29 September 2010

Please think of the tourists

Series beers are all well and good, generally speaking. It's pleasant to sit down with a range of beers which have been brewed to have something in common, and which are presented in co-ordinated outfits (though to actually do so may occasionally be inadvisable). Maybe it's the collector gene firing, but having completed a whole series of beers is much more satisfying than having just ticked one.

The unfortunate side effect is when the drinker doesn't get the chance to complete the series. I spotted Dark Horse's five matching stouts, in their oh-so-arty bottles, on the shelves of Ølbutikken with my hands already full of other goodies. The third one in the series struck me as especially interesting, but it felt wrong to take it while leaving the other -- doubtless excellent, but not as weird -- beers behind. Yet I didn't have a choice. Damn you, Dark Horse: if you hadn't decided to number them I'd wouldn't now be feeling I've missed something.

But enough ethics and angst; the beer I came away with is called Tres and is something I've never seen nor even heard tell of before: a blueberry stout. From the dark brown head on a treacle-thick body I took it to be a strong one, an opinion backed up by the heady chocolate liqueur aroma and foretaste of smoke, vanilla, cocoa and marzipan. It tastes very much from the imperial school of stout-making. No ABV appears on the label and I was very surprised on looking it up to discover that it's a mere 4.5% ABV. Session strength imperial stout? Yeah, I could go for that.

And where are the blueberries in all this, I hear you cry. Well, they're there, hanging on at the tail end for dear life. I couldn't be at all sure if real fruit was used as it's a slightly syrupy, sweet flavour. It could pass unnoticed very easily, I think, were the drinker not informed in advance of its presence. I question whether it really adds anything much to a beer which was already a powerhouse of taste.

A positive assessment for this one overall, and it's good enough that the absence of major blueberries isn't upsetting or annoying. It's enjoyable for what it is, distinct from any individual ingredient and from any of its sibling stouts. Which I'll probably spend the rest of my days seeking.

27 September 2010

Liberation, Celebration, Inebriation

A promising clear copper body, a tight off-white head and an alluring sweet biscuity nose are the introductions to Thwaites Liberation. It's a good start. At 4.9% ABV it's designed to be a beer of substance, albeit modest and dare I say sessionable? In fact it's the fizz more than the strength that would put me off drinking lots of it: though the texture is pleasantly weighty, the carbonation is just too high. One burp per mouthful is uncalled for.

I had been expecting lots of big toffee-ish crystal malt flavours from it, the sort of thing I normally get from copper-coloured English ales, but that's not the modus operandi here. It's fruity. Not in a yeasty, Belgiany, warm-fermentation way, though: I assume it's the hops that are giving it an upfront summer berry flavour, made extra sweet by the definitely-not-toffeelike malt base. I like it. It needs a bit of breathing to let the worst of the gas off, but turns into a decently drinkable red ale after that.

Even better, though, is Thwaites Double Century. I'm not at all sure I've ever seen a beer like this: relatively strong at 5.2% ABV but a deep gold colour rather than the reds or ambers one normally gets from this style. The head is loose but lasting and the carbonation gentle, but the flavour is delightfully odd. Where I was once again expecting malty weight, I got a light and slightly zingy fresh fruit character. There are peaches and mangoes and passionfruit. All very unLancashire, but damn tasty. On the down side, it's perhaps a little thin, and tends towards sickliness if allowed get too warm. But don't let that put you off. If you like Adnams Innovation (and you should) this is somewhere in the same territory.

After the disappointment of Nutty Black, Thwaite's are back in my good books.

23 September 2010

Blind tiger

The hardest rocking man in suburban Dublin, Mr Joe Elliott of Stepaside (erstwhile frontman of popular Sheffield beat combo Def Leppard) has teamed up with The Porterhouse to produce a beer promoting his latest musical project Down 'n' Outz.

It's a lager, suitably labelled in the new band's livery and presented in the Porterhouse's infuriatingly titchy 33cl bottles. The labelling itself presents a bit of a marketing issue, since the band seem to have based their logo on Heineken's brand. To then apply this to an actual beer is a bit odd, making the craft lager resemble Heineken from the outside. Maybe it's subversive. I dunno.

Anyway, I nipped up to Porterhouse North one afternoon last week to give it a go in the surrounds of the newly-refurbished beer garden. The pub wasn't open yet, as it turned out, but fortunately the management were around and Dave very kindly sent me home with some bottles of the newbie to try out.

It is, I suspect, a very close relation of Porterhouse Hersbrucker: a beer I cannot stand on draught but isn't half bad from the bottle. Cara Malt gives it a dark gold colour and a caramel sweetness, while the brewery's signature Galena bittering hop, finished with Nugget and Hersbrucker balance the malt with a fairly intense and complex waxy, grassy bitterness.

I like it. It would have been nice to have in time for summer as the flavour withstands chilling excellently making it a tasty refresher. It's certainly a clear cut above the standard macro lagers, so I don't see how it all went so wrong for Joe here:

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