Sunday 2 December 2012

Stunner of 69

Premium bond: 69 IPA packs a proper punch
Rarely have I had the occasion to visit Henley-on-Thames in the somewhat upmarket English county of Oxfordshire. It's just not my kind of town. 

I went once around 18 years ago for a quite boozy picnic with my then girlfriend. Henley itself looked like I expected it to. All picture postcard listed buildings and pretty shop fronts. It stank of money and as a fairly down-at-heel reporter at the time, I vowed never to go back. Not least as the picnic itself was something of a disaster, causing an unnecessarily heated argument ultimately led to the failure of that particular relationship.

But it seems there is now a reason to return. For the past seven years, founder and head brewer Jeff Rosenmeier has been crafting some seriously drinkable beers with his Henley-based brewery Lovibonds.

The name itself is taken from John Lovibonds and Sons, a brewer first established in 1834 that used to occupy the premises that now houses today's brewery. Jeff has been putting out quality beers since he started out, employing the simple philosophy of using only the best ingredients. Spin in a healthy respect for brewing traditions and a willingness to experiment with different styles and it adds up to a damn fine brewery.

Easily the best thing Henley-on-Thames has to offer, despite what members of the rowing community might argue.

So I'm quite delighted to pull a bottle of Lovibonds' 69 IPA out of the calendar today. It's about the only thing I can consider drinking right now following a heavy night of Afrobeat in Dalston and a long, lazy pub lunch this afternoon. Anything like yesterday's would have had me running for the trees.

Beer: Lovibonds 69 IPA
Strength: A fitting 6.9%
Colour: Light golden like sunlight glinting off rippling water
Smell: Posh marmalade and hayfever-inducing flowers
Tasting notes: This starts out like many of the current crop of IPAs: rounded and fruity with a hint of what's to come. What I find sets it apart is the sheer ferocity of the bitterness that rounds on your tongue like the mild-mannered Alsatian turned feral. Like a huge hoppy crocodile clip, formerly friendly fido clamps its bitter jaws down and tenaciously refuses to let go. The sourness reminds you of too young satsumas mistakenly bought at the end of October in an ill-advised quest for vitamin C. Less of a palate cleanser, more a beery Nitromors to strip your tastebuds away. Fantastic.
Gut reaction: Perfectly carbonated and with a deft lightness of touch a brain surgeon would be proud of, it's highly unlikely this will cause too many ructions.
Session factor: Relatively high, although that ABV might put you off too many.
Arbitrary score: 68

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