New to us: Wilde Child Brownie Hunter

A theme is beginning to emerge: when we do find beer from a brewery we don’t already know, based on the available data, it will probably have lactose in it.

We came across this 4.9% chocolate fudge brownie stout from Leeds in a can at our local bottle shop, Bottles & Books, and paid (we think) £5.99 including a small drink-in surcharge.

It was neither flat nor a gusher — a good start — and produced two tidy, tiny glasses of transparent bear-brown.

For something billed as a dessert beer, it was fairly light-bodied, almost thin, with a touch of butterscotch, some vanilla, and a general milk chocolate easygoing nature.

We were reminded of:

  1. Meantime Chocolate Porter — a beer we used to love but which has undoubtedly been left behind in the fancy beer arms race.
  2. Cadbury’s drinking chocolate — the one you drank as a kid, before you realised you were meant to want something either darker or richer, or both.

Young’s Double Chocolate is perhaps in similar territory, but somehow has more heft.

This isn’t quite our thing these days but it certainly wasn’t flawed or faulty and we enjoyed drinking it.

So that’s another brewery through the first checkpoint and onto our drink-again list.

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.