I’ll be honest and say that my heart sank a bit when I saw that Ridgeway Querkus had made the final of the Great British Beer Hunt. It’s not that I don’t like Ridgeway as a brewery, I’m just not the biggest fan of oaked beers and I positively dislike smoked beers. To say I had a few preconceived ideas about how this one would go down, would be an understatement.
It poured a serious deep reddish tinged brown, so it sat black in the glass. The light tan head that sat on top, while easily formed, dropped fairly quickly to a covering, before parting to the edges of the glass; it eventually disappeared completely. The nose was very complex, but at the same time, very simple; just a subtle waft of wood smoked treacle.
In the mouth it wasn’t nearly as full bodied as I was expecting, it wasn’t that it was wishy washy, there was just a refreshing juiciness running underneath all the other flavours. You could possibly argue the case that it could have benefitted from a touch more body, and maybe you’d win that argument, maybe you wouldn’t.
The smoky flavours made themselves know right from the off, but they didn’t dominate, it wasn’t that they were subtle either, just perfectly pitched. While the majority of the smoked flavours dropped away, they were joined by a subtle woodiness and a touch of mouth prickle, before a lingering juicy, slightly smoky aftertaste. Yes, there were other flavours in there too, like a touch of roasted coffee, but they were playing second fiddle; for me it was all about the woody smoke flavours.
As I said at the start, I had some pretty preconceived ideas about how this one would go down and they were wrong. I can imagine that some people will hate this beer, I didn’t though. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that I really quite enjoyed it.
It only seemed natural to have the other Porter in the competition on the same night, to see how they stacked up against each other. In a similar fashion to their India Pale Ale, I’d heard good things about the Harbour Brewing Co. Porter No. 6 on Twitter and Untappd, so I was really looking forward to it.
While it initially looked jet black sitting in the glass, it was in reality, just a seriously, seriously dark reddish brown; which became evident the moment you held it up to a light. The tan coloured head was relatively easily formed, and dropped to a patchy covering fairly quickly. There wasn’t a lot going on on the nose, just a faint whiff of some generic plummy, stewed, dark roasted malt notes.
It was big and bold in the mouth and felt pretty much all of its strength. The malt flavours were very nice; smooth and warming, with some vinious fruity flavours to go with main thrust of dark chocolate and roasted coffee. The aftertaste was eventually bitter, but it started out with a treacle, molasses type sweetness that balanced nicely with the bitter flavours.
It really opened up and revealed the depth of its flavours as it warmed; this is not a beer to consume direct from a cold fridge. It’s a very, very nice beer and an absolute ridiculous bargain for only £1.50; If I were you, I’d buy lots of it. A must try if you like your beer dark.