Brooklyn

No More Heroes XXXV – Thornbridge/Brooklyn/Oliver’s Serpent

This will be the last No More Heroes column I pen for Hop Burns & Black. We’ve been running this column since August 2015, which kicked off with the now defunct Fourpure Amber Ale. Our original aim was to champion beers we thought were underrated and eventually we started talking about music we loved and liked to drink along with these beers too.

That original aim went out the window pretty quickly, we just picked out beers we loved that we thought you would too – and we think we did a pretty good job of that. We even ran some pretty cool events, which included raising more than £500 for Mind – The Mental Health Charity last year.

But things change and we’re not the kind of folks to sit on our hands or rest on our laurels. We want to keep this column engaging and informative, so we’ve decided to change it up a bit. Our new column – Fundamentals - will launch in a couple of weeks' time. Its aim is to focus on a specific ingredient within a particular beer and find out what influence that has on the way you perceive its mouthfeel, flavour and aroma. I’ll also be rolling out a live version of this at the end of April, where I’ll be joined by my fellow Hop Burns & Black columnist and food sorceress Claire Bullen, so keep your eyes peeled for that one.

For now, we’ll leave you with one final, incredible beer with which we’ll toast this flaming ship as it bows gracefully over the waterfall of time. Serpent is a collaboration more than two years in the making that was born out of the minds of Thornbridge head brewer Rob Lovatt and Brooklyn Brewery’s inimitable brewmaster, Garrett Oliver.

Serpent began its life as a Belgian-style golden strong ale that was then blended with lees (leftover apple skins, yeast and byproducts from cider fermentation) donated by Herefordshire cider supremo Tom Oliver. The beer was then aged with the lees in Four Roses bourbon barrels for two years. After ageing it was artfully blended before being packaged in elegant, 750ml, Prosecco style bottles.

The resulting beer is a marvel: it can taste as simple or as complex as you wish, depending on what mood you’re in. It packs in layer upon layer of intricate flavours, recalling cider, wild yeast, vanilla, oak and bourbon. It can be enjoyed with little thought – but give it an inch of grey matter and it’ll take you several miles. It’s an incredible journey of a beer – and the time it’s had in the bottle since release, almost a year now, has merely improved it. Drink some now or hoard to drink whenever you feel it’s appropriate.

Music Pairing: The Stranglers – No More Heroes
We’d be doing this column a disservice if the last music pairing was anything other than this 1977 belter from one of the greatest bands to have ever existed, The Stranglers.

The beauty of The Stranglers is that, just like Serpent, their music can be as simple or complex as the way you feel. If you just want to enjoy the jangly punk riffs casted by Hugh Cornwell offset with the snarling bass of Jean-Jacques Burnel while banging your head, then off you go. However, delve deeper and you’ve got the complex, keyboard layers added by Dave Greenfield adding a prog-like depth to the track – one that even ardent punks love, but often refuse to associate with its long haired, bell-bottom sporting origins. It’s the perfect track to enjoy with a bottle of Serpent, whatever mood you’re in.

Find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog, Total AlesGood Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. You can find the mighty Serpent at HB&B - get it in store or head online to get it delivered to your door.

Big Beery Advent Calendar - Beer 18: Brooklyn Sorachi Ace 7.2% (US)

glenn@hopburnsblack.co.uk

Each night at 8pm, we'll post a blog about the day's hand-picked beer in our Big Beery Advent Calendar - why we love the brewery, why we've chosen the beer, why we think you'll love it too. Feel free to comment below or have your say on Twitter.

Brooklyn says: "Brooklyn Sorachi Ace is a classic saison, an unfiltered golden farmhouse ale, with a clean malt flavour and the quirky Sorachi Ace hop standing front and centre. Dry-hopping releases Sorachi Ace’s bright, spicy aromatics to tickle the nose before ascending into a fine harmony between pilsner malt and playful Belgian ale yeast. Brooklyn Sorachi Ace is sunshine in a glass, a shining example of the versatility of one of the world’s most intriguing hops. This beer is a superstar at the table, and we enjoy it with seafood dishes, fresh cheeses, poultry, barbecue, and even tomato-based pasta sauces."

We say: Brooklyn is best known for its near-ubiquitous lager but this is the undisputed star of the stable. We were first introduced to this when a friend gave us a 750ml bottle and we fell instantly in love. A beer that goes with everything but tastes best on its own. A beer to toast with - a beer to toast yourself with, for having such exquisite taste.

Celebrating the chocolate beers...

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With Easter (and our beer and chocolate pairing event) on the horizon, our thoughts have turned to chocolate. More specifically, chocolate beers.

We'll be revealing the amazing beers we've paired with the creations of chocolatier Isabelle Alaya from Melange Chocolate Shop after Wednesday's event. In the meantime, here are some of the more overtly chocolatey numbers currently gracing our shelves. NB: most of these are BIG beers. Handle with care,

Siren Bones of a Sailor III Imperial Porter (UK) 9.5% - A limited edition imperial porter with cacao, vanilla and raspberries aged in Pedro Ximenez barrels. Not sure there's much more we can add to this - it tastes as remarkable as it sounds.

Wild Beer Millionaire Salted Caramel & Chocolate Milk Stout (UK) 4.7% - When this beer first arrived in store a couple of months back we dropped everything, ripped open the case and downed a bottle at 10am. Shameful, yes, but we weren't disappointed. A beautifully balanced milk stout with a long chocolate finish (and by no means over-sweet), we could drink this all day. But we won't. We've got work to do.

Chocolate Marble (UK) 5.5% - This Manchester beer flies out the door when we're lucky enough to have it in (which we do right now, thanks to a tasty new shipment). Deeply chocolatey without being heavy, it features coffee and liquorice notes, and is sublimely drinkable.

Stone Stochasticity Project Master Of Disguise Imperial Golden Stout (US) 9.7% - The culmination of an April Fool's joke, the marketing materials for this beer read "Brewed with coffee beans, cocoa and coffee beans (not a typo)." This is a golden ale made with sheets of pure cocoa and one heck of a lot of coffee that drinks like a stout. (Or a frappé if you shut your eyes.)

De Molen Heaven & Hell Imperial Stout (Netherlands) 12% - A monster of an imperial stout full of chocolate, caramel, roasted, brown and pils malts and topped off with bitter hops, this is suitably big on roasty chocolate and molasses with woody vanilla and floral notes. No one does dark beers quite like De Molen. This one is so good it's sinful.

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (US) 10% - Quite simply, chocolate in a bottle. A blend of six malts and many months of ageing gives this imperial stout its massively rich chocolate aroma and flavour. 

Harbour Chocolate & Vanilla Imperial Stout (UK) 8.7% - We first tried this at Craft Beer Rising, fell in love and sought it out in bottle. A Ronseal beer, this absolutely does what it says on the tin, rammed so full of cacao nibs and vanilla pods you'll never need to buy pudding again.