Sunday, 10 November 2013

Home Brew Review - Still Thinking

Home Brew Review

Still Thinking
Monarch 5.5%
Still Thinking About That Hefeweizen 5.1%

If you've been following my Beers Of London Series of reviews you'll have noticed that most of those breweries were in fact by aspiring home brewers who decided to turn their passion into their job with some fantastic results. I featured Nelson Saison a beer by Weird Beard and Andy Parker, a seriously accomplished home brewer who is seriously considering taking the step into the world of brewing, and four beers from Crema Brewery two excellent home brewers from Streatham, so it's rather exciting to be sent two beers by Michael McGrorty from Stirling in Scotland who has only been brewing since February this year.

Michael (or @h_doody as he's known on twitter) admits to only 'getting into beer' properly after a trip to the Oktoberfest in Munich last year. He didn't actually go to drink, really he was there to party, but found himself downing countless Masskruge of hefeweizen that ignited a passion for beer that has burned ever since.

Right from the start he felt that he'd have a go a home brewing but initially thought the cost made it too prohibitive, however when he realised that you could actually brew at a fraction of the cost he imagined he did a couple of kit brews and a boil-in-the-bag brew before moving rapidly on to all-grain. He was fortunate in being able to purchase a three vessel set up online from Wales for a very competitive price and using some family connections it quickly made it's way north. With a desire to 'brew every style under the sun', an IPA, a lager, a Munich Helles, an amber and maybe a Scottish ale are all in the pipeline and Michael has his sights set on bigger and better things. Only twenty-two years old and currently working full-time at his father's electronics factory, as I write this he had helped out at nearby Loch Lomond Brewery the day before and is looking, with a fellow home brewer, for a location to possibly open a 1BBL plant. Inspired to brew good beer by others that do likewise he cites no major influences although has taken advice recently from brewers at Thornbridge and Buxton, the latter of which he visited recently on a road trip with Steve from The Beer O'Clock Show who recently incidentally featured him in a homebrew special that you can listen to here.
The name 'Still Thinking' comes from Michaels tendency to spend ages deciding what to drink when confronted by an array of choice at a bar, his standard response to "What can I get you?" being "Still Thinking, sorry". Whether this phrase has caused him to miss valuable drinking time is unsure, but it has provided him with the title for his on-going range of beers called 'Still Thinking About The ... (insert style here)' with a little help from Steve and a certain Nathaniel Southwood.
The two bottles I have today are much travelled, having come from Stirling to Buxton where they were given to Steve from The Beer O'clock Show, before going back to Witham in Essex, on to Leeds and via various London pubs before I collected them. They had actually been right past my house twice before I actually got them, so after them being so tantalisingly close before I can't wait to get stuck in.

First up is Monarch, a 5.5% saison-style beer hopped with Amarillo and Nelson Sauvin and Pale, Munich and Vienna malts, and is the beer featured in the Home Brew podcast I linked to above. It pours an enticing burnt orange with golden-yellow highlights and a dense foamy off-white head. The aroma is sweet with lime, a hint of orange zest and a faint underlying digestive biscuit which reminds me a little of a fruity citrus lager and lime, which is probably exactly as it should be if I think about the hop and malt combinations. It has a delicious prickle of carbonation that plucks lightly at the tongue but slides down rather smoothly before that refreshingly dry zesty bitterness that is associated with modern saisons comes crashing through heralding an explosion of lime-edged intense orange cordial that flashes and fades into a touch of tangerine juice before collapsing quickly into a dry dusty orange zest.  Unfortunately there is no real finish to speak of, just a faint echo of bitterness which is hard to pin down exactly, but this is nonetheless a very accomplished beer indeed.

Next up is the hefeweizen which has no label as you can see, however I do know that it happens to be 5.1%  and is called 'Still Thinking About That Hefeweizen' so there's really only one way to find out more about it. Pouring a light cloudy lemony yellow with a rich white fluffy head it has the classic aroma of coriander seed and lemon with a good sniff of freshly baked white bread in the mix as well but there's also a spread of butter cream in there too which adds an interesting dimension to someone with a sweet tooth like me. Sweeping gracefully across the palate the carbonation tickles the roof of the mouth with a wave of thyme and lemon, sweet and full with a hint of cream soda and the same tangerine juiciness I detected in the saison. The finish this time is long and lingering with dusty coriander and a hint of grated parmesan cheese which works rather well with the tiniest touch of lemon zest and a slight resurgence of that thyme, and perhaps a little rosemary, to make an almost gose-like salty finish which I particularly like, in fact it reminds me of nothing more that than home-made parmesan cheese straws which I'm rather partial too. It's a finish to a wheat beer that I'm rather taken with and of the two beers I tasted I think that this is the one that appeals to me most, it really is rather good.

I'm pleased to say that despite Michael being slightly concerned about what I think of his beers he needn't have worried, and to think that he has produced two beers of this quality with so little experience should be an encouragement to you to get out there and give home brewing a go if you've been thinking about it for a while. I'd like to thank him for sending these beers to me, which by the way was completely unsolicited, and wish him every success as he edges closer to what I hope will be a long and prosperous career in brewing. Cheers matey!

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