Edwin Tucker’s Empress Porter – A Vertical Tasting.

Some when, between 2003 and 2006, I visited Tuckers Maltings, in Newton Abbot, and bought a bottle of the 2003 Empress Porter. It was one of 2008 produced for that vintage. As such, I was somewhat reluctant to drink it.

In the decade since, I have acquired at least one bottle of each of the vintages released, 2006, 2010, and 2013. With that first bottle being 10 years old, and with four different vintages in my possession, it seems like a good time to open them up, one after the other, to see the effect time has had on them.

I’m starting with the 2013 bottling. Each of the beers is 10.5% in strength, Some beers have the alcohol on the nose, however, this seemingly doesn’t. Perhaps the most surprising thing about this beer, for me, is that it doesn’t taste like a 10.5% stout. I was expecting some rather warming alcohol to be present, that would mellow out over time. It would seem that it’s perfect to drink now (unlike Goose Island’s Bourbon County, which I have found benefits from a bit of time to let the alcohol mellow, and the flavours come out).

Flavourwise, there’s everything that I want from a stout in here, rich chocolate and dried fruits, and a burnt malt aftertaste, it is, I feel, a perfect beer for me and my personal tastes, and that is just as it is, before it has been aged for 3, 7 or 10 years…

The 2010 vintage is next. There’s a distinct difference on the nose. It smells richer, and as if there is more alcohol in there, it seems rather dominated somewhat by dried berry fruits. This comes through in the taste as well. It seems more like a 10.5% beer than the 2013 does. The alcohol feels much more warming, and the overall experience is much more enjoyable.

Third  for the night is the 2006 vintage. Contrary to my expectations, the apparent alcohol seems to be increasing with the age of the bottle. With this bottle, the alcohol can be detected on the nose. The mouth feel this time is different, with the beer feeling much more tingly on the tongue. The flavours of the 2013 are still there, but they are shadowed by the warming effect of the alcohol.

Finally, the oldest of the lot, the 2003 vintage. The aroma is much more burnt rubber than dried fruit, though the dried fruit is still present in the taste. Of the four, this is certainly my favourite, though the 2013 is just as worthy of praise as it is now.

I went into this with a vague idea of how I expected a 10.5% imperial porter to age over the course of a decade. Whilst some of those expectations were met, many weren’t. In either case, it’s been a very enjoyable night, and I look forward to building my collection, and doing it again in 20 years time.



Bourbon the Fourth of July Part 3

Earlier this afternoon I paid a visit to The Rockstone for the third session of bourbons.

Bourbon number one was Fighting Cock. Lovely and golden in colour with a hint of chocolate in the aroma. In terms of drinking, it was rather smooth, with only a slight burn on the aftertaste.

Second of the day was J,W, Dant. It’s somewhat dryer in taste than the nine preceeding bourbons, yet smells slightly sweeter. This marks the halfway point of the card, a d so far, I think this is my favourite.

Due to an error in the first session, my third bourbon of the day was another Four Roses. I like it, but I’ve had others since that I have liked more. Bourbon number four, was the Four Roses Small Batch. It smells and tastes richer, and has much more of a burn on the aftertaste, in a good way. I like it, although the Dant remains my favourite.

With this, I am now 60% through the card. Two sessions of four remain between me and a free t-shirt, and more importantly, being immortalised on the board.


The Friday Pint 2 #20 – A Shameless Post Promoting An Awesome Beery Event.

So, 9 weeks from the time of writing, the first session of The Birmingham Beer Bash will be starting to draw to a close. Whilst some of you reading will be there drinking beers, I shall be one of the many people working behind the scenes trying to make sure it all goes well.

From the many tweets I’ve seen from people saying they’ve bought tickets, or are looking forward to coming, it would seem that we are heading for a successful weekend. Since the last time I mentioned the Beer Bash on this blog, several more breweries have been announced.

The list now includes De Molen, Ska, Evil Twin, Magic Rock, Hardknott, and Buxton to name just a few of them. There will also be a couple of breweries launching their beers exclusively at the event.

Tickets are now on sale, starting from ¬£6 for the Friday afternoon session. With the way things are going, I expect the weekend will be a sell out. I’d order my ticket now if I were you to avoid disappointment,

Full details of the event, and a link to the ticketing site, can be found at www.birminghambeerbash.co.uk.


Bourbon the Fourth of July Part 2

A few weeks ago, as part of The Friday Pint’s “Year Without Buying Beer”, I visited The Rockstone, in the Beovis Valley area of Southampton and started working through the range of bourbons listed on the collection card. There are 20 in total, and I have decided to work through them in five sessions of four.

Today’s session begins with Eagle Rare. It’s nicely mellow, and doesn’t burn much on the aftertaste. Saying that though, it does seem a bit too easy to drink, and doesn’t really have any characteristics that would make me want to buy myself a bottle

Next on the list is Cabin Still, it’s slightly darker, and somewhat harsher, yet seemingly better for it. The aromas and flavours, whilst similar, seem somewhat stronger.

Bourbon number three for today, and seven in total, is Pikesville. It smells sweeter than the others, with a hint of orange in amongst the vanilla that has been present in the others. In terms of taste, it seems the harshest so far, though the aftertaste doesn’t linger as long as the initial taste would suggest.

Lastly for this group of bourbons is Rittenhouse Rye. It seemingly has little to no aroma. I can detect slight hints of vanilla, but nothing as strong as any of the seven that have preceded this. Tastewise there doesn’t seem much to it either.

Overall, my favourite of these four is the Cabin Still. It had a good bit of flavour to it, and wasn’t too harsh.


The Friday Pint 2 #19 – Breaking The Rules

At the start of this year, I set myself some rules. I allowed myself 10 passes from these rules, of which I have so far used three. I may have broken those rules a couple of times, and joked about rewriting them to include an exception for all new Dancing Man Brewery beers.

Pole Axed isn’t a new beer, but it was one of my favourite beers of last year, and I did say that I would use one of my passes to drink it again. The problem is, do I really want to? I’ll be using a pass in a few weeks time for the Southampton Beer Festival, and then there’s several events over the summer that will require passes. What I don’t want is to reach the second half of the year without the ability of having a beery weekend.

Okay, so I could rewrite the rules, or break them, but that seems to miss the point of the experiment. I’ve already drunk more cider this year than I did last year, and I’ve also enjoyed a few whiskys and bourbons too. On the other hand, I’ve also stayed Rat home more, rather than go out to pubs, which wasn’t my intention.

Pole Axed though, is a beer worth breaking the rules for, and as I said to my Dad whilst sharing a pint with him, it would have been the best beer of The Friday Pint last year, if I’d actually had a pint on a Friday. DNA, which was also on tonight, was on the best form it’s been since I first tried it last year.

I may have broken the rules to drink the pint and a half of Pole Axed I drank tonight. I’ll also break them to possibly buy a bottle of Vibrant Forest’s Red Righteous tomorrow. Somehow, it doesn’t seem that bad when it comes to supporting the local breweries.


AG#7 Brewday – A kind of live blog

As I currently write, water is boiling for the Brewday of AG#7. A highly hopped Columbus IPA (or IIPA if things go well).

My friend Chris shall be arriving in about an hour, when we will be mashing in, and enjoying the first of many beers today. I’ll be “live blogging” the events of today, but I won’t be posting them until tonight, so by the time you read this, everything will be in the past, and nothing will make sense.

I may also irritate some English students…

The grain bill for today’s brew consists of 5kg of Maris Otter, 1.5kg of crystal malt, and 1kg of caramalt. Into this, will be going around 200g of columbus hops, in around a 20 litre batch. I’m aiming for around 8.5%. On past experience, I’ll get a slightly lower OG than needed.

So the mash is on the go, and we’ve drunk our first two beers. Rudi Can’t Fail (AG#7), and Dogfish Head’s Positive Contact. The latter we both agreed tasted like a Saison, and is very enjoyable indeed. Soon we’ll be starting the boil, and drinking Rogue’s Voodoo Doughnut Beer.

The beer is a strange one. Chris says it definitely has a burnt smokey after taste to it. The maple is there too, as is the bacon. It’s one that does perhaps need to be tried to fully know how strange it is. Saying that though, I quite like it. We seem to be getting different orders of flavours, but we are both agreed it’s a strange beer.

We’re now waiting, drinking that Rogue beer, and occasionally putting Columbus hope in. The scales aren’t working, do we’re doing this on sheer guesswork. Regardless of when the hops go in, there’ll be 200g worth in total going into this beer.

At this point in the boil we find ourselves listening to Call Me Maybe, which is a great song, and if you think otherwise, you’re wrong. It’s almost over, just one final addition of hops to go.

So, the boil concluded, we run the wort off into the fermentation vessel and head to the local supermarket to get food, and ice to help the wort cool to fermentation temperature. After sticking the FV in an ice bath and cooking and eating our food, we open the bottle of Sierra Nevada/Russian River’s Brux.

I told my friend he may not like it, though it’s less sour than we were expecting, and as it so happens, he does like it. It probably serves as a good introduction to wild yeast beers. A check of the tempeerature of the wort shows that we have some wait yet, which means time for more beer.

Since I last updated, I have had more Rudi Can’t Fail, and shared a bottle of Mikkeller Black Hole White Wine Barrel Aged Edition with Chris. Chris has also left, and the wort is now down to around 35C. The FA Cup final is in full swing, and the evening meal is being planned. All is well, beer is flowing, and the only thing that remains to do is pitch the yeast. The OG ended up at 1.072, which would give a alcohol volume of 7.9% if the yeast converted 100% of the sugar to alcohol.

It won’t, but I’m happy with what I’ve achieved.


The Friday Pint 2 #18 – Insert Title Here

Since last Friday, I’ve been working, mostly.

There was one day, Tuesday, that I was off, and on that day only one beer passed my lips, a bottle of my latest Homebrew, Rudi Can’t Fail. I also had a couple of ciders. This is the extent of my drinking for this week.

It’s probably the least drinking I’ve done for quite some time, and one of the benefits of having to travel into and out of work from Southampton. For the past week, I haven generally been leaving the house around 7:30 each morning, and not returning until 2am. There has been no time for me to drink, except for that Tuesday.

Of course, tomorrow will probably remove any good those dry days have done. I’ve invited my friend round to help with the next brew (AG#7, for those counting) and also drink some of the bottles that are taking up space.

Among those being lined up (which may or may not be opened) are Dogfish Head’s Positive Contact, Sierra Nevada/Russian River’s Brux, and Rogue’s Voodoo Donut Maple Bacon Ale. There’s also a mini keg of Rudi Can’t Fail as well.

I’m going to try and do a brew report for this one, along with reactions to what we drink along the way. Hopefully it’ll be fun, in between the cleaning.


The Friday Pint #17 – Bourbon The Fourth of July Part 1

When I started this year of The Friday Pint, there was one place I knew I’d probably end up at quite regularly.

The Rockstone in Southampton has developed a reputation, both locally and nationally, for it’s rather generous menu. Imagine the tallest burger you can, The Rockstone Burger is probably taller, and it tastes great too. It’s just one of a selection of around 30 on the menu, and then there’s the steaks, and the fish, and the veggie options, all made from locally sourced ingredients.

Usually, it would be the food that is the reason for my visit. Today though, I’m visiting to make my first dent into the Bourbon The Fourth of July card. 20 Bourbons are on the list, and I’ve decided to go through in order, doing four each session (that’s five sessions, Math fans!)

First up is one called Rebel Reserve, which is going down rather nicely. There’s two on the card that I’ve had before, Gentlemen Jack and Evan Williams. The rest though, are complete strangers.

After drinking the Rebel Reserve possibly a bit too fast, I’ve ordered a Four Roses. It’s darker than the Rebel Reserve, and also has a bit of bite to it. It seems sweeter too. There’s a burning aftertaste to it, which isn’t quite as unpleasant as some. Such is the Awesomeness of The Rockstone, I’ve also been given a glass of Four Roses Single Barrel to compare (it’s not for sale). There’s a slight difference. It seems slightly smoother, and not as sweet, though the after bite is still there.

Third up is Evan Williams. It’s actually the single barrel, and not the standard stuff that I bought a bottle of after enjoying it at the Midland’s Whisky Fest a few weeks ago. As I determined then, I prefer the regular Evan Williams to this, which is why I bought a bottle of that, and not this. It’s still nicer than Jack Daniels though.

Lastly for this session is the Elijah Craig, which I believe is the darkest of the four (it’s somewhat hard to determine without having the previous three to line up against it. Rebel Reserve was certainly the lightest of the four). There’s a definite burn to this one, though underneath it, there seems to be hints of orange and chocolate.

Of the four bourbons tried this time, the Rebel Reserve is the one I have enjoyed the most. I’ll be continuing to complete the card on the next four Fridays I’m off. On the basis of today, it’s going to be fun, and an education. As for now, I’m popping down to The Platform Tavern. You should join me…