After my gushing piece about northern monkeys Mordue a while back, I hassled the guys to make sure I got a bottle of Rob Millichamp’s Pandazilla (made under Rob’s small-batch brewing banner of Panda Frog) at the earliest opportunity. I don’t do that sort of thing often, but what I’d heard of it was so positive, it was just bugging me. I had to have it.
Being nice boys, they sent some down in a delivery to North Bar, and I jumped in the GoodStuffMobile the very next day to crack it open. I also didn’t want Matt and co to drink it, which was another factor in my haste!
Anyway – unleashing Pandazilla (which, for some reason, I want to keep pronouncing like Manzanilla) made me realise that I’d not had a Black IPA in ages. Funny how quickly some phases pass; although I hope it doesn’t disappear entirely. When done right, the balance of dark malt and lupulin-loaded hops can be sublime; when handled badly the style crashes and burns. It can stomp all over your tongue like the mutant Panda on this label crushing Tokyo.
Pandazilla (7%abv) gets things right because it leans a little more toward malt – making it a hopped dark ale rather than balls-out IPA, if that makes sense. Beneath a mocha-hued head there’s an almost stone-fruit, peaches and cream note in the nose, all light and fresh, but the body is full of Coffee grounds, Almond cake, red fruits and Blackcurrant jam. The finish is long and raspingly dry, as you’d like. The beer was incredibly fresh and vibrant and – most importantly – a pleasure to drink.
Rob Millichamp says Pandazilla is about ‘…Imagination, fun, passion and a streak of rebellion’, brewing limited edition runs of beer when he can get a window at Mordue. Both Mordue and Rob deserve credit for allowing themselves to have fun, take a little time off every once in a while, and re-aquaint themselves with things that brewing at its best can be; imagination, fun and passion.
You can follow Rob’s Beer Quest here. If in Newcastle, keep an eye out for Panda Frog’s creations – you lucky, lucky people.