I am a dyed in the wool sceptic when it comes to the use of fancy barrels for your limited edition overpriced beers. Far too often they are used to add value to an otherwise underwhelming beer. Worse still, is when a brewery takes an existing brilliant beer and decides to gild the lily by shoving it in a bourbon (or whatever) cask. Even when this works it rarely adds much to the beer beyond a dash of alcohol, a touch more vanilla on the nose and an extra couple of quid on the price tag.
Occasionally, I have one of these top shelf, barrel aged beers beers that does succeed in knocking my tiny socks off.
As is the case with the Blended Stock Ale from Burning Sky.
Hailing from just outside Brighton, Burning Sky have carved a wee bit of a niche for themselves in the UK beer scene, knocking out the very best UK interpretations of classic Belgian sour styles. So I was intrigued by their latest release which blends an old-fashioned heavy, malt driven English old ale with a Rodenbach-style Flanders red, then throws the whole caboodle in a Pinot Noir cask to develop with some funky wild yeast cask.
It’s a very attractive beer; being a lovely hue of burnished, ruddy copper or polished oak, topped with a modest, but persistent and creamy head. The palate is big, mellow, rounded and warming. The 6.2% abv hitting the sweet spot of boozy, but not too boozy. It smells kind of rustic; It was probably knowing that it was aged in burgundy casks that led me to pick up the associated, mulchy, farmhouse, straw and horseblanket aromas but they are definitely there (if balanced with more typical pine, biscuit and citrus notes)
The dominant flavours are of warm, buttered sourdough toast, fudge, molasses and fig. The Flanders red comes in at the finish, with a quick burst of vinous acidity and a gentle slightly sour edge of candied peel.
This is a stunningly good beer and although it’s not cheap (about eleven quid for a 75cl bottle) it manages to be challenging enough for the typical sour beer drinker, yet still recognisably “beery” which makes it approachable for boring old farts like me.
The added bonus is all that funky, yeasty, Belgian-style goodness will develop nicely in the bottle over the next year or so. (I’m definitely going to squirrel one away for “research”)