Black and Tan Experiements #20 – Vibrant Forest

For this impromptu edition of Black and Tan Experiments I’m deviating from the usual pale ale/IPA and Stout mix, and instead going for a Saison and Stout mix.

The Saison in question is Vibrant Forest’s recently released Farmhouse Ale (available to buy from Bitter Virtue in Southampton, and other local stockists). I opened it earlier this evening, not intending to use it in a blend. The first thing that grabbed my attention was the aroma, a wonderful mix of spices that draws you in and makes you want to taste the beer. The spices also come through in the taste, along with a slight hint of bananas.

Whilst drinking the Farmhouse Ale, I began to think that it could make a good blend with Vibrant Forest’s imperial stout, Black Oktober, a thick, luxurious imperial stout that has had a number of good reviews.

I suspect that I maybe right, though the blend needs more Farmhouse Ale than I used one this occasion. The flavour of saison works well with the imperial stout, perhaps more so than any of the pale ales and IPAs I’ve used in previous experiements, however with the amounts I used (around 4:1), the effects of the saison were far too subtle.

Both beers are certainly amongst the best that Vibrant Forest currently brew, and I think I’ll be trying this again, more methodically, to see exactly what the best blend is.


Black and Tan Experiments #19 – Nøgne Ø

Last year I started doing a series of blogposts in which I detailed my experiments mixing pale ales and stouts from the same brewery to make a Black and Tan. Most of these I’ve been able to do on a whim, however, there are a few, like this one, that require time to be set aside.

The pale side of my Nøgne Ø black and tan is their Imperial IPA. It is how I want an IIPA of this strength (10%) to smell and taste. It reminds me of Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute IPA. It has similar mixture of bitterness and caramel taste to it. The aroma is that distinct IIPA aroma that I’ve found in other IIPAs but never been able to adequately describe (much to my annoyance). Overall this is yet another beer in the Nøgne Ø range that I’d buy much more regularly if it was slightly cheaper.

The dark side of the black and tan is Nøgne Ø’s Imperial Stout (9%). In comparison to other Imperial Stouts I’ve had, and also the other Nøgne Ø beers I’ve had, it’s somewhat disappointing. It’s nowhere near as rich and flavoursome and aromatic as I’d like an imperial stout to be, and if anything, it seems rather thin. Maybe it’s an age thing. I have had both of these beers in my possession for the better part of a year now. Saying that though, I’ve found that imperial stouts usually get better with age, though as with all rules, there are always exceptions.

As for the mix, the IPA dominates both the aroma and the taste, with the stout hardly being noticeable at all. This is hardly surprising, considering the lack of any real distinctive characteristics in the stout. Whilst I’d buy the Imperial IPA again, I’d probably not bother with the Imperial Stout. If memory serves right, it’s the first beer I’ve had from Nøgne Ø that I’ve not enjoyed. Their Saison and Porter are both wonderful beers that I’ve enjoyed a few times, and Sunturnbrew is pricey, yet worth it for a treat.

So, after much delay, the Nøgne Ø black and tan. Not really worth the wait, but at least I’ve done it now.


The Friday Pint #41 – An Overground Brewery Crawl

This Friday, I’ve decided to actually make an effort to go out and drink a proper pint, a few 20121019-180649.jpgactually, including one place I’ve not yet been to. As I’m writing this introduction, I am currently sat in Tap East, drinking a pint of London Extra, one of three beers available today that have been made at the onside brewery, which is visible through the glass from the bar itself.

The beer is more or less just what I want for a first beer of the day. It’s not too challenging, yet there’s also enough flavour there to make it interesting and enjoyable. It’s the sort of beer that I can still enjoy, despite having a cold.

Enjoy it I did, along with a somewhat overpriced, yet tasty bratwurst. I now find myself at The Cock Tavern in Hackney, home of Howling Hops brewery, and sister pub of The Southampton Arms in Kentish Town. It shows. If you haven’t yet been to The Cock Tavern, but have visited The Southampton Arms, just imagine the latter, on a bigger scale. I like it, and it’s the sort of pub I’d like to see more of in West London, or Southampton for that matter.
Here I have decided to opt for half pints, and have started with a Howling Hops Five Hop IPA. I had the option of cask or keg, and decided to stick with cask for now (even though I’ll be forced to go onto keg later on, I’d rather not feel bloated too soon). I can’t tell you what the Five Hop IPA smells like, but I can say it tastes rather good. There’s a lot of flavour packed into this small glass, and quite a bit of bitterness too, but it’s not to the extreme levels that might put some newcomers off.

Following this, I find myself with a half of Otley‘s 20121019-180943.jpgExperimental Stout, which has been described on the hand made pump clip as being “a bit Bretty”. It’s not wrong, though “a bit” may be a slight understatement. Brett is short for Brettanomyces, a form of yeast that can add sour characteristics to a beer. As a result of the Brett, this stout doesn’t really smell or taste like a stout at all, but it still tastes extremely good, and may be a struggle to beat for the other beers I drink today.

The first to try and challenge it, is Howling Hops Poacher, a green hop ale, made from hops sourced by local poacher, Jonathan Cook. The flavour isn’t really to my taste (too much bitterness with not much flavour to compensate), but it’s a well made beer, and nicely conditioned. It’s an enjoyable beer, and I am enjoying it, yet I enjoyed the Experimental Stout much more.

I’m finishing my time here at The Cock Tavern with a bottle of Kernel’s London Brick, a collaboration beer brewed with a selection of other London brewers. It’s a red rye ale, and much like its bigger counterpart, Big Brick, which I got to try last year, it tastes good. It’s relatively strong at 7.3%, but the flavour and enjoyment more than make up for it.

And so my afternoon comes to an end at Camden Brewery, where Gentlemen’s Wit is on tap, and so I have myself a Gentleman’s Wink. It’s a delicious black and tan, with the sherbet from the Gentleman’s Wit balancing against the burnt malt of the stout. It’s been a personal favourite of mine since I first had it this summer.

Following on at Camden, I’m currently on a half of Jopa, a 5.1% English pale ale. It’s not quite as flavoursome as some of the beers I’ve had today, but it goes well with the jerky I’m currently eating. To finish, I’ll be having an unfiltered Hells Lager. The Richmond to Stratford overground line is becoming a good beer line. It’s worth trying one day.


Black and Tan Experiments #16 – Hitachino Nest

Hitachino Nest beers are rather tasty.

If you’ve yet to try them, you’re in for a treat.

My second Black and Tan on Monday consisted of two Hitachino Nest beers. Hitachino Nest is the brand name of the beers produced by the Kiuchi Brewery, which is based in Naka, Japan.

The pale ale was Nest Ale. It had a slight caramel aroma and taste, making it a very moreish beer, but with no real discerning characteristics otherwise. Saying that though, I feel I should emphasise the word moreish. It was very moreish, and this almost jeopardised the whole experiment.

I did though, manage to hold back from drinking it all and move onto the Sweet Stout, which is indeed sweet. In contrast to the Magic Rock Dark Arts (see Experiment #15), the burnt malt aroma in this beer is subtle, with a slight hint of sweetness. Sweet Stout reminded me a lot of Dragon Stout, both I found to be too sweet for my liking.

As for the mix, neither beer had overpowering defining aspects. The sweetness of the stout seemed to be the most dominant of the aspects shared between the two beers. The resultant Black and Tan would be an okay beer on its own, but it wasn’t great, and it was far from a good Black and Tan.



Black and Tan Experiments #15 – Magic Rock #2

On Monday evening I decided to try a couple of the Black and Tan Experiments I’ve got in store. The first consisted of Magic Rock’s Dark Arts and High Wire.

Dark Arts is Magic Rock’s Stout. I find it has a rather strong burnt malt aroma and taste, that is almost overpowering. There is though a very slight chocolate sweetness at the end that takes some of the edge off of the burnt flavour.

High Wire is a pale ale full of fruity aromas, including lemon, and grapefruit, and apple, to name just three. It leaves a lingering dry aftertaste, which makes you want to drink more, making it a perfect beer from a marketing point of view.

The mix surprisingly had a slightly smokey aroma, with the stout being the more dominant of the beers. It had been mellowed slightly by the pale ale, but not much. I have a feeling that Dark Arts and Cannonball may be the best combination of the Magic Rock beers. When I can get my hands on a bottle of each, I’ll be finding out.



Black and Tan Experiments #9b – The Bourbon Barrel Bearded Lady Edition

A few weeks ago, I tried a black and tan using Magic Rock’s Human Cannonball and Bearded Lady. Yesterday, as part of the European Beer Bloggers conference, I got the chance to try this mix using the new barrel aged version of Bearded Lady, of which there are just 8 kegs in existence.

The barrel ageing has made Bearded Lady a lot smoother, and as such, it drinks a lot easier than a 10.5% beer should do. It’s full of bourbon hints in the aroma, but they’re not overpowering like some barrel aged beers can have. When it becomes mixed with Human Cannonball, it’s very similar to the standard mix, with slight hints of bourbon taste coming through, which presently surprised me as I was expecting this to be drowned out by the hops in the Human Cannonball.




Black and Tan Experiments #12 – Magic Rock and Brooklyn.


So, I am now in Leeds, and after failing to find a comic book shop to buy this weeks issues of Batman, I find myself in North Bar.

I like it. It’s how a bar should be in my mind. A bar is long, it can get busy, and conversations often merge into one murmuring noise. A pub in comparison is more square, it will often have separate areas for different purposes. A pub is very different from a bar.

I look at what’s on. Behind the bar on the blackboard I see the words “Black and Tan”, in this case a mix of Magic Rock’s Dark Arts, and Brooklyn Lager. On the bar though is Brooklyn’s Soriachi Ace. I order a half only to find it’s run out.

And so here I am, Black and Tan #12 in front of me. It’s my first beer since reaching Leeds. It’s not overly impressive. The lager mellows the stout in a way that isn’t really noticeable, but makes it a lot more quaffable. Dark Arts on its own I tend to sip. This I appear to be swigging.

I have half a glass left. The question is, with the pre conference pub crawl looming, do I stay for another?


Sadler’s Dr. Hardwicke’s IPA (Plus Black and Tan Experiment #11)

A few weeks ago, Chris Sadler posted this tweet. I was instantly excited, and wanted to try it as soon as possible. On Monday, he posted this tweet, and  by the end of that day I had booked train tickets to and from Birmingham New Street, with enough time in between for trains to and from Lye, and a couple of pints of beer.

I started with a pint of the Dr. Hardwicke’s, and a pint was more than enough, especially on top of what I’d already had at the Euston Tap beforehand. It’s a dangerously drinkable beer, not too far away from how I remember 90 Minute IPA to taste, with perhaps a tad more grapefruit.

As I was there I took the chance to see how well it worked with Mud City Stout as a Black and Tan. I’m pleased to say that this blend works well, with the stout taking off some of the bitterness of the IPA.

I was opening to write more, but I stopped making notes quite early on. I hope that Dr. Hardwicke’s proves successful. I’m not sure if it will do well on tap, but I think it could find a market in bottles. Here’s hoping it has a future.



Black and Tan Experiments #10 – Thornbridge


You’d have thought, with Thornbridge being Thornbridge and all, that this experiment would turn out to be rather good. It turns out that if you thought that way you’d be wrong. At least, you would be in my opinion anyway.

For the tenth installment of this irregular series of blog posts I took a bottle of St. Petersburg, Thornbridge’s 7.7% Imperial Russian Stout and a bottle of Halcyon, their 7.4% Imperial IPA.

I’d had St Petersburg before, last February (2011) at the Battersea Beer Festival. It was one of the best beers I had during my session there, and one I’ve wanted to try again since. As a result I was looking forward to opening this bottle. Another result of this was that I was slightly disappointed that this bottle didn’t seem to live up to that first time I tried the beer.

The aroma is a mixture of subtle spicy berries and high cocoa dark chocolate. It has a warming alcohol taste to it, with a burnt toast after taste that coats the mouth and lingers far too long for it’s own good. If there was more in the initial taste of the beer I could cope with this, but there’s not, and so ultimately, I was disappointed.

The Halcyon was a new beer to me. The aroma was a floral/grassy aroma, rather than the citrusy aromas that are common in Imperial IPAs. It seemed to be much more subtle, and less hoppy than most Imperial IPAs, and as a result, much easier to drink.

This subtleness wasn’t a good thing for the mix though. The characteristics of the St. Petersburg dominate, though the harshness of the burnt aftertaste has been lessened by the Halcyon. The good mixtures I’ve been able to write a fair bit about. This inspired nothing.