Thursday, 31 December 2009

A Surprising Winner

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.


Tyson said...

Ha. Forever Bury is considered Leyden's finest ale. Count yourself lucky you didn't have one of their worst!

Sid Boggle said...

There's a school of thought with regard to big American IPAs, that there's no point in ageing them since the hops are the first thing to go.

Perhaps that could be your next mission - lay a few bottles in for a couple of years, then buy fresh and compare...

MicMac said...

Hi Tandy, I'm sure our other friend from BridgePort / Shiner would like to hear these results too?

Here's to a Hoppy New Year,
(no beer tonight - on antibiotics for tonsilitis!)

Unknown said...

I think beer tastings in a pub like this are a great idea.

Interesting that nobody liked Tokyo*. My experience is that people do like it if they approach it more like a port wine. Indeed, drinkability isn't a feature, that's the point and a 100ml serve is about right in my view.

Ageing heavily hopped beers seems to integrate the hop compounds to make a more subtle end result. If blow-your-head of hopping is what you are looking for then aged beers are not the thing, and sometimes that is what I look for. However, some aged hop bombs I have had have turned out to open a fantastic new dimension to beer drinking.

My only question about this exercise would be that if the beer is brought in by a punter then presumably the establishment looses beer sales. Perhaps if it increases numbers in the pub then it's not bad but if it happened all the time people could just go to the supermarket buy beer and pay nothing to the pub. I still think it's a great idea and have thought about doing something similar myself.

Tandleman said...

Interesting points Dave. Of course the landlady did lose some sales, but this is her regulars doing a "one off" on an otherwise dead afternoon. She is also a friend and joined in as one. It couldn't be done on our basis that often, as it would be unfair.

Anonymous said...

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Tandleman said...

Er....Umm. Thanks. I think.

jefffrane said...

You should let Karl Ockert know that his efforts have been appreciated, especially since he has always been a huge fan of British ale.

Was a damn weird selection of beers, though. Was "bottled" the only constant?

Tandleman said...

Jeff - I will be dropping a note to Karl and Jaime. As for the beers, they were just what was knocking about.