Friday, 5 August 2011

Magic Rock Brewing: The Bottles

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.


  1. As tasting notes go, "grafittis HAVE IT!! in fluorescent paint on your olfactory bulb" is the best I've read in a long time. I want to try a beer that can tag my tongue.

  2. They are fantastic looking bottles certainly.

  3. Had Carafa Jade, a "red ale" from Dark Star, in Brighton the other day. It was... challenging. Hop astringency so intense it's almost a flavour in its own right - you get bitterness at the front & back of your tongue, but you also get something that just sits on your tongue and creases it in half. A bit like SWB's Gambit (which is ostensibly a 'bronze ale') only much more so. The Magic Rock sounds a lot more like what I'd expect a 'red ale' to be.

  4. Mark - as I say, hell yeah.

    Arn - I didn't really mention that - in fact, I did say that and removed it, but yeah, both the imagery and the execution are great

    Phil - it's interesting, but hop astringency seems to be exacerbated by serving beers from (key)keg. The lower temperature masks residual sugar, and can make a right mess, with hop bitterness poking out all over the place. Rapture might be thought by many to be less than breathtaking, but I actually think its understatedness is a quiet virtue.

  5. I'm loving that Rapture. Been drinking it everywhere I've found it for the last couple of weeks.

    Leeds city centre is as fantastic a place to drink beer as ever, by the way.

  6. Haha, yeah, I do like to leave a cliffhanger! what I like about MR is thier accessibility. They do great, vibrant beers that should go a long way to 'hook' in new drinkers, especially with that wonderful branding. We used Rapture at a meal at Dough that we hosted on Monday night - check out the menu on the dough site for details- and it was a 100% hit. People loved it: because it's tasty and ever-so-slightly different if you've not had ale before.
    I was lucky enough to sample Human before I left and Jesus, it did indeed tip me over the edge. Great beer, and incredibly strong.

  7. If they're anywhere near as good as what he's brewed at the Hillsborough Hotel for Crown then I'm sure they'll be winners each and every one of these (hope he ain't leaving the Hillsborough though, heh). Can't wait to get my mits on some of them especially the Rapture. Weren't the bottle labels designed by someone involved in Artic Monkeys' record sleeve design?? very nice design too.

  8. Warren - high praise indeed, from a stalwart such as yourself

    Leigh - accessibility is important, doubly so for a new brewery set up in the heartland of cask ale

    pdtnc - thanks!

    Barl - I don't know anything about the labels, and AFAIK, he's left the Hoillsborough and doing this full time now.

  9. Those bottles look great - the labelling is amazing

  10. Great write up Zak. I stupidly waited until late on in the evening at Mr Foleys to try Human Cannonball, by which point it had sold out! Very annoying but a half of hardcore IPA was a nice alternative.

    Not tried their bottled beers yet but I definately found Rapture hoppier than you makeout here. On cask it was a nice balance of malt and hops but defintaely had some top notes, and spicy hop flavour, I dont think i could call it malt driven. Perhaps a difference between the bottled verison and the cask?

  11. Sad to hear he's left now The Hillsborough/Crown, but happy to see he's moved onto something as good as this.

  12. Kristy - yeah, they're cool, aren't they?

    Neil - you're right, the bottle I had yesterday was much hoppier. Article amended to reflect that fact.

  13. Great review post. Nay, fabulous.



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