One of the good things about this little project has been the nudge to go to different places, such as Mother Kelly’s in Bethnal Green.
Though we still think of it as that new bar we must get to at some point, it turns out to be five years old, and now part of a substantial chain. Time slips away.
We had formed the idea, perhaps based on murky social media photos, that it was a small, dark space on the corner of a back street. In fact, it’s in a large railway arch with a decent beer garden and, on a sunny April afternoon at least, perfectly airy and bright.
Though Mother Kelly’s does have draught beer, its selling point is really the wall of fridges on the customer side, packed with intriguing beers from sought after breweries. We figured there might be at least one barley wine lurking in there.
There were three, but they took a while to find, during which squinting, bent-backed hunt we concluded that fancy packaging designs and quirky names are great and all that but they don’t half make it a challenge to work out what you’re buying.
We chose the cheapest of the three at a drink-in price of £12 for 440ml. It was the 2017 vintage of Marble’s wonderfully clearly-named 12.4% barley wine, BARLEY WINE. Being an antique, the can had spots of rust across its top, and crumbs and dust, so we asked for a quick clean up before pouring. We got it, albeit grudgingly – maybe a bit of filth on your tinny is considered all part of the fun these days?
Sitting down to drink a beer that you already resent is a good test of quality. Any irritation we felt in this case passed the moment we tasted it, which really was fantastic – almost, maybe, perhaps £6‑per-nip good.
It seemed positively luminous in the dainty glassware, cycling orange, red and gold depending how the light struck it. The condition was also excellent proving that cans can work for this kind of beer.
Between appreciative purring, we talked it over: on the one hand, it did rather resemble Gold Label, but it also reminded us of a very particular beer: an attempt to recreate Ballantine IPA using Cluster hops. Raspberry jam, marmalade, chewy syrup sweetness, clean-tasting and double-bass resonance. Just wonderful.
And one more small twist: because of the difficulty of pouring two clear glasses from one can, we got to try this with and without (a tiny bit) of yeast haze. On balance, though it was hard to resist the sheer visual appeal of yeastless, slightly yeasty actually tasted better – softer and silkier, with a little less jangle.
We continue to hold Marble in high regard and will probably go back to Mother Kelly’s some time, when we’ve saved up some pocket money.