the title, you will be relieved to discover, is not a reference to some dreadful over-concept "craft"(?) bottled beer made with wine, instead, its simply a wine term used to afford compliment to an excellent British bottled beer, from an excellent local brewery.
Brampton Brewery in Chesterfield produce a regular range of really very good beers. Impy dark is a classic, and a personal favourite of mine, and the Stout and session bitter "Best" are worthy features in a commendable portfolio. Interestingly though, it seems like they haven't branched out much into stronger beers yet, or at least, not until the end of last year.
When I went to buy my Christmas beers from Archer Road Beer Stop, Davefromtshop told me that, despite its rather exclusive price tag, Brampton Winter Bock was one of the best beers he'd tried for a long time. Curiously, seeing its tempting livery of mucky white and black in a flip top 750ml bottle I assumed it was really strong. I was actually a little disappointed to discover that it was "only" 6%, so accustomed had I become to stouts being of imperial strength when packaged so well. Dave reassured me that despite its strength, it was still a brilliant beer. And then, I was bought one for Christmas.
I was going to patiently store it until my birthday in June but caved in last night and offered to share it with Chala - after all, at the sharp end of a refreshing night, the last thing you want is to munch your way through a wine bottle sized slab of beer, no matter how delicious it is. As it turned out, it was so good that I could easily have sunk the lot on my own. A good job then that it wasn't a gorilla baffler.
I should confess now that I didn't make notes. I couldn't be arsed to be quite honest! I didn't want to impinge on the event by thinking carefully about what flavours I could pick out, so here are some rambling vaguely useful notes about this wonderful bottled beer that I have managed to more or less remember.
Brampton Winter Bock is 6.0%, numbered 063 from a limited edition of am not sure how many and, possibly due to an identified degree of refreshment last night, I thought it was bottle conditioned, whereas the label makes no such claim. No spine chilling "CAMRA says this is real ale" vinegar portent to be seen. The label also proudly proclaims that its a barley wine. This is in fact, the only thing that I could find fault with - I think barley wine does it a disservice, since its much more drinkable and well balanced than most barley wine offerings. And really, at 6.0%, its too weak to be a barley wine. But I digress....
It pours a glorious black and smells straight away like a a Belgian Dubbel, but that is quickly knocked into touch by a familiar Brampton dark beer aroma. Aside from this, Brampton do three dark beers - Impy, Mild and Stout. I swear if you tried every one of them one after another you'd soon recognise that Brampton waft. Is it the yeast they use perhaps, or do they always prefer to use specific malts in their dark beers? I don't know, but why change something that works - if they continue to all have that appealing sweet and roast malt aroma I'll continue to enjoy drinking them.
The taste is the same as the aroma, in that there is a definite dark Belgian or possibly German, perhaps Andechs Dopplebock taste, giving way to a glorious blend of roast malts. This is a surprisingly refreshing drink for a strong beer - the label describes it as dangerously drinkable and I think that's spot on. There is some bitterness, it kind of appears with the malt in the second part of the taste, and lingers subtly in the background when you finish each mouthful.
The primary feature though is its lustrous creaminess, the sort of smooth palate caressing warm satisfaction that could never be achieved by filling beer with Nitrogen or other crap. Its smooth in a good way. And tremendously enjoyable.
Labouring under the illusion it was a BCA I actually poured it in to 4 glasses - a near full pint for me, a small measure for Chala who also loved it, another small measure leaving what I thought would be yeast in the bottom, and then a mug containing the last of the bottle contents. In the end this interesting but needless exercise served me very well as it drew out the drinking experience that little longer. Its just a shame that mild befuddlement means I am not 100% certain it wasn't bottle conditioned, and so will now have to buy another to find out - which depending on its limited edition numbers, will either be extremely expensive or impossible.
Overall this was an example of a recommendation deserved. It was fantastic. If you find one buy it; if you own one, drink it.