11 December 2014

A very British oooh!

A handful of beers from the cutting edge of English brewing today, arriving courtesy of Richard.

I'd never heard of Ellenberg's Brewery before, a short lived London-based operation that suspended production back in the spring. They made a dark smoky wheat beer which they called Ellenberg's Brewery Dark Smoky Wheat Beer, 6.5% ABV and claiming authentic German stylings.

It's an unattractive murky brown, but then weissbier is gonna murk. I really liked the aroma, all warming bacon and peaty phenols: thoroughly cosy and comforting. The flavour is a very clean slice of well-smoked ham, the meatiness accentuated by the full mouthfeel. For weissbier fruit esters you have to add the lees at the bottom of the bottle, and even then the smoked flavours are still very much in control. It's good that they don't wrestle the esters for dominance, a factor that I think spoils Schlenkerla's Weizen. Overall, this is a beer I enjoyed spending time with and I hope it will return to production at some stage.

Siren I have heard of, and tasted a few of their beers, and never met a bad one. I had also seen much chatter about Limoncello IPA, their collaboration with Mikkeller and Hill Farmstead, so was delighted to find it sitting at my kitchen table. There's 9.1% ABV to contend with, the beer pouring a dark cloudy orange and smelling powerfully of waxy lemon peel. I was wary.

The first thing that struck me is the heat. This beer makes no effort whatsoever to hide its strength, and just as you get used to the boozy vapours you get hit with sharp, punchy Jif Lemon, finishing on an almost burning acidity. But it's one of those super-intense beers you get used to after a couple of sips. The busy flavours calm down and mellow out. I was expecting it to get sickly and undrinkable, y'know, like limoncello does, but instead it settles into a fluffy, mouth-watering lemon merangue pie sort of effect, which meant it was possible to drink a lot more of it than I thought I could. Someone else can answer the question of where the Citra and Sorachi Ace hops stop and the actual lemon zest begins -- I really couldn't see the join.

And finally Summer Wine Brewery, abandoning their angular modernist label style for a more friendly, jaunty look. Padrino is billed as an "imperial affogato stout" and is 9% ABV.

The aroma doesn't set it off to a good start, being rather dry and stale, like old cold coffee. Plenty of dry coffee roastedness in the flavour too, but here it fights it out with an intense sugary mocha sweetness which builds to saccharine and latterly turns unpleasantly metallic. Its texture is as full as you might expect and the end result is more like chewing coffee grounds than drinking a beer. Aside from the added coffee there is little other flavour complexity and none of what makes imperial stout such a great style. While Siren's Limoncello could be regarded as a poster child for adding odd things to beer, Padrino is more of a warning notice.

Still, it's better than being boring.


  1. That all sounds horrible, to be honest. Can't beer just taste like beer these days?

  2. Did Harvey's close or something? Have Fuller's shut up shop? Is there no Theakston's to be found for love nor money?

    What's with this zero-sum nonsense?

  3. Ellenberg's been up north here for a wee while now - the Dark Smokey Wheat Beer is their best in my opinion. I'm not fussed on the Limoncello IPA, bought 2 bottles a while back and still have 1 left. I'll take your advice on the Padrino and avoid.

    1. These all came from The Vineyard in Belfast, as far as I know. I admire the bravery of buying two bottles of an unfamiliar beer. I could never do it.

    2. What you're seeing now from Ellenbergs is remainders I'm afraid. He shut up shop months ago and Weird Beard bought out his share of the brewery (they were sharing a brewkit & site).

    3. Actually, it was a trio of great UK beer shops:
      Ellenberg's was indeed from the Vineyard, but Padrino was an impulse purchase at the Utobeer stall in Borough Market while the Siren came recommended by the top staff at Real Ale in Twickenham.

      Have beer, will travel.

    4. Or, indeed, the reverse.

  4. I believe Mark Ellenberg is now actually employed by Weird Beard. Do look out for Siren's Whisky Sour - the Limoncello aged in whisky barrels. Sounds as if it would send Stonch screaming up the Earl's Court Road, actually tastes delicious.