I really wanted to go to this year’s European Beer Bloggers Conference but I just couldn’t afford it.
And so last night, as a kind of gesture towards being there and drinking something a bit special, I opened my vintage Harvest Ale.
This little bottle of beer is the first brew from the 1998 harvest of malt and hops, and so it’s been hanging out waiting to be drunk for the past fourteen years.
So, was it worth the wait?
Yes it was.
The beer poured flat but as thick as gravy and it sat clinging to the side of my glass like the most gorgeous, oily whisky does.
The smell is a big fat woody liquorice stick dunked in cherry brandy.
And if you think the smell sounds good you ought to taste it.
Whether or not this beer has stayed at 11.5% or moved on over the course of its life I can’t tell you.
All I can say is that this is warm treacle pudding drowned in a cocktail of sherry trifle and peat whisky.
Rich and full and lusciously thick on the tongue, I’ve got a mouthful of dark bitter chocolate encrusted with morello cherries.
Aniseed ball silliness creeps in and then everything is smothered in autumnal crisp hedgerows as blackberries pop with a bittersweet darkness and the hops turn gloriously chewy.
The finish is that of a good single malt, rounded and warming and deliciously physical in the way it hangs around.
It’s been worth the wait.
Next year I’ll go to the conference, but this year I’m glad that I stayed at home.
NB: Thank to James Clay for providing this bottle.