Welcome to the second month of my Year in Beer challenge. Missed out on month one? Then catch up with A Year in Beer – September.
Week 4 – Foreign Extra Stout (Guinness)
This month I am casting far and wide for my beers, choosing some of the further flung beers from the Independent’s top 50 list. I’m starting with Guinness, a beer that doesn’t feel as though it comes from that far away as it can be found in pretty much every pub you visit. But that’s “normal” Guinness. This is Guinness Foreign Extra Stout.
Fuller in flavour, it is brewed with extra hops and roasted barley and I found it to have a more full-on taste than you expect from the draught Guinness that you would be served in the pub. It has a strong, dark and very pleasant taste and I’m sure I picked up some hints of treacle.
Week 5 – Rum Finish (Innis & Gunn)
Heading across the Irish Sea, we now find ourselves in Edinburgh where Innis & Gunn brew their range of oak aged beer. According to their website, they discovered their oak aged brewing technique as an accidental byproduct of creating an ale finished whisky, finding that the beer used to season the oak whisky barrels was, in itself, something special.
This beer, the Innis & Gunn Rum Finish, adds rum into the mixture (as you might expect) and is billed in the Independent as “a little bit spicy, thrilling and sophisticated at the same time”. I was, naturally, looking forward to this one.
Which made it even more disappointing when I took my first mouthful. I’m a fan of the original Innis & Gunn, but this one failed to set off a spark and I was a little underwhelmed initially. It may be that the heady rum overtones, when mixed with beer, just reminded me of too many bad nights out. Lingering sensory memories of rum chasing beer chasing sense out of the door.
Having said that, it did grow on me and it was a beer that finished better than it started. I’m just not sure that it would tempt me back again.
Week 6 – Fraoch Heather Ale (William Bros)
We turn our attention now to Glasgow and the William Bros Brewing Co. Apparently based on a recipe dating back some 4000 years, the Fraoch Heather Ale is a modern-day version of a very old beer. It wears its Gaelic routes on its sleeve, with a label eschewing any modernity in its design. If I’m honest, I’m a sucker for that sort of thing, and its far and away my favourite bottle design so far.
It has a peaty aroma and, whilst light in colour, it comes across as quite spicy and earthy, with a bitter finish. Made from heather, it is a little bit different from other beers and I rather enjoyed it.
Week 7 – Nut Brown Ale (Sam Smith’s)
Creeping south across the border, my last beer for this month comes from North Yorkshire. Sam Smith’s Nut Brown is introduced in the Independent with the words “everyone loves Sam Smith’s” but I must admit to this being my first taste of one of their beers. Undertaking this little ale odyssey is certainly broadening my beer horizons.
This definitely does have a good hint of nuttiness about it, both in aroma and taste. A strong colour, it almost sparkled as it came out of the bottle and, whilst not my favourite of the beers sampled so far, it is still a tasty pint with another dry finish.
And so concludes October’s grand tour. Next month I will be staying closer to home, sampling a range of West Country entries from the list.