29 June 2009

Flemish paradox

It's one of those legends of the beer world that, up until recently, had never crossed my path. I had absolutely no idea what to expect from Liefmans Goudenband: lots and lots of people have told me it was brilliant, but no-one ever said why.

Here, for the record, is why it's brilliant:

The sour notes start early, hitting the nose as soon as the cork is disgorged, with only a slight pop. There's not a whole lot by way of fizz or head, and the body is a brackish red-brown. The first sip reveals that yes, it's definitely a Flemish sour ale, with Rodenbach being the most obvious comparator. We're talking tart summer berries balanced against mellow vanilla and caramel. But there's more. I'm guessing it's the added sugar that makes it bigger and meatier in the taste department. It's certainly stronger, at 8% ABV, but that extra alcohol hasn't made it boozy or heavy or sticky -- it's dangerously drinkable, in fact -- rather it seems to have added an extra dimension to the slightly woody sour Flemish flavour: ripe cherries, soft sticky toffee, that sort of thing. Decadent luxury, yet with buckets of zing.

A sparkly refresher at tramp-juice strength? It would appear so.

25 June 2009

Bock shock

Few terms have an effect on me like "bock". It conjures up instant images of thick, sugary, dark-gold lagers which become nigh-on impossible to drink after the third sip. Conversely, however, Mrs Beer Nut is quite fond of her bock, so if I see one when I'm out and about, I'll generally get it for her. (We have a similar arrangment with pinot noir: nectar to her; mouldy wool overcoats to me.)

And so last week I was stocking up in DrinkStore and an offer of Anchor Bock was made. Not for me, I said, but I'll get it for the wife. When she opened it some days later I was very surprised to see the beer which poured forth was a tarry shade of pitch black. That's promising, I thought.

There's no nose to speak of, straight from the fridge, but the taste is a bit of a rollercoaster. It starts with intensely sweet burnt caramel which somehow manages to coat the tongue, despite the beer itself being relatively thin. After a moment this shades into a strange and heady medicinal iodine flavour, and then this finally stretches itself out into a really quite nasty long metallic buzz.

It's complex, and highly interesting, but I didn't like it. Then again, I wasn't expecting to. The main thing is the missus enjoyed it: the one and only thing I ask of any of the world's bocks.

22 June 2009

A curate's egg

I don't remember why I thought to buy a bottle of Innis & Gunn Triple Matured last October. As I recall it was relatively expensive at £3 for 33cl, and I didn't particularly like the original Innis & Gunn. Plus I'm always a bit stand-offish about contract-brewed beers which don't state clearly where they're made. Anyway, I came home from Newry with it and it's been sitting about the house ever since. Time to bite the oaken bullet.

The colour is a rather attractive dark red gold, and the nose is enticing, packed as it is with sweet, rich woody notes. The fun doesn't last long, however. Even from the first sip the sweet-sour oakiness is just too much -- filling the palate with nasty cloying flavours, with none of the subtle fruit or toffee promised on the box. There's some pleasant warmth from the high alcohol, but also a bit of a nasty stale cardboard buzz as well. And then it just stops: after swallowing there is no virtually no aftertaste. I'm amazed that such a whoppingly overflavoured ale, possessed of 7.2% ABV, is completely legless.

It's certainly a complex beer, but only a small proportion of its many elements are any way positive. Perhaps I would have been better off with some of what Lars had.