Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Beers Of London Series 57. By The Horns Brewing Co. - Lambeth Walk 5.1%

Beers Of London Series
57. By The Horns Brewing Co. - Lambeth Walk 5.1%

"Any time you're Lambeth way, any evening any day, you'll find them all ... doing the Lambeth Walk!" is a line from a song in the 1937 musical Me And My Girl. The plot centres around Bill Snibson, a cheeky Cockney chappy who finds out via a contrived and convoluted plot line that he is in fact the 14th heir to the title of the (fictional) Earl Of Hareford.
For me it brings into focus an 'Old Time Music Hall' production by a local youth club that my mother was involved with in the mid-Seventies. I recall time spent in the church hall watching rehearsal after rehearsal, plastic cups full of orange squash, Belgian buns and doughnuts. The reason this particular song comes to the fore is because after the line that I've quoted at the top of the previous paragraph, the entire assembled cast, dressed in suitably dodgy Cockney attire (flat caps, braces, cor-blimey trousers, etc.) would yell "Oi !!!" at the top of their lungs, frightening the living daylights out of the audience and ensuring their full attention from there-on in.
Of course, they don't really do the Lambeth walk in Lambeth. Sadly you will not find rows of Pearly Kings and Queens arm in arm with barrow boys and the Artful Dodger parading up and down outside Lambeth Palace in the evening sunshine with an air of glib abandon and bonhomie that only ever existed in films coming out of Elstree or Hollywood. Still, it's nice to imagine ... possibly.
Porter on the other hand is very much a reality, being the name of a style of beer that originated in London and its associations are unequivocal. Much has been written and debated, discovered and dismissed about how it came about and how it came to get its name so I won't be going into that here, however should you want to find out more then you could do a lot worse than pick up a copy of Martin Cornell's book Amber, Gold And Black. This particular beer was one I had on cask (my second of the day) at this years Great British Beer Festival and have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it although my exact recollections are a little hazy, but it's the By The Horns bottled version that I'll be reviewing here.
Pouring an inky dark-brown edged black with a thin beige head, it's the absolutely gorgeous aroma of this beer that grabs you firmly by the nostrils and bewitches you with its magnificent and magical fragrance. There's plenty of chocolate as you might expect, but this particular brand is  the most wonderfully unctuous milk chocolate made by the most skilful of chocolatiers using the finest of cocoa beans and double cream from cows fed on the greenest most luscious grass. There's a light touch of vanilla custard coming through too and right at the very back there's some liquorice and black coffee, and perhaps some raspberries peeping over the rim of the glass but they are frankly failing to get any attention at all as the heavenly milk chocolate flaunts itself openly and envelops your senses. Surprisingly crisp as it skips over the tongue initially, it drags itself back with a light effervescence and a little oiliness bringing with it that all the delicious flavour that its heady perfume promised. There's plenty of black coffee here, but its been adulterated with a few drops of milk and a drop or two of brandy for good measure, and then along comes the chocolate although far from being the milky gorgeous type that you were fooled into thinking it would be it is instead dark, intense and bitter with a creamy vanilla punctuation right at the end. The finish is more deliciously creamy chocolate that lays easily on the tongue highlighted with an accent of bitterness, making you lick your lips as you enjoy its resonance for a considerable while.
This is simply a beautiful well-crafted beer. Often with porters that exhibit an aroma that promises  much, the body can be thin and the flavours muted before it disappears all too quickly leaving behind a suggestion of coffee and chocolate, but this beer is most definitely the real deal. It really is superb.
Buy some, drink it and enjoy.

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.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Beers Of London Series: 55. Brodie's - London Sour Pineapple 3.7%

Beers Of London Series

55. Brodie's - London Sour Pineapple 3.7%

What more is there to say about Brodie's London Sour Pineapple beer other than 'it's a sour beer made in London, and it's got pineapple in it', you may ask? Well, first and probably foremost is that it's a beer that I've wanted to try for some time. It first came to my attention when it was featured at Brodie's famous (infamous?) annual Easter festival, Bunny Basher, that took place over the weekend of 29th March to the 1st April 2013. There were so many good reviews of the sour beers ( generally sour beers are Berliner Weisse-style fermented with Lactobacillus ) by a good many, admittedly very drunk, friends that it's been on my list of must-haves for a while. As far as I'm aware it has only brewed once so I'm rather looking forward to having a beer that I might never have the opportunity to have again. This is the third Brodie's beer I've had in this series, Dalston Black IPA and the Smoked Rye Porter were the previous two, and since the last of those was as the beginning of May then another is long overdue.
It pours a hazy golden-hued yellow with the thinnest covering of white bubbles for a head, but it's the aroma that really makes you sit up and take notice here as lemon and pineapple tinged yeasty sourdough breadiness leaps up the nose sending your sense of smell all of a quiver. Whether that's in a good or a bad way that very much on what you think about sour beers, personally I'm a big fan so I'm anxious to dive in. Beautiful prickly carbonation over the tongue makes way for a tart and tangy apple juice and over-ripe pineapple juice, the sort of taste that you would get from a pineapple that's sat on the side in the kitchen for a little too long and you're trying to salvage some to eat. It's intensely refreshing too, making the taste-buds come alive with some wonderful dry citric zestiness which leads to, and lasts long into the finish. When my wife tasted this she noticed two distinct levels to the finish and she's absolutely right. The first is a digestive biscuit maltiness that sits at the back of your throat, it's a little doughy too and is the real evidence of the malt in this beer. The second and most pronounced is, as you might expect, a slowly drying fruity tartness, it really is delightful and delicious.
This is another great Brodie's beer, I've previously had the 'straight' London Sour at The Old Coffee House which I really enjoyed but I think the extra sweetness from the pineapple compliments the tartness to lift the beer to another level. I don't think that there's a lot of this about now, if any, but if you see a bottle then grab it. I guarantee you won't regret it.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Beers Of London Series: 54. Belleville Brewing Co. - Spring Break 4.4%

Beers Of London Series
54. Belleville Brewing Co. - Spring Break 4.4%

Belleville Brewing Co. are number fifty-four in this series, and remarkably the thirty-fifth London brewery I have featured.
Think about that for a minute.

Thirty-five breweries either situated in London or with London associations is quite an astonishing number.
I recently posted on twitter that I had a list of fifty-nine London breweries and this was duly re-tweeted with the result that a few more that I been hitherto unaware of came to light. My tally now stands at sixty-two, which is rather exciting. I am determined to get around to reviewing beer from them all at some point, but as not all of them bottle their beers then it's going to require a little legwork but that's something that I'm not at all averse to especially where beer is concerned. Incidentally, partly due to my work on this series I have become involved with Ales By Mail and their Best Of London mixed cases so if you are a London brewery that bottles your beer and I've not featured you in this series or you have an exciting new beer (actually all new beer is exciting!) feel free to contact me on twitter and I'll be more than happy to talk to you or arrange a visit. I picked up this beer from Ales By Mail too, so if you want one then you might want to visit their website.

With their slogan 'Beers from over there, brewed over here' Belleville Brewing Co. certainly make their intention of brewing American-style beers very clear. Situated on the Jaggard Way Industrial Estate in Wandsworth, Belleville made the headlines this June when brewing giants Anheuser-Busch (who you will notice I haven't made a link to) tried to get them to change the name of their brewery citing that it's 'similarity' to their Belle-Vue brand may confuse customers. The irony of this, their 'Budweiser' brand 'pinching' the name of the Czech pilsner that inspired it (Beer Of Kings/King Of Beers anyone?) and the ensuing court battles to try and secure this as their copyright will of course not be lost on any of you so I won't go into that here.
Opened in January this year, Belleville Brewing Company was formed by (ten I believe) fathers of children at the Belleville Primary School in Battersea,who met in the playground and decided to open a brewery. That may sound rather simplistic but is fairly near to how happened than you might imagine. Actually it was Adrian Thomas, one of those fathers, who was inspired after a meeting with home brewers at another Primary School nearby and encouraged the other fathers to invest in, and be part of, a brewery dedicated to brewing US inspired beers and fit it in around their regular jobs.
Spring Break, tonights beer, is infused with elderflower and uses Hallertau  Hersbrucker and Santiam hops traditionally associated with German-style Lagers and Pilsners, however as they are sometimes found in US Pale Ales and IPAs (there's the American link) I'm keen to get this beer open.
It pours a pale orange with a thin nearly-white head and plenty of steady carbonation with a constant stream of tiny bubbles rising from the bottom of the glass. The aroma is beautifully floral with the elderflower coming through rather nicely under-pinned with mango and gooseberry, it smells fresh and is actually making my mouth water before I've even tasted it. Soft carbonation tickles the tongue gently before a big bitterness hit with a fruity tang crashes into the roof of the mouth unleashing juicy elderflower and gooseberry with a spoonful of pineapple juice poured over the top. The malts are soft and subdued like the lightest of sponge cakes gently moving in at this point, moving aside those fruity flavours like a natural break in a piece of music. My glass isn't quite big enough to hold the whole bottle and I've poured the rest in (I've drunk about two thirds) and the remainder is considerably more cloudy. As far as I'm aware this isn't a bottle-conditioned beer (my eyes are telling me otherwise) and there's no increase in intensity of flavour, in fact no real change at all, so be aware of this if you have it and pour carefully. The finish is long-lasting with the ethereal esters of elderflower maintaining their ghostly juiciness for a very satisfying ending to a very nice beer indeed.
This is my first beer from Belleville and has left me wanting more. I'm not so sure of the American influence here as it's not as 'in-your-face' as I was expecting, but rather it is subtle and delicate and much the better for it. I'm anxious to try more from this brewery to see if the 'hop-forward' nature I've come to expect from US beers is present so you can another review before too long. In the meantime I'm very happy with this in my glass. Perhaps I'll have another one.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Beers Of London Series: 53. Savour Beer - Progress 6.5%

Beers Of London Series
53. Savour Beer - Progress 6.5%

Savour, born in December 2012, is the realisation of the brewing dream of Sandy Kirkpatrick. A former structural engineer, his influence and inspiration comes from Belgian beer, its styles, its culture and its attitude, and he wanted to bring this feeling, this essence to his beer and make it available in the UK. He is a frequent visitor to Belgium , in fact he's there at time of writing, exploring and indulging in the adventure, variety and experience that is beer there. Having been there twice within the last couple of months I can fully appreciate and understand where he is coming from.
Although based in Fulham, having his own brewery is still a part of his vision yet to be realised and he is what is commonly known as a gypsy brewer, brewing beer and renting space at Oxfordshire Ales, in a part of the country I know rather well as my sister-in-law lives in Bicester not far from the brewery. Progress is Savour's first commercial beer, and is described as a 'modern expression of a classic Belgian blond', and Sandy was kind enough to send me this bottle to sample and get my feedback. He has just brewed a Saison, Finesse, which is due for release toward the end of September and I recommend reading Sandy's blog on his website which encompasses not only his own beer and brewing but also his thoughts on his favourite Belgian beers and other aspects of beer in general.
I'm anxious to see how his vision is realised in his beer and as there is only really one way to find out then I'd better open the bottle.
It pours a pale orange, throwing a high soft pillowy white head much as you would expect from a Belgian blond, and the aroma doesn't disappoint either. There's a delicious tartness reminding me of peach cobbler, lemon drop, fresh white bread and the faintest hint of bicarbonate of soda. A light prickle of carbonation is evident as it slides rather silkily over the tongue, and it has a bitterness too that comes straight afterwards that I find a little cloying but this quickly fades to be replaced by lemon sherbert and a taste that reminds me of that thick opaque creamy yellow honey that I have had on holidays to France. Some orange rind is also apparent along with home-made white bread crust which slowly slips away into a dry yeasty orange flavoured lozenge aftertaste.
If you didn't know better (and you do now that you've read this) then you'd say this was a genuine Belgian blond ale rather than an English inspired version. The slight cloying bitterness I experienced particularly around the edges of my tongue upset my palate slightly, but such is the delicacy of the other flavours that I can forgive this. I wonder a little at the exactness of the replication. I understand the reason for it but perhaps I'd like to have seen an English twist to it, however thinking this through further that might be missing the point and rather unfair. In this series I have embraced openly Pale Ales and IPAs particularly that have followed the US template and this is no different in openly acknowledging its influences although obviously here with the focus towards a much closer country to the UK. I look forward to trying the Saison, a style that has been enjoying a renaissance over the last year or so, and if this beer is anything to go by then it promises to be very good indeed.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Beers, Burgers, Booze And Bloggers : An Evening Of Beer And Burger Matching With Jane Peyton And Ocado

Beers, Burgers, Booze And Bloggers
An Evening Of Beer And Burger Matching With Ocado.com

If I have to think of my ideal evening eating and drinking, then burgers and beer would be about as near perfect as it gets. There are few things I love more than a tasty meat patty (it matters not to me which meat it is) and a beautiful pint of beer, or more at lunchtime or in the evening, be it at home or abroad, and it would seem that I'm not the only one who thinks so. According to Professor Stephen Emmott in his book on imminent global ecosystem disaster, Ten Billion, around five billion burgers were consumed in the UK alone, and although statistics show that beer consumption has fallen over the last five years, in 2011 we were still drinking around 15.2 million pints each day (source Mintel), and it would seem reasonable to assume that a good many are combined as a meal.
On Tuesday 13th August, I, like a good many others was at the Great British Beer Festival when I received a message on twitter inviting me to an evening of beer and burger matching in London. Sponsored by Ocado and hosted by the Principal of the School Of Booze, beer sommelier Jane Peyton, how could I say no?
And so it came to pass that I found myself in The Square Pig in Holborn with a glass of Thornbridge Jaipur and a menu of beer and burger pairings in front of me. It soon transpired that I was the only beer blogger invited which I have to admit made me feel rather honoured, with the rest of the assembled company being made up of food writers, food bloggers and, I have have to admit that these were both new to me, meat and burger bloggers. After talking to the event organisers (particularly Fran from whom the invite came) and Jane herself I fell into conversation with Chris, whose blog AllThingsMeaty is pretty much self explanatory. Looking at the menu there were four beer and burger matching courses, with both meat and vegetarian options (with the vegetarian options having slightly different beer selections) with the beers coming from Ocado's online bottled beer selection (currently numbering some 144 bottles) and the appropriate pairing made by Jane.
We were soon ushered into our seats as the first burgers were ready to come out.
Jane gave a short presentation on beer, its history and how it is produced, passing round samples of different types of malts to taste and hops to smell around the tables, which consisted of around twenty of us, as the first plates arrived.
First up was 'The Real Deal Cheeseburger', a beef patty covered with smoked flavoured Ilchester Applewood cheddar and paired with the Jaipur, which I have to confess I was on my third glass of. Beer is a drink that works so well with food, its flavours can compliment or contrast in ways that wine cannot and has more variety and range of tastes and textures, and it worked extremely well here with the bitter grapefruit and citrus hop prickle of the 5.9% Jaipur cutting through the fatty, creamy, saltiness of the burger very well indeed. It was interesting to discover what the foodies around me thought of the match, which was very favourable, and they passed on their verdict on the burger, again favourable while I was able to talk about the beer and the brewers to those around me.
It was at this point that Zan, Chris's friend from across the pond and owner of Bleeker St Burger arrived, and found a seat opposite Chris and next to me. She had missed the first burger and beer combo, just, but was a fantastic source of information relating to burgers in general and specifically the burger vendors of London throughout the evening. The next burger, 'The Mexican Burger', marinated chicken breast with guacamole and sour cream, was meant to be paired with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, however as this was apparently out of stock, it's a great beer so I can believe that, the organisers had substituted Castle Rock's Harvest Pale. This was a real shame as the grassy lime flavours of the Sierra Nevada would have complimented the sweet marinated chicken wonderfully whilst the bitterness would have cut through the sour cream and guacamole dressing. Imagining this combination made me salivate, but the Harvest Pale with its less vigorous flavour and bitterness didn't quite work. Fuller's Honey Dew was also put in front of us, and its honey flavours worked nicely too, but it wasn't the Sierra Nevada.
Midway through now, we had a brief break for a 'Beer Tasting Challenge' which Jane had prepared, matching five good beers, again available from Ocado (it was their event), Innis & Gunn Original Oak Aged Beer, St Peters Mild, Brakspear Triple, Shepherd Neame Double Stout and Theakston's Old Peculier, with aromas and flavours that she had written down. I will admit that I didn't win despite being the only beer blogger, but I did spend most of the time having a great conversation about beer with one of the organisers in my defence.
The third burger duly arrived. 'The Dracula', a Lamb burger with aioli was paired with 2.8% Mann's Brown Ale, a beer that I hadn't had for many years, and one that I was quite sceptical about. My fears proved to be unfounded as the mild toasty chocolate flavours combined wonderfully with the lamb, combining and complimenting beautifully and for me it was the pairing of the evening. I'm not sure that I'd buy the beer to drink on its own but if it was on a menu and I was having a lamb burger I think I'd go for it again.
The final burger of the evening, 'The Sweet And Savoury Burger' was one I was particularly looking forward to. Beef with mango chutney and parmesan cheese paired with Bateman's Dark Lord seemed a wonderful match, the rich Ruby Porter combining with minced beef, fruity chutney and salty parmesan in a delicious climax, but it didn't quite end that way. Whereas the beer impressed the burger was dry and un-inspiring caused, according to the experts around me, the meat being over-worked.
Fortunately the company and conversation was compelling, informative, interesting and diverse, so much so that the final burger and beer of the evening caused us to go a little way passed the designated nine o'clock finishing time.
All too soon it was time to go, and whilst some die-hards continued talking and drinking I alas could not. Upon leaving I was presented with an Ocado cloth bag containing three beers (Bath Ales Barnsey, St Peter's India Pale Ale and Hall And Woodhouse's Badgers Poachers Choice) and a cider (Orchard Pig Truffler) as well as some rather nice Dartington Crystal beer glasses, all of which I assume are available from Ocado too. This was a rather nice gift and while you may assume that it may be a way of buying a good review, in truth it was a very good and enjoyable evening and while the beer and food matching was central to the event, the company and conversation is what made it really special. I've made no secret in declaring Ocado's involvement in this event, and although you may be cynical you might want to cast your eye over their beer range if you haven't already done so. I think you may be pleasantly surprised.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Beers of London Series: 52. The Botanist Brewery - Maximus 5.8%

Beers Of London Series

52. The Botanist Brewery - Maximus 5.8%

I hope you've had a fantastic summer.
I've seemingly been charging here there and everywhere, having a fantastic time, meeting wonderful people and drinking plenty of superb beer, however as a consequence of this I've fallen a little behind on my blogging and have a great load of homework to do to get back up to speed.
I've been fortunate enough to be invited to some interesting beer launches and events in the last six weeks and there'll plenty of writing to come about those soon enough, but this post isn't about any of those. I say that, but it sort of is. Last Wednesday I was lucky enough to be invited to a beer and burger food pairing event by Ocado and hosted by Beer Sommelier Jane Peyton. I try not to be late for these things but I found myself in Holborn a good forty minutes before it was due to start. Now if I happen to be in Holborn when I'm in need of a beer then I naturally gravitate towards the Holborn Whippet, and so it was that I happened to find myself standing at the bar looking at the chalk board to see which beer I would have from 'the brick' (if you've been there then you'll know what I mean, if not then you really need to go there). Imagine my delight (you'll have to trust me on this) when my eyes alighted on a beer from a London brewery (on cask) of whose wares I'd yet to partake.
The Botanist Brewery can, unsurprisingly, be found in The Botanist pub right on the edge of Royal Botanic Gardens in Richmond. Established in 2011 is also a brewpub with the beers being brewed just four yards from the bar. Owned by Convivial London Pubs PLC ( previously known as The Capital Pub Company 2 PLC, and before that The Capital Pub Company 2 Limited) who own a number of London pubs whose beer this also supplies, they also own The Lamb in Chiswick, which also has it's own brewery on site, and produces a different range of beers.
I had a bit of a dilemma when it came to the abv of this Red Ale, as the website lists it at 6.2%, however the Holborn Whippet displayed it on their board at 5.8%. Now, I don't know which is more likely to be correct, it is possible that the alcohol by volume has been reduced so I'll stick with my pub displayed value as I have no reason to see why they would reduce it.
It pours a beautiful sunset orange, slightly cloudy and graduating toward a rich milk chocolate colour at its core with a thin but sustained head. The aroma reminds me of heavily varnished pews in old churches, but with the merest hints of pineapple, grapefruit and orange peel flirting enticingly around the edges. A wave of big bitterness immediately crashes over the tongue, stripping away everything that may have been there before, but this is tempered with a curious tartness condensing quickly into a sticky orange caramel whilst all the time maintaining its driven bitter-bladed intrusiveness. The finish is dry and long as you might expect, and while there is some orange flavoured oiliness apparent there's a lot less than I was expecting given its initial all-out attack on my tastebuds.
This is a beer that doesn't disguise its strength but rather revels in it. It's certainly a beer that is a cut above the usual run of stronger ales in this style and wants you to know it too. I have to say that I rather like it, so perhaps a trip across town may be in order soon. Maybe I'll take in Chiswick too.