OK, so I have drunk a lot of beer in my time. I know what I like. Fuller’s London Pride (and the mighty ESB), Young’s Special, Wadworth 6X, Ringwood Forty Niner and Old Thumper, Ruddles County, Old Speckled Hen, Shropshire Lad, Sharps Doombar: these and many more are all very fine ales. I’ll quaff lager, be it Peroni, Stella, 1664, Estrella (Barcelona!), Red Stripe (maan!) San Miguel. I think I could hold my own with a beer buff on Belgian Beers, the Trappists, Duvel, Leffe. I love a good German lager, sitting in a market square in Munich. But I wouldn’t claim to be a connoisseur.
My friend Simon James, @gueuzel on Twitter, most definitely is. Every year he arranges a beer tasting for 50-60 friends in Ealing. He gets in six very interesting, mostly very strong beers, and invites the assembled throng to assess them. Pizza is thrown in half way through. Simon has been hosting this with wit and passion for eight years now. This year was the first time I have been.
It was awesome!
I’m not going to go into vast detail, but I’ve got a picture of each beer and will add a sentence or two. There is a theme every year and this year all the beers were from the USA. Certainly changed my perception of the US as the home of refreshing but rather tasteless lager. (Blame Budweiser).
So here we go. Starting with a quaffer and ending up with something that could replace dessert wine after Christmas pudding!
First up. Longboard Island lager, Kona Brewery, originally from Hawaii. Very drinkable lager, with a hint of lemon. A step up from Budweiser. 4.6% strength.
2nd, Freedom (or French) Tickler, modelled on a French “Saison farmhouse” ale. From the Oskar Blues brewery, based in Colorado and North Carolina. Quite like the Belgians, to me. Cloudy, a bit like Hoegaarden. 5.8% – getting serious.
3rd, Anchor Porter Steam beer from San Francisco. The connoisseurs purred over this one. I’m not a huge fan of dark beers (until they transform into Guinness) but this was good. Consensus was that there were real chocolate flavours in this one. 5.6%.
4th, Lagunitas IPA (India Pale Ale), from the Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma, California. Cool! A very fine beer, with a grapefruit aroma and a hoppy, fruity taste. Maybe a bit too strong for quaffing, but a couple of bottles would be nice. 6.2%
(The arm in the photo is my good friend Paul, who claims he has drunk this as a session beer in America!)
5th. Trellis Garden Ale, from the Odell Brewery in Colorado. (I’m beginning to think Colorado is a good place for drinking beer!). This came in a wine-sized bottled and cost £16.42. It’s a ruby colour with a strong aroma of mint and other herbs. It doesn’t taste minty, but has a good hoppy flavour. In the sense that the strength takes a moment to hit you, it reminded me of Duvel. It is a quality beer, to be treated with respect. 8.7%.
Last, and most, Founders Curmudgeon. A brutal beer. Thinking about aromas, I got bread and butter pudding! It is rich and fruity, like a dessert wine, but with a hoppy underpinning. A fascinating clash of flavours. To be treated like a dessert wine in terms of the quantity drunk. 9.7%.
An educational evening.
We were sharing the cans and bottles, although I didn’t realise when we got the cans of Longboard at the start! Luckily not everyone had turned up at that point. And it was the quaffer. I was able to watch Match of the Day without falling asleep when I got home. And the Championship highlights afterwards. I hadn’t expected that!
Respect to Simon, his wife and friends, who made it all possible.