Are You Tasting the Pith? - 16th January 05
A steady evening, a-sippin' on strong ale, and a-munchin' on bread and cheese, and some rather well suited dark chocolate.
Shopping in Sainsbury's recently (their "Taste the Difference" rib eye steak is great), I was perusing the beer section, glowering at an empty space that had previously contained Fuller's London Porter. As if by magic, a shopkeeper appeared and replaced a bottle on the shelf. Taking this as a sign from God (you see how I believe when it suits me?), I grabbed the bottle, plus an adjacent bottle of Fullers Old Winter Ale.
Kicking off with the Old Winter Ale (5.3% abv), I enjoy its soft malty aroma, hints of dried fruit, and unless my nose deceives me, a slight floral hint (violets?). The palate is soft and smooth, not as rich as I expected, but well-balanced nonetheless. Paired with cheese (strong cheddar and gruyere), it struggles a bit to hold its own - it's fine with the soft nuttiness of the gruyere, but maybe needs a bit more sweetness to cope with the sharp tang of the cheddar. Good, but not great.
The London Porter (5.4% abv) copes a little better, the smooth savoury quality of the extra roasted malt acting as a bit more of foil for the tangy cheddar, and accenting the sweetness of the gruyere. The chocolatey hints on the nose are carried through on the palate, and there is just a hint of saltiness in the finish, although this may be exaggerated by a couple of squares of Lindt Excellence Orange Intense Noir that happily overlaps the end of the bottle.
Relishing the chocolate, and frankly feeling in the mood for it, I bust out a bottle of Pitfield 1792 Imperial Stout (9.3% abv). First whiff is unusual for a stout; sure, quite a lot of roast malt, but also a pronounced estery, banana/peardrop aroma, which I didn't expect. All the classic Imperials seem to major on the chocolate/fig/burnt currant flavours, but this is maybe a little off-kilter. Maybe I'm drinking it a little young, as there seems to be a bit too much sweetness, and perhaps even a hint of diacetyl, which although not necessarily a fault, and being a natural by-product of the brewing process, isn't what one might expect in a stout. However, the butterscotchy flavour seems to "air off" towards the end of the glass, underlining how important it is to buy several bottles of a beer, purely for comparitive purposes. Sadly, I failed to do this, so must end here.
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