Friday, 26 February 2010

My Left Hand

I've had a couple of beers from the Left Hand Brewing Company before, most recently at the opening of Beer Temple in Amsterdam, so my mouth was watering when I saw them alongside the Flying Dog beers on Bier Zwerg, the beer shop in Cologne that has suddenly become my favourite. I wonder why!

Juju Ginger, as the name suggests, is brewed with ginger. It's a hazy, orange-tinted amber with a tight head. i only got a hint of ginger in the aroma, so subtle that I wasn't sure if i was making it up because the label told me to expect it. What I did get in the aroma was a cross between caramelised sugar and orange marmalade. First thought on tasting it was 'where's the ginger?' followed by 'Is this a US craft beer? Where are the C hops?'. I don't mean the latter in any serious way, but that caramelised flavour was really to the fore, initially at least, and the hop character felt more English. While big and soft on the tongue, it ends a little thin, although that does allow the ginger to make a gentle showing, perhaps a little late. Overall, it's a decent enough, simple beer, but the ginger component (compared to the Williams Bros. test batch Ginger Beer) seemed to be minimal, and it left me wanting.

So, what better to take away my longing than a homely Milk Stout, pouring a dark, creosote brown with an off-white head. Simple aromas: light coffee and chocolate. It has an interesting flavour combination. Certainly good, well balanced roasted elements -- chicory coffee and a bit of a dark chocolate bite -- but then there's this creaminess suffusing it all, driving right up the middle with a slight vanilla fudge-like sweetness mixed with feels like almost pineapple-like hop influences. The finish is lightly roasted, sweet but not cloying and with a nice, unexpected touch of black pepper. Yeah, that was better.
I'd rather liked the Left Hand Black Jack Porter when I had it previously in Amsterdam, so was looking forward to trying it from the bottle. I have to say, I wasn't getting much in the aroma department, just a light, sweet roastiness, and flavourwise, again, no extremes, which confused me as I recalled much bigger flavours when I had it on tap. But, it has a lovely blend of decent body, caramel, light coffee and an ever so gentle touch of phenols that gives a little edge and keeps you looking deeper. As it warms, it reveals treacle, vanilla and more fudgey caramel goodness. There's a bit of a zing to the finish, perhaps a touch carbonic, but it's long, sweet and with a pleasant cocoa bite. I like this. There's no extremes, but it's satisfying, although I think I got more of a kick from it on draft.

Wandering off looking for kicks brought me to their Imperial Stout. I didn't have to go far: just into the kitchen. I have to admit, my notes are light on this, which is usually a good sign. What I do recall is that this has a dark chocolate, cream toffee, aniseed aroma, suggesting something rich and thick. And you know what? That's what it is. Big vanilla (this seems to be a common theme with their dark beers), espresso, toffee sweetness, anise, a touch boozy with just the right amount of clovey, phenolic character. A grand, slow-sipping nightcap.


Mark, said...

Just had the Black Jack tonight Barry. It was vanilla dominated for me and nice, not sure how memorable, time will tell.

Barry M said...

I certainly got vanilla, too. It's definitely a nice beer. Would love to hear your thoughts if you ever try it on draught, to see if you get more out of it.