My best beers of 2017

Sunday, 31 December 2017
My best beers of 2017
Sunday, 31 December 2017

Well despite having to cut the amount of beer I was drinking in the latter half of the year I can look back on 2017 and reflect on some amazing ales. Below you'll find some of my personal highlights along with what I have crowned as the best beer I've drunk over the last twelve months.

Highly Commended - Yellow Belly Sundae by Buxton and Omnipollo

I've made no secret of my love for the original Yellow Belly but this year I finally got a the opportunity to try the bourbon barrel aged version and it was amazing. You can read my full review here.

Highly Commended - Grower Owned by Magic Rock and YCH Hops

This IPA was everything that you'd want from the NE style and was one of many phenomenal beers that Magic Rock produced this year. You can read my full review here.

Highly Commended - Apex Twin by Time and Tide

Another barrel aged beauty, this time Time and Tide's Apex Twin. I was lucky enough to get a pre release bottle it was another great example from one of the brightest and most interesting breweries in the UK right now. You can read my full review here.

Highly Commended - Into the Haze by Deya

This came very close to being my favourite beer of the year and is certainly the best sub 7% IPA that I've had in 2017. It was liking biting into a hoppy cloud! You can read my full review here.

Highly Commended - Brazilian Breakfast Stout by Southsea Brewing

I first tried this at the inaugural Southsea Ale Club Tasting Night and it blew me away when fresh, but sampled again recently after six months of aging it truly is a thing of beauty. I still haven't completed a full review but I've got some instagram tasting notes here.

Highly Commended - Putty by Verdant

This NE style DIPA is just one of many hoppy masterpieces produced by the Cornish wizards. You can read my full review here.

Highly Commended - Jurassix DIPA by Staggeringly Good

Another local beer and this project produced not only a beautiful DIPA but also some of the coolest cans you could ever hope to see. To read more about this collaboration between Staggeringly Good and six amazing local artists, as well as a review of the beer itself, click here.

Highly Commended - Passion Fruit Lassi IPA by Northern Monk

Combining striking artwork with an IPA packed with tropical fruit flavours was a masterstroke by one of the UK's most consistent breweries. You can read my full review here.

My best beer of 2017 - Chubbles by Cloudwater and The Veil

I said at the time of drinking, way back in September, that this would likely feature in this list and it proved a beer hard to beat. You can read why it's my beer of 2017 by clicking here.

What was the best beer you drank in 2017?

Open Mic Night at Staggeringly Good

Friday, 6 October 2017
Open Mic Night at Staggeringly Good
Friday, 6 October 2017
If you're brewery doesn't have a dinosaur stain glass window
then you're just not trying hard enough
Last Thursday (28/09/17) saw me make only my second visit to the Staggeringly Good Taproom and about five minutes in I remember saying to myself "why haven't I been back here sooner!"
Well that question was answered when I woke the following day feeling more that a little delicate. This is not the fault of Staggeringly Good, they are guilty of nothing more that producing amazingly drinkable beer and serving it in one of the coolest beer venues you'll find locally.
Based on Rodney Road (just about Southsea according to the map), the brewery taproom has been serving fresh dinobeer since early 2016 and it has fast established itself as a beer lover's dream.

Such a cool tap wall!
The last Thursday of every month is their Open Mic night where local musicians, poets and artists can showcase their talents, and then be rewarded with beer. Following on from the amazing Jurassix DIPA project it's just another example of how Staggeringly Good embrace, nurture and promote the amazing wealth of creativity in the Portsmouth and Southsea area.
I'd been hoping to get down to one of their Open Mic nights for a while so when the stars aligned and both me and some beer loving friends had a free Thursday night it was an ideal opportunity to pop along.
On the beer front first up for me was a can of the most recent release of Hop Rod. This hazy IPA is brewed for The Wine Vaults (another top Southsea beer venue) and superb; full of the tropical fruit flavours and smooth mouthfeel that you'd look for in a New England style IPA.
A post shared by Staggeringly Good Beer (@staggeringlygoodbeer) on

 After a couple of cans of "Rod" I moved onto the Jurrassix DIPA. Even now, some three months after canning, this 8% Godzilla of a beer still tastes great and is far too easy drinking considering the hefty ABV. If you still haven't tried it I'd suggest getting down to the brewery and grabbing some before the last few cans become extinct.

Jurrasix; a top DIPA with amazing local art = WIN

Finally we moved onto the last beer of the evening, but what a way to finish! Non Renewable Resource is Staggeringly Good's new Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout and this glossy black boozy beast is the epitome of grown up drinking. At 8.7% abv and coming in 660ml bombers we thought we took the sensible choice by purchasing two and splitting them between the three of us. Well we were fools. One would have been plenty, especially on top of the behemothic beers we'd already drank!

Non Renewable Energy is a beast of a beer
So what about the entertainment? Well I'll start by taking of my hat to the two acts whose name I didn't catch. First up was a haunting acapella vocal performance; I didn't catch the lady's name and it was a song I did not know but it was a striking way to begin. Then there was a lone chap on his guitar who I thought was going to be all about an Ed Sheeran, Damian Rice kind of chilled out vibe but then shook the rafters with some genuine rock rage.

But either side of the solo rocker was a two part set by local band Skaraman. I could try and describe them but I'd fear I'd do them a disservice. So, quoting direct from their very own facebook page, they are an "experimental acoustic duo project of Original and Cover tunes mixing sounds of Reggae and Ska with a hint of Jazz and Hip-Hop aromas."

Skaraman bringing the funk

However you'd describe them, the sound that band members Mike and James produced on their guitar and upright base respectively was perfect for the night. From the moment they kicked off with their ska influenced Fugees cover I was hooked! And I'll apologise to them now for my drunken demands of multiple encores!

For any readers that have hung around in hope or expectation of an eloquent summation of the night I'm afraid you're out of luck... my memories are, like the beer, a tad hazy. But I do know that as I gracefully stumbled out into the clear Autumnal Thursday night I knew I'd had a cracking night and despite the hangover, I won't leave it so long before I return.

The Staggeringly Good Brewery and Taproom can be found at Unit 3, St. George’s Industrial Estate, Rodney Road, Southsea, PO4 8SS and is currently open as follows (although it's always worth keeping an eye on their social media for up to date hours);
Thursday 2pm – 10pm
Friday 2pm – 10pm
Saturday 12pm – 6pm

You can find Skaraman performing at pubs and venues around the area, follow them on facebook to keep up to date.

Leeds Lurking by Northern Monk and Other Half

Thursday, 14 September 2017
Leeds Lurking by Northern Monk and Other Half
Thursday, 14 September 2017

Beer Name: Patrons Project 1.04 - Leeds Lurking

Brewer: Northern Monk Brew Co., Leeds, UK & Other Half Brewing, New York, USA

Date Sampled:  4th September 2017

ABV: 10%

Serving Type: Can

Location Sampled: Home

The Northern Monk Patrons Project has to be one of the most exciting but also consistent series in British craft brewing. Blending innovative modern beer with world class artists is the sort of multi media experience you'd only normally expect from Prestige World Wide but Northern Monk just keep knocking out top brews wrapped up in the most beautiful packaging. Amongst them are Fire and Passion (a coffee porter brewed with chocolate and orange) and their Passion Fruit Lassi IPA which has one of the most stunning beer labels I've seen.

This latest effort has been put together with New York's Other Half Brewing and is an Imperial Coffee Porter made with morello cherry.

Before we get to the beer however, lets take a moment to appreciate the image that adorns this can. Tom Joy, a Leeds based photographer originally from Aberdeen, has produced the kind of picture that reminds you that spotless streets and flawless historic architecture are not essential for urban landscape photography. The use of harsh lighting, emphasised by the metallic finish on the wrap around label, gives this very industrial image an ethereal feel and works brilliantly with the name of this beer; Leeds Lurking.

So does the beer inside live up to the design on the outside? You bet it does!

It pours a glossy jet black with a lovely hazelnut coloured head that does a decent job of hanging around.

The nose is pretty punchy, with fresh coffee and tobacco giving it a luxurious aroma, whilst the morello cherry is pleasingly also very obvious.

When you sip it (and this is a sipper) there is sweet cherry up front, followed by rich dark chocolate and coffee, but then the cherry comes back at the end, but this time with a sharpness to it.

As you'd expect in an imperial porter, there is a warming amount of alcohol which along with all of the other flavours present, gives you the feeling of drinking a boozy black forest gateaux.

This is another stunning entry into the Patrons Project and one that is definitely worth seeking out.

Chubbles by Cloudwater and The Veil

Wednesday, 6 September 2017
Chubbles by Cloudwater and The Veil
Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Beer Name: Chubbles

Brewer: Cloudwater Brew Co., Manchester, England & The Veil Brewing Co., Richmond, Virginia, USA

Date Sampled: 4th September 2017

ABV: 10%

Serving Type: Can

Location Sampled: Home

As an avid follower of many stateside craft beer instagram accounts there are a number of American breweries that I'm just itching to try. Trillium, Treehouse, Nightshift and Other Half are just a handful of producers that are consistently pumping out can after can of hop forward juice bombs. The Veil Brewing Co, based in Richmond Virginia are a relative newcomer to the scene (the brewery opened in April 2016) but they have quickly established themselves as one of the best and most highly sought of in the business.

So when it was announced that they would be collaborating with Cloudwater, arguably the hottest brewery in the UK right now, it caused a fair amount of interest!

As I understand, the recipe for this triple IPA was a joint effort between the two breweries with the first iteration of Chubbles being produced and distributed by The Veil in May of this year. It garnered rave reviews and instagram was awash with the striking space themed can design and glasses of bright orange haze.

This meant that when Cloudwater announced the online release of the UK version there were beer nerds (including me) up and down the country frantically hitting refresh to make sure that they didn't miss out. And boy am I glad that I made the effort!

Filling the glass like freshly squeezed orange juice, this beer looks every part the archetypal hazy juice bomb.

It has one of the punchiest aromas I've ever had the pleasure of inhaling, with a mix of mango, apricot and pineapple mixing wonderfully with a melon like freshness. But underneath that there's also a sharp onion savoury element that helps to stop the nose being too sweet.

When you taste Chubbles all of those fruit flavours come to the fore, with sweet citrus up front which moves towards something more akin to an over ripe fermented melon or mango. There's a bitterness to the finish and just enough alcohol present to give a warmth on the back end, with a candied orange peel after taste.

With so much flavour coupled with a smooth luxurious mouth feel I'd almost describe this as chewy, but that's definitely meant as a compliment.

All of the excitement around Chubbles was more than justified; I've not tried many beers that are as full of flavour but also so well balanced.

Don't be surprised to see this featuring strongly in my end of year review of the best beers of 2017....

Breakfast Stout by Arbor

Wednesday, 23 August 2017
Breakfast Stout by Arbor
Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Beer Name: Breakfast Stout

Brewer: Arbor Ales Ltd, Bristol, England

Date Sampled: 1th August 2017

ABV: 7.4%

Serving Type: Bottle

Location Sampled: Home

Whilst it's certainly not the first Arbor beer that I've drunk this is the first from them that I've reviewed on this blog. I enjoyed their Flat White Coffee Stout last Autumn although didn't complete a full review and their Double Dark Alliance Coffee Imperial Stout (brewed in collaboration with Moor Beer) was one of the highlights of Warriorfest.

This bottle was actually part of a small haul that I'd purchased from Bitter Virtue in Southampton back in November 2016. Far too frequently I find that my stash of stouts and porters gets forgotten about whilst I concentrate on drinking and reviewing hoppy IPAs, DIPAs and Pale Ales whilst they are fresh. Thankfully if stored correctly a little bit of ageing normally does no harm to a dark beer and even with such a delay I'm still drinking this well within it's best before date of October 2018.

Arbor having been brewing in Bristol since 2007, focussing on high quality ingredients and embracing innovation and experimentation; they proudly boast on their website that they've already brewed in excess of 300 different beers! From what I've tasted from them so far this exploration process is reaping rewards as each beer has been beautifully balanced and full of flavour.

This Breakfast Stout appears to be part of their core range and is a great example of this style of beer. Bottle conditioned, it has a glossy jet black appearance and with a heavy pour produces an attractive caramel coloured head although this does disappear quickly.

The nose is a triumph of freshly brewed filter coffee with a slight burnt caramel sweetness also present.

As you'd expect with a breakfast stout the coffee is dominant up front, but it's joined by rich winter fruits and dark chocolate before a finish full of bitter cocoa and a hint of warming alcohol.

Thanks to how well these flavours are balanced and the smooth mouth feel, this beer is hugely satisfying and incredibly easy drinking. Arbor have nailed this breakfast stout and I can't wait to explore their range a bit more.

NW DIPA Citra Amarillo

Thursday, 17 August 2017
NW DIPA Citra Amarillo
Thursday, 17 August 2017

Beer Name: NW DIPA Citra Amarillo

Brewer: Cloudwater Brew Co., Manchester, England

Date Sampled: 10th August 2017

ABV: 8.2%

Serving Type: Can

Location Sampled: Home

I'm starting to think that the Cloudwater brewery must be staffed by Oompa-Loompas; how else are they managing to design, produce, pack and distribute so many top quality beers.

Whereas the semi-regular V series could be very difficult to get hold of (which undoubtedly added to the legend), since taking more direct control of their distribution Cloudwater seem to be dropping a new DIPA almost weekly, with no apparent drop in quality.

The NW DIPA Ekuanot that I sampled only three weeks ago is without doubt one of the best I've tasted from Cloudwater and I'm happy to report that this NW DIPA Citra Amarillo is equally as good.

It's as beautiful to look at as you'd expect from a Cloudwater DIPA; golden hazy orange with a bright white head.

The nose is full of the usual mango and pineapple tropical aromas but there's also a cucumber freshness to it.

It has a smooth body although not quite as thick and unctuous as some of the recent CW DIPAs.

The now familiar tropical flavours are all present when tasted, along with a welcome flash of sticky pine, followed by the cucumber that was evident on the nose. This seems to have the same sort of effect that a slice of cucumber has in a Gin and Tonic, freshening the flavour and helping to lighted the mouth feel. Then there's a welcome drying bitterness on the finish to leave you itching for another sip.

My taste buds are not yet educated enough to really pick out the attributes of the different hops, malts and yeast being used by Cloudwater in these beer varities but each one seems to be another piece of world class brewing. So much so that I'm starting to accept that getting every new DIPA that they release is becoming less important. There's far less fear of missing out if you know that a new wonder beer is just a couple of weeks ago.

Does this mean that Cloudwater are becoming victim of their own success?

I don't think so.

As long as they keep producing such high quality beers there will be no shortage of customers and I will be very happy if we are now at a stage where at any given time I'll be able to purchase a top quality DIPA either direct from the Cloudwater webstore or from my local craft beer shop.

Ahoy Shipmates! Warriorfest 2017

Tuesday, 1 August 2017
Ahoy Shipmates! Warriorfest 2017
Tuesday, 1 August 2017

It's no an exaggeration to say that I haven't looked forward to a beer event as much as I was looking forward to Warriorfest. Announced last Autumn, this craft beer festival, hosted by Staggeringly Good Brewery and The Beer Musketeer, was staged in what has to be one of the most unique venues ever; HMS Warrior in the Historic Portsmouth Dockyard.

I was lucky enough to be working a night shift when the tickets were released at midnight back in November and managed to snap ten up before the event sold out that same day.

Thankfully after such a long wait and with anticipation building I can now confirm that, like Blackbeard the Pirate at his tyrannical best, Warriorfest blew all of my expectations clear out of the water.

HMS Warrior itself is an absolute marvel; the restoration has been brilliantly completed and stepping down into bowels of the ship was liking stepping down into history. The beer festival was spread over two of the lower decks and attendees were encouraged and expected to explore the ship thanks to thoughtful bar locations.

The entertainment was perfect with various bands performing (whilst decked out in suitably nautical attire) although my personal highlight was the sing along with The Shanty Buoys, who were going from table to table and encouraging audience participation. I've never felt more like a pirate!

Now all of this is great but lets be honest, you go to a beer festival for the beer... and this is where Warriorfest really delivered.

The line up was phenomenal with some of the UK's finest craft brewers alongside the cream of local beer production.

My personal highlights will include Staggeringly Good's Hop Rod IPA, Weird Beard's Black Perle Coffee Milk Stout, Southsea Brewing's Casemate IPA and the Arbor/Moor Beer collaboration Double Dark Alliance Coffee Imperial Stout. And I cannot ignore the secret Bar 5, not shown on the map, but which had a small supply of Cloudwater's DIPA London Ale and Weird Beard's Defacer Tripple IPA... although at 9% and 11.1% ABV respectively maybe I should have ignored them!

To say that I was a little bit tipsy come the end would be a massive understatement and apologies to anyone that was unfortunate to get stuck in a drunken conversation with me towards the end of the evening.

I cannot give Staggeringly Good and The Beer Musketeer enough praise for Warriorfest; to secure such a unique location and appropriate entertainment was impressive enough, but to then fill the event with such an impressive range of high quality contemporary craft beer was an amazing achievement.

I don't know if Warriorfest is going to become an annual event but if she were to dock in Portsmouth again in 2018 I'd sail to the world's end to secure myself a ticket; there's no way I'd want to miss it!

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