They Brew it, I sell it, You Drink it... and so do I..

Wednesday 31 October 2012

Special Reserve Evaluations

A Master Class of taste and complexity...

Buxton Brewery have just released a Special Reserve series of beers and it can only be described as a ludicrously small amount. The third in the series, Bomba, was limited to only 30 bottles, so it's no surprise I didn't mange to get my hands on a bottle! (a lucky few got to try some of this Bretty Imperial Stout at the latest Borefts Beer Festival from a small barrel.)

I'll finish with the first in the series, and start with the second: A Imperial Smoked Rye Porter.

I had plans on making a Imperial Rye Stout and calling it Gone-A-Rye but when someone mentioned that if you say that fast it sounds like another word I decided against it... I like Buxton's name much better anyway;

Smokey and the Band-Aid
I was told I should drink this sooner rather than later as the smokiness was falling away slightly. On first nosings, it seems that this couldn't be further from the case and smells almost as powerful as Schlenkerla Marzen! If this is smokiness dying away, I can only imagine what it was like fresh! Delicious aromas of smoked oak and peat fill your nose. Subtle hints of spicy rye and a little caramel are there too. A little fruit, some apple and plum skins - overall a beer I've smelled too much and really need to get stuck into...

Wow. This is a perfect flavour mix combination. Drinking no where near it's 7%abv, the bottle states they "scoured" the Earth for the malts in this beer... it should have said 'scorched' the Earth! Intense and complex burnt woody flavours with some ash are mixed with an almost vinous quality. It's pretty much a blend (in my eyes) of Ardbeg Uigeadail, a dash of Port, Schlenkerla and all the flavours of a strong Buxton Porter. And that is definitely something I can get behind!

The second S.R. is the first S.R., and quite a different beast indeed.

Barrel Aged Tsar 9.5%
Limited to only 112 bottles it's another one from a very small batch. While this beer may have sat in Bourbon barrels for six months, Buxton's head brewer is not a fan of overpowering flavours by barrel aging, so barrel aged Tsar is blended with regular Tsar before bottling - which I think is a great idea. Aromas come by the dozen! Huge vanilla and sweet honeycomb, a little sherry and fiery oak soaked in Bourbon. More fruit here as well - plums, raisins and apricots which smell like they've been coated in caramelized toffee.

In my last post I wrote about my dislike of the use of Bourbon barrels for aging beer, bar a few specific cases. Seems I've been proven wrong once again... But I've been proved wrong because this beer seems like it's been made by a brewer who actually knows what he's doing with barrels... Perfect body (not flat), great length, and the Bourbon is no where near overpowering. Toffee biscuits, chocolate and molasses, spicy malts and even a touch of dry, hoppy bitterness if you look for it. This beer does drink to it's strength and it's obvious after a couple of mouthfuls... not that I'm complaining on this cold hallows eve!

Two fantastic beers from Buxton brewery. Who would have thought it would be possible to improve on the already totes craft amazeballz Buxton Tsar? ;)

Asked for me.. I'm gonna check ebay for the third edition...

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Relic, Legend, Folly, New vs Old, England vs America

Me and Jeff (@juffage) had another one of our little bottle shares tonight. Jeff, being an American, always has a good supply of bottles from the US that I'm always interested to try. I always have a good supply of aging beers that Jeff's always interested to try. It only makes sense that we get together every now and again to drink some of these beers together, bringing beers from both sides of the pond to join in epic beer geekery.

Jeff brought out the big guns from the states in the form of a Dark Intrigue - a 75cl bottle of Bourbon Barrel aged Imperial Stout (Storm King) from Victory Brewing. As Jeff had never tried these two; I brought a Thomas Hardy's Ale from 2006 and a Harvey's Imperial Extra Double Stout from 2003.

The Thomas Hardy's may have been the strongest of the three (11.7%) but it was the lightest in colour so we decided that should be first. At the moment, TH is not being produced, and Jeff had heard quite a lot of hype about the beer so I thought it was time he saw what all the fuss was about.

Appearance: Thick caramels, Brandy like in observation.
Nose: Huge on the honeycomb, almost like mead. Plenty of booze. Burnt caramels and treacle with lots of apple and orange fruitiness.
Taste: Tonnes of toffee. A small hint of aniseed and plenty of meaty flavour (that word umani or umnie or whatever...) Possible raspberry flavour is mixed with candy sugars and loads of burnt brown sugar sweetness, which is a little cloying. Some whisky and Brandy flavour is there to remind you of the power of this beer.

"It was the most beautiful colour that the eye of an artist in beer could desire; full in body, yet brisk as a volcano; piquant, yet without a twang; luminous as an autumn sunset."

 - you don't see descriptions on beer labels like that these days.... and I especially like the part where it states you should leave the bottle standing "for 48 hours to allow settling" before serving if disturbed.

Next up was the monster from Harveys. A 9% beast with a legendary status amongst beer geeks and CAMRA award givers alike. This was the last corked bottle I have, they're produced with crown caps now, so this last, 2003 vintage, was quite a special deal.

Appearance: Liquid coal, like looking at a block of solid jet.
Nose: Scorched leather, crispy burnt beef, soy sauce and smoked tires.
Taste: On first evaluation it's probably a little oxidized, but it's really not putting us off. The body seems to be thick and chewy but light at the same time. It's like drinking a blend of beef jerky that's been soaked in soy sauce - just incredible! There is a bit of sweetness about it, but it's a very Port-esk beer.

This beer is nothing short of legendary, historic, epic and epically strange. I must insist that anyone who hasn't tried this beer; find it.

Jeff's contribution to the swap was this bottle of the dark stuff from Victory. When he asked me what I'd like to try, I didn't hesitate when I saw this one in the list - Regular Storm King Imperial Stout is a fantastic beer, aging it in Bourbon casks just seems like such a good idea. This 9.1% American powerhouse has quite a bit in common with Harvey's Imperial Stout: I've never tasted a IS like Harvey's before, and I've never tried an IS like Dark Intrigue before.

Appearance: It pours with an interesting looking layered head.
Nose: Smells like a vanilla ice cream and cola float, with s'mores blended in, topped with coconut.
Taste: "candy medicine" was Jeff's first observation. It's a lot like a watered down Bourbon which masks pretty much everything else. Some sickly sweet oaky resin, it's a weird beer indeed. I'm pretty confident this is how the beer is meant to be, and unfortunately it's just a bit of a mess. It's a real shame, as Jeff and I were very exited about this beer, and it took some effort and time to get it here. Unfortunately it just didn't hit the spot..

It's 2 - 0 to Britain I'm afraid...

I said this sounded like a good idea, and it does... Bourbon Barrel Aged Storm King sounds great, but like many things that sound great - sometimes they don't end up how you expected them to. I've had quite a few Bourbon aged beers over the last couple of years, and I've been disapointed more times than I've been impressed - and don't even get me started on rum aged beers! In my opinion, if you're going for barrel aging; stick with the Whisky casks, specifically: Highland casks.

Sometimes New is not better...

Monday 8 October 2012

Here There Be Dragons!

A couple of days ago, a few of us home brewers took a trip to visit the Copper Dragon brewery in Skipton for a nice little tour, a couple of drinks, and some prize giving for our home brew competition. I got there a little late but still had a great time being showed around the plant by brewer Rob. There was not as big a turn out that I'd hoped there would be, but I guess some might have been a bit beer-ed-out the day after the IndyMan beer festival had closed... Oh well.. their loss..

The brewery itself is an impressive beast. At only a few years old it's still a very shiny beast too! They have a 90 barrel brew length kit (can it still be called a 'kit' at that size?!?) which is just about 7500 litres - that's a lot of beer!

It was interesting to see how the brewery is operated. The control panel above (Captain Rob's Helm) is pretty much where all the magic happens. Hard to believe you can brew 90 barrels of beer without having to move too far from a A4 sized screen. With no one having to shovel out mash tuns as well it all sounds rather civilized and relaxed!

It's very clear if you get to talk to Rob that he's a very passionate man when it comes to beer. He has some big plans for future brews, and I for one can't wait to try his specials as they come out. Be on the look out for a winter special and possible CDPorter. At the moment they have 4 large fermenters (5000 litres each) and 8 smaller ones... this is soon to change to 12 large fermenters so production is certainly set to increase.

I think some people tend to forget sometimes that the slightly bigger breweries can, and do, still make fantastic beer. They're not really the bad guys here. Not the boogy man, or the monstrous faceless co-operations. If you get a pint of Golden Pippin served correctly, it's a thing of beauty, and in my opinion, encapsulates a fantastic example of a 'Proper Yorkshire' pint.

Copper Dragon has a heart and a soul, and on a cold autumn night in Skipton it was showed to us that it is warm with a fiery passion for making great and consistently great beer. It's not a gamble when you buy a pint of Copper Dragon. Unless it's the end of the barrel you know what you're going to get - plain old good beer - that's something that should be praised.

Here's to beer.

Tuesday 2 October 2012

East vs West Coast IPA; A Call For Examples

In my latest IPA post, there was quite a call for West coast and East coast IPAs from America to have their own style categories. I can sort of see why. I can see a big difference between English and Scottish Ales and they're only a few hundred miles apart. I guess it makes sense for Ales that are a few thousand miles apart to be a little different... Point taken.

I've had my fair share of American IPAs, too many to remember to be honest, but I've never actually done a side by side (knowingly anyway) of a West and an East coast IPA together. I'm going to be gathering together a selection of each to pair off against each other, but that's where I need a little help. Whilst I've had plenty of US IPAs I don't know what characterises each side of the pond, and that's something I'm going to try find out.

Those who know me will probably know that Geography is one of, if not, my worst subjects. (or is it spelling and grammer...) Sure I can bore you with useless trivia about earthquakes and volcanoes, but when it comes to actual places, I'd have a hard time telling you where Manchester is in relation to Leeds... With this in mind if I was told where a beer was from in the US I'd probably (80% of the time) not really know which side it was from. Sure I know which side classics like Goose Island IPA and Brooklyn IPA come from, but if asked about others I usually have to look it up.

So I'm asking the beer blogoverse for more classic examples from both the West and the East coasts of the US and any that you think would work well against each other in displaying what's best about each side.

Answers in the box below please :)