Tuesday, 31 August 2010

A tale of two beers. Adnams Innovation and Sam Hill Homebrew

The first beer I'm going to write about today is a pretty special one. When I won the World Cup Beer Sweep my prize was three cases of beer, one from Ales by Mail, one (still to arrive) from the Highland Brewing Company and one from Adnams. The one I was most excited about in this package was the Adnams one. Adnams and I go back a long way, there beers were often on of the "out the back" real ales at my local when I grew up and I have helped drain casks of them at a few west country parties.
I will admit here and now that I was a little disapointed when the package turned up and it was 12 bottles of the same beer, one which I hadn't heard of. "No Broadside, Southwold or Explorer?" I exclaimed when ripping open the box, "How could they?" I am exaggerating my reaction somewhat, in the back of my mind I knew that Adnams, who had been making me quality beers for fifteen years, would see me right for my prize. What a prize it was, twelve sleek, sophisticated bottles that you see above, a mysterious embossed label with a single highlighted word, "Innovation".

An exclusive beer like this will always pique my interest. It is my hatred of feeling like I missed out that led me to carefully transport two bottles of Russian River Supplication home from San Francisco in our luggage. It causes me to spend too much money buying limited edition beers from crazy Scottish brewers.

I followed the instructions on the back of the bottle and chilled a few of these down before sampling and I was blown away. Tonight, four weeks after opening the first bottle we drank the last one. It really is a surprising and beautiful beer. It has a deep golden but not amber colour and a well established head. On the nose it has rich stone fruits, some tea and plenty of honey and caramel. The flavour really delivers all of those aromas and more. The sweetness of the honey and caramel  is offset with delicious bitterness. This beer changes the further down the pint you drink and it becomes difficult to pinpoint individual tastes. I did have a stab at it though and this is what I have noted.

Christmas Pudding
Jolly Ranchers
Cough candy.

All of this flavour riot sits over a 6.7% ABV but not once during the twelve bottles did it taste this strong. (I have to admit after 3 of these bottles it feels that strong!)
If you can't tell already I love this beer, so much that I am going to place an order for another twelve. I need this beer in my life.
After such an intensively flavoured beer it was probably a mistake to have an impromptu tasting of the homebrew I made from a St Peter's Ruby Red Ale kit, but I will tell you what we thought anyway.

It was my first time making homebrew beer and inexperienced as I am, allowed a bit too much yeast to end up in the bottles when it was time for conditioning. This has led to a nicely carbonated beer in the bottle with about half a centimetre of sediment at the bottom of the bottle. The only way to pour a clean pint of the beer is to chill it right down so the bubbles don't disrupt the sediment layer. This suppresses the flavour and as a result the beer really suffers. So, unlike the Adnams, a warming needs to be performed. About half an hour after pouring we tasted. Even with the warming the beer is a little flat and dry tasting. There appears to be little residual sugar from the malt extract and as a result not enough body. Having said that it is a perfectly palatable beer with a nice hoppy flavour. Next time I make a kit I will reduce the starting volume so there is a more of a body to it and of course I will be a lot more careful with the yeast!

Thanks for reading. I hope there will be plenty more beer reviews to come. Marble, Hardknott, Russian River and hopefully some Highland beers will be tasted and remarked upon as soon as I can!

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