Northern Monk has released a four-pack of beers to drink during lockdown. Each beer corresponds to a room at home: bathroom, kitchen, living room and bedroom. Are they worth the £20 price tag? I’ve selflessly tested them to find out.
The Shower Head, Shower Beer IPA
We start our evening just like any other – scrubbing off the grime and sprucing up before a night on the town. Unusually (at least for me), this also marks our first stop on the crawl.
If I’m entirely honest, I’ve never really understood the appeal of a shower beer. The juxtaposition of a warm, steamy shower and cold, refreshing beer is a novelty, but it’s not worth the risk of dribbling soap into the can. However, given this beer is specifically crafted for the shower, I feel it would be rude not to try.
Over the course of this experiment I managed to take around three sips of beer before getting shampoo in my eyes. Sadly, I resign myself to drying off and resuming my tasting elsewhere.
Shower Head is a yellowish brown in colour, like slightly oxidised peach flesh. The body has haze for days, topped with a tight, creamy head that quickly settles. The aroma is intensely sweet and fruity, a mix of orange juice and apricot. It’s a little grassy too, with perhaps a hint of sherbet. That orange and apricot blend persists on the palate, followed by a gentle, satisfying hoppy bitterness that lingers on the back of the tongue. The rest of my mouth is left watering, peachy sweet and keen for the next sip.
This packs a really strong punch for just 4.5%. I was expecting this to be the weakest beer of the bunch in terms of flavour; in fact it holds its own against these higher ABV beasts.
The Tuck Inn, Imperial Stout
Washed and dried, now we head to the kitchen to put the finishing touches on dinner. Oh, and to get ourselves utterly wrecked on a 12% ABV imperial stout.
The first thing I note on pouring is just how thick this beer is. It pours like treacle. Chocolate and umami richness lead in the aroma, followed by lighter notes of orange zest and brandy.
On the palate I’m reminded of the dozens of stouts I’ve tried with an insipid, Cadbury’s Options chocolate flavour. Many beers attempt this milky chocolate flavour; many have failed. Not Northern Monk. This beer tastes like someone’s concentrated the milk left after a bowl of Coco Pops, cut with spicy, warming alcohol.
Plummy liquorice lingers with that alcoholic warmth on the finish. No wonder, really, given how strong this beer is. At 12% it’s basically wine. It is, perhaps, a little one-dimensional for something so strong – but I’m sure many will argue in favour of its elegant simplicity. Either way, it’s a lot of fun.
The Sofa Arms, DDH DIPA
Having tipped our blood alcohol percentage into the danger zone, we keep things going with another strong beer: this time a DDH DIPA. Even writing this up sober, that’s a lot of letters all smooshed up together.
This double dry hopped double India pale ale pours a dark, orangey brown with a hazey body. Like the Shower Head we’re treated to an intense orange aroma with straggling notes of peach, with the balance tipped more towards orange this time. The flavour is like a grown up juice box; a boozy Capri Sun. That alcoholic warmth carries over to the finish.
There’s a lot going on in this beer, yet I find myself craving more. It’s powerful, yet it lacks the fresh, zesty flavour offered by The Shower Head. To paraphrase my partner, it’s not about the size of your ABV, it’s how you use it.
The Traveller’s Rest, CBD NEIPA
Some might accuse Northern Monk of relying too heavily on hype. Honestly, it’s difficult to defend them when they produce a Yorkshire pudding-flavoured collaboration with Aunt Bessie. But here, I honestly think the hype is justified.
Not because it’s a great beer. The Traveller’s Rest is pillowy and cloudy, juicy and syrupy. It’s one dimensional, but no more so than most New England IPAs.
No, here I think Northern Monk is an early adopter of something we’re going to see more and more in the beer world. Not only does this beer contain barley, oats, Citra and Mosaic; it also contains 17mg of cannabidiol, or CBD.
It feels strange that we’ve transitioned straight from decades of puritanical cannabis opposition to Holland & Barrett flogging CBD supplements on the high street. I’m convinced psilocybin will be on pharmacy shelves in short order too. Naturally, forward-thinking brewers are already finding ways to incorporate these new additions into their beer.
I’m not sure whether it’s the CBD or the 7.2% ABV lulling me off to sleep as I drink this NEIPA in bed, but either way, it has the desired effect.
Value for money?
In this party pack we have four 440 ml cans for £20, or £5 per can. Accounting for delivery, realistically the price is probably somewhere in the range of £3-4 per beer.
For that, you get some pretty phenomenal value on paper. The Tuck Inn imperial stout is 12% ABV. The Sofa Arms is no slouch at 8.4%. Even the weakest of the bunch is packed full of hops, and can’t have been cheap for Northern Monk to produce.
And yet for all that raw alcoholic power, I find myself craving the variety and the joyful surprise of the Brew By Numbers box last week. The House Crawl Party Pack is fun, and would be the great basis for a Zoom pub session with a few mates, but these beers are here to be crushed, not savoured.