How Bad Can It Be…? Blue Moon

We had some friends round for dinner the other weekend, they brought some beer with them. It could have been worse, they might have brought a six pack of Bud Light…

I’ve never had Blue Moon before, it’s just never really appealed. I’ve read a lot about it online and in books like Brewing With Wheat though, it’s quite a divisive beer. But is it any good…? Shirley that should be the only criteria for judging a beer, it shouldn’t really matter who brews it.

Since we had a six pack taking up space in the fridge, I thought it was about time I broke my Blue Moon cherry, so to speak, and try one, or two. As you can see from the photo, I did add the requisite slice of orange, when in Rome and all that.

It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t to my tastes either, being a bit too spice forward and a bit lacking in everything else. The slice of orange was almost overpowering, I like my Belgian Wit beers to be light and refreshing, this just felt like coriander heavy, wishy, washy, overly orange flavoured generic beer.

While I didn’t think much of it, if it was the only thing available, I’m sure I could choke a few down. The rest of the six pack isn’t going to waste though, as my wife has taken a liking to it, silver linings and all that…

Free Beer Politics on the Radical Road

Ah free beer, nothing tastes quite like it. The last couple of months has seen a bit of a storm on the subject, with various blogs venting their frustrations at the actions of others. The topic also came up at the recent European Beer Bloggers Conference and it was quite entertaining to read all the hand wringing tweets about if it was OK to accept and blog about free beer and what you should do if you thought the beer was poor or bad, especially in light of the majority of the atendees having taken the MolsonCoors Scholarship.

I don’t go out looking for free beer, as I’ve always felt that it would compromise my reviewing of it. I’ve also tried to indicate those beers I’ve been sent with their own category, so it’s easy to identify those reviews and thus apply a free beer filter when reading them. Having said that, I’ve not given every free beer I’ve had a glowing review, but then you have to remember that this is my personal opinion, it’s not fact.

Beer is like art, we don’t have to agree with others on what beer is good and which isn’t, it’s perfectly fine to have your own opinion that is diametrically opposite to everyone else. We don’t all have to like pop art or neo-expressionism anymore than we all have to like Rauchbier or Greene King IPA. What we should all agree on though, is that as beer bloggers, we don’t try to dupe our audience with unethical reviews where we laud false praise on mediocre beers in the hope that we’ll get more free beer in return. After all, the truth will out…

I’ve been meaning to write about this stuff for a while and was finally nudged into doing so by this tweet from Stewart Brewing yesterday:

I was offered a free bottle of Radical Road a while back and jumped at the opportunity. You don’t tend to see Stewart Brewing beers down this way and all those that I’ve tried have been during trips back home to visit my parents. The box also had a couple of their other beers in it, Coconut Porter and Cauld Reekie, neither of which I’d tried before. So a massive thanks to Stewart Brewing for sending me these.

I think I drank the Coconut Porter while it was a bit on the cold side, as I didn’t get any coconut, it was silky smooth for sure though. In my defence the fridge was set to eight degrees, but a faulty controller had it much, much colder; in fact it bottomed out at minus fourteen a few days later, I’d removed all the beer by that point though. The Cauld Reekie was a glorious glass of interesting roasted flavours and one I’ll be hunting down next time I’m home.

But what of Radical Road, their new 6.4% Triple Hopped Pale Ale? It poured a slightly hazy amber colour, that cleared as it warmed up slightly. The loose white head didn’t last and dropped to a few thin patches fairly quickly. I was expecting a bit more on the nose, there were slight marmalade notes, but I was expecting a bit more of a bouquet. It was really quite full bodied and filled the mouth with sweet, slightly marmalade, malt flavours. The slight carbonation stopped the sweetness from getting sticky and that coupled with the wonderful bitterness really balanced the beer well. The bitterness were never too much, but enough to prickle the insides of my cheeks and leave a long lingering juicy bitter marmalade aftertaste. I really, really enjoy this, just my kind of beer.

It sort of reminded me a bit of Adnams Innovation, but with slightly more bitterness. I’d love to try the two side by side, so I hope that they don’t wait too long before brewing it again…

Glassware

I didn’t go to the Beer Bloggers Conference last month in Leeds, it’s not really my thing. Plus, I’m not feeling very flush at the moment due to being in the final stages of building an extension on the house, so I couldn’t afford it anyway, even with the Molson Coors Scholarship. I did try and follow what was happening via twitter and the various blogs I follow though and I have to admit to a few pangs of jealousy over the weekend.

A few of those pangs were down to the beer that was there, I would have loved to have tried the Williams Brothers Double Joker IPA and had some more Profanity Stout. Equally, the though of trying Pilsner Urquell from wooden casks is enough to get my mouth salivating, I imaging it was amazing and way better than the bottled stuff we normally have to make do with.

The other pang was due to one of the sessions, namely the Comparative Beer and Glass Tasting with Spiegelau. I’ve always had an urge to use the correct glass when having a beer, I have quite a collection, I’ve even paid for some of them. Most of them are currently wrapped in paper and in a box in the loft though, my wife doesn’t share my fetish for glass and we don’t really have room for one of each style and brand in the kitchen cupboards.

I do have a selection to hand though, a proper wheat beer glass, a Duvel tulip, a couple of genuine Italian Teku glasses from Open Baladin, some oversized conical pint and half pint glasses and a heavy duty Rogue Ales conical. I’m not overly precious about them either, they all go in the dishwasher, except for the Rogue Ales one, which I religiously hand wash.

I find that this assortment of glasses covers most styles of beer, although I do sometimes hanker for a proper pilsner glass and wish I hadn’t broken my oversized Moor pint glass. I just happened to be in Kitchen and Things in Newmarket on Saturday and they had some dimpled mugs, which I’ve always liked, so on the spur of the moment, I bought one. I don’t particularly care if it’s reto or hip to drink out of one, I really like them and the two bottles of Jaipur I had out of it on Saturday night tasted fantastic.

I agree with Tandleman that the right glass can make a difference, especially with certain styles of beer. Although I do think that you can still enjoy a Trappist ale out of a conical half pint given the right circumstances. After all, the way a beer tastes is influenced by more than just the glass, it’s also about the time and place amongst other things, yes all that beer moment stuff.

I certainly intend to use my dimpled mug as much as I can, I just love the way it looks and if I’m happy, them I’m more inclined to enjoy my beer. I do have plans to overhaul all the beer glassware when all our building work is finished, it would be nice to have a few sets of the Spiegelau glasses or something similar, so I can serve beer up to friends etc in matching glasses. I suppose I should really get an Orval goblet as well, after all, the best beer in the world should really be drunk from its own branded glassware…

Paris

I was going to write a blow by blow account of my trip to Paris last December, but instead I’m just going to skim through everywhere we went. I’d written down most of what we go up to on the Friday, but to be honest, it was a load of crap. So here’s my thought on all the places we visited over the weekend of December 2nd to 4th:

The Eurostar
The main benefit of getting the Eurostar, is that you can take your own beer with you, as there’s not the same security restrictions as going by plane. I took a four pack of Punk IPA cans, packed carefully into a small cool bag along with an ice pack. If you don’t want to take your own beer, then you can always buy cold beer from Sourced Market in St Pancras. I bought some Camden Town bottles on the way back and should really have bought some of The Kernel bottles they had on the way out, as they’d gone by the Sunday afternoon.

If you don’t take your own beer and get thirsty on the train, it’s €5 for a can of Stella, you know taking your own makes sense…

The Frog & Rosbif, 116 Rue Saint-Denis
This was our first port of call, mainly as I’d heard varying reports about the quality of the beer and didn’t want to come here later on and be disappointed. At first glance, it looked pretty much like a British pub, but there was certain things that meant you could tell it was a pastiche. All the bumf on the tables and walls was in English, which was a bit weird and gave me the impression that this was a pub for foreigners, rather than locals.

I had a pint of the Maison Blanche, served with slice of lemon. I thought it was pretty forgettable and less interesting than Hoegaarden, which says a lot. Phil had a pint of Parislytic, which we both agreed was a nitro keg horror show. Neither of us noticed that they actually had a single hand pull in the midst of all the keg fonts, a pint of that might have been a better option. They had free wi-fi and we managed to sit next to a wall socket, so I could charge my phone.

HTB Hall’s Beer Tavern, 68 Rue Saint-Denis
The bar is on the right as you walk in, with a row of tables along the left hand wall, after a bit, it opens out into a back room full of tables. It reminded me a lot of those thin American bars you get in big cities. We plonked ourselves down opposite the bar, next to a plug socket, so I could continue charging my phone and pursued the beer menu. It was extensive, but contained nothing to quicken the heart, being comprised of major multinational brands and a load of Belgian stuff. Keg fonts for La Chouffe, Delirium Tremens and Chimay nested cheek and jowl with fonts for Carling Black Label, you get the idea.

I had a pint of La Chouffe, Phil had a pint of Chimay Triple, both were served in branded pint glasses, shame the brands were for different beer, think of a well known Irish stout brand. I’m assuming they keep the correct branded glasses for those drinking out of bottles. The main reason we didn’t drink from bottles was the cost, it was significantly cheaper to have a pint, than have two bottles. They also had free wi-fi, which was nice, but I didn’t really feel comfortable and welcome in the place and I can’t really put my finger on why.

La Cave à Bulles, 45 Rue Quincampoix
Just a quick note on this place, as I want to go into it a bit more in a separate blog post. One thing you’ll realise as you trawl all the Paris bars, is the lack of French beer, this shop practically redresses the balance all on its own. Run by a friendly and jovial chap called Simon, we ran all the places we were going to visit past him and he made a few suggestions. The main one being ditch the planned crawl and buy some tickets to a beer festival on a boat, so we did.

Au Trappiste, 4 Rue St Denis
With a name like Au Trappiste, you sort of know what kind of beer you’re going to get, before you cross the threshold. With 20 taps and an extensive bottle menu, this place majors in selling Belgian beer, in fact, I can’t remember if it sold anything else. Clad almost head to toe in wood, with matching wooden tables and chairs, it felt a bit like being in a wooden lodge, all be it, a cheap one with loads of cheap looking lighted colour panels on the walls.

We decided to eat here, but with a menu not exactly welcoming vegetarians, I plumped for a large plate of chips and a tub of mayonnaise, which went perfectly with my pint of Lindemans Gueuze, so that was me sorted. We ate upstairs, which felt a bit like eating in a wooden McBurger franchise, it was just a bit weirdly sterile for my tastes.

We ended coming back here later, so I had another pint of gueuze, this time instead of a nice dimpled mug, I got a branded pint glass, again the brand was for a well known Irish beverage. All the branded glassware looked like it was saved for those drinking from bottles, but just like Hall’s Beer Tavern, if you were having more than one, this worked out more expensive than a pint of draught.

The staff also seemed pretty incompetent when it came to change a keg, my gueuze ran out mid pour and it took nearly ten minutes of faffing and multiple members of staff to change it.

Les Soirées Maltées – Les Bières de Noël 2011, Bateau Six Huit, 33 Quai de Montebello
I’m only going to mention this briefly, as I want to cover it it in a separate blog post. However, it’s not often you get to go to a beer festival in a foreign country, let alone one on a boat in the shadow of Notre Dame.

Le Sous Bock Tavern, 49 Rue Saint-Honoré
We headed here after the beer festival for a nightcap before heading back to the hotel. This was one of the bars that Simon in La Cave à Bulles had said to avoid, so we approached with some trepidation. It wasn’t quite pitch black inside, but it wasn’t far off, with only some weird purple black light kind of things illuminating the interior. We walked along the bar to check out what beer they had, but to be honest, we just turned round and walked out. There was nothing on that we couldn’t have got from Hall’s Beer Tavern or Au Trappist and since both of them were slightly more welcoming, being properly illuminated and quiet, we left and headed back to Au Trappist. This place seems to get good reviews on all the rating sites, so your mileage may vary, but on this night we weren’t impressed.

La Gueuze, 19 Rue Soufflot
Saturday dawned all blustery and drizzly, so we headed to here to get some lunch and some gueuze. When we go there the door was locked, but after a quite shake, the proprietor came and opened up, it wasn’t like we were early or anything it being after their official opening time. The style of the place was a bit of a mish mash, with lots of wood like Au Trappist, but a similar layout to Hall’s Beer Tavern, with some seating at the front and down the side of the bar, before opening out into a large light and airy back room.

After perusing the menu, which was unsurprisingly pretty crap for vegetarians, we decided not to eat there, as it wasn’t very cheap and didn’t sound particularly great. I ordered a bottle of Mort Subite, which was pleasant enough and Phil had a bottle of Cantillon Rosé de Gambrinus. The cork on Phil’s bottle didn’t come out cleanly and instead of using a cloth to get the bits out of the neck, he just stuck his finger in and wiped them off. We didn’t stay for a second drink…

Godjo, 8 Rue de l’École Polytechnique
I’m mentioning this very, very compact Ethiopian restaurant, not because we drank any beer, we didn’t, but because the food was sensational. We were originally going to come here for dinner on the Friday night, but got side tracked by the beer festival, I’m really glad we hunted it out and came for lunch on the Saturday. Ethiopian food is all about sharing, but since Phil eats dead animals, I wasn’t about to share a plate, so had one all to myself and I’m so glad I did, the lentils were to die for. If you’re going to go, I’d try and book a table (if you can), as there’s hardly enough room to swing a cat inside.

On the way there we passed an English theme pub called The Bombardier, which was selling what looked like keg Bombardier and Directors, we paused by on the other side of the road…

Brewberry, 18 Rue Pot de Fer
Our second last port of call was to this compact shop cum bar, which if I’m being honest, would have been our only port of call if we come to it first. Selling beer from all over the world, but majoring in European breweries, its main advantage over La Cave à Bulles, is that you can drink beer on the premises. It’s such a great wee place, that it will get a blog post all of its own.

After Brewberry, we headed back to La Cave à Bulles for a meet the brewer with La Brasserie du Mont Salève, which I’ll cover in a later blog. After that, we had to attend a black tie dinner on the Saturday evening and caught the Eurostar just after lunch on the Sunday, so there wasn’t really any further opportunity to explore.

I feel like we only scratched the surface of beer in Paris, but at the same time, I feel like we also hit the two most important places and if I went again, I probably wouldn’t go anywhere other than La Cave à Bulles and Brewberry. For my money, Paris is far too fixated on the major multinational brands and anything that comes out of Belgium. It could really do with a few more outlets for French craft beer, as that’s what I really wanted to drink and apart from Brewberry, we really didn’t get the chance, as none of the bars were stocking it. Don’t get me wrong, I like a Lambic or Trappist ale as much as the next man, but sometimes I just want to try the local beer and apart from Brewberry, nowhere could deliver on that simple need.

So if you’re heading to Paris and want to drink some French beer, head to Brewberry. If you want to bring back some French beer, then head to La Cave à Bulles as well. Until someone opens something like CASK Pub & Kitchen or The Craft Beer Co. in Paris, these two places are your best opportunity to try really good artisan French beer.

In Pyraser Of Pilsner

I started this blog as I was stuck in a rut, week in week out I was buying and drinking the same beers from the local supermarket. I’d like to think that in the two years since I started this blog, things have changed, they certainly had last year judging from the stock take that I did. I’m not doing a similar stock take this year, probably, not because I think it will show me reverting to my old behaviour or anything, more that things have changed.

There has been a seismic shift in my mental state about my obsession with beer, I’ll be covering it in another blog. It centres around The Box Of Delights Demons that I have at the Bacchanalia and how that and other factors have created a self sustaining cycle of destructive behaviour. That blog will be necessarily dark, this one should be the complete opposite, as it’s about an awakening, basically the realisation that I like lager*.

I’m not sure when this new found love of Pilsner has come from, it’s sort of sneaked up on me a bit. It’s not like I’ve never drank lager though, although I think we can except the Skol & Lime from my later teenage years from this discussion. Till now, it’s mainly been bottles of Budvar, Karen, my wife, got me into that as we sat on various Cambridge commons and greens on balmy summers evenings when we first got together. I tried others, but I didn’t really get on with Pilsner Urquell, really, really didn’t get on with Staropramen and pretty much hated everything that came out of Germany, especially Jever.

I suppose I can trace the tipping point, to the day I bought some Bernard Nefiltrovaný ležák for Karen at The Euston Tap. Of course I had a sip and was blown away at the amount of flavour that it contained. When I found myself back in The Euston Tap a couple of months later, it was one of the first beers I went for before getting stuck in on the stronger stuff. Since then I’ve been buying copious quantities of Pilsner, both filtered and unfiltered, in bottles from the Bacchanalia whenever they’ve had some in stock.

Stand outs for me this year have to be Italia, the Thornbridge collaboration with Birrificio Italiano, Brewers & Union Unfiltered Lager by Collective São Gabriel and Hopfenpflücker Pils by Pyraser. The later I’ve really been taken with and while we speed head long into Winter and strong, dark beer territory, I for one wont be giving up on the Pilsner in the coming months. I’m really looking forward to next Spring when our extension is complete and I can sit with the doors open and enjoy a cool, clean flavoursome, preferably, unfiltered Pilsner, with the evening breeze wafting into the house.

* I’m of course not talking about any old Lager, you wont suddenly see me necking cans of Carling or Stella any time soon…

How Bad Can It Be…? Krombacher Pils and Dark

The bottle of Krombacher Pils states that it’s the No. 1 premium beer in Germany, so is it the German version of Carling…?

Tesco also had Krombacher Dark for sale, so in similar fashion to the Kaiserdom beers I reviewed the other week, lets find out how bad, or not, they both are.

The Pils a crystal clear golden straw colour, it was a much deeper colour than I was expecting. The head started out as a huge rocky white tower that almost cascaded over the edge of the glass, but it dropped fairly fast though and ended up as a patchy covering. It smelt sort of as I expected, with fresh grassy notes, under that though, there was a sweet maltiness.

It was quite full in the mouth, with lots of sweetness. There was a bitter prickle that cut in about a third of the way through and rode the sweetness into the after taste. However, the bitterness wasn’t enough to counteract the sweetness and it left a nasty cereal tinged flavour lingering. As I got further down the glass, the lingering flavour changed and had a distinct ash tray quality about it.

If I’m being honest, I thought this beer was pretty horrific, it was just far too sweet for my tastes. After a long hot day in the sun with the kids, I needed a nice cold and refreshing pils, this totally missed the mark…

The Dark poured an almost black, but when held up to a light revealed itself as a really dark brown, with reddish tints. A large tan head was easily formed and while it nearly spilled out of the glass like the Pils, it dropped to a ring round the inside of the glass pretty quickly. There wasn’t a lot on the nose to start with, after it had been sitting for a while though, some roasted, malty notes revealed themselves.

The body was relatively full, but it felt a touch watery. It was like it started out full bodied, but then got thinner as it sat in the mouth, which felt a bit odd. The main flavours were malty, roasted notes, but while they weren’t overly subtle, they weren’t exactly in your face either. There also appeared to be a prickle that appeared and rode into the aftertaste, but it wasn’t much.

I didn’t think this was as bad as the Pils, but I was disappointed none the less, as it was just a bit meh.

How Bad Can It Be…? Mongoose Premium Beer

There’s no need to guess what market this beer is targeted at, as the size of bottle and label totally gives it away. The mongoose on the label has a snake in it’s mouth, in what must be a rather unsubtle reference to the almost ubiquitous Curry house beer, Cobra. The bottle also bears a striking similarity to the large Cobra bottles as well, so I think it’s safe to say this beer is targeted at the curry eater. As I’ve never been the biggest fan of Cobra, I find it too malty and too filling and Kingfisher has always been far to insipid, I was looking forward to seeing if this would be a better beer for me to eat curry with.

It poured a pale golden colour, not insipid like Kingfisher by any means, but maybe not quite as golden and solid as Cobra. A compact tight white head was easily formed and dropped relatively quickly. The nose didn’t contain much, it was fresh, with maybe hints of lemon.

It had a pleasant mouth feel, I’d go as far as to say it was light and spritzy. While there may have been a touch of wateriness to the after taste, it wasn’t anything that detracted. It had quite a bit of bitterness, which was pleasing, it lingered in the after taste for quite some time. The after taste also contained a cereal flavour too, which, while a tad disappointing, wasn’t overbearing and didn’t last long.

I thought it was surprisingly nice and I’d rather drink one of these than a Cobra any day of the week.

Shouting lager, lager, lager, lager…

There was an article in Sunday’s Observer, I say article, it was more of an infomercial for Tesco than an actual article. Titled “After real ale, brewers cash in on trend for ‘real lagers’“, it caused rather a lot of brewers, beer geeks and other assorted twitterers to spit their cornflakes out in disgust. According to the article, the lager industry is mounting a fight back against real ale and imported US craft brews are leading the charge.

Evidently Tesco is to launch four of the most popular; Blue Moon, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (SNPA), Goose Island IPA and Brooklyn Lager. Blue Moon is of course brewed by Coors that well know small brewer and is a wheat beer, so not a lager. Goose Island are now owned by the behemoth that is AB InBev and again an IPA is not a lager. Similarly SNPA is not a lager and has been stocked by Tesco for a while now, so hardly being launched. Even Brooklyn Lager wouldn’t be classed as a lager by the majority of UK lager drinkers, it’s brown for a start.

It’s like the person who wrote the article just copied down what they’d been sent by Tesco and didn’t bother checking any facts. Then there’s the quote from Iain Loe of CAMRA, I really hope that isn’t what he said, as it makes no sense to me. Even if he was talking about US craft beer, it still makes no sense as the British brewing scene of older years didn’t brew anything like the Americans are brewing at the moment.

If the Observer article wasn’t bad enough, Robert Marshall then tweeted the following just before lunch time:

https://twitter.com/#!/RobGMarshall/status/105230405380214784

So not only is SNPA being called a lager again (the clue is in the name Pale ALE), but Innis and Gunn Rum Cask is now a lager too! I’d love to know which hops impart a smooth creamy taste, while that’s what you might get from the diacetyl bomb that is any Innis and Gunn beer, SNPA certainly isn’t smooth and creamy. I had a look in one of my local Tesco stores for the offending sign, I’d taken a marker pen to correct it, but they didn’t have one on display.

It seems to me that someone at Tesco who, on this evidence, doesn’t know anything about beer, has cobbled together a press release to advertise the fact that they’re now stocking some US beer. At the same time, they’ve produced some point of sale signage that hasn’t been checked by anyone with a clue. Then the Observer has rephrased the press release and again, not had it checked by anyone who knows anything about beer. Depressing beyond words.

We keep getting told that one of the barriers that stops people from getting into beer, is the lack of good clear information. Point of sale signage and articles like this, that are so technically wrong are not going to help matters.

Red Shield, White Shield and Celebration Shield

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, here and here, I was sent some beer by Kristy McCready from Molson Coors. I’d already had the P2, but for some reason, I’d just not got round to drinking the Red Shield, White Shield or Celebration Shield. So a few weeks ago, I thought it was high time I got round to drinking them.

The Red Shield poured a lovely deep straw colour, with an ever so slight haze. A white fluffy head was easily formed, but didn’t last very long and dropped to a thick patchy covering. The nose was subtle, a bit of biscuit, a hint of fruit and some sulphurous Burton snatch.

The mouth feel was interesting, it started off smooth and then felt like if got rougher, before settling down again. It felt like it was over carbonation that was causing the roughness, but there was no visual evidence of that. In fact the visual evidence pointed to a perfectly carbonated bottle.

I liked the taste, it was quite mouth watering. It was mostly a light fruitiness, think of a rich fruit cake and take all the heaviness and richness out to leave just the fruit. There was also that distinctive Burton water taste as well, which I’ve really grown to like, but I know would put some people off. The after taste was more lingering fruitiness, intertwined with the fading Burton taste.

I must admit to being quite surprised at how much I liked this beer. I think it would be a perfect beer for a sunny early summer evening.

I’ve written about White Shield before, more than once, so I’ll skip doing it again, other than to say, I really, really, really like it.

Finally it was time for, Celebration Shield. It poured darker than the Red Shield, but lighter than the White Shield and was a lovely amber colour. There was a very loud, pfzt, when the bottle opened and it was extremely lively during the pour. The head was massive, a huge, rocky, white tower of foam. It did collapse in on itself quite quickly and eventually settled down to a good covering.

I’m not sure what it smelt of, there wasn’t any particular aroma that was front and centre. If anything, there was maybe a hint of yeasty mustiness and a fleeting glimpse of Burton snatch, but that was about it. I’d love to wax lyrical about how good this beer was, but to be honest it was over carbonated and this distracted from practically everything else. Even after leaving it to sit for forty minutes or so, it was a mouthful of bubbles on every sip.

What I could taste through the bubbles was quite nice. It was malt led, with a subtle bitterness that crept in and lingered for a bit. Mainly though, it was just bubbles, which was a real shame, as I think it would have been really tasty if there had been a bit less condition.

P2 and Bracia

Open It! is there for those bottles that are set aside for a special occasion which invariably never comes. It’s for those bottles that take pride of place in the cellar but never end up getting opened before sadly being replaced by shiny new bottles. It’s for that one beer you’ve been waiting to open but just didn’t know when to open it. Or, it’s just for sitting down and opening something different, something you’ve always wanted to try or something brand new.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was sent some beer by Molson Coors, which included a bottle of the legendary P2 Imperial Stout. I’ve had this beer out of the beer cupboard on a number of occasions since I received it, but something has always stopped me drinking it, so Open It! was the perfect kick up the arse I needed to finally try it.

It basically poured black, but you could see through it round the edges, but only just. A tan coloured head formed eventually, but didn’t hang around and dropped to a ring around the edge fairly quickly. The nose was thick with massive roasted coffee and dark chocolate notes and was seriously inviting.

I was quite surprised at the taste, I was expecting the roasted notes to be much stronger than they were. I was very smooth, with the roasted coffee and dark chocolate coming in late, rather than being upfront. There was also just a hint of wateriness around the edges, although it was just a hint and didn’t last long. The after taste lingered and lingered and was a lovely combination of coffee, chocolate and molasses.

Next up was Thornbridge Bracia, I had this beer in the Euston Tap the day after it opened and it was my top draft beer of last year. So I was really looking forward to cracking open a bottle, but had been putting it off as a few people had mentioned that they didn’t think the bottled version wasn’t very good.

It poured about as black as you can get, darker than the P2 as you couldn’t really see anything around the corners. A tan coloured head was easily formed, but didn’t last and eventually pretty much disappeared. Swirling the beer round the glass showed that it had major legs. The nose revealed the key ingredient, which is Italian chestnut honey. If you didn’t know that it was chestnut honey, you might think that something was majorly wrong with the beer as it has such a powerful and distinct aroma.

The main complaint I’d heard of why the bottled version of Bracia wasn’t good, was due to a sharp phenolic taste, which may be due to the use of peated malt. While there is a bit of phenolic, I thought that it was just the chestnut honey, rather than the peated malt, and I didn’t think it detracted from the beer, but then I was expecting it. If you’ve never had chestnut honey on your toast, you probably don’t know just how powerful it is, it’s got a really, really strong taste and aroma. I think that Thornbridge have done an amazing job integrating the honey into this beer, for my money, it’s amazing.

It’s smooth and full bodied and while it’s all about the honey, I don’t find it too overpowering. It was one of the best beers I’ve ever had on cask and for me it’s sensational from the bottle too. Now I just need to find a load of spare money to go and buy more.