Weird Beard, Howling Hops and Mother Kelly’s

mother kellys, howling hops, weird beard

Wait a second. Hold up, Yoda. Mother Kelly’s? This is new. I’m up and down Church Street three or four times a week, and today, there’s an exciting-looking new addition. I head over to the door and peer in. I make eye contact with the bearded, bespectacled, flannel-wearing dude at the counter. “Are dogs allowed?” I ask, not expecting much. “Sure thing. No problem.” Yoda, we’re in buddy. Don’t fuck this up.

The place is awesome. The natural fulfilment of the craft beer phenomenon, as far as Church Street, Stoke Newington, Yoda and I are concerned. I take in the neat, well-laid-out collection of fine brews. Mother Kelly’s is a combination of bare, derelicte simplicity and hipster style. There’s even a walk in cold room, like a chilled, beer-filled humidor.

Of course, Yoda jumps – or rather – lies down at the opportunity, cooling himself on the cold, concrete floor like a spatchcock chicken, while I take in my surroundings. Yoda, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

After perusing the Belgian section, my eyes are drawn to the store’s Weird Beard offerings. A buddy recently raved about the west London brewery, and so far, I’ve only ever found its stout beers. But Mother Kelly’s has the Mariana Trench transpacific pale ale (5.3%) and the mighty Five O’Clock Shadow American IPA (7%). I throw in an old favourite, a Howling Hops West Coast Special IPA (6.9%), and head to the checkout. After I’ve convinced Yoda to get up and return to room temperature.

Back home I start with the Mariana Trench. It’s a sweet, fruity little number. A perfect first beer of the day. The transpacific element is its combination of New Zealand Pacific Gem and U.S. Citra hops, which go down easy with hints of mango and passion fruit on a sweet, malty backbone.

I decide to break up my Weird Beard intake with the Howling Hops West Coast IPA, which tastes as crisp and refreshing as always. It’s citrusy and uncomplicated, a perfect combination of sweet, tropical fruitiness and that complimentary, lingering bitter aftertaste that keeps you coming back for more.

Finally, the main course: the Five O’Clock Shadow. And straight away the dark brew lives up to expectations, delivering a strong, hop-bursting jolt that puts hair on my hairs. It’s a powerful, bitter, citrus-packed uppercut on a classic, malty American IPA frame. I sip it slowly, wishing I’d bought two (or three). “Cowboy, baby…”

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L.O.B. vs AC All Nations – Keep Playin’

Keep Playin'
The latest third-person account of my weekly attempt to play eight-a-side football – we wear grey… Keep playin’

It’s pissing down before kick-off. Thunder. Lightning. Very, very frightening. Player-manager Thomas even sends out a pre-match email, reassuring everyone the game’s still on. Luckily, with a break in play at Euro 2016, the Greys manage to put a strong team together to take on AC All Nations; aka the Reds.

With five minutes on the clock, AC’s bag-of-tricks right winger finds some space just inside the Greys’ half. Making the most of the time he’s afforded on the ball he hits a low, stinging shot that catches everyone off-guard, including Greys keeper Yusuf, who can only watch, helplessly, as the ball pings in off his near post. One nil Reds.

The next fifteen minutes are tough for our heroes in grey. They just can’t seem to hang on to the ball. The Reds make the most of it with wave-after-wave of threatening through-balls and ferocious shots on goal. Yusuf makes up for his earlier lack of reaction with a number of diving saves.

Just before half-time the Greys turn the tide. Adam finds himself in space and strikes a hopeful shot on target. But the ball hits the post and goes wide. Still, the Greys string some passes together in midfield and look moments away from clawing their way back into the game.

Suddenly, against the run of play, the Reds knock a long ball into the box. Greys defender Julien leaves the ball for Yusuf. Yusuf assumes Julien’s clearing the danger. And a red-shirted striker nips in and puts AC All Nations two nil up. Half time.

The second half starts better for the Greys. They look more comfortable on the ball. Tired, but at least back in the game. Midfielder Rob has a shot saved by the Reds’ diving keeper. Thomas is also denied by an impressive, agile one-handed save. Then Yusuf takes the direct route, finding Thomas on the edge of the box. Thomas lays the ball off to Adam, but his shot is also saved.

The Greys assume they’re back in the game when Adam is fouled, blatantly, in the box. He gets his shot off, which goes over, but is crunched so late he’d already turned around and started jogging back. Incredibly, the ref, “didn’t see it.”

Meanwhile, the Reds regain the momentum and Yusuf’s kept busy with shot-after-shot on target – he even sticks a leg out and prevents an own goal.

Sadly, that’s how it ends. Two nil to the Reds. The Greys’ winning streak is officially over. And to be honest, it’s a fair result. The Greys had the chances to level the score, but in the end, the Reds were the better team – they must have had more than 10 shots on target.

Tiger Army – V •••– (Rise Records)

Tiger army - v

Tiger Army – V •••– (2016)
Rise Records

After nine years in the wilderness, Tiger Army and Nick 13, the sweet prince of psychobilly, are back – and more bittersweet than ever. Nick 13’s a crooner. A poet. One part Morrissey. One part sad cowboy. One part quivering werewolf. And unlike his 2011 countrified solo release, V •••– is my kind of poison.

Like Tiger Army’s 2007 album Music from Regions Beyond, V •••– continues the band’s (Nick 13’s, really) progression towards a smoother, more accomplished ode to the moon, rather than a full-blown, kicking-and-screaming primal howl. Only this time, 13 has dropped the top and hit the evolutionary Route 66 with a full tank of gas.

The more you listen, the more the subtle nuances jump out at you, like sirens in the moonlight, gently dragging you towards unblinking nocturnal eternity. And from Mariachi trumpets, to Elvis Presley boogies, string-laden cowpoke jams, creepy Martian-sounding theremins (?) and disembodied operatic backing vocals, the band’s progression is breath-taking.

It’s heart-breaking. It slips through your fingers. It lurks in the depths of your mind. And the more you listen, the more beautiful it seems to become. It’s timeless, really, soaked with vintage, familiar-sounding ’50s and ’60s Americana flourishes and black-and-white noir haunts, yet it’s alive with something new. Modern, sentimental pop that’s not of this world.

Williams Bros. Brewing – Double Joker IPA

williams bros brewing double joker ipa

Wow, I just got my ass handed to me by Williams Bros. Brewing’s formidable Double Joker IPA. I first heard about the heady golden amber on Instagram – where else? Someone posted a photo of the regular single Joker IPA and one of the comments mentioned its heavyweight bigger brother – and “twice as nice.” So imagine my excitement when I found some Double Jokers in my local Harvest store.

“Devilishly hoppy,” that’s what it says on the label. It also says it packs an ABV of 8.3%! So you’d better brace yourself for a well-flavoured right hook; a slow sipper, to be revered and treated with respect.

The malty brew is bitter-sweet with a fruity, tangy burst of citrus and caramel. And to deliver the well-flavoured “U.S. hop punch,” Williams Bros. has crammed the Double Joker with Centennial, Amarillo and Calypso hops. The devilish combination wraps around the beer’s bold, curvy Scottish Imperial IPA body perfectly, delivering a drink that’s lethal yet keeps you coming back for more. Like boozy dark chocolate orange!

double joker ipa

The Burger Chronicles #15 – Burger Brothers, Brighton

burger brothers brighton, our favourite

Burger Brothers, Brighton’s the quintessential hole in the wall. And it’s a hole littered with awards. Most notably, TripAdvisor’s “Best Burger Restaurant in the U.K. 2014.” I’m greeted as soon as I open the door. The place is tiny, neat and decked out in funky shades of green – including Astroturf. It smells delicious.

A friendly burger brother greets me again as I approach the counter and calls me “my brother” – welcome to the club. He shows me the menu and recommends the Classic Beef. Usually, I’d throw a slice of bacon on it and call it a day. But the smells are so overwhelming I decide to experiment.

The menu’s a mouth-watering selection of decadent-sounding burger combinations. But instantly I’m drawn to Our Favourite; creamy goats cheese, roasted peppers, caramelised onions, creamy Cajun spice, honey mustard and secret sauce. Hot damn… And from “award-winning” Tuxford & Tebbutt blue Stilton to flash-fried Serrano ham, the list of extras is extensive. I throw some chorizo on it and call it a day.

Burger brothers brighton

While I wait another one of the brothers makes conversation with a woman finishing her burger in the small designated eating space. It’s pouring with rain and she asks if she can stay a while to wait it out. Her son’s still busy with his burger. “Of course,” the burger brother replies. “But try this seat, it’s more comfortable.”

He works out that the woman’s from Singapore and has been walking around Brighton lost all afternoon. “Why don’t you use Google Maps?” he asks. “I was, but my battery died,” she replies. “What kind of phone are you using?” he continues. “A Samsung,” she shrugs. Then he disappears and returns with a charger. Nice place.

Meanwhile, I lean forward and notice the creamiest-looking hunk of goats cheese I’ve ever seen sizzling away on the grill. A dude with a spatula leans forward and smiles at me. “Just you wait,” his eyes say.

I notice a sign; “Ask us about our rolls.” So I do. The burger brother tells me that they use homemade traditional Jewish Challah rolls, because brioche rolls “dissolve and break up too easily.” They also have gluten-free and vegan rolls. Oh, and they put BB-branded toothpicks in their burgers so they stick together. Talk about attention to detail. My burger arrives, so I take a quick photo and wrap it up for the road.

burger brothers brighton our favourite

My mouth’s watering and I’m licking my lips as I walk, the smell’s incredible, but I hold out and unwrap my burger on the train back to London. It’s still immaculate, bursting with roasted red peppers and classy looking chorizo. I sink my teeth in, hitting a layer of sweet caramelised onion, then the succulent red peppers, then the chorizo, and finally, a perfectly cooked burger pattie – juicy yet firm, and bursting with flavour and bite. Damn…

I wolf it down; the whole burger’s over in minutes. And suddenly, I’m cursing myself for not ordering a Classic Beef, as well – who knows when I’ll be back in Brighton. If you’re a burger connoisseur, Burger Brothers is definitely one for the list. Perhaps my second favourite burger ever, after Patty & Bun.

P&B

L.O.B. vs Anonymous – Keep Playin’

Keep Playin'
The latest third-person account of my weekly attempt to play eight-a-side football – we wear grey… Keep playin’

Predictably, the Greys’ are sporting a few French-shaped holes in their line-up as they prepare to take on Anonymous. France, of course, is an hour away from kicking off Euro 2016 against Romania at the Stade de France. And it’s a Friday. And it’s an 8:00pm kick-off. In truth, the Greys are struggling. Luckily, Adam rounded up a few ringers earlier in the day and it was game on. Russian roulette or not.

The Greys have been on a decent run lately, and victory tonight could see them climb as high as third in the league. Impressively, French midfielders Manu and Thomas did turn up. They’re joined by Rob, Adam, keeper Yusuf and Adam’s mates Mike, Rob 2 and Sam. The game also marks the long-awaited return of founding team member and former Greys regular Paul.

Straight away it’s clear that Adam’s mates Mike and Rob 2 can play. Mike’s a mountain in defence, crunching Anonymous forwards with well-timed tackles and driving things forward down the right flank. Rob 2, on the other hand, holds the ball up well up front, turning and firing stinging shots at Anonymous’ goal relentlessly. In truth, both players add what the Greys have been missing; a stronger, taller, more aggressive physical presence. And it doesn’t take long for them to make an impact.

Ten minutes in, Mike launches a running throw-in that flashes through the box dangerously, before finding original Rob unmarked at the back post. Rob 1 doesn’t waste the opportunity, drilling it into the top left corner and putting the Greys 1-0 up. Next, Rob 2 holds the ball up on the right-hand side of the box, waiting for the perfect moment to roll it across goal towards Thomas, who thumps it in. Two nil Greys.

Minutes later, Rob 2 gets the ball again in a similar position, this time passing the ball into the path of Greys midfielder Manu. Keeping his cool, Manu wraps his foot around the ball and finds the top corner. Three nil. Crazy. What’s going on? But in truth, the Greys could have scored a few more before the half.

The ref blows the whistle for the second half and then sends player-coach Thomas off for not telling him that he’d made a substitution. Every other time you ask him he goes, “One on. One off. Get on with it!” Usually, it’s not even something he seems mildly interested in. Strange.

Seizing their moment, Anonymous launch their first serious attack on goal, but Yusuf dives to his left and keeps it out. A few minutes later, an Anonymous forward hits the post. Then the same player finds himself in space and fires a shot just over the middle of the crossbar. It seems like just a matter of time, but the Greys hold out.

Suddenly, Adam rides a hard tackle deep in Anonymous territory, turns his man and lays the ball off to Manu. This time Manu finds the bottom right corner, placing the ball perfectly, beyond the diving keeper’s reach. At this point the Greys hit the snooze button, switching off and letting Anonymous claw their way back into the game. At least mentally.

Finally, Anonymous do get one back. Obscured by a wall of defenders, Yusuf has no chance against a long-range shot from outside the box, and the Greys’ lead is cut to 4-1. But then our heroes kick things into overdrive, with ringer Sam coming into his own at left back thanks to a series of neat tackles and danger-clearing dummies and step-overs. He finds himself in space close to the left corner flag and knocks in a high looping cross that beats everyone, including the panicked, retreating Anonymous keeper, and drops into the top right corner.

Almost immediately after that, Anonymous’ keeper kicks the ball straight at Rob 2. Big mistake. Rob 2 controls the ball. Takes his time. And buries the chance, drilling the ball past the desperate keeper with venom and power; 6-1 Greys. To wrap things up, Sam seems to run the entire length of the pitch down the left flank. He cuts in and beats the last defender, and the keeper, and rolls the ball towards Adam, who taps it into the empty net to complete the Greys’ impressive 7-1 win. Encouragingly, it could have been even more…

Dark Arts Coffee – Lucky Dip

dark arts coffee, heavens gate

So I placed another order with Dark Arts Coffee and the damn thing didn’t show up. I emailed them, asking what was going on, and a dude replied straight away. He apologised and said he’d pop another order in the post and fast track it to arrive the next day. And it did!

Originally, I ordered a bag of Holy Mountain (apricot, dark chocolate) and a bag of Heaven’s Gate (poached nectarines, cranberries). But to make up for the mix-up, I guess, Dark Arts threw in another bag of Heaven’s Gate and a bag of Lost Highway (orange, chocolate) – I know what you’re thinking, they all sound like titles of David Lynch films, right?

Anyway, I just opened the bag of Lost Highway and ground up some beans. Reviews coming soon.