28 February 2011

Monster of rock

It's all been a bit grim on the British beer front on this blog of late: crap from such luminaries as Sheps, I&G and some bunch in Yorkshire who don't understand lager. Perusing the shelves of the offy (yes, I'm back on that topic again), there's not much by way of exciting British beer. Nothing from Thornbridge, or Otley, or The Kernel. Not even anything interesting from the MolsonCoors family, and they're running an office over here. Cuh!

So I have to rely on my personal contacts and dig deep into the back of the stash. Hardknott Granite 2009, a gift from Dave ("brewer, doer, force majeure" for those who don't know him or his business cards), makes a big song and dance about how it should be aged. But sod that: I'm thirsty. Two seasons in my attic should be plenty.

The first thing that struck me about this 10.4% ABV barley wine is the colour. It's an opaque brown rather than the more normal dark ruby. The texture is heavy even by the viscous standards of the style and the air around it is quickly filled with heady vapours of burnt caramel studded with citric hops. On tasting, smoke rises to the front of the palate followed by toffee, oranges and wholemeal digestive biscuits, finishing a little bit metallic and leaving a kiss of treacle on the lips. A lot going on, but it's the big body rather than the myriad flavours that make this a beer to savour slowly. Dave's suggestion that it's one to go with strong cheeses is absolutely spot-on.

I'm in the unusual position of suggesting that maybe this would work better in smaller bottles. I don't think I've ever said that before. A nip of this would be lovely, and a stash full of nips even better. Or big sharey 75cls would be good too. But Hardknott is still a relatively new operation and it seems likely that this kind of add-on will have to wait (fledgling Irish breweries please take note: life doesn't end at 5% ABV). For now, however, I'm content with a half litre, though I'd be perfectly happy to share the next one. If I had a next one.

The sudden return to English beer in Irish offies is a harsh comedown.


  1. I've only had a couple of Dave's beers (although I'd be happy to review some more...), but both the ones I had impressed me greatly. This one sounds outstanding. 500 ml @ 10.4% is a lot of booze, though.

  2. It's like drinking two or three pints of ordinary beer in a row. Which, of course, is a ridiculous notion...

  3. Funny was looking at his website over the weekend. Was thinking of visiting and staying at the pub, only to be disappointed to find that he's moved on. I'll be looking out for his beer though!

  4. Dave bought umpteen thousand of those 500ml bottles for about thruppence. Until they're gone we won't be seeing any other sizes.

  5. I guess the trick is to use a smaller glass - I suspect that if I had a pint glass of 10.4% beer in front of me I'd drink it at quite a similar rate to any other pint. Not that it wouldn't be fun.

    Jeff - to judge from a chat I had with Dominic Driscoll a couple of years back, the owner of the Marble scored a similar deal with those 750 ml bottles. Dom said he was still mulling over what to put the new Decadence in - 330 ml like the old one? or 500? a 500 *and* a 330? a 330 and a 750? - when he heard that an executive decision had been made: stick it all in the big bottles. Personally I would have been much happier with smaller bottles - 750 ml at 11.5% is a *lot* of booze - but, as Dom said, it's not as if the big bottles wouldn't sell. And Dave Bailey ceteris paribus mutatis mutandis, et cetera, et cetera.