The very word “favourite” is so nebulous, so transitory and so subject to whim that to address a question such as “what is your favourite beer?” is like asking which breath in the last 33 years was the best? Like the vast majority of beer drinkers there are times when I only drink a particular style of beer, whether through design or availability. There are beer styles that I love, such as Alt, which seem to combine the drinkability of lager with the flavours of ale. I guess though the beer I would choose as my favourite is the one that has the same effect on me as the ratatouille Remy places in front of Anton Ego – yes I love Pixar movies – though obviously when I fell off my bike my mother didn’t give me a pint of ale to sooth my ills.
My favourite beer is very much like my best friend, I very rarely get to see him – seeing as though he is the American Consul to Kazakhstan, my friend that is, not the beer. It is very rare that I get to enjoy my favourite beer, simply because it is very difficult to get British ales in the Czech Republic. This beer, as well as being my favourite, is also the beer that opened my eyes to the delights of good beer, rather than throwing pint after pint of megaswill down my throat. That beer was Shepherd Neame’s Bishop’s Finger.
Bishop’s Finger was the first cask conditioned ale I ever drank, or at least that I remember drinking, sitting in a village pub in Kent with my eldest brother. A friend who I met in Prague used to work for Shepherd Neame and recommended that when I got back to the UK I should hunt out Bishop’s Finger – so it was all Mike the Hat’s fault, even though it was some 2 years after he had left Prague that I actually got back to the UK. Whenever I have a bottle of Bishop’s Finger these days I am taken back to the pub garden on a sunny July day in Kent.
I love the colour of Bishop’s Finger, deep copper, almost red crowned with a white head, forgive me if I become pompous and wax lyrical – after all this is my favourite beer! The nose tells you that this is a strong ale, full of malt and with just a tinge of the alcoholic delights to come. The beer tastes rather fruity, almost bittersweet like blood oranges that have zing and this being a Kentish beer, the hops are very noticeable in the finish. The beer is big and bold, yet smooth and easy to drink, with flavours that blew my mind when I first tried it all those years ago.
This month's Session is hosted by Matt at A World of Brews.