Last night's IPA day event at Mr Foleys in Leeds was a lot of fun. Beer, people, blather, and the chance for a few people to be utterly fabulous in their own way (yes, I was one of the fabulous, just for one night). But of course, it wasn't about the people, even people as fabulous as me. It was about the beer.
There's a bit of a paradox to good beer, in that if it's really good, it doesn't hang around for long. I'm not sure which was the first IPA to sell out - maybe it was the Rooster's Underdog? - but Magic Rock Human Cannonball, their double IPA, sold out early on too. But, as Leigh at The Good Stuff says, more on this later.
Magic Rock Rapture (4.6%abv) is a red ale, which I have a sneaking suspicion is becoming a style that more 'craft' brewers are seeing as a 'must-have' in their range. Rapture has a really nutty aroma, alongside a faintly spicy hop character. On the palate, more nutty malt leads the way - biscuity amber malt seems to be prominent, which is fine by me. Overall, the beer is quite malt driven, which I actually quite liked - a respite from the 'more hops with everything' approach that is so prevalent at the moment. [EDIT - as Neil from eating isn't cheating points out, this beer is hoppier than I make it sound here. A bottle tried today was much hoppier than I remember, so perhaps I had a duff bottle?]
Having said that, High Wire (5.5%abv) is hoptastic, and will be immediately familiar to anyone who has tried any of brewer Stuart Ross's beers before. Pale malt lays a blank canvas against which citrus and hop character is deployed, to dazzling effect. Mango, lime, jasmine, this pushes all my buttons, and at that strength, happily qualifies for my 'ruinously drinkable' tag.
If you were at Foleys on Tuesday, you'll have heard me say a little bit about the cross-pollination of ideas between British and American brewing cultures. Cannonball (7.4%abv - surely not the first beer to be brewed to strength with an eye on the incoming strong beer tax later this year?) straddles those two cultures like a colossus, keeping a weather eye on rumbustious malty English ales, and hop-led American beasts. It's big and chunky, and shows its strength with a little warmth, but I actually quite enjoy that slightly raucous quality.
And that would be the end of the bottle reviews, but for the kindness of the guys at Magic Rock, who hand-bottled me a sample of their IIPA Human Cannonball, pictured left arriving on a pallet of their beers. Hey, you might have to buy a pallet of beers to get it, but that's what being fabulous means. Human Cannonball (9.2%abv) picks up where Cannonball leaves off, more raucous and rumbustious, the sort of beer that kicks open your mouth, bum rushes your palate, and grafittis HAVE IT!! in fluorescent paint on your olfactory bulb. It's not big, it's not clever, and that's the point. There's room for grace and elegance, and there's room for stoopid fun, just as there's room for both Brian Eno and MC Hellshit & DJ Carhouse in my music collection.
And so when people started saying "noooo!" at the bar around 10pm, it was because the biggest, stoopidest beer of the evening had run out before they'd got a chance to try it. I was working up to it myself, and didn't get to try it on the night, stopping at Thornbridge Geminus (8.5%abv), a kick-ass concoction of hops, malt, rye and muscovado sugar. Happily, I'd tried it a few days earlier, and damn, anyone saying "noooo!" doesn't know the half of it.
Magic Rock. Hell yeah.