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The Best Beer I Drank In...

The Best Beers I Drank In… NOVEMBER 2015

After a ridiculous beer filled October I planned on taking it easy in November, expecting a quiet month before the Christmas madness began.

But it didn’t quite turn out that way; with several visits to the likes of BrewDog, Port Street and Magic Rock Tap along with some stunning bottles, both at home and at a bottle share with a bunch of other beer geeks.

It turned out to be another amazing month for beer. Here are the highlights.

Old Chimneys – Good King Henry Special Reserve (2013 Vintage) (Bottle)

I’d been looking forward to this beer for a LONG time.

I’m a big fan of Old Chimneys, one of the UK’s smallest and longest standing craft breweries and I’m also fond of Good King Henry, the regular version of this beer.

This one is stronger and barrel aged for two years before its annual release in Autumn.

It’s been the UK’s #1 beer on Ratebeer for several years as well as the only UK beer in the World Top 50.

And for good reason. It’s stunningly smooth, very rich and full of flavour yet beautifully balanced.

It’s quite rare due to its limited release but I was lucky enough to get hold of two bottles, I’m hoping to age the second for a while, but I know it’s going to be hard to resist.

Old Chimneys - Good King Henry Special Reserve (2013)
Old Chimneys – Good King Henry Special Reserve (2013)

BrewDog – B-Side: Mango & Habanero Barleywine (Keg @ BrewDog)

I love barley wine and I love chilli. But I don’t usually love chilli in my beer.

This was basically my perfect beer though, at least for certain occasions. And a miserable, cold wet and dark Manchester evening was definitely one of them.

It’s everything I want from a mango & chilli barleywine. Boozy and warming with a sweet fruity background and big chilli heat in the finish.

Being overly critical, it slightly lacks that distinctive barley wine flavour, but I loved it regardless.

In fact, I liked it so much that I went back for another straight after. I can’t remember the last time I did that.

BrewDog - B-Side: Mango & Habanero Barleywine
BrewDog – B-Side: Mango & Habanero Barleywine

Wylam – Double Jakehead IPA (Keg @ Port Street Beer House)

As I ordered a half of Wylam’s Double Jakehead IPA the barman reminded me of one of my favourite ever stand up routines.

“Keg or cask?” he asked. Because unusually the beer was available in both versions at the same time.

To me, though, that question is the equivalent of “Cake or death?”

I jest of course. If I was there for long enough I’d like to have tried both versions side by side.

But I did really enjoy the keg beer, all 12% of it. Although it’s perhaps a touch too sweet for an IPA, more like a barley wine really.

But I love them, as you know, so I wasn’t complaining.

Wylam - Double Jakehead IPA
Wylam – Double Jakehead IPA

Ballast Point Brewing Company – Calm Before The Storm (Bottle)

A really interesting beer from the recently declared ‘not-craft-anymore’ San Diego brewery.

It looks like an IPA but smells and tastes like vanilla coffee.

There’s huge coffee flavour with subtle vanilla but the most interesting thing is the pale colour and super creamy texture.

Ballast Point Brewing Company - Calm Before The Storm
Ballast Point Brewing Company – Calm Before The Storm

BrewDog – Abstrakt AB:19 (Keg @ BrewDog)

If you look up ‘complex beer’ in the dictionary there might well be a photo of AB:19 next to it.

A blend of two barrel-aged imperial saisons – one black, one red – which is then aged in rum barrels.

The result is a rich, complex 13% beauty. The almost port like flavours go from sweet raisin and treacle to smoky liquorice. It’s definitely not for everyone but I really enjoyed it.

To Øl – Black Malts & Body Salts (Bottle)

To Øl have become a regular feature of these posts over recent months.

They’ve been responsible for some of my favourite beers of the year and this 9.9% imperial black IPA is one of them.

Brewed with French press coffee it smells and tastes fantastic, like the best black coffee ever. It’s so drinkable it’s incredible to think it’s virtually 10%, To Øl are the master of hiding alcohol.

To Øl - Black Malts & Body Salts
To Øl – Black Malts & Body Salts

Modern Times – Mega Black House (Bottle Share)

The next 3 beers are from a bottle share with a group of friends.

This one came from Japan where quality American craft beer from the likes of Modern Times is much more readily available.

I loved Black House, the original version of this coffee stout. This imperial version is even better.

I’ve noticed a theme with Modern Times beers tasting great but lacking body and mouthfeel but there were no such concerns here. It’s thick, rich and ultra smooth.

Modern Times - Mega Black House
Modern Times – Mega Black House

Hoppin’ Frog Brewery – D.O.R.I.S. the Destroyer (Bottle Share)

Speaking of thick and rich, this Double Oatmeal Russian Imperial Stout (D.O.R.I.S, get it?) was as thick and as rich as they come.

As dark as oil too. Flavour wise it was almost like a big boozy chocolate milkshake. A really great imperial stout.

Hoppin' Frog Brewery - D.O.R.I.S. the Destroyer
Hoppin’ Frog Brewery – D.O.R.I.S. the Destroyer

Brasserie Cantillon – Iris (2014) (Bottle Share)

This was my contribution to the bottle share, and a pretty fabulous choice, if I do say so myself.

Iris is very limited due to only being brewed once a year, so I was lucky to get hold of a bottle.

It’s made with 50% fresh hops and barrel aged for two years before being fresh hopped for a second time. The result is an intense and complex yet somehow light and subtle beer.

It’s stunning really, simply perfect.

Everybody around the room was genuinely speechless whilst drinking it.

Cantillon - Iris
Cantillon – Iris

Magic Rock Brewing – Rhubarbarella (Keg @ Magic Rock Tap)

I’m a huge Magic Rock fan and their Tap in Huddersfield is one of my favourite places this year.

They seem to have massively stepped up production recently, particularly with interesting specials. None more so than this rhubarb braggot (mead/beer hybrid), brewed in collaboration with Against The Grain.

It has a really nice balance of sweet & sour, with a touch of spice, cinnamon perhaps, and a hint of vanilla.

I’d like a bit more rhubarb flavour but it’s a minor criticism of an otherwise lovely beer.

Magic Rock Brewing - Rhubarbarella
Magic Rock Brewing – Rhubarbarella

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