Time. It may be a great healer, but it sure pays havoc with the old grey matter. Recently, in moving house, my elegantly sorted and ordered beer cellar had to be transplanted to the new location. Boxing up the fifty or so bottled beers I’ve got wasn’t too much of a hardship – thankfully everything made it to the other end without mishap. When I got there, though, and had them all neatly arranged (by brewer, style, then subset by abv), there was one bottle left over. It was like assembling an IKEA wardrobe; the piece that remained stared at me, immobile, questioning. What was it? Where did it come from? And how important could it be?
I do get beer sent to me occasionally, now and again – not as many as some bloggers, as I don’t really write beer reviews (that’s a subject for another post). Usually, I get given hand-bottled trial batches that are on the way to being finalised. Universally, these are plain brown with no identifying features, pressed into the palm by a brewer, or brewery rep. Most, I drink fairly quickly to deliver feedback – although I have had a few sitting around for longer. As a result, on opening I have the beery equivalent of that lucky-dip tombola moment at Church fetes, with the label-less tins of food. Will it be peaches, or beans? Or a brown ale?
Racking the brain, I was pretty sure I’d polished off all of the test batches I’d been given, likewise all of the homebrew trials I’d been passed. So what was this mystery bottle? No redeeming features whatsoever. Plain, base metal cap. Who could it be from? Think. Think. No – nothing specific came to mind. No hurried conversations in car parks, no clinking Morrison’s carrier bags proffered with a hopeful expression. There was only one thing for it – only one way to find out. Reach for the Spiegelau goblet and the bottle opener, and crack it open. Peaches or beans?
Liquorice, as it turned out. Molasses and marzipan. Huge, kitchen-filling sweetened wood aroma. Whatever it was, this beer was monumental. Thick and unyielding, flat but for the tiniest smudge of a lacing, it sat in the glass wrapped confidently in self-assurance. Hmm. This, clearly, stands out. I remember being given some whisky-aged beers, but I definitely drank them. Did I get another from Black Isle? Somewhere else? No…oh….hang on…oh shit. That trip to Luckie Ales. Stuart giving me one of his most special aged beers. The 17%abv Younger’s Majority Ale he brewed, only the once. An unlabelled bottle. Three years old.
Oh well, this is one beer my first-born won’t get to try (as was the intention with a Majority Ale, after twenty-one years of ageing). The moral of this story – always label the beers you’ve been given. Or just drink Fosters, that way nothing will ever surprise you. Mind you, nothing will surprise you like this, ever again. It may have been a huge mistake to open, but once the mistake is made, pin back the ears and go for it. I’ll pick up a set of sticky labels tomorrow. Tomorrow afternoon, that is…