Saturday 14 March 2009

Mature beer

Last night I had the pleasure of Jeff Pickthall's company. He brought some rather nice samples from his secret stash of aged beers. We sat in my bar, drank beer that was 2 years or more past it's best before date and behaved like the two beer nerds that we are. We of course also mulled over various issues that surround beer including the tie, cask breathers, fizzy beer, class and beer, the price of beer and even sparklers.

Despite all of that we managed to completely avoid physical violence, even when we talked about sparklers. This is even more strange when you consider we were drinking beers with strengths like 5.5% and more. We all know that strong beers are responsible for alcohol fuelled disorder. Don't we?

Perhaps we didn't fight over these things because Jeff has been in the trade, and like so many others in the trade our disagreements on these matters are small. This seems to be in contrast to those who don't rely on licenced retail of alcohol to earn a living. Perhaps the difference between the likes of us and others in the trade is that Jeff and I don't know when to keep our mouths shut.

Yesterday evening I got a lesson in beer tasting. I know what I like, which is a large range of beer. I also know what I think is bland and unexciting. I have been frustrated by being unable to describe as eloquently as others the flavours I am getting. Last night helped towards filling in that gap.

The beers, for anyone interested, were:

Anchor Brewing Co
Our Special 5.5% 2004

Immediate nose of Christmas pudding
Cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves all there and well balanced
Underlying flavours of port wine and burnt currants

Alaskan Brewing Co
Smoked Porter 6.0% 2003
Best Before Jan 06

Nose of single malt, Islay maybe
Flavours of plums
Slight oxidisation - damp cardboard. This was the first time I positively identified oxidisation.
However for me the oxidisation was inconsequential compared to the lovely full flavour. I might have to find more of this one.

Sierra Nevada
Celebration Ale 6.8%
Best Before Sept 06

Barley Sugar, citrus orange pith, marmalade - surprisingly un-bitter for a west coast USA beer. Jeff suggests that's the aging process.
We did the tasting to this point in order of strength, I personally would have put this first.

Gueuze 5% - no date found

Cider, vinegar and lemon flavours.
One of the more tart geuezes that I have tasted.

Finally, with pallets fairly shot, we compared a 12 month Orval with a 6 month old. The year old had nearly no aroma and frankly was poor. The 6 month old was much better. I strongly suspect this is due to batch problems rather than aging as both bottles had best before dates right into 2013.

Of course this morning I felt just a touch rough. It was pleasing to know that Jeff's head was also feeling the effects. We did have several pints of regular ale as well.


Brewers Union Local 180 said...

Sadly, your lineup is missing that last cask of Tanninbomb, which went through quality control this evening prior to serving to the huddled masses.

Wish I could've been there with a few choice bottles.

Unknown said...

Ah Tanninbomb, I suspect that this one would age very well indeed. Could you perhaps put some in bottles straight from the cask before too much air gets to it?

Brewers Union Local 180 said...


Unknown said...


Brewers Union Local 180 said...

Awwwww... That's the same face you used to make when you wanted me to make you some real coffee.

Alright. I'll draw off a couple bottles. We'll be old men by the time you get to drink it, unless the pub suddenly becomes flush with cash.

Unknown said...


Don't worry, once the mountain biking season starts you'll need a wheelbarrow to take the cash to the Credit Union.