Wednesday 22 January 2014

Beer Tasting: Hackney American IPA

Bottom line, this is a malt-led IPA that varies quite significantly from the current wave of drier, more hop-forward beers currently coming out of most new-age London breweries.

I sourced this bottle from Kris Wines.

It pours perfectly clear (also a way to set yourself apart from many London breweries!), pale amber with a frothy, off-white head. The aroma has lots of bready malts, hints of creamy toffee, and ripe orange. The flavor is medium sweet with a dominant malt character, some doughy brown bread, lightly toasted sugars, subtle toffee, mild ripe orange, melon. Light to medium bodied with fine carbonation. Sweet finish with further bready malts abounding, berries, caramel, orange, faint grapefruit, more melon. It’s tasty stuff and certainly malt-forward. If you like your IPAs on the sweeter side and not overly stuffed with hops, this could be your beer. (Score: 3.5/5.0)

Beer Tasting: Brew By Numbers 02/03 Golden Ale - Mosaic & Saphir

I picked this bottle up at the brewery. It pours hazy gold with a creamy, off-white head. The aroma holds tangerine, lightly doughy pale malts, some citrus rind. Light to medium sweet flavor with bready pale malts, orange and tangerine, touches of flinty yeast and a bit more rindy bitterness. Light-medium in body with fine to average carbonation. Mellow resinous hops to finish, some pine needles, orange, semi-dry pale malts, subtle minerals. Very tasty, easy drinking pale ale. (Score: 3.7/5.0)

Beer Tasting: Strawman Rype

I bought this beer from the illustrious Kris Wines. It pours lightly hazy orange-gold, quite effervescent (as the photo shows), with a moderate, frothy white head. The aroma has basic pale malts and some tangy citrus. The flavor is medium sweet with bready pale malts, hints of dough, orange and tangerine, touches of plastic and pine needles. Light to medium bodied with fine to average, creamy carbonation. Sweet on the finish with moderate bitterness, some hay and more pine needles, hints of alcohol and plastic grass, more doughy pale malts, orange merengue. Drinkable but could do with a few tweaks I think. (Score: 3.3/5.0)

Beer Tasting: Pressure Drop Pitt the Elder

Here's a beer that I think got very limited distribution. I picked this bottle up at the Cock Tavern but I don't recall seeing it anywhere else. The beer pours deep, oily black-brown with a moderate, rich mocha head. The aroma is quite dynamic. The elderflower punches through with its green pepper notes, then you’ve also got well roasted malts, milk chocolate and hints of tangy, ripened dark cherries. The flavor carries on nicely, with moderate sweetness, a bit more spicy elderflower, ripe green pepper, silky chocolate and toasted bread. Light to medium bodied with fine, creamy carbonation, the feel of this beer is spot on. It finishes lightly oily with mellow earthy bitterness, ripe berries, milky chocolate, soft roast, florals notes and subtle chocolate cake. Wonderful stuff. Really well integrated. One of Pressure Drop’s most mature constructions to date. (Score: 3.9/5.0)

Thursday 16 January 2014

Beer Tasting: Ellenberg's Stout

I've tried each of Ellenberg's beers (at least the six I know of) and they've all been pretty decent. It's not a brewery you see around London as much as others, but you can generally find bottles at Kris Wines, which is where I got this one. At 3.8%, this is not an especially heavy stout; however, there's quite a lot of charred malt and earthy hop character here, perhaps a touch more than the sweetness can withstand, which may make the beer more bitter than some drinkers might like.

The beer pours clear, red-brown with a huge, billowing cappuccino head. Seriously, this was the kind of pour where you start pouring and the glass immediately fills with about 90% foam. Anyway, after about 10 minutes I got a proper-looking beer; that photo doesn't lie. The aroma has lots of charred malts, roast, burnt bread. The flavor is lightly sweet with lots of earthy bitterness, charred wood, burnt marshmallows, subtle baking cocoa, charcoal, dirt. Light bodied with very lively carbonation, even after the 10-minute wait the beer is still excessively carbonated. There's light sweetness to finish, with further bitterness of earth and charred malts, some bittersweet baking cocoa, dirt, filter coffee and a bit of grainy, burnt bread. The over-abundance of carbonation is a shame because it really impedes the beer’s character. Once the carbonation settles down, though, you can taste a lot more of the nuances here, and the beer is quite good. Conditioning issues aside, it’s tasty stuff. (Score: 3.5/5.0)

Monday 13 January 2014

Beer Tasting: Weird Beard Little Things That Kill Batch 3

Packed full of Cascade, Centennial and Nelson Sauvin, this is the most recent iteration from Weird Beard's Little Things That Kill series of low-ABV pale ales - or session IPA, if you like. This one is far and away my favourite, and it clocks in at 3.4% ABV. The hop character is clear and expressive and balances perfectly against the restrained pale malt sweetness. Seriously, to achieve the kind of hop depth that's present here while keeping the beer drinkable and not overly bitter is no mean feat. Upon reflection, this isn't only Weird Beard's best Little Things That Kill beer, it is (in my opinion) their best overall beer to date. If you see a bottle, buy it and drink it immediately because I would imagine the nuance currently present in the beer will fade away quickly.

Tasting notes:

Pours clear gold, lightly effervescent with a sturdy, frothy white head. The aroma is unbelievably gorgeous, loaded with pithy grapefruit and lightly pissy nelson; it actually brings to mind something from Hill Farmstead, like their Walden (4% ABV, hopped with Motueka, Amarillo and Simcoe). Light sweet flavor with delicate, lightly dry pale malt sweetness, upon which the hops do sing. Just lots more grapefruit pith, lemon rind, pee - I love it. Light bodied with fine carbonation. Perfectly balanced to finish with mild pale, biscuity malts, faint pine needle resin, more grapefruit pith, faint tangy tangerine and lemon. Gorgeous. This is far and away this best beer I have had from this brewery. (Score: 4.4/5.0)

Tuesday 7 January 2014

Beer Tasting: Some of London's Best

I had a friend visiting town recently, a former Londoner, so to honour his presence he and I (and one other fella) worked our way through a line-up featuring some of London's best breweries. It was a great way to pass an afternoon. First I'll give you the quick and dirty summary, with just a sentence or two on each beer along with its overall score. If you want, you can then read further elaboration on the top scorers below.

- Partizan Saison Grisette Burgundy Barrel Aged: exceptionally well balanced with restrained citric tang, light doughy malt sweetness and touches of bitter hay. (4.1/5.0)

- The Kernel Biere de Table (Barrel Aged #4): elegant and well balanced, with delicate funk, tangy lemon and mellow wood. (4.1/5.0)

- The Kernel Pale Ale Galaxy Amarillo: this is The Kernel on form. Pithy citrus with clean minerality and near-perfect balance. (4.1/5.0)

- Brew By Numbers 01/05 Saison - Saphir & Lemon: a well constructed saison with notes of dough, wheat, yeast and citrus fruits. (4.1/5.0)

- Partizan Porter 6 Grain: a white-collar porter. Nicely complex with layers of toasted whole grain bread, dark chocolate and bittersweet baking cocoa. (4.0/5.0)

- Brew By Numbers 05/01 IPA - Amarillo & Citra: juicy citrus abounds in the form of orange and grapefruit, with grassy and piney bitterness to balance out the hop profile. (4.0/5.0)

- The Kernel Pale Ale Cascade Pacifica Simcoe: highly drinkable American pale ale marked by its pithy citrus and and bitterness of lemon rind and pine. (3.8/4.0)

- Partizan Christmas Stout: lots going on here. Tangy cherries are present throughout, but then you also have dark chocolate, a bit of funky twang and a tannic quality, perhaps imparted by the barrel aging. (3.8/5.0)

- Weird Beard Decadence Stout: a blue-collar stout. Plenty of charred malts, baking cocoa, earthy bitterness and hard water to keep a man's man happy. (3.7/5.0)

- Brew By Numbers 05/03 IPA - Amarillo & Mosaic: a solid offering but the malt backbone is a bit too pronounced for my tastes. (3.7/5.0)

- The Kernel Pale Ale Centennial Galaxy Nugget: tasty but the malts are breadier than in a typical Kernel pale ale and the citrus seems a bit jammier than usual. (3.7/5.0)

- Beavertown Stingy Jack: I wish it had been sweeter. There are good notes of cinnamon, nutmeg and pumpkin bread in here but I think they need to be keyed off with a bit of sugar. (3.6/5.0)

As you can glean, my favourite beers were Partizan Saison Grisette Burgundy Barrel Aged, The Kernel Biere de Table (Barrel Aged #4), The Kernel Pale Ale Galaxy Amarillo and Brew By Numbers 01/05 Saison - Saphir & Lemon. For those of you who don't know, I am a fiend for well-made low/mid ABV beers, and these four beers were right in my wheelhouse.

The two barrel aged saisons were somewhat similar. The Partizan offering pours clear, pale yellow with a foamy white head. The nose has mild lemon, white grape, minerals. The flavor is lightly sweet with mellow tang, mild pale dough, slight bitter hay and lemon peel. Light bodied with fine, spritzy carbonation. Very clean on the finish with restrained lemony tang, dried dough, pale malts, light straw.  It is delicious and effortlessly drinkable. The Kernel Biere de Table has a similar appearance: clear, very light yellow, mildly effervescent with a mellow, creamy white head. The nose is lovely, with lots of tangy lemon and some white grape. There is light sweetness to the flavor with a bit of woody bitterness, lightly juicy lemon, some straw. Light bodied with fine, massaging carbonation. Very clean to finish with restrained lemony tang, faint funky sweat, very slight grass, hay. Quite delicate and, as with the barrel-aged Partizan, super drinkable.

The Pale Ale Galaxy Amarillo is classic Kernel, which is to say, I would rather drink it by the bucket than by the glass. It's all beautiful, pithy citrus in the nose and then it carries into the flavor with firm but secondary pale malt sweetness to hold it together. There is a flinty mineral quality that gives the beer a cleanliness that many pale ales lack.The finish is lemon and grapefruit pith with balancing, somewhat dry pale malts.

The BBNo Saison pours almost perfectly clear gold and quite effervescent, with a large, wispy white froth head. The aroma entices with lightly doughy malts, some wheat, hints of lemony citrus, bubblegum, perhaps some cardamon. Light to medium sweet flavor with doughy white bread, lightly tangy lemon, wheat, subtle spices, slight citrus rind bitterness. Light in body with lively, massaging carbonation. Dynamic on the finish with further pale bread, wheat, hints of lemon meringue, tangy citrus, vanilla and other mild spices, and slight hay bitterness. Exceptionally well balanced and drinkable, as a good saison ought to be.

Until next time.