See what I did there?
So, as I write, The Rake in Borough Market is hosting an evening of beers brewed by David Bailey, lately a publican and award-winning blogger but now turning his hand to larger-scale brewing as Hardknott Brewing. Glyn Roberts at The Rake had approached David with an offer to feature his beers and lo, it came to pass...
I popped along at kick-off to sample the precious pong and hopefully say 'hullo' to Mrs & Mrs Hardknott. As I arrived, Glyn had arrayed the beers across his three beer engines, with cellar runs available for the fourth. Dave and Ann had supplied Continuum, Cool Fusion, Dark Energy and Infra Red in cask, while Aether Blaec and Granite were available in bottles.
I quickly ran through the cask offerings in half-pints to see what I liked. The sensation of the early evening is Cool Fusion, a 4.4% golden ale with ginger and chili. The ticker contingent had settled on this and were enthusing about it with the rest of the gathering. Ginger ales might be the hipster sup du jour, but this isn't your Crabbies. This is subtle, a spicy nose and vibrant refreshing mouthfeel, the ginger not overpowering, and a long finish when the chili announces itself. Some resiny notes in there as well.
The Dark Energy Stout is 4.9%, a concoction from the mad scientist's lab, with a complex grain bill and generous hopping. I'm a fan of Storm King stout from Victory Brewing in Downingtown, PA, and a mention of astringency in dark beers had Dave musing on earlier versions of Dark Energy where this characteristic was more noticeable. He wasn't sure if it was a good thing, but I say go for it! A big earthy nose with a suggestion of red fruit (raspberries, I thought), the hops dancing all over the palate and a long roasty finish with hints of dark chocolate. A complex and very drinkable stout.
The Infra Red IPA at 6.2% was ruby, bright and inviting. Cascade on the nose, a warming viscous mouthfeel and the Centennial hops arrive late to provide a slow and lazy mouthful. An insidious IPA, this one. No hop beast getting in your face, more tapping you on the shoulder asking if you'd mind kindly stepping outside for a little chat.
Dave brought along a couple of them Northern sparklers, so we were treated to some experimentation with the Cool Fusion and Dark Energy. I've never had an opinion of beers dispensed through a sparkler, though as a Southerner there's been a natural suspicion that the beer will come out as flat as a pancake with a 3-inch head. However, a trip to Yorkshire last year immediately disabused me of those prejudices. 23 pubs in eight towns in two and a half days will clarify your thinking about some things.
There were also snifters of the bottled beers: Aether Blaec, the 8% stout aged in whisky casks, and Granite, the 10.4% barley wine. Ann pronounced herself a fan of the latter, and I would concur. Dave brewed it by boiling for 24 hours to reduce the wort, then dry-hopped during maturation. I don't think he meant it, but this beer is suggestive of some of the better American seasonal barleywines: not boozy, some balancing bitterness from the hops but reminiscent of a port wine. Try and get hold of a SPH Old Herb, or an Anchor Old Foghorn and see for yourself.
The Aether is an obvious cousin of the Dark Energy, but there's vanilla on the nose and it's warming and not overly phenolic or boozy as some barrel-aged beers can be.
My time tonight was short but sweet. Dave is an enthusiastic and curious brewer, and he admits he's still learning. His beer names are playful and give away his love of the sciences, and his branding is distinctive and modern. He has plans for some of his beers, and I saw he and Burnley Dave from the Wenlock Arms deep in conversation before I left.
Look these beers out, and enjoy...