23 Nov 2012

White Horse Old Ale Festival Preview

Last night it was back to the White Horse in Parsons Green for another great beer-tasting event. Today is the opening day of their 30th Anniversary Old Ale Festival and last night a few of us had a special preview of some of the massive selection of ales that will be available this weekend - from stouts to milds, porters to barley wines, Scotch Ales and Strong Ales.
The event was hosted by Jamie Percival, the White Horse's Cellar Manager - a great job if ever there was one. He took us on a short journey through the world of Old Ale, giving us a little taste of what we could enjoy over the weekend.
We began the tasting with a Coniston No.9 Barley Wine, a taste I'm unfamiliar with, being a relative newcomer to the world of beer enjoyment. I was accompanied by my husband, sister-in-law and brother-in-law, who were visiting from the States. My brother-in-law is not a great fan of beer, but very much liked the sweet, complex taste of this little tipple. As usual, the pub upheld their long-held tradition of pairing decent beer with decent food and some delicious amuse bouche were brought out to wash down with the Coniston. The sausage rolls (not the kind you get in Greggs) and chunks of soft, tasty beef were swallowed down too quickly to photograph, and were, of course, very yummy. At 8.5% the barley wine was quite a knock-out of a starter.

With each sample, Jamie gave us a quick explanation of the beers, and all present listened avidly, and tweeted their thoughts along the way. After each beer was introduced he then moved around from table to table to answer any questions and get our thoughts on the beers.
Next up was the Rockstar, an American-style brown ale - a collaboration from Darkstar and Magic Rock Brewing. At a mere 6% it was a lot milder than the Coniston, and was rather fruity. Plates of salami were brought round to enjoy with this one.

The third beer was possibly my favourite - another strong one at 8.5% was Marble Beer's Dubbel Chocolate. For a beer with such strength it was very drinkable. Melt-in-the-mouth Scotch eggs were making the rounds by now - will have to go back for some more of those.
Number four was one of those not-for-everyone stouts - Harviestoun Old Engine Oil Special Reserve, at 8%. It certainly had a passing resemblance to engine oil, but it gave it some bite. I quite liked it; I seem to have developed a taste for the rather dark, strong ones. The brother-in-law was not impressed and passed on that one. Some mature cheddar bites helped soak up some of the alcohol.
A slight change in direction led us to the first Old Ale on the list from Binghams Brewery - at only 4.5% it was the lightest of the selection. It was a bit light in flavour for me, especially after the rather harsh engine-oil taste; something I might come back to - at the beginning of the evening.
Last but not least was the Festivity Rum-aged Porter from Bath Ales. It's only 5% but has a much richer flavour than the alcohol content might suggest. The taste of rum and vanilla definitely comes through - another one to go back for!
The evening wasn't over once the beer was gone - some of the press were invited down to the cellar for a tour, but we headed downstairs to the main pub for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for our American visitors - roast turkey and trimmings. No room for pumpkin pie after all that beer, nibbles and turkey (although we did manage to fit in a couple more beers).
Looking forward to heading back there this weekend to sample some more. There's a huge selection of beers on cask and keg - particularly looking forward to the BrewDog Paradox Jura Stout, one of the brewery's limited releases that the pub's been saving all year for this event (may not have many, as it's a whopping great 15% and has a flavour to match!). The festival runs from Friday 23rd November until Sunday 25th, but there'll probably be some leftovers still available next week. Don't forget it's a dog-friendly pub - we'll be taking our little spaniel along too!

Information on upcoming events at the White Horse is best found by following them on Twitter - @WhiteHorseSW6.

14 Nov 2012

Drink Wildly Different with Wild Beer

Another alcohol tasting event. This time it was back to beer at the good old White Horse in Parsons Green (our local). Not widely publicised, but with a pretty good turn-out, this time it was the turn of the Wild Beer Co to test their wares on the beer-appreciating public.
The Wild Beer Co was started by Andrew Cooper and Brett Ellis, who clearly have a combined passion for making beer that is a bit different (and that obviously tastes good too).
They haven't been around long, and they're still going through the creative stage, but what they've done so far is pretty impressive. "Our beers are brewed with a combination of ancient and new techniques, with the aim of producing a beer for people who want to discover and understand new tastes and flavours," they state on their website. Their USP is that not only the beer has new tastes and flavours, but that it is made with wild yeast (among other wild things).
So far they have four beers available, with a couple more in the pipeline; the others are all evolving too.
The first of their beers I tried was "Fresh" - a "frisky, fragrant pale ale" - made with hops from the different hemispheres, depending on the season. Predictability of a product may be important, but this will definitely vary from season to season and year to year depending on the quality of the hops - will be interesting to see how it goes.
The next one I tried was "Epic Saison" - a Belgian style described as "Crisp + Zesty + Spicy." At only 5% I could drink that one all night! We then moved on to the slightly harder stuff, trying "Modus Operandi" next. This is a more powerful 7% and is the first beer the guys brewed. It has been aged for 90 days in oak Bourbon barrels, so has a great whisky flavour sneaking in. The distinctive flavour and strength make this one a slow, sipping beer; would be a great accompaniment for some heavy, gamey meat dishes.
Last but not least was "Scarlet Fever" - a "hoppy, ruby red ale." A variation on the traditional British ales, it has a lot more flavour, and at 4.8% it's pretty drinkable.
After a few tastings I settled on a couple of halves of the Modus and the Epic, which seemed to be the favourites of both the creators and other drinkers. I'm looking forward to the next two beers to come out: "Bliss" - a spicy Belgian-style and "Wildebeest" - an imperial stout made with stacks of chocolate and vanilla - should be good! As usual we ending up staying a little longer than planned, chatting to strangers, soaking up the atmosphere, soaking up the beer...
To enjoy the beer tastings at the White Horse it's a great idea to follow the pub on twitter (), as the events are not advertised very widely; it's nice to be part of these exclusive events!