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”