I've found it frustrating for a little while that I don't seem to know enough people in my local area who are sufficiently interested in bottled beer to want to get together as a group and taste their way through some interesting or unusual bottles - the type of beers that you shy away from purchasing purely for your own speculative consumption, as although you may be keen to try them, you can't be quite sure you'll like them enough to consume an entire 750ml bottle of "Extreme Stout aged over Tarmac and Biltong with a late addition of Poison Ivy and Dragonfruit" (an exaggeration, but it's not that far off a description you may read from Mikkeller or Brewdog ;-).
So I jumped at the chance when invited to meet up with some fellow beer-tweeters to sample the range of AleSmith beers currently found on the Brewdog website - a group effort meaning we'd all get the chance to try these beers for a more reasonable cost, could move on to the next taste if one wasn't to our personal liking, and of course could enjoy discussing them in the company of other friendly folks.
|Cats and beer go well together|
The evening was ably hosted by @RichTheVillan, with his cat Oliver making a special guest appearance, and some snacks provided to mop up the beer. Also in attendance were @RobertoRossUK, @Kaufmanised and @UncleMuttley, who had arranged the ale purchasing. I'd brought some tasting notes with me in an attempt to work out a suitable drinking order, so we wouldn't have too many clashes on our palates, and so we proceeded through the goodies in the following sequence:
AleSmith X - this was listed as an "Extra Pale Ale", and as the lightest-sounding beer we tried this first. This had a good hop nose but a slightly thin body in comparison; however this probably would make it a good 'pintable' beer as it certainly wouldn't clog your palate. I also seemed to detect a slight Saison-yeast aroma, but I haven't found anything online to indicate if a Belgian yeast strain is used in this.
AleSmith Summer YuleSmith - apparently this is a beer that is brewed twice a year, but with a tweak so they end up as different seasonal styles. This was the summer version, a Double IPA. It was much paler than expected - I guess I've seen a lot of viscous, murky orange-brown double IPAs recently. Waves of resiny aromas pointed to the probable inclusion of Simcoe in the hop mix , which created a good mix of fruit and bitter flavours without being too cloying or sticky. We all agreed it was alarmingly drinkable for it's ABV (9.5%), with a finish that wasn't too heavy and made you crave another glass.
AleSmith Grand Cru - as other beers in our selection were mostly darker or sweeter, we opted for the Belgian-style ale next. This is reportedly made using Trappist yeast which contributed definite Belgian flavours, and had lovely muted candi-sugar sweetness, but I wasn't getting much hop complexity from it. It was enjoyable, but I think perhaps I expected slightly more from something called a 'Grand Cru'.
AleSmith Horny Devil - this also utilizes the Trappist yeast and surprised me in being more of a golden strong ale than I expected, like a Duvel clone (I guess the clue is in the name!) - but it had a very easygoing mouthfeel for 11% compared to it's namesake which can sometimes be a bit overbearing, and everyone round the table seemed to find this very drinkable and moreish.
AleSmith Wee Heavy - now we moved on to a trio of sweeter/heavier beers, and this one was a take on the Scotch style, which seems to be more widely revered outside of Scotland (in Belgium and America) than by native breweries. This example had that big, thick, B-vitamin packed, Bovril-like richness. It was warming and (true to form) heavy, but despite this, still compellingly sippable. I felt this was a really good example of a Scotch ale, more what you would expect from the style descriptor than any widely-available 'heavy' produced in Caledonia these days. I'm hoping to visit there again soon, so perhaps I'll find something in Edinburgh to challenge this opinion!
|Beer of the evening!|
AleSmith Speedway Stout - we had looked forward to this one with anticipation, expecting it to be the standout beer of the evening - and we weren't disappointed. It's a weighty 12% and has added coffee in the recipe, and the aromas and flavours were a heady mix of smokiness, cherry tobacco leaf, lots of dry cedar wood, and espresso-roast bitterness. Yet it really wasn't overbearing, and there was no 'palate fatigue' despite the assault of flavours and the ABV. It had a long, smooth finish that faded to leave some subtle coffee undertones. Tasting this beer alone made the evening a worthwhile venture, and seemed to make @Kaufmanised very happy!
AleSmith Old Numbskull - perhaps influenced by the name, we had kept this one to last - listed as a "West Coast style barley wine". It reminded a bit of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot and typified the American barleywine form, with it's silky, warm sensations from the first sip. @RobertoRossUK wondered if a Belgian yeast may have been used in this brew also, which could have aided the drinkability despite the heavy malt character. It was like a warm winter-weight duvet in a glass, and an appropriate end to the evening's samples.
|Special guest Oliver|
The inaugral 'bottle club' meet-up was an all-round success, with convivial company and a great range of beers; plans were hastily drawn up to hold further sessions to work our way through some Mikkeller, De Molen, Nogne O and De Struisse, kicking off with Hoppin' Frog in October. Thanks to all for organising & inviting me, and hopefully Oliver the cat will put in another guest appearance at the next one!