline the Friday evening session, The 101 will top the bill for the Saturday afternoon session and North Hop favourites The Harmonica Movement headline and close the festival on the Saturday evening session.
As this is The Final Fling, famous bagpiper Spud the Piper has been invited to the AECC to accompany Festival MC Nicola McAlley from STV News to open and close the festival sessions.
Over 2500 people are expected to descend on the AECC across the three sessions for ‘The Final Fling’ & with nearly half the tickets already sold, it really is shaping up to be one hell of a bash.
Full dates & ticketing info are as follows:
NORTH HOP ABERDEEN “THE FINAL FLING” AT THE AECC
Friday 30 March 2018 - Evening Session - 7pm till 12am
Saturday 31 March 2018 - Afternoon Session - 12pm till 5pm
Saturday 31 March 2018 - Evening Session - 7pm till 12am
£16.00 plus Booking Fee per session. Each session lasts 5 hours, and the ticket price includes festival access on the specified days/times, a North Hop glass, festival programme and drink tasters on arrival. Available at http://northhop.co.uk/festivals/aberdeen, via Ticketmaster or locally at DogTap (Ellon), Brew Toon (Peterhead), BrewDog Aberdeen (Flagship), BrewDog Castlegate and Melt.
North Hop has teamed with the Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express next door to the AECC to offer festival goers discounted rates for the weekend of the festival. Deals are as follows:
Holiday Inn Express - £45 per night* B&B (continental breakfast)
Holiday Inn - £49 per night* B&B (full cooked breakfast)
*Discounted rate available for Thursday 29th, Friday 30th, and Saturday 31st March 2018.
You can keep up to date with all things #northhopabz on the following channels:
Fierce by name and fierce by nature.
Dirty Sanchez by Aberdeen's very own Fierce Beer (brewed in Dyce) is a 6.5% ABV smoked porter. There is notes of chocolate and wood smoke present which is followed up with a warming, slight kick from the chipotle chili that has been added. The spice isn't overpowering at all and rounds off the flavour nicely.
Their website recommends pairing this beer with BBQ food, I opted for chilli. They complemented each other very well - my only complaint (no fault of the beer) would be that my chilli slightly overpowered the flavours of the beer, so I couldn't properly experience the flavours until i'd finished eating. Next time i'd like to try it with some food that isn't as spicy so I can enjoy the flavours of the beer a bit more. I'm still trying to get into porter beers, but I really enjoyed Dirty Sanchez and has only made me want to try more porters.
They aren't called Fierce Beer for any old reason - their beers are different, they pack a punch and i'd highly recommend that you check them out 🍻
Right the middle of Westhill, you will find a BP petrol station with a Spar store attached. To the naked eye - this just looks like an ordinary petrol station/shop...but take a wander inside to the alcohol section and you find a craft beer emporium!
The first thing you will likely notice will be the entire stall dedicated solely to Brewdog. The selection available is fantastic - not just the headliners (Punk IPA, 5AM Saint, Dead Pony Club, Kingpin & Jet Black Heart), but they stock almost all of the latest releases. If I notice on Facebook or Instagram that Brewdog are releasing some new beers in the bar that night - 90% of the time they will be available in the Service Station on the same day! Unfortunately, I don't live 5 mins walk from a Brewdog bar, so it is great to be able to nip in to the garage and check out the latest offerings on the day they are released.
Alongside Brewdog, they have also recently started stocking Aberdeen's very own Fierce Beer (Dyce) and have a great selection of their offerings. They also stock lots of other local Scottish craft breweries and have a fantastic, wide range available.
You will also find a selection of international breweries - Stone Brewing from Berlin are one of the latest to be stocked alongside Pabst Brewing from USA.
The chilled section boasts some of the most popular beers - which is an added bonus.
I recently spoke to Chris Proctor, one of the supervisors at the store who has been dealing with Brewdog, Drygate & Stone breweries for the last while, and I had the chance to ask him some questions:
I was really curious where the boom of craft beer at the garage came from? Was Darren (store manager) into craft beer and made the decision to start selling it?
The variety of craft beer we offer initially sparks from either individual companies reaching out to us with a desire to work together, or it can be ourselves doing the contacting if a particular brewery catches our eye. Although our craft sales are doing better now than ever, the eclectic range you see on our shelves has been a work in progress, spanning over many years. We had a rather hefty store refurbishment back in 2013, which allowed us to expand our chilled and ambient alcohol sections. This extra space gave way not only to the usual suspects that always sell well, but to also offering new and alternative beers. I believe it was Darren’s aim to go above and beyond what most retailers like ours typically provide, and today, it certainly appears to have paid off!
Is there some sort of connection with Brewdog? I find it amazing that more often than not when there is a new release at Brewdog... It's on the shelf at the garage the same day!
Initially, when we started working with Brewdog, our display was very minimal - a couple different bottles or so at most. However it didn’t take long before our orders started to noticeably increase. Today, we have a separated stand dedicated to Brewdog, and this year we’ve also moved some of the top sellers into their own chilled fridge as well. There’s a Brewdog rep that visits local stores and he’s always blown away by our extensive range. Their Direct Sales Coordinator is someone I speak to pretty much every week and he does a great job to look after us and yes, hook us up with new beers to sell right on the hour they’re officially released. I can only see our relationship with Brewdog growing, and as long as they’re brewing, we’ll be selling!
Do you find that there's a lot of interest in the craft beer selection you have?
Absolutely! It’s hard not to acknowledge the vast amount of craft beer lovers nearby that keep our stock moving. The craft stuff really is one of Westhill Service Station’s strongpoints. I think our passion to bring new and exciting beer to the public, links very well with the simultaneous rise in people’s interests and desires to try out beers new and alternative. Most weekends that I’m in the store, it’s more common than not to see several customers filling their baskets with a mixed selection to taste test. We’ve just recently set up a Facebook page for people to follow what’s new in the shop and what we have on offer in our ever expanding fresh and hot food section. A few posts in, and we’d mentioned some new craft items and it quickly gathered a significant online reach. I believe the next day, our craft sales rocketed! Again, I can only see this interest growing as long as we continue to provide what people already love, along with new things for people to fall in love with!
How do you decide which beers to stock next? For example I noticed in the last week you have started stocking Stone Brewing beers.
I’d say it’s trial and error, but honestly, there’s not much we’ve had error’s with regarding what’s ordered in. Everything seems to shift well which is fantastic. Firstly, when ordering something from a new brewery, we’ll test the water with a small batch on display and then see how it goes from there. The first few weeks of a new beer on the shelf is usually always successful, but what we look for is whether that pace is sustainable overtime. The new Stone stuff we’ve just got in is a prime example of how we let our selection grow. For instance, we’ve ordered in beers with some of the lowest ABV’s that Stone offer, in order to keep the prices lower for the customer to feel happy enough to try them out. If customers start returning to the Stone beers, then we can continue to expand and look at getting in stronger (pricier) options. Another thing we are passionate about is using local suppliers. There’s an abundance of indie craft breweries kicking about in Scotland, and Aberdeen’s very own Fierce beer is one of our latest local suppliers that are doing tremendous things this year.
If you haven't already visited Westhill Service Station and checked out their craft beer selection - I highly recommend doing so. There is a much better range of Craft Beer in there that you will find in most big supermarkets! 🍻
You can also follow them on Facebook @ www.facebook.com/WesthillServiceStation
Westhill Service Station is located on Straik Road, Westhill, AB32 6TJ.