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.
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.
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.
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.