Wednesday 5 June 2013

30 beers

Sharp’s: big boys, the men that sold out, the multinational, the unmentionables; but hold on there’s also Stuart Howe, the head brewer, the man who writes a great blog, who writes about how he will put meat and offal in beer and then does it; the man who brews Doom Bar and keeps it consistent, whatever you think about it, and the man who took me to Orval several years ago (that makes me biased I presume but I wouldn’t seek the hospitality of any one brewer unless I rate the beers that he or she makes).

Come and taste 30 beers goes the invitation and how can I resist and so there I am at Sharp’s in the company of fellow beer writer Tim Hampson, both of us in return in the company of Stuart and his sidekick Carl Heron. Out in the yard there is a container full with a beer that I helped to brew back in January, Panzerfaust, a beer part of which was pumped into this container and has been left to spontaneously ferment since then. There’s an aluminium bucket on the top to keep fruit flies out but all manner of other bugs have wheedled their way in and at the moment there’s a vinous, dark malt, alcoholic nose on the beer and I hope to try it one of these days.

Our 30 beers odyssey begins with Doom Bar, forest fruits on the palate, rounded, dry and bittersweet and great with cured meats. Worthington’s Red Shield is fudge and vanilla and doomed to be forgotten. Sharp’s Own is roast and chocolate and old school, as is the plummy Special, with its brisk brush of deep fruitiness. Here comes Single Brew Reserve 2012, a brunch beer with an appetising aroma of tropical fruits that have been sunning themselves on the kitchen counter. Carl’s first WIGIG is Hecheweizen, a Belgian blond witbier with a bunch of herbs in the mix — spice and bubblegum, which suggests the beer also undertook a visit to Bavaria.

We also try some of the beers from Molson-Coors’ craft range, including Franciscan Well’s Friar Weisse, IPA, a Coffee Porter whose nose suggests ground coffee grits and a stout aged in Jameson barrels (smoked bacon/mackerel and a blood-like metallic character) — there is the feeling of by-the-numbers craft brewing; then there is Blue Moon and its associates Agave Nectar, Blackberry Tart, Rounder and Short Straw and oddly enough it’s the orangey Blue Moon, which comes out best.

Yes please. Cornish Pilsner, one of my favourite beers of the last 12 months, juicy, lubricious and luscious, or how about Chalky’s Bite, which is fluffy and Riesling (German) like (we also have a 2006 vintage that time has given a sherry/oloroso note). Now emerge some of Stuart’s 52 creations including Citrus Tripel 2010 (a big sexy aromatic beast), Chilli IPA 2010 and Heston’s Offal Ale, which has developed a Marianas Trench depth of port-like flavour in the three years it was brewed. 

Dubbel Coffee Stout is a toffee apple taking a bath in treacle with a shower of mocha; Spiced Red is jammy and strawberry like held together with a spine of bitterness, Honey Spice Tripel rings and chimes with Riesling like notes, Quadrupel is soulful and lush  and we rise a glass to the much missed Dave Wickett with DW.

We keep going. A couple of surprises gents, says Stuart, and two big bottles of Bass Celebration beers are brought to the table. 1982 is meaty, vinous and slightly smoky, but not that lovely; though 1977’s Jubilee’s Strong Ale is cognac fiery, Stilton cheesy (in a good way) and has a bitter finish that lingers like the curl of smoke from a detective’s cigarette in a 1950s pulp novel. It is rather gorgeous and demonstrates the importance of time in beer. That’s it apart from 3000, a limited edition Blue Moon strong beer that leaves no trace and Turbo Yeast Ten Zuiden van de Hemel — a distilled beery thing of 22% with dustings of doughnut sugar on the nose and a ferociously spirited sense of its own malice towards those who would drink too much of it — 12 hours on I could still taste it.

30 beers in a day, it can be done. 

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