A 7% traditional English-style IPA designed to evoke the 19th Century? Yes please.
This is the second beer chosen for us by David Bishop (@beerdoodles – website here). He says: ‘Big boned and no nonsense. I think this will be a nice beer for you to share – 250mls each that will leave you checking the bottle for one or two more drops.’
A couple of years ago Durham Brewery was all the rage thanks in part, it seemed to us, to a certain generosity with samples for bloggers, Tweeters and raters. We had a few of their beers here and there and found that they ranged from decent (White Stout) to shoddy. So we were pleased at the opportunity to give them another go although our hopes weren’t high.
We bought our bottle from Beer Ritz at £4.02 for 500ml. It is bottle-conditioned and so, with our last messy Durham experience in mind, we kept it chilled. It actually poured beautifully, the yeast sticking to the bottom of the bottle through multiple dips, depositing a whipped-white head on a body a shade darker than standard lager. The aroma wasn’t huge but there was something fruity – peach-like, perhaps?
The taste was, frankly, startling. It took us by surprise and left us momentarily disoriented. Then we got it: strawberries. Not mango or passion fruit or grapefruit or any of those other modern IPA navigation landmarks but soft, sweet English garden fruit. People sometimes talk about this as an off-flavour but we’ve always quite enjoyed it in, for example, the stronger BrewDog IPAs.
That was laid over a snappy Great British Bake Off background of biscuit and bread – wholesome stuff, though, with grains to chew on – followed by a solid but not overwhelming bitterness, with a slight seasoning saltiness.
The flavours seemed to unroll distinctly, checking and highlighting each other – it’s too sweet, no it’s not, or is it? Not so much balance as an energising back and forth. Stimulating.
Altogether, we liked it. It tasted absolutely English, old-fashioned without being mummified, and just boozy enough to feel like an adventure. The website tells us it’s all Maris Otter and Goldings so definitely the kind of beer the 1990s IPA revivers had in mind before C-hops took over.
So that’s Durham out of the sin bin and back on the worth-a-try list.