Good evening again,
on Friday, having recovered from my arctic trek, I had the chance to visit Davefromtshop at Davefromtshop's shop, to sample a few beers or 10. Arriving about 10 minutes before closing meant we could quickly get down to the serious business of reviewing the handpicked selection of offerings, which were shared between me Davefromtshop and Andrew, which meant we could have a few more than usual.
Starter for 10PM.
We began with a sensible pint of real live actual real ale from the handpumps in the shop. Alas the tasty Thorne Pale Ale had run out so it was a toss up between Farmers Brown Cow and something from Cottage. This posed a little dilemma for me - am not overly smitten with brown ale at all, and despite Dave's encouraging promises, I refused to believe that I would like the Cottage beer, since their output is so unfailingly poor or odd. In light of which, I decided to "go brown". (this is not a euphemism)
The Cow was in decent form, and being served slightly flat it allowed some of the flavours which may otherwise have been hidden in the foam to come through. This whetted our appetites for an eclectic selection that, relying on my decision to draft text the beer list being a sensible one, should be written below (Bottle conditioned ales are marked BCA):
Moor Brewery Somerland Gold 5.% BCA
Coors White Shield 5.6% BCA
Summer Wine Brewery Covenant Aromatic Red Ale 5.2%
Holsworthy Muck & Straw 4.4% BCA
Isle of Mull Terror of Tobermory 4.6%
Oban Bay Skelpt Lug 4.2%
Harvey's Imperial Stout unknown corked vintage 9% BCA
Summer Wine Brewery Teleporter 5%
Chiltern Anniversary Ale 6.1% BCA
Summer Wine Brewery Cohort Double Black Belgian Rye PA 7.5%
Durham White Stout 7.2% BCA
Nogne Porter 7% BCA
Its worth pointing out that the Holsworthy beer was a gift from a mysterious stranger, so its not on sale in the shop, which is a shame. Also, the Harvey's is a survivor from a long ago delivery - more about that in a bit.
Top beers were possibly the Holsworthy, the White Shield, the Teleporter, the White Stout and definitely the Nogne, somewhat expensive but price worthy porter from deepest Norway.
The devils in the (lack of) detail
The Somerland was also nice but not really what I was expecting, in that it had a very light bitter flavour that I hadn't really expected of a West Country Ale. That doesn't make it a bad beer, just a surprise. The Shield was a very well rounded but slightly less hoppy than I remembered beer, but scored well on the night owing to it having been brewed with impeccable malt balance, and also for containing very palatable drinking yeast which ironically you were always meant to keep aside with White Shield.
The SWB Covenant was a red ale (I think!) and was as bitter as you'd expect for one of their beers but it may be that I was expecting more identifiable red malt flavours. Instead I was slapped in the face by the hops and then spent time waiting for another layer of flavour to appear and make itself known, but it just never happened. Which was a shame. Mind you, this was the first beer displaying uncompromising hops that night so the change was noteworthy at least.
The muck and straw would likely horrify any hophead,citrus fiend or Simcoe addict but it was more West Country than the Moor offering whilst managing to be very drinkable, and if you forgive an understandable reliance on malt, was a very refreshing session beer.
The Isle of Mull offering was much anticipated, especially since I thought they had closed down, but alas this was a very weak flavoured one dimensional beer which failed to really have any winning characteristics. There was a hint of peat in the malt but no hops and it was, an overriding, really thin brew. A terror indeed.
The Oban Ales was memorable only for having a really strange malt flavour, and by simply failing entirely to be a dark ale - Bradfield Yorkshire Farmer is probably the same colour - not that I am sure now the cloud of grog has cleared where exactly I got the idea it was a dark beer from! It won a few extra points for having ensconced some peaty malt notes hat may have been present in a bottle of Islay ales, but again failed to carry much flavour, and it was the deceit of its alleged dark character that let down its score.
Not Grimstad but Grim stuff
By this time I was desperate for a real live dark beer, so we dusted off the last ARBS stock bottle of Harvey's Imperial Russian Stout, Gales brewery corked, with a label proclaiming that it was from 2001 but a 2002 brewing awards reference on the back label, meaning we have no idea when its actually from. Suffice to say however, what we do know is that this is one from a batch of Harvey's Imperial Stout that were sold at the shop, 6 of which me and Dave bought between us based on the ultimate excellence of previous vintages. Every one so far has been flat, with no life or work from the yeast, and sour, tasting of yeast and molasses only. Suffice to say they have been poured down the sink.
And, quelle surprise, this one was also a container of foul flavours. If you fought through the grim sour yeast and nasty bullying molasses you could detect a hint of how the beer should, have tasted, but it was too small a reward for such hard work.
What's incredibly frustrating is, I wrote to Miles Jenner at the brewery in 2008 after bottle number 3 came out crap and he confirmed that there was an identified problem with the yeast, that it hadn't worked or started or done something, and the beer had therefore not developed or indeed, remained drinkable. Which is great, but even considering that he took my address and promised to send me two of the new batch of bottles (now out, as per Boak and Bailey at : Harveys Imperial Russian Stout new crown capped brew ) no recall of the known duff beer was mooted, no replacements were sent to me, and all the customers who bought bottles from ARBS will have opened them at any stage after purchase and found them crap, with Dave and myself's rigorous and passionate endorsements ringing in the ears no doubt.
A hugely disappointing show from Harvey's, and one which affords them no credit at all.
Our next offering was thankfully very nice, and it was a dark beer - it was the excellent Teleporter from Summer Wine Brewery that I have reviewed before. Have a look at the tags list down the side to find my sober review of this ale!
Next we had our final Honley Heaven, the Summer Wine Brewery Cohort, described as a Double Black Belgian Rye PA. This was not a beer fearful of hops and had sacks of the buggers in it, making it a very astringent bitter beast. My only gripe however was the very ascorbic dryness presented, which was not mellowed by other ingredients, which is a facet I have noticed in a few SWB bottled beers. I concede I may have made a dumb schoolboy error in thinking it was a dark beer exhibiting all the warming characteristics of a traditional burnt roast flavoured porter or stout - when its clearly another take on the Black IPA. That said though, I don't think I was in the mood for another hop demon and this may well have tainted my review. It was like the initial taste of Brewdog Physics, but followed by their Punk IPA. That is not a good combination, however clever it may be, or however impressive the hopping may seem. I think I need an SWB night to sort this out!
The End of all beers?
Our penultimate tipple was the eagerly anticipated Durham White Stout. As per much sales blurb and innovative media coverage it has been made clear that this is an old style of ale - in that, any strong flavoured and high alcohol beer used to be called stout, irrespective of the colour or nature of treatment of the malts used. I intend to post a full review of this beer in the coming weeks so will say only that it packed in a lot of hop flavour, and was replete with oily resonances from hop resins.
Finally, as the night and to some extent cogent thought and consciousness ebbed away, we had our final beer, Nogne Porter from deepest Norway. Their porter, a product which attracts an authentic Norwegian take on alcohol pricing, is labelled as an English style porter. It certainly ticked all the boxes, and was, even if you may wish to discount my appreciation based on the tumult of ale and alcohol that forwent this sampling, one of the most enjoyable beers of the night. It was a North European take on the glorious UK/Baltic dark beers of the past, but not as strong, and was as rich, rewarding, unctuous, creamy malty and vinous as I had hoped. For more information about this beer see : Nogne with that "o" I can't do, blog. .
At this stage young Andrew had gone home and I was ready for a long sleep so it was the end of beer tasting that day. I would certainly go back and try some more of the SWB bottles and a couple of Nogne's, plus a Durham White Stout as implied above. In the meantime, I can recommend you get to the ARBS and take a look yourself. There are huge numbers of UK and European bottles to choose from, plus very reasonably priced real ale on draught to take away.
And if you want something special, even though the Nogne - O, Moor, the Brampton Bock and some of the new French beers are sold at a premium price as a result of the idiot-hate-fest of HSBD, you should still ask Dave about the product and you'll find that there are always treats to be had. This is a completely independent praise fest driven by a desire to preserve one to one retail I should point out.
So, that's all for now, enjoy your haul of bottled beers from wherever they may emanate, and I will be back on soon with more info on the beautiful drink.