Tuesday 3 February 2015

The Beer Vault of Bristol

Can I send you some beer? Yeah, sure, I reply. Get this sort of communication quite often; part of the job, used to get free vinyl and CDs back in the music writing days, and then tickets for gigs, especially if I was going to review them. Part of the job. So can I send you some beer? Yeah sure I reply to an email from Bristol-based beer writer Lee Williams, whom I met last year behind the counter at the Small Bar, on a rainy bank holiday. Eight beers turn up with a carrier, part of the new beer box venture, the Beer Vault, which is managed by Williams. Another beer box scheme, but this one intrigues. I’ve got eight beers in my ‘Lock Box’, from the likes of Weird Beard, Kernel, Partizan, Buxton, you know beers of the ilk that doth not speak its name (unless of course they’re a chin-stroking peach pumpkin masala butyric kind of beer dreamed up by glad men and women, but I digress).

My beers are a happy family of beers, bright and bold, bubbling over with character and flavour, not the sort of beers I can get out here on Dulverton. Hold on a minute though, there are two other categories in the Beer Vault, the ‘Vault Reserve’, where three rare beers are offered every month, while finally there’s the Cellar Builder, which offers special collaboration beers and one-offs. This is a beer box for the collector, the cellar-owning connoisseur, perhaps.

So I’m tempted to open a beer and in need of a mid-afternoon sweetness, but not the sort of sweetness that clambers all over a beer with the persistence of a honeysuckle; I’m in need of a discrete sweetness, a sweetness that is only kidding in its threat to take one’s teeth by storm and make them jangle like a fist of keys on a railing; a sweetness that you only notice when the beer is gone and the glass is empty. So it’s a milk coffee stout that I turn to for sustenance, a beer that has the name of Black Perle and is made by Weird Beard, whose beers I have always enjoyed. I enjoy this little number with an intimate ease, an appeasing of the palate, a free and easy, creamy, coffee-entwined sweet stout that is bold and brassy for such a low alcoholic intake (3.7%). Beers of this weakness and at home in the bottle are not usually what I fall for, but as I sip my way down the glass there’s an element of fun as the smoothness of the beer jiggles against the brace of coffee and I even find some black pepper in the background. This is a rather fun glass of beer. I like it a lot; this is the kind of beer in which time spent in its company in a vault would be a very snug and secure time.

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