Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tasting notes - Cotswold Lion Brewery's Winter Woolly

I'd wanted to try this at the Strand the other night, but it was just going off. (As I understand it, it's their policy to order small, changing their six handpumps often.) Luckily, Favourite Beers -- "good friends" of the Cotswold Lion Brewery's, according to the latter's site -- had it in stock.

The nose was great: very bright, with hints of cinnamon, and possibly something of cloves. The head was fantastic throughout, no doubt due to the inclusion of wheat in the recipe. I felt there was some nutmeg in those first few mouthfuls, with a slight bitterness in the aftertaste. The mouthfeel was fantastic. As the bottle warns, there was quite a bit of sediment in the bottom -- just a bit of extra flavour in my books! All in all, a lovely pint for shaking off the last of a very blustery day!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Tasting notes - Prescott Ales' Winter and New Bristol Brewery's Super Deluxe Stout

I had my first opportunity to try Prescott Ales' seasonal Winter at the Sandford Park Alehouse today. It's a ruby stout, and a beautiful pint: deep red, with excellent head retention. The initial nose was overwhelmingly cocoa powder. That first taste was trickier: definitely a candied fruit of sorts; initially, I settled on strawberry, and, if I'm honest, found it a bit too sweet.

However, about halfway through the pint, the sweetness mellowed, taking on more cherry overtones. There was also some mocha in that long, lingering aftertaste, I think. Tasty stuff!

I also spied New Bristol Brewery's Super Deluxe Stout, and couldn't resist a taste. (At 7.0% ABV, I stuck with a half, though.) As the barman pulled it, he muttered, "That's the darkest beer I've ever poured." It truly did look like obsidian in the glass. As I breathed it in, my mind immediately went back to my mum's kitchen and the baker's (baking) chocolate she always had on hand.

That first taste was an explosion; honestly. I couldn't keep track of everything I was tasting: there was certainly a milder chocolate, and a fruitiness again, but, as with the Winter, I couldn't be more specific. What was clear in my mind was a word: delicious!

After a few minutes, I again settled on cherry notes, but tending to the very edge of medicinal in this case. There was marzipan in the aftertaste as well. About halfway through I picked up hints of nutmeg, which made sense, because I'd already been thinking it was perfect for the season. All in all, beautifully balanced, with great mouthfeel.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Tasting notes - Summer Wine Brewery's Rouge Hop

There's a cheeky note on the bottle about taste being subjective, and not wanting to presuppose what the drinker's "sophisticated palate" will pick out. Erm, not sure about that one, but I'll do my best.

The first thing that struck me about the nose was the hops; specifically, what I associate with Motueka hops. (Upon reading SWB's page on the beer, which states that it's dry-hopped with Simcoe and Cascade, I think I see where I went wrong: BrewDog's Punk was really a watershed moment for me -- and many others, of course -- and so those hop flavours have really stuck with me, and as New Zealand sourced, specifically. However, that said, Cascade are a big part of many other distinctive pale ales, including Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.'s, which I can also taste in the Rouge Hop, with hindsight. But I'm getting ahead of myself.) The other element I picked up in the nose was a bit of a nice red apple; say, a Royal Gala or Jazz.

There was some excellent bitterness in the flavour initially, but it falls off a bit too quickly, for me. There's also something very faintly metallic in the aftertaste; I don't know how to describe it, except to say that it reminds me of tap water I've had... well, somewhere away from home. (I'm not saying that's a bad thing, by the way; probably just further evidence to support that study I read fairly recently about how the water we grow up on, and its particular balance of chemicals, minerals, etc., will always seem right to us, regardless of any empirical evidence to the contrary. [Edit: I think I've found it; see below]) I'm sure I'd be treading on dangerous ground to speculate on the Yorkshire water...

That bitterness was nicely pronounced by about the halfway mark, incidentally, completely masking any of the aforementioned aberrations in the aftertaste.

On the taste of water:
The subjective nature of water tastes has been revealed regularly during taste testing, says Arthur von Wiesenberger... He reckons that we form subconscious memories of water. At a blind water tasting held by The San Francisco Chronicle in 1980, a highly mineralised, non-carbonated French bottled water was hidden among the tap water. It scored poor marks with all of the judges except one, who was French. For him it was the best-tasting and he commented that the water reminded him of home.

According to Wiesenberger, this demonstrates that our taste buds and brain have a strong recall, even with the subtle taste of water.
The article also discusses, at length, whether there's a north/south divide on the subject.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Tasting notes - Art Brew's Bristol Bock

Sorry: rinsed the bottle before shooting
Brewed for Bristol Beer Week, this was my first, much-anticipated taste of the small Dorset brewery's product.

There wasn't a lot to the nose, but what I did faintly pick up struck me -- oddly, I'll be the first to admit -- of bubblegum (à la Hubba Bubba). About a third of the way in, this had faded completely, replaced by a slight maltiness.

At 7.0% ABV, the lovely, silky mouthfeel was hardly surprising; the same goes for the pleasing warmth that began a few mouthfuls in. The aftertaste was superb, continuing far longer than I'd expected, progressing from predominantly malty to the mellow tang of raisins.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Tasting notes - Weird Beard Brew Co. and Sad Robot Brewing's Saison 42

I love saisons; period. With that distinct aroma and flavour that's clearly Belgian, but also (dangerously) refreshing, they typically embody everything about beer that excites and interests me. Add to that yet another reason to drop a palms-out "Don't Panic!" in conversation, and my heart's pit-a-pat before I've even found the bottle opener.

My initial impression of the nose was a bit rushed, as the bottle went volcanic upon opening. I quickly recovered, however, and once the head was manageable, dove in. I'm still green on the subtleties the various malts and yeasts contribute to the finished product -- on the latter, note that I'll be tasting BrewDog's Unleash the Yeast shortly -- but all the fruitiness I expected was there; particularly lime.

I've always been a fan of the Belgian mantra "For vitamins!" as they swirl and drink the dregs of any unfiltered or bottle-conditioned beer, and so ignored the bottle's instructions for separating the beer from its sediment. (Justin Hawke, of the Moor Beer Company, wrote an excellent treatise on the beauty of all drinks cloudy recently.) The result was, to my eye, indeed "orange-coloured," (the bottle, again) and chock-full of goodness. Bobec hops were used, and I noted a nice bitterness coming through as I got a third of the way in. Finally, that carbonation that initially gave me some gyp settled to a pleasing sharpness on the tongue throughout.

For more information on this great saison, check out Weird Beard Brew Co.'s blog.

Tasting notes - BrewDog's IPA Is Dead

This is cross-posted from another blog I used to write, in anticipation of a similar post about their Unleash the Yeast. Can't wait!

Having recently read about the Cicerone Certification Program State-side, and with the BrewDog four-pack IPA is Dead sitting in the fridge, I figured a lazy Sunday might be a good time to see what the ol' palate's capable of. Keep in mind that, until today, I'd have been hard-pressed to name more than a few varieties of hops -- the famous Saaz, and maybe one or two from Arbor Ales' awesome Single Hop Series. And, believe me, I'd enjoyed many a hop-tastic beer in relative ignorance. Still, for what it's worth, my fledgling notes on BrewDog's excellent pack -- in the order I drank them -- follow. I'll reflect on what I've read since afterwards.
  • Motueka: full-on; what I love about Punk.
  • HBC: of grass/greens initially; more bitter/acidic later. Less power than Motueka.
  • Galaxy: more like Motueka, but again, less power; and brighter, with a citrus tang in the finish.
  • Challenger: English, like a bitter, in the nose especially; tons stronger, though, with heavy citrus in the finish.
To be honest, I had some serious, cheeks-puffed-out, arms-raised moments of relief as I read the following on Wikipedia, BrewDog's site, etc.:
  • Motueka: Punk is indeed made with New Zealand hops. I couldn't pick out the lemon or lime that BrewDog reference, though.
  • HBC: I can see what BrewDog are on about with the sweet potato, but only in retrospect.
  • Galaxy: really happy with this one as well, 'cause "citrus tang" should've read "grapefruit" -- hindsight again, yes, but you have to understand: my palate is notoriously muddled; getting that much is an accomplishment in my books.
  • Challenger: another big win for me: not only pegging the locale, but also the lemon.
On the strength of this result, I think I'll move on to the aforementioned Single Hop Series from Arbor Ales; I know I like their Nelson Sauvin, but Favourite Beers has many shelves of others I've never tried.