Brew by Numbers is rapidly becoming one of my favourite London breweries. Their TIPA is an explosion of tropical fruit flavours and the Bimber Imperial Stout is syrupy, bitter and vanilla-sweet. Their Oyster Stout, brewed with real oysters, is also good. But I was less impressed with their Pink Lady saison.
Back in deepest, darkest lockdown, the Brew By Numbers variety box was a glimmer of light. Now that restrictions have been lifted and we’re all supposed to get back to the office to save Pret, I figured the least I could do was to pay the BBNo taproom a visit. It’s a cosy little venue down in Bermondsey on the Beer Mile; a bit dark inside, but the trains rumbling overhead are atmospheric.
Mosaic, Chinook, and Simcoe make up the trio of hops in this triple IPA. This may not have been the most sensible beer to pick up when I’m soon to cycle home, but it just looked too inviting.
Number 85 is a cloudy, hazy orange, with a sticky white head that clings desperately to the glass. Immediately my nose is assaulted by passion fruit, orange juice, and pineapple aromas. Better call a disposal team, because we have ourselves a juice bomb.
The flavour profile is tropical and sweet. Pineapple and icing sugar start on the palate, with growing pepper and grassy funk as it warms. Lingering spice and pine resin ride in on the finish, a hallmark of Chinook hops.
This is a marvellous beer. Just a shame I didn’t get this in the can because it’s beautiful.
05 Oyster Stout
The Brew by Numbers blog on oysters in beer starts with an exchange pretty much identical to the one I overheard while perusing the menu for my second beer.
“Why does the menu say this one contains molluscs?”
“Because it has oysters in it. It’s an oyster stout.”
“Oh…got any lagers?”
Mambo number 05 is a dark, rich cola brown, almost black. The head is thick and persistent, like latte foam or me courting my partner.
The nose is complex: charcoal, a hint of smoke, brine.
I ask myself, “am I tasting brine because I know oysters are involved?” Perhaps. Placebo is an acceptable ingredient in beer. Beyond that and the charcoal bitterness I also get a dry, dark chocolate and the barest whiff of sour cherry.
It’s that sourness that remains on the finish. It leaves my mouth watering, but not for this beer. I wonder if it needs the oysters alongside for it to work: the pairing would be marvelous. On its own, it’s a drinker but nothing to cross town for.
01, Pink Lady Saison
I picked this beer up expecting something apple flavoured, which suggests I’m less of a booze-hound than I first thought: it’s actually named for the Pink Lady cocktail, a blend of gin and grenadine shaken over ice.
The colour certainly lives up to this saison’s name: the beer is a vibrant, inviting pink with a frothy, candy floss head. The bubbles help deliver a carbonated aroma, along with yeasty sweetness and, of course, pomegranate. The flavour and mouthfeel is decidedly yeasty and wheaty. I’m reminded of weissbier such as the Schneider Weiss I tried during Dry January last year. If I’d added a dash of grenadine to that, perhaps it wouldn’t be too dissimilar to this.
As the name and story suggest, this tastes more like a cocktail than a beer. An interesting idea, and a good gateway for introducing cocktail fans to beer perhaps, but not one for me.
One of my dear friends is obsessed with dark beers: the darker the better. It should not come as a surprise that the moment this beer was released he bought six of them.
This beer is dark. Start with a stout, then age with coffee, vanilla, and whisky infused oak chips and this is what you get: a sweet, syrupy, bitter puddle of ink.
Number 64 pours a dark, deep cola brown, almost black, with a toffee coloured head. Breathe in deeply and you’ll smell dark roasted espresso, vanilla, and a hint of boozy, malty alcohol.
Bitterness hits the tongue first. Almost immediately that rounds out into malty, boozy notes and oak. Vanilla and blueberry ride over the top, sweetening the deal. Then burnt chocolate as the flavours warm on the palate and a rich, dark, soy sauce and bitter finish.
My expectations may have been too high for me going in. I was expecting something like BCS or CBS. But they’re properly barrel aged, not fermented with wood chips; they’re 14%+, not 10%. On balance, this is a really good and well executed beer, but it’s not quite on that level.