Thursday 30 July 2009

The Light and Dark Sides of BrewDog

No, not the Tokyo* thing again, but two beers from BrewDog that contrast ever so slightly, the Trashy Blonde, "you know you shouldn't", and Rip Tide, their "twisted merciless stout".

Trashy Blonde is, as the name suggests, blonde, and given the reputation that BrewDog have for big beers, this seems relatively small with it's 4.1% ABV. But it's nto so small on the aroma and flavour stakes, where you get pine nuts, grainy malt, herbal notes, a citric twist and an ever-so-slight touch of juicy fruit. The mouthfeel is pleasently oily and the finish is long and herbal with a touch of spice.

Although this sounds very complex from the list of flavours I was picking out, I can't say it's deeply complex. It has a lovely blend of flavours, but they don't run deep, if that makes sense, and after a bottle I was happy enough to move on (though I'd have another if my arm was twisted).

If that was the light, Rip Tide is the dark side. Yes, definitely dark, opaque and just about showing ruby-tinged edges when held to the light. The aroma is sumptuous, chocolate-laden goodness with a suggestion of fruit, reminiscent of fresh raspberries. The mouthfeel is velvety, like liquidised aero bars; very smooth. It has a lovely balance between heavy malt and an alomost citric bitterness that struggles under the roasty, toasty, chocolatey flavours that wash across the palate. The finish is long, with light coffee, dark chocolate and a sustained bite that balances the rich flavours. Very satisfying and moreish, despite the 8% ABV. I particularly liked the serving suggestion on the label: "pour into a glass and enjoy with an air of aristocratic nonchalance". A really lovely beer.

Wednesday 29 July 2009

Brewdog Hardcore IPA

I'm really dragging these BrewDog tastings out a bit, aren't I? Put it this way, I can't buy the damn things here, so while the rest of beer civilisation is going ape (in either the + or - direction) about Tokyo*, I'm savouring every drop of non-German beer I have.

BrewDog Hardcore IPA. I had it before in Dublin's Porterhouse, finding it had toffee undercurrents to the heavily pithy bitterness. I liked it. So, how would it be in the comfort of my own home?

The lighting is better in my living room, so I could at least see the clear golden amber colour. Also, my living room is freer of kitchen and pub aromas, so I could get a few more nuances out of it. Elderflower. What? Well, yeah, I found a quite strong, fresh elderflower aroma in there (we did a lot of elderflower picking earlier in the year, so I should know!) lurking under the big grapefruit and subtle malty, toffee aromas. I found this quite striking, and it actually came across in the flavour too. Quite a good balance between caramely malt, drying grapefruit bitterness and an earthy, floral, passion fruit wash in the middle that is delicious. I think it's safe to say I enjoyed it much more this time 'round, despite a slight cardboard hint in the finish.

Saturday 25 July 2009

A Day in Dortmund

After arriving back from San Diego last Sunday evening, with little sleep had on the return flight, one would think I'd just sleep the next day, which I had taken off work. Yeah, right. Instead, I was up at a reasonably early hour to make my way to Dortmund to meet up with Chris and Merideth from, and do a little exploring of Dortmund to sample the finest Export beer; Dortmund's famous contribution to the beer world. It's odd though. I live within 30 minutes of Dortmund (given the right train connection) and I had yet to visit the place. It seems impossible to find Export in Münster -- every time I order a DAB it turns out to be a Pils -- so I was really looking forward to walking the streets of Dortmund for the first time.

We had arranged to meet at Wenkers am Markt at 11am. It was of course easy to spot these two celebrities sitting outside sipping their Kronen Export. What I didn't realise at the time, is that legend credits the Wenker family as being the originators of the Export style, first adopting bottom fermenting techniques in their Kronen Brewery, under Heinrich Wenker, in 1843. That's pretty soon after Pilsener first appeared, so I wondered if the original was a little darker, although I understand the Export part came later, circa 1871. Of course, there are other stories that the Dortmunder Union Brauerei were in fact the first to brew Export, as we understand it today, in 1873, but I prefer the Kronen story. In any case, around that time, Dortmund was undergoing heavy industrialisation, and Dortmunder Export became the fuel of choice for the coal and steel workers. With such a big market, a lot of jostling for position appears to have gone on, resulting in a massive series of mergers. Kronen were clearly a player at one stage, purchasing the Stifts Brauerei in 1987 and the Thier Brauerei in 1992. Kronen, until now still a family-run business, was taken over by the Dortmunder Actien Brauerei (the famous DAB) in 1996, and the brand survives today as part of the massive portfolio of the Radeberger Group (itself part of the monstrous Oetker Group) which took over DAB in 2002.

So, Wenkers am Markt is certainly a piece of the brewing history of Dortmund, the original home of the Kronen Brauerei. While sitting at a table outside we were joined by Jörg Kemper, the manager of Wenkers, who had been smoking a cigarette outside and listening to us talking beer. I have to say, I had heard that the people of the Ruhrgebiet were friendly (mostly from, but not limited to people from the Ruhrgebiet itself), and Jörg proved to be the perfect host, treating us to a rack of Stösschen of the house unfiltered pale beer and schwarzbier, and, most surprisingly, a garden gnome with a wheelbarrow full of Kronen Export! You can get a bit more information on the Wenkers website, including listening to Jörg himself, and the odd shot of him entertaining the customers!

Jörg gave us some background on Wenkers, and revealed that they had stopped brewing on the premesis years before as they has no brewmaster, so brewing of the house beers were now carried out at the Hövels Hausbrauerei, a place I was eager to see as Hövels became one of my favourite regular beers to drink while out in Muenster. The Wenkers Naturtrüb is a naturally hazy beer with a grainy malt backbone and a decent hop profile. I found it a little husky, and preferred the Wenkers Schwarzbier which is smooth, and roasty with a lick of bitter coffee in the finish. And of course you can get Kronen Export.

I had arranged to meet with some of the staff of the Bergmann Brewery, and in fact had been trying to get to visit their new premises for ages. Unfortunately the owner, Thomas Rafael, was on holiday, but we were met by two of the clerical staff, Jonas and Mark, who very kindly collected us near their office, which I had thought was the location of the actual brewery. It would have been a long walk. I've written a little about Bergmann before, and it was great to see the premises of Dortmund's newest brewery. Until now, the Bergmann beers have been contract brewed by the nearby Vormann brewery in Hagen-Dahl and the Bosch brewery in Bad Laasphe, so while they have the Bergmann brand, technically they couldn't call it by its name of old, the Dortmunder Bergmann Breauerei. Hopefully that will change when they are up and running in the next couple of months. A bit of trivia: the German word Bergmann means miner, and the brand now makes use of a crossed hammer device that provides a link with Dortmund's industrial heritage, however, Bergmann also just happened to be the surname of the founders of the original brewery (or so we were told!). The original brewery closed in 1972 (the year I was born) after being taken over by the Dortmunder Ritter Brauerei, which itself was acquired by the Dortmunder Union Brauerei in 1994. Seeing a pattern here?

We has a few samplers of the Bergmann Export, Pils and Spezial II before Jonas and Mark took us to see the Bergmann Kiosk, a dedicated Bergmann outlet just on the edge of the inner city where beer and glasses are dispensed, very close to the Hoevels Hausbrauerei, our next stop.

Hövels is another brewery that belongs under the wing of the Radeberger (read Oetker) Group, and the Hövels Original (formerly Hövels Bitterbier) I had been drinking till now is brewed in the larger mother ship brewery. The original Hövels still brews the beer consumed on the premises, including some seasonal specials, and, most surprisingly, a Zwickel (smooth and citric) as well as contract brewing for Wenkers. We decided to eat here, and I convinced Chris he had to try the Hövels before the Zwickel. He asked if it was all I remembered it to be, and I was disappointed that Chris found it too sweet. On reflection, it was certainly less bitter, a tad less crisp than the bottled beers or draft I had been drinking back home, but it was close in flavour terms. Could it just be the difference in the scale of the brewing?

While we were finishing off, Jörg appeared as he had some business to look after in Hövels. That business included having a beer with us and then taking us on an unofficial tour into the bowels of the Hövels Hausbrauere, a veritable warren of chambers, pipes and vessels. Actually, an amazingly large set-up crammed into the two stories of cellars under the pub.

We trundled back to the city centre and tried to spot some other locations to get some Export, but it seems that even in the home town of Export, it's a dying style. Not even DAB Export was to be found through a casual search. We found ourselves back at Wenkers, with the Marktplatz now filled with drinkers enjoying a cool summer evening (at least the rain had stopped). We settled on stools under a large umbrella and settled in for the remainder of the evening. Jörg popped over again and introduced us to Gerhard, a local tour guide who was in the middle of leading a group around the town. They were on their way to Hövels where Gerhard invited us to meet them, but we were pretty tired at this stage so ended up staying where we were for about three more hours (I think) devouring a couple of Flammekueche in the process. Gerhard clearly knew Dortmund's beer history. He listed off a raft of breweries that had been amalgamated by Radeberger to which I appended "Hansa", earning me a sharp look like I had just insulted his mother, followed by a comment that "Hansa is a good beer, and there's a market for beer like that". Being the diplomat that I am, I swiftly agreed!

Shortly after 10pm I reckoned I'd better head trainwards, as I had missed the last of the quick trains and I wanted to get back at a reasonably civilised hour, and get some badly needed sleep (and hopefully not on the train). Although we didn't have the Export exposition we would have liked, I had a great time with Chris and Merideth, talking about life, as well as beer and their passion for beer travel. I'm not so sure they are beer geeks as much as brewery geeks with almost 500 brewery visits under their belts! I would have loved to continue with them to Düsseldorf for an Altbier crawl, but that will have to wait. As it is, I'll definitely make a return to Dortmund next time I have a free day to myself.

Chris and Merideth's account of our adventure is told on their blog.

Thursday 23 July 2009

San Diego 2009

San Diego. My third time visiting, with the last time being six years ago. Each time was to attend a large GIS (Geographic Information Systems) conference , but this time was going to be a little different, as I was to man a booth in the exhibition hall for around three days, kissing babies and shaking hands with anyone brave enough to stray close to my lair. Actually, they turned out to be quite tiring, long days, interspersed with business meetings -- all very productive I must say -- and I knew that there would be late nights with excesses of food and beer. Yes, the charms and pitfalls of the San Diego conference scene, all rolled into one.

Before leaving, I had scouted out potential places to visit, but I knew I would be very unlikely to get out to the likes of Stone given the schedule, and indeed, I'm almost ashamed to admit that pretty much most nights were spent crawling 5th, the spine of the Gaslamp district, a bit of a tourist hellhole that I equate to Temple Bar in Dublin. But still, it was within spitting distance of the hotel, and anyway, even if most bars are dives, there was good beer to be had, and for me at least, some new ones to try. Let's deal with the bigger breweries first. Roll it there Colette...

Blue Moon Belgian White, apparently owned by Coors, of all companies, though I presume they just bought the Blue Moon Brewing Company, and hopefully left them to do what they do. With an orange-gold haze, it has a distinctive orangey aroma, although some of that may have come from the mandatory slice of orange that appears on the rim of practically every wheat beer you order here. It has a crisp bite up front, a little tart, but with a gentle orange twist, an earth middle-ground and a surprisingly warming and morishly dry finish. It's gassy though!

Shock Top Belgian White, another wheat beer from a mega brewer. I should point out that, more often than not, the way I was buying beer was to ask the server what they had, tune out while they listed Bud, Bud Light, Coors, Coors Light, Miller, Miller Light, Corona, Corona Light etc... ad nauseam, till they hit something I hadn't heard of before. "Stop there, what was that? I'll have one!" Anyway, I didn't know that this was made by Anheuser-Busch InBev, but in fairness, I thought it was ok. Kind of sweet in a fudge, banana and orange way with a slightly sour note to the finish. Satisfying enough, and I would have had another if we weren't getting bored in that bar in particular.

Nakhon, made by San Miguel, and pretty much the only choice at a certain Thai restaurant where the food was mediocre (apart from Christian E's Honeyed Duck), and the beer relatively tasteless. Well, it did have a slight citric nose, which was surprising, and a reasonably malty body. Meh. Why is it never possible to get a flavoursome beer in an Asian restaurant? Nice label though.

Ok, so much for the big producers, I was of course on the lookout for the local beers. Ballast Point Yellowtail Pale Ale was chosen at random from what I could see of the fridge. What they describe as "Yellowtail Pale Ale Kolsch" on their website, it explains why I wasn't getting the huge citric components I was expecting from an APA. Not that they weren't there, but far more gentle. More a light malty base with a twist of lemon. The flavour is similarly more malt-focussed, but it's light, slightly fruity and again with a refreshing lemon twist. Not the most thrilling beer in the world, but a damn good refresher after a hot day.

Of course Stone beers featured strongly. I think the Stone IPA was the first beer I had on hitting the bars, about an hour after landing. Served in a 12oz bottle that was shoved into a mini ice bucket (see above) in that Den of iniquity, Dick's Last Resort. Actually, they probably like to think of it as a den of iniquity, what with the sassy back-talk/mild insults from the bar staff and servers, and all that bloody napkin throwing, and the chap dressed like Hitler in a skirt with a riding crop, but it's just a tourist hole, and was surprisingly empty many of the times we popped in. Did I say many times? Ehhh... Well, anyway, the beer was good! The IPA, with expected thick, citric aromas delivered what I expected from it, with a decent malt base upon which was piled masses of hoppy goodness. Robustly bitter in that grapefruity and resinous way, with fruity and toffee undertones. Another great American IPA, although based on the back label, somebody should point Greg Koch over to Zythophile's IPA myth busting blog post.

Arrogant Bastard had to be sampled of course, this time while watching the very entertaining Stilettos with some great covers (Walk This Way in rockabilly style for one) all the while with things like Bettie Page movies playing in the background. But man!, those people in the audience could dance! The music was more balanced than the Arrogant Bastard, and although I enjoyed it for the extreme/novelty factor, I actually thought it wasn't well balanced and felt it didn't have the depth that the back label proclaimed. Clearly heavily hop driven, there is some dark malty undertones, but they are essentially wiped out. In fact, half way down I thought it was a bit of a one-trick pony, all aggressive bitterness, and that's it. Maybe I wasn't worthy!

I had the Stone Pale Ale towards the end of the trip, and frankly, I was disappointed. After the IPA I was expecting something along the same lines, but maybe just less bitter. Sure enough, there were those lovely hop elements, but I was mostly struck with a raw grainy taste that I'm not sure was supposed to be there. I'll have to try it again.

I did manage to have some Karl Strauss beers (well, i had to really), with the Red Trolley being the most memorable, and not just becasue I had been riding around San Diego on the real Red Trolley. An amber ale with a decent toffee-caramel base, light fruit notes and a balancing hop kick. Definitely not extreme, but a very nice beer with a large steak. Similarly, the Regatta Red from Rock Bottom, a fairly dark Amber Ale, heavy on the caramel malts and with a slight toasted/roasted note down the back, tempered with a reasonable bitterness. You wouldn't drink it all night, but it compliments a flame-grilled burger pretty well.

Not quite local, Fire Rock Pale Ale, from Kona Brewing Company, was my first ever Hawaiian beer. Possessing a nice malty aroma cut with a light citrus note, this has a well balanced flavour mixing a toffee-like sweetness with a solid, pithy bitterness and a touch of sorbet. At 6%, it's slightly warming, and is very nice indeed. I really need to get over to Hawaii. Every year I go to San Diego I meet up with the GIS Coordinator of Maui (What a job!) for beer and cigars, trying desperately to get invited to work there for a few weeks at least! I reckon he needs a few more cubans to swing the deal...

I wasn't very good in the note taking department this trip (I was too busy drinking, Hargh!) so there's lots of beers I'm leaving out, but who wants to read long lists of beers someone else has had? Just writing is making me thirsty!

Tuesday 21 July 2009

Wild Goose Chase

So, there we were, on a fourhour stopover in Chicago O'Hare on the way to San Diego, and what better way to kill time than to pop into the Goose Island Bar in the airport. It took a while to navigate immigration (including explaining to the officer what Geographic Information Systems are), but we still had plenty of time when we arrived at Terminal 3, ready to head to area H1-H2 where the bar was recorded as being on every website I had checked. But... Not there. Ok, lets ask the guys in the massage booth. No, never heard of it. Let's walk up the H concourse and see. No, nothing there. Lets check all the food islands to see if it's hidden beside the fast food joints. No, not there. Let's ask more people! No, never heard of it. Hmmm...

We went to the O'Hara Bar and Grill and asked there, as it was close enough to the H1-H2 area. No, the girl behind the bar clearly thought we were mad, and said there was Goose Island Beer, but not a bar! That even got smirks and raised eyebrows from a regular customer seated at the bar.

So, not to worry, we were staring and thirsty, so opted to seat ourselves, order a half-pound burger and a Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat. After eight hours in a giant cigar tube, seated beside an overweight American teenager who also occupied 25% of my seat while blocking my entertainment system controls with her rolls of flesh, anything cold and wet would probably seem like nectar of the gods! I tried to keep my enthusiasm in check. A typically hazy, yellow-gold wheat beer with a low carbonation, this came served in a frozen glass. The aroma really struck me as being powerfully mandarin-like, and this came across in the flavour too, sitting comfortably on a light malty base. I thought there was quite an amount of bitterness present, in a pithy way, which is not what I expect in a weissbier, but of course this is an American wheat, and it worked well with the dryish finish. Certainly a good thirst quencher.

So, what to do about the mission? I sent out a tweet to see if there was help in the twitterverse, and sure enough I got some helpful suggestions although they all pointed to the area we had already meticulously explored. Chris from thebeergeek suggested Terminal 1 might be the place to look, and as that was where our flight left from, we thought we'd range around there. After drawing blanks from several people in te stores, one chap looked up the directory and told us there were in fact two bars, one in Terminal 2 and one in Terminal 1. He explained that everything had been moved around relatively recently, but that the signage had not been fully updated. Very grateful, we headed underground to concourse C. Even asking there, to be sure we headed in the right direction, got blank responses, so I began to wonder if people look up at all when they working and walking around the airport. Nevertheless, we went in the right direction, and there, nestled in area C10 (for the record) was the Goose Island Bar.

That's it? What the ...? Hmm, there's a bar and shelving around the edges, and all seats were occupied. I was expecting a range of taps of Goose Island beers, but it was the likes of Michelob on tap. Goose Island Beers were only available in bottles from the fridge in front, alongside lemonades and sandwiches. Disappointment extreme after a couple of hours of searching the damn place. Still, it was an opportunity for my colleague Christian S. (one of the three Christians who were heading to San Diego) to try Goose Island IPA pretty much brewery-fresh. There was a marked difference between it and the samples I had handed out at a recent tasting with, as expected, the bitterness levels being much higher, but of course still balanced with that chewy mouthfeel and malty goodness. After all that, we didn't have long to wait till our next connection, so with a weary sigh, we trudged off to our gate.

The spirit was lightened a bit by the pilot, who stood in the aisle and delivered what I can only describe as a comedy routine. With a distinct southern drawl, he told us not to worry, he wasn't as stupid as he sounded. We were definitely in safe hands for the last stretch...

Saturday 11 July 2009

Alternative Münster

The homebrew has been disappearing rapidly over the past two weeks, what with four BBQs in the space of a week and some thirsty colleagues at tasting evenings, I could have gone into business. On the right is my recent Klosteiner Pale Ale during an impromptu BBQ with the neighbours which I am also guilty of imbibing a little swiftly. So, time to stock up. I fancied something a bit darker and maltier this time, so thought I'd do a modification of my last Altbier recipe, sticking with a proportion of roasted malt for colour, but switching to 2% Carafa (dehusked black malt) to give a slight roasted edge without the burnt bitterness that can come through from scorched husks on regular black malt. At least that's the theory! I also switched to CaraMunich rather than regular Munich Malt, just to see if I can get more of a toffee edge to it. And of course the hops are different, hopefully getting closer to the real deal.

It's been a busy week, so I split the brewday in two, mashing one night and boiling the next. Here's the recipe:

Alternative Münster

BeerTools Pro Color Graphic

Size: 23.75 L
Efficiency: 84.05%
Attenuation: 75.0%

Original Gravity: 1.045 (measured)
Terminal Gravity: 1.011 (estimated)
Color: 35.98 EBC
Alcohol: 4.41% ABV
Bitterness: 37.8 IBU

3.75 kg Pilsner Malt
0.75 kg Caramunich Type III
90 g Black Malt 1200 (Dehusked/Carafa)
17 g Northern Brewer (11.4%) - boiled 60 min
19 g Northern Brewer (11.4%) - boiled 15 min
1 tsp Irish Moss - boiled 15 min
19 g Hallertauer Perle (9.3%) - boiled 5 min
K-97 German Ale Yeast

This was infusion mashed for an hour at 65C and mashed out at 80C. Unfortunately I don't have the facilities to lager this baby, so it'll just ferment coolish down in the cellar for a couple of weeks.

This morning, I'm off to San Diego for a week to attend a conference. I'm hoping to get some good beer geekery in between evening meetings, and what better place to do so! Expect updates and Tweets during quiet times.

I gotta work Suspect Device into a beer name next!

Friday 10 July 2009

BrewDog Zeitgeist

After reading TheBeerNut's comments on BrewDog's Zeitgeist, I felt compelled to crack open the bottle the brewer's sent to me while I was brewing this week.

A deep, dark mahogany with ruby red hints, very clear and with an apparently low carbonation, this wafts off thick toffee and plum jam-like aromas. So far, so mouthwatering, and it doesn't stop there. I like my Schwarzbiers, and here in Germany beers of that type vary wildly from over-sweet to plain tasteless, but with lots of really excellent, clean-tasting blackness to choose from. This is a bit different. It has a rich chocolatey, toffee and marzipan thing going on with a good dose of roasty bitterness in the finish. Bitter chocolate. The bottle I had was almost flat, but it fitted the chewiness quite well, enhancing the full mouthfeel. Very tasty and moreish, although I'd like to have a few more to really make up my mind. Today, Evan Rail told me, via Twitter, that this was inspired by a Czech Schwarzbier called Herold Bohemian Black, so I'd love to try that too!

A few fellow bloggers have broadcast that BrewDog have created a Zeitgeist site through which people can buy discounted Zeitgeist (by entering the discount code "SHEEP" while ordering) and can then contribute content to the blog section of that site. I commented over on Impy Malting that I thought it was a bit ironic that BrewDog -- while extolling non-conformity on the label --is tempting the drinkers of Zeitgeist to all gather in one site, forming a flock of sorts, while possibly cheekily getting said users to baa SHEEP while ordering the beer.

I think I'll be placing my order soon. Baaaaaaaaaa!!!

Edit: Well, I was disappointed to find that overnight, or possibly during the day, the delivery cost for 24 bottles of Zeitgeist to Germany had risen from £20 to £35, raising the price per bottle from €1.30 to €2.05 (with that wonderful 70% discount). Looks like I won't be bothering with that tasting session here after all...

Wednesday 8 July 2009

Erdinger Urweisse

Back to German beer, and what better way to return than some Erdinger? Ok, I jest. It's everywhere now. Perhaps not the best of the Weissbiers, but nevertheless, a gateway beer for a large number of people. I guess I still have a soft spot for one now and again, but when I spotted the Erdinger Urweisse while on a Weissbier shopping spree recently, I had to give it a go of course.

Very highly carbonated, I got a glass full of foam even after a very gentle pour, so this took time to fill the glass. It's rich looking, with amber shades leaning towards what I describe as a burnt orange look, kind of like burnt sienna. It has a good spicy aroma redolant of cloves stuck into a fresh orange. So far, so good. The flavour gives warming, earthy cloves, bitter orange, sweet maramalade and a slight touch of pepper. Hmm, So far, so better. It has a dry finish, adding to the moreishness of it. A very tasty weissbier.

The Urweisse hut looks like a fun place to be.

Monday 6 July 2009

BrewDog Punk IPA

I've a few bottles of BrewDog beers left from my secret stash. The two bottles of Paradox are waiting for a specific occasion, but I'm popping the rest as the muse takes me. So here's another; BrewDog Punk IPA. A crystal clear pale amber with a tight white head, the aroma is mouthwatering, suggesting great big wadges of grapefruit. This of course made me expect masses of grapefruit on the tongue, but I found the hops presented a more floral effect. It's pretty perfumey, admittedly with snatches of sorbet-like grapefruit, and it leaves a bite at the back of the throat. The finish is a lonnnng pithy bitterness but, again, with a lingering perfume-like character. Certainly not something I'd have as a session beer, even though at 6.1% the alcohol content wouldn't put me off having a load of such beers, but surprisingly, for me, I just don't think I'd like that perfumey character all night. So far this has been my least favourite BrewDog beer, but then it has pretty stiff competition.

Thursday 2 July 2009

Porterhouse Celebration Stout

Last November I visited the Old Country and was gifted a bottle of Porterhouse Celebration Stout by TheBeerNut (he's a generous soul). I drank it around Christmas (as the best before date said it was best before Christmas 2008) but just realised it had been lurking, forgotten, in my notebook. Shame on me! My recent adventure with the O'Hara's Celebration Stout jogged my memory, so here it is:

Despite the warning of containing yeast sediment on the back label, I didn't seem to get any, but then, with a beer this dark, would it really bother anyone? It's almost black, with rich mahogany tints around the edges when held to the light. A mouthwatering aroma of light, vinous fruit and, for some reason, I kept getting hints of spices like cumin. Taking a mouthful is like having your tongue rubbed with (blue?) velvet; a full and soft mouthfeel. This is a complex beer, no doubt, with lots of dried fruit, blackberries and a dryish coffee-like bitterness. My overall impression was of something verging on a liqueur, possibly something to do with the 10% alcohol. It's sweet, but in a cake-y way and balanced by a warming alcohol. A sipper for sure! A slight cardboardy dryness came out in the finish, but nevertheless, a lovely brew that would make a welcome permanent addition to the Porterhouse fold.

Well, I'd like more!