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  • November's Beer Club -Siren and the Mighty Mikeller

    I'm pretty sure that the following words have never been said in this order "Hmmm, those Mikeller beers, you know, I can take just them or leave them"...IT'S IMPOSSIBLE AS THEY ARE JUST AMAZING!

    If you've not come across Mikeller before then the synopsis of the story is that in 2006, Mikkel Borg Bjergsø was a Maths & Physics teacher with a fairly advanced home brew kit.  He and his friend Kristian Keller (a journalist) decided to take the experimentation to the next level and in the school lab started running a so called "physics experiment" using malt, hops and yeast.  Fast forwarding on a few years, they are now one of the most revered brewers on the planet.

    Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast Lovely on your Cornflakes!

    The beer that really gave them the big break was none other than the Beer Geek Breakfast - an oatmeal stout brewed with french press coffee.  It swiftly shot to number 1 on Ratebeer after being profiled in the Danish beer festival scene and it's one of the Mikeller beers i've put into this month's cases. If you've selected a preference for lighter beers, then don't worry, i've put an American Dream into your delivery instead, but i'd challenge the most ardent stout-hater to not like this beer.

     

    If you follow us on Twitter (@thebeerhawk) you'll probably be aware that there was a moment of utter joy a couple of weeks back when we received some of the latest developments from Siren Brewing.  Their 10 Finger Discount was one of my beers oftickle the year in 2013 and after making me cry by telling me that it wasn't planned in this year's brew cycle i'm delighted to say it's back and has some new friends in the form of 10-Toes Discount and a Tickle Monster.  They are all variations on a theme - a single hopped IPA aged on Cedar wood and brewed in collaboration with To Øl (like Mikeller another fabulous Danish Brewer), but it's the pungent pine aromas that mark this range out from the crowd and i'm delighted to include one of this range in eacc of this month's cases too.

    There's more of course to make up the rest of your 15, i've included the very seasonal Big Leaf Maple from Anchor Brewing, 2 of the newest Bootlegger series from London Fields and one of the newest from our friends at TicketyBrew a Rose Wheat and a new stout.  As ever I hope you enjoy the beers and i'll now go and sort you some beers for next month when you can be certain on or two Christmas ales will be gracing your case.

    Cheers,

     

    Chris

    Taster-in-Chief

  • The Great American Beer Festival Recap

    *Phew. I'm back. And partially recovered.

    I've been to a lot of beer festivals but the Great American Beer Festival is world class. If you've never had the chance to go and want to experience the quintessential celebration of beer, then start booking your flights to Denver, Colorado. There truly isn't another one better.

    Merely a fraction of what's to come. Merely a fraction of what's to come.

    My festival experience started with some really good advice from the locals: do not wait in the queue beforehand. In order to be towards the front, it's best to get there a good two hours before the doors open. That means waiting in line for two hours when you could otherwise be enjoying the great city of Denver. We decided to get in line just after the doors opened at about 5:40pm. After a very efficient entry process (which included ticket scan, ID check, and wristbands) we had glass-in-hand by 6:03. So all of those people that sacrificed two hours of their lives just to be first had about 15 minutes of bliss before they had to wait in all of the lines inside.

    Once inside, we were greeted by the beautiful sight of hundreds of America's best breweries that stretched throughout the conference center as far as the eye could see. A great GABF iPhone app helped me pick out some of the not-so-well-known breweries as the more than 400 breweries and thousands of beers made it necessary to do some research beforehand. I made a conscious decision to seek out some of smaller regional superstars as opposed to the juggernauts. Organized by region--Pacific, Great Lakes, Southwest, etc.--it was quite easy to navigate towards the breweries that I had pre-selected. Crowds of toga-clad men and Storm Troopers notwithstanding.

    I headed directly towards Wicked Weed Brewing of Asheville, North Carolina: a brewery I didn't know much of but had read a good bit about beforehand. As with all of the other breweries there, Wicked Weed had brought along with them about six of the beers that THEY wanted to show off to the crowds. Deciding to bestow upon them the prestigious award of "My First Beer at GABF, " I selected their Serenity 100% Brett Saison from choices ranging from a double red ale to an IPA.  It was a beauty; beautifully dry, funky and refreshing, it was a fantastic saison and one I'd routinely seek out.

    Wicked Weed Brewing--Winner of the "My First Beer at GABF" award. Wicked Weed Brewing--Winner of the "My First Beer at GABF" award.

    After enjoying my first beer, I made my way over to the Beer and Food Pavilion for one of the fest's most impressive offerings: a free 30-minute beer and food pairing courtesy of Green Flash Brewing's Director of Beer Education, Dave Adams, and Chef Lon from Denver's great ChoLon Bistro. A beautiful braised pork cheek with celeriac purée and Asian pear salad was paired with Green Flash's Flanders Drive--a gorgeous Flanders red with notes of vanilla, cherry, and sour earthiness that had been aged in a charred American oak bourbon barrel. The pairing was absolutely spot-on while the presentation of information to an obviously well-educated beer audience made it a fantastic experience. For free!

    Food

    I could go on and on about all of the great beers that I tried--from San Francisco's Almanac Beer Co.'s Farmer's Reserve Citrus Wild Ale to Russian River's Pliny the Elder to Firestone Walker's Opal Saison--but I'll save you from the jealousy inanity. You'd be safe in assuming that all of the beers were on form and with 1oz tastes it was so easy to make your way around testing as many beers as time allowed. The best part was that--for the most part--the brewers were behind the bars! From the great guys from Holy City Brewing Co. to the monks from New Mexico's Abbey Brewing Company (who made a GREAT dubbel, by the way) it's so great to have the opportunity to talk beer with the people behind it.

    I feel that the Great American Beer Festival is a fabulous celebration of all that is great on the American beer scene. Fun and laughter could be heard from every corner. Grown men dressed as babies. 15,000 people got along fabulously. One of the festival traditions is to mockingly yell at anyone who dropped their plastic tasting glass. Indeed, that happened a lot more regularly as the night went on. No more than 15 seconds would pass by without hearing a crowd from some corner of the center embarrassing those who dared drop their glass. I may have mocked one or two people myself. While white-knuckling my glass.

    Me and Hop Man! Me and Hop Man!

    Everything that could've been thought of, was thought of. Designated Drivers had their own lounge. The drunkest among us could make fools of themselves at the Silent Disco. Beer education was abound. While the lines to the toilets were no shorter than those of any other beer festival I had ever been to, the sense of conviviality and being a part of something great didn't make it seem so bad.

    --Maggie

    Goodbye GABF--until next time! Goodbye GABF--until next time!
  • Craft Beer in Northern Michigan, USA

    BeerOn this, the opening of the Great American Beer Festival, I want to tell you about something really exciting that is happening in my hometown area. Transforming itself from a sleepy region where hearty Michiganders partake in hunting, water sports, and shoveling snow for six months out of the year, Northern Michigan is helping solidify Michigan's position as a Top-5 beer state.

    I'm currently in the midst of a two-week holiday in my hometown of Manistee, Michigan to visit family and am finding--*ahem*--ample opportunity to "research" the area's beer scene. While Founders, Bell's and Short's is abound in every grocery store and convenience market from Ludington to Traverse City (and beyond) the true reach of Michigan's craft beer industry is found in the most surprising places.

    Northern Michigan's largest city is Traverse City: population 15,000. Brewery population: 14. Admittedly some of these breweries serve the local population by means of their brewpub and restaurant, yet a great many more are making interstate and international inroads. While Jolly Pumpkin, North Peak Brewing, Right Brain Brewery, and Bellaire's (a T.C. "suburb," if you will) Short's have been the area's main players for years, the newcomers of Bravo Zulu Brewing, Brewery Terra Firma, and Brewery Ferment are proof that the Michigan beer industry is working. And putting people to work.

    Continuing further south along Lake Michigan, the tiny town of Frankfort, Michigan boasts the fantastic Stormcloud Brewing Co. This Belgian-inspired brewery is producing great ales ranging from saisons to tequila-barrel-aged beauties to a Harvest Pale Ale (my favorite) using 24-hour-old hops sourced from the Empire Hops Farm--a farm that is located less than 30 miles away in Empire, Michigan. 14-month-old Stormcloud Brewing Co. is spearheading the Frankfort Beer Week and already has plans in the works to expand its brewing capacity to meet demand and to work their way into bottling their beers.

    Stormcloud Brewing Co. Stormcloud Brewing Co.

    With all of that said, none of the breweries in the world would succeed without the support of the surrounding communities. And that is no more evident than it is in Northern Michigan. Everywhere I go businesses proudly promote Michigan beer. Small convenience stores in the middle of nowhere have entire cases devoted to the state's great product while the camouflage-bedecked clerk can wax-lyrical about the newest single-hop pale ale. Coffee houses, like Brew pictured above, have a draft and bottle list of Michigan beers a country-mile long. The Lake Michigan beach town of Ludington gives us The Mitten Bar--voted one of the country's best beer bars--exclusively serving Michigan beers.

    BrewTC Brew in downtown Traverse City

    Michigan has been rife with unemployment for years and Detroit's famed auto industry is struggling. Craft beer, therefore, has not only been a welcome industry but a necessary one. The Michigan Brewers Guild has been the driving force behind that. A cohesive organization with an active presence in the state government, the Michigan Brewers Guild can proudly claim that it assisted in the creation of over 7,000 jobs with an economic impact of over $600,000,000 (£370,000,000) in the state.

    The Mitten Bar, Ludington The Mitten Bar, Ludington

    Craft beer in Michigan extends far beyond bottles and draft; many sister industries are enjoying extensive growth. Indeed, the geographic location of the state along the 45˚parallel allows for an exploding hop-growing industry while Michigan-grown barley is making a comeback. With a new Fermentation Science certification program beginning at Central Michigan University, scores of undergraduates are sure to make certain that Michigan's craft beer industry is here to stay.

    This is only part of the Michigan beers available at this tiny po-dunk party store. This is only part of the Michigan beers available at this tiny po-dunk party store.

    I am astounded and amazed at how quickly and deeply the industry has supported my fellow Michiganians. The images of a crumbling Detroit are replaced by a light similar to a Lake Michigan lighthouse guiding those to the relative safety of a craft beer harbor. So, it is with a sense of duty that I pack my suitcase full of t-shirts and stickers. And as I make my return back to the UK my suitcase clinks with the better part of 20 Michigan beers. Because I too, was brewed in Michigan.

    --Maggie

  • October's Beer Club featuring Bad Seed Brewery, Left Hand and Salopian

    It's always something of a mad rush in September as we try to cram in orders with the last of our target breweries before we turn our minds to our minds Christmas and all the beery fun that entails. It's just round the corner folks, but lets close our eyes and pretend otherwise! From our customer's point of view though that brings a bonanza of new beers on board and this September has been no different...

    Salopian Kinetic Even the bottles look cool!

    September 2014 has duly boosted our range and I have decided to profile three of our newest breweries in the October Beer Club; Bad Seed, Left Hand and Salopian. Frankly, Salopian has been on my "Get this brewery in immediately" list for a stupidly long time. I tried their Shropshire Gold in a bottle more than two years ago and was really taken with how they combined the clean and fresh mouthfeel with such a hoppy profile and squeezed it into a 3.8% recipe.

    About six months afterwards they started producing a stunning 330ml range of more niche seasonals as well, at which point I was hooked. These change fairly regularly but the current one Kinetic is a beautiful IPA.

    I was asked on Twitter this week, why I'd taken so long to get Salopian in and the honest answer is I've just no excuse; it's a fair cop. Brilliant beers like these are exactly what we should be getting in... sorry for the delay!

    Bad Seed Saison Bad seed, Good beer!

    Onward then to Left Hand Brewing and Bad Seed Brewery from Colorado and Yorkshire respectively and both of which Maggie, our Beer Sommelier has written blogs about separately, suffice to say both are producing beer that's a little bit out of the ordinary.

    I'm particularly taken with the quality of Bad Seed's Saison, which is a style still rare amongst British brewers. I like it so much that I'll be squeezing it into our Great British Beer Selection in time for gifts at Christmas! Yikes, I said the word again - best go switch my attention from all these summery IPAs and Saisons to selecting a mighty fine range of porters, stouts and seasonal beers for the festive season....and I promise not to be so late with those!

    Cheers
    Chris (Beer-Taster-In-Chief)

  • Bad Seed Brewery Has Rolled In!

    Bad Seed, good guys. That's right, some of the nicest guys with some of Yorkshire's nicest beer have finally found their way into our warehouse. And it's about time, considering that Bad Seed Brewery is one of our North Yorkshire neighbors!

    Lots of beery goodness is driving around in here... Lots of beery goodness is driving around in here...

    I first discovered Bad Seed probably not too long after their launch at the great Friends of Ham in Leeds. My first impression was "why is the price tag still hanging off of it?" because of the bottle's little tag-doohickey thing. Yet, opinions of the of-course-it-dunked-straight-into-my-beer device is not what I walked away with. Indeed, it was their deliciously light and spritzy Saison that made me want to know more about these Bad Seed guys. Fortunately, thanks to the best gig in the world, I now get to.

    The gregarious Chris and passionate James have taken their brand from strength to strength in the past year. They've collaborated with other great breweries (striking gold with the Northern Monk collab--Salted Lemon Wit), made solid showings at various beer festivals, and--beyond just expanding their range--they've experimented with sour beers and produced a fabulous Cherry Sour. Which sold out way too fast.

    BadSeedBoxes

    It's serendipity that the Saison from this Malton, North Yorkshire microbrewery has finally found its way into our range alongside some of their other great stuff: the smooth and rich Espresso Stout, refreshing and clean Hefeweizen, and the über-hoppy India Pale Ale. From a random brewery with a tag on its bottle to a passionate player on the beer-scene, I couldn't be happier that we've got some great beer from the nicest Bad Seeds there are. I can't wait to see what they come up with next.

    -Maggie

  • I'm Beer Sommelier Certified!

    Photo: The Beer Academy Photo: The Beer Academy

    On Friday, September 18th after several years of researching, studying, writing, and, ermm, drinking beer, I finally got my Beer Sommelier certification from the prestigious Beer Academy--an arm of the Institute of Brewing and Distilling--in London. I'm very proud to join the ranks of some of the best beer people out there  and super excited to be Beer Hawk's actual-on-piece-of-paper beer sommelier.

    Having no idea what to expect going in to the assessment, I have to admit that I was a bundle of nerves on the train down to London. I didn't know if I was going to have to taste a million beers and say which breweries they came from. Was I to brew a beer from grain to glass in two hours? Define "Craft?" Recite Voltaire?

    Without compromising the integrity of the test, I won't give all the beery details. I will say, however, that it wasn't as simple as sitting around and getting hammered--although that would've been awesome. I had to explain bits of my portfolio of evidence which was followed by tasting and style identification. Likewise, I had to show evidence of understanding where specific components of a beer came from. And some off-flavors made an appearance (delicious...) Pretty much it was a bit more than an hour and a half of beer-talk.

    Besides becoming a member of a relatively elite club, another good thing came out of the assessment: I found where my weakness is. While I'm quite good at beer pairing and understanding the brewing process, I'm a little weak in some of my style identification. While I was spot-on with a good number of them and in the ballpark of a handful of others, I completely blew it on a couple of them. I wish I could tell you how bad I blew it but let's just say I got a good mocking from my "dear friends" when I told them what I missed. They're so supportive.

    IBDSignDespite my doofus misstep--and never being able to look at a couple of these beers the same way again--the fact of the matter is, of course I'd make some mistakes. This is a lifelong learning process and one that doesn't stop with a shiny new beer sommelier badge. While I feel as though this accomplishment is a validation for all of the hard work I've done to date, it is also a passageway into the even bigger world of beer. And I'm so happy that I get to make the voyage--on my own, and with the great crew here at Beer Hawk! Cheers!

    -Maggie

    SommelierBadge

  • Ein Prosit! It's Oktoberfest!

    A good few years ago (hence why I look so young and vibrant) I made one of the ultimate beer-pilgrimages: Munich's Oktoberfest. So each year when the air starts getting crisp and the leaves start to change, I find myself reliving the memories of our trip to Germany. I crave those refreshing and smooth lagers. I want pretzels, and spaetzle, and sausages. I wonder what ever happened to my souvenir Ich Liebe Dich cookie that I wore around my neck. I didn't eat it and I'm pretty sure I wore it home on the plane like every good tourist should.

    That time is upon us again--it's Oktoberfest! A festival that started in 1810--initially as a celebration for Crown Prince Ludwig's wedding but had morphed over the years to include horse-racing and an autumn festival--has ultimately found its identity as a place to drink liters upon liters of deliciously drinkable Oktoberfest beer while being enchanted by smells of grilled meat, pretzels, and roughly six million people all trying to use the same toilets. There truly is nothing better.

    Here's me and a beautiful Märzen at Stuttgart's Volksfest. Here's me and a beautiful Märzen at Stuttgart's Volksfest.

    Oktoberfest lasts for roughly 16 days--this year is September 20th through October 5th--and is generally synonymous with the Bavarian city of Munich. While other cities, most notably Stuttgart, host their own versions called "Volksfests" it's only six breweries from Munich that can and do produce the famous Oktoberfest beers. If the same beer style is produced by a brewery outside of Munich, it's called a Märzen. Whatever you call it, it's a beer that was traditionally last brewed in March (or Märzen in German, get it?!) before it got too warm to do so during the summer. The deep-golden-coloured, bready, spicy, malty-sweet-yet-bitter refreshingly drinkable lager would find itself ready just in time for harvest. And now just in time for us to have one too many.

    My experience at Stuttgart was better than in Munich as there was a lot more space and it was easier to chat with those around you. We befriended some locals sitting next to us--and inexplicably (read: too many beers) paid for their beer all night. I'm pretty sure our evening ended with us dancing on the table singing "Sweet Home Alabama" like we were the original writers of the song.

    Before and After Before and After

    Munich or Stuttgart, the process is the same. Huge semi-permanent tents where thousands party late into the night. Thrill rides that I'm surprised the EU permits. Grilled food, fried food, sweet food. Beer. Men in lederhosen, women in dirndls. It's all that makes Oktoberfest great and why it's a must-go. Because, truth be told, nowhere else would you see a sturdy German woman with Popeye-arms carrying her bodyweight in steins of Oktoberfest lager. Or, if you're (or your spouse is) of German heritage, your family name on your very own beer tent.

    --Maggie

    The non-Americanised spelling of our family name. Nope. They didn't care. The non-Americanised spelling of our family name. Nope. They didn't care.

    Can't make it to Bavaria? Don't have Popeye arms? Then have your own Oktoberfest at home (don't forget the sausages and the pretzels!) with our very own The Magic of Oktoberfest mixed case. Prost!

  • Leeds International Beer Festival

    Leeds International Beer Festival is quickly becoming one of my favorite beer fests around. Having gone through the whole airplane/hotel/time-zone-change thing for beer festivals in the past, I love Leeds for its proximity to my house. Once again having the best boss in the world, I did a little happy dance as we made our way to the beer festival for the afternoon. Research, ya know?

    LeedsBrochure

    Only in its third year, the Leeds International Beer Festival is still in its infancy. Nevertheless, it seems as though it has worked its way through the inevitable growing-pains. There were some improvements employed this year over last year and I think the changes are all great choices. Turning the lights down low and having smaller bars in the main room made it easier to breathe in there. Granted, I was only there for the trade session where we pretty much had the place to ourselves but it just seemed to have a better flow.

    The US Craft Beer room was a big improvement over last year's, in my opinion. Not only were there lots of great beers from Stone, Sierra Nevada, Oskar Blues and the like, there were free video game consoles. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. For free. Play until your hand is shaped like a claw. For free. Score!

    LeedsFest

    Besides ventilation and old-school video games, I think that the biggest improvement to the festival--and what's going to put it on the map as one of the best beer festivals there are--is the beer selection. I feel that this festival seems to have a bit of a youthful edge to it (TMNT video games being a clear indicator of that) and the beers available reflect that better this year. There were some doozies from the likes of Siren Craft Brew, Tiny Rebel, and Ilkley Brewing. We also found some beauties like Little Things that Kill from Weird Beard Brew Co. and a dandelion and burdock porter from the great guys at London's Pressure Drop Brewing. Furthermore, exciting beers from Spain, Germany and Italy, among others, were welcome to flex their muscles on a big stage. With no "must be in cask" limitations, the patrons, the breweries, and the whole wide world win.

    LeedsBeerBeerWith great food coming from some of Leed's most creative restaurants, live music, DJ's and fantastic organization, the Leeds International Beer Festival is a proper celebration! This is no stuffy beer festival in a cramped hotel conference room. There is no room for "your beer must be like this and must be like that in order to be included." All are welcome and all are guaranteed to have a great time. I did. A little too much.

    --Maggie

  • Left Hand Brewing Company Has Arrived!

    Left Hand Brewing Co. Logo I'm stoked that Left Hand Brewing Company has come back to us here in the UK from the mile-high land of Colorado. I discovered Left Hand years ago because, as a proud Southpaw, I couldn't not try a brewery so aptly named.

    At the time I was only interested in very malt-forward beers as I hadn't yet grown to like the bitter aspect of beer. Imagine my pseudo-cool-girl-trying-to-impress-the-guys delight when a glistening Left Hand Milk Stout tap handle appeared and time stood still.

    I remember my first impression like it was yesterday. Creamy. Chocolate. Coffee. The smoothest stout that I had ever had. I didn't know what a "milk stout" was. Figured it had something to do with the creaminess or was a gimmick or they had a special affinity for the cows on the label. Nevertheless, for a long time I declared that my favorite style of beer was a stout simply because of my memory of Left Hand's Milk Stout.

    To this day I know Left Hand as one of those breweries that--if you didn't recognize or fancy anything else and were looking for something you'd trust--would perpetually (perennially even?!) be a solid choice. But with their innovative Nitro-series, seasonals, and limited editions alongside the perennial range they prove that they're anything but an ol'-standby. These guys are great!

    LeftHandBottles

    The Nitro series is really exciting. Left Hand, after years of trial-and-error, finally mastered the art of conditioning beer with nitrogen as opposed to carbon dioxide. And all this without the use of a widget (which are ubiquitous in the cans of a certain Dublin-based dark beer.) It had truly never been done before with success. The result is an exceptionally creamy beer with a beautiful head that looks like a milkshake. And you thought I was in love with the Milk Stout? Well, hel-lo Milk Stout Nitro. You gorgeous thing.

    I know I yammered on and on about Left Hand's stouts, but I've got to give a shoutout to their Stranger Pale Ale too: aromas of orange alongside a fresh hoppiness that comes across as florals and cut grass are mirrored in a flavor that is bolstered by biscuity and toasted malts. It's the champion of nuance--it's lovely!

    It goes without saying that I'm super excited that we at Beer Hawk--and only Beer Hawk--are now carrying a good chunk of Left Hand's Perennial Range. Our exclusive Left Hand mixed case is a great way to try all we've got but singles are available too. With this great American brewery back in the UK, I've been able to re-live "X" number of years ago. And I've been forcing people to give me left-handed high fives all week!

    --Maggie

    Left-Hand-Banner-Logo---Black-Outline-1

  • September's Beer Club

    There's a distinctly British theme to this month's beer club as we are featuring some of the finalists we discovered when we recently judged CAMRA's Champion Beer of Britain competition. Marble Brewery's Chocolate Marble was crowned Champion and in a total coincidence we'd already featured it in our July Beer Club.  As you'll know we don't repeat beers in the Club, so we've left that one out but have included some of the other contenders for the 2014 crown, including Burton Bridge, Neath Ales and Dunham Massey.

    rooie logoIt's not just about British beer though as there's also some treats from four Dutch masters!  The Netherlands is a hive of beery activity at the moment and September features Rooie Dop, De Molen, Kaapse Brouwers and La Trappe.  La Trappe and De Molen are regulars in our range but Rooie Dop and Kaapse are a tad harder to come by so we're very excited to include them this month too. Rooie Dop won RateBeer's Best New Brewery award last year and as a personal endorsement, my fridge is full of both the Chica Americana IPA and the Double IPA Ot the Explorer at the moment!

    We're also expecting a delivery from the tremendously exciting Left Hand Brewing Company from Colorado very soon and if that arrives in time we'll be popping their Milk Stout (96 on Rate Beer!) in as well!Hand Registered

    As ever, let us know what you think of the beers we've included this month and most of all if you discover something amazing, tell us and we'll see if we can add it to our range.

    Cheers

    Chris (Beer-Taster-In-Chief)

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