Thursday 26 January 2012

The best beer in the cupboard

It was waiting for a special moment. A life moment. A time when I wanted to celebrate. I’d already passed a few chances up and didn’t know when the next one was coming. Could I wait another year? Two years? Will the beer wait for me before succumbing to the horrors of oxygen? That was the biggest fear: what if I opened the bottle and it tasted shit. What a waste. What a disappointment. I didn’t want the disappointment because this was the prize in the beer collection, something which excited me as much the day I bought it as it does today, the beer I’d been holding onto for the longest, waiting for that moment. But the moment wasn’t coming or I kept passing it. And I had to open it. I had to know. I had to know if I’d waited too long. I feared I had. Friends were coming over to drink beer. If it was brilliant then we’d share that moment; if not then we’d drink a lot more and I’d try to quickly forget about it, wishing I’d done it sooner, learning the lesson...

Taking it from the box - disturbing its long, cold sleep - was exciting. I was going to open Zephyr. The most beautiful bottle, the one I held in my head as the best thing in my collection. Unwinding the cork cage was like fumbling the bra of the girl I’ve always wanted to get into bed. And what would happen, what would I find, when I dropped what was in my hands?

It’s the colour of blushing skin, a beautiful peach with rose tint. Pouring it feels bad and brilliant. Could I have waited? Should I have done this a year ago? Two years? Did it peak fresh? It’s got life and foam for just a moment, then it drops to a fine lace. Cheers everyone. The glasses slide around the table. It’s not just a beer now. It’s been with me since the beginning of this. It’s always been at the back of the cupboard, that flash of white and pink label and the memory of how it tasted the first time. It’s more than just a beer. First sniff: I expected the worst and it comes first – some oxidisation. But that’s fine, it’s ok, it’s expected, it’s old now. Then the rest starts coming out: strawberries, vanilla, oak and the coconut I remember so vividly from the first bottle, then a boozy background, the ghost-like spirit of the barrel it was in. Sips and sighs and wows and oh my gods. I look up from my glass and everyone is doing the same as me: swirling, sniffing, chasing those elusive, incredible aromas, taking the biggest sips we dare so we can drink it properly but not finish it too soon. Complex, insane, brilliant. Those strawberries promise sharpness but it’s not there. Instead it’s like under-ripe fresh berries and strawberry chewy sweets, all so subtle, wonderful. The bitterness is clawing to the inside of the bottle and going nowhere. The barrel is still there, still giving oak, nuts, sweetness and spirit. It’s dry, fruity, lively and so interesting in the best of ways. Amazing. It tastes better than I hoped for. I was prepared for the worst. I was ready to take the hit, to suffer the woes of the beer hoarded too long. A beer to share and talk about and instantly fall in love with and have that bittersweet feeling that we’ll never drink it again. But now was the right time to open it. It’s hard to imagine it being better. I don’t need to imagine it being better. The last line I wrote in my notebook says ‘Just about the best beer I’ve tasted.’ I’ve probably understated that.

I also loved it the first time I drank it...


  1. The best beer review I've read in ages. Thanks Mark.

  2. Terrific review - I'm really jealous. Going to show this to my wife as an explanation why I've got all those bottles stashed away that I don't drink!

  3. Sounds incredible, gutted I missed this beer - sounds like my ideal drink

  4. Massively fond memories of Zephyr. It was actually the beer that got me into beer. Plus points of this, it instantly showed me what was possible but also carried with it the risk of making much of the beer I drank afterwards seem ordinary.

  5. Wow!!!
    Really, it seems like the Gods gave you the inspiration for writing this excellent presentation!!
    By the way, Zephyros was the east wind's God in Greek mythology! :)

  6. You knocked that review above and beyond the boundary! Six!
    The interesting thing for me is that, I think it takes a very special beer to invoke the passion that is clearly in this review. I know, I know, but hear me out. Regardless of the beer, each to their own tastes and all just can't manufacture this kind of review. Dare I say it?'s crafted :)

  7. The paradox is ask a beer lover if they prefer draught or bottled and the answer is usually 'draught'. Ask the same person for the best beer they ever drank and I wager it will be bottled.

  8. Darren - Cheers! It always helps when there's a good personal story to attach to the beer!

    leithdave - Feel free to use this with the wife. I've tried it with my girlfriend but it didn't work...

    AlmostThem - If only we could get more!

    David - It makes pretty much all beers ordinary!

    The Dark Chef - Ha! Inspired by the great god of beer!

    broadfordbrewer - I never managed to hit a six when I was playing cricket so this goes some way to rectify that! And it absolutely does take a special beer and a beer which really means something to you.

    Birkonian - Interesting... I'm not sure I entirely agree though as most of the best beers I've had have been on draught and in special situations.

  9. I remember doing the same thing with the same beer in a group situation a year or two ago. Tasted even better because I hadn't shelled out the £20 for it! A seriously great beer that BrewDog need to recreate.

  10. Thats got to be the best beer review I've ever read. Fantastic.

  11. Sounds like a fantastic beer. Really enjoyed your writing style. You should post this picture on