10 August 2018

Late Gate update

It's over a month since I last dropped by the Open Gate Brewery to see what they were turning out these days. It was still the height of summer so I was happy to see Open Gate Summer Ale on the taps. While a weighty 5% ABV, this is exceedingly pale looking: a wan and limpid yellow. Thankfully it proved to be not at all watery, while also avoiding the greasy quality I often find in the light-coloured ales brewed here. Lemondrop, Mandarina Bavaria and Mosaic hops have given it a gentle citrus and sherbet flavour with a clean bitter finish. It would be perfectly suited to summer drinking were it not for an ABV that seemed increasingly inappropriate as I drank.

The most dramatic name of the session went to Galactic Crystal Warrior, an English-style bitter. A cask of this had just run out but the keg version still portrayed English bitter quite convincingly. Not one of the good ones though. Caramel and strong tea feature prominently, with the accent on the caramel: it's sweet first and drier later. While not bad, being neither sticky nor astringent, there isn't much going on. The name makes a promise of excitement and definitely of hops, and neither of these really materialise.

Now the Caramel Ale was astringent, which was weird. I got a sharp kick of redcurrant where I was expecting smooth dark malt, and then a metallic barb of bitterness on the end. It's a dark ruby colour and a bigger-still 6% ABV, yet the sweet smoothness implied by the badge was completely absent.

The trilogy of error finishes on Milk Stout 2018. 6.8% ABV makes it considerably stronger than the mainstream version from last year, and the original when the site first opened. And they still haven't got the style right. While it smells lovely and creamy, it tastes funky and stale: old sweat mixing with the sticky sugariness of cheap ice cream, finishing on a sour twang which clashes horribly with the lactose. This is a recipe deserving of midnight burial at a crossroads, then back to the milk stout drawing board. Again.

Redemption arrived before home time, thanks to Bulleit Boubon Barrel-Aged Stout, a 10.5% ABV black beauty. This is possibly the bourboniest bourbon barrel beer I've tasted -- vanilla by the bucketful. And that sounds awful. Adding in that it was flat and cold makes things worse, but it all worked really well. It channelled the essence of whisky into the stout cleanly, including a sour lime kick I tend to associate with Jack Daniel's. The aroma smelled of real bourbon with a non-interfering background coffee waft. Perhaps it lacks depth, but the straight up, unfussy, unapologetic rawness of it charmed me. I'd have had another if I hadn't been able to feel the alcohol already creeping into my bloodstream after one glass.

Two decent but very different beers bookending the selection on this particular evening. Hooray for diversity, I guess.

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