A Blonde Barley Wine? Piraat


Piraat - a beer to share

My lovely girlfriend picked us up a bottle of Piraat from Beer Ritz a few weeks back. It was on sale (probably because it passes its sell-by date this week, not that that really matters) and looked very appealing. A nice 750ml bottle, caged and corked and advertised as the closest that beer gets to white wine (I can’t quite remember what Zak’s actual wording was, but it was something like that).

We were planning a Friday night in, with food, talking and perhaps a couple of episodes of ‘Mad Men’, so we decided to crack open the Piraat – brewed by Van Steenberge – and see what it was like.

It’s very much a sharing beer, see. It weighs in at 10.5% and even half a bottle comes in at just under 3.9 units, which means that if you drink it, you officially become a dangerous drinker and will definitely assault someone and cost the NHS money. Or something like that.

The cork pops pleasingly as I remove it and it pours an amazingly vivid amber/gold colour with a vicious white head. You can smell it before your nose even gets that close. It’s a proper yeast funkiness that hits you, spiced and citrussy.

It’s described by some as a blonde barley wine, and you can see why. It’s as strong as a wine, its blonde and it has that vicious punch that is synonymous with the barley wine. It tastes bloody good too. It’s dry, it’s refreshing, it packs a real yeasty flavour that’s associated with Belgian beers, with loads of other flavours bubbling away underneath.

You get a bit of cereal flavours – almost a little bit like cornflakes, even, then that powerful punch from the level of alcohol. You stick on top of that some more wine-ish notes – grapes, lemon, orange, followed by more spice from the yeast. The finish even throws in some dried fruits, just as a pleasing farewell.

I’ll be popping open another one of these next time I’ve got an evening of beer sharing planned.

The cold’s come back: time for Gadds’ Oooks! Barley Wine

Gadds' Oooks! Barley Wine

Gadds' Oooks! Barley Wine

This Sunday just passed was bloody cold. It was lovely during the day as the sun beamed down upon us and we could get out and enjoy our weekend. But, as the great fiery ball began to set and the night drew in, we were cruelly reminded that it is, indeed, still winter (hell, it snowed in Manchester that day!). But the cold isn’t all bad. Yes, it nips at our toes and numbs our fingers, but it’s a fine excuse to break out those strong ‘winter warmers’.

Despite hankering for barley wine all winter long, I’ve not got round to drinking out yet this season, will not since a trip to North Bar where I found Sierra Nevada’s wonderful Big Foot (barrel-aged, no less!) on tap. That was back in September/October though.

Anyway, this preamble leads me to trying Gadds’ Oooks! (brewed by East Kent’s Ramsgate Brewery). I found this at Beer Ritz and since I was hankering for the barley wine I bought this bottle and a bottle of the same stuff barrel-aged. I’ll tell you about the barrel-aged stuff when I get round to supping it, but for now I’m on this stuff.

The first pour (in my fancy new glass from Alex at All Beer) looks promising. It’s rich and dark enough to be near, but not quite, black, with a nice (if slightly murky) head. Unfortunately, I think this bottle (or batch) may have been a bit spoiled [I notice Zak Avery feels similarly about his try of the barrel-aged stuff here, although he blames it on the barreling, so maybe I’m wrong – who knows?] the nose picks up a strong alcoholic kick and a sweet grapefruity note, but underlying it all is an unpleasant acidic tang.

The tang carries through on the taste a little afterwards. The lovely stuff you want from a barley wine is all there, that warm, mouth coating smoky thickness and almost creamy richness, but there’s an unpleasant tangy aftertaste lurking around waiting to spoil my fun. The bastard. Seeing past that though, that yummy caramel, malt and toffee flavours do just win out, it almosts tastes sticky.

Unfortunately that lingering bitterness means I can’t really fall for this beer. I’d give it another go, but it sounds like Beer Ritz’s got none left – what’s a boy to do? I do still, of course, have the barrel-aged cousin to try, but having read Zak’s post, I guess that’s set to upset me too. Damn.