Meet the Magic Brewers

Meet the Brewer events are always fun; informative and undeniably boozy affairs full of fascinating insights into how breweries get started and where the ideas for beers come from. The Free Trade has a great track record for these. From Durham to Summer Wine, some of my favourite brewers have made the trek to Byker to impart wisdom on the punters. Thursday saw Huddersfield’s Magic Rock make their first Meet the Brewer in the true north. And bugger me it was superb.

The bar was stocked with a Magic Rock hit parade; Simpleton, Curious, Rapture, High Wire, Dark Arts, Clown Juice, Cannonball, Bearded Lady. Christ on a beery bike. With a mix of cask and keg offerings the assembled masses were able to compare the differences between the two dispensation methods. With a few CAMRA members in the bar this could prove to be contentious. For me though, keg it all. KEG. IT. ALL.

Now I love Magic Rock. LOVE THEM. They are the sort of brewery that almost has no place in the UK market. Their beer tastes imported and their aesthetic takes practically every other brewery out behind the woodshed and shoots them. Bold sans serif font blend effortlessly with comic graphics. They look and taste the fucking business.

Rich and Stuart held court at the far end of the bar explaining how Magic Rock got their start. The pair extolled their adoration for American hops and crisp, clean flavours. For Magic Rock it’s all about aroma. They want their beers to both taste amazing and smell amazing. Amen to that.

I covered the Magic Rock story with my second review for Beer 366 which was of Human Cannonball. Read it here for the low down on the brewery and that incredible beer which was conspicuous in its absence sadly.

Of course cask and keg reared its head but Magic Rock’s explanation was plain and simple. Cask does offer more subtle nuances but only for a tiny amount of time. “If it’s been on for more than twelve hours there’s no point, “ offered Rich, “while keg remains the same for a week or more.”

It was interesting to hear that Rich got his start in graphic design. It was his love of the art which led him to using the insanely talented Richard Norgate for every aspect of Magic Rock’s look and feel. Check out his portfolio here, it’s tremendous. Design is almost as important as the beer to this brewery; a fact they should be applauded for and every single other brewery should sit up and take note.

They explained that they have recently travelled around the West Coast of America. “For research purposes!” interjected Stuart. Their visit might have been beery but they spent their time learning the tricks of the hoppy trade from the American masters. I’m more than sure some of this know-how will appear on bars up and down the country soon to blow your mind.

The night grew incredibly messy from a drinking point of view. I didn’t seem to be without a glass of Cannonball from about nine o’clock onwards. However, through the haze of beers I had a great chat with Rich and learned about some liver-defying beers which they have coming. I won’t spoil the surprise but tell your doctor to book you a bed at hospital. You’ll need it.

The night marked my debut tasting of Simpleton, a driving beer par excellance. Light bodied and crisper than a Walker’s factory. I could only drink about a keg’s worth of it though. Lush.

The dark damsel Bearded Lady was on hand to round off the night as well. I wrote this about Bearded Lady back on Valentine’s day last year. It still remains true and she is still one of my favourite beers full stop. Epic.

It was a superb night, so thanks to the under the weather Mick for organising the night and a tasty buffet which would have held off the hangover if I hadn’t drank, well everything. And thanks to Magic Rock, both for existing and for making the trip up. Send more beers soon.

Beer 82 - Magic Rock Dark Arts (6%)

I’m now well into month three of Beer366 and a quick thumb through my beer catalogue made me realise that I hadn’t reviewed any Magic Rock this month.

Human Cannonball came early doors; in fact it was my second beer on this (long) journey. Its flavour-guided hop missile wiped every last trace of Newcastle Brown Ale from my palette. You might also recall I wrote about their stomping imperial brown stout Bearded Lady back on Valentine’s Day,

“I’ve been with her sister a few times in the past, she was a practitioner of the Dark Arts, but this Lady is straight up Aleister Crowley; a great beast of a beer. She tastes as powerful as she looks, her muscular malt immediately putting you in a choke hold. There’s no letting up. She seductively feeds you chocolate-coated coffee beans and ripe dark fruits throughout; her boozy fuller figure leaves you reeling”.

It’s possibly my favourite review so far. Bearded Lady easily took February’s beer crown, but I thought it was time to throw her sister a beer bone and actually review Dark Arts. I love Magic Rock; their branding is second-to-none and they manage to be one of the few UK breweries yet to put out a beer I dislike. I’m hoping they can keep up this insanely good batting average.

Dark Arts was their fifth beer and the final entry in their core range. I first sampled it late last summer in The Euston Tap. It was good, very good. However, of late I’ve put my Necronomicon back on the shelf and left the Dark Arts alone. But tonight, break out the sacrificial alter, prepare the glass and bring me the bottle.

It’s a pitch black pour with a quickly tanned head that diminishes back into the eye of malt and tail of hop cauldron. A caffeine-laced, roast malt aroma is conjured up from the bowels of the glassy cauldron. It draws you close, casting its evil spell on all that dare to take a sip.

The taste is chocolate and grass. Grapefruit flavoured hops come together in an unholy union, while blackberries and other dark fruits watch on from the sidelines. It’s a bitter brew, one that unleashes intense flavours which culminate in an oily, smooth finish. Sinister and seductive. I can’t stop thinking about a beernage à tois with this black beauty and her hirsute big sister. Get me an old priest and a young priest. I think I’m possessed by Magic Rock.

Beer 2 - Magic Rock Human Cannonball (9.2%)

I happened upon Magic Rock while on a day long drinking extravaganza in Leeds last year. Curious stood out for its big hop flavour and low ABV. Piney, floral and moreish, I had more than one. From that day Magic Rock has been a staple for me with their US inspired beers winning me, and many others over. 

Hailing from Huddersfield, Magic Rock formed like Voltron from Stuart Ross, formerly of Crown Brewery, and brothers Richard and Jonathan Burhouse. They say on their site, “…we are committed to making a full range of modern, flavourful, hop forward & ‘big’ beers using the best available ingredients and techniques for drinkers unwilling to compromise on flavour.” 

Design is a big deal for Magic Rock. You certainly won’t find them featured on Pumpclip Parade anytime time soon. Circus themed detailed graphics sit cheek by jowl with clean sans serif fonts. Playful and modern, they wipe the floor with 99% of breweries in the image stakes. Others should should take fucking note.

I’ve sampled almost the full Magic Rock catalogue but Human Cannonball has always eluded me. Well, in fairness, any bottles I’ve bought have been drunk by @minkewales before I could get my paws on them. Time to correct that and after the abortion of Newcastle Brown Ale and the fact it’s the final day of the Christmas holidays I wanted something big and boozy. 

In fact to bring some uniformity to these three hundred and sixty odd beers reviews, I intend to kick off every week either a hop bomb or malt incendiary device under the mantle of Monday Brews. I’m usually suicidal after a Monday back at work so perhaps a massive beer will talk me down.

So, the beer. It pours a deep amber topped with a foamy off white head. And Christ, the aroma! It should be soaked into a rag and used to chloroform drunks. Fruit, hops and alcohol. Heady but delicious. The flavour doesn’t so much sucker punch the palette, as call in an airstrike. Lashings of grapefruit come in on the bombing run and are immediately followed with a syrupy sweet land assault. 

Keeping a beer this big so balanced is incredible. Double IPAs can be a lot like weightlifters who hits the ‘roids: they tend to lose their shit and smash the place up at the drop of a hat. But Human Cannonball, thanks to its burnt sugar sweetness, keeps its emotions in check, even when in full hop flex. Awesome.

In my round up of 2011 post I likened Magic Rock to actor Michael Fassbender, “They haven’t done a lot, but what they have done is fucking superb.” This analogy definitely holds up, and Human Cannonball should be seen as Magic Rocks’ Shame. Bold, unpromising, and should win a cavalcade of awards. Miss this beer at your peril.