HB&B Sub Club - our April box revealed

Here's what was in our first ever HB&B Sub Club box that went out last month. We're just as excited about this month's box - we've found some mind-blowingly awesome beers to fill it with yet again...

We'll be releasing a limited number of new memberships this week. These will go on sale on Friday 5th April at 9am. Head here and get your finger on the button. More info on the boxes can be found at our FAQs page, or simply drop us a line.

No More Heroes XXXI – Panhead Grease Monkey Old Ale

I’ll admit I struggle a little this time of year. The last dregs of the Christmas holidays have trickled down the drain and it can feel like there’s little other to look forward to than long nights and cold days. Winter is here.

While I applaud those folks who take it upon themselves to take the month off booze – some even raising money for charity, which is no bad thing – for the rest of us there is always beer. Delicious, tasty beer. Now is the time to break out those strong dark ales that have been squirreled away at the back of your beer cupboard for far too long. I’m starting with Grease Monkey, an old ale from New Zealand’s Panhead Custom Ales.

A great deal was made of Panhead’s sale to the Lion Group last year, but in my opinion it’s had zero discernable impact on the quality of its beers thus far. Its zingy, tropical fruit packed New Zealand hopped pilsner has always been a particular favourite of mine and it continues to shine.

Grease Monkey is an altogether different beast, however. This viscous, black liquid pours like an oil slick in a glass. Aromas of leather and tobacco mingle with those of molasses and burnt muscovado sugar. To taste it's toffee sweet at first but this is almost immediately followed by a slick wave of herbaceous bitterness. That tobacco note then returns in the finish to leave a pleasing dryness.

Grease Monkey is a beer that really benefits from having some time to warm a little and open up once its been poured. So maybe try giving it no more than 30 minutes in the fridge before you open it and for maximum effect pour it into a wide brimmed, bowl shaped glass. You won’t be halfway through the bottle before any winter blues you were shouldering begin to ebb away.

Music Pairing: Flyying Colours – It’s Tomorrow Now
I figured that as it’s a new year I’d turn the spotlight onto to some new music instead of relying on a classic. Spotify’s insanely good Discover Weekly algorithm has been throwing some great new music my way over the last 12 months, so it makes sense to share some of my discoveries.

Flyying Colours formed in Melbourne, Australia, back in 2011 and released their second album “Mindfullness” at the back end of last year. As a record it’s a reverb-drenched, shoegazer's dream, recalling My Bloody Valentine, And You Will Know Them By The Trail of Dead and The Cure. I’ve had the album on repeat for around the last two weeks, so here’s hoping you dig it as much as I do.

Find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog, Total AlesGood Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. Get Panhead Grease Monkey and the rest of the Panhead range exclusively to the UK at our shop or online to get it delivered to your door.

#HBBAdvent Beer 18: Panhead Black Top Oat Stout (New Zealand) / Weird Beard Black Christmas Cranberry Stout (London)

Such was the demand for this year's #HBBAdvent calendar that we completely failed to anticipate demand - three cases of Panhead Black Top Oat Stout was nowhere near enough! Thus, quite a few of you will find Weird Beard Black Christmas in your box - an enviable substitute.

Panhead Custom Ales says: As self-confessed bogans we have a natural attraction to black, preferably matte, so Blacktop Oatmeal is close to our hearts. The key to creating a silky death metal monster like this is the caramelised Golden Naked Oats we’ve built it around. Sophisticates will detect the chocolate and coffee notes of creamy tiramisu. The rest of us will note that it matches our jeans.

Weird Beard says: A festive stout with subtle roast character that plays well with fruity and slightly tart notes from the cranberry. Sorachi Ace hops, which there are plenty of in this beer, gives hints of vanilla and coconut.

We say: Two beers, two of our favourite breweries. We wanted to go to the dark side for the Sunday before Christmas (nothing sinister, just that the last few advent beers were pales so it was time for some stouty goodness). One beer channels the spirit of the Antipodean Westie (aka the hard rock-loving, car-obsessed bogan of Kiwi lore), the other channels the spirit of West London. Both perfect for Sunday night sipping. - Jen

Each night, we'll reveal the day's hand-picked beer from our Big Beery Advent Calendar. Feel free to comment below or have your say on Twitter or Instagram (#HBBAdvent). Find Weird Beard Black Christmas and the Panhead range (exclusive to HB&B) in store or via our online shop while stocks last.

A New Zealand beer odyssey

Glenn and I were lucky enough to undertake a little Down Under beer odyssey in January, when we returned to the country where we spent our formative years. The New Zealand beer scene is going from strength to strength and we've felt extremely privileged to have been able to play a part in its quest for world domination.

In the few years since we moved back to the UK, the NZ scene has exploded, so our trip was a journey of discovery in many ways. We were fortunate to meet with nine of the top Kiwi brewers during our travels (plus the NZ champion cider makers, also doing great things - more on that later) and we can confirm that the hype is 100% justified. We were astounded at the quality and consistency of New Zealand beer - at the most remote of back-blocks supermarkets we managed to find super-fresh beer from the best breweries, and not once did we have a beer that was old or under-par.

It's currently a very US-led scene, with a mad drive for hops and big, punchy IPAs (it was a challenge to find too many dark options on tap in most places we visited), but some breweries are starting to shake this up - Garage Project and 2014 NZ Champion Brewery Townshend's are two doing some very interesting things indeed.

Anyway, we loved the beers we tasted so much that we had to buy extra suitcases and spend a fortune on excess baggage to lug loads back. We enjoyed many of these at a small tasting event last night - a trial run for our new monthly events, Hop Burns & Bottle Share, which will launch in March. (More details coming soon.)

We're hopeful we'll be able to bring over some of these beers in the very near future for you to try, so keep watching the skies for news on when they land. [Spoiler alert, before you ask: no Garage Project.] In the meantime, here are some of the hits from last night.

Townshend's Flemish Stout - widely agreed by guests to be the beer of the night. A stunning example of a tart but not sour chocolatey, cherry stout. Also on the menu were two others from Townshend's - an excellent Belgian Tripel and Wynne's Fall, a collaboration with Stu McKinlay from Yeastie Boys, named after Stu's mum. One for the cider fans, this malty beer features 50% windfall apple juice.


Kereru Brewing For Great Justice Coconut Porter and Imperial Nibs - Not too widely known outside of New Zealand, Kereru Brewing's beers were the surprise hit of the tasting. We'd had the heads up from Yeastie Stu that the Coconut Porter was one to look out for - however this tasty drop was outgunned by its imperial cousin, which upped the cacao content to create a sumptuously rich beverage. Would drink this for dessert every night, given the chance. Also enjoyed was Kereru's Karengose Salty Seaweed Ale, brewed with native NZ karengo seaweed.


Panhead Canheads - A great example of the breadth and quality of New Zealand beer distribution. Glenn picked these up at a New World supermarket in Kerikeri, a small town in the Far North of New Zealand, and they're tasting superb. Hard to pick a winner from the three we tried - the Oaked Stout, Red IPA and glorious Hopfenweisse - and how awesome are the can designs? We were blown away by everything we tried from Panhead during our trip, and it helps that the brewer, Mike Neilson, is a bloody nice dude to boot. Look out for Panhead at this year's Rainbow Project, where they'll be collaborating with London's own Partizan Brewing.

Parrotdog Rarebird Series - Parrotdog are another NZ brewery coming over for this year's Rainbow Project, partnered with Beavertown, which should make for some interesting collabs indeed. We absolutely loved these two small batch beers - a Tamarillo Sour and a Dunkelweisse - and just look at the beautiful, beautiful bottles.

Speaking of beautiful bottles...

Garage Project.  The most hyped of all the New Zealand breweries and fully deserving of such. We were lucky enough to enjoy a superb selection of their beers - from the weird and wonderful (La Calavera Catrina - a habanero chilli, rosewater and watermelon lager, anyone?) to their famed hop bombs such as Pernicious Weed and new favourites Whizz Bang and Dirty Boots. They're all bloody amazing. Fingers crossed they can increase production and get their beers over here soon.

Last but not least - Hop Federation and Fork & Brewer. Nestled smack bang in the middle of Nelson hop country (my home town), Hop Federation are a relatively new brewery doing lovely things that celebrate their local product. We enjoyed their Double IPA and Red IPA so much that we totally forgot to take any photos - likewise with Fork & Brewer's award-winning Godzone Beat Champion Pale Ale from Kelly Ryan, the nicest guy in brewing. Sorry about that. Too many beers will do that to a person...

So that's our story. As mentioned, look out for a shipment of at least some of the great beers mentioned above heading our way soon. And stand by for new beers from some of the great New Zealand breweries we already stock - Tuatara, Yeastie Boys and 8 Wired - hitting the shop next week. Good beers guaranteed.