Wednesday, January 16, 2013

January 16: Karl and the Tale of the Olde Suffolk English Ale

This guy and Andy Murray hang out at English Gold Medal Winners' parties
Cheerio, dear reader! After two weeks of saisons, and rapidly decreasing LA temperatures, I am ready to venture out into the world of barrel-aged wonders. Now when most think of barrel-aged beers, the mind tends to land on those beers which are aged in barrels that used to house bourbon. While I have a fondness for beer and bourbon, I’m not a huge fan of bourbon-aged beers, as most of them become dominated by a “coconut-bourbon” flavor that makes the beers pretty one-note for me. So for the next two weeks, I’m looking forward to seeing what other aging conduits may add to the beer, other than the flavor of a rough night in Honolulu.

"Anybody got a bourbon-aged beer? Fins up!"
The first victim of my escapades is the 2010 San Diego International Beer Festival Gold Medal Winner, Greene King's Olde Suffolk English Ale. Made by the same folks that have tamed the Old Speckled Hen, the OSEA is an Old Ale; a blend of two ales, one aged for two years in oak. I have to use the interwebs to figure out the ABV on this guy, as it is absent from the bottle. The 6% that I find is a number very different from many of the American Old Ales that we come across; most Old Ales that bleed red, white and blue come close to succumbing to alcohol poisoning (the Bruery’s Anniversary Ale, an Old Ale, weighs in at 14.5%). It’s a style I enjoy because of the complexity, but usually can’t drink too much of if I want to remember the occasion.  

14.5% Old Ale. Classic 'Merica.
The beer pours a dark brown with a one finger, creamy tan head. The nose on this guy reeks of the Boddington’s that accompanies my usual Saturday morning breakfast and Chelsea match, but supplemented with some dark fruits that are present in some of Belgium’s darker exports. Once it hits your lips, you get an interesting mixture of traditional English ale and some darker fruits. It’s like an “English Quad”. The oak aging adds pleasant tastes of caramel, toffee and oak (surprise!) to the palate; a good example of how barrel-aging can positively influence a beer. It is probably the most carbonated English ale I’ve had, but that’s not saying much. The light carbonation and mild ABV make this an easy drink, and I would much rather have this with breakfast in the winter than a Boddy’s or a Guinness. It’s an all-around “good” beer, and it was nice to be able to drink a full 500ml of an “Old Ale” and be able to stay coherent. It’s smooth and meant for quick, copious consumption, and I would try and finish this guy off before he gets too cozy in your glass. I doubt you will see this one often, but if you do, feel free to give it a chance; the style is something I have not seen faithfully copied here in the States.

Rating: B-

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