Monday 15 November 2010

Lager of the week — Charlie, Fred & Ken’s 30th anniversary Imperial Helles Bock

Those who dislike the American penchant for ramping up beers to imperial strength can look away now. In the post courtesy of Vertical Drinks comes this Imperial Helles Bock, which has been produced by Sierra Nevada in conjunction with Fred Eckhardt and Charlie Papazian. It’s a sort of tribute to their work in advocating and writing about beer in the past three decades (there are a couple of other beers produced including a barley wine in which US craft brewing pioneer Jack McAuliffe has had a hand). It’s presented in a big 750ml bottle and is therefore ideal for sharing with your invisible friend who doesn’t like beer, so there’s more for you. Let’s take a drop. It’s the colour of Golden Syrup and has a rich, fat, bitter and alcoholic nose, all perfectly in balance as if they were figures doing their Tai-Chi in a Saturday afternoon park; I’m also put in mind of lychees if steeped in alcohol, while the petrol like nose reminds me of a Riesling. And just when I think I have got the nose to a tee along comes the scent of honeyed dates. These notes return on the palate, making me initially think of a Sauternes-like beer, a dessert beer — yet that’s too easy. It has a lazy Sunday afternoon, sitting in a hammock ease about it one moment and then a complex dissertation on the human condition with Joyce in mind next. My mind keeps working on it —a golden bock with a fistful of hops here, big blast of grapefruit there, oh and there’s a real gorgeous pungent hop character as well. It’s a luxury Helles, but it’s also pungent and dirty, robust and rollicking in its ride across the tongue; clean it is not. I like the idea of imperial Pilsners/Helles in the same way that I liked the way Joy Division ramped up the Doors. Why not fuss about with a beer, what works works, what doesn’t doesn’t (Doug Odell told me in an email the other day about the Wild Pils he tried to make — it didn’t work). So is it a style? Of course not, it’s a variation on a theme, a riff on a note, a symphonic dance and if you want to be basic, a pretty fine beer. 

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