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The Best Beer I Drank In...

The Best Beers I Drank In… OCTOBER 2015

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I’ve not counted but I almost certainly drank more beers in October 2015 than any other month of my life.

Mainly because it was festival season; the month started with three days at Indy Man Beer Con and ended with two days at Salford Independent Beer Festival. There was also Bolton beer festival in between along with BrewDog’s CollabFest, and somehow lots of great drinking at home too…

Wild Beer / Firestone Walker – Violet Underground (Bottle)

Despite drinking more than 25 beers at this years Rainbow Project launch, I only had one of the actual Rainbow beers. Instead, I bought a box so I could enjoy them later.

Rainbow Project 2015
Rainbow Project 2015

Most were good but the ‘Violet’ beer, a collaboration between Wild and Firestone Walker stood out head and shoulders above the rest.

A blend of ‘Somerset Wild’ and various Firestone Walker sours from their cask store. With proprietary yeast from both breweries, fruit from California and French violet petals added before being left to mature for over 6 months.

The resulting beer was light, refreshing and massively fruity with a sharp sourness and subtle funkiness.

Wild Beer / Firestone Walker - Violet Underground
Wild Beer / Firestone Walker – Violet Underground

To Øl – Dangerously Close To Stupid (Bottle)

Some beers just defy their ABV and this is perhaps the ultimate example, the name is so apt.

A 9.3% triple IPA that nobody would guess was above 5% in a blind taste test, myself included.

It’s stupidly drinkable. Massively hopped with Citra and Centennial to give huge tropical flavour. I could quite literally drink pints of this on a hot summers day. Dangerous stuff in the wrong hands.

To Øl - Dangerously Close To Stupid
To Øl – Dangerously Close To Stupid

Burning Sky Brewery – Cuvée (Keg @ IMBC)

A blend of their chardonnay barrel aged ‘Saison a la Provision’ and a Belgian lambic.

Light and fruity with a slight sweetness, some bitterness and subtle sourness. It’s very delicate and well balanced with a good body and soft carbonation.

Burning Sky - Cuvée
Burning Sky – Cuvée

Lervig – 1349 Black Ale (Bourbon) (Keg @ IMBC)

I’m not generally a fan of Lervig  but this was one of the highlights of many beers drank at Indy Man. Perhaps it’s the influence of American ‘Surly Brewing’ with whom they collaborated.

A thick and rich 13.5% black ale, aged in bourbon barrels. Almost too sweet for me but not quite, with flavours of dark fruit, chocolate, vanilla and bourbon. It’s obviously boozy but not as much as you’d expect given the ABV.

Põhjala – Taara Avita! (Keg @ IMBC)

I started at the top with my introduction to Estonian beer.

A fantastic 10.8% imperial stout that’s aged for 6 months in rum barrels.

Rich and complex but supremely smooth and utterly drinkable. Flavours are roasted malts, chocolate and dark fruits with a warming boozy finish from the rum.

Pohjala - Taara Avita
Pohjala – Taara Avita

Tilquin – Oude Mûre Tilquin à L’Ancienne (Bottle @ IMBC)

This classic lambic is made by fermenting fresh blackberries. It’s only brewed once a year and limited to around 5,000 bottles.

There were tasting sessions throughout this year’s Indy Man festival with owner and head brewer/blender, Pierre.

Like everything else at Indy Man, it was overpriced so I didn’t bother attending. Instead, we haggled with Pierre and he kindly agreed to give us a taste. Only a small sample but it was so good I just had to include it.

A vivid clear purple; fruity, slightly sweet with subtle Belgian funk and quite dry. It’s complex but weirdly drinkable. A true classic, for a reason.

Fallen Brewing – Big Raspberry Dog Chew (Keg @ BrewDog)

I tried around 12 of this years CollabFest beers at BrewDog, most were decent, but this collaboration with BrewDog Glasgow was the best of the lot.

A  10% raspberry salted caramel imperial milk stout. I feared it’d be too sweet, but it wasn’t, not for a milk stout anyway.

With the sweet berry fruitiness of the added fresh raspberry juice, big chocolate notes of the stout and its rich creaminess it was not dissimilar to a chocolate and raspberry ripple ice cream.

I’d never heard of Fallen, but I’ll definitely be looking out for them in future.

Fallen Brewing - Big Raspberry Dog Chew
Fallen Brewing – Big Raspberry Dog Chew

Northern Alchemy – Grapefruit And Rosemary Sour (Keg at The Gaslamp)

Sometimes you have the right beer at exactly the right time.

It’s possible I could have this again and not enjoy it as much but as my first after a cask only beer festival it was exactly what I needed.

Utterly refreshing grapefruit sour with an intriguing herbal vibe from the rosemary. Not a combination I’d ever have expected to work but it really did.

Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits – Pumpkin Down (Bottle)

After trying to embrace pumpkin beers in autumn for the past couple of years, I’ve finally accepted that I just don’t really like them.

I only had a couple this year but I genuinely liked this one.

It works because the base is a rich and dark Scotch ale which is far better suited to the pumpkin and spices than lighter beers usually used. Even more importantly, the spices were fairly subtle and well balanced too.

Ballast Point - Pumpkin Down
Ballast Point – Pumpkin Down

BrewDog – Born To Die 27.11.2015 (Keg @ BrewDog)

The previous batch of Born To Die is a definite beer of the year contender. This new version uses the same recipe but the original is perhaps slightly better. It’s still a fantastic imperial IPA though.

A beautiful balance of piney, resinous malts and fruity hops with a big but well-rounded bitterness. Very subtle and incredibly easy drinking for 8.5%.

BrewDog - Born To Die 27.11.2015
BrewDog – Born To Die 27.11.2015

Marble Beers – Howgate & Kemp (Cask @ Independent Salford Beer Festival)

Not many cask beers make these lists but that’s all there was at Salford Beer Festival. 45 of them in fact and this was one of the best.

Even served from gravity, which it usually terrible for beer, it stood out above most of the others that were pulled from hand pumps.

It’s nothing fancy, just a really good pale. Slightly spicy and grassy with a fruity edge from New Zealand hops, including Nelson Sauvin. It has that distinctive Marble thickness and richness that many of the other beers at the festival lacked.

Marble - Howgate & Kemp
Marble – Howgate & Kemp

Quantum – Stock Ale (Cask @ Port Street Beer House)

And like the proverbial bus along comes another!

This was described as a barleywine on the board at Port Street but it’s not. Quantum themselves described it as a ‘stock ale’ which is like a British old/strong ale.

I imagine it started life tasting similar to a barley wine but was then barrel aged with added Brettanomyces.

The end result is intriguingly complex, a sweet background  – but not barley wine level sweetness – with earthy notes and then the distinctive sour/funky brett characteristics.

Quantum - Stock Ale
Quantum – Stock Ale

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