01 March 2017

Walking the plank

I have been most remiss at keeping up to date with the beer turnover at the Open Gate Brewery. I finally put things to rights a couple of weeks ago and dropped in on a Friday evening. It's almost half way through its initial three-year tenure as the tasting bar for Diageo's experimental brewery, and business appears to be booming. My concern that the pre-booking barrier for admission would keep people away seems unfounded.

There were three beers new to me on the roster and I got my paddle duly loaded up on arrival. I started on the (I think) somewhat tortured German of Weisen Stout. It's meant as a hybrid between stout and weissbier and is a whopping 7.1% ABV. For the most part it resembles one of the strong Guinness variants: roasty, with a sharp sourness, and then a caramel and ester finish. If you'd told me it was Guinness Special Export I'd have believed you. There's just a slight, mild, waft of banana on the end to remind you there's some sort of novelty factor, but as usual with Guinness stouts, the essential Guinness flavour characteristics dominate the picture.

L: Damson Plum Sour, R: Weisen Stout
No chance of that happening with beer two: Damson Plum Sour, the first sour beer I've tried from Open Gate. They seem to have gone all out for the super sugary sort that Belgian brands like Lindemans and Mort Subite are most famous for. I'll admit, I've long had a soft spot for their lurid candy stylings. This one is an opaque purple colour with pink foam on top. It's pure cherry sherbet up front, all tooth-jangling sweetness and soft effervescence. There's just the faintest buzz of tangy sourness right at the end. Despite being so sweet it's very quenching and drinkable and I'll admit to enjoying a follow-up pint before I left.

Down to the serious business, then, of the new Open Gate IPA, Third Strike. I had this next to a sample of the Nitro IPA but really there's no comparison. While Nitro is over-processed perfumey goop, Third Strike is a very decent take on English IPA, despite the advertised hops being Simcoe, Centennial and Hüll Melon. What gives it its character is a strong tannic quality, making it smell like a refreshing cup of black tea and giving the flavour a perfect, cleanly defined, edge. Then there's a major fresh and leafy hop character right in the centre, but it's more the firm crunchy veg you find in top-notch Yorkshire bitter than anything fruity and American. It's another one that's very happily pintable and I was shocked, and a little dismayed, to notice that the ABV is an unreasonable 6.8%. Like good bitter it's one I could quaff lots off, but that would be inadvisable.

Thanks as always to Padraig and the Open Gate crew for their hospitality.

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