Deus and polypin conditioned beer

polypin.jpgWe saw in the New Year at a friend’s par­ty, with a bot­tle of Deus and a polypin of home-brewed stout.

First, the Deus. There’s no deny­ing that this is a very spe­cial beer. It has an incred­i­bly com­plex pro­duc­tion process and shares some cham­pagne matur­ing tech­niques – hence the epi­thet “Brut de Flan­dres”. If you want to find out more about how it’s made you can vis­it their site here.

It’s absolute­ly love­ly, with a won­der­ful per­fumy aro­ma. It’s light on the tongue ini­tial­ly, but with a long com­plex after­taste, and gin­ger and apple notes, amongst oth­ers. But is it worth £15? There are even love­li­er beers avail­able for a lot less. Still, a nice one to pull out for a spe­cial occa­sion, and the bub­bles were fan­tas­tic.

As sad­do home­brew­ers, how­ev­er, we were just as inter­est­ed in see­ing how our polypin-con­di­tioned stout would work. This was the first time we’d used a polypin (essen­tial­ly a strong col­lapsi­ble plas­tic bag with a tap) so we were wor­ried as to how it would turn out. We could­n’t find a lot of guid­ance on the inter­net about using one in home­brew­ing, but it’s quite com­mon for UK brew­eries to offer polyp­ins for home use, so we fig­ured the end prod­uct would prob­a­bly taste OK.

We were slight­ly per­turbed when it expand­ed ready to burst after just a day of sec­ondary fer­men­ta­tion, so we decid­ed to vent it. We con­tin­ued to vent it 2 or 3 times a day until the day before it was due to be served, when it was trans­ferred to our hosts’ house to set­tle. At that point, we start­ed wor­ry­ing about whether it would be car­bon­at­ed enough, or off, or explode in their garage.

And won­der of won­ders, it worked. It was extreme­ly inter­est­ing (well, for us any­way) to com­pare the polypin ver­sion of our stout with the bot­tled one. The one in the polypin was “flat­ter”, but no flat­ter than most cask ales in pubs. They had a dif­fer­ent mouth­feel (per­haps due to the car­bon­a­tion) and the faux-cask ale had a soft­er aro­ma. The cask ale also tast­ed “fresh­er” – it’s dif­fi­cult to describe exact­ly what we mean by that, but hope­ful­ly it’s clear to those who’ve com­pared cask and bot­tle. The bot­tled ver­sion tast­ed like it was­n’t quite ready, whilst the cask ale had def­i­nite­ly matured in the same peri­od (two weeks).

This is a use­ful dis­cov­ery as (a) it saves on bot­tling (b) it’s prob­a­bly as close as we’re going to get to the con­di­tion of cask ale at home – more so than bot­tle-con­di­tion­ing.

Inci­den­tal­ly, we also dis­cov­ered that smoked papri­ka does­n’t *real­ly* work in stout…

The Greenwich Union – on the up again

Publicity photo of meantime coffee stoutTo Green­wich then, to vis­it the Union again. We haven’t been there much recent­ly, maybe once every six months, as we weren’t too impressed with the ser­vice the last cou­ple of times, and Green­wich is a bit of a hike from our gaff.

How­ev­er, we are delight­ed to report that the Union is on top form at the moment, and well worth a vis­it. More than a cou­ple of vis­its a year, in our case. Espe­cial­ly because Mean­time always seem to be tin­ker­ing with their recipes, so the beers nev­er taste quite the same from one vis­it to the next.

For the unini­ti­at­ed, the Union in Green­wich is the main out­let for Mean­time’s beers. Mean­time seems to divide beer lovers; on the one hand, it has many fans, on the oth­er hand, the fact that it serves most of its beers in keg form makes it a no-no amongst hard-core CAMRA types those who feel that cask is the best form of serv­ing beers. [See com­ments]

After today’s vis­it, we would rec­om­mend a vis­it even if you despise Mean­time beers. You can find excel­lent and well-priced food, plus a good range of bot­tled beers from oth­er brew­ers. They’ve obvi­ous­ly tak­en on board pre­vi­ous neg­a­tive com­ments about the ser­vice on sites such as Beer in the Evening – ser­vice was excel­lent, with bar staff keen to plug the Mean­time beers, offer tast­ings and advice and gen­er­al­ly look after the pun­ters.

But onto the beers. The spe­cials on today were a Straw­ber­ry beer, and a stout, which was called some­thing like Lon­don Sin­gle Stout. The straw­ber­ry was very pleas­ant – not quite the thing for the bleak mid­win­ter, but refresh­ing and fruity. The Lon­don Sin­gle Stout was def­i­nite­ly streets ahead of the Extra Dry Stout, reviewed here in May by Stonch, and here by us. It’s not too fizzy, it has a love­ly big body with all sorts of vanil­la and cof­fee flavours. Very impres­sive for 4.5%.

We also thought that the Wheat­beer and Rasp­ber­ry beers had improved. These are also pro­duced in “Grand Cru” ver­sions in bot­tles, and we won­dered whether this had helped improve the qual­i­ty of the “base” prod­uct. The wheat tast­ed of bananas, as expect­ed, but also had a fresh hop fin­ish. The Rasp­ber­ry has got much lighter over the years (it’s bare­ly red at all now) but deliv­ers a beau­ti­ful­ly bal­anced fruit flavour. Unusu­al­ly for a fruit beer, you can also taste the malt and hops. Clever stuff.

The Pale Ale tast­ed like a clean­er, more sparkling ver­sion of Young’s bit­ter. The Pilsen­er is now only avail­able in bot­tles, but is absolute­ly deli­cious – it tastes her­by and spritzy. To fin­ish, we had a Choco­late beer and a Cof­fee beer (also in bot­tles). They’re both mar­vel­lous­ly thick and creamy; the cof­fee porter is prob­a­bly more com­plex, but it would be dif­fi­cult to pick a favourite from the two.

Weird­ly, they did­n’t have any Win­ter Time, and the bar staff were as con­fused as us about why not.

The Rake at Christmas and Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout

If you want to get into the Christ­massy spir­it in Lon­don, a trip to Bor­ough Mar­ket is a win­ner. Geese, game pies, mulled cider, and car­ol-singers under a tree. A real Dick­en­sian won­der­land (just wish they had Dick­en­sian prices). All the bet­ter if you go on a week­day after­noon when you should be in work.

Hav­ing care­ful­ly select­ed some beers in Uto­beer to go with Christ­mas din­ner (more on that after Christ­mas) we retired to the Rake for a qui­et drink or six. We had­n’t been for a few months – it’s rather dif­fi­cult to get in the door in the evenings these days – and were pleased to see that what was on offer had changed con­sid­er­ably since the last time we were there. Not that there was any­thing wrong with the pre­vi­ous selec­tion, it’s just good to see change and vari­ety.

On tap; Hop­Back Entire Stout, O’Han­lon’s Good­will, Sier­ra Neva­da Cel­e­bra­tion Ale, La Chouffe N’ice, Koestritzer Schwarz­bier and I think Maisels’ Weisse. In bot­tles, anoth­er two hun­dred or so.

yeti.jpgOf the var­i­ous beers we had, Good­will was great in that it was­n’t just a stan­dard bit­ter with some cin­na­mon in it. Instead, the brew­ers had gone for cit­rusy flavours and suc­ceed­ed in cre­at­ing a nice­ly bal­anced, warm­ing bit­ter. Sim­i­lar cit­rusy flavours abound­ed in Cel­e­bra­tion Ale, which also tast­ed of peach­es. La Chouffe was very tasty, but then at 10% it should be! All excel­lent beers.

But the star of the show was Great Divide’s Yeti Impe­r­i­al Stout (in bot­tles). Now, we’d had a few drinks before­hand, so I’m not sure in the cold light of the morn­ing I’d be as bold as to say it was the best beer I’d ever tast­ed (which I said a few times last night to any­one who’d care to lis­ten…) But it knocked our socks off suf­fi­cient­ly that we ordered anoth­er one straight after­wards, rather than try a new beer. It’s 9.5% and almost jet black, with a gor­geous mocha-coloured head. It remind­ed me of an amaz­ing hot choco­late I once had in Spain, which was 85% cocoa solids. Incred­i­bly choco­latey, thick and silky, but not at all sweet. It’s very bit­ter (it proud­ly boasts “75 bit­ter­ing units”) but the hop bit­ter­ness blends per­fect­ly with the cocoa bit­ter­ness. It’s a sledge­ham­mer of a beer.

Pretentious? Watashi?

Stout and Oys­ters is a clas­sic com­bi­na­tion. The prob­lem is, nei­ther of us much likes oys­ters, which is just as well, as they’re bleed­in’ expen­sive.

But we do like sushi – espe­cial­ly the stuff that comes in poly­styrene trays from the Japan Cen­tre on Pic­cadil­ly.

bbporter.jpgLast night, we tried home­made “junk­food” salmon rolls with Black Boss, one of the Pol­ish porters we picked up at the Great British Beer Fes­ti­val.

We’ll tell you more about the beer in our forth­com­ing Baltic porter round-up but, for now, what we can say is: sushi and porter is a com­bi­na­tion that works.

There did­n’t seem to be any com­pet­ing flavours, so both the beer and the food tast­ed dis­tinct from each oth­er.

With hind­sight, we’d drink some­thing a lit­tle dri­er and a lit­tle weak­er – Titan­ic Stout would prob­a­bly be per­fect.