Londorval & Landlorval

Last night, we blended funky Trappist pale ale Orval with two classic British best bitters, Fuller’s London Pride and Timothy Taylor’s Landlord.

Our think­ing was that mix­ing beers with some­what sim­i­lar char­ac­ter­is­tics – pale malts, old-school Euro­pean hop vari­eties –would add com­plex­i­ty through sub­tly har­monies.

We poured around three-quar­ters of a pint of each British beer and topped up to a pint with Orval.

First impres­sions were not good. Both blends gained a Granny Smith char­ac­ter that was most pro­nounced in ‘Lon­dor­val’. That is a com­po­nent of Orval’s flavour, yes, but, watered down, as it were, it became a grat­ing, insis­tent irri­ta­tion.

Bot­tled Land­lord isn’t a favourite of ours but, of the two, ‘Land­lor­val’ was the bet­ter blend. Still, as the pint pro­gressed, it began to seem ever more thinned out and gut­ted like… This might sound sil­ly, but like a pint of Wor­thing­ton Cream Flow from a keg that’s been sit­ting around for months in a hotel bar.

So, there you go: Orval doesn’t improve every beer to which you add it after all.

We can’t promise that this will be the last time we blend beers with Orval but it will prob­a­bly be the last such exper­i­ment we both­er writ­ing up. If you come across a good com­bo, let us know.

Peculiorval

Theakston’s Old Peculier (CO-OP, three for £5) is pleasant enough, but rather light-bodied and over-clean. It’s the perfect candidate, then, for blending with Orval, the rambunctious, stylishly unkempt poster child for brettanomyces.

This time (here’s last time), though we were less pre­cise in our mea­sure­ments, we went for an approx­i­mate blend of one part Orval to two parts Old Peculi­er. The result­ing beer was very dark brown but stopped short of being black.

We knew with the first sip that this was anoth­er hit – Orval, still, but new­ly dark, rich and choco­latey. Now, we’re not say­ing it was bet­ter than Orval, just that it was nice to see Orval play­ing against type, doing some­thing dif­fer­ent.

There were flavours here that aren’t, as far as we can tell, in either base beer. Chi­nese five spice came to mind, includ­ing a dan­ger­ous sug­ges­tion of cin­na­mon (we don’t like it in beer, in gen­er­al) which stayed just the right side of tan­ta­lis­ing.

The Orval also brought out Old Peculier’s latent but mut­ed prune and cur­rant flavours, almost as if it were a kind of sea­son­ing.

All in all, there was some­thing dis­tinct­ly medieval about this blend, per­haps recall­ing some of the fruit-laden recipes from the Forme of Cury, and we don’t hes­i­tate to rec­om­mend it as a beer-n-TV pair­ing for the BBC’s Wolf Hall on Wednes­day night.

Proporval

This is the first in a new series of posts about our experiments in blending British ales with the cult Belgian favourite Orval.

We’ve been think­ing for some time, most­ly inspired by read­ing Ron Pat­tin­son, that a lot of British beers would ben­e­fit from a touch of Bret­tanomyces, to add com­plex­i­ty and char­ac­ter. A bit of dirt, if you like.

Then, more recent­ly, Michael Tonsmeire’s excel­lent book Amer­i­can Sour Beers got us think­ing about blend­ing dif­fer­ent beers to taste. In notes accom­pa­ny­ing his recipe for Eng­lish Stock Ale (p318) he says:

Blend with dark mild or a porter to get a taste of what drink­ing in Eng­land was like before Pas­teur and Hansen’s tech­niques cleaned the Bret­tanomyces out of the brew­eries there.

Good idea, Mr Ton­s­meire! (Not that we need much encour­ag­ing to mix beers, mind.)

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Pro­por­val”