Old Chimneys Good King Henry

Old Chimneys is a small craft brewery out near Diss in Norfolk, that brews an interesting selection of ales. The selection that the Bacchanalia had a week ago was amazing, it was mostly gone when I popped in at lunch today. Last time I was in I mentioned to Ed that I’d seen one of their beers in the RateBeer Top 50 (it’s at number 41), but I couldn’t see it on the shelf. Luckily for me he had it stashed in the store room, so I managed to get a bottle of the original Good King Henry and a bottle of the 2007 Special Reserve.

The Good Bottled Beer Guide only mentions the original in so far as to set the scene for the special Reserve. This was brewed to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the brewery and has evidently taken over entirely from the original. Both are bottle conditioned, so I’ll tick them both and say that maybe the book should have mentioned that you can still get the original…

I thought I try using the RateBeer rating sheet but couldn’t work out what to do about the taste, most of the other stuff was okay. It pours really, really dark brown, essentially black, but not like the black of a Porter, the head is good, a very dirty tan, that falls away to leave a covering. It’s not flat, but it’s not fizzy in any shape or form and is quite easy to drink given the strength. I quite liked it, you can get better reviews on the RateBeer review page.

Oh my giddy Aunt! This beer is really something else, it’s like a whisky infused Christmas pudding that you can’t get enough of. It pours pretty much the same colour as the original, but without much head at all. It’s oily and slick and has alcohol notes pouring out of it in all directions. How they have managed to blend in the oak conditioning notes with the rest of the beer is truly remarkable. I’m not a big fan of beers like Innis & Gunn, or the BrewDog Paradox line, I find the flavors imparted by the oak casks to be too dominant, this beer on the other hand manages to strike exactly the right balance for me, perfect. I’ll definitely have to get some more to lay down for a few years to see how it develops.

It’s definitely worth tracking down a bottle or two of the Special Reserve to try, as long as you’re not a shrinking wall flower. A top choice to kick of my beer ticking adventure…

Playing It Safe

I’ve been playing it safe recently when it’s come to the choice of bottled beer I’ve been drinking. I could point to various reason why this is, but it essentially boils down to playing it safe.

For example, I’m a big fan of Lambic beers, especially anything from Cantillon, I can’t tell you the last time I had one it was so long ago. This problem extends to practically all bottle conditioned beers, as I don’t have room to store much beer at home I tend to buy stuff to drink that night. Bottle conditioned beer isn’t in a fit state after being bounced around in a pannier during the hour it takes me to cycle home, hence the playing it safe.

I have decided that enough is enough and I’m going to take a stand and stop playing it safe. It’s time to stop drinking golden blonde beers like Fullers Discovery, Adnams Explorer and Wychwood WychCraft, it’s also time to stop picking up three or four BrewDog Punk IPA’s when they’re on special. It’s time to start trying new beers and it’s definitely time to get back to drinking beer that is bottle conditioned.

I need a project, something that will challenge me to try new beers from breweries I didn’t know existed. I need something that will force me to stop buying beer in Tesco and start visiting the Jug & Firkin¹ again (I think I’ve been in Cambridge long enough to keep calling it by its original name). I need something that will get me excited about beer again and I have got the perfect thing in mind.

While I like trying beer from all over the world, we have such a large choice here in the UK, that I thought I should really do something that expands my knowledge and appreciation of it. So I’ve bought a copy of the seventh edition of The Good Bottled Beer Guide by Jeff Evans (published by CAMRA) and I intend to try all the beers listed in it. This is a long term project as there are hundreds and hundreds of beers listed, I’m sure some of the beers will become unavailable as the brewery will close, for example, and new breweries will open or existing breweries will produce new beers, so it will probably turn into something quite fluid over time.

To keep me honest and on the straight and narrow I intend to document my progress through the book in this blog. Exactly what format that will take is yet to be decided, as is how I plan to work my way through the list, alphabetical, by beer style, random…? One thing is for sure, it’ll be a very tasty journey.

¹ Now called Bacchanalia