Monday, 30 August 2010

A tribute to our lord: Michael Jackson Beer Hunter

This post is dedicated to the legendary Michael Jackson Beer Hunter, one of the most influential beer and Whisky writers to have ever lived. From memory I did a similar post a few years back. This time it's different. This time I have a cupboard full of different beers to choose from and an entire Bank Holiday Monday to decide which one to use for the annual toast (it's what they do in America I hear) to our lord Jackson on the day of his passing 2007.  Michael would have been a prize autograph, if I'd have met him. He was an inspiration to beer writers across the globe and supported any brewer producing interesting or different beers in an age of mass market mega-brand dominance. Craft beer has come a long way in the last 40 years or so, and during that time old Mike helped out a lot by communicating the message of great beer through his books and other writings. So what beer should I have for the occasion? It has to be something good, right? I have quite a few speciality Belgian beers knocking about, some Pale ales, one or two crazy Dogfish Head and Brew Dog beers and loads of keeping beers of my own making. Then... I made my decision.

This ones for you Mike, you bad invincible beer hunting mother fukka

 The chosen beer is actually one I obtained very recently from my Auntie Wendy living in California, who went to  great lengths to obtain this for me and fly this over. Therefore, I will not only be dedicating this review to our lord, but Wendy as well (shamon!), for her dedication to assisting my beer hunting adventures. I also have little doubt that anyone in the UK has access to this beer yet. So UK bloggers, I tried it first, so read and weep.

Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA.

Now I've been giving Stone a lot of coverage recently, that's for sure, and when I read what Stone had to say about this one, I was shocked. To me Stone doing an English style IPA seems a bit odd. The same goes for cheese, in this case Glastonbury Farmhouse Cheddar and Stilton, to see how this baby paired with classic English cheeses (a test of authenticity perhaps?). The abv, a massive 8.9% suggests it would probably hold out to any cheese.

In fact I can't recall a classic English style IPA with this much alcohol, and the hop varieties used, Target, Boadicea and East Kent Goldings, alongside the chosen malt and water treatment suggest this ain't no US-UK style hybrid, it's a straight and narrow British beer, that's not British. The bottle then advises 'Consume fresh, or age in the hull of a seafaring vessel for a year or more'. As I don't have a seafaring vessel, I decided to take advantage of the occasion to get it opened.

It pours a clouded pale golden colour. This was my fault as I had only hours previously driven the beer back from my parents and couldn't wait to try it, so the natural sediment was un-settled. On the nose it hits you with loads of summer fruit like grassy hop notes, really fragrant. I mean really fragrant. The first sip of this reminded me of anchovy fillets for some reason, it's on the assertive side. It opens with a big hit of alcohol and fermentation driven fruits combined with mountains of peppery, fruity English hops that lead into a fairly dry hop driven finish with more warming fruity alcohols. I can tell this would age beautifully, not that it's not delicious now. It's brisk, bold and assertive with alcohols playing a big role, but it's still playing all the same classic English IPA notes, as if it were a fortified version of something familiar. I'm sure this one would take some beating in 'Ed's IPA challenge'.

With the cheese it went naturally well with the cheddar, but seemed to dominate over it quite a bit. The same magic this cheese had with Worthington White Shield at my previous Beer and Cheese Night wasn't there. White Shield had the advantage of  bringing a nice sweetness to the pairing that added contrast. I was even less convinced by this beer's pairing with Stilton. Intensity does meet intensity, but they don't do much for each other. I'm guessing this beer would pair better with a more sharp, robust, acidic Vintage Cheddar.

You get the impression that Stone is one of those brewers who obsess over IPA a little. In this case the obsession has obviously spread to its history as well. Like some other styles, the history of IPA is much like the history of heavy metal music. In the beginning, it started with raw uncomplicated British talents, before it evolved and developed into sub-genres, extreme version, milder versions, progressive versions and all sorts. I would say this beer does good justice to the old school back to roots traditional versions of the style, so I would advise hunting it out.


Anonymous said...

I agree with what you say. Michael was an inspiration. His unbridled affection for beer was infectious.

Ed said...

That beer does indeed look a worthy challenger but my American Auntie lives in Delaware so I don't think it will happen.

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