You know what they say, you can take Fuggles out of Devon, but you can’t take the Devon out of Fuggles. So, tipped off to a South West Beer and Cider Festival, and also discovering they sell my newly beloved Hardknott, off I trotted to the Rake in Borough market with the usual suspects. Always good to have a bit of a debate, which some of our samples certainly sparked. Our favourites are below, and worth a try if you see them, either in the Rake or the Westcountry.
Bath Ales “Festivity” is a pleasantly soft porter, with rich coffee notes through the aroma and palate. Arbor Ales “Black Eyed IPA” was brilliant – looks like a porter (Black! – as the name suggests), tastes like an IPA. Strident hop notes, full bodied flavour (as you’d expect from a beer of that colour) and clean finish. I’ll definitely keep my eye open for that again. Moor’s “Raw” was another lovely fresh bitter, smelling of wheatgrass.
Generally, I like my strong beers, because they pack so much flavour. So the beer that surprised me the most was Keltek’s “Even Keel”. Weighing in at only 3.4% I felt like I was in Thailand when I smelt and tasted this beer. Lemongrass was clear and strong throughout, making this a highly quaffable beer, and at that strength it wouldn’t even get you into too much trouble. The Beer Gremlin and Hop Hippo managed a side debate about whether it smelt like curry flannels or piss. Although it was agreed that the latter might be attributable to the fact that we were stood next to the gents. So I’m sticking with Lemongrass, although, as always, I’d be interested to know if you pick up anything unusual.
Far more contentious though was O’Hanlon’s “Special Reserve 2009”. Available for the special price of £6 a half. A cloudy, amber, barley wine style beer, punching an almighty 12.9%. For the Beer Gremlin it was an absolute no no – it just smelt and tasted like archers and orange juice. Hop Hippo though, was rather taken with it, declaring ‘Miso soup,’ after his first sniff, followed up by a definite ‘Umami kick’ upon tasting. I’m not sure I got that, but I’m not an aficionado of Miso soup as Hippo. For me it was all about the orange from start to finish, which partly puts me in Gremlin’s camp, although I was a fan like Hop Hippo. Fruity, creamy and malty, to me it tasted of brandy and orange marmalade on toast, but mostly just ridiculously orangey.
I hope you find and enjoy some of the above as much as we did, or other eminent offerings from the Westcountry. In case you’re wondering what happened to the Hardknott, they’d sold out. But I have been assured it will be back soon… and so will I.