Friday, 17 January 2014

Beers Of London Series: 66. Strawman Brewery - Saison 3.9%

Beers Of London Series
66. Strawman Brewery - Saison 3.9%

Sometimes I see a bottle of beer somewhere, be it in a shop or a pub or even a warehouse, and the label intrigues me enough to take a closer look. On occasion I put the bottle back and carry on browsing but sometimes I know full well that that particular bottle is coming home with me. That was very much the case when I saw this particular bottle in the fridge at The Cock Tavern in Hackney and asked Tim, the barman, about it.

You are most likely aware when I hear about a new London brewery and even more so when I get to taste their beer, this series is testament enough to that, but I always want to know more about the folk that made it. Quite often a brewery's website discloses very little about the people behind the beer, take a look at Strawman Brewery's website here to see evidence of that, but luckily for me they were kind enough to answer some of my questions when I e-mailed them recently.

Strawman is comprised of Tom Barratt and Brendan Harrington who both grew up in a town with an incredibly rich brewing heritage, Burton-on-Trent and indeed had family that worked in and around the Burton breweries. They both moved to London when the micro-brewing boom was beginning to gain momentum, and as they were too poor to be drinking beer at London prices they set up a pilot brewery in a small arch at the north end of London Fields. Brendan had been a homebrewer for quite some time and as they were discovering new tastes and flavours in the beer they were able to obtain locally they began trying to emulate them. They say that there are so many good London breweries around at the moment that trying to pick who has influenced and inspired them would be a difficult task although they do particularly like the beers from the Wild Beer Company, Summer Wine, Howlin' Hops and Pressure Drop.

When trying to decide on a name for their brewery, Brendan happened upon this image of a Strohmann (a German word which literally translates as 'man of straw') in a copy of National Geographic he was reading at the time. The picture struck a chord with him, and the Strawman Brewery was born.

They have four main beers which they brew on a regular basis, a House Pale Ale in which the recipe changes with each brew, Amber, a American-style amber ale, Munich, a well-hopped single-malt pale with has a nice malty edge to it, and Saison, which is the beer I'm drinking tonight. They also have a few other beers which you may be lucky enough to pick up, Rype, a rye pale ale, Fonk, a strong spiced Belgian-style ale, a Belgian-style stout, and a peat-smoked Porter, with either a Dubbel or a Bock coming along soon. They are also in the process of up-sizing and moving across London to Peckham where they have bigger premises and bigger plans.

Back to the beer in hand. It pours a pale lemony yellow colour with a voluminous pure white head that takes a while to settle. I have to confess that I let a little of the sediment slip in as well making it a little cloudy, not overly so though as I had noticed a fair amount in the bottom of the bottle. The aroma it bright and spicy with lemon zest and white pepper notes bringing to mind a warm spring morning with a warm breeze blowing through the honeysuckle and bringing its delicate fragrance lightly to your nostrils. There's a tingle of carbonation as it passes over the tongue leaving the flavour of squeezed lemon juice and lime cordial before drying quickly with a burst of crushed coriander seed and more white pepper leaving a pleasant orangey spiciness that fills the mouth before fading slowly into the finish.

This is a beer that at first glance may not appear to be bringing anything new to the table as, if we're honest about it saisons, or more accurately beers brewed using a saison yeast, are ubiquitous at the moment. However upon tasting I noticed how clean and defined the flavours were, coming together in a logical and rather elegant manner, slightly understated but nonetheless confident and accomplished. I'm afraid to say that this is the only Strawman beer that I've had. Their current situation means that their beers are currently produced in quite small batches and spread rather thinly over a relatively small area of East London. Keep an eye out for them though, especially with their imminent relocation as if this beer is anything to go by then you're in for a real treat.

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