Focus on: CR/AK Brewery

Recently I have become a bit obsessed with Italian brewery CR/AK. I first heard about CR/AK through a post from Honest Brew, an online craft beer delivery service, and then saw some of their beers when I visited Pop ‘N’ Hops bottle shop in Cardiff a few weeks ago. I bought a Guerrilla IPA from CR/AK during my visit to Pop ‘N’ Hops, which is a delicious IPA with notes of orange. It was also quite sessionable, despite it’s strength at 5.8 per cent. I decided I wanted to try more of what CR/AK has to offer so I put in an order at Honest Brew.

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CR/AK Brewery haul from Honest Brew

When the four beers I had ordered arrived, I just couldn’t stop looking at them. The artwork on CR/AK’ cans is so eye-catching and I was almost too excited by them to drink them. It wasn’t until about a week later that my boyfriend and I decided to tuck in.

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Love this can

We decided to start with the lowest percentage beer and move up from there (not sure there’s much logic to that approach however…). We had The Hunchback Session IPA to begin – a collaboration with Fyne Ales from Cairndow, Scotland. My first thought about this beer was that it’s hoppy, very sessionable and has zesty and fruity flavours without being too sweet. The Hunchback has a big hit of hops on the nose and is light in colour and slightly cloudy. I tend to find that beers this hoppy have a higher ABV, but at 3 per cent I could easily drink many of these cans. We were off to a very good start!

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My kind of beer

Next we moved on to the New England IPA, which I was particularly excited for as I always seem to gravitate towards NEIPA’s. This beer is double dry hopped with amarillo, citra, mosaic and motueka hops and as I had expected, it was my favourite of all the CR/AK beers we ordered. It is quite juicy with tropical notes and also hazy. Not sure if it’s because of the way the beer has been double dry hopped, but I found it to be a very interesting and complex. It definitely has a bitterness to it, more so than most NEIPA’s I’ve had, but I loved it.

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NZ Gluten Free IPA

We moved on to the New Zealand Gluten Free IPA next, which ended up being my boyfriends favourite. This is another really great beer. It has a citric aroma and a tropical taste of grapefruit and is made with NZ hops motueka and wakatu. This beer has a subtle sweetness to it and feels far too easy to drink considering it’s high ABV of 7 per cent. There seems to be a lot more gluten free beers available on the market now and I definitely feel like they’ve improved considerably over the last few years. I would very much enjoy drinking this one while relaxing outside on a sunny day.

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Juicy orange DIPA

Last but not least, we had the Cyro Adult Double IPA – a collaboration with Magic Rock, which is one of my favourite UK breweries (based in Huddersfield). This is a strong and bold beer. It tastes very juicy and has flavours of bitter orange. On first sip, this tastes quite soft for a DIPA, however it has a boozy kick as it hits the back of your mouth. I did not want this one to end as it was the last of our CR/AK haul, which we had enjoyed so much. It was probably a good thing that it did though, as Cyro Adult is deceivingly strong. It’s so tasty that you could easily drink a lot of it, however I was definitely starting to feel it’s strength towards the end. A great collaboration.

I think CR/AK is a really exciting brewery that create a variety of really interesting and bold beers. I am now keen to try and plan a trip to Padova so we can visit the CR/AK taproom, which has 24 taps and also features an experimental beer called “Tap Crak”.

Until then, I am looking forward to trying more beer from CR/AK at the Magic Rock Sesh Fest festival in a few weeks time. All beers poured at this festival will be under 4.5 per cent so I’ll be interested to see what CR/AK has on offer, as the only beer in our haul under 4.5 was The Hunchback.

Beer crawl on a sunny Saturday

Last Saturday my boyfriend and I decided to take advantage of the rare glimmer of sunshine and embark on one of our favourite activities – a beer crawl! This felt slightly indulgent for me as I’d already taken my friend on an extensive brewery crawl a few weeks ago (see previous blog), however it was a perfect day for it and loads of our local bars and breweries seemed to have special events on that we didn’t want to miss.

To line our stomachs for an inevitable day of drinking, we stopped off Idle Hands – a coffee shop that we had previously enjoyed during one of their visits to the Grub Food Fair last summer, but has now secured its own premises on Dale Street. It’s a really lovely space – light and spacious, with the most friendly staff. The food menu was great too. I had Turkish Eggs, which was one of the most pretty and delicious brunches I’d had for a while. The coffee was outstanding too. There were two blends available that day and I opted for the San Francisco in an iced latte, which helped to gear me up for the rest of the day.

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The most amazing Turkish eggs

This sunny Saturday was also Record Store Day and although we did plan to peruse a few record stores, we were most excited by the special RSD beer – a collaboration between Cloudwater, Piccadilly Records, Common and Port Street Beer House. We headed over to Common where we purchased two cans, which did not disappoint. A DDH Pale, full of flavour and brewed with Centennial, Enigma and Chinook hops. Delicious.

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Record Store Day DDH Pale

We then walked up to one of our favourite stops on the Manchester brewery strip – Beer Nouveau. We had the place to ourselves for a while, so had a great chat with owner and founder Steve Dunkley, who was as welcoming as ever and let us try lots of different beers, as well as a barley wine. I was fortunate to be able to try Steve’s Peach Bonnet witbier, one of the last bottles left of the batch. I absolutely loved this beer. One of the most interesting things I have tasted for quite some time. Peachy and refreshing to start with and then followed by a subtle kick at the end. Well, the heat of this beer may not be subtle for some, but I do like my spice.

As it started filling up in Beer Nouveau, we moved on to our next stop – Wander Beyond Brewing – who were open for a special event to launch four new beers. The space was really nice and there was a great atmosphere. I decided to have the Illicium Imperial Milkshake IPA, but just a third as it’s very strong at 10%. I’d had the other beers in Wander Beyond’s Milkshake range before and really enjoyed them, so I was intrigued to try this new version. It was so smooth and drinkable – I could have easily had a pint of it but I don’t think I would have been feeling so fresh afterwards. My boyfriend was more sensible and chose the Graviton Session IPA, which had tropical notes but was also quite different to other IPAs. We decided to move on at that point and get some snacks, but I am really looking forward to trying the other two new beers soon.

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Imperial Milkshake IPA and the full menu!

Last but not least we stopped off at our local, The Pilcrow, on our way home. The Pilcrow is one of our favourite pubs in Manchester and definitely the one we frequent the most (it being very local to us). A Burning Sky Brewery Takeover was taking place on Saturday which we were keen to check out. I can’t remember the names of the beers we had unfortunately but we both opted for saisons, which were delightful and perfect for the weather that day. The Pilcrow has regular tap takeovers, but for some reason the timings don’t usually work for us, so it was great to be able to finally get to one and support a brewery that we have been following for a while.

After that we headed home. We still had some treats at home which I’d bought on my last trip to the Cloudwater Barrel Store. We’d been saving a special edition Cloudwater bottle, a collaboration with Coswut, a home-brewer and beer lover (who I’ve since heard, has sadly passed away). A brettanomyces bruxellensis fermented sour (bit of a mouthful) which was fermented in French white wine barrels for 13 months. We really enjoyed this beautiful beer – the kind that should be savoured and drank slowly like a wine. We finished the evening by sharing a can of Cloudwater and Half Acre (from Chicago, Illinois) Triple IPA. We’d already shared a can of this a few weeks before and loved it, although it is very strong so not sure I could handle a whole can to myself.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading more about my beer adventures in Manchester. As well as longer reads like this, I’m also planning to start doing some shorter “beer haul” pieces where I share my thoughts on the latest treats I’ve picked up from my local bottle shops and breweries.

“You like beer?”

I used to hate beer. Well, at least I thought I did six years ago before my journey from beer-loather to beer-lover began. Naively, I used to associate beer as something groups of “lads” would drink at festivals – crate after crate of Carling, Fosters and the rest. I believed that all beer tasted the same and that none of it was meant for me.

My journey with beer really began in the summer of 2012 during two city breaks I took with my boyfriend. I was studying in Sheffield at the time and he was down in London, so we decided to take the opportunity to spend some time together.

Our first trip that summer was to Budapest, where we frequented many of the city’s unique ruin pubs. It was in one of these pubs when I went to order my usual white wine and was amazed to be charged more than 1,700 Hungarian Forints (around £5) when my boyfriends pint of beer had cost a mere 140 Forints (40p). As a student at the time, I was envious of how much cheaper it was to drink beer in Hungary, so after some persuasion I decided to give it a try. This reluctance to order a beer seems bizarre to me now, but at the time it felt like a huge deal.

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I don’t think this was the first, but it was one of many enjoyed that holiday

I ordered half a Staropramen and to my surprise, loved it. It wasn’t anything like what I’d come to imagine beer to be. From there I had a Soproni, a Borsodi, a Dreher – as many beers as Hungary could offer. My eyes were opened.

Our next trip that summer was to Berlin – one of my favourite cities. Having so recently discovered the wonderful range of beer on offer, I was excited to sample more in a country renowned for its beer.

Many pilsners and hefeweizens were sampled on that holiday and wheat beer is still one of my favourite styles (even now, six years into my beer journey).

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My first German Hefeweizen

I think its fair to say that since those trips to Budapest and Berlin, my appreciation of beer has grown and grown. It has become a passion and a hobby. I seek out new beers, frequent brewery taprooms and bottle shops, follow updates from my favourite brewers and fellow beer lovers and try and support as many local businesses and events as possible.

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First attempt at brewing in my flat!

I have even started to brew – my boyfriend and I dedicating the spare room in our Manchester flat to our latest attempts. It’s become more than just a dalliance – it’s become a huge interest and part of my life.

Over the last six years, my increasing love of beer has surprised a lot of people. The view that I used to hold that “beer isn’t for me” is still something I feel today, but not from myself directly but from others. I can’t count the amount of times that I’ve heard “You’re drinking a pint?!” or “You like beer?!”.

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Beavertown Brewery, Beaver My Valentine 2016

This is one of the reasons why I have decided to start writing a blog about women and beer. Although I do believe that attitudes are changing and that more and more women are openly enjoying beer and getting the recognition they deserve in the industry, I still think there’s a long way to go.

It’s obviously very early days, but as well as writing more about my own beer journey, I hope that in time I’ll be able to write about other women and their experiences with beer. I’d also love to write about some of the amazing women involved in the brewing industry and how they got to where they are!