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.


The Friday Pint #50 – The One Pint To Rule Them All

So, here we are at the end of the year, and with the 50th post of the series. As we’re both at the end of the year and a significant numbered post, it seems appropriate to take a look back over the past year and determine just what were the best beers consumed as part of writing these posts.

You may have seen the longlist I posted a couple of weeks ago. Compiling that list I found that there were many I couldn’t remember, but also a few that stood out as clear front runners for the overall winner.

I feel I should point out that for a couple of these I have since had pints (or in one case, bottle), that probably wouldn’t have made it to this post if that is how the beer was when their respective Friday Pint post was written. Each of these beers have gained their place based on the impression they made on that occasion, and number one is a beer I wish I’d drunk more of when it was on draught.

The winners

5. Anderson Valley Winter Solstice – The Friday Pint #45 (Original Post Date – 23rd November 2012)

In retrospect, I didn’t write enough about this beer, or the location that I drunk it in. I’ll admit now that the only reason I was drawn to it was to obtain the badge on untappd, but I’m glad I was.

I enjoyed Winter Solstice enough to buy a bottle to take back with me from the USA, which I still have waiting to be drunk. With the experience I’ve had recently with another of the beers featured in this post, it’ll be interesting to see how I find the beer when I drink it again.

4. Dancing Man Brewery DNA – The Friday Pint #35 (Original Post Date – 31st August 2012)

When I first wrote about this beer I was somewhat uncertain about it. Since that first pint, which was for me too sweet, I have since had pints of DNA that have been just right, and one pint that seemed to be lacking in marmalade sweetness and somewhat watery.

Despite its seemingly inconsistent nature, DNA is a beer that intrigues me. I still can’t quite determine how much I like it. It’s most definitly a beer I’d drink again though.

3. Brodies Superior London Porter – The Friday Pint #14 (Original Post Date – 6th April 2012)

Brodies Superior London Porter, along with Fuller’s London Porter, are the porters that set the benchmark for all other porters for me, especially when they are on form.

It really has been far too long since I last visited a Brodies run pub, especially considering the beers they’ve been outputting this year, including their Peach Sour, which impresed me at the Euston Tap a few weeks ago.

2. Otley Experimental Stout – The Friday Pint #41 (Original Post Date – 19th October 2012)20121019-180943.jpg

The pump clip (a handwritten piece of corrugated cardboard) described Otley’s Experimental Stout as being “a bit bretty”. I was expecting a bit of sourness. What I actually got was a wonderful flavoursome stout that worked way beyond what I was actually expecting.

As a result, a brett infused stout is on my list of beers to brew at some point in the future. Hopefully, it’s on Otley’s list to brew again too.


1. Vibrant Forest Black Forest Porter – The Friday Pint #40 (Original Post Date – 12th October 2012)20121012-191543.jpg

My first taste of Vibrant Forest beer back in January was a bottle of Dark Castle Porter, drunk as part of Porter Weekend. Whilst I enjoyed it as a porter, I felt it needed a bit more flavour to make it stand out.

Black Forest Porter was the beer I wished Dark Castle Porter was. It was full of wonderful Brambling Cross fruitiness, and enjoyable enough to go back for more.

Last Friday, I had the chance to drink Black Forest Porter again, this time from a bottle. The bottle was brought to my house by my friend Chris, with who I shared a pint or two of the beer when it was available on draught at The Platform Tavern back in October. We both agreed that, whilst it was still a very nice porter, it was lacking the fruitiness that made it so moreish on draught.

Through the process of drinking my homebrew porter I’ve seen how time can change the flavour of a porter. When it went into the bottles from the fermenter it was of similar fruity levels to the Black Forest Porter. Recent bottles I’ve opened have started to see the smoked malt I used come out more, with the fruitiness starting to mellow.

As I said at the start of this post though, the judging has been based on the beer I drunk when writing the original post, and Black Forest Porter was by far the most enjoyable Friday Pint of the year.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of The Friday Pint. It shall return next year, albeit it with limitations. Enjoy the rest of 2012, and have a very happy 2013.

See you in the new year.


The Friday Pint #40 – Vibrant Forest Black Forest Porter

Just a few days after I was here last, I’m back at The Platform Tavern in Southampton, home of the Dancing Man Brewery, who were yesterday featured on MailOnline, in a story laced with inaccuracies (as The Platform Tavern say themselves on their Facebook page). This time though, it’s the turn of another local brewery, Totton’s own Vibrant Forest.

Some of you may have seen me talk of this brewery before, and with good reason. They’re local, and they’ve made some good beers, and Black Forest Porter just may be the best so far.


It’s not the brewery’s first porter. Last year saw Dark Castle Porter, which I first tried as part of Porter Weekend back in January. What I felt that was lacking, was some sort of flavour. That has definitely been sorted here, with a slight taste of blackberries coming through alongside the usual burnt malt tastes and aromas you’d expect from a porter.

In terms of strength, it’s 4.9%, and could easily be drunk all afternoon, whilst sat by a fire, with a book. It also has a good viscosity as well, it’s not too thin, but it’s not too syrupy and thick either, both qualities that have put me off other porters in the past.

Despite having tried most of the beers in the Vibrant Forest range, this is the first chance I’ve had to try any of draught. Whilst there are some pubs who serve their beer, I’ve never been able to visit any of them when they’ve had it on.

If you’d like to try Vibrant Forest beers for yourself, bottles can be bought from Bitter Virtue in Southampton, and Romsey Beer Emporium.



Vibrant Forest Pale Ales

Vibrant Forest Brewery is situated in Totton, on the edge of the New Forest. The Brewery was opened last summer by Kevin Robinson, and has since won praise and awards for it’s beers, Flying Saucer, Wheatwave, and Black Oktober in particular.

This summer, Vibrant Forest has brewed a series of single hop pale ales, each brewed to the same alcohol and bitterness level, with the same malt base, using a different hop in each brew. The first three single hop pale ales from the brewery are Chinook, Nelson Sauvin, and Citra.

The Chinook is a rather bitter hop, that lingers rather unpleasantly on the tongue. The aroma does little to excite me as well. The beer seems to be a nice, well made beer, yet it would seem Chinook isn’t the hop for me.





The Nelson Sauvin however, has changed me from being indifferent about the hop, to being quite a fan. The aroma has a distinct smell of white grapes, which carries on slightly into the taste as well. This bottle seems to be a little bit sharper than the one I had earlier this week, yet it’s still a very enjoyable beer.

Pale Ale #3 is Citra, a hop I’ve had mixed reactions with, mostly verging on disappointment. So far, in terms of beers hopped solely with Citra, only The Kernel‘s IPA Citra, and Anchor’s Brekle’s Brown have been on the positive side of the scale. For all the hype that initially surrounded the hop, only those beers seemed to have hinted at it being worthy of the excitement that seemingly surrounded it.

Unfortunatley, this pale ale doesn’t really do anything to improve my opinion of the Citra hop. There’s a rather grassy bitterness to it, that lingers rather unpleasantly, coating the mouth and making you go back for more, just because the taste is better than the aftertaste. As I said with the Chinook, the beer seems like a really good beer, and I’d love to see more single hop pale ales from Vibrant Forest, especially Amarillo and Moteuka ones if the hops are available. For me though, Citra is a hop that disappoints, more than it satisfies.


Now that I’ve tried the three individual pale ales, time for some beer geekery, inspired by Steve Lamond’s Hop Mixology post. First, I shall be trying Citra and Chinook, followed by Chinook and Nelson Sauvin, Nelson Sauvin and Citra, and finally, a blend of all three pale ales.

The Citra plus Chinook mix is marginally better than it’s two component parts, but only marginally. The initial taste when the two are combined is actually a lot better, and actually, there isn’t as much of a lingering bitter after taste either. I prefer this over either Citra or Chinook, but I don’t really like it.

The Chinook and Nelson Sauvin combine to create a rather soapy, and somewhat unpleasant beer, in many ways the least enjoyable so far. The grape nose of the Nelson Sauvin is still there, and there is a slight redeeming malt element in the aftertaste, but neither of them distract enough from the soapyness of the taste.

With the Nelson Sauvin/Citra mix, the Nelson Sauvin seems to dominate the Citra, with little of the latter hop really dectable. This is a somewhat unexpected result for me, as I was expecting the taste to be more bitter, and for the Citra to overpower the grape qualities of the Nelson Sauvin.

Combining the three gives a wonderful aroma, by far the best of all of them encountered whilst writing this post. The combined taste is almost, but not quite as good. There’s a distinct clash between the hops which means it doesn’t quite work. It’s still perfectly drinkable, but as far as hop combinations go, Chinook, Nelson Sauvin and Citra isn’t the way to go.

Of the three beers, Nelson Sauvin is by far my favourite. The fact that I personally didn’t particuarly like the Chinook and Citra ones shouldn’t say anything about the beers themselves. As I made clear earlier in this post, Citra is a hop that I’ve only enjoyed on two occasions. If you’d like to try the pale ales for yourself, and more in the Vibrant Forest range, they are available for sale from Bitter Virtue in Southampton.

A full list of Vibrant Forest outlets is available here.