Friday, 31 January 2014

Bracia (10%) by Thornbridge Hall

It is with a fair degree of hesitancy and reluctance that we add this Strong English Ale. Bracia was a Christmas present and it is one of those rich, dark beers that they reckon will age well and develop added dimensions if left to its own devices for a year or too. Truth be told, this one was mebbe a bit too complex for us despite leaving it to mature for almost an entire calendar month!

Having loved THORNBRIDGE Hall`s IMPERIAL RASPBERRY STOUT on Christmas Day, saving the beauty of Bracia for Danny`s 40th birthday seemed a canny idea. Allegedly, this one was inspired by some irn bru, or, more accurately, it was conceived after researching an Iron Age Derbyshire beverage recorded in Roman inscriptions at Haddon Hall. The historical honey (not now we realise a preferred beer geek ingredient!) was harvested / milked / pruned or whatever from some amazing bees in the cultural heart of er, cultural Italy. As bees go, these were probably Serie A, and probably Serie A in the 90`s when it wor t`best league in t`world with Gazza, Incey, Platty and other lion-hearts kicking seven bells out of local latin legends. Not wanting to pillage further, here`s Thornbridge`s own commercial description:-

Bracia is the Celtic name for a beverage brewed in Iron Age Europe with reference found on a Roman inscription at Haddon Hall,Derbyshire. Little is known about this except it was high in alcohol, brewed with cereals and, most probably, honey. Thornbridge’s Bracia has been infused with a generous amount of dark and bitter Chestnut Honey. This was sourced by Head Brewer Stefano Cossi from Beekeeper Onelia Pin in the Alpine foothills of North East Italy. Aromas are of chestnut, honey, cappuccino, white chocolate, dark fruits, vibrant fresh peel. The mouthfeel is velvety and rich, with notes of coffee, chocolate, liquorice and hazelnuts with warming alcohol, cocoa and a little peat in the finish. Malts: Maris Otter, Brown, Munich, Dark Crystal, Black, Chocolate, Peated and Roasted Barley. Hops: Target, Pioneer, Hallertau Northern Brewer and Sorachi Ace. Bracia can be cellared for up to one year, maybe longer. Its flavours will evolve so why not enjoy the experience of opening a bottle every once in a while.

Phew. Ouch. (Headache). We got some of the nuttiness, chocolate and dark fruit taste but the sweetness and alcohol hit was way too heavy for our lightweight heathen palates. (One on-line review said it smelt and tasted of `wet cardboard` and then gave it near full marks...! OK). And I knew we ought to worry when STUART Pickard`s review on you tube was hesitantly positive; £12 for a beer is not ideal in austere ever-after Yorkshire! Maybe we didn`t serve it up carefully enough - we split it three ways in spirit glasses and the temperature was about right. Should it have breathed more? Or have been left in t`cellar (empty of all alcohol always btw)? Who knows, tha knows! Still, us beergeeks are keen to sample more from the Hall! However, in this instance, no one seemed to like it and we happily schlepped back to another simple party pint of ABBEYDALE DECEPTION, straight from the cask. Doh!

Simpleton Scores
Danny 4-0 awards a sceptical 6 / 10 and Mike says 6 / 10 too!
Revised! Mike goes 9 / 10
I was fortunate to receive a second bottle of this for Father`s Day and now I get it. This time I poured it much more carefully and only had a little bit at first. The bitter honey came through in a really well-balanced way (first time I have ever really enjoyed honey in ale) alongside molasses and liquorice plus all kinds of other complexities. I actually continued drinking this over the next 2 days and it tasted great. A dark silky body with a little lacing then a tan head and slight carbonation. Long-lasting warm aftertaste too. Less is more.

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