Pale and pure Helles gold in colour, New Zealand hops leap out of the glass with the grace of a gazelle filled with the joy of life unaware that the same skill will be called on to escape a lion the next day; a joyful crushing of white grapes in the hand, the imagined fragrance of the scented, sage-like brush of the Corsican marquis. Hey it’s 7% but in the mouth the feel is elegant, full without being coarse (a greatcoat as designed by Paul Smith perhaps), grape must sweetness, gooseberry jelly delicacy with a nod towards sourness and earthiness, grapefruit, adult parma violets even, all trifled with by the hard-backed dryness of the desert, white pepper bitterness, both contributing to a finish that thunders at the back of the throat, the echoes of the hooves of herd of wild horses long after they’ve passed. I was sent this from Dark Star’s brewmeister Mark Tranter, who was very proud of what he did with Simon at BBF. The use of the white wine casks in which the beer has aged is a bit of a change from the usual whisky/rum/brandy cask finish and it does give the beer a lighter touch than its abv would suggest. Its beers like this that remind me of unorthodox bands I would hear on John Peel late at night, fusing this and that and making sense of the mix. If there’s ever a moment when I feel a bit bored with what’s going on in beer then something like Southern Conspiracy beats me up and throws me on the floor and suggests I go outside to carry on the discussion, a suggestion I willingly comply with.