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.

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