Red Eye Rye Ale

For anyone familiar with Leeds you will already be aware of the growing homebrewing scene, so much so that we now have a homebrew forum and meet to taste and discuss our craft.  The group is organised and have a great meeting place in Mr Foleys Cask Ales House.  Dean, the manager, also brews and has made us welcome in a back room which is more familiar with Meet the Brewer events for commercial breweries.  I mention this because I have attended a couple of these events and take inspiration from their association with the venue and the encouragement and knowledge from the guest speakers.  The first meeting in October 2011 was a huge success, well attended and supported by the Summer Wine Brewery.  The second meeting is scheduled for January where we will be joined by Dominic from Thornbridge Brewery.

One of the beers we tasted at the first meet-up was from Dean’s Blue Suede Brews, his Mackem Mild, a beer he told us would not normally be his first choice for brewing purposes, but he had brewed it with a particular family member in mind.  A strategic brew, and very tasty too!  This evening I tried another of Dean’s creations, brewed in collaboration with Neil from Eating isn’t Cheating.   The beer is a 5.8% Red Rye Ale, brewed using Maris Otter Crystal, Cara Red and rye malts (not sure if malted or flaked rye).  They hopped with Riwaka (bittering), Amarillo and Galaxy (aroma) and dry hopped with Amarillo.  The yeast was US-05.  You can read the write-up from the brew day here.

It opened with a promising fizz and there was immediate hop aroma from the bottle.  It poured a hazy, deep berry red colour and a small head formed and stayed throughout, nicely conditioned.  It had a fruity aroma with a pleasant pepperyness.  First taste had some of the fruit but much more pepper coming through, the bitterness was there but all at the front of my tongue which I’ve not experienced from many beers I’ve tried.  The aftertaste was again the pepper and a nutty crispness, most definitely all from the rye.  I don’t know what percentage of the grain bill was rye, but I’d say that it’s character won through.

As I’ve mentioned before, there is also some fun to be had with the outside of the bottle too, and the spiral label on this bottle was designed by Neil.  I’m guessing they were a total bitch to cut out, but they add another element of interest and certainly give the bottle a great look.

Nice work guys and I look froward to swapping some more homebrew soon.  Cheers!

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Arrogant Bastard Ale

"You're not Worthy"

Walking too and from work the last couple of days got me thinking about Snickers…and beer.  Yup, the chocolate bar formerly known as Marathon.  It wasn’t the perceived energy boost that got me thinking, but one of their advertisements.  The star footballer with pin-up girlfriend at his side, sat in the Chairman’s office negotiating his next contract with the club.

You see, I am a man of modest earnings, happy with my modest lifestyle and like to think that an invincible bank account wouldn’t turn my head.  If my wife needs the car, then I walk to work, which is great.  Fresh air, time to wake up properly and the only exercise I get.  I don’t long for a second reasonably priced car or begrudge sharing a perfectly nice people-carrier.  This time last year there was a guy driving past me in a black Lamborghini with personalised plate , twelve months on and the same plate adorns a red Ferrari [couldn’t tell you which model].  I don’t begrudge him his prize for being good at making inordinate sums of money, he may even spend the same amount on charitable causes, he’s probably a great guy, but the fact that he floors the thing at every opportunity just winds me up.  “Look at me! … hear my roar!”

Player: “I want a boat and a Ferrari . Well actually I want a Ferrari boat.”
(The chairman consults his accountant and nods. Agent hands player a dictionary and he starts to read from it) “Oh and I want an aardvark and a ballerina“.
Chairman: “Why not have two?”
Player: “And I want to change the name of the team to (stares lovingly at his girlfriend) The Gwendolines.”
Chairman: “Sound’s reasonable” (Stares to heaven.)

A Ferrari [to a car lover – and it turns out you can actually buy a Ferrari Boat] is undoubtedly a thing of beauty, a masterpiece of engineering and I imagine they are lots of fun to drive.  To us, the us on the outside of the heated glass, the ones that don’t feel the hand-crafted leather seats, the grip on the tarmac and its magnetic effect on the rubber-neckers, it’s more of an annoyance.  If he was to drive the car normally then I would bear no malice.  Like many negative things, it’s possible for a beer geek to balance things up by thinking of beer.  What can I say, it’s my ‘happy place’.  But then it happened.  I caught a glimpse of myself staring into my beer fridge, ogling the finery with wonderment and smugness.  I knew straight away that to write about this petrol-head would turn the spotlight on me, a guy who writes about his beery conquests and publishes it for all to see.  Me and the guy revving his engine at the lights aren’t that different.  He just wants others to appreciate what he appreciates, he just wants to share the experience with the people within earshot.  I should admire the guy.  Instead of leaving his pride and joy in the garage until the sun comes out, or his next invite to a track-day, he drives it through rush-hour, from A to B and on roads more suited to a Hummer.  He’s enjoying it.

ar-ro-gance (ar’ o gans) n.

The act or quality of being arrogant; haughty; undue assumption; overbearing conceit

Then there’s me.  Aside from the truly important things, the love of my life [at the moment] is beer.  Reading about beer, brewing beer, drinking beer, talking beer.  I also have a ‘thing’ about beer and like to keep some of it locked away, the more precious I perceive it the further I push it to the back of the cupboard.  I’ll enjoy it at the right time, hopefully when everyone else has consumed their limited edition bottle and then…. dah dahhhh! I will unleash its splendour upon the good folk of Twitter and beyond, who will tell me “nice choice” and enquire “where did you get that“.  There are some that will slowly shake their head before clicking ‘unfollow’.

This is just an elaborate ‘open it‘ post, but one that gave me some much needed perspective on something I should enjoy now and before the moment has passed.  Take for example the  bottle of Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale I’m drinking on a cold and wet November evening…alone.  I bought it back in May and put it straight in the fridge for a special occasion.  Everyone else that bought one drank theirs, pairing it with food and sharing their thoughts on Twitter.

So I can tell you that this 7.2% American Strong Ale is packed with flavour, sweet fruits and amazing bitterness and would probably have been even better had I opened it in its hoppy prime and while the evenings were still light.  I should have enjoyed it.

Food and Beer Matching

Image from The Good Stuff

Food and beer, beer and food, there are plenty of eating establisments that are trail blazing, add to that a fair few people talking about matching the two and I reckon a lot more with a watchful eye on the developments to see how far this will go.  I’m open to the idea and have dabbled with tasting a few beers alongside some different cheeses and have to say it is a lot of fun and a useful learning exercise for someone looking to hone their taste buds.  (To the cynics: I do appreciate beer drunk on its own, oh and wine too!).

I have been trying my best to keep track of the recent coverage and have also taken a look back to see what went before.  I’m not saying that this all started in 2008, but as this is when the trail becomes warm, then I’ll follow it from there.

28th May 2008  the Guardian’s Word of Mouth Blog introduces Will Beckett their “Beer Guerrilla: a man on a mission to set the great British public free from boring beers” with his first article ‘Drinking Habits: pint of the unusual looking at apathetic beer choices.  Will’s mission to spread the word of good beer appears to have been decommissioned on or around 6th January 2009 having suppressed his fire through September and December 2008 including articles on ‘Beer with Gordon Ramsay and low cost alcohol.

Image from River Cottage

Jan 2009 Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is a busy chap tirelessly campaigning for food issues in-line with his foodie passions, but he does occasionally cook with beer and notably worked alongside Hall and Woodhouse brewery (Badger Brewery) to develop River Cottage Stinger organic Ale.  This was his beer made with stinging nettles and Hugh says that it goes well with “summer barbeques and winter roasts“, a beer for all seasons perhaps!

Jan-Feb 2009 Oz and James ‘Drink to Britain’ series heroically journeyed the length and breadth of our fair land drinking as they went, and while they didn’t get into the food matching they did a sterling job of raising the profile of beer in general with visits to several breweries, including Saltaire, Prospect and BrewDog.

As far as I can tell from the internet, things were a little quiet for the next year or so, with Nov 2010 seeing Jamie Oliver‘s Magazine Issue 14 includes a drink recipe for a Beer Cocktail – Lambs Wool  which features Kernel Centennial IPA.  Nov-Dec 2010 Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s excellent ‘The Trip’ saw Steve commissioned by the food supplement of a Sunday newspaper to review half a dozen restaurants, with Rob along for the ride.  Sadly they were wine-centric,  but did visit The Angel at Hetton (which is well worth a visit) where they enjoyed a breakfast! so no beer there then!  Maybe the next series?

June 2011 Things started to move forward when Hardknott Brewery’s Dave Bailey started a campaign suggesting to the BBC that Saturday Kitchen should give fair representation to beer and maybe to act as a platform to take beer and food appreciation to the next level in terms of its TV coverage.  While there has been little progress with this campaign in terms of actual airtime for beer on Saturday Kitchen, I’d say it has been the catalyst in us seeing an increased level of interest in the wider media.  8th July 2011 Will Hawkes writes a blog Independent’s online Notebook section and featured Dave Bailey’s campaign.  5th August 2011 Chris Mercer Guardian’s Word of Mouth Blog followed suit and offered a comprehensive run-down on wine vs beer and did a nice job of playing devils advocate.  While mentioning chefs Tim Anderson and Ferran Adria and discussing the wider debate, he also gave some column space to the Hardknott Saturday Kitchen campaign.

19th August 2011 Des De Moor appeared on a  One Show montage after briefing them on the resurgence of the brewing industry and recommending some beers for their item on food matching.  What followed, in my opinion, was a calamitous studio review of beer with food, closing with Jay Rayner making it clear that he prefers wine, a wasted opportunity (but nothing to do with Des at this point, although if they were to try this again maybe they should get him into the studio).

November 2011 sees a flurry of activity:

Image from Leeds Brewery

I’m told that Jamie Oliver’s kitchen/set had a bottle of Kernel Beer in the background, and while this is just grasping at straws I’m hopeful that beer is in Jamie’s cheffing consciousness.  Oh look, it is!  1st Nov ‘Jamie’s Great Britain’ C4 series sees him spend a day with the Leeds Brewery most likely looking at their brewing operation before sampling the beer and food on offer at the Midnight Bell.  As with other chef’s if you Google beer and their name, you get similar hits – beef and ale stew, ginger beer, beer can chicken, beer battered fish.

4th Nov James Hall article in The Telegraph on East Yorkshire Pub named best in UK .  I wasn’t the only one to express my disbelief that the entire spread was devoted to their undoubtedly outstanding food, but not one mention of beer unless you include a reference to ale in their pie.  Just an oversight perhaps? ahem.

5th Nov Saturday Kitchen‘s recipe for Braised Beef Cheeks.  The wine expert (not Jolly Olly on this occasion) took their usual stroll around the supermarket and actually stopped to point out a bottle of Theakston Old Peculier as a food match possibility, but went on to choose a red wine.

7th-10th Nov Brooklyn Brewery‘s Brewmaster and editor of The Oxford Companion to Beer, Garrett Oliver, hosts a series of beer tastings and dinners throughout the UK, including events at Oxford Brookes University, The National Brewery Centre, Port Street Bar and The Cross-Keys.

Image from Thornbridge Brewery FB

11th Nov BBC1 Nigel Slater‘s ‘Simple Cooking’ saw Nigel, Tom (the Wild Boar Man (from Thornbridge Hall) and Jim Harrison (Thornbridge Brewery) cook a Wild Boar burger, with Boar fed with grain from the brewery, along with Jaipur Tempura vegetables.

11th Nov Will Hawkes in the Independent online showing that beer and food matching is gaining recognition.

18th Nov Will Hawkes published once again but this time in both the online and the paper editions, letting us know all about the editor behind The Oxford Companion to Beer, his recent promotional tour and a big thumbs up to beer and cheese matching.

If you have read this and think you might like to give this a go, then look no further than books from Garrett Oliver (Brewmaster’s Table) and Fiona Beckett (An Appetite for Ale).  Of course, if you want to dabble without the financial outlay then check out The Good Stuff, Eating isn’t Cheating, The Beer Prole, Gastroturf and CAMRA (sorry to anyone that I’ve missed).  Keep up the good work one and all!

Please feel free to make comments with anything I’ve missed and I’ll update the post.  Thanks.

Beer and Chocolate


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Biere Belge D'artisans

There is a lot of radio chatter at the moment surrounding what appears to be the ‘new wine’ (only joking Leigh!), no not the new wine, just beer in its own right.  Not only beer, but beer and food, see The Good Stuff and Called to the Bar for some recent insight into this.  I’m interested in both of these culinary components and whole heartedly agree that there should be more food and beer pairing happening, although I have also met a skeptic, my wife, who cannot comprehend how anyone could drink a pint of fizzy beer with each course of their meal.  For the sake of marital relations and also as an ulterior motive for generally championing my rampant interest in all things beer, I refrained from a forehead-slap, although I did think of doing it and that made me feel better.  I went on to explain that there are many different styles of beer and that not all beer is fizzy and served in a pint glass.  She humoured me by listening with one ear while using the other to stay tuned to The Great British Bake-Off on the beeb.  My tired brain caught up with itself and realised that I could demonstrate my ramblings and disappeared off to the kitchen (and to the beer fridge – yes a dedicated beer fridge *smiley face*).  I wasn’t in the room anymore to confirm this, but I think she was glad that I’d gone.  Without asking (rock n roll) I pre-heated the oven and swiped the box of Gü Chocolate Soufflé‘s from the fridge.  I know these aren’t the real thing, but neither am I the kind of guy who can knock up a soufflé on demand.  So the puddings were in the oven and I reached for the bottle of beer I knew would come in handy some day.  Today!

PictureA few months back I bought a mixed case of La Rulles Belgian beers from Ales by Mail.  As far as I am aware Ales by Mail are still the sole UK distributor of these beers.  The case included bottles of La Rulles Blonde (7%), Brune (6.5%), Triple (8.4%), Estivale (5.2%) and two bottles of Jean Chris Numero 1 (6.0%).  It was the Jean Chris Numero 1 that I knew I was going to pair with this pudding and hopefully demonstrate the beauty of beer and food to my wife.  She likes chocolate and she doesn’t hate beer, so I knew I had a chance of proving a point.  The Jean Chris Numero 1 was a collaboratively brewed at the Brasserie Artisanale de Rulles along with Christophe Gillard, the owner of Miorge Mihoublon a bottle shop in Arlon (Belgium), and his friend Jean who is a local chocolatier, based in Habay-La-Neuve (also Belgium).  Jean created three praline chocolates designed to go with the beer, sadly I had to settle for a chocolate pudding, but was confident that it would still be a tasty match.The beer is a 6% Belgian Pale Ale, non filtered, non pasteurised and bottle conditioned.  It’s made with Pale Malt – Munich and single hopped with Amarillo to a pleasant 40 EBU (released in 75cl bottles).

Picture  So, the puddings were out of the oven  and the beer poured into two tulip glasses, I was proud to be showcasing the beer and my novice ability to match the two together.  I re-entered the front room and presented them to my wife, who turned to me and said; “I’ve just brushed my teeth so won’t have any this time”.  I masked my frustration and fought back a tear and decided the best thing to do was to eat both puddings and drink all of the beer myself.  Imagine if I had prepared one pudding and poured one glass of beer for myself, she’d have wanted some then! Unbelievable!  Anyway, the chocolate soufflé and Jean Chris Numero 1 where a brilliant match.  There was no fight between the fruit and bitterness of the beer and the sweetness of the chocolate.   Puddings finished, I still had a glass of beer left in the bottle so poured that to drink on its own.  It still poured the same deep gold and had a bready, citrus aroma, but it was now, without the chocolate to accompany, that I realised how sour the beer was, sour in a good way of course, but to my relatively unconditioned palate to the likes of Belgian lambics and gueuzes this was probably a good introduction to what you might expect from the real lip-puckering deal!

Thanks for reading.

If you have read this and used my links to the excellent blogs on food and beer and still doubt the power of this pairing, then check out some more recent examples of genius at work:
Check out  Eating isn’t Cheating for regular food and beer pairings and also recent media activities involving David Bailey of Hardknott (re: Saturday Kitchen) and Des de Moor’s valiant effort to assist BBC’s the One Show, although they could have used his input a little less sparingly!  Also, Raising the Bar and Gastroturf provide details on their International IPA Day Feast at the Dean Swift, London.

Buxton Beauties

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Craft beer brewed in Buxton, in the Derbyshire Peak District
It’s always a little awkward when you find yourself waxing lyrical about a particular beer.  I’ve noticed that some people view this kind of feedback with suspicion, or at worst with an air of contempt that there may be an ulterior motive.  But having considered the fall-out from such declarations, I have decided that the only thing one can do is to proudly stick a hand-in-the-air and shout it out loud!A couple of months ago I was made aware of the Buxton Brewery.  Now, it’s no longer a secret that these guys are turning out some fantastic beers and they have received some well deserved applause from many.   But once in a while there is a beer, or in this case a brewery, which makes me pay a little more attention.  It’s not the marketing as I’m yet to see anything other than what I see on Twitter, and it’s not that the bottles jumping off the shelf, as with the greatest respect the labeling is standard and tells you what you need to know with no unnecessary frilly-bits.  The reason I mention this, is that there is a case for selecting a beer based purely on its looks and there are a few breweries that commission artists or other creative types to design their range of labels (check out Ghost Drinker’s blog on ‘Detour to Beer Art’ or Real Ale Reviews ‘Like Trousers, Like Brain!’ for an insight into the importance of label design).  Well in the case of Buxton, it appears to me that there is no emphasis on the look of the bottle and they are letting the beer and its growing reputation speak for itself.  Having said that, if you read the bottles you may well be swayed by their liberal utilisation of big American and New Zealand hops.  So it’s not the marketing; the packaging or indeed due to a personal connection with this brewery; it is the beer that maketh me doth my cap to their excellent ale and the honest brand they continue to grow.  Bravo!

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So, onto the beer.  I’ve said this before, but for anyone who hasn’t read it, I’m not a ‘beer reviewer’, I was not gifted with the tools necessary to reverse-engineer each beer I taste and inform the good people what they are missing out on.  I am an enthusiast and a beer drinker, an enthusiastic beer drinker if you will, and I either like the beer or will choose not to drink it again and move on.  However I have, and will if asked again, dabbled with reviewing beers, but in this case I won’t attempt it.  But having chewed the ear of the local bottle shop owner to stock Buxton’s beers, I felt it only proper to buy some and report back.  From the full range available I selected: Moor Top, Buxton Spa, Axe Edge, Black Rocks and Buxton Gold.  You can find reviews for Black Rocks on HopZine & The Beer Prole, so I won’t mention much other than it is a 5.5% abv Black IPA with predominantly blackcurrant, liquorice and grapefruit flavours.  The Buxton Spa is a 4.1% abv Special Pale Ale and the bottle I had was really fresh; lively and had really impressive hop aromas.  The showcasing of Citra in this beer brings a whack of citrus on the nose and juicy tropical flavours and I’m told that it’s propped up with Columbus, Amarillo and Nelson Sauvin.  In my opinion it is on a par with their Axe Edge Double IPA, but is obviously much thinner in the mouth and much less boozy.  I think Buxton Spa makes for a great session beer!
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4.1% abv Special Pale Ale

Buxton Gold is described as a Golden Ale and in comparison to the Spa has a noticeably bigger mouth-feel and its 5.2% abv is reassuringly warming.  Again, a huge hop presence, this time through Amarillo, Liberty and Nelson Sauvin.  One thing with these beers is the strength and freshness of the aroma.  I think this may be due to the fact that I have bought them so soon after they have been brewed and are quite possibly at their best?  Finally, and I would say my favourite of the bunch, is Axe Edge, a Double IPA weighing in at 6.8% abv.  I was lucky enough to try this at Mr Foleys on cask as part of last weeks International IPA Day celebrations, and it did not disappoint!

Picture It was Axe Edge that introduced me to their beer, which is probably a little unusual as I would guess that a standard bitter or pale ale would usually be the first beer you might try as a way of introduction, followed by specialty beers or stronger niche varieties like the Double IPA.  For it’s mighty 6.8% it does not wield any destructive sharp edges, it is smooth and rounded and delivers more of a pleasant bludgeoning.  In short, I love it and its complex flavours and it goes straight onto my list of ‘beers of the year’.   So, if you haven’t already tried Buxton Brewery’s offerings then I would encourage you to do so.  In my opinion they are a shining ‘broad-spectrum (400-700nm) photon emitting’ example to any budding brewers!  Follow @kempicus if you want to read what’s what in the brewery, and @BuxtonBrewery for general info and banter.  Keep up the good work guys!

If you want to read more about Buxton Beers then it is testament to them that they have also been enjoyed and blogged about by: Are You Tasting the Pith, Reluctant Scooper and The Good Stuff, and you can find links to these via Eating Isn’t Cheating.

More links to Buxton reviews Beersay, HopZine.

Meet the brewer JK – James Kemp – Beer Reviews.

Thanks for reading!

IPA Day – the IPAftermath

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Fact

For full details of International IPA Day (#IPADay), please see my blog below.
But, as the dust is settling, just a quick post to say that the International IPA Day feels to have been a huge success, in my humble opinion.  I can’t really put it better than Pete Brown does in his blog post ‘Cheers to International IPA Day‘.  However, if you don’t have the time to read that then Pete sums the event up nicely when he says: “…As far as I can tell there is no central organisational structure, no big budget or organisation, and yet it’s an idea that has caught the imaginations of beer lovers and gone global.”  And as I have commented on one blog already this morning, the concept and execution of this global event is testament to the notion that ‘Beer People are Good People’ or that “Good people drink good beer.” (Hunter S. Thompson).
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IPAin

Considering my heavy-eyes and painful head, I’m going to be lazy here and just point you to a handful of blogs that tend to agree with said notion;
Eating isn’t Cheating

Make Mine a Half 
She Likes Beer
The Pub Diaries

The Crafty Pint
I’n Here For The Hops

For my IPA Day celebrations I decided to join the crowd at Mr Foleys (@MrFoleys), Leeds.  I knew from my advanced stages of acute Twitteritus that there would be at least a couple of people going along that I already knew well enough to recognise and to talk to, as well as many others who I had yet to meet, but hoped to.  It was a tough call between Mr Foleys, The Grove and The Sparrow all of which were treating beer lovers to a veritable hop feast, but a persuasive Dean (Manager of Foleys) and a cracking line up on the bar gently twisted my arm.  I managed to sample all of the cask selection and a couple of the bottles/cans and can honestly say I enjoyed each and everyone.  Most importantly to me though, I was lucky enough to chat (briefly) with brewers and owners alike, from Roosters, Hardknott, Magic Rock, Buxton and Ilkley (the latter just there as punters like the rest of us – i.e. they did not have a beer on the bar on this occasion, but see Lotus IPA if you are yet to try their superb offering.  It’s not often that you get to ‘meet the brewer’ in the flesh, so to speak, but I took the opportunity to let most of them know that they inspire me to believe that I can make my brewery dreams a reality.  Along with the beer writers and bloggers there were the geeks and fanatics adding their own brand of passion to the evening, some more amorous than others.  But probably most poignantly for me, and by total chance, I found myself talking to a young guy who, in all fairness looked like he might have walked into the wrong bar, sharp suit and proud fiancé on his arm, he was making strides to convince his wife-to-be that beer is amazing and that she should jolly well drink some.  Despite his enthusiasm it transpired that the lady wasn’t for turning, but you can’t win em’ all.  He also revealed he is a blogger, new to the scene with – Geek Leeds, but who has been watching from a safe distance.  Each person I tried to name-drop, he responded with a knowing nod of the head.  This meeting may not seem too impressive to most, but he wasn’t connected to anyone else in the room and wasn’t even on Twitter! yet the friendly atmosphere and sense of occasion presented everyone there with the opportunity to talk about good beer.

Anyway, I’m sure there will be more in-depth blogs to come to show and describe the night at Foleys with more finesse, but that was my two-penneth.  I look forward to the next beer event whenever or wherever that may be.  Thanks to one and all for a great night out (especially Dean and his staff @MrFoleys – bravo!).

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@MrFoleys @Tuff86 @BGRTRob @LeedsBrew @Nickiquote @LeighGoodStuff @EisntCNeil @TKiley1@Ol_Foz @Cheeeseboiger @mbell739 @fletchthemonkey @realalereviews@misterfrosty @ZakAvery @BrewDogUpNorth @MagicRockRich @BuxtonBrewery @HardknottDave @HardknottAnn @HardknottSooty @IlkleyBrewery
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