Friday, 30 November 2012

Nøgne Ø Havrestout

Nøgne Ø Havrestout
NøgneØ are at the forefront of craft brewing in Norway. Their name translates as 'naked island' and is apparently lifted from an Ibsen quote about bleak bare islands with no vegetation.

What is clear about Nøgne Ø is that they are increasingly making waves in the UK for their exciting and flavoursome beers. Another interesting point about the company is that they are also Norway's only producer of sake.

I'd heard good thing's about 'Havrestout' before getting my hands on it. It's a sweet oatmeal stout produced in a country that isn't normally associated with dark beers. With this beer, Nøgne Ø have tried to produce a dark ale for the palates of drinkers not normally accustomed to this style.

As you pop the gap, you're greeted with a deep almost musky aroma with a bitter hint of coffee underpinned by a distinct sweetness. It pours a pitch black colour with a two finger dark brown head.

Flavour-wise, Havrestout is imbued with bitter dark chocolate and coffee notes that then give way to a distinctive sweetness from the malts. The mouthfeel is lighter than many stouts and the sweetness helps give the beer an overall accessibility that some stouts lack.

Havrestout has some richness, a real depth of flavour with the chewy malts ever present and a bitter finish provided by the hops. Nøgne Ø have definitely succeeded in producing a stout with more accessibility for people who are more accustomed to drinking lighter beers.

A number of craft beer bars and online stockists currently have their beers and they have recently been guests at the Brewdog bars too. Nøgne Ø are positioning themselves right at the heart of innovation in the international craft beer scene. Havrestout is an excellent beer and perfect for drinking in winter.

Now, in case you're wondering how to pronounce that name - here's a quick video from their head brewer who explains all...

Saturday, 24 November 2012

The Kernel IPA and Tiny Rebel Hadouken

The Kernel's IPA and Tiny Rebel's Hadouken
After a long a tiring day today, I decided to grab a couple of decent beers. I wanted something punchy in the form of an IPA with a big, assertive hit of American hops.

I dropped into the Euston Tap for a quick pint of Magic Rock's wonderful pale ale High Wire, before heading to bar's fridges which are a veritable Aladdin's cave for hop heads. Amongst the superb selection of bottled beers, two stood out to me; an IPA from South London's hugely popular microbrewery The Kernel and Tiny Rebel's Hadouken. 

First up, The Kernel...

Kernel IPA – Citra, Columbus, Summit
7.4% ABV

I'd had an IPA from The Kernel before, though not likely this one. They have no core range, meaning that everything is produced in limited batches before being packaged in beautifully minimal bottles with hand stamped labels. The simplicity and authenticity of the presentation just invites you in.

The Kernel's IPA - made with Citra, Columbus and Summit hops
It pours a cloudy coppery pale orange with a small head.  As soon as the cap is popped, the strong citrus and tropical fruit aromas leap out. The immediate taste of the beer matches the nose, with a characteristic tang of lemon and a hint of mango and passion fruit.

The fruity notes begin to give way to a grassy, resiny and almost floral tang that comes from the large quantity of high alpha Columbus and Summit hops in the beer.

It has a spicy, tangy zing to it that dies back to leave you with a bitter finish. A beer of this sort is of course all about the hops, but it does have balance too. A slight sweetness comes through from the malt prior to the bitterness at the end. Having an ABV of 7.4%, this beer has a boozy warmth that underpins the complexity of the flavours coming from the three hop strains.

This is a text book example of what The Kernel do brilliantly; producing innovative, exciting and complex beers that leave you with a thirst for more.

It's no wonder that this small London brewery are making such a name for themselves with their IPAs, pales and dark beers. If you're in London of a Saturday, why not drop into their brewery and buy their beers direct?

Tiny Rebel - Hadouken
7.4% ABV

Hadouken comes from the fantastic Newport based brewery Tiny Rebel. Anyone who was playing computer games in the early 90s will know that this beer draws its name from a move in Street Fighter. It's a fitting name too as this is a gobby young upstart of an IPA. If The Kernal's packaging and presentation is minimal and sophisticated, this is the opposite. Funky cartoons adorn the scarlet label helping create an instant impression even before you pop the cap.

Hadouken is an American style IPA which also has an ABV of 7.4%. It pours a much deeper colour than The Kernel. It is of course still pale but with more of a translucency and a reddish gold tint.

Immediately the aroma has a floral edge and contains some of the citrus tang that you would hope for. However this beer certainly has a character all of its own. Where some American style IPAs can be unbalanced and purely about showcasing the hops, this has a real depth of flavour and a rounded full-bodied character.
Tiny Rebel - Hadouken

The bold tones of peach, passion fruit and the hop bitterness are underpinned by the ever present malts which help give this IPA real character. Like with The Kernel, the 7.4% ABV provides a boozy warmth that then subsides, leaving you with a dry finish.

This is a high octane beer but with body and soul to match its upfront punchy flavours.

Drinking these two beer next to each other really highlights how the US influence is helping UK breweries achieve some remarkable things. Both of these beers contain 3 varies of American hops and the same amount of alcohol but their mouthfeel and overall flavour profile, whilst having some similarities are very different.

To me, Tiny Rebel and the Kernel are prime examples of what is exciting about the UK beer scene at the moment. Both breweries are pretty new, having been founded within the last three years. It certainly will be interesting to see the direction that they go in the coming years. I personally can't wait to try more new releases in the future from the pair of them.

Both beers are available from Ales by Mail.

If you're in Newport at any point – why not check out Tiny Rebel's brewery bar?

Welcome to The Hoptimist

This is just a quick post to welcome you to my new blog. I've been interested in beer and writing for years but now I'm bringing the two together, throwing my hat into the ring and joining the world of beer blogging!

Over the last couple of years, I've written arts reviews and other posts for a number of websites including Londonist, Remote Goat and Huffington Post. It feels like the right time to combine my love of writing  with my love of beer. It's a great time to be a hop-head as craft breweries in the UK, Europe and the USA continue to push boundaries and create awesome new takes on classic beer styles. 

Exciting developments in brewing aren't just confined the the world of 'craft' beer of course, many of the UK's regional breweries such as Shepherd Neame, Adnams and Black Sheep are looking back at their history and tradition and combining it with forward thinking ideas to bring out excellent limited edition beers. 

I already have many ideas for beery blog-posts brewing up in the depths of my mind. Please pop back soon for reviews of some excellent beers and chat about stuff that I find exciting in the world of beer and brewing.