Chances are, if you read other beer blogs or follow other beery people on Twitter, you’ll already be aware of the two beers that make up this experiements, and also of the fact that Shepherd Neame have used brown bottles, rather than their usual clear bottles.
If you don’t read other beer blogs, or follow other beery people on twitter, let me give you a quick summary as an introduction. Shepherd Neame have released two new beers, an India Pale Ale (6.1%) and a Double Stout (5.2%). Like many other bloggers I have been sent a bottle of each.
I’m starting off by trying the IPA. I like it. It seems to be balanced more towards the malt than the hops, but there’s still a nice amount of bitterness there. With so many modern IPAs utilizing large amounts of hops to give high levels of bitterness and flavour to the beer, it makes a change to drink a good IPA that seems more balanced. If I’m honest, I doubt I’d buy it again in a bottle, yet I’d likely consider it if it seemed to be the best option on tap in a pub. Even then, I’ve poured a half pint for this tasting, and I’m already wanting to move on to something else. I like the beer. It’s certainly not a drain pour, but then again, it’s not something I’d want to drink lots of.
The first thing I notice about the Double Stout is that there’s an element of smokiness to it. The initial aroma I got after opening the bottle reminded me of the aroma that often comes from Rauchbiers. That soon subsides, but the beer still smells good. As for how it tastes, it’s a good stout, but it seems to leave a dry aftertaste. As a result I find it difficult to enjoy beyond the initial moments of the beer being in my mouth.
Both beers seem to occupy that large middle ground of the beer world, the beers that are neither drain pours, nor the best beers in the world. Individually, they are both reasonably enjoyable beers, but how do they work together?
To put it simply, the answer is well. It has the flavour of the stout, but not the dryness, and it has the bitterness of the IPA. It’s what I want from a Black and Tan, one mouthful the characteristics of the stout are dominant, the next mouthful the characteristics of the IPA are dominant.
If Shepherd Neame could make a beer that tastes like this, with a bit less carbonation, and a bit less alcohol, I could probably find myself drinking Shepherd Neame beer more than I do now. Overall this has been a pleasant surprise.
Now, if we can just get Shepherd Neame to bottle the rest of their range in brown bottles…