One of the reasons I love the world of beer so much is all the variety. From crisp, light pilsners to oily, chewy imperial stouts via zingy, bright sours, there’s a category out there to suit any taste.
Then there’s beers like this one, which defy categorisation.
Honestly, I’ve been thinking about this for a while and the best I can come up with to describe Bourbonic Plague is “other”. That, or create a new category: barrel-aged soured blended porter. In which case, this is very much a category of one.
I spotted Bourbonic Plague on the tap list at Cask, a fun little pub in Pimlico. There, right near the top of the menu, sat a 12.1% beer (listed here as a sour) priced at £9.85 for a third of a pint. At that kind of pricing, I figured we were either dealing with something eye-wateringly overpriced or exceptionally good: either way, good review material.
Primed by the menu to expect a standard sour, imagine my surprise when I’m handed a tulip of what looked like a porter or a stout. A dark, thick ruby body with scant caramel head. The aroma, too, was not as expected: intense, umami notes like soy sauce, red grape must, balsamic vinegar, Marmite. More followed on the palate, with the addition of juicy blackberry.
“I get a hint of coffee, but mostly it’s blackberries. Straight off the vine,” commented one fellow drinker. “It’s tart and earthy all at once.” The blackberry grows more intense on the finish, rounding off with a burst of compote and an oily coating over the tongue.
We were fortunate that in this instance the pricing reflected an exceptionally good beer, but even so, was it worth it? For me, the answer is a resounding yes. For while ten pounds for a third pint may seem outrageous at first, at this ABV, you’re essentially buying wine, where that kind of pricing is commonplace. Here, I’d argue, you’re getting more value. Here, that £9.85 gets you something truly exceptional. 5/5