Cask Thornbridge Halcyon was a pleasant surprise on the cask beer engine at Against the Grain a few months ago. I had encountered an aged version at a festival a while back so it was interesting to compare notes with a spanking fresh pint.
It's a very different experience, with the powerful pithy hops exploding on the palate. Yet, amazingly, it's not in any way acrid or harsh and I don't reckon that can be chalked up to the balancing effect of the malt, even though it's all of 7.4% ABV. Which leaves me wondering if it's the smoothing effect of the cask dispense at work, or maybe just a brewer who knows what he's doing when it comes to putting a recipe together. Anyway, fresh Halcyon is recommended.
Over at the keg end of the bar that evening they had Thornbridge's Chiron on. Since it's a fancypants import keg beer I was surprised to get given a pint: usually it's a 375ml glass for this sort, but I wasn't complaining. I first encountered this last time I was in London and enjoyed it; this time it just didn't work as well, lacking in body and flavour and with its tiny bit of dank tasting like 5am Saint's weedy little brother. Not enough flavour power for a sipper and too strong to be properly sessionable, it was neither one thing nor another. Perhaps the lesson here is not to follow the double IPA with a mere American-style pale ale.
I suppose I should have one of Thornbridge's tall handsome bottles next to complete the set. Fortunately I found their Vienna lager Kill Your Darlings in Redmond's recently. It's been out a while but this was the first time I'd seen it in real life and it's a truly superb beer. A spot-on shade of teak and wonderfully silky, having a texture that's full without being heavy and the gentle carbonation of German lager served from a wooden barrel.
The flavour reminds me of the first time I tasted Samuel Adams Boston Lager and the redefinition of what malt tastes like: rich and biscuity with some mild caramel and even a little smoke. There's a certain bitterness to it too: some liquorice and sour plum, and the Amarillo hops bring just a slight overtone of soft juicy peach. It's a tragedy that such an insanely quaffable beer costs close to €5 a pop in the off licence. Just as well the draught Thornbridge beers are no strangers to our better pubs then.