Thursday, 24 December 2015

So long and thanks for all the beers

Partizan b-grade: not quite top of the pile,
but worth a slug in a different season
In the spirit of keeping things brief and not putting people off with the essay they encounter before getting to the nitty-gritty of the beer, 200 words is all there is today. 

That's where I'm comfortable. As a journalist, I can do succinct. Today has taught me that's an enviable skill. When amends come back from client adding 500 words to original copy, you know how valuable it is.

It's one I've neglected. These preambles have grown ridiculously since I started this out as a simple 'you should try this' guide to beers you should try. It became personal, doubtless due to my circumstances and the obligation I felt to confess all to an ever-dwindling audience.

But it's run its course. For the final five years of my marriage, I needed somewhere to turn. Since that unholy union ended, I wanted somewhere to sound off. I no longer need either.

So this will be the last outing for the beery 'dear diary' I've been keeping for the last 10 years. It's now time for something else. Thanks for reading and following my somewhat drunken meanders through the dark days of Decembers. Stay tuned for news of what comes next.

Beer: Partizan Lemongrass Saison
Strength: An easy-to-handle 4.4%
Smell: Satisfyingy lemony, which is no mean feat given the fact my traditional Christmas Eve cold has kicked in.
Tasting notes: Perhaps I've been drinking too many stronger saisons recently, but this tastes a tad on the watery side. While it's got subtlety and nuance, it lacks the oomph I'd like that would send my approaching illness on its way. Instead, I get a moist, soft handshake of a beer that should really have been told long ago it needs to be firmer in its greeting. That said, it paints an enchanting landscape, albeit watercolour. There's a deft hand at the brush and each change in flavour or empasis is done with some aplomb. But I don't want a watercolour; I want at least acrylic on canvas. While nice enough, it's one to cool down with on a summer bike ride rather than to settle you in to a windy winter's night.
Session factor: High as a kite flown in a dainty but substaintial breeze.
Arbitrary score: 120,106

Numbers game: a saison for another season,
but you need to be match fit
Beer: Brew by Numbers Amarillo & Orange Saison
Strength: A this-is-more-like-it 5.8%
Smell: A basket of oranges, as wielded by one Nell Gwyn
Tasting notes: Made maybe half a mile away at most but a world away in terms of flavour. But not necessarily in a good way. There's oodles of tang and bite, almost like it's half time at a 70s pub football match, but where the Partizan was all suggestion and implication, this one is foot-stamping, tub-thumping insistence. It's considerably more robust, but in an effort to regain balance, it seems to have tottered off in the opposite direction with an overly generous helping of orange zest that tips it over the wrong side of too sharp. Again, I quite like it, but holding back on the citrus might have made me feel less like I was drinking a Terry's Chocolate Orange laced with MDMA.
Session factor: This is much more 'end of a long, urban yomp in a rainy Belgium' than a midsummer 'refresher', so you'd call it a day once you'd dried out.
Arbitrary score: 123,456

That's Orval, folks: this Belgian Trappist
Ale proves a fitting finale
Beer: Orval
Strength: An appropriately spot-on 6.2%
Smell: A great big old Christmas pudding of a beer soaked in ever-so-slightly too much booze
Tasting notes: This really is the daddy of them all. What a beer to finish on. If there's ever a beer that could furnish me with such an apposite full stop for this calendar as Orval, I'm yet to drink it. Known severally as a palate cleanser, a beer for all seasons and (my favourite) a 'gateway sour', Orval really does have something for everyone in it. From the looks of it, this is a standard bitter, but bring it up to your face to drink and you're soon disavowed of that foolish notion. Your tongue does get a tiny glimpse of what could pass for a standard bitter, but then the yeast kicks in. It's the flavour equivalent of being at the top of a roller-coaster just about to descend. The palate tries in vain to brace itself against the incoming adrenalin rush, but really, it can do nothing about what's to come. Whoosh! You plummet into mouldy orange gully. Whooah! You hurtle round salted syrup curve. Shitting Bastard! You loop the loop of intense, insistent bitterness. Ahhh! All subsides into a quivering mess of giddiness as the flavour finally releases its grip and plants you squarely back on terra firma. Again... again...
Session factor: Tim Peake is low-level in comparison.
Arbitrary score: 240