Special offer: two for one on Year in Beer entries.
I’m a little bit late in getting my Year in Beer blog posts updated so here, for your reading pleasure, is the first of a June/July two-part blog post. Nine beers for the price of, well, you’re not actually paying for this so, for free.
Week 37 – Dark Star Sunburst
A light, golden-coloured beer with a reasonable amount of carbonation this offers a fruity aroma, although it is not as tropical and fruity as some of the beers I have tried over this year. It has that now-familiar grapefruit kick which is the hallmark of a reasonably bitter beer.
The beginning of June saw the start of a sustained period of really nice weather here in the UK and this was a good beer for the weather; refreshing and a good accompaniment to a nice plate of salad and some chicken.
Dark Star are a brewery that I knew nothing about. Turning to my trusted friend the internet, I can now let you know that Dark Star are almost 20 years old, having started out brewing in a small way in a pub in Brighton. They can now be found near Horsham in West Sussex and have grown to offer a wide variety of beers. So now you know.
Week 38 – Ilkley Brewery Siberia
This beer is listed as “a shameless inclusion” in the top 50 list by contributor Melissa Cole. Why? It was created in collaboration with Ilkley Brewery by one Melissa Cole. Ah ha! Melissa does go on to justify it’s inclusion with the explanation that “it’s just so yummy”.
And do you know what? It is pretty yummy. Not that I was really expecting a bad beer, but it is nice when things meet your expectations.
Siberia is a rhubarb saison, which is a beer style I had never tried before. Yet another example of the ways in which this year has stretched my beer horizons. Saisons originally come from Belgium and are traditional farmhouse ales. Brewed at the end of winter, as spring started to arrive, and designed to last right through the summer until the autumn harvest, these are light and refreshing beers that would be drunk all through the warmer, busier summer months. Reading up on saisons, I was led to expect:
“a sunny orange colour; explosive carbonation…; bright, spicy, fruity aromatics; a refreshing hop attack; and a dry, slightly tart finish” (from Garrett Oliver’s excellent book: The Brewmaster’s Table).
Siberia pours a bright yellow in colour and fizzy, with a large head. In appearance I was reminded of the wheat beers I tried earlier in this challenge; beers that I didn’t really take to unfortunately. Luckily for me, Siberia was much more to my liking than the wheat beers had been. Most of the rhubarb came through in the aroma for me, rather than in the taste, perhaps joined by some other fruits. Maybe orange? It would seem that whilst I have learnt a lot this year, and whilst I can pick up the scent of some tropical fruity hops when they are packed into a beer and jammed under my nose, some of the more subtle aromas are still passing me by.
Again, this is a refreshing beer and was quite tart in taste, as I had been led to expect from a saison. This beer has made me aware of saisons and I have tried a few more since the Siberia. But this was the first.
Week 39 – Triple fff Alton’s Pride
This beer comes with a story. One to save for another post, but a story nonetheless. As I near the end of the list and become ever more desperate to find the beers I need to complete all 50 beers, so I have become more enterprising in finding excuses to head off around the country in search of the missing few. Alton’s Pride falls into that category, but I’ll save my tales of (slightly) more adventurous beer collecting for another day. Suffice to say that I found a good excuse to be in a pub that served Alton’s Pride one sunny afternoon.
This is only the second beer from the year so far that I have tried from the cask. Most have been the bottled versions and it was nice to reconnect this challenge with beer’s spiritual home. The pub. I ordered my pint and took it out into the sunshine to sip.
Scribbling my notes on the edge of my newspaper, I noted down that this came with a good head on it and was a golden brown colour. It has a very pleasant aroma. My notes include “floral?” and “smells nice”, so it’s good to see that I was feeling particularly analytical that day. Taste-wise it doesn’t carry much malt sweetness to counter the bitterness, meaning that the bitterness lingers for quite a while after. I then went on to scribble some fairly unintelligible notes about the aroma, claiming that it had “a hoppy smell, perhaps, but not like a US pale ale”. Which is helpful.
Turning to the brewers themselves, they have this to say (much more succinctly than I had managed):
Full and clean tasting, initially malty then citrus fruit and resinous hop build to a quenching bitter finish.
Which is pretty much what I was getting at. I think.
Week 40 – Meantime London Lager
A Year in Beer hits the big four zero. Forty beers drunk and ten to go.
I had been holding on to this lager for quite a while, awaiting the perfect sunny day to drink what is described in the top 50 list as a “perfect summer lager”. That day came on a visit to Cornwall at the end of June, sitting in my in-law’s garden supping this lager whilst introducing my father in-law to saisons (via beer number 38, Ilkley’s Siberia).
This definitely ticks the box for a nice, refreshing summer beer. Light in colour and without a lot of carbonation, it has a sweet larger aroma. It’s perhaps not the most memorable beer from the list; it dies off quickly and doesn’t linger long. But it’s definitely the type of beer that you could drink a few of, sat in the sunshine.
So that was June. Read on for another five beers in July’s Year in Beer entry…