Category Archives: IPA

Halcyon Days and EPA’s

Well, seeing as though it’s IPA Day (an event which was massive, massive fun last year) today, I thought it would be the perfect time to post up my thoughts on one of the best IPA’s this country produces – Thornbridge’s Halcyon. Especially seeing as though work demands mean I’ll be sequestered at home rather than enjoying one of the many events being held in pubs across Yorkshire.

You see, the problem with many IPA’s is simply lack of balance. Too sweet. Too bitter. Too thin. As a style, it has to be the most abused; a problem borne out of inexperienced brewers bowing to the hyperbole that IPA seems to create. Sure – certainly in the States – IPA has pushed brewing forward somewhat – breweries trying to outdo each other with IBU rates and creating arcane ways to get even more hops into beer. But more hops isn’t always good. Popular, yes, but IPA needs to be handled with respect.

For every harsh, overhopped IPA out there, there’s a Halcyon to balance them out. At 7.4% abv, it’s no slouch in the alcohol stakes; not that you’d guess, such is the cloak that Thornbridge have wrapped around that heat. On the nose, there’s Passion Fruit, Lychee, Strawberry and sweet, honeyed notes. This sets you up for a sickly, saccharine hit but that never comes; what you get instead is the softest, fruitiest IPA I’ve tasted in a long while, all tropical fruit, with the sharp bitterness that you now expect coming late, lemony and fresh.

Is there a more drinkable bottled UK IPA out there? Well, my love for Buxton’s Axe Edge is well-documented and for me, it’s the only one that gets close. In my humble opinion, of course. Speaking of Buxton, fresh off the success of appearing at The International Festival of Small Brewers & Cidermakers in the US last month, they’ve been invited to Borefts this year and they picked up awards at this years International Beer Challenge.

This week I tried their English Pale Ale (4.9%abv), a Pale that certainly has enough bitterness to satisfy hop-heads. Pouring pure gold with a billowy head, there’s some creamy malt in the nose, along with a sherbet-lemon note that hints at the cutting edge that this EPA possesses. The body is a little grainy, with a long, long assertive lemon/lime bitterness that finishes the beer off; making it massively refreshing. My bottle was only cellar-cool, but as it warmed in the glass, honeyed, subtle wildflower notes appeared in the nose and the body turned a little creamier. It ended up being the best of both worlds; a hearty, full-bodied pint with a distinct cutting edge. Lovely.

Good things come to those who wait, for sure. I’m sure there’s not many out there who would begrudge Buxton’s success. Entirely well deserved, lads.

Anyway, enjoy your IPA day; a quick Googling reveals there’s loads going on at breweries, pubs and bars in the UK. If you’re going out in Yorkshire, The Grove in Huddersfield look to have really upped the ante this year. Get yourself over.

>To Holmfirth and Beyond – A Chat With Summer Wine Brewery

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Keeping it local (locale?) and staying in Holmfirth, I’ve had the pleasure of having a quick chat with James Farran, head brewer at Summer Wine Brewery. This little outfit have big ideas, and that’s a quality I really like about new breweries – a sense of adventure. Whether it’s creating a relatively large core range of nine beers rather than the usual three or four, or devoting this summer to IPA, there’s a questing nature underneath underneath it all that certainly comes through in their beers, which take usual styles and simply make it their way. This sounds like the easiest thing in the world, but in my opinion, too many breweries tread the same path. Anyway, I’m rambling: I’ll let James do the talking.

Leigh: Summer Wine – tell me how it started.
James: Good question. Well, I was set on the track as a brewer around 9 years ago when I had one of those beer epiphanies, you know when you drink a beer and it changes everything you thought you knew about beer. I was 18 and the beer was Fraoch Heather Ale from Williams Bros; it was malty, spicy, slightly sweet & extremely well balanced – it instantly changed my ideas of what beer could be.

To cut a long story short, I decided to start homebrewing – first, those dodgy syrup kits & eventually full grain mash. I brewed over & over honing my skills as I went, learning all the time about mash temps, pH, sparge temp, hopping, yeasts etc. & how they all can affect the finished product. Many brews followed. I then decided I wanted to brew commercially as what I was brewing was very well received. I wanted a brewery with a name that was synonymous with its location & as I lived close to Holmfirth what better than Summer Wine? So I incorporated Summer Wine Brewery Ltd & trademarked the company name.

I brewed on a small half barrel plant for two years, until I ran into Andy Baker (Summer Wine MD) & another one of our directors at our place of work. I wanted to take the brewery to the next level & Andy was looking for an opportunity to blood himself in the business world after he had graduated – and never one to shirk a challenge, he put his money where his mouth is and jumped in. Everything then moved very quickly we had premises and a working brewery within 6 months (would have been quicker if not for brewery equipment lead time.) Nearly 2 years on the brewery is in huge growth, the beers are well received far and wide & we have some exciting plans for expansion in the pipeline.
Who, or What is your motivation to brew? Where do you look for inspiration?
My motivation to brew comes from lots of sources. I have heard it said that ‘brewing is in your blood’ & when you’re in this industry brewing just feels right and when you have the passion for brewing you don’t feel like you have a job and it’s easy to get out of bed in the morning. Sometimes the motivation can come from drinking a great beer or opening and fresh pack of a new hop variety – or maybe even a blog debate (At least we’re good for something – Leigh). Inspiration is everywhere.
My favourite SW beer is Helios – a fruity, spritzy blonde that’s massively sessionable. Can you give me the lowdown on some more of your core range – and what’s your favourite?
We believe choice is a right, not a privilege, and that is why we have a core range of nine ales. Our range carries all styles from Dambusters Dark Mild (3.5%abv) a true mild, Invictus Copper Ale (4.5% abv) our take on a Bitter with punch, up to Apache American Pale Ale (5.2% abv), my personal favorite is Teleporter (5.0% abv) our ten-grain porter that is subtly fruity & chocolatey, with real depth & class. It’s a really great dark ale.

What’s your favourite non-SummerWine beer?

Oooh that’s a tough one, so many great beers in the UK & the world for that matter. I’m a great believer that there is no such thing as a great beer only great gyles, however my favourite cask ales being brewed at the moment would have to be Marble Pint & Thornbridge Jaipur – but I am also a huge fan of dark ale as a style. My favourite bottled beer would have to be the Brewdog/Stone collaboration, Bashah.

Project 6 – what’s it all about and what can we expect? Project 6 is our new monthly released IPA at 6.6% abv. The first was released at the beginning of June and the start of every month thereafter. The 6 beers will all be Pale IPA’s that showcase the world’s best hops; six varieties in each brew, kettle, aroma & dry hopped to create intensely fruity beers that have real balance despite the huge amount of hops going into each brew,

You can expect each beer to be different from the last in that bitterness levels will change from brew to brew and some interesting dry hopping with some more unusual hops will give the beers an individual character. IPA’s are at the forefront of such an exciting brewing scene at the moment & it is really a pleasure to turn our hand to a series of them.

Apart from Project 6, what else is on the horizon in 2010?
We currently brew two monthly specials to accompany our nine core ales, which vary in style. We also have some very exciting ideas in the pipeline for this year and beyond; without revealing too much one project will include the fusion of two styles whilst another will involve some interesting aged beers.
And finally….You’ve got one day off this year – how do you spend it?
Probably spend the day sat in a old chesterfield reading some of the ever increasing pile of books waiting for me, mainly factual things regarding evolution, physics & cosmology whilst drinking a selection of the world’s finest bottled beers… heaven!

So there you go. Brewers by day, Science buffs by night. P6 Brew #1 certainly hit the spot: amber in colour, with a sweet, caramelly body, it delivered a green, grassy, slightly herbal hop bite thanks to a mix of Ahtanum, Willamette, Herkules and Liberty – and two secret hops – that increased on the sip. The balance between the body and the hops was spot on – although James warns that P6 Brew #2 is even better. Keep an eye out for it.

>Rodham’s

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A few weeks ago I was in Beer-Ritz browsing for a wheat beer to wash down some Calamari I was frying up that night. It was only by chance that I happened upon a very indistinct bottle called Rodham’s wheat. Well, the opportunities to pick up a Yorkshire-brewed Wheat don’t come along often, so it was duly added to the already groaning basket and off we went.

I was seriously impressed by this beer – crystal -clear, it turned out to be superbly made and surprisingly well balanced white beer. All the classic coriander, orange peel and citrus flavours abounded and it turned out to be a perfect bedfellow for my golden Calamari.

Last week I picked up their IPA, and again my other half found me rabbiting on at her like a loon after only one sip – a wonderfully sweet, grassy IPA; not too hoppy despite having that puckering crispness you expect of a new-world IPA -and really, really well balanced.

Rodham’s are based in Otley, and to the best of my knowledge don’t have a website as such. However small they may be, Rodham’s are brewing some wonderful beers right now and if you do see any of their wares – be sure to taste. They are presenting a number of beer’s at this weekend’s Otley Beer Festival, and that would be a great place to start.
Rodham’s Brewery, Otley, Yorkshire, LS21 1BZ
Tel: 01943 464530
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