After missing the last few events due to work commitments I was really pleased to be able to attend Southsea Ale Club‘s Spring Break tasting night at Hunter Gatherer Coffee. The event was compered by Ali Lees, co-owner of the Wave Maiden on Osborne Road. Ali, who originally hails from New York, is responsible for the ever-changing yet extensive craft beer menu at The Wave Maiden so was the perfect host for this event that focused on beers either brewed stateside or produced with a heavy American influence.
This evening really was the perfect night for beer lovers. On arrival I found myself being handed a sample of Staggeringly Good’s Non Renewable Resource, their amazing bourbon oak-aged imperial stout. This last batch had been given extra ageing and is a fine example of one of my favourite styles of beer.
Before the tasting officially started there was still time to buy a drink and meet some new beer friends. I opted for a bottle of Casemate IPA from the very local Southsea Brewing and found myself a seat at a table, forcing my way into a group that had arrived a little earlier. Thankfully they accepted me into their fold and it quickly became evident that we all shared a love for quality craft beer.
After Southsea Ale Club co-founder Chris Horton gave a quick introduction, it was over to Ali who first gave a brief but very informative talk on the evolution of brewing in the USA. Anyone who’s seriously into craft beer will be well aware of the strong influence that their brewing has had on the scene, but it was fascinating to hear how much of an impact certain factors (especially prohibition and home brewing) had made on the industry.
Then it was into the tasting. Everyone person was given a score sheet for each of the beers to follow, with ratings to be given for various attributes including appearance, aroma and taste. But interestingly all of the beers were initially tasted blind, with the cans or bottles only being brought out once everyone had been able to consider their thoughts without being swayed by preconceived ideas about certain breweries or styles.
The first beer out was Road Jam, a fruit beer brewed with raspberries and lemongrass, from Two Roads Brewing based in Stratford, Connecticut. Being a fan of sour beers I quite enjoyed this although the feedback from the rest of the table was a little mixed.
Next up was Tank 7 from Boulevard Brewing in Kansas City. This Farmhouse style ale had a lovely complexity to it, helped enormously by the Belgian yeast, but lacked some of the peppery finish that I like and expect in this style of beer.
The following beer was my highlight of the night and was also a huge surprise. When first brought out in the glasses it had the lovely haze and fruity aroma that you’d look for in a New England Style IPA and it delivered all of this and more on tasting. It was a stunning example of this popular US style of brewing and I wasn’t alone in being shocked that this was actually from Arundel Brewery in Sussex! I’ve tried very little from them in the past but this Uptown IPA really is a top bit of brewing.
The 11th Sour by Fordham Brewing (Delaware, USA) was the fourth beer and was something a little different. This Berliner Weisse is brewed with Concorde Grapes which gave a fruity and refreshing angle to this ale. If I’m honest, I would have welcomed a little more sourness but it was still very enjoyable.
The final beer of the official tasting was Saugatuck Brewing’s Blueberry Maple Stout. When first poured I wasn’t too sure about this beer but as it warmed the blueberry and maple really started to come through. It was slightly sweeter than I’d normally want my stouts to be but the flavours worked well together and on a cold winter’s night I could easily see myself getting through a bottle of it.
Whilst the scores were collected and being counted it was time for two special beers. First was an IPA from a group of local home brewers, MakeMake.Beer, hope to make a go of commercial brewing in the not to distant future. If this beer, which they’d aptly named “Spring Break,” is an example of their usual brewing quality then they’ve got a great chance of success.
The final beer was something completely unexpected and was something Ali was keen for us all to try. By this point I was feeling a little tipsy so my memory may be a little hazy, but as I remember a Hipster Michelada is a glass that has been rimmed with lime juice and tagine spices before having a cheap American lager (think PBR or Busch) poured in. It may sound unpleasant but I’ll be honest, it worked a treat and the mix of fiery spice and ice cold lager really woke up the taste buds…. It’s something I’ll probably recreate when summer barbecue season comes around.
All that was left was for the most popular beer of the tasting to be announced, with Arundel Brewing’s “Uptown” NE IPA being named the worthy winner. I can’t stress enough how good this beer was and if it’s a style you enjoy make sure you seek out some cans.
Sadly it was time to bid goodbye to my new found beer friends (once we’d all connected on Instagram) before slipping away into the cold Southsea night. It was another great evening organised by the Southsea Ale Club, who are doing a sterling job getting like-minded beer lovers together. I can’t wait to hear what they’ve got planned next!
Jamie aka South Coast Beers is a Southsea based lover of drinking quality beer. You can read more from Jamie and follow him over on the links below.