Jubilee beers, Jubilee beers, of which I have had several sent to me; one of which is Harvey’s Elizabethan Ale, 7.5% in the bottle, barley wine, wine of the barley. Debutante beer in 1952 and Harvey’s for this bottle have gone back to the recipe books to recreate it as it was (with black malt, flaked barley, plus Goldings and Fuggles, some of which come from growers who supplied hops for the original brew — so it’s slightly different from the regular 8.1%). It hangs limpid in the glass, glassy eyed, a calm surface, the mirror of the nostalgic view that invisible posters on certain newspaper posting boards have for the 1950s (forgetting nuclear scares, wars throughout the world and race riots) in the same way other newspaper posters have a nostalgic view of the 1960s. Deep molasses influence on the nose, while on the palate it’s plummy, woody, port-like, boozy and warming, bitter almonds, baked apple topped with brown sugar (oh the freedom that the end of sugar rationing brought only to end in the addiction we have for it now), more molasses. It’s a ripe and roisterous barley wine whose prodding bitter notes in the finish (and then there is the spice of white pepper) are an urge to the drinker not to forget to have another swig. Yummy, as I understand was the colloquial expression of delight of those days.
And then I was sent a bottle of Windsor & Eton’s Kohinoor, named after a massive diamond in the Coronation Crown (I have also had Treetops, of which I have yet to taste). The brewery says it is a ‘classic Indies Pale Ale’ that also uses jaggery sugar, jasmine, cardamon and coriander as well as New World hops — I don’t think, unlike Harvey’s beer, that this was a typical brew in those days. Dark gold in colour, it’s got a sweaty, ripe peach skin nose (I’m thinking peaches in a bowl on a sunny kitchen table for a couple of days). After this initial swipe of ripeness the nose calms down a bit and develops a Epsom bath salts kind of freshness that I have always found appetising (Sierra Nevada Pale Ale sometimes has this). A bit of green apple stuck in your aunt’s Jubilee hat makes a slight appearance as well, and even a hint of spearmint gum from a fresh wrapper left in the sun plus — a bit late in the day — a cut grass sweetness can be noted. The path of palate enlightenment is peppery (white) and minty (spearmint) and fruity (pineapple) and dry and bitter, all working together with the preciseness of an engine in the latest Audi. It’s an angular beer, pretty intriguing, with all those various spices and hops. The dry, chalky finish reverberates with the equal precision of a metronome keeping time. And time and the passing of is what these beers are about.