05 December 2018

Zeroes and heroes

I didn't get to do a whole lot of discretionary pub crawling on my most recent visit to Bristol, mostly going where events took me. Luckily one of the places was Zero Degrees, where I hadn't been since my first visit back in 2014. The beer range seems to have expanded significantly and there was a raft of new stuff to try.

It being almost Halloween there was a pumpkin beer on, called Pumpk It Up. It wasn't half bad either. The spicing was delicate and not overblown, the base beer simple and smooth, and the whole thing very drinkable, if unexciting.

The black lager for which Zero Degrees is rightly famed is now called The Beast. It's a clear dark chestnut colour and tastes as clean as it looks. The lager stylings are complicated by a lovely big hit of liquorice, a flavour impact intensified by the heavy texture, and that's despite the ABV being a very reasonable 4.4%. Excellent stuff.

Staying for a second round I was intrigued by something called an American Mild. It's another dark red one, only 3.5% ABV this time, and with a soft effervescent texture. There's not much roast or fruit but it does have a dusting of lemon sherbet. A bit like the pumpkin beer, this offers undemanding drinking and is pleasingly refreshing.

There was a Zero Degrees Grodziskie as well. Pale yellow, as expected, but the smoke flavour doesn't work well here. There's a lot of it, but it comes across as burnt at first, then unpleasantly stale and rubbery. True to style, sure, but lacking the soft-spoken subtlety of the other beers.

At the bar of the Arnolfini art gallery I took a gamble. Korev was right there on the keg fonts: the literal gold standard of UK lager. Beside it was something called Sulis by Bath Ales, claiming to be "the ultimate English lager". I've long been a critic of Bath Ales and the abundance of diacetyl in their beers. Trusting them with a lager seemed like a daft idea. But I'm glad I did: Sulis is lovely. Almost champagne-like with its crisp toasty quality, it has a gorgeous new-world hop character, of sharp lemon, juicy mango and soft white grape. St Austell's ownership of the brewery seems to be doing them good.

On the handpumps there was 12 Apostles from Bristol Beer Factory. It's an Aussie-hopped pale ale, bright gold in colour and showing lots of fresh and sharp hop favours, grapefruit in particular. That meant it tasted more American than Australian to me, lacking the softer fruit flavours I expect from that country's hop varieties, but I'm not at all complaining: this is a really invigorating citrussy pint.

I had two restaurant run-ins with beer from New Bristol, a local outfit whose wares I hadn't encountered before. The first was at Cosy Club, a rather grand repurposed banking hall. Citrus Hill is a 5.1% ABV pale ale which arrived an unpleasant-looking grey-orange colour. It was thick with suspended gunk, tasting dirty and unpleasant, with a clunking metallic twang as the centrepiece, surrounded by rotting oranges and scrapings from the bottom of the cask. Not recommended.

I chalked that up as a bad job, perhaps more the venue's fault than the brewery's, until that evening at Riverstation. Here they served New Bristol's Pineapple Pale, which sounded like it might be interesting. It was, just not as I'd hoped. Dregs again. It wasn't so bad this time, there being a bonus spice brought by the yeast, but it was still horribly savoury and gritty, with none of the promised tropical fruit. On this showing, New Bristol really needs to clean up its act.

I did find one other of their beers on keg, and I'll get to that in Friday's post.

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