Friday 30 April 2010

A Special Beer Night

Another beer night. This one reserved for those special bottles we’d been meaning to drink for so long but just never got around to it, shared with Mark from Real Ale Reviews and Pete Brissenden.

A Pliny the Elder to start. This was pretty much the reason Mark decided to come down from Leeds as I’d promised that I’d bring a bottle back from San Francisco for him. It’s a great beer, pithy, piney, dry and bitter.

Alaskan Smoked Porter 2009, another bottle I brought back from California, poured an opaque darker-than-burnt-out-wood back. Smoke comes straight out, followed by fire and chocolate. First the mouthfeel grabs you, silky and smooth, then the smoke whisps in at the end, bonfire, earthy, fiery but still with chocolate underneath. A great beer, exploding with flavour for 6.5%, and not overpoweringly smoky.

Petite Orval next, the beer kept for the monks at the brewery and only available there - a weaker version of the normal Orval. It smells like rhubarb and lemon, delicious. It’s smooth and dry, lemony and peppery, incredibly drinkable and just like a smaller version of Orval without so much of that familiar dry bitterness. I wish this was commercially available – it’s fantastic.

Russian River Supplication followed with its awesome aroma of glace cherries, lemons and wood. It’s smooth, clean, sour, peppery, full-flavoured. Great beer.

Then for a Fuller’s Vintage 1999. It’s packed with serious dried fruit, syrupy, Madeira, port-like in its age. The body is so full and smooth, there’s a huge marmalade and spicy malt flavour that’s so familiar to the Fuller’s beers, then more Madeira comes through, treacle and caramel and a peppery, intense finish. Wow – the last 10 years have been good to this beer.

Cantillon Saint Lamvinus, bottled about 6 months ago, aged with merlot grapes in a Bordeaux barrel. It’s cherry red with no head, funky and peppery but not massively sour, it’s easy drinking, woody, tannic and dry at the end and seriously tasty. A Cantillon Iris followed which is cold-hopped and has a shockingly good aroma of fruity, peachy and citrusy hops, but those hops clash wildly with the beer, going off like a nuclear reactor on the tongue, smacking bitter and sour simultaneously and it was all too much for me.

An Old Chimneys Good King Henry Special Reserve 2007 brought us back on track and what a beer this is. Rate Beer has this as the highest rated British beer (the Fuller's '99 is the second highest rated on there) and I can understand why. The aroma is coconut, oak, vanilla and chocolate; it’s thick and intense but still remains light and drinkable, there’s roasted berries in there, lots of chocolate, oak and hints of umami which adds a lot of complexity.

Then an Orval side-by-side, one from July 2008 and the other from December 2009. The old one was cheesy, funky and just generally bigger; the new was fresher, more floral. The old tasted leathery, dusty and dry with an underlying candy sugar sweetness; the new had funk and lemons, a fruity sweetness and more pepper. Very interesting to have them together to see the difference of age and both still tasted great. I had a year-old bottle recently which stopped perfectly in the middle of these two and that seems just about right for me.

Next a De Molen’s Lood & Oud Ijzer, a black and tan blend of Amarillo and Rasputin (both oak-barrel aged) made especially for the Pig’s Ear beer festival last year. We had bottle 103/120 – that’s small run stuff. It has the most amazing aroma and like a Proustian time machine I’m back in Hackney, at the bar, drinking with mates, the day after the BGBW Awards Dinner. It’s grassy, peachy, fruity and then comes chocolate, cocoa and some mint. There’s so much Amarillo in there, then dark fruit, then chocolate. It’s so smooth and still tastes wonderfully fresh.

A Drie Fonteinen Geuze was deliciously dry, crisp and sour. It's an awesome beer, probably my go-to geuze.

Then finally a BrewDog/Mikkeller Devine Rebel 2010, bumped up to 13.8%, possibly with a change of hops as I couldn’t taste or smell the usually pungent Nelson Sauvins. The beer is big and boozy, honeyed, very bitter, nose clearing, orangey and just a bit disjointed – it was just too strong for me. Time for bed after this one.

Not a bad beer night, although I had a vicious hangover the next day, one that left me running for the bathroom in fear of being sick while I was frying some bacon! Thankfully it was all made right with a pint of Marble Pint and a fish finger sandwich in the sun at The Bull, which Mark has written about here. It’s good to clear some of the better bottles from the stash every now and then.

We didn’t score the bottles this time, like we usually do for Beer nights. If I had to list my Top 3 it’d be Good King Henry, Petite Orval and De Molen’s Lood & Oud Ijzer. What isn’t mentioned is that the fridge still had a bottle of Pannepot Reserva 2007 and a BrewDog Tokyo*, while a Marble Raspberry Decadence was loitering just in case. 


  1. Holy cow that sounds awsome. Can I go to your next special beer night :-)??

  2. That's what I love to see - good beer getting drunk, not left in cupboards going manky.

    And nothing beats a pint of Cantillon Iris. Nothing.

  3. I second Scooper, Iris is godlike, I have a bottle sitting in the cellar, at least a year and a half old, it gets better and better. Didn’t care for Petite Orval though.

  4. Rob, sure thing, come on down!!

    Scoop, ATJ, our bottle was really young so maybe that makes a difference? The hops were just a bit mental and tongue-stabbing but I can imagine as they mellow and the sourness evolves it could be good...

  5. Buy a mixed case of Cantillon, seal it up, shove it in a dry dark corner and forget about it. In a year or so's time, you'll have one hell of a weekend when you rediscover that case.

  6. Just curious - what does "cold hopped" mean? (dry-hopped & cold-conditioned at the same time?)

  7. I think I recognise the handwriting on that bottle of Orval - did it come from North Bar?

  8. Next time Im in Kent Mark I will let you know and bring some big guns from my own reserved stash.