Yup, a beer review. This beer is the product of a collaboration between Jay Krause, owner of and Head Brewer at Quantum Brewing Company and Colin Stronge who was at Marble at the time, but now Head Brewer at Black Isle. This 7.4% abv Quantum branded beer, brewed in August 2011, is described as a Strong Amber Barley Wine “generously hopped with Nelson Sauvin, Super Alpha, Motueka and dry hopped with Super Alpha“…New Zealand hops all the way! It was lively upon opening and 500mls wouldn’t fit into a 660ml glass in one pour, but the head did settle. It pours a deep ruby colour and had a high level of carbonation that stuck around for the hour it took me to enjoy it. There was some yeast in suspension but could well have been due to a double-pour. The hop aroma was fairly muted but some floral, fruity notes daring to peek through from behind the malty battering ram of burnt sugar/caramel. First taste was all bitterness, surrounding my tongue and shifting around my mouth, as this settled I was getting flavours of traditional Seville orange marmalade, then treacle toffee, a pleasant alcohol burn and I could be wrong but thought a very slight smokeyness.
I drank half and was aware that maybe I was drinking it a little young. Despite this it did have a smooth mouthfeel and pleasant carbonation (keeping things moving, as they say), it was medium bodied but perhaps a little thinner than the barley wine’s I’ve tried to date, but in no means shy with a hefty abv, but I do think this is why the intense bitterness was winning through. Jay and Colin would have to confirm this, but I was wondering if the 7.4% abv was them being mindful of the High Strength Beer Duty (HSBD) on beer which exceeds 7.5% alcohol by volume (abv)? Anyway, moving on, I decided to try the beer with the cheeses I had available to me in the fridge, a standard mature cheddar and some Applewood smoked cheddar. This is where the beer started to shine. With the mature cheddar the bitterness of the beer mellowed and tamed the alcohol burn, but it was the Applewood cheddar that really complemented it best, bringing some sweetness and balance, with the smokeyness getting along great with the fruity notes, but still allowing the powerful bitterness to come through at the end.
So, keep an eye out for a bottle of SK1 (I bought mine from @beerritzleeds) and for the chance to try it on cask go along to the Stockport Beer & Cider Festival (31st May – 2nd June 2012). I really enjoyed this beer, especially with some cheese, and really look forward to see what’s next out of the copper when Jay and Colin collaborate on their next brew!
Colin on Twitter: @BlackIsleCol
A bit more info here on Alebagger’s Beer Blog.