Monthly Archives: April 2011

No Roses

I don’t work Fridays, so I didn’t really notice the Bank Holiday. (Bargain Hunt wasn’t on, though, which was annoying.) I didn’t think today was a particularly special day – it’s not a particularly auspicious day for a wedding, and it’s certainly not a day for drinking good beer – so, apart from a bracing bottle of Bengal Lancer after working in the garden this afternoon, I didn’t open anything today.

Last Sunday was another matter, though. About two weeks ago my wife was offered some chocolate in a meeting at work and had to decline – “Actually we’ve given it up for Lent.” There was a bit of a silence and the conversation turned to other things; people were clearly wary of upsetting the scary religious person, or perhaps just wary of having a scary religious person on their hands. Actually we’re not religious at all; until this year I’m not sure I’d ever given anything up for Lent. But my daughter decided she was going to give up chocolate, and I thought we ought to give her moral support by joining in – rather than, say, deliberately eating chocolate in front of her and gloating (which was her brother’s preferred option).

I didn’t totally observe the chocolate fast (free samples don’t count, do they?), but I have to say that it was nice when it was over. And it seemed like a particularly good day to open my 750 ml bottle of Marble Chocolate Dubbel, which had been waiting for a day when I could (a) commit to drinking a 750 ml bottle of an 8.7% beer and (b) have some kind of justification for this extravagance.

What was it like? It wasn’t like the Marble chocolate stout, or Robinson’s Chocolate Tom for that matter. When the Manchester Twissup hit the Marble brewery, James Campbell told us (among other things) that ‘Chocolate Dubbel’ is a complete misnomer – a bit like that cider that Leslie Nielsen used to advertise, it’s not a dubbel and there’s no chocolate in it. I have to say my impressions of the beer bore that out – if the label on the bottle had said Liquorice Porter it would have been just as good a guide to the beer. It poured dark, but not black, with a tight woolly head on the first glass out of the bottle; the head on the last glass, poured several hours later, was looser but still half an inch thick. The immediate flavour attack was fairly malty, but sour more than sweet, and with a distinct smoky hop aroma to top it off: essentially a dark bitter with attitude. The cocoa flavour, with a slight sweetness, appeared in the aftertaste; the hoppy bitterness lingered as well, combining with the sweetness to give that suggestion of liquorice. In terms of mouthfeel it’s quite a big beer, but surprisingly drinkable – much more so than you’d expect it to be at that strength. It’s a cold-weather beer more than a thirst-quencher, but it doesn’t have the slight thickness of texture you often get in dark beers at 5-6%, let alone 8.7%. It doesn’t drink its strength, either; on a blind tasting I’d have estimated it at around 5% (I think the hops smuggle the alcohol in).

On balance I’m glad I got this bottle when I could and that I opened it when I did, but I don’t think I’d get it again – not in that size of bottle, at any rate. Sad geek that I am, I’ve still got a 2008 Decadence bottle (empty); that was 330 ml, both drinkable and affordable. Small strong specials, they’re for me. Now I’ve just got to find a special occasion (or four) for my remaining Marbles. There’s always Sunday

O Dalek, I love you

On the 1st December 2010, Antony Hayes (who seems like a sound bloke) left the following comment on my rather excessively contentious post Down with Craft Beer!:

The term “craft” conjures up images of my granny’s crochet club.

Big breweries can make great beer – Castle Milk Stout for one.
Real ale is often oxidised.

Using “real ale” or “craft beer” to mean “good beer” is sloppy.

Judge the beer in the glass – not how it got there.

On the 22nd April 2011, this follow-up comment appeared:

yea i agree with you antony, it should be how it tastes not how it was made the end result is what count.

I didn’t think much about this rather vacuous comment, until I noticed the name of the commenter: a certain “electric kettle”, whose user ID links to an electric kettle review site. It’s spam, in other words – spam that’s not only good enough to get through WordPress’s filters but good enough to fool a human, viz. me.

On the 19th of April 2011, Skynet became self-aware; it launched its attack on the human race two days later.

Just saying.

(Happy Easter, btw, and apologies for the long silence. Normal posting will be resumed as soon as possible.)

So near my nose

Q: Can you have too much of a good thing?
A: Well, I’m Spooned out. I had three this evening, three last night and three on Tuesday. Thirds, that is, in the current beer festival at the local JDW’s. (Plus another four and a half pints over the same period.) This isn’t a huge intake, but it is on the high side for me in a normal week – in particular, it’s unusual for me not to have a couple of dry nights in a week. More to the point, the novelty of those taster glasses has well and truly worn off, I’m finding it hard to remember what anything tasted like compared to anything else, and I’m feeling the need of a break from the Spoons – not the most relaxing place to drink at the best of times.

I missed the Ballast Point, which sounded like quite a beer – it was on when I stuck my nose in this afternoon but off by the time I got there this evening. Several beers didn’t really stand out, and some of those that did didn’t appeal – I found Hyde’s Plum Treat far too fruity and Oakham Taipan almost undrinkably piney. But there was some great stuff along the way. For example:

Bateman’s All Seasons: as Tandleman says, very much like any other Bateman’s bitter; I also agree with Tandleman that this is no bad thing.

Brains Milkwood: yes indeed. This is my kind of beer – a big darkish malty bitter in the South Walian style.

Conwy St David’s ale: not in the programme but labelled as a festival ale on the bar nevertheless. A whacking great malt-bomb (in the North Walian style), but with hop aroma in full effect. Big, rich, deep flavour. Never mind the thirds, I went straight for a pint, and I was glad I did. The best thing I’ve had from Conwy, against some strong competition.

Daleside White Bier: a big surprise, and a pleasant one. It actually is a witbier, or a very good imitation of one.

Freeminer Deep Shaft: #50 in the programme (ordered by strength), which consequently kept the best till last. A stunningly great 6.2% stout: big, thick, heavy, roasty and strong. Like being hit by a velvet steamroller.

Holden’s April Shower: I don’t remember anything about this, but I’m listing it here because I know I enjoyed it enough to order it twice.

Lodewijk’s Dutch Delight: a malty best bitter with some unexpected aromatic overtones – almost herby. Didn’t quite live up to the advance publicity, but interesting stuff.

Mauldon’s Blackberry Porter: I have a love-hate relationship with fruit-flavoured beers; love ’em when they’re balanced, hate ’em when all you can taste is the fruit. This was a ‘love’ – a porter with blackberry notes, as unlikely as that sounds.

Rooster’s Angry Yank IPA: a nice, light, easy-drinking beer in the APA style, rather like Holts IPA but less full-on. Not what I was expecting at all.

Titanic Tug Light: a very light mild (the colour of a pale bitter), but recognisably a mild: malty, sweetish, easy-drinking.

I’m up to 29 of the 50 festival ales – or 30 out of 51 counting the Conwy; and in that 30 there have been eight memorable discoveries and two solid classics. That’ll do me.