Thursday, 6 March 2014
Beers Of London Series 71. Beavertown/Jameson - Ger'onimo!
Beers Of London Series
71. Beavertown / Jameson - Ger'onimo! 9.0%
Hard. Sturdy. Versatile. Renewable. American white oak growing tall. Hewn. Cleaved. It takes on a new life as a barrel. Charred on the inside. Filled with bourbon it sits and waits. Two years pass, maybe more. It is emptied and sold. A sea voyage. Examined, it is filled again, this time with Irish whiskey. Three years pass. It is emptied, repaired and soon refilled. The cycle repeats, filled and emptied until it is twenty years since it was a tree. Chosen, it is removed and voyages again, this time by car, across the sea again but not as far as before. It is filled with beer, an Imperial stout. Again it waits, but only two months until is emptied again. What next?
I was kindly invited to attend the launch of 'Ger'onimo!', brewed by Beavertown Brewery in collaboration with Jameson Irish Whiskey, an Imperial stout aged in eighteen year old whiskey barrels, last night, and it was quite an evening. I arrived at Dukes Brew & Que just after six which was a little early but I found a place at the bar, grabbed a Gamma Ray and was happy enough talking to the staff about the upcoming evening and the beer itself. The place began to fill up with beer writers, bloggers and others in the industry, and with both beer and conversation flowing (although not the Ger'onimo!, that was to come later) we were soon asked to take our seats for the meal.
Logan Plant, Beavertown's founder and brewer, welcomed us as the food started to arrive. The first course was a pulled-pork slider flashed with Jameson Irish Whiskey, apricot-glazed baby-back ribs, cote de boeuf and deep-fried pickled shiitakes and gherkins with a garlic remoulade. The Jameson's Reserve whiskey we were served with itworked wonderfully with the pork adding some lovely spicy notes to the fatty meat, whilst the Beavertown Quelle Saison that was also served brought the beef to life, and the mushroom and the sauce were simply sublime.
Before the next course, an eighteen hour smoked molasses-glazed Northern Irish grass-fed beef rib served with pickles and coleslaw, Logan spoke about the beer before introducing Ger Buckley Jameson's Master Cooper, the beer is named in his honour, who spoke about the barrels and the maturation process and of working with Logan on the project. This was when the Ger'onimo! itself was served, of which more later, with the flavours working particularly well with the glaze on the rib. Their was also another tot of Jameson's which was rather nice and it was interesting comparing the relative flavours of both beer and spirit as they warmed with both taking on some caramel and chocolate notes. I have to confess that I got a little carried away at this point, thrusting both whiskey and beer towards the nose of everyone who crossed my path although thankfully everyone took it in good humour taking a sniff and a sip at my behest and commenting. Thank you and sorry if you were one of those.
The final course was homemade pecan pie with vanilla ice cream and a salted caramel sauce made with Jameson's Irish whiskey, again served with the whiskey, but this time the beer was a rare cask-conditioned version of Beavertown's Smog Rocket smoked porter. I didn't think that the beer worked with the pie, although the whiskey undoubtedly did, but it really came into it's own after I had finished with the porter's thick chocolate notes singing and benefitting from the conditioning process with a deliciously bitter flourish at the end and was a great way to end a fabulous meal.
Ger'onimo came about when Logan overhead two men from Jameson talking whilst enjoying a beer in Dukes. Further enquiry and much communication later he went over to Midleton, County Cork, Ireland, and with the help of Ger, chose five from the 1.2 million barrels that Jameson's have to bring back and age a new Imperial stout in. The beer itself is made with roasted barley, jaggery, an unrefined sugar made with concentrated date, cane juice and palm sap, molasses and lots of dark sugar. Chinook hops, and lots of them are used and their flavour gives it a little resinous buzz. Logan was as courteous as ever, answering my questions patiently and with that great passion and excitement that he has whenever I have met him. I also managed to talk at length to Ger himself about a great many things including travelling, speaking in public and football, and when I mentioned that I was a Manchester United fan (it's a long story) he produced his phone and began flicking through it before showing me a picture of him and Roy Keane together. He was delighted with the beer describing it as both "Immense" and "Amazing" as well as "a beer for the connoisseur". Ger is a fifth generation cooper and sadly the last of his line as he has two daughters and neither of them wish to follow in their father's footsteps, although one of them does work at Jameson's with
him. He had bought some charred barrel staves over from Ireland with him and these were passed around and sniffed and scratched at as they revealed an aroma of both sweetness and burnt wood.
The beer itself pours thick and brown, dark, dark brown like used and rusted engine oil, with the smallest ring of light brown bubbles the only thing resembling a head. I immediately thought of Beavertown's two previous barrel-aged beers when I initially encountered it, however swirling it around in the glass it brought forth hints of boozy thick soy sauce, liquorice and good cocoa-heavy dark chocolate milkshake with a slightly sweet almost honey caramel note. Thick, viscous and glossy over the tongue it bursts with chocolate flavour, some bitter some milky, and there's a background of burnt wood and vanilla, although not too much, before back comes the chocolate, laced copiously throughout with the whiskey, almost like a caramel reduction of it, but mixed into a malty dark chocolate milkshake of a drink that rewards savouring, warming and sipping as you discover new flavours and aromas emerging from the oily liquid. The finish is long and again has lots of those lightly vanilla and chocolate notes but this time in the form of some bitter chocolate shavings held in a more milky chocolate suspension, it really is a wonderful beer.
Released next week and limited to three thousand bottles, this is a beer savour. I'd recommend buying a couple if your budget will allow, one to drink now and one to put away for a year or maybe more just to see how those flavours develop and soften. I need to disclose that I was given a bottle to take away as well as some beautiful pictures of the beer and the distillery and that the evening itself was provided by Beavertown and Dukes, and even perhaps being swept along in the moment at the time on reflection today I still feel the beer was very very good indeed, as I have found Beavertown beers to be. In fact I'll be going to Dukes again on the 22nd of this month when I take my wife there for lunch on her birthday which I'm really looking forward to.
To get you in the mood for the beer you might enjoy this short video produced by exposure for Jameson Irish Whiskey and Beavertown: Ger'onimo! video
On a light note, as we were getting ready to leave Mark Dredge pointed out Logan's father, Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant, getting into a taxi with one of the wooden staves that Ger had brought over and given to him. I wonder if he was going to use it to build a 'Staveway To Heaven'?