I think I speak for quite a few Leodensians when I say: We love St Austell Beers!
Recently we've just had a big flurry of new bottle offerings from the brewery, and in my opinion, I couldn't wait to get stuck into each one of them.
There's been the Proper Black IPA, the Cornish Bock and the Trelawny Ale. These three pale in comparison to the St Austell beer I will be significantly indulging in tonight though. I am Speaking of course of the St Austell 11.5% oak aged Smugglers Grand Cru Ale!
This beer is "brewed for strength" and is aged in a Tomintoul whisky casks for 9 months. It is then subject to the "methode Champagnoise" at the Carnel Vally Vineyard in Cornwall (Cornwall has it's own Vineyard???) If my knowledge of whiskies is correct, the Tomintoul Distillery is of the Speyside nature, and in theory should impart some light and slightly sweet flavours. However, the age of the cask used is not stated, and could easily impart a nice richness towards the beer, so this should be interesting. (If you want some really geeky info about the Tomintoul Distillery, it's the highest above sea level in the Speyside region....)
The beer definitely pours like a champagne beer, the massive white bubbly head quickly disappears after a few moments, but the carbonation lives on strong. (more to come on that point)
The aromas are rather peculiar. Regular Smugglers Vintage ale (6%) comes across with lots of sweet caramel and rich toffee aromas, but this is far more boozy, a big whiff of alcohol masks any other flavours that's to be looked for in any kind of aroma. This is not a bad observation though, this is just an observation.
The consumption is a whole other kettle of Cornish fish! The hand-written numbers on the bottles for these individual beers tick many bases: Smooth, check. Rich, check. Fruity, check. Warming, check! This beer is bone dry, and very oaky. The whisky flavours are very subtle and are quite hard to identify. Hints of subtle vanilla and huge baskets of raisins fill the mouth. It's the carbonation I have a problem with though. I really don't think the 'Methode Champagnoise' has done any favours for this beer. I believe it's become far too over-carbonated, and that masks a lot of the flavours which should be punching you in the face right now. But that's just my opinion, - I'm not a massive fan of over-carbonated beers, they sit a little too gassy, and I think it masks quite a bit of flavour. Stick with the Vintage Ales, stick with sticking it in specialist whisky barrels - but leave it at that! Unless your trying to be the next Deus of course :)
I really liked this beer for one specific reason. When I got a first whiff of it, and my first taste of the brew, it reminded me of a few Vintage Ales that I've drunk whilst camping on the Yorkshire moors. It's awesome how a beer can take you back to a place that you've loved and back to an experience that you cherish. This beer was only a glimpse though. I thought it was trying to do a bit too much. Get rid of the huge carbonation, and you'd have a beer for the ages! Maybe that could just be my impatience though? Carbonation dies down with age, so I'll buy me another and age it for a good few years!
St Austell - don't stop doing what your doing! I'm sure you wont, but can I suggest that you make some Imperial Cornish Stout next,.... just for me??.... Please??