Visit the Pencil & Spoon site

Another beer night. This one reserved for those special bottles weíd been meaning to drink for so long but just never got around to it, shared with Mark from Real Ale Reviews and Pete Brissenden.

A Pliny the Elder to start. This was pretty much the reason Mark decided to come down from Leeds as Iíd promised that Iíd bring a bottle back from San Francisco for him. Itís a great beer, pithy, piney, dry and bitter.

Alaskan Smoked Porter 2009, another bottle I brought back from California, poured an opaque darker-than-burnt-out-wood back. Smoke comes straight out, followed by fire and chocolate. First the mouthfeel grabs you, silky and smooth, then the smoke whisps in at the end, bonfire, earthy, fiery but still with chocolate underneath. A great beer, exploding with flavour for 6.5%, and not overpoweringly smoky.

Petite Orval next, the beer kept for the monks at the brewery and only available there - a weaker version of the normal Orval. It smells like rhubarb and lemon, delicious. Itís smooth and dry, lemony and peppery, incredibly drinkable and just like a smaller version of Orval without so much of that familiar dry bitterness. I wish this was commercially available Ė itís fantastic.

Russian River Supplication followed with its awesome aroma of glace cherries, lemons and wood. Itís smooth, clean, sour, peppery, full-flavoured. Great beer.

Then for a Fullerís Vintage 1999. Itís packed with serious dried fruit, syrupy, Madeira, port-like in its age. The body is so full and smooth, thereís a huge marmalade and spicy malt flavour thatís so familiar to the Fullerís beers, then more Madeira comes through, treacle and caramel and a peppery, intense finish. Wow Ė the last 10 years have been good to this beer.

Cantillon Saint Lamvinus, bottled about 6 months ago, aged with merlot grapes in a Bordeaux barrel. Itís cherry red with no head, funky and peppery but not massively sour, itís easy drinking, woody, tannic and dry at the end and seriously tasty. A Cantillon Iris followed which is cold-hopped and has a shockingly good aroma of fruity, peachy and citrusy hops, but those hops clash wildly with the beer, going off like a nuclear reactor on the tongue, smacking bitter and sour simultaneously and it was all too much for me.

An Old Chimneys Good King Henry Special Reserve 2007 brought us back on track and what a beer this is. Rate Beer has this as the highest rated British beer (the Fuller's '99 is the second highest rated on there) and I can understand why. The aroma is coconut, oak, vanilla and chocolate; itís thick and intense but still remains light and drinkable, thereís roasted berries in there, lots of chocolate, oak and hints of umami which adds a lot of complexity.

Then an Orval side-by-side, one from July 2008 and the other from December 2009. The old one was cheesy, funky and just generally bigger; the new was fresher, more floral. The old tasted leathery, dusty and dry with an underlying candy sugar sweetness; the new had funk and lemons, a fruity sweetness and more pepper. Very interesting to have them together to see the difference of age and both still tasted great. I had a year-old bottle recently which stopped perfectly in the middle of these two and that seems just about right for me.

Next a De Molenís Lood & Oud Ijzer, a black and tan blend of Amarillo and Rasputin (both oak-barrel aged) made especially for the Pigís Ear beer festival last year. We had bottle 103/120 Ė thatís small run stuff. It has the most amazing aroma and like a Proustian time machine Iím back in Hackney, at the bar, drinking with mates, the day after the BGBW Awards Dinner. Itís grassy, peachy, fruity and then comes chocolate, cocoa and some mint. Thereís so much Amarillo in there, then dark fruit, then chocolate. Itís so smooth and still tastes wonderfully fresh.

A Drie Fonteinen Geuze was deliciously dry, crisp and sour. It's an awesome beer, probably my go-to geuze.

Then finally a BrewDog/Mikkeller Devine Rebel 2010, bumped up to 13.8%, possibly with a change of hops as I couldnít taste or smell the usually pungent Nelson Sauvins. The beer is big and boozy, honeyed, very bitter, nose clearing, orangey and just a bit disjointed Ė it was just too strong for me. Time for bed after this one.

Not a bad beer night, although I had a vicious hangover the next day, one that left me running for the bathroom in fear of being sick while I was frying some bacon! Thankfully it was all made right with a pint of Marble Pint and a fish finger sandwich in the sun at The Bull, which Mark has written about here. Itís good to clear some of the better bottles from the stash every now and then.

We didnít score the bottles this time, like we usually do for Beer nights. If I had to list my Top 3 itíd be Good King Henry, Petite Orval and De Molenís Lood & Oud Ijzer. What isnít mentioned is that the fridge still had a bottle of Pannepot Reserva 2007 and a BrewDog Tokyo*, while a Marble Raspberry Decadence was loitering just in case.