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Wild Beer at Wapping Wharf, Units 6-8 Gaol Ferry Steps Bristol BS1 5WE 01172395693. Meal for two (with drinks): £45
Bristol has always been one of my favourite places in the UK. I hold fond memories of the city from my university days, in which we would often take the train from Exeter and embark on an epic pub crawl, catching the last train back with empty pockets and muddled heads. Returning to the city last week, I decided to head over to the previously unexplored Wapping Wharf for lunch. Stopping by at Wild Beer Co’s restaurant, which opened on the harbour in the summer of 2016, seemed like the only sensible choice.
The bar-come-restaurant is just one of several trendy new foodie hangouts that have sprung up as part of the redevelopment of the Wapping Wharf quarter. The bar is located inside a large, L-shaped, glass-fronted building facing out over the harbour, a stone's throw from the reconstruction of John Cabot's famous ship The Matthew. A gigantic mural painting depicting what looks like a sloth poseidon and a pirate rooster riding a fish adorns the back wall, whilst an open-view kitchen wafts delicious smells across the bar.
The food offering reflects the bar's nautical theme, with a variety of fish-based dishes being provided by Hook Restaurants, a Dublin-based start up that also have a restaurant in Camden Town. Fish & Chips are served in either crispy Japanese panko breadcrumbs or Tempura batter and accompanied by seaweed salted chips, whilst there are also Chicken and vegetarian options for those not so seafood inclined. The prices are very reasonable, with mains ranging between £10-12 and sides/snacks from £3 and up. There is no table service, however, so orders have to be made when buying drinks at the bar.
And what of the bar? It boasts an impressive twenty two draught lines, and easily double that number of canned and bottled beers. Around half of the keg selection is Wild Beer Co beers, whilst the other half is a mixture of the traditional (Titanic Porter) and the more obscure (Mad Hatter Liverpool Tart). Prices are again very agreeable, ranging from £2.50 to around £5 for a third, half or two-thirds of a pint. I pay £2.80 for two-thirds of Sleeping Lemons, Wild Beer Co's 3.6 per cent Gose, brewed with preserved lemons. The wine and spirits list is none too shabby either, and I'm particularly tempted by the prospect of the Sleeping Lemons Gin, distilled in collaboration with Psychopomp micro-distillery, but refrain out of sympathy for my companion who has to drive us home later.
Casting our eyes to the menu, I'm caught by the mug of clams cooked in Sleeping Lemons, from the specials menu (£6) but instead opt for the panko fish tacos (£11). My companion plays it safe and goes for the classic panko fish & chips with homemade tartare sauce.
After a short 15 minute or so wait, our food arrives. The catch of the day is coley, a sustainable cod substitute. The tacos are just two in number (a little disappointing), but are packed full of red cabbage, salsa and chipotle and served with a generous portion of seaweed salted chips. The panko breadcrumbs are heavenly, bringing a real crispy bite to the soft, white fish, whilst the chipotle adds a hearty kick of spice. The chips are a little on the cold side, and could have done with being a little crispier in my opinion, but are still pleasant when dipped in the fiery chipotle sauce. My companion's fish tastes a little drab in comparison with my lively tacos, but is certainly far better than your average chip-shop offering. The zesty, clean and tart Sleeping Lemons is a perfect foil for the fishy dishes, and I could easily have sunk several more and happily watched the world outside go by.
The desert menu isn't exactly what you would call extensive, with Salted Caramel Millionaire Tart (£5) being the only option at present. We decide against having one, but I'm reliably informed that it is an extravagantly rich but delightful after-dinner treat.
On the whole, I was pretty impressed with Wild Beer Co's set up at Wapping Wharf. The tacos were absolutely sublime and the beer selection was good enough to stand up to the likes of the nearby Small Bar and Famous Royal Navy Volunteer. It's a great place to stop off on a sunny day for an extravagant lunch or early dinner, and I can imagine it is going to make an killing come this summer.
A couple of months ago, I was fortunate enough to receive some cans from Fallen brewery in Scotland. The Stirlingshire-based brewery have recently invested in a state-of-the-art ABE canning line capable of filling up to 900 cans an hour, and kindly offered to send me some samples to try. I finally got the opportunity to sit down and try the four beers over the course of two evenings last week, and decided to jot down some thoughts. I really like Fallen’s branding, and these new cans are no exception. There’s a wonderful minimalist feel to the designs, complemented by the labels that, despite being stuck on, don’t feel at all cheap.
First up was New World Odyssey, the brewery’s 4.1 per cent blonde ale, made with new world hops (Saaz, Citra and Mosaic). Out of the can, the beer pours a straw-yellow in colour, with a very light and thin white head. The aroma is predominantly of citrus, although it isn’t particularly pungent. The beer drinks much like a dry hopped lager would - incredibly light and pithy and clean, with a touch of spice. This is unsurprising considering the malt bill is made up almost entirely of Pils malts, with a touch of Vienna thrown in for good measure. I’ve been drinking a lot of lager recently, and this crisp blonde brew was excellent at the end of a warm spring day.
Progressing upwards in ABV, next was the turn of Dragonfly, a 4.6 per cent American amber ale. I’ve never normally gravitated towards amber ales as a style, preferring more hoppy red ales or lighter session pales, but was intrigued to see what Fallen’s version had to offer. The beer is a beautiful dark reddish colour with a slightly off-white head. The nose is almost entirely sweet toffee, with a slight floral tinge. It has a lot more body than the blonde, unsurprisingly given the more complex malt bill, which includes crystal malts, Melanoidin and flaked barley. It’s a very well balanced beer, with biscuit and caramel giving way to hints of pine, although I would have liked a touch more bitterness in the finish.
Up first on evening number two was Platform C, the brewery’s 6.3 per cent New World IPA. I had high hopes for this one, after being impressed with a small sample at this year’s Craft Beer Rising festival. A deep gold/amber in colour and a punchy citrus nose has me quivering in anticipation of a real hop bomb, however I am left disappointed. The beer is incredibly bitter and resinous, and totally lacking in any juicy hop flavour. In fact, after a few more mouthfuls I suspect the beer may have suffered some oxidisation during the canning process. It tastes like blackcurrant mixed with wet cardboard, and that is most definitely not how this kind of a beer should taste. Admittedly, this can could have been anything up to four months old, and probably wasn’t quite at its best, but I’m fairly certain that the problem was more than just a lack of freshness. It’s a shame, because my memories of the beer from CBR were very positive.
The final beer sent was Chew Chew, a 6 per cent salted caramel milk stout. Any of you who know me well will know I have a bit of a thing for sweet stouts (perhaps due to my intense dislike of Guinness). Hence, the prospect of a stout brewed with dark Belgian candi syrup and lactose had me very excited indeed. The beer pours an oily black, with medium carbonation and body. It’s thick, but not gloopy, viscous thick. It smells slightly peaty, but the predominant aroma is of cocoa. It is initially sweet and milky on the tongue, which gives way to a salty edge, provided by the addition of Hebridean sea salt, on the finish. As the beer warms in the glass, more chocolate and fudge comes through. It reminds me somewhat of Dark Star’s Crème Brûlée, with a salty undertone that doesn’t quite win me over, but gives it it’s best shot.
With the exception of Platform C, I enjoyed all of the beers from Fallen Brewery. None are world-beaters, but they are solid and dependable incarnations of their respective styles, which if available consistently near me would be go-to beers for sure. I look forward to hopefully seeing some more of the brewery’s beers in cans in the future.
*Full disclaimer: These were free samples provided by Fallen Brewery*
First things first, an apology. I’ve not been posting very much lately. Sorry about that. It turns out doing a Masters degree is a LOT more time consuming than I’d envisaged, and alas Beeson on Beer has fallen by the wayside a little over the last couple of months. However, at the weekend I went to visit my brother in Cardiff and we decided to crack open a couple of beers I’d been waiting rather a long time to try. I decided it was finally time to get back on the bandwagon, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to write about a rare and interesting set of beers.
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde are the result of a very special collaboration between Tottenham-based Beavertown and Danish brewery To Øl . The concept behind the beers was to create a pale base wort, before splitting it in two to create two very different styles of beer to represent the duality of human nature (yes, it sounds pretentious, but bear with me!)
First up is Dr. Jekyll. This 8.1% Belgian Pale was created by fermenting the pale wort from the original mash with Brettanomyces yeast and the addition of Lactobacillus bacteria, before being barrel-aged in Muscat wine barrels. It pours a light, golden amber, with little-to-no head and minimal carbonation. The aroma is pure funk, with huge amounts of bretty, dry fruit character.
Taking the first few sips of the beer, I am blown away by the similarities it shares with this year’s batch of Wild Beer Co.’s Schnoodlepip; it is extremely tart, with subtle hints of orange and gooseberry. Extremely drinkable for a beer north of eight per cent proof, I find myself quaffing it far too quickly and would have quite liked more than half of a bottle.
Mr. Hyde, however, is an entirely different proposition. Although rumoured to be fermented with the same yeast strain as its counterpart, the original pale wort has been blended with another wort produced from beech wood smoked malts, chocolate malts, roasted barley and cassanade sugars. The resulting beer was then aged in Speyside Whisky casks to create a monstrous 13.7% Imperial Stout.
Mr. Hyde glugs out of the bottle and into my oversized wine glass a silky jet black colour, devoid of any head or carbonation. It smells as you would expect, with lots of ripe fruit character and more than a whiff of peaty, almost tobacco-like notes. The taste is both intensely rich and unsurprisingly woody. I was a little disappointed not to get a bit more of the flavour from the Whisky in the finished product, but it still made for a fantastic nightcap, and unlike with Dr. Jekyll, half a bottle was more than enough to send me nodding off in-front of the TV...
Beer Name: Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde Style: Muscat Barrel Aged, Gooseberry Belgian Pale / Scotch Barrel Aged Imperial Stout ABV: 8.1%/13.7% Brewery: Beavertown & To Øl
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I think it's fair to say that it is difficult to think of another brewery that has shot to fame in quite like the way Cloudwater have in the last twelve months. Even given the fact that the Manchester-based brewers were the recipients of a level of financial backing that would make most other breweries green with envy, I don't think anyone could have expected them to have become one of the best and most exciting new breweries in the UK in such a short space of time. Despite receiving plaudits for their excellent seasonal range of beers, it is Cloudwater's limited-run small batch brews in particular that have impressed me the most. v1 and v2 of their Double IPA were snapped up with gleeful abandon by pundits after their release in November and February respectively, and rightly lauded as being fantastic incarnations of the Double IPA style unmatched by any other brewery in the country. I'm pleased to report that after finally trying v3 last night, there appears to be no danger of complacency sneaking into the Cloudwater ranks anytime soon.
A return to the 9% ABV of its original incarnation, DIPA v3 pours an exquisite mandarin orange colour with a thin white head. The aroma is similar to that of v1 and 2, with lots of orangey and tropical flavours coming through. The initial taste is a combination of juicy and citrus grapefruit and a touch of mango and passionfruit, which fades to a slightly lingering bitter finish. It might just have been my imagination, but there definitely seems to be a bit more of a bite to this incarnation that the previous versions, and despite it not being any stronger alcohol-percentage wise, there is more of a booziness to it than I remember from v1 and v2. Don't let this fool you, however, for 9% this is still a dangerously drinkable DIPA; indeed, I was rather disappointed with myself for having slurped the entire bottle in under half an hour.
I think what I like most about Cloudwater's Double IPAs is the complete lack of resinous and bitter flavour that is present in some American versions of the style such as Stone's Ruination. In v3, the overriding flavours come entirely from the juicy Mosaic and Citra hops, which combine with the balanced fruity ester of the Vermont ale yeast to hide the beer's strength incredibly well and give it a frankly astonishing drinkability. It's hard to say whether this version tops v1 or v2, but make no mistake; this is one of the very best examples of a DIPA you're likely to get this side of the Atlantic.
After drinking this beer last night, I remarked it was so good that other breweries ought to just stop trying. I was chastised for this, and quite rightly told that to stop trying is exactly the opposite of what we ought to be asking other breweries to do. Nonetheless, Cloudwater have set the bar so astonishingly high that I think it's unlikely any UK brewery will come even close to replicating what they're doing anytime soon. Still, here's hoping they give it a shot.
Cloudwater Brew Co. DIPA v3 specifications ————————– Style: Double IPA ABV: 9% Location: Manchester Yeast: Vermont Bittering Hop: Pilgrim Alpha CO2 Extract Aroma Hops: Citra, Chinook, Comet, Mosaic Malts: Golden Promise, Dextrose Monohydrate