Words & Photos - Matthew Curtis
Through blogging I've become part of a wider beer community and this has never been more apparent after the time I spent in Edinburgh at the European Beer Bloggers Conference last month. When I first started writing about beer I had less than 100 followers on twitter and the only people that read my early blogs were my Dad (who admittedly is as big a beer fiend as I am) and my close friends who don't share the same, shall we say 'enthusiasm' about beer that I do but still supported me all of the same, many of them now fans of great beer like I am. I had no idea how I was going to get people to read my blog but trying to connect with other bloggers through their own blogs and Twitter seemed like the sensible thing to do.
18 months later I can now call some of those people I started communicating with through twitter good friends and that is a wonderful thing. One of the first people that supported me through twitter was a chap called David Bishop (formerly @BroadfordBrewer on the Twitter) who is an avid homebrewer and beer blogger himself. I've watched from afar as he has accumulated awards for his homebrew which I've heard is quite excellent and often I wondered to myself if he'd ever take the plunge and go professional as it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that this is what he wants to do with his life. Well, a few months ago he DID take the plunge, forming a partnership with business and marketing know-how Russell Bisset Northern Monk Brew Co was born.
The phrase 'cuckoo' or 'gypsy' brewer gets used a lot these days which simply means that the brewery doesn't own it's own kit and borrows someone elses (Mikkeller arguably being the most well known example of this) and at the moment Northern Monk fall into this category, their inaugural brew New World IPA being created at Hambleton Ales in Ripon, Yorkshire. I was contacted by David to see if I'd like to try a bottle from this first commercial batch of New World IPA and a few days later I collected a neatly wrapped up bottle of beer from the post office.
The first thing that immediately strikes you about this beer is the decent branding that adorns the 330 millilitre bottle, Northern Monks striking logo sitting proudly at the centre of the label. It's a well thought out piece of graphic design that would stand out proudly on the supermarket shelf with the only negative for me being the unnecessary use of the word 'craft' which I see as a bit of a stigma on new beers these days. The beer already describes it as a 'new world' style IPA and weighs in at 6.2% ABV and with this information I can already tell that it's a modern style beer that will appeal to my palate, I'm not sure the use of the word craft, which is admittedly printed in teeny tiny writing, would increase the saleability of this beer. However I will admit that I see 'craft beer' from a different and somewhat cynical perspective and understand how a person who is just discovering beer might look for beers and breweries that use the dreaded c-word.
I'm pretty excited at the prospect of being one of the first lucky people to taste this brew and after allowing it to chill overnight I crack open the bottle. The beer is golden tangerine in colour and the large, lively bubbles form a short-lived white head of foam which soon fades to leave just a halo clinging to the edge of my glass. The nose is full of candied oranges and lemons with a hint of marmalade and just a whimper of grapefruit. I'm immediately greeted by a bready sweetness on taking my first sip which is followed by mellow citrus fruit, a little white pepper and and almost grassy note. The finish is as bitter as a Yorkshireman that's just been charged more than three quid for his pint and is ever so slightly astringent, it seems to linger for an age but it leaves you gagging for another taste of this beer.
It's a very drinkable beer just as a modern IPA at this strength should be and the sweetness is very well rounded and nicely balanced by the bitter finish. My only criticism is that I like a bigger, juicer citrus flavour in India Pale Ale and although this has a little it's lost slightly behind that wall of bitterness. This is not really a negative though as I really enjoyed the beer and will be purchasing a few more bottles for further evaluation. It's exciting, for me at least, to witness the start of the next stage of the beer renaissance that the UK is entering and Northern Monk are at the forefront of this revolution. David and Russell plan to have a range of four core beers but specials will crop up from time to time, at the moment they're only brewing once a month but with beer this good I'm positive it won't be long before they're in their own brewery using their own kit and doing this gig full time.
Huge thanks to David and Russell for sending me this bottle, I wish you both the very best of success with your new venture.