A big big thanks to SirRon, host of this month's Session with the brilliant topic of The Display Shelf. See, I was captivated by the beauty of Fraoch 20th Anniversary Ale when I first saw it recently. Never mind that ordinary Fraoch is one of my favourite beers, never mind the vital statistics (11% ABV; aged in ex-speyside sherry casks; limited edition of 7,500 bottles): the sheer class of the champagne stylings of the bottle made me intensely aware that this is a special beer for a very special occasion. It's quite possible that if it weren't for today's Session I'd never have got round to opening it. Instead, I decided this is the perfect opportunity to throw hoarding to the wind and just drink the fecker.
It's a dark and faintly cloudy amber colour and quite viscous, with just a dusting of froth which leaves a stiff lacing down the glass. The vanilla wood is present on the nose, but in quite a pleasant and subtle way, and there's also an enticing herbal complexity underneath. And of course there's no ambiguity that this is a big big beer. On tasting, the texture is striking -- thickly mouth-coating but with a gently enlivening sparkle. First in the flavour queue is that sour woodiness then a sweet honey complication. Amazingly, the fruit of twice-removed sherry still haunts the beer, and that heady malt from the scotch is in the mix as well. Just dusting the top there's a sweet and aromatic herbal flavour, deriving from the heather I assume, but carrying notes of red summer berries too. The finish on all of this is quite dry, leaving a strawberry and vanilla echo behind.
Fraoch 20th Anniversary is a gorgeous beer, and definitely one to have on hand for a special occasion. But there's absolutely no harm in cracking it open just because you want to. So should it be for every beer really.
In fact, in addition to our monthly Session, I think it would be worth the beer blogosphere designating one day a year as Stash Day: an occasion which acts as its own excuse to pour something special from your collection and tell everyone about it.