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 🍻
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 🍻
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.
Three More Beers Put To The Test
Here we are with Fanzine Week 4. Following Week 3's roaring success, I had high hopes for this one. Week 3 set the bar pretty high with Pulp Patriot, and I am dubious if they will reach that heights again any time soon. Again, if you are reading this then you are probably familiar with how it all works, but if not - refresh yourself here
This week we have the following beers:
Definitely an interesting selection of beers there. Obviously the DIPA immediately catches my eye, because I am a sucker for a good DIPA! I'm also interested to check out the lager, especially how it compares to Kingpin, and Indie Pale Ale to a lesser extent.
First up we have Hop Shop, the 9% ABV DIPA. A good DIPA is usually a go to style of beer for me, and while is was slightly underwhelmed by Native Son by BrewDog earlier this year I had high hopes for this one, especially off the back of Fanzine Week 3. Here's the official description from BrewDog:
"This hop-forward big IPA is intense, dank and resinous, with bursts of stonefruit and citrus. Grapefruit and apricot sit on top of a building bitterness, with a honeycomb malt base followed by a dry yet bittersweet finish."
Hop Shop pours a deep amber colour, leaving a foamy off white head. Initial aromas are stone fruits, caramel malts & resin. Flavours are grapefruit and some slight peach from the off, strong caramel malts are rounded off by a hoppy resin flavour. There's nothing too overwhelming in there for me, it's tasty enough, but it's certainly no Elvis Juice.
Overall, I found this an enjoyable enjoyable enough, yet unspectacular beer. It certainly did more for me than Native Son did earlier in the year, but it doesn't immediately make me want another can of it like Pulp Patriot in Week 3.
3.75 out of 5
First up we have English IPA (Small Batch) which is a 5.2% ABV Retro IPA. I can't say I'm too familiar when it comes to English style IPA's so this was an interesting one for me.
"An old school English IPA brewed with the addition of traditional English hops which bring lavender and bergamot to the front of the beer. Supporting the hops is a light biscuit malt flavour, followed by a dry, bitter finish with a touch of warmth."
English IPA pours a clear amber colour, leaving a foamy white head. Aromas are zesty citrus, caramel biscuit & floral hops. Flavours are pretty much in line with the aromas; citrus up font, backed with some slight biscuit & an overriding grassy earthy taste.
Overall, this was OK. I didn't particularly find it to be anything special. It's not necessarily a bad beer, just not too my taste.
2.75 out of 5
And lastly we have Interstate, a 4.6% ABV Vienna lager. Lager isn't my go to style of beer, and I can't say that I drink BrewDog's flagship lager Kingpin much either. But I was certainly interested to see their take on a European style lager, that's for sure.
"A perfectly balanced Vienna-style lager brewed with subtle spicy German hops over toasty-base malts which bring out bread crust and biscuit in the beer, followed by a bittersweet finish."
Interstate pours a pale golden colour, leaving a big foamy white head. Aromas are slight citrus, malts & biscuit with a hint of toffee/caramel. Flavour wise, it's pretty similar to the aromas; big malty, biscuity flavours are at the forefront before being rounded off with a crisp, clean, citrus flavour. This is a refreshing take on a proper European lager, and certainly enjoyable to drink.
Overall, I found this to be a pretty tasty lager - maybe even more so than Kingpin. If lager is your thing, then this should be right up your street.
3.5 out of 5
So overall, another round of decent enough beers from BrewDog, however, this is going to be my last Fanzine for a while. There is unfortunately just too much good beer to be drinking right now, and I want to be in control of what I drink. Drinking craft beer is an expensive hobby, and I don't want to take the risk that I end up paying for three beers where I don't enjoy two of them.
Whilst I'm not trying to discourage anyone from Fanzine - quite the opposite. I think it's a great service. I just don't think it's quite right for me - someone who wants to handpick the best beer out there, enjoy them, and then review them on here for everyone 🍻