|Numbers up: a beer that delivers
a quiet death to your tongue
Brought to you by Sam Carrington
Last year, as the ‘Great Freelance Drought of 2013’ was hoovering up the last remaining pennies of my sinking fund, I received an email from an old school friend. He said he needed a writer. Specifically a beer writer.
Resisting the temptation to say I knew a fair few, I began to feel my big break had finally arrived. While it was never going to make me rich, I thought I might be about to carve out a career doing something I loved.
Wasn’t to be. I massively over-serviced in terms of hours worked on the project and was paid considerably less for it than my initial quote. Didn’t even get a complimentary copy of the magazine once it had finally been published, which I thought was a mite peevish.
But it did mean I got to speak to a lot of brewers, which finally set in motion the sequence of events that led to me making my own beer.
It also meant discovering a new, excellent brewery and a style of beer I’d never tasted before but which has since become a firm favourite.
That revelatory voyage didn’t start well, mind. I’d been commissioned to write a feature on home brewers who had made the step up to commercial brewing. I’d spoken to Hackney Brewery’s Pete Hills initially, then lined up an interview with Kernel’s Evin O’Riordann the following day – a Saturday when the brewery opens to the public.
Unfortunately, I mistakenly decided it would be a good idea to go to the Draft House on Charlotte Street the night before, with the result that I turned up at the brewery somewhat the worse for wear. My friend Tom had bought me a low-strength table beer that I really struggled to finish. Then things, quite unexpectedly, began to improve no end.
I bought a barrel-aged imperial stout (10.2%) that I thought would be the test of whether or not I could handle the rest of the day. It worked. I rattled through the interview with Evin, who then pointed me in the direction of Tom at Brew By Numbers, a relatively new outfit just up the railway arches in Bermondsey.
The rain lashed down as I picked my way along Enid Street trying to stay as dry as possible. On arrival at the brewery looking like I'd been in need of a Sou'wester, I wasn’t remotely surprised to be practically the only customer. I quickly identified Tom and managed to conduct an interview while swaying slightly under the influence of Kernel’s finest.
Tom ever-so-politely asked if I’d like a beer and suggested the lime Berliner Weisse. One sip of this sour, mustardy delight later and a new chapter in my beer drinking had begun. I could barely concentrate on the interview any more. This was delicious. I wanted more. I stayed late into the evening and had several more.
I’ve since recommended the brewery and this style of beer to anyone who’ll listen and plenty who would rather not. I don’t care. It’s unlikely I’ll shut up about it for years to come.
So you can imagine my delight when this double-strength Berliner Weisse from Brew By Numbers greeted me as I opened the cardboard flap marked 11 this morning. It’s just unfortunate I appear to have drunk an awful lot of gin in the build-up.
Though I like to think I’m approaching this in the same spirit as I did the first time.
Beer: Brew By Numbers Double Strength Berliner Weisse
Smell: A four-year old packet of candied lemons with an extra dose of sourness. It's like the thing is giving you a massive look of disapproval.
Tasting notes: As the strains of Elvis Costello's I Want You snarl out in the background, so does the bitterness of a million angry tears trickle insistently across the exposed cheeks of your palate. Then mustard attacks. Subtly at first, as if it's just teeing you up, then all of a sudden it's being tattooed on your tastebuds by a rank amateur stabbing at the ink of your flavour receptors. The rasping pain is a vacuum, making your entire mouth pucker and contract like it's been fanged by a vindictive cobra bent on murder or exposed to the emptiness of outer space. As you die a hideous death, the flavour flatlines; all ECG indicators null. Lifeless, numb, beaten. The only serum is yet more of the same.
Session factor: Utterly preposterous. If you've ever eaten an entire pack of Tangfastics in one sitting (and of course you have), you'll understand.
Arbitrary score: 12,914
Sponsor: Sam Carrington