Thursday, 6 September 2012

It’s braaaiiiiiiins you want

There is so much going on in Glasgow in terms of beer at the moment that I hardly find time to go to everything, never mind write about it. The likes of Kelburn, Fyne and Tempest have been properly bombarding us with new beers. Tempest beers in particular are so popular that they sell out in a matter of hours and when you hear one of theirs has gone on sale, you really have to get your skates on if you want any.

Nonetheless I had to make time last night to go to yet another beer launch – in Edinburgh.
The Institute of Brewing and Distilling recently ran a homebrewing competition, and the winner and runner-up were chosen to have their beer re-brewed commercially and sold. Ed Young’s winning recipe was brewed at Williams Bros and Jake Griffin & Chris Lewis got to have theirs brewed at Fyne Ales.

Fame at last. I’m one of the zombies on the t-shirt (first left).
Left to right: me, Ali who created the @glasgowbeer Twitter account,
Geof of Hop Topic, Jake, Chris, Owen whose secret
identity is untainted by public beer blogging,
Douglas who recently landed a job brewing at WEST.
There is a decided horror theme to the winning entries with the top beer called Impale Ale and the runner-up Zombier. Happily, the beers taste frighteningly good rather than horrific.

I know Jake and Chris, so felt obliged to go along for moral support, even though we’ll be seeing their beer this weekend in Glasgow and both together next weekend. As it happened, there was plenty of support – the Holyrood 9A was completely packed. I mean really packed, 20 minutes to get served packed, turn around and you’ll knock someone’s drink over packed.

Bloody hipsters. For a moment I think of heading back to Mather’s to get a quiet pint and a sit down.

I was really looking forward to the Zombier, having tried the homebrew version. Impale on the other hand was a bit of an unknown quantity, not having previously encountered either the homebrewer or the beer. The host brewery, Williams Bros, tend to make cautiously hopped beers even when brewing IPA, so I was interested to see what they did with the winning recipe.

Impale was available on both keg and cask; naturally I had to order both. The cask version is more aromatic, fuller-bodied, slightly flabby and rich in tablety fudge. From the keg it’s leaner, tighter, but also less flavoursome. Both versions have a heavy resiny hop presence and a satisfyingly long-lasting bitter finish.
Zombier is more complex, starting off with acrid, sub-acid burnt grain which teeters on the brink of being unpleasant. The burnt grain gives way to malt and chewy sweetness. As it warms up you get more and more of the signature dry cocoa-powder character and smooth chocolatey finish.

Jake is handing round a glass of the original so we get to compare them. They are very similar but I don’t think the homebrew has aged well, developing winey and oaky notes that weren’t in the fresh beer. When I tasted the original back in April I made notes reading “delicious chocolatey London stout, can’t wait to taste the commercial version.” It was worth the wait.

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