A candle-lit night at Shakespeares offering the opportunity to wax lyrical about beery beverages; what could be better?
Now then, how does this malarkey work? Line `em up, knock `em back, farty beer talk and then pick a number (1-10, no halves allowed!). Chris had everything really well set up, as you`d expect at Sheffield`s best boozer, and Sean off of Beer Central in the Moor Market had socially networked to bring together a reyt motley crew of us (self-professed) beer boffs.
The tackle was lined up in order of ABVs aiming to start with the lowest first and progress from there onwards and upwards. A broad range of styles was evident to really stretch the palate, particularly bearing in mind that this included one or two I was not too fond of like saison and weisse-y stuff but then that`s one of the beauties of this sort of event - stepping outside of your beery comfort zone and trying something different (no dunkel though, phew!).
Having recently returned from a Mid Wales visit, I started proceedings with Sunshine from Monty`s. This little brewery are based in Montgomery and their tap is at The Sportsman in Newtown, a popular haunt of the area`s keen CAMRA branch. Sunshine is a hoppy delight (predominantly Cascade) that has picked up an award or two, is very sessionable and weighs in at 4.2%. It seemed to be pretty well received and scored respectably from the tough crowd who were (almost all) new to this Powys brewery. Later I learnt that one of these earlier events had begun with brews around the 8% mark and gone up in ABV from there! Still, I was content with my choice and the ideal of drinking local stuff whenever it is possible and palateable.
Kate from the Three Tuns (and family) was next up though and her offering from the fantastic Buxton Brewery was a strong contender for a fair old while. Far Skyline is a lovely dry-hopped weisse drop but another sessionable beer and, it was becoming clear, that type of tipple would struggle to win what was shaping up to be a heavyweight contest. Local challenges from the likes of Nook and Raw fell alongside stateside superstars Stone as Buxton looked to have (Axe) edged it. Odell`s Footprint made its ,errr mark, with prickly pear juice, chilli, sweetcorn etc, all locally (by U.S. standards) sourced, and then exported to North Riding. This bottle showed that, if you chuck enough wacky flavours in there, you come out with a bland beer - a low scorer tonight.
Beavertown are based in Hackney, London-town, and have a deservedly high reputation. In fact the two main challengers in this bottle share smackdown both had us nerds wondering `is this beer`? Applelation is a barley wine, well barley champagne, that looks as a saison but the aroma quickly lets you know it is from a higher league. There`s a bit of everything in here but it balances and contrasts intriguingly at 8.7%. Sweet, sour, citrus, bitter, barley, champers, dahling! Loved it and scored it 8. And I still `don`t like` saisons.
The Nogne / Bridge Road special dished out to end proceedings came close to the top slot for me but the red wine was just that bit too sweet and lacking depth or spiciness despite its gorgeous colour and its multiple ocean transit betwixt Oz and Norway. Nice though it was too wine-driven for some. Beavertown won this one scoring an average of over 8 / 10 from us fussy folk.
A couple of pints of HDM before bed-time were ideal night caps chatting to Steel City Dave and blogger nonpareil Wee Beefy. Hats off to Chris of Shakespeares and Sean from Beer Central for organising this and to the collective for bringing along some cracking ales and for making me feel welcome at my first bottle share. Give it a go!