Wednesday 20 November 2013

A Groupie Follows Moor on Tour

On Saturday, Moor Beer Company organized a rather creative event - or series of events, if you like: one day, seven one-off variations of their beer Amoor, seven pubs around London. I happen to be a big fan of Moor and I think they are quietly producing some of the best beers in the UK. What's great about Moor is that they've not only mastered traditionally British styles (see Revival or Nor'Hop) but they're also not afraid to be a bit progressive, like with Hoppiness (an IPA that brings to mind the offerings of the West Coast USA), Illusion (a highly sessionable black IPA at 4.5%) and Fusion (their annual barrel-aged old ale), among others.  So I was pretty excited to hear they were going to put out seven iterations of Amoor, their 4.5% porter. Here is a recount of the day's action.

Draft House Seething Lane: The First Stop

The tour started at Draft House Seething Lane. I had actually never been to this pub so I welcomed the incentive to visit. To be honest, this place has one of the least attractive facades I have ever seen. Thankfully, though, the inviting interior and the stellar lineup of beers more than makes up for the architectural shortcoming. This stop featured the Victoria Amoor, which had added Victoria plums from Michelney. The plums imparted a pleasant tang to the beer, while the original beer's character remained: well roasted malts, a bit of bittersweet cocoa and tobacco.

The Old Red Cow: Stop Second Stop
The second stop took me to the Old Red Cow, an impressively good craft beer for its neighbourhood. Here I had Damson Amoor, a version benefiting from hand-picked damson plums. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Damson version did not differ markedly from the Victoria version. Again I found the addition gave the beer a nice berry-like tang, and again I enjoyed the dusty cocoa and burnt earth character of the original.

Onwards I walked to the Fox & Anchor, a nearby Smithfield pub that I had never visited before. It's certainly not a craft beer mecca, but it has the kind of old school aesthetic that I can really sink my teeth into, what with the worn wood and pewter tankards. And the barmen were dressed pretty smartly, too - a nice touch if you ask me. At this venue they had on offer Sloe Amoor, the sloe sourced from Charlton Adam in Somerset. I encountered similar tangy berry characteristics in this beer, suggestions of blackberry and cherry; but I also thought this version was more bitter than the first two, which I didn't altogether enjoy. Still, nice to see how a different ingredient impacts the base beer. Moving along.

Next I ventured to the Slaughtered Lamb - my first visit to this bar. The Slaughtered Lamb is a somewhat spartan affair. You've got the bar, plenty of uncomplicated seating, large glass windows looking out on to the street. (Downstairs is a venue for comedy and music.) The highlight here is really the beer. They've got a modest range on cask and keg but in bottles there's a nice assortment from around the world: De Molen, Nogne O, Odell, Ska, The Kernel - the list goes on. During my visit the draft lines (both cask and keg) featured a nice range of Moor beers beyond the special of the day, Blackberry Amoor. I quite enjoyed this edition. The blackberries came through full and juicy up front, then dry and leathery in the back. The jamminess of the berry worked well with the dry chocolate character. Before leaving the Slaughtered Lamb I also enjoyed a glass of Moor Confidence, a well-hopped amber ale. I would highly recommend it if you have the chance.

Fox & Anchor: The Third Stop
The fifth stop was the Exmouth Arms, ground upon which I have previously trod. Once there I went directly to the bar to order a Cherry Amoor. The cherry character came through most strongly in the nose, all ripe and tangy. In the flavor the cherry was a bit more restrained and the chalky cocoa dominated. In the finish you got bitter cherry pits. A fun version, to be sure. I wish I had more drinking capacity because the Exmouth Arms had plenty more good options on tap. But duty called.

The sixth stop of the tour was the Skinners Arms, yet another first visit for me. I got here before the Moor entourage and the bar had not yet started selling the Grape Amoor. I flashed a quick smile to the barmaid and that was it: Grape Amoor - mine. (To be fair the cask was connected and everything. They just hadn't attached the pump clip.) I thought this version lacked the complexity of its predecessors, but it could have just been that I'd been drinking steadily for six hours and my delicate palate was starting to miss out on nuance. But I'll stick to my guns and say that this was my least favourite of the magnificent seven Amoors. It was still a solid beer; I'm just speaking relatively here. I did get mellow grape in this beer, along with other tangy berries, raisins and milk chocolate. There were no interesting beers on besides the several from Moor so I steeled myself for the final leg of the journey.

The Exmouth Arms: The Sixth Stop
The Euston Tap was rammed when I arrived shortly after 6pm. But with the kind of tunnel-vision determination only someone deep into a day of drinking can possess, I got to the bar quickly and ordered the final Moor one-off of the day: Spiced Rum Amoor. This version was another standout. The fruits in Spiced Rum Amoor were less ripe and tangy, more dry and leathery. I also welcomed newcomer notes like burnt marshmallow and flinty minerals. There was still plenty of ashy roast and bittersweet baking cocoa to keep everything in check. I thought this last edition was well balanced and deep, a good way to cap the Tour.

Upon reflection, it was a hell of an outing. A big thanks to Moor for having the spirit to embark on a project like this - I really hope you do it again. It was fairly educational to see how the variations in ingredients led to slight differences in the final product. But most of all, it was a lot of fun.

Until next time.

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