Patreon’s Choice: De Molen Not For Sale Ale – Craft Lager

Not for Sale Ale -- Craft Lager

We asked our Patreon subscribers to suggest some beers for us to taste and Chris Gooch chose this one: “I’m dying to know what the De Molen Not for Sale Ale is like. An initiative that deserves a lot of support.”

The ini­tia­tive he men­tions start­ed in Swe­den and is ded­i­cat­ed to tack­ling human traf­fick­ing and mod­ern slav­ery. One hun­dred per cent of the prof­its from this beer, brewed in the Nether­lands, go to the Not for Sale cam­paign. We bought our bot­tles from Hon­est Brew at a quite rea­son­able £2.89 per 330ml, plus deliv­ery.

It’s a hazy yel­low beer with high car­bon­a­tion. The aro­ma is a back-and-forth of straight­for­ward cit­rus hop and pun­gent, funky, over­ripe fruit. There’s per­haps a bit of veg­etable or leafy herb in there, too.

It tastes of green apple, orange pith and brown bread, before segu­ing into the kind of bit­ter­ness that hangs around, feed­ing back on itself until there’s no band­width left.

We liked it a lot, with only some very slight nit­pick­ing reser­va­tions about those veg­e­tal notes. It’s bright, full of flavour and char­ac­ter, and quite dis­tinc­tive. If we had to com­pare it to anoth­er beer it would be the sin­gle-hop Cas­cade ale brewed by Cas­tle Rock for M&S a few years ago (and, what do you know, De Molen does use Cas­cade in this beer) except it’s quirki­er and dirt­i­er, in the best pos­si­ble sense.

Is it a lager? In tech­ni­cal terms, no. It’s even less like lager than our exper­i­ments in brew­ing Helles with Gold­ings and Maris Otter – more fruity and funky, in fact, than many pack­aged and paci­fied British ales. But in terms of how you might use it? Yes, it fits in the lager slot. It tastes great cold, bites at the back of the throat, does­n’t demand your full atten­tion, and tastes pri­mar­i­ly of malt and hops. And, at 4.7% ABV, you could prob­a­bly tack­le a few in a row if you had the taste.

We’d def­i­nite­ly buy this again even if 100 per cent of the prof­its were going into some­body’s pock­et. It’s our kind of beer.

The Best of Us in 2017

The idea behind this round-up of the best of our own writing from 2017 is, as much as anything, to remind ourselves of what we’ve pulled off.

We for­got we’d writ­ten some of this stuff at all, while oth­er bits we had in mind were were from last year, or maybe the year before.

It’s been a hec­tic time what with mov­ing from Pen­zance to Bris­tol and the pub­li­ca­tion of a sec­ond book but, despite all that, we kept up a fair­ly steady flow of posts – about 240 in all. Of course that includes plen­ty of throw­aways, week­ly links round-ups, and our Month That Was sum­maries. Still, we reck­on it amount to about 160,000 words of orig­i­nal writ­ing – enough for anoth­er two books.

This is prob­a­bly a good point to say that if you appre­ci­ate our out­put and want to encour­age us to keep doing it, ad-free, and most­ly out­side any kind of pay­wall, please do con­sid­er sub­scrib­ing to our Patre­on. It’s dead easy, and for as lit­tle as $2 per month you can help pay for all this, and also get some bonus stuff there. (We’ve unlocked a few posts over the course of the year so you can see for your­self.) That peo­ple have signed up has been a major source of encour­age­ment but, you know, there’s always room for a bit more.

Now, down to busi­ness. We’ve decid­ed to lim­it our­selves to ten that we espe­cial­ly like but have also includ­ed by way of a foot­note a sec­ond list of the stuff that actu­al­ly got all the traf­fic, which is not always the stuff that’s most fun or inter­est­ing to write. First up, its…

Con­tin­ue read­ing “The Best of Us in 2017”

Patreon’s Choice #3: Odyssey Spottieottiehopaliscious

This is the third in a series of posts with notes on beers chosen for us by our Patreon subscribers. (If you want a ton of bonus stuff, and to tell us what to drink, sign up!)

Chris Gooch sug­gest­ed that we try some­thing, any­thing, from Here­ford­shire brew­ery, Odyssey. What Beer Ritz had in stock was Spot­tieot­tiehopalis­cious, an Amer­i­can pale ale at 5.4% ABV. One 500ml bot­tle cost a rather wince-induc­ing £4.43.

The pack­ag­ing is inter­est­ing, pitched some­where between old school real ale and mod­ern craft – vague­ly folky, acoustic, fibrous.

The beer itself was gold­en with a loose but steady head, none of which, frankly, we were real­ly able to focus on over the intox­i­cat­ing, incred­i­ble aro­ma. It filled the air with blos­som, with orange, grape­fruit and peach. If some­thing can smell sweet, this beer did, as if it was trig­ger­ing some dor­mant abil­i­ty to detect the ripest near­by fruit with a twitch of the nos­trils.

It did­n’t taste quite as aston­ish­ing, sad­ly. It seemed soft and pil­lowy on the palate and brought to mind tinned man­darin seg­ments, or maybe some long-for­got­ten soft drink of the 1980s. Which is not to say it lacks bit­ter­ness – that sat there, adding weight, like a gran­ite mar­ble on the back of the tongue. There was, thank good­ness, no onion or armpit, the appre­ci­a­tion of which in vogue char­ac­ter­is­tics is appar­ent­ly beyond us. Over­all it remind­ed us of Thorn­bridge’s fun, approach­able pale ale Chi­ron, only loos­er and a touch funki­er.

We found it, in short, thor­ough­ly like­able and enjoy­able. Near­ly five-quid’s-worth of like­able? Maybe not quite.

QUICK POST: Alphabet Brewing Co Flat White Breakfast Stout

Flat White Breakfast Stout.

This beer was part of a batch ordered from Beer Ritz and paid for by Patreon subscribers like Simon Branscombe and Jared Kiraly – thanks, chaps!

We chose this par­tic­u­lar beer because it came up as a sug­ges­tion in last year’s Gold­en Pints. A 330ml can at 7.4% ABV cost £3.19.

The can is rather cool look­ing and the name is appeal­ing: break­fast is a love­ly word for starters, and flat white (a small amount of smooth steamed milk over espres­so) is just about hang­ing in there as the hip cof­fee prepa­ra­tion of the day even though you can now get them in Greg­gs.  We can imag­ine this crop­ping up in cafes and delis, appeal­ing to peo­ple who might not oth­er­wise be that into beer.

We don’t know much about Alpha­bet oth­er than that a friend of a friend who was in the process of set­ting up a brew­ery in Man­ches­ter tells us they’re nice peo­ple, and that cans of their Hoi Pol­loi pil­sner we tried ear­li­er this year were decent enough.

The name hints at the styl­is­tic gim­mick at the heart of this beer: it is a stout but not black as we’ve come to expect. This is idea with some his­tor­i­cal basis pre­vi­ous­ly mined most notably by Durham Brew­ery. One imme­di­ate prob­lem, though, is that, though pale for a stout, it is by no means white. In fact, it is red­dish brown – the least remark­able colour for beer oth­er than yel­low. So an excit­ing propo­si­tion – Won­der At the Freak­ish White Stout! – is any­thing but in exe­cu­tion. ‘Pale’ might bet­ter have set our expec­ta­tions but even that would be push­ing it. Still, it did look appetis­ing enough on its own terms, clear and gleam­ing.

The sec­ond prob­lem, unfor­tu­nate­ly, was a big stale aro­ma that caused us to recoil rather than to smack our lips in antic­i­pa­tion. Where there ought to have been per­haps a touch of smoke or fruit there was a sort of damp, dirty base­ment stink – the wrong kind of dank alto­geth­er.

Once we’d got past that (aro­mas recede after the ini­tial encounter) the taste was inter­est­ing, def­i­nite­ly dark-tast­ing (because dark is a flavour in beer), slight­ly spicy, with some sug­ges­tion of cher­ry, and a lot of burnt cream. The resem­blance to cof­fee, in oth­er words, was specif­i­cal­ly to those sweet­ened, flavoured, very milky dessert cof­fees that abound at this time of year. We did­n’t par­tic­u­lar­ly like it, just as we don’t par­tic­u­lar­ly like that kind of cof­fee, but we can see how it might appeal to palates oth­er than ours.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly that stal­e­ness was a deal-break­er. This can was the­o­ret­i­cal­ly good for anoth­er few weeks, until 17 Decem­ber, and has been stored in the cool and dark since we bought it, but we’d say it actu­al­ly expired some time ago. And, once again, like a stuck record, we have to point the fin­ger at dodgy pack­ag­ing, or pack­ag­ing process­es. We’re get­ting more and more wary of cans from small­er brew­eries, espe­cial­ly when they cost as much as a pint of ale at our local. In this case, we feel a bit swiz­zed.

Patreon’s Choice #2: Bottled Hophead

Hophead label.

This is a quick entry in our series of notes on beers suggested by our Patreon subscribers. This time it’s the bottled version of Dark Star Hophead as suggested by @AleingPaul who has never tried it himself.

We bought this from Beer Ritz at £2.78 per 500ml bot­tle and, like the cask ver­sion, it has an ABV of 3.8%.

A note, first, on that cask beer – a clas­sic we think it’s fair to say, or at least a stan­dard. Here’s a bit on the his­to­ry of the beer from an arti­cle we wrote for All About Beer a cou­ple of years ago:

Anoth­er cult favourite is Hop­head from Dark Star, a brew­ery in Brighton, a fash­ion­able coastal resort an hour’s train ride south of Lon­don. Mark Tran­ter… worked at Dark Star from the 1990s until 2013. He recalls that, at some time after 1996, one of the own­ers of the Evening Star pub where the brew­ery was then based went to Cal­i­for­nia and came back with Cas­cade hop pel­lets. These, along with oth­er U.S. hops avail­able in small quan­ti­ties via hop mer­chants Charles Faram, formed the basis of ‘The Hop­head Club’, con­ceived by Dark Star founder Rob Jones. At each meet­ing of the club mem­bers would taste a dif­fer­ent sin­gle-hopped beer. ‘Cas­cade was the cus­tomers’ and brew­ers’ favourite, so it was not long until that became the sta­ple,’ recalls Tran­ter. When he took on more respon­si­bil­i­ty in the brew­ery, Tran­ter tweaked the recipe, reduc­ing its bit­ter­ness, and, in 2001, drop­ping its strength from 4% to 3.8%. Today, with the brew­ery under new own­er­ship and with a dif­fer­ent team in the brew-house, the beer remains sin­gle-mind­ed and pop­u­lar, giv­ing absolute pri­or­i­ty to bright aro­mas of grape­fruit and elder­flower.

Cask Hop­head might have had a wob­ble a few years ago, or it might just have been that we had a run of bad luck, but on the whole it’s been a beer we can­not help but drink when it’s on offer. Its rel­a­tive­ly low strength means we can take a decent amount with­out get­ting in a whirl or suf­fer­ing the next day; its light body makes it swig­gable and easy­go­ing; but it is far from bland, even by the hop-sat­u­rat­ed stan­dards of 2017.

Per­haps our fond­ness is part­ly down to the fact that we’re of the Cas­cade gen­er­a­tion and devel­oped our love of beer when that hop vari­ety was the coolest thing in town. What­ev­er the rea­son, fond we are.

So, how is the bot­tle? Does it cap­ture the mag­ic? Can you get that Hop­head buzz in the com­fort of your front room, dressed in your jim-jams?

Appar­ent­ly not.

The bot­tled beer is utter­ly dull – a pan-and-scan VHS, K‑Tel edit, plas­tic imi­ta­tion.

It’s not hor­rid – there’s enough hop char­ac­ter there to spark a lit­tle plea­sure – but it feels heavy, tastes as if it’s been microwaved, and has noth­ing to set it apart from any num­ber of gold­en ales from less beloved brew­eries avail­able in every super­mar­ket in the land.

It’s weird to feel so irri­tat­ed by a mediocre beer, but it must be because it’s a mediocre incar­na­tion of a great beer.

We won’t be going out of our way to buy it again but will per­haps enjoy our next encounter with cask Hop­head all the more.