Around Town with Amateur Drinker

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A taste of Rainbow Project 2016

It was entirely appropriate that in a period in which the County Championship triumphantly returned to its rightful home in North London, Middlesex’s finest brewery put on a performance that would have done Angus Fraser just as proud.

[Middlesex county no longer exists and Yorkshire is the rightful home of County Championship – ed]

It was Beavertown rather than the Home of Cricket that hosted the Rainbow Project. This event began in 2013 with seven UK brewers, each producing a beer based on a randomly assigned colour of the rainbow. It then became an international project with each UK participant being randomly matched with a continental counterpart in 2014 and a trans-Atlantic one the following year. In 2016 that honour went to New Zealand.

Beavertown again hosted one of the parties to show off the results. While 2014 was quiet, 2015 saw worrying signs of over-crowding that were to explode at Beavertown’s Valentine birthday-bash. Everyone makes mistakes, but it is how you deal with them that matters, and Beavertown’s response since that ill-fated day has been outstanding.

The organisation was absolutely faultless. The event was ticketed, with limited numbers at a meaningful price, and used staggered start-times. The beers (34 festival brews and the core range) were all free-pure, and following the sage advice of WC Fields, there were no dogs or children. This meant there were no queues, either for the drinks or the toilets.

The beers were superb: From the official collaborations, Partisan/Prairie Real Time, a kaffir lime, lemongrass and grapefruit saison, Magic Rock/Fork & Brewer Upside Down, a tangy Witbeir and Hawkshead/ Yeastie Boys Kai Moana gose were the pick of the bunch.

From the ‘normal’, which they most certainly were not, I enjoyed Fork and Brewers’ 1st ever export, the Sourbet, a raspberry and lemon Berliner, the refreshing Hawkshead earl grey and Seville sour, Parrot Dog’s Flora Forget Me Not and Bitterbitch IPA’s, the Superb Garage Project Pernicious Weed DIPA, the Wild Beer Bee Brush a lemon, verbena and grapefruit saison, the Liberty Sauvignon Bomb, a sensational pale ale and last, but not least,  the 2015 (the beer changes every year) Yeastie Boys His (red oat ale) and Her(blood red beetroot ale  Majesty.

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Rainbow Project – Red

Finally, a couple of non-Rainbow collaborations: Magic Rock/ Gigantic Special Relationship, a deconstructed Manhattan, and the 8-wired/ Modern Times Halfway to Whangarei a sharp, almost sour refreshing saison.

Overall this was a fantastic, perfectly organised, and enjoyable event for both geeks and those new to the scene. This was undoubtedly the beer party of the year so far.

I spent a weekend in Warsaw for a wedding (unfortunately missing Omnipollo at The BottleShop!) and surprised absolutely nobody by taking the opportunity to check out their beer scene. Whilst the local Polish brews in general needed a little more work, the bars were of a surprisingly high quality with friendly and passionate staff.

Kufle i Kapsle (where I had Nomada Papaya Crush, an excellent Catalan DIPA), and Jabeerwocky were two minutes apart on Nowogrodzka, whilst at Hoppiness I tried Pracownia Piwa’s Huncwot IPA, which was comfortably the best local beer. I even popped into BrewDog Warsaw as they advertised online that they had the Four Pure Shapeshifter IPA.

This was the outstanding feature: all of the bars listed above had their tap-lists live and updated in real time on the internet. Indeed, in a couple of cases they also included information about how long the beer had been on. London is light-years behind and really needs to copy this as it is not expensive or difficult to do but is massively helpful for the customer.

Such is the pace of change in the scene that Zwanze Day feels like an historical institution, although it only began in 2008. The concept of pouring the beer at an identical time globally should really be in “Timekeepers” (Simon Garfield’s recent book on how the world became obsessed with time). The Zwanze 2016 itself was an exquisite Framboise: 82/18 raspberry/blueberry with just the right smidgen of added vanilla.

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Zwanze on the right

We only got a third but Cantillon also provided the apricot Fou’Foune and the Cuvee Saint Gilloise, Burning Sky the Anniversaire Saison, whilst the Kernel’s Pale Ale was a nice palate cleanser and regular readers will know I love the damson London Sour!

Unscientifically it seems to be that across all of the pub/bars I visit, there are proportionally less and less stout/porters on the lists. Asking about this, in a couple of different venues, I received the very rational response that the beers don’t sell as well, so they stock less.

In some ways, the decline is purely mathematical in response to the rise of other styles: IPA is the flagship of craft, DIPA is the height of fashion in 2016 for UK breweries and it is wonderful for the scene that more and more people are trying new styles, such as sours, and also that experimental/wacky/festival beers are being produced for us to drink (and me to write about!).

But I hope that drinkers and brewers don’t neglect stouts too much though, as there is a reason they are such a part of our drinking heritage. Although maybe it’s just the weather and beers will soon get as dark as the evenings outside!

A seamless change at The Bottle Shop as Sabrina returned to Canada to be replaced by Edd, and unsurprisingly the quality of events remained exceptional. I missed the aforementioned Omnipollo but heard good reports. There were two American tap takeovers, with the second, fortuitously scheduled on the same Friday for which I had bought Indy Man tickets, but was unable to attend due to unforeseen work commitments!

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Mike Hess Grapefruit IPA at The Bottle Shop

Given the US’s undoubted lead in IPA’s that style was the most notable, specifically the Alpine Duet, Black Market Aftermath, Mike Hess Grapefruit Solis and the Green Flash Tangerine Soul Style IPA,Black Market – Aftermath IPA whilst on a separate visit, I loved the Buxton/Omnipollo Lemon Meringue Ice Cream Pie.

Beavertown launched a new core beer, the Lupuloid IPA. This has had mixed reviews (drinkable, but maybe lacking a bit of a punch), and it isn’t even close to being the best British IPA (now that’s an entirely separate question we could spend hours on) but I think that if they do genuinely roll this out in the volume, and with the marketing, of their other core beers, it may prove a small step in bringing more drinkers further into the scene, just as Gamma Ray introduced them to it.

The autumn Craft Beer Co.’s Clapham 100 came around again. Like a comfortable shoe, this was as it always is: it amuses me that not only do you see the same faces at the event every time, but they occupy exactly the same tables! To be fair, it is clearly doing something right to inspire such loyalty.

Again as usual, I thought the keg offerings were more interesting: The Fierce Beer Cranachan Killer tasted just as creamy and raspberry as the Scottish dessert should, the Weird Beard Something Something Darkside, a marvellous black DIPA, Evil Twin Soft Dookie keg, an imperial stout, (which I preferred to the Hopping Frog Rum Barrel Aged B.O.R.I.S.), the Jolly Pumpkin Maracaibo Especial , a spicy, citrusy  Belgian ale, the Panhead Supercharger APA and ultimately two from Westbrook: their sensational Key Lime Pie Gose and the Mexican Cupcake, which had a decent chilli kick and carried a great deal of flavour for the low ABV (just 4.2%).

Finally, some fantastic news for me personally as I managed to get a full Season Ticket for next May’s Copenhagen Beer Celebration. Expect to hear all about it in due course.

Reporting from the front-line – Amateur Drinker manages to get along to all the beer things you’d like to but couldn’t.