Patreon’s Choice #1: Bag of Marbles

Marble beers in a row.

This is the first in a series of posts about beers chosen for us by our Patreon subscribers and features beers from Manchester brewery Marble.

It was Steve Lam­ond (@BeersIveKnown) who sug­gest­ed that we try Lost Your Mar­bles and we added a cou­ple of oth­er inter­est­ing look­ing beers from Mar­ble to fill out the box. We bought them (and all the beers for this par­tic­u­lar series of posts) from Beer Ritz because, though the web­site is still mild­ly frus­trat­ing, we like the range on offer and find the ser­vice fuss-free.

The head of a glass of beer with glinting light.

First, as we tack­led these in ascend­ing order of strength, was Sai­son du Pint at 3.9% ABV and £2.80 per 330ml can.

What a clever beer, both in terms of exe­cu­tion and con­cept. It’s the brew­ery’s stan­dard pale bit­ter, Pint, but fer­ment­ed with the same strain of yeast used for the Bel­gian clas­sic Sai­son du Pont. A sort of unof­fi­cial col­lab­o­ra­tion, we sup­pose.

It comes with a huge cot­ton-wool head, a beau­ti­ful­ly clear gold­en body, and a whiff of some sort of sticky banana dessert. It’s tempt­ing to judge it against Sai­son du Pont to which, unsur­pris­ing­ly, it does indeed bear a fam­i­ly resem­blance, but by that stan­dard it seems a lit­tle thin and lack­ing in lux­u­ry. As a quirky ses­sion ale, how­ev­er – remem­ber, 3.9! – it is absolute­ly a win­ner, with a pep­pery mus­tard-leaf prick­le con­tributed by the yeast com­pli­ment­ing the base beer in won­der­ful ways. Sink­able but strange; made to quench thirsts but cut­ting a dandy­ish dash on the way.

A few years ago we gave some talks on the basics of how beer is made and used Ger­man wheat beer to illus­trate the impact of yeast. This would be even bet­ter, tast­ed side by side with orig­i­nal Pint.

The only seri­ous down­side, real­ly, is that we want to drink it by the pint, and sev­er­al pints in a row, rather than from a did­dy can at home.

A dark old ale in the glass with bottle.

Lost Your Mar­bles is the beer Steve real­ly want­ed us to try: “My beer of the year to date – love what [James Kemp, head brew­er at Mar­ble] is doing with his old ales series.” It’s a 9% ABV ‘Cognac Oak Aged Blend’ and cost £5.38 for 330ml. It comes in a plain bot­tle with an attrac­tive­ly designed card dan­gling round its neck on a black rib­bon.

(How do we know the right card stayed with the right beer through­out its jour­ney? We don’t, but let’s not fret about that.)

This dense, dark beer was fas­ci­nat­ing too, in a less sub­tle way. Like a lot of old ales and impe­r­i­al stouts at around this strength it seems to con­tain a bit of every­thing: demer­ara, the burn of spir­its, bon­fire tof­fee, Cola sweets, dessert wine, cof­fee essence… You get the idea.

The sug­ges­tion of sug­ar that had ‘caught’ in the base of a too-hot pan, and a hot whisky note, meant that it was­n’t quite to our taste, but it is clear­ly a well-made, undoubt­ed­ly inter­est­ing, deeply indul­gent beer that will knock the socks of most peo­ple who drink it. Heck, we’d prob­a­bly buy it again, because it came close enough to wow­ing us that the chances are on a dif­fer­ent day, in a dif­fer­ent mood, it would do just that.

The head of a glass of dark old ale.

In a sim­i­lar vein, at the same price, comes Cas­tle of Udolpho, a blend of young and Pinot Noir bar­rel-aged old ale at 10.4% ABV.

This beer was so dark that if it was badged as stout we would­n’t argue. It came with an off-white head and dis­tinct aro­ma of some­thing like sour cher­ry, or even rasp­ber­ry vine­gar. There were flavours of con­densed milk, choco­late and even caramel were bal­anced with a liqueur-like heat and bite, and then chased around the mouth by a Har­vey’s-like funk­i­ness that took a long time to die away. The body seemed odd­ly thin after Lost Your Mar­bles – per­haps a con­se­quence of some­thing (the source of that funk?) hav­ing chewed through some of the resid­ual sug­ar?

Again, though there’s no doubt­ing its com­plex­i­ty or the skill with which it was put togeth­er, some­thing about it did­n’t quite click for us. We liked it, but did­n’t love it. Per­haps it struck us as a lit­tle harsh or overblown, but then the same applies to Har­vey’s Extra Dou­ble Stout and we can’t get enough of that. Per­haps it’s just that when you turn the vol­ume up like this the back­ground noise is ampli­fied along with the good stuff. Our guess is that a bot­tle of this left alone for five years would come togeth­er rather bet­ter. If you like big, boozy, com­plex beers there’s a very good chance you’ll swoon over this one.

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Over­all, we’re left with our high opin­ion of Mar­ble. It’s a brew­ery that takes risks and does inter­est­ing things, whose beers are rarely less than enjoy­able and often bril­liant.

2 thoughts on “Patreon’s Choice #1: Bag of Marbles”

  1. The wine BA LYM did­n’t have any ‘heat’ about it at all – it was one of the things I real­ly liked about it. I’ll have to try these.

  2. They also get points in my book for pro­duc­ing “event” beers that aren’t a) dessert-themed, b) NEIPAs or c) dessert-themed NEIPAs.

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