Hello good people. And how art thou on this fine day in January? Welcome to week two of our #tryanuary extravaganza.
So far we have tried to open your eyes to the joys of an Old Ale, a hopped German wheat beer and a Bretted wild sour beer. I hope you delved in to your discomfort zone and gave at least one of these a shot, or if not, gave another beer that you haven't been able to experience until now a try. If not, then well, that's what Week 2 is all about huh? If you wanna know all about Week 1 then read it 'ere
Each week I decided to showcase one local brewery/beer. Bristol has a multitude of awesome breweries both reasonably large (at least by small brewery standards,) and teeny tiny. I can think of eleven breweries currently brewing in Bristol it's self off the top of my head, with two due to open very shortly, and another three or four in the surrounding areas. Suffice to say the Bristol beer scene is pretty damn good. A fact that is honoured and enhanced by Bristol Beer Week which takes place in September. If you've not heard of it, read about it here. Loads of stuff happens and things are good.
Right. Enough blathering. (Yeah, I heard you rolling your eyes at my prose.) On to the beer!
Crane - Load
Crane is one of the teeny tiny breweries situated in Bristol. Well, they were; they've recently moved to a much bigger unit, so although I believe it's still just one guy brewing at the moment, there is the space now for more volume to come pouring out of this new-ish brewery. I was honoured to be able to try one of the sample brews of their Cake stout and Boom IPA, way back when, and now Crane has a pretty damn good selection of beers on the go. The owner is passionate and interested in people's opinions on his beer. He's even come and had a chat with out Home Brew Club about his beers in the past.
Load is a Saison.
Are you ready for the history lesson?
To cut a long and mildly interesting story short, Saisons were basically brewed once or twice a year for the seasonal workers in the hot and dusty (I have no idea if it's hot and dusty) fields of the Wallonia area of Belgium. They were essentially brewed by the farmers wives, as all good beer ought to be, to relieve the thirst of the workers. Historically the beers were light, refreshing, low in ABV and seasonal. They were made with what ever they had available that year. Often spiced with something, which changed year to year, farm to farm, garden to garden. They were also of a spiciness that came from the yeast – almost peppery.
Because of the massive variation that this style encourages simply because of it's history the modern style is pretty damn open to interpretation. They can be weak or strong, pale or dark, spiced, hopped, have fruit, flowers, dirty or monkey paws in. So long as they're brewed with a saison yeast, it seems anything goes. (This is not the technical description of a saison. Jump to page 65/93 on this PDF or hunt for page 50 of the document its self, for the BJCP guide on it.)
This is a lemon, lime and ginger Saison, inspired by marmalade. All things should be inspired by marmalade.
Aroma: Ginger, lemon and lime. Pithy, spice, tropical fruit, a little yeasty, some floral character.
Taste: As above but with extra spiciness from the yeast.
Palate: Plently of bitterness which helps balance the huge citus hit. Good carbonation, quite a dry finish.
Overall; A pretty big, over the top, or 'extreme', as the description on the bottle says, Saison. Probably not the most true to style, but full of flavour and super tasty.
Harviestoun – Ola Dubh 16
Harviestoun has been going a pretty long time, but to be honest I don't know much about them. Link to the website just there will tell you anything you wanna know probably. They're nice guys, I met them briefly at a beer festival last year, and produce a fairly wide range of beer. For me though, personally, I have to admit that I think the Ola Dubh's are the best of what they do.
Technically this is just a porter. Nout special about porters right? Well, aside from the fact that there are some extremely good examples of porters out there, and some of them can be really rather special indeed, this one isn't your typical porter.
Introducing Barrel Ageing. Say hello to barrel ageing folks. It might say 'hi' back if you're nice.
So, some beers get barrel aged. Its pretty cool, you end up with the characteristics of the vessel imprgnating the beer. You also get this thing called the Angel's Share, which technically you don't get. Evaporation increases the ABV a small amount, because of all the alcoholic celestial beings guzzling it through a straw. The barrel will impart woodsy flavours to a beer, but most importantly if the barrel has been used for something else first, it will impart those characteristics too. In this instance Highland Park whisky barrels have been used, so expect peat and smoke and all that lovelyness.
Aroma: Chocolate, smoke, toast, peat, raisins, booze! Whiskey, vanilla
Taste: Chocolate, molasses, woodsy, boozy, caramel, blackcurrant, plum, raisin, roasted malt.
Palate: Medium body, slick and oily. Good carbonation. Tiny bit thinner than you might expect, leaving it not too cloying.
Overall; Big flavour! Quite a bit of sweetness, but well balanced. Not too thick in body. Would go well with a lot of different foods actually. Mega complex, so many flavours going on. It's beautiful.
Anchor – Old Foghorn
Oooh. Anchor. Everyone knows about Anchor right? How they're probably the oldest brewery in the states, how they've made the style 'Steam Beer' their own, how despite being massive still manage to be 'craft'? No? Well.. more fool you.
An American Barley Wine. (Pg. 43 in the doc. Or 57/93 on the PDF page no.s)
Barley wines have some history to 'em (I advise google, as it's too long and potentially dubious to bother writing here.) Purely invented by elves to confuse poor simple humans who think they're getting a wine when they order one at the bar. But, no! It's not a wine! 'Tis beer. Good tasty beery goodness.
Cutting it down to metaphorical bullet points; American Barley Wines (or barleywines) are hopped versions of the English variety. English Barley Wine is basically the strongest and richest of the classic English ales. They're not necessarily dark in colour, dark gold through to red-brown, but super rich in the malt character. Usually pretty viscous, sweet, with little to no hop character. That is where the American version varies, and in my humble opinion supercedes the English style. The hopping alleviates that sticky, sweet quality, making it a more betterer balanced beer.
Aroma: Honey, caramel, herb, red fruit; raspberry, strawberry. Pine, prune.
Taste: Sweet malt, pine, citrus, grapefruit, caramel, red fruit, roasty.
Palate: Medium bitterness. Medium-full body. Good carbonation. Nice long sweet/bitter finish.
Overall; Probably one of the best examples of an American Barely Wine that you'll come across for a while...
We're offering you these three beers, if you buy 'em together, for an impressive 15% off the usual price, £14.58 for the lot. You'll be able to try three new beers or beer styles at a beautiful Tryanuary discount.
Get involved using the #Tryanuary tag! Photograph your beers, tweet them, facebook them. Tell people you're trying something new, let them know what you think (even if you hate it! At least your giving something new a chance huh?) Get us in on the conversation using @Brew_Bristol on twitter, or post something to our facebook page.