Friday, 25 March 2016

My Friend Matthew... (Or, On The Tasting Of Wicked Weed Beers)

Herbert Hoover During His Cat Period
Matthew is a college professor based these days in North Carolina. I know him, like I know most of my US friends, through the World of Beer. Matthew has a few eccentricities. His cat has his own Facebook page (we're friends), and once in a while, I'll receive an enigmatic postcard from the US. It will usually feature some historical person, their face carefully obscured by a sticker of a cat's head. Lovingly and carefully cropped and mounted on the postcard. I offer exhibit one...

I think I've worked out why. Matthew is based not far from Wicked Weed Brewing, in Asheville, NC. Founded in 2009, they're one of the growing number of US producers of sour beers. And they come highly-regarded by beery friends Stateside. So, I headed to The Bottle Shop in Bermondsey to sample some of them.

There's a range of nine, including farmhouse ales, a gose-style, sours and, intriguingly, a pumpkin ale. Most of the beers were bottled during the autumn of 2015, so are still quite young. A couple - the Serenity and Horti-Glory - I thought could stand a while longer in the bottle to let the brett character develop a little more. The Tropic Most Gose has passion fruit added, but, behind a tannic nose, it was barely noticeable. The coriander was similarly understated, and the beer finished long and refreshing with gentle saltiness.

I don't like pumpkin beers - I don't get the point of them, and if it wasn't for cinnamon and nutmeg, they'd be tasteless. So the Xibalba Imperial, which weighed in at 8.2%, and has cocoa nibs and ancho, serrano and habanero chillis added, was interesting. It was complex, with a little chilli slap on the roof of my mouth, and some heat at the back of the throat in the finish. There was chocolate and a little coffee roastiness on the palate, all in all quite complex and easily the best pumpkin ale I've tried.

Favourite beer was the Amorous dry-hopped sour. Aged for up to 10 months in red wine barrels, and dry-hopped (don't know what hops, though), this had picked up some character during the ageing, but it was dry, a little tart and I thought an excellent representation of a lambic sour. The Oblivion, a sour red, was also lovely.

Pete Brissenden was driving, but this was not a tutored tasting, more a chance to get together and share thoughts on some excellent beers. The Bottle Shop are looking to run more events like this, and they could become very popular. I'm still working out my thinking on events (see last exciting episode) but I'm wondering whether this is a natural part of the maturing of London's beer scene. Drinkers might not have been ready for something like this in 2010, but now there's a large and still-growing pool of open-minded and enthusiastic beer lovers, for whom this type of event is tailor-made.

Now to get tuned up for Brodie's Bunny Basher...

(Boggle paid for his own ticket. I trust my beery acquaintances across the pond, and they were right. If you start to receive postcards with cats superimposed, then you'll know why...)

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