Boulder Beer Co.
Cold Hop British-Style Ale
After a grand experience with Boulder’s Flashback, I have high expectations for the Cold Hop British-Style Ale. I like Ale, British style, and hops. I’m pretty much over the cold at this point, but three out of four ain’t bad.
From the get-go, this beer is promising – fine carbonation inflates a good half-inch of softly tawny head on top of a setting-sun orange with ruddy autumn blush.
Boulder Cold Hop
The nose is a mix of fresh grapefruit sprinkled with sugar, lavender, and some honey malt. The head has settled, but is still a dense, marshmallow soft quarter-inch.
The mouthfeel is good, with the fine bubbles providing a jittering environment for the flavor to emerge. After a slightly leafy jab, floral hops lead the charge. They are not as citric as the aroma augurs – the lavender remains however, along with a wash of chewy grain that shows its British heritage by minding its manners, allowing some peppery paperwhite to clean the palate.
The dirty-blonde froth leaves behind a series of furled-sail rings. This one is good from start to finish. Boulder has done it again – this brew’s style must be from Savile Row.
Samuel Smith Old Brewery
Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, England
Sam Smith has done very little that hasn’t been delicious. It’s also always nice to try a sample of a style from the country that created it.
As any good stout does, this one inflates with two or three fingers of beechwood colored foam. It starts to collapse around the outside, but sticks to the side of the glass. The color is jet black with just the faintest muddy brown at the bottom edge of the glass when held to the light.
The nose is all toasted oats and barley– dark chocolate, burnt brown sugar, and a rich nuttiness. There is no clarity to speak of, this thing is opaque, but the fineness of the carbonation on the head (not to mention the head itself) indicates that there is a lot of effervescence.
The mouthfeel is nothing short of outstanding – exceptionally smooth, with all the roasted notes flowing evenly through a creamy consistency that is full but refreshing. The chocolate and roasted coffee bean flavors are as subtle but effective as an English butler. The carbonation is barely noticeable until the end of the swallow when the bubbles dance across the tongue in perfect synchrony with just the faintest hit of bittersweet hops.
This stout is the real deal.
Meantime Brewing Co.
Meantime is a fairly young brewery, starting in the last eight years. It has only just started to come to the US, and I am fortunate enough to have procured a couple of bottles. It is because of this new distribution, I would think, that the company mentions on their label about George Washington’s love of English beer (until 1769, at least).
The beer is, as a proper porter should be, extremely lively (as you can see by the photo) and pours an opaque, slightly garnet, deep dark chocolate. The head is enormous – two finger widths easy – and is a beautiful medium tan color. It loiters thanks to turbulent carbonation that can just barely be seen through the marvelous murk.
The aroma is bittersweet chocolate, chewy carob, and just a faint hint of cinnamon. There is a hint of hops in a tempered, wet tobacco leaf smell that makes you really imagine that this beer has legs.
The flavor is far less full than you might think, though the mouthfeel is better than average. On the whole, the sip is exceptionally smooth: not too roasted, not too sweet. Carob comes through, as does a slightly sweet dark chocolate feel. The faintest touch of plum is egged on by the lightness of the thing, like fruit flesh. The effervescence that seemed to be roiling in the bottom of the glass has calmed down considerably, washing the cool velvet across the palate and making you totally oblivious to the 6.5% that this big bottle brings.
This is an absolutely gorgeous porter. With so many Imperial varieties of porters around, it’s a real treat to try something like this, complex and strong, yet lean and unassuming. Take your time with this one – you could even stick it on your shelf for a few months – and enjoy it like you would any other porter or even stout. The site recommends pairing it with oysters, sounds good to me. Lovely.
St. Peter’s Brewery
This is one of the most beautiful pours I’ve seen. The beer is opaque and the head puffs up to a full inch and is almost purple. OK, so it’s more a very light mocha brown but there are certainly hints of red in it. Even before picking up the glass, the head has already subsided to about a half inch and leaves a dense, Swiss cheese lace. The nose, like the St. Pete’s Organic smells like a proper English pub–plenty of malt. There are dark chocolate notes and maybe a hint of toffee. The first sip is an outstanding one, full of the same maltiness but with a unique hop twinge at the back of the swallow. The chocolate takes over from the toffee upon drinking, but there is enough of the latter around to make the swallow even, and not sweet or cloying. The rings are not quite excellent, but visible, and though the head more or less diffuses like a pub ale, there is plenty of spiderweb lace lining the glass. Whereas the Organic could be a perfect English pub ale, this mixes in enough chocolate malt to make it interesting. There isn’t really a roasty flavor that accompanies many stouts or porters, but it’s a different beer, as evidenced by the bitter finish.
St. Peter’s Brewery
Organic English Ale
St. Pete’s beers come in these awesome oval bottles which, according to their site, are a half-liter copy of a bottle from an 18th Century bottle found near Philly.
Upon cracking the beer, a great skunky odor is evident. Of course, that’s probably my hockey equipment festering in the corner.
The beer pours very golden–a beautiful orange with great clarity and very little carbonation but billows as the beer glugs from my awkward pour out of the oddly-shaped bottle. The head, while it lasts, is a perfect white, slow to move and delicate. The nose has a touch of honey and and twice that much of wheat. There is a slight spice that almost obscures or is obscured by a balanced maltiness. The first sip is surprisingly zesty, with the maltiness being the most prevalent flavor in the initial mouthfeel. However, the spice is as orange as the color, finishes well and, despite the seeming lack of carbonation, there is a great deal of effervescence on the tongue. This is a lovely English ale, comparable in body even to some of the finest such as Ruddles and Belhaven or Fullers and some of the long-term stalwarts such as Old Speckled Hen. Were it cheaper, I would certainly enjoy this one on a more frequent basis.