Monday, 21 October 2013

BrewDog Collab Fest...

If you missed the buzz surrounding the BrewDog Collab Fest, the general gist is that the fine folk from each BrewDog bar across the land chose a favorite local microbrewery and collaborated with them to create a special tipple. There were twelve beers and eleven brewers, with the final beer being a super-collab hop monster, which involved all the master brewsmen and women paying a visit to BrewDog's mega brewery to conjure up a beer made from twelve different hops. They each got to choose which hop variety to use and at what stage of the brewing process it was added. Oh my, this shit just got real!

My plan was to hit BrewDog Manchester early doors and sample thirds of all twelve creations before things got too busy. Thankfully I arrived just before a mental rain shower hit, it was like the end of the world was nigh! I considered building an ark out of beer mats and Hop Propaganda magazines so I could save the beers two-by-two. Thankfully the storm didn't last long and I could get down to just sampling them instead. Here are my thoughts, in the order I drank them:

Raspberry Beret - Quantum Brewing (5.0% ABV)
Quantum's concoction had more raspberry on the nose than in flavour, with a slight fruity hint lingering behind a lovely smoky chocolate stout. I was expecting more of a berry kick than it delivered, but that is in no way a criticism, it was a delicious well crafted beer.

Two local brews.

The Black Pale of the 7 'C's - Buxton Brewery (4.0% ABV)
The name derives from the seven varieties of hops, all beginning with the letter 'C' (I'll let you work them out). Obviously, it is full of citrusy hop complexity working in total harmony with a bitter finish. We're off to a cracking start!

Marmalade on Toast - Tempest (6.0% ABV)
Using toasted malts and loads of orange zest and ginger this was a well balanced beer that really did resemble its namesake. Although I did find it was very, very sweet (and I even have a sweet tooth!), so much so that I was struggling to finish even a third of this stuff! It would make a cracking dessert beer.

Jephers The Big Red Dog - Hand Drawn Monkey Brewing Co. (5.0% ABV)
Oh dear, something went wrong. This was without a doubt the biggest disappointment of the evening, and it seems that a lot of other Collab Fest goers were in agreement. This red rye saison was supposed to pack a punchy orange and ginger hit, but it ended up more of a damp squib! It was flat and weak, like watered down ginger cordial. Personally, I think if you're going to use ginger as a primary flavour it really needs to kick you in the packet, like Marble Ginger for example (which makes the back of my head go tingly every time I have it!).

Raucous Rubus - The Durham Brewery (5.7% ABV)
I don't normally go for fruity beers unless they're tart...and that's exactly what I got with Durham's raspberry saison. It was sharp and fresh, a real palate cleanser and just what I needed after the previous offering. The missus said it tasted like a sour boiled sweet, no argument there.

Dark Matter - Beavertown Brewery (3.8% ABV)
From one sour beer to another, this time a Berliner Sour Stout. Simply put, this beer is insane! But, you wouldn't expect anything less from the guys at Beavertown would you? Under the dim light of the bar this brew looked very dark, and murky, so much so it seemed to be absorbing the surrounding light! It also looked to be flat, I took a swig and to my surprise it came alive in the mouth, fizzing nicely on the tongue, which distracted me momentarily...then BAM! The sour comes flying out of the murk and attacked the taste spuds with such ferocity my eyes popped out of my skull, and before I could even draw breath it was gone...just leaving behind a mellow coffee stout aftertaste. I was left grinning from ear-to-ear! If this is the stuff that binds our universe together then call me Neil Armstrong, because I'm hopping on the next space shuttle outta here!

Lining up the "shots".

12 Hope Pale Ale - Everyone! (5.2% ABV)
This super-collab between all the brewers involved is certifiably schizophrenic. You are hit with a multitude of flavours within a split second of taking a mouthful. It's all over the place and it probably shouldn't have worked, but it did! I guess with that much talent on hand it would have been hard to cock this one up.

48 Miles Later - Fyne Ales (6.0% ABV)
Chili always worries me in beer as I've had some complete stinkers in the past that have tasted more like detergent. I needn't have worried though, the experienced chaps at Fyne know their stuff and they delivered a gorgeous smoky black IPA (beechwood smoked malts) with a slight earthy hint of chipotle and ancho chilies that just tingled on the tongue.

Camden BearD - Weird Beard Brew Co. (6.0% ABV)
This American pale ale had a fantastic aroma, which continued into the drink. Possibly a bit too soapy for some folk, but I actually enjoyed the respite from the more big hitters of the night.

Black Rocker - Cromarty Brewing Co. (5.0% ABV)
Another dark smokey beer, but with some great hoppage going on. Not a lot else to say about this one. Can you tell my tasting notes are getting thinner as the evening wears on?

Happy Ending - Lovibonds (5.0% ABV)
I wish I had ended on this one. It was a really crisp, refreshing tipple, with hints of ginger and a citrus hit from the lemongrass and lime leaves. This would have been perfect on a hot summers day.

Pirate Badger Attacks - Arbor (7.8%)

It's a great name and what sounded like interesting brew - an Imperial Brown Coconut IPA. By this point my tastebuds were completely smashed to pieces, what with all the sour, smoky, ginger chili brews that I had consumed through out the night. I honestly couldn't taste the coconut, but I could definitely smell it. The wife (who had this one earlier on in the night) did say if Malibu ever made beers, it would resemble this.

. . .

As we were tackling our last third I decided to corner Jay Krause from Quantum, who was on hand to lend his support and chat with fellow beer fans. I quizzed him about the trials and tribulations of turning pro, and he offered much in the way of encouragement and valuable knowledge. I also got an offer to visit the brewery at some point, possibly because he'd be glad of an extra pair of hands. After we had spoken I did wonder if I could increase my brewing skill by growing a real beard? I usually sport a long stubble, teetering on the edge of beardom, which must only grant me something like +1 brewing skill. Where as Jay's "Beard of Chaos" must bestow +100 brewing skill or something, judging by his results. Just saying.

Anyway, on top of the fabulous beers, one of the highlights of the night was the group of bemused Man United fans, who popped in for a quick post-match scoop, wondering why people were racking up "shots" of beer on paddles. I don't think they could get their heads around the concept of a "third", especially when looking at those BrewDog prices! Suffice to say they only stuck around for one round.

All in all it was a superb night, but my wallet definitely didn't appreciate it! Well done to everyone involved!

Further impressions of the Collab Fest can be found at ThisBeerBlog and The BeerCast.