Tuesday 8 September 2009

The Crown Jewels/A Royal Twit

As with a lot of things nowadays, it started on twitter. Andy from Beer Blog posted that he was drinking a 10.3% chilli beer from Crown Brewery, Sheffield. Having met Stu, the brewer from Crown Brewery, at GBBF, I asked nicely and he agreed to bring me a few bottles when we were both at the opening of the new Thornbridge Brewery. Social networking at its very best.

Stu brought me three bottles: Unpronounceable IPA, Wheat Stout and Ring of Fire - a veritable threesome if ever there was one (in human form these beers would make a crazy-cool punk girl band). The brewery is based in the cellar of The Hillsborough Hotel, making the beers downstairs and selling them upstairs alongside a selection of other casks (they twitter the beer list in photo form - I wish more pubs would tweet to say what’s on).

I started off with the Unpronounceable IPA. It’s a punchy 7% and pours a royal crown gold with a fluffy white head. It’s hopped with 5kg of Bramling Cross (5kg in a 4 brl plant) and they come straight out in a plume of earthy blackberries – it’s got a great nose, really fruity and juicy and reminiscent of picking berries from the bushes with pink-stained fingers. There’s a great kick of bitterness to begin and then it gives way to more fruity berries and hints of apple sucky sweets. It’s easy drinking, full flavoured and really very good, plus it’s a nice adversary to the super-hopped US-style IPAs that I’ve been gulping back recently. Nice one.

Next came Wheat Stout, a 6.6% thick black oil slick with a great looking bubbly brown head. The nose had me doing somersaults trying to work out exactly what I was getting and I never quite got to the bottom of it. What I did get was roasty and dark, chocolatey, spicy like wheat beer and slightly creamy. All of these come through in the taste department too, with more spice and coffee and a dry berry fruit bitterness in there as well. There’s also a sweetness which reminded me of oyster stout. Really interesting and enjoyable.

I saved Ring of Fire to last and I don’t mind admitting that I was pretty scared about opening this thing. My previous experience in this field is Crazy Ed’s Chili Beer which is just about the worst thing I’ve ever tasted (on a side note, my mate loves super spicy food so we made him strawpedo a bottle of Crazy Ed’s one day, he’s never been the same since…). So it was with some trepidation that I popped the cap of this 10.3% beast brewed with fresh peppers and poured out a headless deep and dangerous chilli con carne brown beer with fiery red edges. I dipped my nose in and tentatively sniffed, fearing an olfactory burn but you know what, it smelled bloody lovely – dried fruits and stone fruits like a barley wine and then right at the end, like a cheeky little surprise, comes the fresh and slightly warming aroma of chilli (you know the one you get when chopping them, an earthy aroma, a little fruity, like fresh green peppers). But what about the taste… I was still worried at this point, not wanting to scold my lips, but there was none of that at all, no vicious burn, no hellish flames and instead it has that barley wine taste of a sweet, full bodied and richly fruity brew and then right at the end the chillis come in like a garnish of fresh green peppers – it tingles but it doesn’t burn and this warming tingle is really fascinating as it builds throughout. This beer seriously surprised and impressed me, in fact all of the beers did.

It started with a tweet and me asking for a few bottles of beer. Now I think there could be some pretty cool adventures to be had with twitter, think Yes Man with Tweets or Six-Degrees of Separation. “Come to Sheffield and stay at The Hillsborough”, Stu said to me on the way to Thornbridge, “they’ve got eight handpumps.” I might just take him up on that one day, although it might take a tweet to persuade me.

Some notes: Andy at Beer Blog (and Chilli Up North) has also written about Ring of Fire and Unpronounceable IPA. Stu has a blog here. Follow us all on twitter, you never know what you might happen. I couldn’t decide on which title to go for so I went with both. And I did listen to Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire while drinking the beer, it felt right.


  1. Nice one fella (thanks for the plug)

    i can't belive you made a mate strawpedo that chilli beer, very cruel, i'd hate to think what would happen if you did that with ring of fire!!

    the whole tweet thing is so true and exaclty how i came across crown beers.

    hoping to go down and brew some ring of fire with my home grown chillis at some point too!

    PS let me know when ur ready so sort out this beer swap!

  2. All these beers sound awesome - especially the wheat stout. I'm visiting the city in early October for the beerfest, so must drop by the Hillsborough Hotel as it's been a while since I've been there.

    Having studied and worked in Sheffield I can safely say that it's a paradise for beers lovers, so do grab any chance you have to visit.

  3. Can't wait to try all three of these, they sound fantastic!

    And can't echo enough the feeling of community spirit there is in the beer world on twitter, it's great!

  4. I occasionally tweet what I've got on, but still need to remember every time the beers change. I think more pubs will do so as time goes on - I've only been a tweeter for a couple of weeks and I think I'm reasonably switched on to internet advertising.

    Ditto twitter's community spirit.

  5. Great sounding beers, pretty eager to try the lot!

    As a Wednesday fan, I have no idea how I haven't been to the Hillsborough Hotel to drink yet. I damn sure will now.

  6. They all sound delicious. Althugh i love super hopped beers, i really like well balanced beers, and that IPA sounds like just the ticket.

    I think I'll have to make a chilli stout to satisfy my curiousity there though!

  7. Moggy, it'd be great to get your chillis in a brew of Ring of Fire - keep me posted on that!

    Andrew, Sheffield is right at the top (alongside Manchester) of my UK cities to visit for beer. It seems to be a real hot spot right now.

    BeerBear, the sub-4% Crown brewed stuff is only £2 a pint too - bargain!!

    Barry, do the chilli stout! I've got an 8(ish)% Italian imperial stout with chillis in that I'm looking forward to opening.

  8. Add Leeds and York to that list Mark, planning something in the not too distant future!

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  11. Thank you Mark.
    for those who want to try the beers here are the links ( are watchin dave ) Living Beer on line shop or if your in sheffield try The Hillsborough Hotel, the Dram Shop or Archer Road Beer Stop. Beer Ritz Leeds also now stocks some of my beers.

  12. Stu, you got there in the end :D I could've just added it to the main post...

  13. i would have kept trying if had taken me all night