‘I’m not putting it on until you’ve drunk that one,’ we overheard as we approached the bar of the Star Inn, Crowlas, on Friday afternoon. There was definitely what passes for A Buzz in sleepy West Cornwall.
‘What’s coming on then?’ I asked Steve the barman, eagerly studying the ‘Coming d’reckly’ part of the chalkboard beer menu.
‘Hoptimystic. It’s new.’
We did our bit to help finish off the blocking cask by ordering a couple of pints of a perfectly decent Blonde from Great Heck and sat down to play cribbage in the corner by the fire.
Then, a couple of rounds in… Was there a sudden hush among the garrulous gang of middle-aged pals at the bar? Somehow, anyway, we just knew it had arrived and so drained our glasses before dashing up to to get in on the action.
It looked a lot like Pete’s other flagship beers — 11/10 on the clarity scale and pale gold. (Sorry — maybe ‘light straw yellow’.) The taste was a revelation for me. I usually dislike coconut — the real thing, in real life — and find any suggestion of it in beer a bit off-putting, but here it was overwhelming and yet at the same time delicious. There were some hints of tropical fruit too, such as mango and (slightly unusual) lychee, but without tasting like the syrup from a tin of Del Monte. No, quite the opposite — it was extraordinarily clean and refreshing, even at 4.7%.
It was so good I caught myself (old habits die hard) evangelising at the bar: ‘You really want to try that — it’s like coconut! No, trust me, I don’t like coconut either. Can’t stand Bounties. But this is amazing!’ Not that most of the regulars seemed to need convincing — we could hear them coo-ing over it as they played pool, exchanging tasting notes.
Steve was able to tell us that it is single hop beer, which he pointed out isn’t something Peter Elvin does generally, and that, though he couldn’t recall the variety, ‘It’s experimental, he used a lot of it, and it was expensive.’ Everyone on the Internet told us it must be Sorachi Ace which we doubted because it seemed more subtle than that. But, having checked with Darren ‘Beer Today’ Norbury, it turns out the Internet was right, and the subtlety is probably down to the Elvin Effect.
Darren also tells us that some of the regulars, on balance, are finding it a bit weird — ‘a hop too far’ was the phrase he used. Certainly Bailey was less convinced than me, more intrigued than delighted.
For my part, I’ve made a note to remind myself of it when the time comes to decide on a Beer of the Year for 2016. Good to have that out of the way in January, eh?