Wednesday, 28 November 2012

BrewDog 'Libertine' Black IPA

The blog is taking a bit of a back seat at the moment. Anyone who has worked in pubs, or retail generally, in the run-up to Christmas, will have a reasonable idea of why. It can be a lot of fun, and this week I've got my fifth extracurricular tasting in less than a month too. It is also most definitely tiring, especially as the 'research'* has continued apace, honing my knowledge so that when I do get to put fingers to keyboard my palate is at match fitness.

Libertine Black IPA is one that's popped up on this blog before; I had it on tap not long after it came out, and was keen to re-visit it in bottle. I'm sure enough has been written about whether Black IPA is a 'legitimate' beer style, so I won't unearth that particular debate, apart from to say that I think most beer drinkers know what they expect from it now it's been part of our vocabulary for a while.

On to the beer. On the nose there's the same dusty rough edge that I associate with Punk and Jaipur, but less of the tropical fruit, it being countered with cocoa and chocolate. There's also lots of black cherry which continues on to the palate. The hops make it really moreish, surprisingly quaffable for something weighing in at 7% - I'm guessing the malt used to turn it from being a regular IPA also take away some of the mouth-puckering bitterness you sometimes find. All the dark fruit is wrapped up in bitter chocolate cake flavours, almost liqueur-chocolate-ish, but without the sweetness. I'm really glad this has become part of BrewDog's core range, I thought it was great!

Tonight, the research continues in the form of a Japanese whisky tasting, courtesy of Suntory, the guys behind this amazing collection as illustrated by Pete over on his blog.

7.2% abv. £3.46 (33cl) from Beer Ritz.

* I'm sure I enjoyed the Black Rocks, but it was my birthday, and while I'm quite proud to say I didn't over-analyse it at the time, that pride is somewhat tempered by the knowledge that I probably couldn't have done even if I wanted to...

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Oakham Citra

I put this one off for ages, and now I'm struggling to work out quite why, because I'm pretty sure it's something I'd pick up again. I think it was partly because Oakham JHB used to be around a lot in the pubs I frequented (not least because I lived in one) and, while it was brilliant at the time, I became tired of it, even if that was more of a fault of its pale (sorry) imitators than JHB itself.

There's bags of grapefruit-led citrus fruit on the nose, tempered with enough tropical fruit to keep the attacking edge off but not so much as to stop it being refreshing. The palate's all about the juicy fruit from the hops; the grapefruit is back with a touch of soapiness, although far from being so much as to be off-putting, and again there's support from tropical fruit, all without it careering off into over-sweet passion fruit territory. It's all really clean and fresh, no wallowing about in cloying sweetness for this beer, it just merrily leads you into grabbing the next one.

4.2% abv. £2.07 (50cl) from Waitrose.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Thornbridge 'Saint Petersburg' Imperial Stout

I couldn't let this one go past without singing its praises. What a winter beer, and not the tacky tinsel variety, there are no badly scrawled doodles of Father Christmas in a compromising situation with a reindeer, it's just the sort of beer that makes you feel cocooned away, protected from all that cold November darkness. Magnificent. Probably to the point where it'd make you feel great in the height of summer too.

On the nose there's lots of chocolate maltiness, with a hint of dried and dark fruits lurking behind; raisins ans plums. It's almost like a savoury version of a fruit and nut bar. Full body hardly does it justice, it's almost chewy. There's more dark chocolate on the palate and on the finish it's all rounded off beautifully with cleansing bitter coffee.

Cosier than a 15 tog duvet. Embrace the dark...

7.4% abv. £3.10 (50cl) from Hops in a Bottle.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Isle of Skye 'Old Worthy' Scottish Pale Ale

Nick at Old Worthy brewery sent me a bottle of this, as he did lots of people who write beer blogs, so there are plenty of excellent reviews out there. I felt like doing something a little different, and so with a nod to Nick's distilling history I thought that combining the new brew with an established local giant might be a bit of fun, if not particularly original (since I did a similar thing the other week, and even if the malt is actually from Jim Beam's Ardmore distillery rather than Talisker). If you're interested in some of my thoughts on Talisker have a look at my other blog; it's an old favourite and even before I'd popped open the Old Worthy I was most grateful that I had come up with an excuse to renew old acquaintances.

Before I get into the nitty-gritty bit of the tasting note, and at the risk of rushing to a conclusion, a quick heads-up; if you've never tried Old Worthy then you should if you get the chance. It is a beer with a genuine point of difference, the use of peated malt, that goes far beyond employing a marketing department to tell you that that's the case. OK, that's not to say you'll like it but you never know until you try it! I was interested in finding out how the peat worked with the more conventional 'beer' flavours because I tend to find peatier whiskies overpower or clash with many beers when I drink them together. On the nose I didn't pick much of the peat up, but I don't think that's particularly a bad thing, it quickly took away any doubts I had as to whether the beer flavours and aromas could some through rather than it ending up tasting like a watered-down Islay. All of the peat came through on the palate, but without the maritime or iodine notes that you get with some peated malts, which can be off-putting in conjunction with a beer. This meant it contrasted brilliantly with the sweeter malt of the Talisker; the whisky dances with rather than accosts the beer, there are elements they share and things they disagree on, but it's a great partnership. This is a really well thought-out beer, at no point was I thinking 'it's just using peated malt as a novelty' they've made sure, probably through judicious use of honey and wheat, that it retains its balance.

Nick wants this beer to adorn the jerseys of the Scotland rugby team. I'll look forward to seeing it on there, albeit in those brief seconds before those jerseys are engulfed by the red tide at the Millennium. Good luck with the beer and thanks for sending me a sample.

SlĂ inte.