04 January 2019

Industrious fraternity

The unavoidable Northern Monk features in today's post. They really produce a lot of beers. Here are some of them.

Marking/advertising the opening of their new outlet in Manchester, they released a six-way local collaboration called Don't Mess With Manchester. It's channelling the spirit of Boddington's with its paleness, though not so much with the yeasty murk that spilled from the can towards the end of the pour, resulting in a glass of lemon curd. The aroma is a little unsettling: sharp yeast and caraway, and I was sure it was going to be another one of those. It's not though, happily. I think it's the ABV that rescues it: it's only 4.5%, so light, and only gently carbonated. A mild tropicality forms the main flavour: mango, peach and satsuma. This is spiced up with a pinch of fried onion and drizzled with zippy lime. I've often disliked beers with all these features, but here they're balanced and harmonious, making for an easy-drinking modern-tasting session pale ale.

Back in Leeds, their Dark City festival took place in mid-November. As with Hop City in 2017, they marked the occasion with a special edition imperial stout. This one is called Devil's Delight, brewed as a collaboration with Lervig, 9% ABV, and with added vanilla, cacao and butterscotch. A brewer desiring butterscotch flavour in a beer is a new one on me -- most of them manage it without additional syrup, but howanever. It's properly black, topped with a tall tan-coloured head. It smells a little desserty: of chocolate sauce and vanilla custard in particular. The texture is creamy and the flavour pretty much as sweet as I expected. The butterscotch is present but not overdone, the vanilla quite prominent and there's just enough of a trace of roasty stout to make it worthwhile. While definitely a pastry stout, this is one of the more subtle and mellow sort.

Somewhere between the two is Watching Crag, a black IPA of 6.6% ABV. I was on guard from the brownish colour but the aroma was much more exciting, a blast of citrus zest exciting the senses. Where I was expecting a dense and bitter flavour it turned out to be bright and clean and downright juicy, packed full of mandarin and peach. A dank oily buzz introduces a more serious note to the finish. Strangely for most versions of this style, there's no intimations of darkness: no roasted grains or even bitter liquorice. It's a pure optical hoptical illusion, convincingly pale-tasting and delicious to boot. From the broody name and can art (not pictured) I expected this to be serious, verging on grim, but it's actually tremendous fun to drink.

A little tinge of regret, then, that I don't make more time for these spendy Northern Monk specials. The brewery does seem to know what it's doing.