Wild wild life

‘You are sad,’ the Knight said in an anxious tone: ‘let me sing you a song to comfort you.’

‘Is it very long?’ Alice asked, for she had heard a good deal of poetry that day.

‘It’s long,’ said the Knight, ‘but it’s very, very beautiful. Everybody that hears me sing it — either it brings the tears into their eyes, or else –‘

‘Or else what?’ said Alice, for the Knight had made a sudden pause.

‘Or else it doesn’t, you know.’

Went out for a pint the other day. Cost me a tenner. Tell a lie, I had a pint and a half. Keg stuff. Twelve quid all in. Wasn’t too bad, though, there was a bag of crisps in there as well. And the beer was…

Well, the beer was… The thing about the beer is, it was…

The thing about the beer is, it was almost worth it. Possibly. Unless it wasn’t.

I’d better start again, and this time put in some information. The Font in Chorlton recently had a Meet the Brewer event with Wild. I didn’t go, but I was intrigued by some of the beers that they left behind when they went – notably a trio of stupidly high-strength and ridiculously high-priced beers on the keg fonts, Modus Wine, Raconteur and Wildebeest. Modus Wine was the weakest and cheapest of the three – and I’m using those words strictly in a comparative sense, as it was 8.3% and £7.80 a pint.

Anyway, a couple of weekends ago I headed down there to check them out. Fortunately Font serve beer in thirds, which made it realistic for both my liver and my wallet to try all three; I even hung around for a half of the same brewery’s Fresh, which was as zingy and herbal a pale ale as I’ve ever had on keg, at the almost reasonable price of a fiver a pint.

As for the main event, Modus Wine – which I guess is a version of Modus Operandi, an old ale aged with wild yeast, only aged in wine casks – was distinctively winey; very distinctively winey. Sweet, too, and fruity, but with that winey quality cutting through. If you imagine a fruit punch that’s had about six bottles of Madeira poured into it, it was a lot like that. An interesting and memorable flavour; my only reservation was that it wasn’t much like beer. Raconteur (9.9%), secondly, is a barley wine aged in marc de bourgogne casks. It was less sweet and fruity than the Modus, with more of a malty old ale character, but here again the wine casks were doing a lot of the work; that ‘Madeira’ flavour kept cutting through. As for Wildebeest (11%), Wild’s “imperial espresso chocolate vanilla stout”, this was probably the least distinctive of all; it didn’t really drink its strength, and tasted a lot like Young’s Double Chocolate stout, only sweeter.

It was also absolutely divine – a beautiful beer. At least, I think it was. I’m not saying that because my memories are unclear, but because that was the experience of drinking it – as the glass went down, I went from “is that all there is? and why is it so sweet?” to “my God, this is superb!”, and back again. Similarly with the wine-cask beers – I genuinely couldn’t decide whether they were works of sublime (if warped) brewing genius or just examples of how to combine some big, brash flavours with a lot of alcohol. Either they were some of the best beers I’ve ever tasted or else… or else they weren’t, you know.

I will say this, though – for several days afterwards I found I was drinking some terribly uninspired, pedestrian beers. Yeah, yeah – so it’s a strong IPA with American hops. So what? Where’s the Madeira?

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2 Comments

  1. Posted 25 March, 2014 at 5:13 pm | Permalink | Reply

    So presumably if you don’t like Madeira you are in deep trouble?

    • Phil
      Posted 25 March, 2014 at 6:19 pm | Permalink | Reply

      There is that.

      The thing about those beers was that they had the kind of rich, enveloping quality which you usually associate with really good beers – really good strong beers, specifically; I think the abv needs to be relatively high to bring it off. The actual flavours weren’t great – they were somewhere on the scale from OK to pretty good – but they were all turned up to eleven; and then there was this big, smooth, sinking-into-a-big-armchair quality, which made me feel as if I was drinking something really special.

      I’m getting less impressed with these beers (in retrospect) as time goes on, but drinking them was a fairly intense and memorable experience, and it did make the next few beers I drank look a bit tame. I think there’s a place for this kind of full-on experimentation – albeit not necessarily a £9/pint place.

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