Sunday, 26 January 2014

Beers Of London Series: 67. Brew By Numbers 06I01 & 06I02

Beers Of London Series
67. Brew By Numbers
06 01 Belgian Blonde Three Grain 7.3%
06 02 Belgian Blonde Three Grain Oaked 7.3%

After two new breweries for my last two reviews I thought I'd visit an old favourite this time. That, and I noted that these were bottled just under a year ago and now seemed a good a time as any to open them. I mentioned in my last Beer By Numbers review back in October that they had just moved premises and would be opening on a Saturday. I'm pleased to say that this is now a reality and they also have a lovely shiny website that tells you all about them, their beer and what's available. I haven't been there myself yet but will be popping along for a visit soon where I hope to have a chat to the brewers and drink some more of their beer.

Until then however I'll make do with my stock and will be drinking and reviewing these two Belgian Blondes today that I picked them up on a sun soaked day last Spring at Craft Beer Co. in Clerkenwell. We sank a couple there too after a long walk across town on a day very different from the one I'm writing this review on, as I sit here with the wind howling and the rain lashing the conservatory. These two are currently the only Belgian Blonde ales that Brew By Numbers produce, and are both brewed with un-malted wheat, barley and oats (hence the Three Grain) with the only difference being that 06 02 is aged on French oak chips although for what period I cannot say, as although the second was bottled 3-4 weeks after the first I don't know how long they were conditioned for prior to bottling.

The first 06 01 pours a beautifully vibrant and effervescent golden yellow, throwing an enormous white head but it's the freshness of the aroma that is absolutely stunning. There's lemon peel and a big punch of melon and juicy tangerine with a crisp undercurrent of crushed coriander seed orange and a touch of golden syrup sweetness, it truly is invigorating and inviting. Initially smooth but this is just a  ruse as a stab of bitterness quickly catches you off-guard before leaching some thick golden citrus juiciness, sluggish with some bright honey flavours becoming more dense and with the addition of some orange spiciness as it moves seamlessly into the finish. This is rich with more orange, lemon and honey and that spicy coriander seed coming back to round it all off nicely, it's simply wonderful.
Time to see if those French oak chips make a difference.

My memory of this beer from last Spring is rather clear as I remember being unable ascertain any hint of the oak but that the flavour was muted and the body thicker and more viscous than it's un-oaked companion. On opening this bottle it was handy I had the glass handy as it was a bit of a gusher however it poured rather smoothly and if anything was slightly lighter in colour than its predecessor, but I managed to dump some of the yeast from the bottle into the glass making it a little cloudy. The aroma is spicier too. Those fruity aromas are still there, but thicker and have faded into the background with the coriander seed coming to the fore. Accompanying it is an aroma reminiscent of freshly sanded wood and there's another perfume element too, something that reminds me of lilies with a hint of vanilla that I can only assume has come from the oak. There's no stab of bitterness over the tongue here either, it smooth and spicy, tender and warming, with the flavour of watermelon fading in before being quickly overridden with honey, lemon, white pepper and coriander spice. The finish is drier too, with those flavours melting away leaving only the ghost of that sanded wood aroma.
 To be perfectly honest I'm quite astonished by the difference that nearly a years worth of aging has made to these bottles. They were bought at the same place at the same time and kept next to each other in the same box under the same condition, but they have diverged better and more noticeably than I could have hoped while still retaining the character of the original beer. Where 06 01 was vibrant and fruity, 06 02 is smoother and more controlled, more compact and almost introspective compared to its outgoing brother. I liked these beers a lot last Spring, but I have to say that I like them even more now.

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