My #12BeersOfXmas – Day 12 – King of Clubs – Black Jack Beers (Manchester) – Strong Stout – 7.4% abv

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The second beer from this most excellent Manchester brewery comes in one shade. Black. As Tarmacadam. Black as a Johnny Cash shirt. Wearing a mocha coloured collar and boasting an aroma coated in bitter chocolate and soaked in Port wine. Oh dear, this is going to get messy!!!

Oh WOW! Unexpectedly, the first big flavour that assaults the tongue is a really strong whack of Espresso, nice and bitter. Full-bodied and Unctuous smooth, the second mouthful brings da booze! A deep port wine, warming and making me slide down my seat…. Oooohhhh!

Then the return of the chocolate, bitter and smooth leading you on to a dry hoppy finish.

A Big beer too finish a big year!

Wishing you all a very happy 2015!

Slainte!

My #12BeersOfXmas – Day 11 – Bunsen – Atom Beers – American Brown Ale -5% abv

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Deep brown beer with a ruby tinge and a light of white head. The initial aroma software fruit, chocolates and nutty, like a liquidised Snickers bar.

And that comes through in the first medium-bodied mouthful too. What initially tasted like raisin, morphed into chocolate and a full on nuttiness, with hazel & Brazil nuts. You got it, a fermented liquidised Cadbury Fruit & Nut chocolate bar!

There is one bit difference though. No Cadbury bar that I know of ever had a big hoppy finish! Drying the finish and landing a resinous punch in the 12th round! Just averting the judges score cards.

This, on draught, would be a proper Ale for a winters evening in front of a roaring pub fire. Shame Donkey isn’t around, he’d like this too!

My #12BeersOfXmas – Day 10 – Yankee Sandwich – The Wild Beer Co (Shepton Mallet, Somerset) – 4.7% abv

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(Back Home – Bye Bye Donkey!)

Firstly, a confession. I haven’t has all that much by Wild Beer. A fabulous Wildebeest last year, the odd – but incredibly refreshing – “Cool As A Cucumber” collab with Fyne Ales. But not much else. This was partly remedied following a little nip into Barbeerian last week. This being one of the purchases.

I mean….Peanut Butter…..Milk Stout…..Rich Chocolate…..My boxes are all ticked with THAT lot alone! (Although I will stop short of the recommended scoop of ice cream in the beer…..I’ll take your word for that one guys! So what’s it like?

Black (always a good start in my book!) with a thin cafe au lait coloured head which quickly dissipated leaving…darkness. The aroma on pouring was like a nutty ice cream….no need of an additional scoop then eh?

Medium bodied and quite sweet and creamy in the mouth, the oats helping this lovely texture. The initial flavour was a slight sourness from the lactose which faded and gave way to a very subtle sweet nuttiness which was sired by a saltyness, most pleasant, like salted caramel.

A more roasted character came through in the second mouthful whilst retaining the sweet, salty, nutty thing. The finish is rounded off with some rich dark chocolate, dry and satisfying. It works. I may sound like an odd combo for a beer, but it is more subtle than it sounds. And it works!

My #12BeersOfXmas – Day 9 – FullHouse Tripel IPA (Pinot Noir Barrel Aged) – Black Jack Beers (Manchester) – 10% abv – Barbeerian (Prestwich, Manchester)

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Black Jack have been brewing great beer since 2012 just down the hill from The Marble Arch, but have only started bottling in the last month or so. They’ve obviously been planning for a while though as this beer has been aged for 6 months in an oak Pinot Noir barrel. The beers I’ve had so far have been excellent from Rob and the guys, but this – in strength – is on a whole new level!

Almost amber and slightly hazy with a lasting white soft foamy head, there is quite a complex aroma to this beast. It’s fruity yes, with banana, grape some peach and mandarin too. There is also a yeasty hit too with what smells like a little clove. Like I said, there’s a lot going on here!

Some of those flavours transfer to the mouth too. Yes there’s some banana, a little clove and some orange fruit. This is one hell of a full-bodied beer, a big creamy smooth mouthful, with all that fruitiness followed by more than a hint of that red wine oaky cask. The first mouthful had what I initially thought was an alcohol burn, but the second mouthful onwards reveal just the big fruitiness, the oak and a quite sudden dry sticky hop finish with a yeasty funk in there too. Very low bitterness and none of the tannic astringency that I was expecting from a red wine cask.

This is simply a beautiful, big fruity boozy hit of a beer. Up there with the best that I’ve had from Black Jack. And that is praise indeed!

And Donkey is wobbling. He LOVED it – a bit TOO much if you ask me!

My #12BeersOfXmas – Day 8 – Rule Of Thirds – Siren Craft Brew (Berkhampsted)/Beavertown Brewing (hackney)/Magic Rock Brew Co (Hudderfield) – 6.4% abv – IPA – from Barbeerian (Whitefield)

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Siren Craft, Beavertown, Magic Rock. Reads like a Who’s Who of craft brewing doesn’t it? Hell, 2 of these were voted 2nd best new brewery IN THE WORLD in Ratebeer rankings! This. Is. Pedigree. (No, not the Marstons version!) But does the beer live up to all the craft hype I’ve been hearing?

I threw the kitchen sink into this one. Well. I poured in the sediment anyway! This resulted in a (London) Murky deep gold with a persistent white head and an aroma…..WOW! Booming with mango juices. This might JUST cut it!

PARTY TIME! It’s like they’ve taken a third of a litre of tropical fruit juice and fermented it! Mango, peach, passion fruit, sweet baby Jesus and the orphans is this GOOD! Massively fruity on first sip (and this is NOT a glugger!), this is a full-bodied tropical fruit Mardi Gras that dances around the mouth – drunkenly – before disgorging it’s resinous pine payload, drying the tongue and palate.

With all of the hype, I wondered if it was overrated, as some beers – in my experience (and opinion) have been, but – in this case – absolutely NOT! An absolute beauty of a UK IPA which stands with all of the Stones, Odell etc.

I rather liked it. (As did Donkey!)

My #12BeersOfXmas – Day 7 – PIP – First Chop Brewing Arm / Shindigger Brewing (Salford, Manchester) – 6.3% abv – Saison

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I was chuffed to bits to have this on cask at the Independent Salford Beer Festival. To say that it went down well would be doing it a disservice. It was magnificent. Fruity, yeasty and – for the strength – hugely refreshing. A big hit.

I then had it on keg at a Shindigger MTB in Chorlton and the additional carbonation lifted it a touch I thought. I’m a big fan of both Rik Garner (First Chop) and the nomadic Paul & George so I really looked forward to getting this in bottle which – fortunately – was released just in time for the “12Beers”

Well, it loses nothing in the bottling!

Massively fruity on the nose, as you would expect from a beer containing both Citra & Sorachi Ace hops, with fields of sharp grapefruit flying out of the hazy golden glassful with a little bitter lemon edge to it.

In the mouth? Oh my! Medium bodied and just Oh. So. Fruity. Masses of grapefruit hit the mouth initially followed by that lemon sharpness, there but less pronounced, a proper sharp fruity gobfull. This is followed by a distinct resinous pine hit which gradually yields to a peppery, yeasty, funky finish. This. Is. A. Proper. Beer.

Oh boy is this good! A proper #Beergasm! Just wish I’d bought a shit ton more!

Donkey likes it!

My #12BeersOfXmas – Day 6 – Coconut, Macadamia and Lime Porter – Allgates Brewery (Wigan) – 4.6% abv – Porter – Direct from the Brewers

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I had only had one mini cask (of ANY beer) before this – which was quite appalling – so I approached the opening of this with a little trepidation. All the more so as this was one of a very limited test release mini cask for a new beer. But I love Allgates beers, so the risk was somewhat lessened.

Black with a short lasting mocha coloured head and an aroma with the sweetness and creamy nose from the coconut & Macadamia.

Medium-bodied, with the amount of Macadamia and toasted coconut that went into this, it’s no surprise that there is a creamy nuttiness to this.. It is a lovely mouthful! That creamy nuttiness is the dominant flavour initially with a little subtle citrus coming in just before a surprising bitterness that I wasn’t expecting, but was a perfect porter finish.

Those nuts carry on through to a lingering nutty aftertaste. An excellent Porter that I can’t wait to try on cask.

My #12BeersOfXmas – Day 5 – Hacienda – Weird Beard Brew Co – 6.9% abv – Black Saison

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Whilst most of my recent reviews tend to be of Northern Beers (because there are non finer!), I do have a soft spot for Weird Beard, a brewery from whom I’m yet to have a duff beer. So, having also been a member of the “world famous” Hacienda nightclub back in the early 80s, I just had to. Didn’t I?

We’re back on a dark tip here, This is as black as the blackest of coal miners thoughts. It’s black, OK? It also has a head the colour of the froth on a cappuccino giving up tempting (to me!) aromas that have a touch of licorice and that yeasty funk as well as a hint of orange. This is merely to get my saliva glands pumping!

Oh me, oh my! Quite light feeling for the strength, the first flavour is massively bitter chocolate coated licorice sticks! (No, that’s NOT a beery euphemism!). My this is a dark delight and no mistake! There is an unmistakeble pepperiness to this. Quite stunning following the choc and licorice, then, after the yeasty spice, there is a definite marmalade note. This beer ticks more boxes than I have actually got!

Another beery home run from Hanwell! Roll on Day 6!

And yes. Donkey loved it too!!!

My #12BeersOfXmas – Day 4 – Harvest Ale – JW Lees Brewery (Middleton, Manchester) – Strong Ale – 11.5%abv

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A legendary Manchester annual beer that I had never tried. I have friends (OK – One friend. Well, The Arch-Nemesis) who absolutely swears by it, so when I saw bottles at Booths recently, I just HAD to!

A crystal clear deep ruby coloured beer (almost mahogany) with a lasting off white head and a very winey boozy aroma full of caramelised banana, whisky macerated vine fruits, oak, deep caramel and peppery hop. Now to taste the legend.

Unsurprisingly, this is sweet. That is the first thing that hits the tongue. Sweet like juicy raisins soaked in rum. That caramelised banana makes it through as well. This is definitely a post meal dessert beer.

The thing is, this is hugely complex, so much so that my limited vocabulary doesn’t do it justice. I would have said that this kind of beer wasn’t my thing. Strong Barley Wine type beers. Until I drank this.

There are stewed vine fruits, oranges, banana again kind of smothered in a light peaty whisky sauce. Quite a spicy little finish too. This is most certainly not a beer too be trifled with (No pun intended – for a change!) Needless to say, this is hugely warming as it slides down.

I will finish, by saying that if this label had a Stars and Stripes on the front, some of the “Crafterati” (How I wish that I had coined that term!) would be reaching for the post-beergasm kleenex. But it hasn’t. It’s from Middleton, Greater Manchester. So it will stay in the shadows. Go figure.

I’ll just have to reach for mine.

My #12BeersOfXmas – Day 3 – Baltic Triangle IPA – Wapping Brewery (Liverpool) – 7.2%abv

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Brewed in the basement of the historic Baltic Fleet pub facing what was the southern part of Liverpool’s sprawling docks, this is a deep deep golden beer with a lasting lacy white head and an enormous fruity aroma with lashings of sticky orange, sweet peach and a bit of Mango. Oh my!

Oh WOW!!! This is a big IPA and no mistake! A market stall full of citrus fruit hits the tongue and dances a limbo on its way to the throat. This Full-bodied beer then let’s loose a serious whack of resinous sticky pine in a finish remarkably low on bitterness, making this a really smooth and easy to drink beer. Hardly a session beer, but this is a bloody cracker of an IPA!

I’m off for some vintage cheddar to go with this!!!