It probably all looked a bit dodgy as myself and Mrs C walked hand in hand up Armley Road. You could see drivers smiling knowingly as they passed by. Thankfully no one saw us turn down Brandon Street into Canal Mills instead of crossing to the Private Shop on the other side.
Tempting though the Sexy Superstore was, they weren’t handing out free beer as you entered. When we got to Canal Mills, things had already been going half an hour and there were already a good few people sat around in the yard.
The centre of attraction was a pukkah yellow American school bus, prompting cries of Hail to the bus driver, bus driver, bus driver, Hail to the bus driver, bus driver-man.
Only thing was, Otto Man was nowhere to be found and the bus wasn’t yellow anymore. It had morphed into a corporate shade of Brooklyn Brewery black and green, and someone had cut a hole in the side and inserted a bar, selling … Brooklyn beers!
More of the beers later, because Brooklyn on Tour is so much more than beer and features things like local kitchens; that’ll be the excellent Bundobust in their own mobile kitchen, then. Music and DJ’s; like the well known Lucy Locket aka Lucy Scarisbrick. A work of art in progress: Nicolas Dixon. And random stuff like video games and traditional pub games. It’s all part of the ‘Brooklyn state of mind’ and builds on the successful Brooklyn Sound events. They’ve already been to Glasgow and will go to Birmingham and Liverpool next, have a look on their Facebook site for details.
I was really chuffed to meet Farsley lad Nicolas Dixon, what a brilliant guy; underground house DJ, tiler, abstract artist, painted a kangaroo. Seriously, he’s just come back from Australia, where besides painting bespoke lifts, he painted a sculpture of a kangaroo! Just have a look at his website because he’s painted giraffes in Antwerp and allsorts of stuff.
I really liked his image. He explained it was a map of Brooklyn, surrounded by Brooklyny imagery. He started it the day before, initially painting the wall behind the board. Originally the outline of Brooklyn was going to be black and white checks to represent the grid system of streets, but when he came in this morning he decided to add a bit of colour; orange to represent the original Dutch settlers. He told me that’s how a lot of his work emerges, rather than being planned. Anyway top geezer and top painting.
Okay, what about the beer then? They had Brooklyn Lager, Scorcher IPA, Summer Ale and Stonewall Inn at £4.50 a pint and Uncle Nelson IPA at £5.50, but it was a hefty 7.5%. We’ve probably all heard of the first three, you can even get them in the supermarket, but not the last two. Chris Moore, brand ambassador for the North of England, explained the Stonewall Inn was a Wit beer brewed as part of The Stonewall Inn Gives Back charity and only for Pride Month (June).
The Uncle Nelson IPA, a lactose DIPA was also a bit of rarity and only two kegs were available. Both beers were meant to be something else and were a bit of a surprise to those who’d read the event previews, and to the Brooklyn team themselves.
I was lucky enough to get to try a few seldom seen beers in a tutored tasting event, sat inside the Brooklyn beer bus. The session was hosted by Brand Ambassador Chris and Aidy Fenwick a New Zealander, who promotes Brooklyn Brewery in Scotland.
I guess the most surprising fact to many people is that Brooklyn make around thirty different beers, most of which are unavailable in the UK. Maybe that wasn’t surprising to those on the bus, people like Chris and Sarah who’d been to the Williamsburg brewery twice and won their place on the bus by entering a competition on Facebook.
Four beers were presented to us: Uncle Nelson, Framboisie, The Passion of the Mango and Cloaking Device. I’ve got quite detailed tasting notes but I’m not going to overly bore you.
I mentioned Uncle Nelson earlier, a single hopped (Nelson Sauvin) brew made on the small batch brew kit at Williamsburg and generally only available in their tap room. It was extremely drinkable.
Framboisie was a barrel aged (Woodford reserve casks) raspberry sour which I’d describe simply as raspberry crumble and custard. Nice!
The Passion of the Mango was a Ghost bottle, not available for commercial resale and a bit of a treat. Again, aged in wooden casks, Cognac this time. This was my least favourite, the barrel ageing seemed to have removed any zip, probably because it was quite a comparatively low ABV beer. The Ghost bottles don’t have the ABV on but I reckon it was 4 – 5% at most. Like Aidy said though, these are experimental brews.
Cloaking Device is barrel aged for 8 months in red wine casks and uses Brettomyces yeast strains which gives the 10.5% Porter a bit of a funky kick. All dark brown with a nice head on it. The red wine notes really came out and there was an underlying earthiness to the beer which wasn’t to everyones liking. Personally I thought it was an accomplished and complex drink with more flavour notes than items on your weekly shopping list.
I liked the punted Champagne bottles, which judging by the amount of conditioning within the bottles, were needed. I liked the use of different styles of wooden casks for the ageing process and the secondary fermentation, demonstrating a strong tradition at the heart of Brooklyn.
As I pondered this, a group of Society for Preservation of Beers from the Wood (SPBW) members arrived at the event. They’d been on a tour round Leeds Brewery and were keen to see what was going on. Uncle Nelson was a big hit and I liked the way this group of, what in some quarters, might be perceived as real ale, stick in the mud, stalwarts were rapidly absorbed into the ‘Spirit of Brooklyn’.
Just shows what a good event Brooklyn on Tour is, appealing to all sorts of people from all parts of the beery spectrum, and the simply curious, because the event was about so much more than beer. If you get chance to go to one then do it, if only for the can of free beer when you go in!