Our beer tasting went well. A shiveringly cold mile walk up the rutted lane to the pub was rewarded by the eager boys being ready for the event, a cheerful landlady with glasses, beer ready to go and a roaring fire. A warm up pint of mild to lubricate the old innards and we were off.
We started on the Potton and Everards Tiger, the latter provided by the landlady who hails from Leicester and is a former Everards licensee. The Potton was mid brown, inoffensive and easy drinking. Middle of the road, or rather, middle of a very conservative road. The Everards was thought to toffeeish and not hoppy enough, the landlady chipping in that it is better on cask. It was IPAs next; first up a ten year old bottle conditioned Bridge Port from Portland Oregon. It had been kept cool and in the dark for all of these years and opened with a satisfying hiss and a whiff of hops. All agreed the hops were somewhat subdued though the bitterness was there. It wasn't stale or oxidised and it was good. Next was Jaipur which got an all round thumbs up. It was delicious and a revelation to those that hadn't had it. Punk IPA was thought harsh and one dimensional in comparison by most, though I liked it, but not as much as the Jaipur. Meantime IPA again divided opinions with the majority, me included, feeling that it somehow missed the mark, but it was an interesting beer, being an attempt to reproduce an older style of beer, rather than a modern interpretation. Clearly though and interestingly, it was the modern Jaipur that struck a note of approval.
Stouts next, though we agreed to leave Tokyo to the end on account of its strength. Whittington's Black Cat Stout was liked by all. Tasty and full bodied, though I'd have liked a more hoppy finish. Meantime Chocolate (Porter) split opinion. Its intense chocolate reminded one drinker of a stout to which an infeasible measure of drinking chocolate had been added. One or two loved it. The sensation was though the Bridge Port Black Strap Stout. Not bottle conditioned, it was intensely black, smooth, bitter, treacley, hoppy and belied its ten years in the dark; we all wished for more. It was a unanimous "yes".
At last we reached the one I'd been really waiting for. My five year old Orval. It poured clear, had an orangey nose and a deep orange background, little brett character, but just enough to lift it and a wonderful perfumey lavender note throughout. It was lovely. We all without exception liked it. Outstanding Barley Wine at 7.4% was powerful, intensely hoppy and again an opinion divider, but just getting a positive nod.
Schlossbrauerei Doppel Hopfen provided the palate cleanser before the Tokyo. Good it was too, with a typical South German Pilsner profile lifted by a good dose of noble hops. Likeable and very drinkable. Tokyo poured with an off white head. It was black as the ace of spades and had an explosive alcohol kick, with intense liquorice and roast malt flavours, as if the whole thing had been reduced like a cooking stock. There is a lot going on here, but in truth nobody liked it. It was just too much, too intense, too strong and difficult to drink and to this author at least, drinkability is the name of the game in beer.
We had a vote at the and for fun and the one, two, three, was:
Bridgeport Black Strap Stout; Jaipur / Orval
Mike our vote counter said that really, the Orval and Jaipur were neck in neck, so a joint second was agreed. I should mention the only beer we hated, though it isn't mentioned above. Leyden Forever Bury! Bottom of the poll.
So, in conclusion, it wasn't scientific or professional, but it was a lot of fun. Well done Bridge Port and Orval. Old beers can be delicious and of course Jaipur was just great, even bottled, as I'd only ever had it on cask previously. I was personally pleased that the Black Strap won, as it is brewed by Karl Ockert the founding brewer of Bridge Port who was once kind enough to give me and E a private tour of the brewery. I'll drop him a line I think, to see what he makes of it.
I still have two more bottles of that Orval.Lucky me.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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