This weekend’s Open It saw a burst of beer-opening excitement (check out the twitter hashtag #openit for all the action). Here’s what I opened.
The first beer wasn’t strictly there for Open It but it was so good that it’s getting a promotion. Buxton Brewery’s Moor Top is 3.6% and 3.6% of bottled British beer usually makes me sigh in expected disappointment (too thin, too weak, not enough flavour), but this one is very different. A looking-loving pale gold pint, this one takes off when you get your nose nearby and take a faceful of Chinooks for the effort – lime, grapefruit, tangy tropical fruit, ginger. It’s clean, refreshing, light and so, so drinkable, plus a poky bitterness to keep you going back for more. I’ve heard good things about Buxton and now I want to try more!
Coalition Ale, the Thornbridge and DarkStar collaboration, has been waiting for a special occasion and it didn’t disappoint: it’s one of the best beers I’ve drunk this year. Brewed in February 2009, hopped with Atlas, Aurora and Liberty, and bottled in October 2010, it pours a handsome hazy orange with a head which drops to a fine lace. The aroma is a subtle, pastel-coloured spectrum of oranges, and the taste is the sort of thing that has your tongue dancing. It’s so simple yet there’s so much interesting complexity to it, so much depth. It’s bitter at the end but never overpowering, mellowing marvellously into the beer, there’s a dryness to it, lime oil, citrus zest, liquorice, and no negative signs of aging, no greys around the temples. It’s stunning and I want more bottles.
Next was Kernel and DarkStar’s Imperial Marzen, a 9.1% nightmare for style pedants. A hazy red-amber pour, malty and full bodied as you’d expect from a Marzen, especially one supersized in strength. There’s lots of orange blossom, orange pith, peaches and a bunch of fresh flowers in the aroma, probably from something other than noble hops, and it’s got that gorgeous slick body I love from Kernel beers. There’s not much bitterness but lots of hop flavour, and it’s very easy drinking – the sort of beer you chase to the bottom of the glass to try and understand it, never quite managing it and needing another straight after. It’s so interesting, so tasty, so nice to drink, even if it does defy every style book written now or in the future.
Another Kernel topped off my Open It weekend – Imperial Brown Stout 1856. A 10.1% beer monster packed thick with chocolate, a little coffee bitterness, some booze around the tonsils, a chocolate ice cream sweetness, a puff of smoke and char and a plum skin fruity bitterness. It’s mouthfilling, intense, rich, darkly delicious and very good. Absolutely brilliant.
Four of the best beers I’ve had in a long time, especially the Coalition, which is a masterpiece. What made these beers stand out is how balanced they all are and how drinkable, despite some lofty ABVs, they are, with each of them having a depth of flavour that makes each gulp more interesting than the last. And that’s a great quality to have in a beer.
Who else has had these beers? What did you think?