Tuesday, 14 May 2013
Beer tasting, with Davefromtshop.
this time last Tuesday I was out and about waking up my palate at Shakespeares in anticipation of Davefromtshop arriving to sample some bottled beers. This is our second beer tasting of the year, if nothing else organised in recognition of my having quite a few aged beers that needed sharing, and also the fact that last time we made exactly no notes. This time we had the camera and took pictures and videos throughout.
We started on Dunham Massey Mildly Ginger a 3.8% BCA (bottle conditioned ale), probably not chilled enough due to bad planning on my part, but this was still a really good beer to wake the palate (not that mine needed waking...), with just enough ginger to make it zesty but not overpowering. It became a much softer slug with the yeast in.
Derwent Parsons Pledge 4.0% was our next bottle. Hmmm. Derwent Eh. I had one of their stronger beers once and it was OK. Just OK, you understand. This was a glass of toffee with no discernible bitterness. Not as woeful as their Carlisle State Bitter, which was an exercise in redefining the word flavour, but in a bad way, this was very much like a West Country bottled light brown, except it was 4.0%. And it had a label that would make Jeff Pickthall fume. And any right minded person.
Moving on, Geeves Brewery No.1, 3.8% was an inoffensive (I have been swotting up on euphemisms for "poor") malty sort of brew that cries out "Brown Bitter". This time the novelty addition of hops gave it an edge over the Derwent but it was quite a standard beer with a mahogany colour to it.
We switched to Germany for Hainhauser Schlok-weisse Dunkel, 4.8%, probably illegal in not being 5.2% like what Dunkels are, it was a very agreeable beer not dissimilar to the Geeves but having a far greater depth of flavour and biscuity wheaty malt at the end, which also made it quite refreshing. Dunkel in colour, this was a move towards more distinct flavours on the night.
Dunham Massey Porter 5.2% BCA was our fourth beer. One of the bottles I received in compensation for the rather disappointing purchases in December, all had been great so far (although the light orange coloured stout was, if nothing else "a surprise"). This was also a surprise, but in a comprehensively bad way. It had 11 months date on it and had been stood for 6 weeks yet was decidedly undrinkable. I know that not every beer with live yeast in it can be perfect but this was just bad.
Nearby (erm, in the sense that they are in the same county) Tatton Brewery's Obscure, 5.7% was up next. A dark bitter beer with plenty of body and chocolate malt notes, and a big bunch of hops in the aftertaste that reminded me of those distinct New World flavours one comes across. Was this the obscure element? It was in essence a subtle black IPA, and perhaps all the better for it.
Dunham Massey East India Pale Ale, a 6.0% BCA came next. I had three of these in my box and this was the last one so I was fairly confident, and it didn't disappoint. As far as I know its an IPA made with all English malt and hops, and, I suppose, irrespective of arguments over strength, it at least makes sense that its brewed with those ingredients. Bitter, but quite floral with lemon and orange predominating in the long aftertaste. A good effort.
Kernel Export Stout London 1890, at 7.2%, (and a BCA?) is a big favourite of mine and Davefromtshop had the opportunity to fall for it now as well. There was oatmeal in a luxuriously thick body, with Dave identifying coconut after we'd added the yeast, as well as chocolate. In the end we decided it was a kind of dark chocolate Bounty with coffee, and worryingly easy to drink. Much better served at room temperature as well, having bought it from the fridge in a licensed premises.
Kapplerbrau Altomunster Export Hell was a bit of a break from the stronger ales and a palate cleanser before the monsters that lay ahead. This was perhaps the maltiest beer I ever tasted yet it still managed to be refreshing on the palate, no doubt an ingenious by product of the lager malts used (although it was a Hell(es?) in style, so am not sure which malt they use?). However it reached its flavour balance, it was a good beer to have when we did.
Thornbridge Alliance Strong Ale Reserve 2007, at 11%, was the first of the two finishers. The Strong ale, which is unoaked, is matured for 18 months before bottling. It didn't seem plausible, as we tasted the heady whisky tinged notes, that it hadn't been in a spirit barrel but whatever and however that edge was achieved it was a stupendous creation. Sweet, still noticeably hoppy, honeyed but not cloying and very easy to drink.
Its a conundrum of flavours really, because you end up thinking of rich vinous and sticky tastes like Christmas pudding yet it drinks like a 5% honey beer. Best summed up by Dave - "its multi-layered but nothing is jarring, its well rounded and a great argument for aging beers". Adding the yeast made it a little easier to drink, if that was even possible, but added another dimension, with hints of marmalade coming through. A faultlessly executed beer, and only one bottle left now. A crying shame!
Goose Island Bourbon County 2012, at 15% was our last bottled beer, for obvious reasons. Subtle only in the sense that it didn't knock you out, it inhabited a region in the taste-buds between beer and bourbon. Not a subtle background tang or Islay aged phenols, just a massive chunk of alcohol.
At one stage during our final wobbly angled video summary (where I helpfully covered the microphone, like a pissed up genius) we concluded it was "not unpleasant" and "drinking it is a bit like running into a brick wall". Dave advised he didn't fancy an entire evening on it - I wholeheartedly agree. With the time getting on and a taxi required we opted to down the last bit just to get that burning cheek, fuzzy headed thwack that the alcohol and thickness promised. It did not disappoint.
So, a fantastic five hours of drinking and listening to Tom Waits and Frank Black (note - this is not a collaboration album before you go hunting for it) was had by both. Possibly a more gradual climb to the stronger beers would have been beneficial, but the two we finished on were magnificent. Overall though, the Alliance won by some margin. A beer that you simply could not improve upon.
Other notable entrants were two of the three Dunham beers, the Kernel and Tatton Obscure. Overall it was a varied and mostly enjoyable meander through multiple beer styles.