Thursday, 30 June 2011

Thornbridge — variety is the Weiss of life

I first drank Weiss in a bar in Eindhoven in 1986. My mate was working out there then and it was his stag night (cor that was a night and a half) — I also drank Duvel for the first time and the hangover was a ferocious beast locked in a large cage aiming to get out and have a go at the first human it saw. At the time, my mate was putting a slice of lemon on the side of his glass, which I briefly followed as it seemed like the height of beer sophistication (hold on a moment is this sort of gimcrack gimmickery suggested for Blue Moon?). I don’t know which Weiss it was, but I enjoyed it, enjoyed the creamy, banana-like fullness and thus a love affair began. Later on in the 1980s I bought a selection of Weiss on offer in the Independent in conjunction with Michael Jackson’s beer column (to this day still the best ever regular beer reading in the printed press — that would be the first thing I turned to when Saturday came). I drunk Weiss throughout the 1990s and was shown the trick of turning a bottle upside down into your glass without it overflowing by a Peruvian barman in Aachen. I remember about 10 years ago when British breweries were making wheat beers, rather than Weiss, though Pilgrim did a pretty good approximation of one; can’t remember the name though (Springbok perhaps?). I even judged at a wheat beer festival in the White Horse sometime in the early noughties. This incredibly long preamble is not merely about stating how much I like Weiss, but as a way of getting to Thornbridge’s Versa Weisse, a couple of bottles of which appeared in the post this morning as if by magic (thanks guys). If you want to read more about the technical side of things (the yeast is Weihenstephaner WLP 300), then go here, but I’m pretty impressed with what Thornbridge have done — they’ve kept to a low IBU, so no big hoppiness, no passion fruit or lychees or grapefruit, just bananas and bugglegum. It pours golden caramel in colour, has banana, vanilla, bubblegum and some clove on the nose, though not as clove-like as sticking your nose in a jar of cloves. There’s a crisp carbonation in the mouthfeel and it’s superbly appetising (I suggest juicy Old Spot pork sausages); there’s a refreshing bite on the palate, more of that banana custard, a hint of clove-like phenols, some lemon — it’s 5% so you don’t get too much of the alcoholic fatness you might get from 5.5% or thereabouts, yet it’s impeccably refreshing (a cool linen suit in the hot sun), and the dryness in the finish with the reappearance of banana custard makes for a pretty impressive stab at a Bavarian Weiss. Give me this over the thin gruel of Erdinger any day. 

Oh and I got it in bottle but I think it is going out in keg as well and launched tonight at the Sheffield Tap. I think I would go if I was in the vicinity.

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