I don’t get invited to much. I don’t exactly actively seek such things. I’ve turned one or two down for “integrity” reasons (I can’t lie – even a little) and I tend to avoid such things.
However, those that I have been invited to recently seem to have a common thread. That thread is John Clarke. A prince among beer men – and this time John, I’m not taking the piss.
John, you see, knows his onions. Fortunately, he also knows a thing or two about beer too. This was why he was asked to do a bit of a presentation by Marble Brewery, the occasion being the launch of 3 new strong beers.
To get an invite from Marble to attend this was a bit of a nice surprise. For me, Marble beers have reached such a consistently high level which has recently hit a peak with beers like Damage Plan & Your Betrayal. To accept was a no brainer.
Before John started, we were each presented with a sample of one of the Old Ales.
Now then. Most got the Verezzi (Oloroso Barrel aged), whereas, by complete fluke, I got the Valancourt. So whilst I could hear others moaning with pleasure whilst they tasted, I waited for a side by side comparison.
And MY was it worth the wait!
I went first for the Fino (Valancourt), then the Verezzi, then back to the Valancourt. Both were rich and deeply fruity, the Verezzi felt quite vinous, sustaining and warming. Arguably the richer and deeper of the two and just so bloody gorgeous.
My preference was for the Valancourt (Fino). This had the deep rich fruitiness, but felt lighter. In with that fruitiness was a slightly (almost) saline tang which (for me) lifted it slightly above the Verezzi. Both stunning. I’ll be buying some shortly!
John gave us a talk about the history of Old Ales and reminded us what a rare style it is making reference to one of the few true Old Ales remaining – Greene King XXXXX a double figure abv beer matured for 2 years – prior to blending with fresher beers to create their Suffolk Strong.
Old Ales gained their tart character due to the (frequently unintentional) introduction of Brettanomyces which attenuated the beer to a greater degree than then standard house yeasts. They were darker beers but at a much higher strength than the Milds that they were sometimes historically blended with.
The presentation was instructive and interesting – even with the distraction of such delicious beers – as I said, John knows his stuff. That said, he wears his knowledge lightly. I have a lot of respect for John (but don’t tell HIM).
And, thanks to John, I now know that the Russian Imperial Stout brewed by Wells & Youngs, was – in its original incarnation, brewed by Barclay Perkins!
Then came the Portent of Usher – the Imperial Russian Stout.
Big. Bitter chocolate and vine fruits. Just the start I want from an Impy. Mouth coating and unctuous, there was again a lightness of touch with this, a little something different. A slight tartness and – what seemed to me like – a touch of dandelion and burdock. This is another of those beers that I could drink all night, slowly, with good friends near a roaring fire.
In a place like the Marble Arch in fact…..
If I read aright, the bottles of these beers are available in Marble bars and pubs about now. And in select outlets next week.
And you need them.