The ever-enthusiastic Mark Dredge very kindly sent me a box of beer as part of a swap. While he got a handful of my own brews and a poor selection of German beers, I got a half-dozen beers which got pride of place in my beer cellar. Being generally short on beers from outside Germany these days, I'm going to stretch them out a bit, but they're half gone already. How could I resist? Forgive me, also, if I stretch out the blog posts about them, as I feel I have to group them somewhat. So lets start with the beers from the Ramsgate Brewery.
Gadds' Ancestors, a Whisky Cask Porter, has been aged in casks formerly used by the Bruichladdich distillery -- according to my whisky-expert colleague, one of the most progressive distilleries in Scotland at the moment. Started in 1881, it was closed down in 1995, but was reopened in late 2000 by a small company of individuals who went on to produce a vast range of new whiskies, and bottlings of the older Bruichladdich vintages. While the whiskies of Bruichladdich were known for being less heavy than those from other Islay distilleries, they have been breaking new ground with some heavily peaty releases since reopening, so I wasn't sure what would come out in this.
Pouring an opaque, oaky-black with a thin head, the aroma is strikingly peaty and oaky. There's a phenolic note that sometimes worries me. I have a strange relationship with those heavy peaty influences found in many Islay malts. Sometimes I love it, sometimes I find it too heavy. The same comes across in some rauchbiers, although with a different source of smoke, the supporting flavours have to be right, in my humble opinion. In the case of Ancestors, the flavours have strong oaky, dark vanilla overtones which are pretty unforgiving. Held in the mouth, the impression is slightly medicinal and smokey. Swallowing reveals licorice and burnt wood. Underneath all of this is an almost fruity sweetness, like dried figs, that creeps out from under the initial woody smokiness. At 9% ABV, this could be a sipper. With those powerful flavours, it definitely is a sipper, but highly enjoyable nonetheless.
In an exercise of unparalleled restraint, I held off the next Ramsgate beer for two days, at which point the call of Gadds' OOOKS! became too strong.
The flavour gives smooth, soft chocolate, raisens, a slight oakiness with a touch of vanilla and a twist of pepper spiciness. There's a slightly vinous undertone, like a good dessert wine. It has a lightly dryish, tannic quality, like a strong cup of tea, merging with a delicate tingle of hop bitterness and a long-lasting blackcurrant-like fruity finish. At 9%, it's surprisingly easy-drinking, with a medium body, it's not at all sticky, lending it a freshness that showcases the medley of flavours. A lovely, multi-layered beer that's a great nightcap.