Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Trappistes Rochefort 10

I know nothing about Belgian beers. The very helpful man in the fantastic Bitter Virtue in Southampton spoke with such passion that this was "the best Belgian beer" I felt compelled to believe him.

It snaps open with a big fizz, pours with good carbonation, revealing a rich dark porter almost black beer. The aroma is to die for, rich and deep, full of brown sugars, molasses and burnt caramel. But hidden within there is a light freshness, lifting out some beautiful grassy and floral aromas.

Words struggle to explain the intensity of the first sip, at 11%Abv it's clearly a big beer, but it has such intensity. It's like a double concentrated ESB, boiled down until its a sauce sweet and rich enough to be poured on a pudding. Melted dark muscavado sugar dominates the initial taste, but there are no roasty or chocolate stout notes despite the dark colour. The finish provides a gentle hop bittering, bringing a delicate freshness to the finish.

8/10 A beer richer than a billionaire. If you like your beers sweet, rich and strong this will rock your world.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Gorge Best (Cheddar Ales)

Provided as a gift by @beerbunkerpaul this is not one I would have picked out, my experience of best bitters in bottles is they are always well short of their cask equivalents. But with an open mind...

It opens with a whisper, the perfect beer for cracking open in silent cinemas and during church services. The faint fizz is clearly an attempt to recreate the cask style, giving a faint grassy and sulphurous nose before removing all trace of the head.

The malt is light with no deep roasted notes, just a snap of biscuit and a long lingering sweetness. The hops a very noticeably zesty, lemon and lime jumping out with the assertion of bitterness.

It's a lovely balanced beer, designed for long sessions, but feels rather out of place in a bottle.

6/10 Better than most commercial competitors but lacking enough punch to stand out in a bottle.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Delirium Nocturnum (Brouwerij Huyghe)

I was a big fan of Delirium Tremens, and I do like a dark beer, so surely this one adds up?

Pours a rusty deep brown, with a big whiff of earth and iron. A thin webby head soon dissipates to nought. The nose is peppers, bananas, figs, all a bit bonkers just like it's lighter sister beer.

The initial taste for me is a little gruesome, its all the fun of the fair when perhaps you just want to visit the coconut shy. Chewy, with slight chocolate rumours - it's like Billy Smarts madcap picnic hamper viewed through a black stocking of treacle, a mildly cloying aftertaste that lingers but not unpleasantly.

It's 8.5%abv, creamy with it and with each sup it grew on me more. If you can surmount the carnival of zany tastes it evolves into a dark fruity cracker. Wisps of herbs and pepper dance down the glass to the end.

So, idiosyncratic beer again from Brouwerj Hughe, but it all adds up to a fine and formidable strong ale experience for the adventurous.

8/10 - A circus ring of fruity barminess, rich bold fun dark ale.

- The Broadside

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Bunker Summit No. 5

Yesterday saw the fifth Bunker Summit, with a varied range of twelve ales up for review.

In case you don't know the format, it's a relaxed series of blind tastings as all four attendees brought three different beers to be supped and rated. In addition to myself and Ed, also present was Summit regular Glenn and birthday-debutant Colin.

A particular feature of these conferences is the food, and once again Commander Ed excelled himself, with a Bunker-themed steak pie with amazing rich gravy.

So, on to the beers - this is what we had, and this is what the average mean scores were before the bottles were revealed.

1. Snake Dog IPA (Flying Dog) 7.1%
Beautiful big piney hoppy IPA, walloping start to the session and yellow card shown to contributor for unleashing rampaging early ABV. 7/10

2. Bengal Lancer (Fuller's) 5.3%
Malty body with good length and marked hop signature. Was referred to as "Bengali Lancer" for the rest of the evening as it seemed to fit. 6/10

3. Hacker-Pschorr (Oktoberfest-Marzen) 5.8%
Most were convinced that this was a honey beer, like Slater's Queen Bee. Quite long and mulchy in the note. Distinctive German lager, but not all that pleasant. 5/10

4. Whitstable Bay (Shepherd Neame) 4.5%
Immediately recognisable as an SN beer from the nose, the body of this beer was surprisingly tasty and refined. Tangy and sweet initial notes segue into a pronounced but agreeable bitter finish. Evening's joint bronze medal winner. 7/10

5. Russian Winter Stour (Itchen Valley) 5.3%
Lovely creamy stout, although not particularly Russian in character. Delicious chocolate notes swim with coffee and the sup has a silky character. Solid 7's across the board. 7/10

6. Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Yorkshire Bitter (Black Sheep) 5%
Poorly received, large demerara mouthful, grouchy and dirty long taste. Probably a cheese-accompanier where a distinctive profile needs to stand up in accompaniment, but not for us. 3/10

7. 1845 (Fuller's) 6.3%
Wow, fruity nutmeggy strong ale, swirls of fruitcake and complex, dry finish. Joint bronze medal winner on the night. 7/10

8. Cornish Mutiny (Wooden Hand) 4.8%
This one polarised the judging panel, receiving marks as diverse as 2 and 7. A deep amber beer, quite biscuity and with a marmite-esque fruit-bitter finish. Average score - 4/10

9. Human Cannonball (Magic Rock) 9.2%
Leviathan IPA, lethal alcohol and the evening's gold medal winner. Massive pine hop nose, and marmalade bitter length. More resiny than a soaking furniture warehouse set deep within a Nordic forest. Appreciated in the blind taste, although it was noted that it probably could make you blind. 8/10

10. Pale Ale (Meantime) 5.4%
Back to sanity, and a capable standard pale ale from Meantime. Nice blend of Goldings and Cascade hops give this an agreeable session pint profile. Tasty. 6/10

11. Kofi Annan's Christmas Peace Stout (Bunker Homebrew) - 5.2ish%
At this point in the evening Ed slipped in his first stab at a home brewed stout, and it was a corker. Rich wealth of coffee and chocolate notes, swimming blackly together in a pitchy harmony. Very good stout, and the evening's silver medal winner. 8/10

12. Champion Ale (McEwans) 7.3%
A sweet and strong ale to finish up with. Big barley and malt notes, but possibly too alcoholic for it's own good. Solid 7 though 7/10

- The Broadside

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Brewers Reserve No3 (Fullers)

Packaged like a gift for visiting King, assured, and classy it screams a beer to savoured. Pours rich like a port stained mahogany writing desk. The fizz is energetic but works to force the pourer to take time allow the beer to come to life.

The nose is like rum soaked raisins, pinches of ripe fruit cake, vanilla, and a rather mellow oakiness. The opening malt is swamped by big fruity notes like rich Christmas pudding, smoothly sliding to rich boozey middle with enough Abv to warm beyond the need for a coat. The finish is not so much bitter as thin sharp alcohol like a watered whiskey.

9/10 A truly special beer, rich, warming and extravagant in flavour.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Prima Pils (Victory)

I've heard this is probably the best example of an American Pilsner out there.

Very lightly carbonated on the pour, no big foamy head, just thin dusting of snow white foam.

The smooth sweet malt is swamped with creamy mouthfeel, but lingering for the mearest nano second before hit by a freight train of hops. There is enough hop bittering to keep pace with even the most modern of IPAs, with more nobility than even the biggest royal wedding.

I'm told it's hoppy like a Pilsner should be, but in my limited experience of the style it seems to be pushing the boundaries of bittering. But let's be clear, that's not a bad thing, being "out of balance" can be fantastic.

8/10 A strikingly hoppy Pilsner.

Try it for yourself at Mybrewerytap

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Indian Beer: London Pilsner

Due to unforsen circumstances I have been obliged to station myself in India for a few weeks, so what better use of the time than reviewing local beers?

The label doesnt promote confidence, like some badly design cheap souvenir it conjures up memories of an episode of Friends I'd rather forget.

Cracks open with the usual fare, the head disappears as quickly as smoke after a magicians arrival leaving it looking like Chardonnay. The nose, well at best "sulphurous" but more accurately it smells of farts.

The malt arrives like a stealth bomber on radar, leaving behind a faint carpet bombing of fizz on the tongue. I believe this beer to be single hopped, by that I mean I think they use a single hop flower in each hectolitre, no more for fear of bittering.

1/10 It makes Carling seem exotic, I can only assume it's a German black ops campaign against English brewing*

*brewed Bombay, this beer is as English as Jonathan Trott.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Monsieur Rock (Sharps)

Brewed with Jean Marie Rock of Oval, this Anglo-Belgian collaboration tries to combine the best of both brewing worlds with extended lagering.

It bursts from bottle with perfect BC fizz. The Saaz hops run riot with senses, filling the air with fresh herbal, grassy almost peppery aroma. There are glimpses that transport you back to you earliest days of lager drinking when it was an innocent thing if wonder.

The malt is smoother than a floating Rolls Royce and it exudes a creamy depth that coats the mouth. They seemed to have bottled the brewers holy grail of "mouthfeel". It's sweet and bitter in perfect harmony, the hops don't stamp authority, just arrive with a welcome handshake and begin mingling with the malt.

The genius of this beer is it's simplicity. On one level this could be passed to even the most hardened commercial lager drinker where it would be consumed with pleasure. On another level it can be sipped and pondered, enjoying every note in perfect harmony - like listening to Dark Side of the Moon, in the dark, on headphones, on a bean bag. Try it!

9/10 Wondrous, if only all beer was so perfectly balanced. The most quaffable beer I've had all year. I need another!

Read more about the collaboration and head brewer Stuart Howe here
Or buy Sharps beers here

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Liberty Ale (Anchor)

First brewed back in 1975 to celebrate a certain colonial revolution, this beer has long been a mainstay of the famous brewery's range.

The nose is grassy, hints of dried herbs, reminiscent of an English style IPA. It pours a light copper with a rather assertive fizz.

The malt is relatively light, gentle biscuit notes mingle with the nearest pinch of orange fruitiness. The 5.9abv is well hidden despite this simple pale ale approach to the malt. The hops arrive in perfect balance with the malt, providing a decent stamp of bitterness but not going overboard despite it's dry hopping.

6/10 A solid English style Pale Ale, delivers but fails to shine above fierce competition.

Black Chocolate Stout (Brooklyn)

The immaculate black and gold label hints at the quality within.

It pours thick and black, with roasted chocolate notes powering above wisps of oak and coffee. The head is a light tan, not that you can see that from my rather over (and under) exposed photo.

This is 10% ABV, serious stuff. The impact of the sup is heady, sweet and of course very chocolatey, but not sickly. The consistency is a proper motor oil stout, and it comes across as an after-dinner delight for the discerning.

The texture is like a satin asp sliding over velvet. A mildly buttery midsection gives way to a rising coffee bittering which never peaks but balances out the drink immaculately.

Utterly luxurious, comprehensively delicious.

9/10 - Remarkable strong after dinner stout, blackly gorgeous.

- The Broadside

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Brodie's Prime (Hawkshead)

Billed as category breaking beer and delivered by hand from the Lake District tap room by bunker co host Paul, but the question is: What is a Premium Dark Ale?

The nose is light, hints of blackberry, a solid pinch of Cascade floralness, but a Black IPA this not.

What hits the tongue to start is a wave of dryness, that only builds in intensity as the malt unravels. A Black chocolate bitterness takes control before leading to the hops. The Bramling Cross give a fruity blackcurrent kick of bitterness at the end which leave a strong lasting impression on the beer.

7/10 A well hopped porter with some strong blackcurrent notes.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Alice Porter (Brewdog)

Brewdog allege that this "renaissance baltic porter" is the result of a 300 year old recipe. The label talks of cobblestones and swirls of mist from the Thames, as if Doctor Watson himself might order this at his local.

The dog-icon cap flips away to reveal a sweet but subdued bouquet of burnt sugar with a ping of vanilla. On the pour it's black and tumultuous in the glass, a broiling inky drink that sheds a light brown lacy head that swiftly fades to nought.

It's 6.5%abv, but the alcohol is well shielded in the sup. It's all dark chocolate and summer fruits through the length, a classic porter mix with a stylish welcoming mouthfeel. Coffee and vanilla peek through then round off with a gentle bittered finish that sports shades of dark cherry.

Brewdog strike the quality threshold yet again with this beer. Would recommend this without hesitation, although as with all of their offerings check the price before you run it through the till.

8/10 - Delicious, extremely drinkable porter with an edge of mystery. Holmes would approve.

- The Broadside

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Very Nutty Black (Thwaites)

This beer is marked "Export Strength" which is a pun for those who look at the label close enough, as the beer itself is 3.9%ABV

It's a version of Thwaites "Nutty Black", a staple in some parts of Lancashire, and this bottled version is designed to be exported to the Far East (Leeds) and even some remote areas of the Southern Hemisphere (Watford).

It's a dark mild (in fact was originally called Dark Mild) and on opening pours very pitchy indeed. The nose is slightly fruity and rather earthy but not prominent.

The sup reveals a very agreeable mild. It's not reinforced with a welt of flavours like many ales on these pages, but if you're looking for the definition of a dark session ale then in this you have found it.

It's roasty and nutty in the taste, a swimming team of malts with a firm hoppy buffer that just twists off the sweetness rather than leave it lingeringly bitter. Drying slightly on the tongue, this one could be drunk all afternoon.

7/10 - Tasty ale for those who want to veer dark but not ring down for the porter.

- The Broadside

Friday, 19 August 2011

Delirium Tremens (Brouwerij Huyghe)

Firstly, do click on the Huyghe website, the intro by MD Alain de Laet is a classic bit of webbery.

A potent and colourful little package in a stone-effect bottle, Delirium Tremens offers much potential. The label shows various trippy animal icons and there's no doubt the message is that this will KO the unwary. It was voted Best Beer in the World at the 1998 World Beer Championships in Chicago.

It's 8.5%ABV, and on cap release the air fills with notes of fruit, ripe bananas and apples. It pours a joyous pale straw colour.

The sip is a little yeasty (it uses 3 types) and a lance-like note of pineapple wanders through, although not overpoweringly so. Huyghe brewery offers quite a few fruit beers, so its easy to see where this affectation came from.

The killer for me is the spices loitering in the undergrowth. Very european and peppery, they scatter through with gay abandon as the sup grows old and warm the tongue as the vaguely bitter aftertaste rears up and dies away. It's bitter just to the point of counteracting the fruit taste and no further.

This is a strong summer party drink for the discerning. The hops themselves taste like no normal hops, and I was amazed at how drinkable such a strong beer can be.

Not best in the world for me, but exacting and classy.

8/10 - Beautifully presented summer Belgian classic.

- The Broadside

Friday, 5 August 2011

Island Oyster (Mersea Island)

And it's a quick Mersesa Island double here at the Bunker Station Two as we crack open their dark special beer, Island Oyster.

Solidly porter in colour, it's as dark as the inside of said gastropod's shell. The head is beige and foamy.

The aroma reinforces the porter credentials, heavily chocolatey with a whiff of dockside back-alley danger.

You get oats and some oysters in this pint, and the combined attack is remarkable. Neither can really be picked out as individual strains (in the case of oysters perhaps its as well), but fused with the dark sweet malts the effect is lushly tasteful. The sup continues through as a bounty of colliding porter notes, with Fuggles hops rearing mildly at the death of the taste.

This is really good BC beer, another gem from this Essex enterprise. The mouthfeel and consistency needs to be tried.

8/10 - Outstanding oyster porter from Essex, well worth trying to track down.

- The Broadside

Monday, 1 August 2011

Shropshire Lad (Wood's)

Wood's is a fine brewery located amongst the scenic hills of Shropshire.

"Lad' is their top seller, and it's a quintessential example of an English bitter, brewed with English Malts, laced with Fuggles and Goldings hops.

It pours a deep bronze with a whiff of flowers, pear and berries on the air and a thin but persistent head loiters around like a crow on a telegraph pole.

It's 5%ABV, and comes across as a textbook stiffer session brown. A rich toffee start to the sup is cajoled by the classical hop mix, swaying and rolling in perfect balance towards the gently bittered finish.

The carbonation is superbly pitched, and the aroma through the taste is a sort of twin hop cuddle which welcomes you to the glass each time.

8/10 - One can easily see why this is their best seller. Enduring quality English bitter.

- The Broadside

Thursday, 28 July 2011

The Rev. James (Brains)

This Brains product is one keeled over beer, or "on the huh" as we say in Suffolk.

It pours a deep clear copper , with scoops of fudge and flowers on the nose. The head is a foamy white landscape, crinkling over time and present down the glass.

The sup is all about caramel sweetness and spicy cane sugar. It ought to be sickly but in fact its quite pleasant, a sort of peppered cinnamon depth offsetting the rampant honeyed malt tones. The texture is a little sticky but not cloying, adequately carbonated with a silky travel.

It finishes with a smidge of hops, not much, and comes across as a sort of light dessert beer. At 4.5%ABV it's session pitched, but think of it more as a malty treat at the end of a tough day.

7/10 - Rather nice sweet-spiced ale, but hop miners need to try another shaft.

- The Broadside

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Island Skippers (Mersea Island)

We don't tend to get many beers from Essex, so here's one.

Mersea Island is primarily a vineyard, which also hosts weddings, celebrations and brews the odd killer beer.

This pours a lovely dark amber with an ebullient lively head. Light caramel notes on the nose, entwined with some grass sprinkles, nice seasonal smells. The sup is initially pleasantly sweet with some faint chocolate notes, before a stride of Fuggles hops takes the experience to a gently dry bittered finish.

Very pleasant beer indeed, a solid seven.

7/10 - A fine best from Essex. Earthy in the right ways with well judged hops in the tail.

- The Broadside

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Brew Day with The Kernel

Underneath the black bricked arches, within an Olympic stones throw of London Bridge, lives The Kernel Brewery. Packed in alongside a cheese maker and a meat curer, at first glance it appears like a home brewing hobby that's got out of hand.

After relatively little convincing, the owner Evin agreed to let me join them for a brew day. I am a keen home brewer and wanted to see first hand how things work when brewing is scaled up. I've done my fair share of brewery tours, with the usual parade of giant steel vessels and swept warehouse floors, but these generally give no indication of the passion or the buzz of excitement involved in the hands on brewing of beer. It's the craft, passion and smells that stir the soul.

Their 650litre setup is only a year old but already has plenty of outward character showing. It is tightly squeezed in alongside a makeshift fermentation and bottling room, with sturdy shelves that still hold the 80litre stainless steel pots that once formed the basis of Evin’s home brewing hobby. These now get used for sanitising and holding finished beer to feed the bottling machine.

The Kernel focus on brewing highly hopped US style Pale ales and IPAs, as well as a diverse selection of rich dark beers, strong stouts, Black IPAs and even a Coffee IPA. The focus is all about the ingredients and what they bring to the beer, often isolated in order for the individual ingredients to shine. The labels again reiterate this simplicity, hand stamped designs reflecting an attention to detail noticeably present in the beer. There is no core range of beers so each brew day is different. Each beer is unique, something which customers must find so exciting in this age of conformity. The hops are usually the stars of the stage, prominently stamped on each label, educating the customer to their own tastes and stirring excitement about the ingredients within.

On my day the focus was on a Pale ale, single hopped with Mt Hood - a lot of Mt Hood. Four and a half 25kilo sacks of the finest Warminster Maltings Maris otter, a few buckets of Munich, CaraMalt and Cara Gold, left to rest for a simple one hour mash at a 67c target temperature. A 30 minute reticulation followed to clean the wort, before sparging commenced with its reassuring rotating squeak of the sparge arm.

The run off and subsequent boil took 2 hours, enabling everyone to turn their hand to some bottling. 4 bottles at a time are filled by a machine intended for wine bottles, requiring a final hand delivered splash to top up. The brewery seems to offer an open door policy during the day, with customers collecting, and fellow brewers and artists all visitors on the day, folk milling through and recognising there was something special going on under these arches, an antidote to the formulaic replication of standard beers.

Handling hops is always an exciting experience. Rubbing them together in the hands to release powerful aromas is a brewers treat, but being asked to measure out 4kilograms of them into four buckets was sensory overload. I got the chance to add the aroma hops at 15, 10, 5 & 0 minutes, there was barely time to get them all submerged before the next batch was due, repeated until the wort surface resembled a Celtic marsh , completely obscured by hops.

It was then time for the plate chiller to get to work, cooling the 650litre brew to 21c nearly instantly. 19c was the target but after a bit of flow adjusting it was decided to pitch slightly higher. Out came a brick of US05 yeast, pitched dry into the filling fermentation vessel.

That's where the journey ended, open fermented in a side room with four other steel fermentors, each fermenting a different beer and each with their own distinctive aromas. No such luxury as temperature control, just a noisy old cooling unit to help fight the warmer summer evenings.

The final tasks of the day were to dig out the mash tun, something it seems is reserved for guests wherever possible, and reclaiming the hops from the kettle. The amount of spent hops was impressive, so impressive that I understand a visiting James Watt of Brewdog felt compelled to take a picture.

Brew complete, we all took some time to crack open a few bottles. We compared notes on which we preferred, but mainly agreed that we liked all of them, like proud parents being asked to choose a favorite child.

So what's next for The Kernel? Well I understand that plans for new premises are progressing. This will offer a bigger capacity, but will still focus on the same unique bottled beers. It's the hand craft that makes Kernel what it is, and I can't see that being compromised.

Kernel’s beers are available in most good London bars, online at BeerMerchants, but I recommend that you pop in and join them for Saturdays at The Kernel and get a chance to see first hand the craft and care that goes into these fine beers.

For Homebrew Geeks all the pictures I took that day are here on my photobucket account.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Wild Swan (Thornbridge)

Pours with fizzy like a run away train, creating a big foamy snow drift head. The aroma Lemon in abundance, maybe hints of vanilla.

The opening malt is very thin as one may expect with a beer so pale, and only 3.5%Abv, hints of sweetness are soon blasted away with big hits of lemon bitterness. In that usual Thornbridge style there is a tropical fruit edge to the finish, mixed with that citrus bitterness. The final finishing note is a slight spiciness, almost peppery.

5/10 Zingy Citrus, but not much else, sadly a rather thin summer beer offering.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Budding (Stroud)

An organic Pale ale it pours with the lightest carbonation I've known in a beer. It has an aroma packed with limes and citrus.

The opening malt is gentle and sweet, slipping along the tongue before combining with the finishing hops. Light bittering, but packed with flavor delivering a flood of citrus to match the malt sweetness. No dry finish, just hundreds of delicate floral flavors.

8/10 A modern English Pale ale, effortlessly quaffable, zesty, and in perfect balance.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Pilsner Urquell vs Budvar

The term "Lager" has long been synonymous to tasteless mass produced beer in the UK, long lost from it's east European origins as a method of cold storing beer, but I'm by no means an expert on the subject!

I thought I would visit two legends of this Bohemian Pilsner style for what some would call a taste of the "true lager experience"

Both pour a beautifully clear light amber gold, with Urquell the merest shade darker. Neither give big foamy heads, reducing to no foam after a minute.

Both a light on the nose, no English or US IPA hop power, or premium ale malty depth. Delicate is the key word, both having a subtle freshness, the Urquell is slightly grassier with more hints of those Saaz hops. The Budvar has slightly more caramel maltiness on the nose.

Both have that beautiful clean taste, no fruity middle, these beers are fermented at low temperatures to ensure the flavors a clean and crisp. The Budvar has less malt depth to start, the bitterness is slightly more prominent, with a finish that has the tiniest sharp tanginess to it. The Urquell offers something very different, there is an amazing biscuit crunch to the malt, like toasted bread it provides a fantastic depth of flavour. The following bitterness matches perfectly with crisp and noticeable Saaz hops coming through.

Two great beers, but the Urquell provides fantastic depth, with delicate flavors floating around the taste buds like summer butterflies.

Budvar 7/10 A solid example of the clean refreshing style.

Urquell 9/10 A truly delightful beer, delicate and light, but flooded with flavor.

Both beers are readily available in the UK, and in most good supermarkets.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

M&S Sussex Golden Ale (Hepworth & Co)

A crunchy whiff of citrus in the nose, this 3.8% ale pours with minimal head. The colour is an engaging deep straw.

The watchword here is refreshment. It has a pleasing malt bumper at the front of the sup, but the citrus finish is a delight. It spirals to a clean bitterness in a very moreish fashion.

M&S have a bottle-conditioned cracker of a session pint here, suitable for daytime drinking without drying the brain.

8/10 - Very tasty summer beer. Delicately flavoured, and as light as sunshine on a meadow.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Jaipur (Thornbridge)

Snaps open and pours with a lively but perfectly controlled fizz, a glorious foamy head. The aroma is all conquering, a big tropical fruit blast, pineapple and sweet fruit.

The malt whilst light golden straw provides a beautiful light sweetness as delicate as it looks. No dryness, ripe fruit or sharp tanginess in the middle just a segway to the big finish. No huge uncomfortable bitterness, just a sharpening of the senses to it's tropical fruit punch. Pineapple, Grapefruit, bitter, sharp, tangy, sweet all fight to be noticed, all held in perfect equilibrium.

9/10 A landmark beer, powerful beery fruit punch. Something else.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Bunker Summit No. 4

Last week saw the fourth Bunker Summit, myself and Ed meeting at Bunker Station Two with summit veteran Glenn.

It ran in the usual format, a blind taste test with each person supplying a category of beer:

Glenn: Brown ales, and a couple of his "Slender Prince" homebrews.
Ed: IPA class. With his own "Bunker Brew" homebrew slipped in.
Paul: Porters & stouts, with two "Station-2" homebrews.

The scores were averaged and the results are below - a fine sunny evening was had, punctuated by homemade beefburger bonanza and some Station Two cheesecake too.

Big Bill's Final Rack (Slender Prince Homebrew)
Good beer, big dominant middle-wood, a dry barky brown but not the fine smooth whiskey oaked epic expected - 5/10

Black Cat (Fallen Angel)
Overly fruity nose heralding a completely off beer bought on general sale in Arundel! - Utterly rank - 0/10

Porter (Harvey's)
Plummy and fruity, a real lock-in pint, almost liqueur like in it's smoothness- 7/10

Bosun's Call (Stumpy's Brewery)
Fruity smell and tang, too big. This beer was in the postcode of off, although not there yet - 3/10

India Pale Ale (Goose Island)
Columo-nimbus head, fizzy and fresh. Massive transatlantic pine hop bomb with a streaky bullet of caramel - 7/10

Endless Summer IPA (Bunker Brew Homebrew)
Lovely homebrew. Lush pine nose, very hoppy but increased malt sweetness, excellent balance. Dry bitter length, delicious - 8/10

Bottle Wreck Porter (Hammerpot)
Sublime chocolate-coffee porter, as smooth as John le Mesurier. Dark magic, a textbook artisan black beer and the evening's winner - 9/10

Doctor Strangehop (Bunker Brew Homebrew)
A nuclear winter IPA, this is as bitter as an old spouse waving photographs. Unrelenting back-end bitterness. Utterly unapologetic, one for atomic hop fans - 6/10

M&S Cheshire Brown Ale (Robinsons)
Well balanced, caramel nose, edge of citrus. A solid brown beer - 6/10

Dark Matter (Station-2 Homebrew)
Unusual pine nose for a porter, coffee and chocolate in spades, lovely rich tiramisu length with hoppy edges, very good dark beer - 7/10

Big Bill's Tricky Brown (Slender Prince Homebrew)
As brown as a 70's kitchen. Tastes of velour, pre-decimal coins and atari consoles. Proper back of the off-license product. Lovely brown booze - 6/10

Tesco's American Double IPA (Brewdog Hardcore IPA)
A hop too far! This splits the hop and takes it beyond it's natural event horizon. Bitter armageddon - 5/10

Almond and Dangerous (Station-2 Homebrew)
No head, minimal nose, quite syrupy. Dominant chocolate tastes laced with fruit, drying early. Almond ingredient not detectable! - 6/10

The wheels then came off and the evening descended into a FIFA 11 tournament, the outcome of which Ed is still angry about.

Look out for new bottle reviews this week!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Old Timer (Wadworth)

This is the winter strong offering from Wadworth.

Sideboard-brown with a filmy head, a whoosh of malt greets the nose on it's way into the glass.

It's a little gassy, which is the only noticeable difference from the pump offering. Taste-wise it's as nutty as a nut, with walloping yeasty notes - a hallmark of Wadworth beer.

The sup converts inexorably to dryness, with a rising hop bitterness in the tail that provides a bit of a marmite love-or-hate moment. The hop mix is very English, Fuggles early on and Goldings twisting things at the end. The tail is just a bit sharp for me.

It's serious beer for serious beer drinks. The 5.8%abv is pretty mighty compared to many supermarket offerings, but the ale actually tastes like it's just sub 5%, nothing too grouchy or etherized.

6/10 - Good but unsubtle beer, an old-school weaponized malt offering from Wadworth

- The Broadside

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Mild (St Peter)

You don't see many milds these days. Once a ubiquitous ale class in working clubs and pubs, it was the traditional epitome of a fresh young malty low-strength session ale.

St Peter, that fine Bungay brewery known for the odd traditional flourish, sells this in their standard dark green medicine bottle.

It pours with a fluffy head and sits a dark woody brown in the glass. A vague aura of ruby. The smell is a hint of chocolate malt laced with dark fruit.

It tastes like a kind of porter-echo, much front-end chocolate maltiness laced with shadows of vanilla and a smidgen of nuts. The taste never really rolls forward and rears up, but then this is mild so that would as expected as spotting David Cameron breakdancing.

A gripe might be the relatively thin consistency and the lack of much oomph, but then that's like complaining that air isn't coloured enough. This is a good, wholesome session pint, a substantive fillip for malt-heads looking to stay on their feet. It's 3.7% ABV, and jolly nice.

7/10 - A fine traditional brown pint. Gentle, malty, solid beer.

- The Broadside