This month, we release the reigns of OddBlog to our recently-appointed resident
nutter Beer Taster for what can only be described as a 'unique' look at the brews-du-jour. Over to you, James...
EPISODE ONE: THE DRINKENING
In the recent past, premier grape-juice peddlers Oddbins offered up, by way of competition, the role of beer blogger in exchange for a Twitter application. ‘Erudite, well-travelled beerhemouth (34) seeks savvy, customer-focused retailer to taste beer and review for #OddbinsBeer’ was my winning Tweet and golden ticket to the special sauce, hand-selected by Oddbins’ own merchants of gold standard no-no juice.
Oddbins' Beer Taster. We're told he's human.
I should state at this point that I am not a professional taster, I have no background in competitive tasting, I have never taken a course in beer tasting, nor can I even name all beer types. What I do have is an appreciation of well-made things, by passionate enthusiasts rather than cynical businessmen. In beer terms this means I would usually avoid the flavourless, filtered, fizzy water created on an industrial scale by corporate robots, whilst wealthy, pin-stripe suit wearing demons rub their hands together on the side lines – not naming names, of course. It means that I enjoy complex flavours brought about by the endless experimentations of beer scientists, or artists, if you prefer.
Just to give you a vague compass bearing: I favour top-fermenting beers, particularly browns, stouts and old ales. I am happy to enjoy a steam beer (thanks to a recent trip to San Francisco) and even the occasional lager. I am not generally a fan of wheat beers, anything heavily-adulterated with fruit or spices, highly carbonated or overly sweet beers.
In addition to above nonsense, I am a graphic designer by trade and will be spouting off about reviewing the whole package as I believe in the ‘total experience’ of everything I do and enjoy. The look, feel, smell, taste, perceived effort and love put in by the creators of the product or experience, blah blah blah. Now take a moment to imagine how fun a day out with me is for my future ex-wife Debs.
Below is an unsparingly honest cross-section of the brews hand-delivered to me by my new BFFs, Oddbins:
London Field Breweries
3 Weiss Monkeys White IPA – 6% - £2.50 - Available at most London Oddbins
London Field Breweries' 3 Weiss Monkeys
The un-boxing was a little disappointing; the label looked like a Goth had vomited clip-art and a bulky, free font hastily onto the generic, brown bottle. The accent colours were, I assume, picked out by a marine mammal (monochromatic, essentially colour-blind). Also only 330ml, who does that? Tsk.
The bottle pour is dark amber, cloudy and heavily carbonated. I lost a ladies serving before I had the chance to swear lots and smash the rim of the bottle against my central incisors. It jumped out on me like a frog escaping a rarely used drawer, wasting precious sips as it erupted down itself. So far, so fizzy.
Once we’d all had a drink and calmed down, it was time for the smell test. Either I had been indoctrinated by the label or I smelled a hint of banana as promised. Given that its description tells us ‘absolutely tons of Citra hops’ are thrown in, we can guess they were added late as the beer did not smell like a urine-soaked cat litter tray in a teenagers bedroom but, thankfully more of the citrus and tropical fruits (mostly mango) you’d want.
The beer was light-bodied and summery. Tropical fruit managed to peer through the fizz, but the overly harsh-carbonation gets in the way of discerning the individual flavours. That said, the banana did come through eventually and, overall, inundating the malted wheat with those Citra hops, made it more sweet than bitter.
Mid-review, my long suffering common-law, live-in cleaner suggested two-word reviews. So here it is, Fizzy Mutha. This is the last two-word review I’ll be doing, except the following two-word review of the two-word review system: For Idiots. 7/10
Gamma Ray APA - 5.4% - £2.40 - Available at selected Scottish and London Oddbins
Beavertown's Gamma Ray APA
I love the dated, American style comic art on the can – frickin’ laser-beams and UFOs and vaporised skulls - though maybe a tad inappropriate. I would love to have a crack at designing one of their beers (superface.co.uk), reasonable rates, unreasonably good work.
Click. Fizz. This fizzed like a mother-flipper when I opened it and I lost some… dignity.
The smell was all over the place. It begun nice enough with a light hoppy aroma, which developed into over ripened orange peel, maybe like marmalade.
This gear poured a big head that receded quicker than a hairline that directly precedes a midlife crisis. Underneath the ephemeral head sat a murky dark golden amber, orange even, brew. I’m relieved/disappointed (delete as applicable) that this wasn’t bright green. That said, this beer doesn’t need any more gimmickry on or in the can.
A tasty, tasty APA, much like Beavertown’s other output, this runs a little sweeter than the competition, but it totally works in this refreshing, flavoursome APA.
Most of the carbonation had erupted itself onto my kitchen worktop, the rest was light in fizz and body. The flavour was initially orange-themed and a zesty hoppy madness turned herbal, almost woody. A piny, bitter finish with a slight malt backbone. Delightful, well-balanced and complex.
I would smash this in to my face all day long. 9/10
Bristol Beer Factory
Double IPA - 8.5% - £4.80 - Available at Oddbins Bristol
Bristol Beer Factory's Double IPA
8.5%! As I approached this grand statement, boldly stated on its minimalist, almost industrially perfunctory label, I found myself almost relieved that this was only a 330ml serving. Almost relieved.
She’s a bottle-conditioned Double IPA, hopped at multiple stages including two post-fermentation dry hop additions. The blend of Simcoe, Citra, Amarillo and Centennial hops really give you the full American Double IPA experience as the marketing noise on the label emits in its flowery rhetoric.
It has a decent pour, with a hazy golden colour and timid, small white head that retreats quickly. Smells like a unicorn bathing in a rainbow. Or to put it another completely different and descriptive way; light pine hops, a little fruity on a bed of malt.
This moderately carbonated devil’s mouthwash is initially sweet, like a caramel-ish biscuit-y malt with an orange and lemon chaser. This gives way to the bitterness of the hops and a drying finish. 8.5% abv and easy drinking should probably not go in the same sentence, but they’re about to. This is very easy drinking for a beer that’s 8.5% abv. This is deceptive and, if you’re not careful, will mug you of your ability to pronounce words of more than one syllable such as; sobriety, unsoiled or functional.
Tame for its strength, free from the bullish onslaught of syrup you might expect from strong beer. With that amount of hops going in, timing is crucial… and they nailed it.
Rating: An unexpected gem. 8/10
Notting Hill Summer - 3.2% - £3.20 - Available at selected London Oddbins
Moncada Brewery's Notting Hill Summer
The label, much like a drag-queens changing room, has a bold of expression of pink. This, twinned with the flat, pink illustration of a Notting Hill street scene begs the question; why is ‘summer’ written in a ransom note, jumble sale of fonts.
The bottle pour was livelier than a bag of whippets in zero gravity. It is highly carbonated and fizzed up straight-away, jumping out at me like a squalid, trench coat agitator lurking in the bushes.
It smelled good, fruity with a little pine and floral hops. My enthusiasm for a sniff was undone by the violence of the carbonation; I was now wearing a foam nose.
There’s an initial mango, lemon punch with a small amount of hop bitterness (good for the strength, but lacks the depth of a proper mansize beer). Hedgefruit and berry flavours develop after a few swigs. It does get fruitier the more you drink, ahem, as do I.
Yea, though autumn be gone, Notting Hill Summer lives on. 7/10
If you want to plunge like Tom Daley with a spring in his step into the ocean that is our craft beer range, then join the Oddbins Beer Club, right here.