Are You Tasting the Pith? - 10th October 04
Giving your beer an "amusing" name is always a dubious tactic. People immediately see it as a gimmick, a way of giving the beer some appeal that it might perhaps be lacking in other areas. Add in some meaningless guff about "brewed from the finest ingredients" and alarm bells are ringing like my ears after a Public Enemy gig.
So it came as a pleasant surprise that this porter is actually an excellent example of the style. Given that I was predisposed to be unfavourable towards it (let me count the ways again - dodgy pun for a name, bog-standard waffle on the back label, less than inspiring front label), the fact that I'm writing these words should tip you off that it's a damn fine bottle. Deep roasted malt notes, good balance between coffee and a fruitcake on the palate, and a long complex finish makes this much more memorable than you might expect, and head and shoulders above the competition.
As above, but perhaps more so. Oh, OK, it doesn't have a terrible name. The beer, however, is excellent, reminding me of nothing less than Duchy Originals Organic Ale; deep, well-balanced, and satisfyingly bitter and spicy in the finish
Sometimes, this column can be difficult to write, and other times the fruits of Ninkasi's labours can lubricate the whirling maelström of my mind, filling it with shimmering, corruscating imagery. Suffolk Strong is one of those beers.
Leaving aside the pleasant surprise of finding it in the "Four for a Fiver" section at Morrison's, this beer is a delight to drink, a complete classic. In contrast to the majority of beers on the market, the back label of the bottle is full of information that you actually want to read. For example, the beer is a blend of a young and an old beer, like a gueuze or a Flemish sour red beer. The old beer is aged for two years in huge oak tuns. The bottle that I sampled was the 2000 vintage, and it still hade a good eighteen months left on the date.
The beer has a complex aroma, quite malty, but with dusty old hop notes. The initial sip carries a robust, slightly tart hit, then a minerally iron note, similar to Rodenbach Ordinaire. It is, to be fair, a bit of a shock to the palate, and all the better for it. The finish is long and quite malty, but dry, and again having a slightly winey note, complex, perhaps reminiscent of a gueuze, but much fuller and chewier.
Needless to say, they were sold out went I went back to clear the shelves.
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