Wednesday, 15 September 2010

When A Man Is Tired Of London, He's Ready For Yorkshire

I had a totally bonkers hour in Borough Market yesterday.

I popped into Brew Wharf for a quick refresher after a long afternoon's wine tasting (90 wines in about 4 hours - a new personal best). On the bar was Hopsession #2 (6.1%abv), brewed in collaboration with Steel City Brewing. Never one to shirk a challenge, I ordered a pint, and struggled through it. It's one of the hoppiest, bitterest beers I've had in a long time, deliberately unbalanced (we'll return to this later), and really close to being drinkable. I should have ordered a half.

After that, I needed a beer. Popping into The Rake, I found Dark Star Triple (8.5%abv). My notes read: "What madness is this? A limited brew that attempts to put all the mealy, hoppy goodness of a Belgian triple into a cask ale. Against the odds, it succeeds, with malty, yeasty sweetness leading, backed up by a brilliant herbal bitterness". My enjoyment of the beer was enhanced by an impromptu fitness session from regulars and staff - one-handed press-ups and door-frame fingertip pull-ups. Of all the things I expected to find at The Rake, the staff and customers all doing press-ups was fairly low on the list.

As I was finishing a second beer (Marble Chocolate, 5.5%abv, very nice too), who should arrive but none other than Gazza Prescott himself, of Steel City Brewing. We've never met before, so after quick intros, I told him I'd just had a Hopsession. He asked me what I thought, and I told him 'unbalanced'. Frankly, he couldn't have been happier. He hit the nail on the head by saying that it needed more aroma hop, and I suggested that they might have moved some of the hop additions from early to late. He gave me the sort of look usually reserved for the feeble-minded, and made it clear that there would be no funny business - the beer simply needed more hops, and later in the boil.

So, a crash course in mid-Atlantic pale ale design, and some low-key floor acrobatics in one of the best beer bars in London. You don't get that in Leeds on a Tuesday night (thank goodness).


  1. the DS triple is fab, had it at the Rake last week, the bitterness at the end was the only sign for me that it wasn’t from Belgium. Did you join in the press ups by the way?

  2. I'll be interested to see what you think of the forthcoming Marble Triple - not tried yet but it sounds pretty good.

  3. I told him 'unbalanced'. Frankly, he couldn't have been happier.

    This is where I came in (see last paragraph). Silly man. Utter dead end.

  4. "and really close to drinkable"


  5. I have to keep them in shape somehow!

  6. What do you get in Leeds on a Tuesday night instead? :P

    I found the hopsession hard work too ... and I only had a half. Just too bitter for me I'm afriad, couldn't taste anything half way through, extra late hops would've been a waste.


  7. I have to disagree, I was down in London at the weekend and had a pint of Hopsession, I found it stunning, the taste was clear and concise and it was actually very drinkable and perfect after a pint of Fire Coming Out Of A Monkey's Head (which was also excellent but a v different beast) but then again I love Hops - Marbles Lagonda being one of my favourite beers. And speaking of seriously hoppy beers any idea if there are pubs in the UK that use anything akin to Randall the Enamel Animal to give you that industrial strength hop hit?

  8. RichardC: Nothing in the UK like Randall, at least I've not encountered it. For me there's a big difference between hoppyness and bitterness. Both come from hops, but one can exist in a beer without the other. Hopsession just had to much bitterness and too little hoppyness ... at least for my tastes.


  9. Shame about the lack of Randall I've heard good things.

    Totally agree with u on the hoppyness (aroma/flavour) vs bitterness issue they are two very different things - I just love them both.
    I guess I'd liken the shock to the taste buds that Hopsession gives you to the impact of eating a good strong blue cheese if that makes sense - like being punched in the jaw (in a good way)
    hey each to their own I guess I'm all for diversity - the day i drank the Hopsession I started with a Meantime Wheat beer, then the Monkey head at Brew Wharf and after the Hopsession was a pint of Ruination in the Rake oh and a bottle of home brew espresso stout when i got home

  10. There we no press up and chin ups on Wednesday, but I dropped in The Libertine, The Glad and then The Rake (sounds like a likely lad list of Romantic-era inspired bands from Camden!)

    Marble Chocolate nice and the Texels beers too. I found the Dark Start Tripel odd, to be frank, and not something I would want a lot of. Can a beer be challenging and moreish in one fell swoop!

  11. You're a brave man to try a pint. Took me 30 minutes to knock back a third at York Beer Festival. Worth trying I thought - I'm usually game for anything once. Probably only once in this case though!

  12. Adrian - I nearly joined in, but, unusually for me, good sense prevailed

    John - I'm looking forward to it too.

    Phil - I suspect that all those hops should have been shared out through the brew. Gazza certainly thought that it needed more aroma, ergo even more hops.

    Mark (Chunk) - I seriously considered leaving it unfinished, but I wanted to see if it got better. If anything, it got progressively more bitter.

    RichardC - I like hoppy beers, but they have to show a bit of balance - that's the beauty of beer. I know where there are a couple of Randalisers in the UK, but they're not in use - in fact, I think they've never been used.

    Mark RAR - there's something about the maltiness of that style of beer that gets really exaggerated on cask. The casked Abbey blonde in the last 'Spoons fest had a similar issue (but I still found it very tasty)

    Mark S - sometimes you just have to give yourself over to it!

  13. So that's 'balance' as in 'early hopped, late hopped and hopped in between'...

    We do need breweries like Steel City - I'm continually amazed by just how much variety there is in the "pale and hoppy" profile, even if a lot of the time it's a choice between several different flavours which I don't much like. But I can't wait for the malt backlash.


Sorry about the word verification - the blog was getting spammed to bits.