Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hitting the Mark

I posted the following status on my Facebook account the other day:

"you can keep your extreme beers as far as I am concerned, nothing beats balance, complexity and drinkability in a beer. Williamsburg Alewerks' Washington's Porter is great example of just that".

The more I think about beer, both in the context of the stuff I buy and that which I brew, I am more and more convinced that those three descriptors are the basis of good beer (regardless of who brews it):
  • balance
  • complexity
  • drinkability
I happily admit that my preference in beer is toward the maltier end of the spectrum, and on the occasions when I do venture into hop head territory, I like a beer that has a solid malty backbone. Balance is something though which is difficult to achieve and is the key criteria by which a beer should be judged in my world - I don't suck lemons as a general rule, any more than I drink syrup (on a side note, one thing you will never see me do is drown pancakes in syrup).

I know very few people who don't like complex flavours in their beer, but I wonder sometimes if people confuse complexity with extremity, or in some cases simply too many flavours. By complexity I mean a beer that develops while drinking it, you could say unravelling as the temperature rises and releases differing aromas and flavours. The thing I find with a good complex beer is that the flavour improves as you drink it, unlike some well known beers which taste awful when served a single degree above freezing. Forgive the crappy analogy (are not all analogies crap at the end of the day?), but a good beer is like a Gypsy Rose Lee interpretation of burlesque, beertease you could say.

It stands to reason that beer is made for drinking, so a beer really isn't all that great if you can have a half pint and not want more. When I say "not want more" I am thinking of a situation where you don't have to drive home or similar, but you drink it and by the end of it you aren't interested in taking another drop of it. I often have to suppress my sarcastic side when I hear people describe something as "very drinkable", what the hell did you expect?

I find then, that when I go to the pub, I am looking more and more for beers that I can sup several of and not worry too much about my legs refusing to function when I get up to go home. Sure, I like stronger beers such as barleywine and imperial stout, but find myself distinctly unfussed by double IPAs and the like - I can sup on a barleywine over a longer period of time than I can a DIPA, and still enjoy the beer.

Coming back then to the Porter in the second half of the quote there, Williamsburg Alewerks' Washington's Porter. When Mrs V and I went to Williamsburg in October, I bought a growler of the porter from the brewery shop and duly put it in the fridge when we got back to CVille. There it sat until I used about a pint in my porter fruit cake. It went back into the fridge, with me fully intending to drink it that evening after the baking was finished. 

For reasons that escape me now, it sat in the fridge for a further 3 weeks, until I used it in a date, apricot and cranberry fruit cake on Sunday. I was convinced it would be lifeless and dull having been opened some 21 days prior, yet it was in excellent condition and the remaining half a growler or so (about 2 pints), was gently imbibed over a few hours. Lots of chocolate and coffee flavours, laced with a US Fuggle bitterness made it my beer highlight of the weekend. At 6.3%, it doesn't really fall into the category of a "session beer", but it hits the mark perfectly in terms of balance, complexity and drinkability.


  1. Did you ever try Clotworthy Dobbin when you were over here? I don't recall and I reckon you would love it.

  2. I had it with Barry and the Beer Nut at the Bull and Castle the day we flew back to Prague - was a very nice beer.

  3. To me, a beer is good when I like it, and that's it. (And there are many reasons why I would like a beer)


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