Wednesday 15 August 2012

Beavertown Beers

          A few months ago when I first visited Dukes Brew and Que, I very much liked the place, despite the small bar and patchy food. It was fun, good humoured and serious about craft beer, admirable qualities to be admired in a person as well as a business. Their house brewed beer was drinkable if rather uneventful, but given that most of the brewing equipment was visible from the dining tables, the bulky tanks protruding from an already cramped kitchen, and the fact it was a new born baby of a brewery, it was understandable. Fast forward to the present though and Beavertown have had some time to try and err, experiment and innovate. Their beers have tentatively emerged from the nest and are to be found sporadically across London - on draft in more adventurous pubs, but also in shiny new bottles in both bars and off licences. Four of their bottles are available in a local shop and set me back over a tenner for the lot, so they are now entitled to proper scrutiny.
          They look cool and understated, and it was nice to see a bit of spiel on the back about the story of the beer. The food matching suggestions are a nice touch, although oddly specific (you must have a balsamic reduction on your risotto or don’t bother darling) and the attempt to offer tasting notes through seemingly random tally marks against things like malt and bitterness is confusing and meaningless.

Neck Oil 4.3%
This beer looks good, an attractive dark gold rather than brown, and a nice frothy head. Fresh apples and apple skin hit the nose first, with strong caramel and stewed fruit underneath. The carbonation is pretty aggressive, stinging the palate with yet more crisp apples, a touch of honey, some biscuity sweetness and a floral, dry and grassy finish. It is very bitter and dry, with perhaps not enough body or malt character to balance it. Pretty decent though.

Alpha 1.1 Pig Swill APA 5.2%
Hazy, burnished orange and a creamy, cream coloured head. The aroma is huge - fresh sweet mango, pungent and perfumed lychee, ripe tangerines, sherbert, candy sugar and a squeeze of lime. One of the best aromas I can remember in a beer, it is slightly let down upon tasting. Bitter and dry from start to finish, there is a herbal, metallic presence that is drying, peppery and thin. Where I was expecting fireworks and fruity flavours form the hops, it is vague and underwhelming with no real punch or journey on the palate. I would say it tastes a bit old if I didn’t know that the opposite was true. This is not a bad effort though and I would drink it again.

8 Ball Rye IPA 6.2%
This is a deep muddy brown colour and doesn’t look great. The aroma is much better, initially giving off sweet chocolate, toffee apples and fresh coffee beans with a touch of burnt orange and something vaguely tropical. It is a big and challenging beer, bold, spicy and dense throughout, moving from some initial sweetness to a long, dry and bitter finish. The hops are outgunned by the heavy handed raw coffee and toasty, peppery flavours present, so the beer feels like hard work. Too much rye and not enough IPA for me, but plenty of promise if this get a few tweaks.

Smog Rocket 5.4%
A rather sexy jet black with a smart cappuccino head, this smells like breakfast in a petrol station – oily, sweet coffee, burnt toast and petrol. It is smoother and richer in texture than expected, giving plenty of charcoal and smoke but tempering it with liquorice and brown sugar for balance. A mildly bitter finish rounds out the most accomplished beer I have tried from this brewery, a restrained and highly drinkable smoked porter which is no easy feat.

         They clearly had fun making these and it shows with some things to get excited about here. However there are some inaccuracies on show in the beers and nothing in these bottles was genuinely excellent. While aspiration should not be discouraged, these are very ambitious beers for such a young brewery, and perhaps they are running before they can walk. Overall though, this looks to be an improving, creative enterprise with plenty to offer, and one of the best of the new breed of London breweries. I will be looking to drink more Beavertown in the near future, and so should you.

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