Sunday, 22 September 2013
Beers Of London Series: 56. London Fields Brewery - 3 Weiss Monkeys 5.5%
Beers Of London Series
56. London Fields Brewery - 3 Weiss Monkeys 5.5%
"What's in a name?" Juliet enquires at the start of a much loved quote from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, and what a beer is named can very often be the reason you buy the bottle in the first place.
Sometimes the design of the bottle can be a factor, just look at the clean simplicity of a Brew By Numbers bottle which reminds me of a white-washed milestone marker, or the raw beauty of the Kernel labels, basic and uncompromising. A special mention has to go to Partizan, and outside of London the Magic Rock labels which are both complex and simplistic at one and the same time, in my eyes they are genuine works of art. Bottle shape can play a role too. You will of course have noticed the increasing number of 330ml bottles appearing on shelves particularly as this type of bottle is associated with 'craft beer' and therefore a better quality product, however this doesn't often lead to a reduction in price from breweries who previously marketed the same beer in 500ml form. Particularly notable in the wonderful form category are the distinctive flask shaped bottle used by Suffolk brewers St Peter's and especially glorious bottle used by the Belgian Trappiste brewery Orval.
Of course there are a myriad of other influences, maybe it's the reputation of the brewery, a recommendation from a friend, a positive review you might have read or even good old straight forward curiosity but sometimes, as I mentioned at the start of this piece the name the brewer has given the beer plays a role especially if it strikes a chord that resonates to your core stirring previously forgotten memories however fleeting or obscure.
As you will have gathered the last reason from my explanatory preamble it was the name of this particular beer, 3 Weiss Monkeys from London Fields Brewery that was a major reason for me purchasing it.
I was in London on Wednesday for a variety of reasons, all beer related naturally, and as is often the case my first port of call was Borough Market at the southern end of London Bridge. Coming out of London Bridge station by the north-facing exit it's only prudent that as I turn the corner onto Borough High Street that I step into the Oddbins there to see what they have on offer, particularly as they carry a good selection of beers from London brewers. Immediately my eyes fell on this bottle, but in my foolishness I didn't grab it and make my way to the counter immediately, no, I knew better I thought. Head down I left the shop and shuffled off to Borough Market and Utobeer, where I did indeed buy some beer, but the 3 Weiss Monkeys bottle still burned in my brain. You are of course assuming that I this point I went back to Oddbins and bought some but you'd be wrong, instead I made my way to the Market Porter (well, beer buying is thirsty work) and had a half of Blakemere (Northern Brewing's) rather good Vanilla Stout. This was the point I could resist no longer, finishing my beer perhaps a little too quickly I made my way back to number 7 Borough High Street and bought the object of my short-term obsession.
Job done, story over you may well be thinking and under normal circumstances you'd probably be right however I began wondering why I had a single-minded fixation on what is otherwise quite an ordinary looking bottle of beer. Images flashed before my eyes and thoughts buried deeply rushed to the fore, my Great Aunt's bronze Three Wise Monkeys Statue she had on her mantelpiece that hadn't registered for at least thirty years, Secret Affair's Three Wise Monkeys a track from their Business As Usual album that I bought in a small record shop in Barking, Essex in 1983 with money I'd saved from singing in the local church choir, my wife's love of wheat beers and a conscious though that it would be a beer that she might well like it (it's not strictly a wheat beer but I'll come to that), and of course it was a London beer, one I hadn't tried or reviewed, an obvious but still determining reason, and these are just what I can remember on reflection some four days later. Nostalgia and perceived duty are powerful things clearly controlling me more directly than I had at previously realised, and I expect they will continue to do so as I get older. It's pleasing to know that beer, which often evokes strong emotions and brings memories to the fore when drinking it can also do so well before that stage when it comes to actually buying the beer in the first place. I'll certainly be embracing it, and taking time to work through my reasoning more fully from now on.
Onto the beer itself. 3 Weiss Monkeys isn't a wheat beer as I touched on earlier, but rather styled as a 'White IPA', an amalgam or as they describe it, 'a fusion of Hefeweizen and IPA'. Drawing on Braumaster Ben Ott's German heritage and with a mother-load of Citra hops added, it seems like a perfectly reasonable beer to be having as we approach Oktoberfest. Actually London Fields are having their very own Bavarian inspired Oktoberfest on Saturday 5th October from midday until midnight, with free admission and suitably German food and music, maybe I'll see you there? Let's open the beer.
It pours a cloudy golden orange and throwing a big fluffy white head which, when you consider what they were aiming for here is exactly as you might expect. The aroma has masses of juicy fruitiness, there's lemon and satsuma, grapefruit and passion fruit, but this is coupled wonderfully with banana and curacao to form a heady olfactory whirlpool of tart, sweet, bitter and spicy sourness in it's perfume that is slightly at odds but also mouth-wateringly inviting. Tangy and tart in the mouth with its carbonation ever-so gently sanding the tongue, a big rinse of lychee-laced tangerine juice, like a segment bursting in the mouth rushes through, edged with a little lime, grapefruit and melon, before some bitter curacao orange takes over, sprinkled with the dusty spiciness of crushed coriander seed all backed up with some over-ripe banana coming through right at the end. The finish is all dry and pithy orange peel, a dehydrated zestiness sucking the moisture away and leading to an arid ending with the ghost of that crushed coriander seed drawing you back to the glass to banish your parched palate. This is of course a vicious circle and before you know it you've finished your glass and wondering why you didn't buy more.
I can see what this beer was trying to be, and initially it succeeds as the flash of that juiciness from the Citra hops combines with the wheat and yeast in a magical instant of flavour transition, however its moment of glory is far too brief and it slides away into classic weizen territory, albeit deliciously. I would really have liked a resurgence of those grapefruit and tangerine flavours in the finish, lifting and prolonging the ending and completing the fusion at all levels. Having said that it is still a very good beer indeed, get some and drink it in the sunshine if there's any left this time of year. Failing that, close your eyes and imagine you're in a Munich beer garden with the dappled sunlight playing over the trees and onto the grass. Lovely.