Ever had that feeling?
You know the one….when you look across a crowded room….you see someone and they look like the noose is about to be put around their neck. That very moment when the legendary “fight or flight” instinct kicks in. That moment when you think that that person is actually going to shit himself.
Well, last night, at approximately 18:15, that person was Rob Hamilton, the brewer / overlord at Black Jack Beers. You knew that he was cacking it, by his choice of drink.
“Magic Rock Human Cannonball to steady the nerves sir?” (I could almost hear Jamie saying it!)
A sellout MTB at Port Street is probably NOT the place to commence your public speaking career. However, swift gulp of Huddersfields’ finest and – following a gentle introduction by Jamie – he was off!
“Hi, I’m Rob from Blackjack!”
Rob, from Wrecsam, worked at Marble (both brewery and pub) for a number of years and, in his own words in 2012 he “needed a change of scene, being not very good at doing what I’m told”, so, he acquired Marble’s 4.5 Bbl brewkit, located premises on Gould St, and via begging and borrowing set off on his journey.
He quickly picked up plaudits from fellow brewers and drinkers and started to gain a devoted following (my words, not his!) Not bad for a bloke who had no ambition to brew!
Rob gave us a quick chat about how the brewery started out. Given the progress he has made, he is a very modest chap indeed! He had sheets of paper and pens placed on tables to help him with “tasting notes” because, in his words he’s “very bad at describing beers…..can’t do the waffling bit…….What’s this beer like? It’s pale, it’s hoppy!” Judging by the laughter, this was a comedy masterclass. He had his audience eating out of his hand!
The first beer sampled was The Pokies, a new pale ale at 3.6% made with all NZ hops (Pacific Gem, Pacific Jade and Waikatu), the first time he’s done this. (All BJ beers have gambling related names, this one was from the NZ word used for a slot machine!).
(The two cask offerings – The Pokies and Aces High IPA)
I didn’t have one of Rob’s sheets of paper, but for me, The Pokies was nice and pale, gently hoppy and – as Rob rightly said – a nice sessionable beer. Strangely, I thought it reminded me slightly of Harviestoun Schiehallion, which though it’s actually a lager, is (for anyone who knows me) a hell of a compliment. Pale, refreshing with a gentle fruity hop character. There! “Waffling” over!
(And so say all of us!)
We moved on to one of the kegged offerings – Lager at 5.2%. No gambling reference name here! Or was making a Lager the actual gamble? Made with Lager & Cara malts with Magnum and Hersbrucker/Saaz hops this beer was fermented over 9 or 10 days at a cool temperature (that’s a lot of capacity taken up!). Rob thought it came out “quite well”.
For me, it was a clean smooth tasting beer, fruity (from the Saaz?) with a lightly peachy touch in the dry finish. A really nice beer and one which I heard is (for a brief period) also available in cask condition. More on that later! (Rob thought it cold do with being slightly drier. Each to their own, but it was fine by me as it was.)
Aces High IPA at 5.5%. This was the next beer and the final of the two cask conditioned offerings. Golden with an abundant citrus hop aroma (apricot & grapefruit). Nice grainy malt overlaid with citrus hops in the mouth. Far too easy drinking for a 5.5% abv beer and dangerously so! Slightly warmer than The Pokies in the glass (Jamie would probably say that my mouth was too cold!)
Next – Pacific Jade (single hop) IPA at 5.2% – Rob on hops “If they let me have something good, I generally bang it in!” (I do love a bit of self-deprecation!)
Made with his standard 5kg of hops, being kegged, it was a bit colder than I would like but I got a bit of a fruity and malt toffee aroma. Smooth in the mouth and was initially quite fruity and dry. A bit maltier toward the end. Not as hoppy and assertive as I was expecting. Would like to see a casked version though.
(The keg selection for this evening)
Finally, we came to the last beer for tasting. The King of Clubs Stout. Brewed in December 2012 and maturing in keg for 6 months. This elicited a “Whoo” from the floor! 6 different hop varieties, including Bramling Cross (which got a cheer!). The strongest Stout Rob can normally brew “without messing around too much”. This was rich, dark as sin and smelling bloody gorgeous! A sweet and spicy dark chocolate nose and very roasty. BANG! Red winey hints in the mouth, sweet coffee roast whilst still finishing quite dry. An unctuous vinous mouthful of dark joy. I like it anyway! (What I would do for a whisky barrel aged version next year???)
Rob invited people to chat with him and “show themselves”. So I did. I don’t know why he was so nervous, he did a great job! My kind of bloke. Funny, doesn’t take himself too seriously and makes bloody good beer!
This is only the second “Meet The Brewer” I’ve been to. And it’s the second that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. If you’ve never been to one, and you want to know more about how great beer is made, you really should! Really well put together by Jamie and the guys at Port Street, an engaging and frequently hilarious presentation by Mr Hamilton and superb beer. What’s not to like?
Another really nice element for me personally was the chance to have a bit of a chat with a few people. Jay Krause, Rob himself, Jamie and some of the local Home Brewers group. Really enjoyed chatting. I won’t be so reticent next time. Good people all!
The next MTB features Toccalmatto from Italy. £15 a ticket. I saw a few flying out whilst I was at the bar. So if you fancy it, you’d better be quick!
Now I had a plan. But first, time for a new beer on cask for me. Rouge from Summer Wine. Deep red with a huge and spicy citrus hop aroma. Really fruity and dry in the mouth. Nice and bitter. A nice end to my stay at Port Street. Cheers to Jamie for my tasting glass! (Yes, it got home in one piece!!!)
Now. The plan. I’d heard a whisper that the cask conditioned version of Black Jacks’ Lager may have been on at Bar Fringe. A quick tweet to that ‘force of nature’, Banana Charlie revealed that it was. “Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s off to drink we go!”
(Indeed she does!)
The reason for being here (aside from being a great bar) was this
(Cask Conditioned – Black Jack Lager!)
I don’t know enough about brewing to understand why, but this is a very fruity lager. And I could certainly drink more of it! Smooth, fruity (touch of the hedgerow?). Yum! With beer like this, I don’t know why we don’t see more cask lager about.
(If you mess with the Landlady, she shrinks your head and plasters it into the wall. It’s true I tell you!)
Right then. Bit of a break for a week or so whilst the finances recover. Possibly pop in to Yorkshire Ales and Bierhuis over that there hill this weekend. I’ll have some nice beers to tell you ALL about, won’t I? Not to mention the chance to watch some masters at work, making a new beer at Allgates next month. An Oatmeal Stout too. (I’m too old to feel THIS excited!)
On that note……’til next time.