The off-licence opposite my office, City Wines on Old Street, is always worth popping into. They have a small but well selected collection of goodies from the UK, US and further afield, including some local breweries like Kernel and Redchurch. I go in about twice a week to check on fresh deliveries of Kernel and see if they have made any good purchases from abroad, which they usually have, but none more so than last week. Seeing 3 Bear Republic beers, including Racer 5 at £2.50, is about the best thing one can do upon leaving work. One of my favourite beers in the world, this is well worth the money and I urge anyone in the area to go get some. There will almost certainly be none left though, as despite the store’s insistence on 2 per customer, my cunning disguises have allowed me to break this rule several times over.
Racer pours pale gold, with a thin foamy head which comes and goes throughout the beer. The aroma is slightly diminished after the long journey from California, but still offers a sweet shop scent, floral and sherberty with mango and strawberry jam hiding in the background. Taste wise it delivers all the things I want from a 7% IPA - sweet with ripe orange and tangerine, a bit of mango, and chewy, indulgent caramel up front. It moves to pithy, lemon, lime and grapefruit, and then into piney, resinous depth. A herbal, flinty character bridges the gap from this into creeping, intense bitterness which envelops the palate and grips all the way to the teeth, leaving you no choice but to delve back for the sweet fruit you were wallowing in seconds ago but which seems a distant memory now. It is utterly drinkable and retains a fresh, clean and lively quality throughout which belies its high strength and dictates that one is not enough.
Red Rocket Ale had me in less of a love struck daze but was still good. Reddy brown, almost purple in colour, it smells of citrus, red fruit, sugar and booze, like crepes Suzette and a cherry pie. It tastes big, boozy and sweet, with biscuits, caramel, and nutty the most prominent words in my notebook. Surprisingly, it was refreshing and easy to drink, the sugar balanced by an aggressively bitter finish.
Then Hop Rod Rye appeared, chocolate brown and a big lush head, an alluring perfume of sweet tea and sherry - a good finish to the night. Candy sugar, slightly tart raisins, lemony tea, a depth that reminded me of nutty Oloroso sherry, and a barrel load of hops. It rarely happens, but it was a bit too bitter for me.
10 quid’s worth of drinking and worth every penny – I’m going back tomorrow and I hope the girl behind the counter doesn’t recognise me.