Beer review – crowdsourcing

Beer is by far my preferred tipple, but I’m not averse to alcohol in its other forms. My response to being invited to a wine tasting is not to long it off in favour of a night at the taproom but to accept gracefully, quietly drink some wine, then subvert the purpose of the entire evening later on by recruiting attendees for an impromptu beer tasting instead. I believe this behaviour is technically referred to as “being a terrible guest”.

We’ve spent all night so far swilling wine around our glasses, pretending to sound knowledgeable with words like “tannins” and “terroir”. Now the stakes are higher: some beer anorak (me) is recording those words for posterity. You’d imagine people would start choosing their words more carefully.

People did not start choosing their words more carefully.

Collective Arts, Stranger Than Fiction

Following an evening of swilling tempranillo and cabernet sauvignon, starting with a punchy porter seemed like a good plan. Or at least that’s what I claimed to my drinking companions, who (entirely correctly) accused me of picking this one out because it had the best can art. And who can blame me? I had four different varieties of can art to choose from, all of them fascinating.

Now may be a good time to confess – the photographs were a bit of an afterthought on this trip

It looks more stout than porter in appearance, with a dark, opaque body and tan, lacy head. The aroma is full of charcoal and dark roast coffee. More of that on the palate, but with a light, creamy texture and some strong effervescence.

“Cloud,” one drinking colleague offers as his word. I ask him to elaborate.

“Porters have always felt like they’ve been hidden behind stouts for me. With this I’m expecting a heavy stout, but in reality it’s like I’m drinking a light, fluffy cloud.”

Stranger Than Fiction is not especially strange: it’s a solid, high quality porter, and a perfect antidote to the wine we’ve been enjoying so far this evening. Having said that, the can art is still the highlight. 3/5

Pressure Drop x Zapato, You Are Free

While my last offering was driven by can art, this beer choice was more conceptual. In my head, stouts have a dark flavour that pairs well with other dark flavours: chocolate, coffee, berry fruits, liquorice. To come across a dry stout flavoured with passion fruit, then, is jarring. I’m not at all sure what to expect from this.

Believe me, flash on looks even worse

Unlike 99% of my stout reviews, this doesn’t look especially like a stout. There’s a distinct ruby hue to the beer’s body, and it’s light and translucent enough to see shadows through a glass held to the light.

Then the aroma hits, and all is passion fruit. This beer REEKS of the stuff, with no room for any other flavours to take their turn. So what did our studio audience make of this brewer’s take on a pornstar martini?

“Sour. Tart.”
“It tastes like someone’s stomped on a passion fruit with some dirty-ass shoes.”
A reference to Zapato, one of the collaborators. Duolingo has served us well.
“I want to preface this by saying I do not have a refined palate. I am not a fussy person. My word for this beer is ‘undrinkable’.”

I’m in complete agreement. You Are Free tastes like it’s made using the whole passion fruit: not just the tart and delicious pulp but the crushed up seeds and skin too, giving it a puckering astringency that doesn’t meld at all with the barest chocolate aftertaste, the one non-passion fruit flavour allowed to emerge. It’s not often I choose not to finish a beer. This is one of those occasions. 0/5

Cloudwater, It Took Over The Airports

We’ve justified our beer choices by the can art and the concept; now, friends arrive with a beer they’ve picked out because of the name.

“Aspirationally fruit-forward.”
“Like the smell of a Bikram yoga studio.”
Surely people are joking now.
“Like the carpet at Charles de Gaulle airport”.

That’s probably enough of the increasingly silly one-word reviews. They started well, however: it’s a light, watery beer with apricot notes dominating and a subtle, grassy base. But that watery mouthfeel makes this beer taste a bit like an isotonic energy drink, and combined with some slightly funky hop aroma it does summon memories of the changing rooms post-sauna, or indeed post-hot yoga.

It Took Over The Airports is an intriguing name for a beer, but despite the initial excitement this is one beer that didn’t really take off. 1/5

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