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Magical Mystery Pour #15: Durham Brewery Bombay 106

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?

Durham Bombay in the glass.

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.

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Saisons Pt 8: The Last Two

As we draw near the end of this series of posts reporting our experiences of tasting British-brewed saisons, we’ve abandoned any attempt at theming: the only thing these last two have in common is that we bought them both from Beer Ritz.

Before we get down to our brief tasting notes, here’s a reminder of what this is all about: we want to have a short list of three we can wholeheartedly recommend. So, while ‘Do we like it?’ is a good starting point, whether other people might like it is also important and, in practice, that means we’re not after madly left-field interpretations.

  • Durham Brewery Raspbeery [sic] Saison, 5.6% ABV, 500ml @ £4.20.
  • Weird Beard Saison 14, 6%, 500ml @ £3.52.
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Hitting the stash

Autumn seems to have struck all of a sudden – it’s windy and wet and there are an alarming number of leaves on the ground for August.  It meant that for the first time for ages, we fancied a night in with the stash.

We’ve collected quite a few odd beers. You know the type — you think they’ll be interesting but not necessarily nice, so you don’t get round to drinking them.  First up was the notorious Speedball, by Brewdog, which sounded foul from the description (kola nut, guarana, poppy, c-hops and honey) but was actually very pleasant.  For all the look-at-me-I’m-contraversial marketing, it tasted like a nice, non-extreme American Amber ale.  Maybe some of the extreme flavours had mellowed over time?  Speedball is now called “Dogma”, by the way.

Next up was Ginger Tom by Robinson’s, a mix of their Old Tom and Fentiman’s ginger ale.  This 6.5% strong ale didn’t quite work – too much ginger and not enough Old Tom, making it fizzy and overpowering.  You could see what they were trying to do though, because the aftertaste was really nice, like gingerbread.

Expecting those two to be weird and undrinkable, we’d also laid out Temptation, a “Russian stout” from the Durham Brewery.  Can you go wrong with a 10% imperial stout that says “best between September 2007 and September 2012”?  No.  It’s great, with loads of comforting flavours – vanilla, chocolate, coffee, liquorice, sherry.  One to savour and our beer of the week.