Can you feel the Magic? @Winerackonline @MagicRockBrewCo Cannonball and Salty Kiss

Can you imagine my unconfined joy when a colleague at work informed me that the local garden centre had a new concession shop that sold beer?  Not just any old beer mind, but several hundred different sorts of GOOD beer.

He sent me pictures too – of burgeoning shelves with Belgians and Lambics, and US craft IPAs and Wheats, oh and everything.

So I finished work a few minutes early that day and drove the five minutes (five minutes!) to Yarnton Nurseries.

Avoiding all of the other garden centrey guff they have there (pretty much none of it to do with gardening), I headed straight to the Wine Rack “shop” contained within (

Giddy with excitement, I reeled around:  Brewdog “Sink the Bismarck” at £53 a bottle!  Boon Gueze!  Weihenstephan Wheats! (A couple of varieties) and all sorts of other exotic stuff – plus loads and loads of good-looking English beers…

Wine Rack had a good selection of Magic Rock beers, so I took the liberty of buying a couple of cans.  God knows I’ve enjoyed Magic Rock’s beer in the past ( so I knew I was probably in for a treat…

Cannonball IPA


An attractive-looking helping of beer, it was hazy and cut-cornfield straw-coloured.  A nice little head hung about prettily, the aroma was hoppy and, how can I say this?  “nicely-meshed”, yes that’s it: all the hops were delicately and expertly matched and woven together.

A tight and solid aroma profile; nothing poked out at weird angles, it wasn’t too piney, and not too resiny either.  Lovely.

The carbonation was pleasant and appropriate, and the taste was big, hoppy and dangerously drinkable.  A light but firm bitterness came after with some ethereal long-lasting citrus.

At the swallow a prickly, prickly, bitterness paired up with the hops and just DANCED on the tongue.Bloody bloody excellent.

Buy it on sight.

See it here:

Salty Kiss Gooseberry Gose


This is my first experience of the Gose style, traditionally made with a water profile that is ever so slightly salty, Gose is one of those trendy styles that probably aren’t made that much where they originate from, but the new-wave of craft brewers have taken it to their bosom as one of their own.

Worried about a salty beer?  Don’t be.  It’s divine.  And if you need proof get a glass of room temperature water and grind a little black pepper into it.  Mix well and taste.  Doesn’t taste of much does it?  Now add a small pinch of salt and stir again.  Then taste.  That’s the difference…

Salty Kiss was was a lighter straw colour than the Cannonball, with an aroma profile that’s almost lagery-malty – so I’d imagine that there’s pilsener malt in there*.  Not a lot of hops in the nose, but that’s not what we’re after.

The taste is a revelation:  light and floaty with a delicate, delicate, tartness.  The salt is like the brine on your lips on a windy winters’ day at the beach.

This beer is refreshing and the gooseberries and white summer-fruit theme appears half-way through – like Victorian phantasmagoria.

Truly delightful.  If you’ve never tried it, you must…

See it here:

(* I looked and there isn’t!)

Wine Rack:

Well worth a look.  I’ve been looking in the Yarnton outlet after work every Friday since I found it.  They even let you taste the odd thing too.  Fancy that!

Magic Rock: Dark Arts

dark_arts-220x300Tuesday saw me once again enjoying the hospitality of Oracle in that London, I went with m’colleague Karl to hear their latest story on cloud computing.  I’m not going to go into that, as it’s far too dull, and besides, you’re only here for the beer aren’t you?

After listening to all that cloud-based eulogising and having just over half-an-hour to kill before the train home we high-tailed it to a new one on me: The Holborn Whippet (, a decidedly “with-it” sort of place that had a really beautifully selected and restrained tap list.  The taps in question being nicely arranged against a red brick chimney breast sort-of-affair, which was novel and interesting.

I just had to try a Dark Arts.  I’d heard many good things about Magic Rock and even though it was £3 a half, I couldn’t pass it up.  An English brewery with a “craft beer” pedigree, that just has to be a good thing doesn’t it?

My half arrived in front of me and was all thick and black with a tan head that almost seemed to have a green tinge to it (unconscious wish fulfillment on my behalf, I’m sure)

The aroma that I got was as heady and heavy as incense smoke and was all roasty, smokey and dark malts that were bearing along an intense hop aroma.  I must confess I couldn’t decide if the hops were piney or resiny but they dovetailed so tightly against that gorgeous malty fug that I didn’t much care.

When sipped, Dark Arts was an enchanting experience: subtly sweet, roasty dark and toastily malty; there were some hints of biscuit, and when the hops came on – which they did with some force – they teased out a strange leathery, old books and dankness theme…I kept drinking and thinking and couldn’t get my head completely around the taste (and still can’t!) do dark malts really go well with buckets of hoppiness?  I may have to drink an awful lot more of Dark Arts to decide!

In any case, I’m still thinking about Dark Arts now (two days later) the aroma and taste still being firmly emblazoned upon my frontal cortex…but Maybe that’s what the folks at Magic Rock intended.?  These are some dark arts, indeed…

DON’T EVER pass up the opportunity to try Dark Arts…really.  I desperately need to get my hands on more of Magic Rock’s output, they have got this whole new wave beer thing so right, the beer, the artwork, everything.

My hat remains permanently doffed to them….