99 Red Baboons and Double Espresso Premio Caffè Birra

Sainsbury's Great British Beer Hunt 2012

Blue Monkey aren’t a brewer you see much of down these parts, I think I’ve had a couple of their beers in places like The Cambridge Blue, but can’t be sure. If Twitter is anything to go by, they have a pretty good reputation, so I was pretty pleased to see a bottle of theirs through to this stage of teh competition, so that I could finally get to try one of their beers.

99 Red Baboons poured a near impenetrable black, although when held up to a light, it revealed itself to be a very, very dark reddish brown. The tan coloured head was formed without much fuss, starting off slowly and building towards the end of the pour. It looked quite compact and steady, but dropped to a patchy covering fairly quickly. I didn’t get much on the nose, in fact, there was so little, I thought for a moment that it smelt of nothing. Just at the end of a lungful though, I could a slight roasted note, there one millisecond, gone the next.

The body had a nice weight to it, it could easily have been a bit lighter, but it felt nice and substantial. There was the impression right at the start that there would be a load of roasted flavours, but they never really materialised and there was always a feeling that they were just underneath everything, but refusing to come out and show themselves. Except right at the end of the aftertaste, like a flasher exposing themselves, some roasted flavours made an entrance for a bit of an encore. It was quite nicely balanced, probably tending just toward the malty side overall, with soft, smooth chocolatey flavours. While the bitterness was quite fruity and juicy, it also felt like there was a bit green and vegetal character in there too, not much, but that’s the impression I got.

I thought this was quite a nice beer, not perfect by any means, but certainly miles better than some of the others we’ve tried so far.

Traditional Scottish Ales don’t have the greatest of reputations, some folks on online claim that the beers they contract brew for others are better than their own. However, I’ve always found their bottled beers to be fine; they’re not exactly genre busting, just decent middle of the road beers. I especially like their Glencoe, which is an Oat Stout, which I can get in my local Tesco, so I was quite looking forward to this one.

Double Espresso Premio Caffè Birra poured a jet black in the glass, only showing the slightest of brown colours when tilted and held up to a light. The deep tan coloured head wouldn’t have looked out of place on a cup of coffee, although I’m sure the head on a coffee would have lasted longer than this one, as it dropped to nothing within a couple of minutes. The nose was immense, with massive hazelnut coffee aromas piling out of the glass. It was almost reminiscent of Camp Coffee, so those hazelnut aromas might very well have been chicory, but it’s a long time since I smelt any of that stuff.

It was quite thick in the mouth, almost oily, with a massive body and lots of flavour. Again, the hazelnut / Camp Coffee aromas were present in the taste, in a massive way, pretty much wall to wall full of the stuff. There was some bitterness to it, but it was difficult to tell if that was from some bitter roasted malts, or from some hops, either way, it was a massively malt led beer. In a similar way to the Batemans Mocha feeling like it had used synthetic chocolate, this also felt like the coffee flavours weren’t quite natural, they were just too big and bold and in yer face, not integrated with the rest of it. They also felt a little on the chemically side, just not real, but then I don’t drink coffee, so I’ve no idea what kind of variety of flavours you can get from a cup.
Once it had sat for a bit, the flavours became even more in yer face and jarring. There was a lot of rediculously sweet chocolate in there as well, but again, in the same way as the Batemans Mocha, it just tasted wrong.

I’m not sure what to say about this beer at this point, I didn’t want to like it, but there was something about it. It certainly not the best coffee beer I’ve had, in fact it’s a long, long way down that list, but it wasn’t that bad and I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who’ll like it.

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