So, we did a beer…
It’s no secret that as well as being huge American whiskey fans in the BBS, we also have a penchant for the occasional non-distilled, grain-based beverage. The UK craft beer scene has never been stronger than it is now, with so many great independent breweries putting out consistently high-quality beers and bringing innovation to the category at every opportunity. Therefore, it won’t come as a surprise that in late 2017, Ed Rosie, decided to reach out to one of the best breweries in the UK in order to see if there was anything we could collaborate on.
Northern Monk, based in Leeds, is a brewery that has always been highly regarded by many in the group. After some email exchanges and some work with New York Distilling Company (through Maverick Drinks) to source some rye barrels, they agreed to work with us to create our own barrel-aged stout.
Four months or so after that initial contact, fellow BBS Co-Founders Ed Rosie, Andrew Watson and I travelled over to their brewery in Leeds to make progress and ‘help’ brew the beer that would ultimately end up in those barrels. It was Thursday 19th April 2018 and the weather was glorious. I took the train from Manchester to Leeds to meet up with Andrew and Ed at the train station before jumping into a cab and making our way over to the brewery. On arrival, we were greeted by their head of brewing, Brian Dickson who took us in the main building where our brew was already underway. Ed had already been liaising with Brian to work out the kind of flavour profile we wanted. The brief was to create a robust, rich and full bodied stout that would spend as much time in the barrels as required to create a truly brilliant barrel aged beer. Brian explained that we had nine different malts in the mash and that we would eventually add coffee, cherry and almond to really create unique flavour profile that would stand out from the crowd. There was a large amount of lactose added for creaminess which we were able to add and stir ourselves whilst taking the obligatory photos.
As the mash would now need to cook for a while, Brian invited us up to the tap room – a glorious space in the top levels of the cleverly refurbished Old Flax Store building. There were 16 taps showcasing the huge variety of beers that Northern Monk brew. We were immediately drawn to their Sharknado blood orange and sea salt IPA which was a collaboration with them and the team behind the newly released Sharknado 5 movie. It was a perfect thirst quencher on such a sunny day. Sweet and tangy with the hint of sea salt providing balance. From there we moved on to sample their Double Peanut Butter and Jelly and their DIPA. Whilst in the tap room, we also tried their food offering. If memory serves, Yorkshire pudding burgers were the flavour of the day.
We took our drinks outside and talked beer with Brian who was a fountain of knowledge and more than happy to share his experience with us. Later on, some of the unfermented beer was brought out for us to each try it before fermentation. It was fascinating to taste the sweet and malty liquid before the sugars had been fermented out.
We said our goodbyes and jumped on our trains after a quick stop by Bundobust for some excellent vegetarian Indian food.
After we left, Northern Monk worked with Maverick Drinks to take delivery of nine fresh, full-size rye whiskey casks from New York Distilling Company. Once fermented, those barrels were filled and left to sit for eight long months. Towards the end, the hazelnut, cacao and Madagascan vanilla were added for flavour.
Ed worked closely with the team at Northern Monk and local photographer Tom Joy to finalise the label for the beer. Tom, who is originally from Aberdeen but now lives in Leeds designed the artwork for the can and has a feature on the inside of the peel and reveal label showcasing some of his other photography.
Words by BBS Co-Founder, Chris Neville.