It's amazing how some beers can just knock your socks off. As you can probably tell, I love an IPA, or a tripel, or anything with overriding hop notes. But sometimes I struggle to find anything distinctive, anything that catches the imagination to write about. Probably a sign that I should be more bold and try more stouts and session beers. Which I am quite partial to, but it's like when someone offers you roast beef, or a burger (I will avoid the steak analogy - it's not that big a difference). Obviously a burger is more than normally satisfying, however, roast beef has a special place in my heart and therefore always wins in a straight either or choice. Which is generally what you're presented with when stood in front of the pump clips.
So anyway, back to the beer that knocked my socks off. On an average evening, over an above average Thai curry, I suggested a mini tasting to The Beer Gremlin. Ever game, we cracked open my collection of Hardknott bottles that I've been saving for just such an occasion. We started off with the Infra Red - a rich and lustrous IPA, a subtle fruity, grassy nose on it, smelt like autumn, and it really got my tongue tingling (this was before the curry, in case you're wondering). I was about to crack open the Aether Blaec (a divine sounding whisky stout aged in Caol Ila cask), but The Gremlin didn't fancy a stout, so I opened instead the beast that was Granite.
What a treat. The nose gives away some of the melting pot of flavours that roll around this coffee coloured liquid. The Gremlin's first impression was of blue cheese. Never repeated after the first sniff, and I never picked it up, but not to be dissuaded of first impressions, I promised to note this down. Perhaps appropriately, as we approach November the 5th, I was overwhelmed by petrol and smoke in my first nostril fest. Later on I picked out the brandy background, so typical of a barley wine style. Definitely moving from autumn to winter.
After this, the palate did not disappoint. As well as the smoke and brandy we got liquorice, mince pies and something that we still couldn't put our fingers on after finishing the bottle. So please help us out, take the Granite Challenge, get your hands on a bottle and let me know what you smell and taste in the Hardknott Granite - we'd love to know if you can pick out that elusive flavour. Or smell the blue cheese!
And so, after quaffing most of a bottle of 10.4% beer, we decided we wouldn't do the The Aether Blaec the injustice of opening it. But have pencilled in a future tasting of Aether Blaec vs Caol Ila... I can't wait.