Monday, 5 October 2015

Two brown ales; Brighton Bier and Fourpure

Usually, I wait until I've tried five or six new brown ales and post a bulletin on my latest finds, as I did here and here. On this occasion, I thought I’d better get in quick with my thoughts on two (I think) limited edition beers whilst they’re still around.

Brighton Bier are having a great 2015. Having installed a brand new brewery, they’re going from strength to strength, and at this point have gotten extremely good at packing juicy hop flavour into their beers. Tasting Free State in cask conditioned form, I felt like the beer in front of me just could not possibly taste any fresher – the hops are so upfront, but at the same time, don’t smack you around the chops with bitterness. My guess, at the time, was the hop bill was a mixture of US and Southern Hemisphere hops – “something like orange and lime pith which seems like a Southern Hemisphere thing”, I wrote in a note on my phone, whilst also picking out a lychee tang that suggested Citra. I was wrong on both counts – this is a single hop beer made with Equinox, a new US variety from the same breeders that brought us Mosaic, Simcoe and the aforementioned Citra. The citrus pith thing is a kind of lingering fizzy sensation on the tongue, slightly dry and always encouraging another sip. A complex malt base brings a full, mealy body that’s pitched perfectly for my liking – not heavy going, but never feels like it’s slipping away too easily.

I do have one slight issue, though. Had I been accosted in the pub, blindfolded and asked to taste this beer without knowing what it was, I would have confidently told you it was a pale ale. It’s brown in appearance, sure, but it’s a strange experience whereby the image of the glass you’re drinking from and the taste of the beer in your mouth don’t seem to match. Maybe, once the glass has warmed a little and once I go specifically in search of it, I can detect a hint of caramel, a little chocolate. Don’t get me wrong – this is a great beer, probably the best I've tasted from this excellent brewery and one I could drink endlessly. I just like a suggestion of something dark in my brown ale.

In one of my first posts on the subject of brown ale, I featured a seasonal from Fourpure called, simply, American Brown Ale. This beer served as a prototype for Beartooth, an improved version under a new name and in a new can. I enjoyed it a lot first time round, though my review seems to dwell on a dryness that isn't really there in the new version. It’s still bitter, but well balanced, and full of juicy hop flavour as well.

It’s a very handsome pour – dark brown, bordering on black, with a thick and creamy beige head, and an enticing aroma of fresh citrus fruits hits you immediately. The flavour is a delicate balancing act between malt and hops – there are husky, cereal-like flavours in the background, with a little roasted bitterness that brings coffee and the faintest hint of smoke. The hops, which recall grapefruit and small, sweet oranges – satsumas or tangerines - are harmonious with this malt backbone, neither element threatening to overpower the other. It’s wonderful, and you should drink it whilst you can.

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