The text arrived along the lines of: 'Are you going to be in tonight? If so, I’ve got a beer for you.' Two hours later Pete turned up with an unlabelled bottle and handed it over as if giving you a photo of his new born child. He will later admit that he thinks this is the best beer he’s brewed so far.
Aged in a Jack Daniel's barrel, Lovibonds Dark Reserve No.2 is an 8% (ish) dark ale. The aroma gets you first, a heady mixes of chocolate, oak, vanilla, cola and coconut and this transfers through to the flavour with a surprising roast bitterness adding a big backbone to handle to barrel. There’s a flicker of sweetness with some caramel, then it’s bourbon, roasted nuts, dark chocolate, spice, then it’s burnt-bitter and roasty with some way-away floral hops adding a peppery kick. And it’s all done with poise and delicacy so that it doesn’t taste like licking the inside of a JD cask, instead it adds character and complexity. It’s one of the best barrel-aged beers I’ve had in a long time and a stellar example of when a barrel can make things even better than they already are. My only thoughts are that a touch more body would propel it forward and give it a little extra to wrap around your tongue, making it more luxurious which a beer like this should be.
Unfortunately Pete won’t hand deliver to everyone because he’s too busy brewing or something, but it’ll be on sale soon, either from the tasting room in Henley or online. It’s a good one and Lovibonds are doing some interesting things at the moment, including 69 IPA, a US IPA, and Sour Grapes, a British lambic. Plus it's all keg and bottles.