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Another part of the Spank The Monkey media empire: offending your brain at The Unpleasant Lair Of Spank The Monkey, offending your ears at Spank's Audio Lair, and offending your eyes right here, right now.

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#Collabfest2017 part three: Clerkenwell, Brighton, Leeds North Street, Stirling

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Saturday lunchtime in Clerkenwell, and you can see why they don't open on Sundays: it's very quiet without the usual scrum of City boys. Still, it's the first bar where we get a flight paddle and a written list of beers. And they bribe drinkers of their Cookie Dough beer with actual cookies (while stocks last), so three cheers for BrewDog's most underrated London bar (not counting Homerton).

9. Siren / BrewDog Clerkenwell: Cookie Dough (Cookie Dough White Stout, 7.40%)
Very nice initially - odd mix of flavours, though you can kind of see how cookie dough is the overall impression from the mashup of chocolate, coffee and vanilla. Mainly vanilla on the nose, with the other flavours mingling as it goes down.

10. Brighton Bier / BrewDog Brighton: Dutch Udder (Flemish Milk Stout, 6.50%)
Quick hello to Gretel, who joined us at the Soho bar last night and had a glass of this while we drank our first flight. She rather kindly offered us a taste, which we refused because we like to keep a structure to these sessions, dammit. It's a rather good milk stout, still fighting the flavours of the Cookie Dough (and, in The BBG's case, the free cookies) on the first mouthful. Thins out a little as it goes on, and may be a bit better if it's been given time to warm up (the keg had literally just gone on when they poured it). The BBG suggests it's more like a Belgian black beer than a stout, really.

11. Northern Monk Brew Co / BrewDog North Street Leeds: Fumin' Lou (Gingerbread Ice Cream Brown Ale with Vanilla, 6.30%)
"It's doing a few things, isn't it?" is her initial reaction. All sorts of crazy spiciness going on here, mainly ginger with a hint of vanilla. It's definitely the combination of the two that keeps it interesting. Stays surprising to the bottom of the glass, too, which is unusual.

12.Fallen Brewing / BrewDog Stirling: Sex out of reach (Peach, Orange and Cranberry Witbier, 5.00%)
Incredibly fruity, hard to believe it's actually beer initially. The BBG feels there's more peach initially, with an aftertaste more like mandarin than just orange. Dangerously easy drinking, managed to finish it without thinking about it.
21st Oct 2017, 14:40   comments (0)

#Collabfest2017 part two: Malmo, Norwich, Shepherd's Bush, Aberdeen

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On to Shepherd's Bush for second and final round of the day.

5. Benchwarmers Brewing Co. / BrewDog Malmö: Captain Coconut (Coconut IPA, 5.60%)
Pleasant IPA with sharp, bitter taste at start, coconut gradually comes through as it goes on.

6. DEYA Brewing Company / BrewDog Norwich: Are You Taking the Peche (Peach Milkshake IPA, 6.50%)
First one that's come through properly on the nose. Slight fight with bitterness of previous beer before peach comes hammering through. Still has East Coast IPA feel to it. Top of the Untappd poll here at the time, and you can see why. Very nice indeed.

7. Weird Beard Brew Co / BrewDog Shepherds Bush: Bring the Long Night (Cocktail Stick Sour Pale, 4.50%)
Local bar and local brewery (we know someone who knows Bryan, you know). Weird notes of cheese throughout, especially at start and end - some pineapple and Pina Colada in the middle, but it's mostly a peculiar sour milk vibe coming off it, and not a nice one like that stilton stout from Brewster's we had once.

8. Fierce Beer / BrewDog Aberdeen: Very Big Moose (Chocolate and Vanilla Stout, 12.00%)
The biggest beer on the board this year, and all memories of cheese are erased from the first mouthful. A proper nightcap beer - we usually use Cocoa Psycho for that, but this tastes like a complex mix of coffee and cinnamon, even though there's no coffee in it. Tastes barrel aged, which is probably the effect of the vanilla.
21st Oct 2017, 00:11   comments (0)

#Collabfest2017 part one: Edinburgh, Soho, Leeds, York

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Once again, it's time for this thing. 34 new beers from the BrewDog bars in the UK, Sweden and Germany, brewed in collaboration with local brewers, and three days to attempt to drink them all before they run out. The Belated Birthday Girl and I start inside the Soho bar, where the flight we're given consists of 1/2 pint glasses rather than the usual 1/3 pint. Hopefully, for the sake of everyone's sanity (ours and yours), this won't be a precedent.

1. Stewart Brewing / BrewDog Edinburgh: Corpse Reviver (Kettle Sour Pale with Lactose and Fruit, 5.90%)
A fairly pleasant one to start off with: slightly sour, with a slight fruitiness we can't quite identify (maybe grapefruit?). Surprisingly tame for the name.

2. Redchurch Brewery / BrewDog Soho: Risk: Cherry Stone (Cherry Sour, 6.00%)
Another sour. This doesn't have much cherry initially, maybe a little later as the sourness diminshes, with some marzipan on the nose.

3. Ridgeside Brew Co / BrewDog Leeds: FUBARB (Rhubarb and Custard Sour, 4.80%)
Now we're talking. Not much sourness to this one: coconut or caramel comes through on the first mouthful, and gradually mutates into something else - The BBG thinks they're more like rhubarb and custard boiled sweets than the actual dessert, while I think they're more like liquid Trebor Fruit Salads. Neither of these is a bad thing.

4. Brew York / BrewDog York: Goose Willis (Gooseberry Fool inspired Sour Beer, 5.30%)
It looks like Soho doesn't like sours: when we came in there were only nine Collabfest beers left, half an hour later it was down to six, and most them were sour beers of one sort or another. There's more of a burnt quality to this one, which takes the edge off the sourness.
20th Oct 2017, 23:18   comments (0)

#Collabfest2016 6: Newcastle, Doghouse, Clerkenwell, Castlegate

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And following an even longer pause...

A quick explanation at this point. They announced the dates for Collabfest2016 shortly after we'd booked a weekend away in Norwich for October 22-23. (Don't look at us like that, it's a fine city, with a terrific BrewDog bar full of excellent helpful staff. More details in a forthcoming BrewDogging blog post, inevitably.)

If you've been reading between the lines, you'll have worked out that our first eight Collabfest2016 beers were drunk in Shepherds Bush on Friday, and the following twelve in Norwich on Saturday. The plan was to mop up the remaining seven in a final sesh at Norwich on Sunday afternoon, before heading back home. Unfortunately, we were unaware of Norwich's strategy for spreading the Collabfest beers across their limited number of taps, which was this: half of them on sale Friday, the other half on Saturday and Sunday. If we'd wanted to drink those seven beers in Norwich, we needed to have drunk them on Friday (or wait throughout Sunday on the offchance that one of them would come on again when one of the Saturday beers ran out).

So, the day after Collabfest technically finished, we're back in Shepherds Bush digging through their dregs to see if they can help us finish this thing off once and for all. Except they can't. The collabs from Aberdeen, Brighton and Leeds are all gone. (Leeds - the spectacularly-named I'm A Lumberjack (And I'm Oak-Aged) - is a particularly sad omission, as it was on at Norwich but they couldn't get it to pour properly.)

So (with thanks to the Shepherds Bush and Norwich bars for at least getting us this far), here are beers 21-24, and if 25-27 ever appear out in the wild we'll let you know...

u) Almasty Brewing Co / BrewDog Newcastle: Morning Wood (brown ale brewed with Modern Times barrel-aged coffee, 6%). A brown ale from the spiritual home of the style. Lots of coffee with a fair bit of evidence of the barrel aging: not so much of what I'd consider to be 'brown' flavour, at least in the early stages. Once it's warmed up, it feels a bit more like a brown ale, getting more brownilicious as it goes on.

v) Fyne Ales / DogHouse Merchant City: Heather Lochbeer (smoked pink peppercorn and heather infused wit beer, 5.5%). It's all there from mouthful one - the heather, the pepper, the wit - and all the twists are nicely balanced (the heather's not so overpowering as to feel odd) with a hoppy bitterness coming in at the end. Thankfully, it's not just a silly name.

w) Affinity Brewing Co w/ Elusive Brew Co / BrewDog Clerkenwell: Brimful Of Masha (coffee and maple American red ale, 7.2%). Looks like a glass of mud initially, very murky. More maple sweetness on the nose and palate, very little coffee coming through at all. Plenty of maple, though, and drinkable enough. Though as with any red ale we drink, the phrase 'it's no 5am Saint' pops up in the conversation eventually.

x) Stewart Brewing / BrewDog Castlegate: They're Coming To Get Rhu Barbra (sour pale ale with rhubarb, 4.5%). One more crappy pun to finish up on. I'm getting 100% rhubarb and 0% sourness (which suits me, frankly), but The BBG disagrees, claiming it doesn't really say 'rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb' to her. That might be a good thing, though. Eventually she says there's more rhubarb coming through, but it's a bit generically sour rather than actually rhubarby.

Best in show (with the caveat that we haven't tried Aberdeen, Brighton or Leeds):
1. Siren/Shepherds Bush
2. Liverpool Craft Beer/Liverpool
3. Wiper & True/Bristol
4. Cloudwater/Manchester
5. Weird Beard/Shoreditch
(Observation by The BBG: most of our favourites - 1 and 5 excepted - have no particularly odd twists in the recipe, they're just standard styles done really, really well.)
24th Oct 2016, 20:10   comments (0)

#Collabfest2016 5: Cardiff, Birmingham, Nottingham, Shuffledog

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q) Crafty Devil / BrewDog Cardiff: No Ifs, No Buts, Just Coconuts (coconut and vanilla milk stout, 5.2%). We've gone to the dark side for our final flight of the day. Although like the Alechemy stout we've just come off, it's hard to detect anything other than coffee here: a beer that boasts about having 'just coconuts' really should taste more of coconut (and maybe a little bit of vanilla at the very end). It's an okay coffee stout, nothing more.

r) Fixed Wheel Brewery / BrewDog Birmingham: Coffee Fix (coffee infused stout, 6.1%). Well, at least this actually does what they say it will: it's coffee, with a bit of an aftertaste on my palate that The BBG insists is just more coffee. Not much you can really say about it other than 'coffee', and it's not as good a stout as the Alechemy. Certainly doesn't feel like a six per center.

s) Black Iris Brewery / BrewDog Birmingham: Satan's Lollipop (sessionable chilli, cherry stout dry hopped with cherry blossom, 5.5%). Very nice cherry flavour immediately, with decent weight to it. Not much chilli immediately obvious - maybe a tiny tingle round the edges of the tongue, but as The BBG suggests "it's no Dog A". At this point, the lowest ABV of the stouts - Alechemy - is probably our favourite in terms of flavour and weight, if not in tems of matching its description.

t) Brew York / Shuffledog Leeds: Black Dog Of White Horse Bay (India stout, 5.6%). This is an odd one - the hops make it taste more like a black IPA than a stout (maybe that's why they call it an India stout - is India brewer code for 'shitloads of hops'?). Still, we like hops here, so no objections on that score.

Just seven beers left, then...
23rd Oct 2016, 00:38   comments (0)

#Collabfest2016 4: Leicester, Clapham, Bristol, Dundee

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And after a short pause for a terrific Divine Comedy gig, as well as to mourn the passing of comics artist Steve Dillon, we're back.

m) Alphabet Brewing Co / BrewDog Leicester: King's Blood (pomegranate Irish red ale, 5.3%). "Ees not paint! Ees King's Blood!" says The BBG, who likes a good obscure movie reference. Tinge of fruit on the lips, but the fruit actually ends up bringing out more bitterness on the palate. Not in a bad way, though. A few more of the high notes come out if you swill it round your mouth a bit.

n) Anspach & Hobday / BrewDog Clapham: The Marmalade Saison (saison with marmalade from English preserves, 5.6%). It's Paddington Beer! A properly fruity saison, but unlike other ones in this Fest, the initial surprise of the flavour keeps going all the way to the bottom of the glass rather than fizzling out. Real saison feel to it, too.

o) Wiper & True / BrewDog Bristol: Don't Get Lemon (double IPA, 9%). The one silly boozy beer of the day, and the one that has casual visitors to BrewDog Norwich pointing at the board and screaming. Dangerously drinkable, with a sweetness to it that stops it tasting like nine bastard per cent (similar to the sort of camouflage that Cloudwater are doing with their DIPAs, but in a very different style). A little hop bitterness, but not much.

p) Alechemy / BrewDog Dundee: Chocorange Is The New Black (orange infused milk stout, 4.7%). Second go at this particular shit pun (see Dancing Man / Southampton earlier). Lots of coffee coming through initially, with the tiniest bit of both chocolate and orange at the end. It's not even a Terry's Chocolate Orange like the earlier one, it's a good coffee stout that's been stored next to the Chocolate Oranges.
22nd Oct 2016, 23:38   comments (0)

#Collabfest2016 3: Camden, Norwich, Stirling, Manchester

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Day 2 of 3! Only 19 beers left to go!

i) Howling Hops / BrewDog Camden: Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream Pale Ale (pink raspberry pale ale, 5.5%). Another fruity one to start the day - raspberry there but not massively pronounced, more on the nose. Feels a bit sour on the aftertaste to me, though that might just be my brain telling me what it thinks raspberry beers should taste like. The BBG likes it, but thinks it's not up there with the best of yesterday's.

j) Brew By Numbers / BrewDog Norwich: 17|08 Table Saison (mustard & sea salt saison, 3%). We had to drink this here: fans of the BrewDogging series can take this as a hint to where episode 41 will be set. Weakest beer in the set in terms of ABV, initially a bit thin and apparently flavourless but mustard (appropriately for the home of Colmans) comes through as a surprise around the third mouthful, with the salt gradually appearing near the end of the glass. Typical light saison, good for a summer beer.

k) Fallen Brewing Co / BrewDog Stirling: Malibru (pineapple & coconut sour, 4.1%). Interesting fruity sour - less coconut, much more pineapple, gentle degree of sourness. Initial impact wears off quite quickly for me, though.

l) Cloudwater / BrewDog Manchester: Colourblind (session amber ale, 4.5%). Very much tastes like a typical Cloudwater beer (is it the yeast?), with all the flavour of their infamous Double IPAs but only half the booze content. Best one we've had from this particular flight, though the Bush's $10 Shake and Liverpool's Manolis IPA are still the ones to beat overall.
22nd Oct 2016, 15:48   comments (0)

#Collabfest 2016 2: Edinburgh, Liverpool, Glasgow, Southampton

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Tasting notes by me and The Belated Birthday Girl.

e) Top Out Brewery / BrewDog Edinburgh: Deez Nuts (blond peanut mild, 4.2%). 'More nuts on the nose than on the palate,' says The BBG while I giggle. Not especially nutty to the taste: not enough peanut, and not enough of anything else to make it interesting.

f) Liverpool Craft Beer Co / BrewDog Liverpool: Manolis IPA (IPA with Waimea, Nelson Sauvin, Chinook, Centennial, El Dorado hops, 6%). Excellent timing as our food arrives: an IPA with hops in it and no funny shit. Nicely traditional beer (in the craft beer sense of the word) at this stage in the proceedings: solidly hoppy, even managing to hold its own against the Dalston Chilli that The BBG scoffs so much of here. It's definitely a beer that's good with food, as they say about the Co-Op, though I'm not entirely convinced by these Crack Fries that are currently being trialled in the bars: chips are perfectly fine in their own right without deep frying them in batter too (and all the ones I ate were a minimum of 75% batter).

g) Dead End Brew Machine / BrewDog Glasgow: The Glasgow Project (cherry and bourbon oaked saison, 6.4%). Back to fruit and mild sourness. Lots of subtle things going on - mainly works as a post-dinner palate cleanser for The BBG. Cherry comes through for her much later on, once the Dalston Chilli has worn off.

h) Dancing Man Brewery / BrewDog Southampton: Black's The New Orange (orange Jaffa cake stout, 4.1%). A stout to finish off day 1 of this weekend (pacing, that's the secret). It's a good one: all the chocolate and orange that the name implies, but without the massive ABV you tend to associate with the style nowadays. I like it, though The BBG thinks it lacks a bit of weight compared with the Weird Beard from earlier, and thinks it's more like a Terry's Chocolate Orange than a Jaffa cake (with more orange coming through on the aftertaste than at the time of drinking).
21st Oct 2016, 21:08   comments (0)