Last week I had the very good fortune to attend Pete Brown's beer tasting in aid of Ukraine. A good cause and a chance to try some ancient and rare beers from his collection.
I was lucky enough to have been gifted a ticket by James McDonnell, one of the auction winners. And very grateful I was, too. Even if it meant a frantic 24-hour trip to London. Also the first time I'd been to the UK in almost 3 years. By far the longest I've ever been out of the country.
The tasting was held in the Parcel Yard in King's Cross Station, giving me a chance to reacquaint myself with cask ESB. And British pubs.
Star of the show was Ratcliff Ale, brewed in 1869 for the son of one of the directors of Bass. A Majority Ale which was never able to fulfill its purpose, as the son died before reaching 21. That it had an intact wax seal got my hopes up.
And . . . I wasn't disappointed. OK, it was flat as a Russian tyre, but it wasn't off. Lots of lovely oxidation flavours adding deep sherry notes. Along with some leathery Brettanomyces flavours. Biggest surprise was the level of bitterness. Amazing that that should have lasted 150 years.
You'll probably be surprised to learn that this was the first time I'd drunk Hardy Ale. Not quite sure why that is. The 2003 vintage we tried was extremely good. And surprisingly chocolatey. That's something I wasn't expecting.
It's always way more fun drinking very special beers like these in company. There was some good discussions about the flavours we could pick up. Lots that I would have missed, had I been drinking alone.
A great, if somewhat tiring experience. My flight being delayed by 2 hours meant I had to go straight to the Parcel Yard from Gatwick.
I can't be arsed to transcribe all my tasting notes. You'll have to struggle with my awful handwriting. I'll admit that there are a couple of words even I can't make out.