One of the U.K beer highlights of the year is The International Rainbow Project 2016. This year the event was on Saturday 17th September 2016 and for me, at the Magic Rock Tap / Magic Rock Brewery in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. This year, it is all about New Zealand brews! The event also gives me a chance to catch up in person with the infinitely knowledgeable Simon Tomlinson, beer guru of the Interweb. This week he celebrates 100,000 followers to his Beer collection Google+ page.
Arriving early at around 12:30, H and I joined a fairly long queue for about 30 minutes into the courtyard where we collected our beer glasses and Magic Rock bottle cap tokens, together with the Rainbow menu. I remember saying “I hope it’s not a sour fest again like last year.” Again, unfortunately, sour beers made up a good proportion of the menu.
Upon purchasing our tokens, commemorative glass and gubbins, we headed over to the Magic Rock Tap Bar in the main building to see what delights they had on the wall. I thought I would go for a light, patriotic, fairly safe option of Magic Rock & Fork Brewing: Upside Down (Yellow Ale) at 6.0% which was the Rainbow colour Yellow. Based around a Golden Promise base malt but also a large proportion of wheat, rye and oats. Then kettle soured to a PH of 3.6 using a pure lactic strain. Coriander and turmeric were added into the boil to add zest, spice and colour and Citra and Equinox hops. the beer was then dry hopped with more Citra and Equinox as well as Mosaic and Simcoe to deliver a deeply tropical hop aroma and flavour augmented by the addition of both passionfruit and mango juice.
I thought it was a nice refreshing beer to get started with and good ammunition to see what to goto next. I joined the crowd of wide eyed, slack jawed bar gazers all transfixed on the blackboard of beers on the wall.
It was all too much to take in at this point. Now it was time to have a look outside at the bar tent in the courtyard.
Next on the list was : Burning Sky: Easy Answers IPA (6/10) at 6.0% (2 beer tokens), with H grabbing a : Partizan Rhubarb & Ginger Saison (7/10) at 3.7% (bordering on the edge of sour & 2 tokens). The Saison won it for me out of the two, giving a slight scent and aftertaste of ginger which was wonderfully refreshing.
Following this I chose a Wild Beer Witness IPA at 5.8% (6/10) Belgian Ale. A aroma hinting at being sour, followed by a refreshing lager style taste. Not too bitter either. I then tried the Magic Rock Dark Arts Stout (8/10) Coconut Edition at 6.0%. An already amazing stout with a delicious hint of coconut on the aftertaste.
The ‘Rainbow Purple‘: Partizan: Royal Ale Barley Wine at 8.5% followed (6/10). Again slightly sour light coloured barley wine. Not sweet or overly bitter, refreshing yet not fully convinced this was a barley wine.
Then onto a Siren Calypso Dry hopped Berliner Weiss at 4.0% (5/10) which is a slightly sour and watery wheat beer. Again, fairly refreshing albeit a bit dull.
Next from New zealand came Parrot Dog: Bitter Bitch IPA at 5.8%. (7/10) Now were were talking!. Cool and bitter, a subtle aroma with a superb bitterness profile. Gorgeous!
Onto Hawkshead Parma Violet IPA at 7.0%. (9/10) This beer seemed to be well sought after, it appeared between 16:00 – 17:00 hrs and as soon as it did, chinese whispers started followed by a rush to the outside bar. Goodness me, what an ale! it certainly got chins wagging.
A wonderful aroma of citrus and you guessed it: Parma Violets! the taste was full bodied with a lovely cold compact carbonation. The taste has a subtle malty backbone, suppressed enough to allow a flavour of parma violets to come through. The great thing is, that they didn’t over do it. It was ‘there’ but not ‘in your face’. What a great concept and deliver. Easily the best beer that I tried that afternoon. Well done Hawkshead!
To finish off the afternoon, a nice and cool Saison a la Provision at 6.5% from Burning Sky. Compact and cold carbonation, great head and retention. A great belgian style aroma and a dry and almost sweet aftertaste. A great one to finish on. I declined to buy the box set, as I found that £5.00 per beer was a bit steep, when a good portion of them were sour types. Maybe next year will be a non sour year.
To top the day off, I did a quick brew swap with Simon. Six different styles of my best homebrew for: