One of the few beers on my must-drink hitlist for the day was Black Butte from Oregon's Deschutes. It's 5.2% ABV and an opaque black, showing just brownish at the edges. The flavour is pretty straightforward, I was a little surprised to find: mostly chocolate, though also some subtle spices and flowers, particularly as it warms. It's enjoyable drinking but I think for some reason I was expecting something more special. But that's my fault, not the beer's.
And since they're only £4 a bottle, I may as well follow that with Obsidian, the Deschutes stout. It's not that much of a trade-up, at 6.4% ABV, and it hits a lot of the same flavour points as its sibling. The chocolate becomes a stronger, bitterer, cocoa and there's a hopped-up addition of liquorice and green leafy vegetables, sending it in the direction of export-style stout but not quite making it all the way there. This is another quality beer but not really one to cross an ocean and a continent for.
We'll stick with Deschutes, however, as we move on to the cask American IPAs. Pine Drops was the one they had, a 6.5%-er. It's paler than most, and arrived slightly hazy, though not so much that it affected the taste. The aroma is mildly resinous and the flavour pushes a light and spritzy pine spice without any weight or oiliness. It's a lovely beer and fun to drink, but terrible value for the strength: knock two or three per cent off and we'll talk.
Santiam's Stonehenge IPA was fruitier still: bigger zest, but also a mandarin sweetness with added giggly sherbet effervensence. There's no trace of crystal malt caramel in the flavour, or the clear gold colour. While it's from Oregon, the name would suggest it's hinting at some kind of English heritage. But 6.3% ABV?! This is another lovely beer but far, far too strong for what it does. While I'd love to drink a pint of it, I'm aware I'd need to set aside a bit of time for that.
Drumroll for the worst offender... Poca Hoptas by Virginia's Centre of the Universe Brewing. 6.8% ABV to contend with here, so no excuse for the rather watery grapefruit aroma. There is a bit of malt heft, of the candy-chew-sweet variety, but it's mostly about the bursting citrus fireworks. All perfectly fun and drinkable until you remember the ABV.
One beer did change my mind a little, and perhaps I was more tolerant of its 7.9% ABV and warming boozy smoothness because I had it late in the day. It was Double Sickle by Tractor Brewing out of New Mexico. It still retains that now-familiar juiciness, but adds a more serious bitter acidity, as well as the aforementioned warmth. It was a good one to sip thoughtfully while considering my last few beers of the evening.
|Stone Pale Ale 2.0|
|Marble Imperial Red|
Marble Imperial Red was my actual last beer of the festival, from the New Mexico Marble, not the Manchester one. It's 9% ABV and was served headless, smelling of rich soft caramel and dark chocolate. There's a smoky element too, thick sappy resins and some red fruit as well: raspberries and cherries. A real black forest gateau of a beer and an indication that it's worth going all-in for heavy and dark when formulating an imperial red.
So those are the Americans. Tomorrow we'll go back to the start for some actual Great British beers, some fellow Europeans, and find out what happened after we left the festival (spoiler: more beer).