Neon Raptor Total Eclipse Jaffa Cake milk stout

We’re trying to drink one beer every week from a brewery that’s new to us and this time round it’s a Jaffa Cake milk stout from Neon Raptor of Nottingham.

We’ve actu­al­ly found our­selves hav­ing to hunt round a bit to find unfa­mil­iar brew­eries. There might be 2,000 or so of them but it turns out that in Bris­tol, you only tend to see about, say, 150 of those in cir­cu­la­tion.

To find Total Eclipse, we had to go to a pub that’s not on our usu­al rounds because we haven’t real­ly warmed to it over the years – that is, the Famous Roy­al Navy Vol­un­teer, or Vol­ly.

What do you expect from a beer with 7.4% ABV, vapour­wave brand­ing and a lac­tose warn­ing? It is not sub­tle. It is loud, and best looked at through Ray Bans.

One def­i­nite point in its favour was that it had the weight of its strength, being pos­i­tive­ly chewy. It looks like choco­late sauce and, yes, that’s about the tex­ture it achieves too.

The ref­er­ence to Jaf­fa Cakes is mis­lead­ing – the orange and choco­late here are both bit­ter, and intense. We cer­tain­ly found our­selves think­ing of con­fec­tionery, though: Mum’s Christ­mas box of Black Mag­ic, crys­tallised gin­ger, can­died peels.

Ray liked it; Jess less so. She detect­ed a dirty back­ground flavour, some­thing earthy, like… pota­toes? But over­all, once again, it was kind of fun, and we’ve got anoth­er brew­ery to keep an eye out for.

Wander Beyond Mango Manatee

This week’s brewery we’ve never come across before, or at least don’t remember encountering, is Wander Beyond of Manchester, with a mango milkshake IPA.

We found it on tap at our local craft beer empo­ri­um, Bot­tles & Books.

It has 7% ABV and, as you might expect, was opaque. It was also about the same colour as a glass of cheap orange squash, and lost its head the moment we looked at it side­ways.

In con­text, with all those Trop­i­cana juice car­ton sig­nals, the aro­ma was deeply con­fus­ing: was it… it couldn’t be… It was white choco­late.

After a moment, we man­aged to solve this puz­zle – there was vanil­la in the mix. Maybe a touch too much vanil­la, truth be told.

Choco­late car­ried through into the flavour, bring­ing to mind one of those fan­cy filled choco­late bars you find in bou­tique shops in Ger­many, or per­haps a new addi­tion to the unpop­u­lar ‘creme’ sec­tion of the Ros­es tin.

The man­go was there, or at least a more gener­ic fruiti­ness.

We sort of liked it. It was sort of fun.

And nobody buy­ing a beer labelled as man­go milk­shake IPA has any right to com­plain when it tastes like this one.

Wan­der Beyond goes on to the ‘try again’ list.

New To Us #2: Cocksure

Our mission to try beers from breweries we don’t know has stalled in week two: almost everywhere we went at the weekend, it was familiar names only.

We did man­age a sin­gle (ugh) ‘tick’, though – Cock­sure African Hibis­cus & Hon­ey gold­en ale, 4.8%, at the Drap­ers Arms. Its style was list­ed as ‘Wacky’.

Cock­sure is based in Tot­ter­down hav­ing moved into Bris­tol from Glouces­ter­shire last sum­mer, just as Moor relo­cat­ed from rur­al Som­er­set to where the craft beer tap­room action is a few years back.

This par­tic­u­lar beer didn’t taste of hibis­cus to us, or hon­ey; we most­ly got yeast-bite and peaty phe­nols. Still, at least it was dif­fer­ent – not gener­ic hazy cask ses­sion IPA.

Every­one in the pub seemed intrigued by it and we saw lots go over the bar. On Sun­day, when we went back, it was still on (per­haps not a ‘same again’ beer?) and still gen­er­at­ing inter­est, and pos­i­tive nois­es from some of the reg­u­lars.

So Cock­sure goes on to the inter­est­ing, jury’s-out list.

The First Output of a New Resolution

There are some­thing like 2,000 brew­eries in the UK but we find our­selves going back to the same hand­ful time and again, most­ly because we know and trust them.

Well, in 2019, we want to break that habit, just a bit, by forc­ing our­selves to try at least one brew­ery that’s new to us every week.

When we’re on our trav­els, it’s easy (Danc­ing Man in Southamp­ton, for exam­ple) but in Bris­tol, where we spend most of our time, it will need a lit­tle ded­i­ca­tion.

It will mean ignor­ing that Bris­tol Beer Fac­to­ry pale-n-hop­py we know we love in favour of some­thing that will prob­a­bly, expe­ri­ence sug­gests, be less enjoy­able.

But then again, it might also turn up anoth­er Stroud or Ched­dar.

Our first con­scious attempt to ful­fil this mis­sion came in Small Bar on King Street, Bris­tol, on Wednes­day night when we ordered two-thirds of Man­u­al Brewing’s ‘This Ele­va­tor’, a 5.5% Amer­i­can-style pale ale. The brew­ery is based in Dundee.

It didn’t look imme­di­ate­ly appeal­ing, being a fog­gy orange-brown, but the head was attrac­tive – whipped cream and oth­er delights.

We both had sim­i­lar reac­tions on lift­ing it to taste: non-ver­bal expres­sions of delight at a frankly won­der­ful aro­ma hot rasp­ber­ry jam and cut grass.

We had to step back from expec­ta­tions of the style to real­ly enjoy the way this beer tast­ed: it didn’t tick the Amer­i­can pale ale box­es, but absolute­ly did work as the kind of unfil­tered amber/red/brown beer you some­times find in Ger­many.

That is, as some­thing whole­some, whole­meal, nut­ty and spicy.

There was noth­ing stale, nasty or jar­ring in the flavour, which counts for a lot.

Of course we can’t judge the brewery’s entire out­put based on one beer, on one occa­sion, but we’d cer­tain­ly be inclined to buy again.