Mmm…yes…definitely. When drinking this, one gets the…the…impression of coastal mist; a minerality, a salinity. I definitely pick that up here. One wonders if the terroir has imparted that sense of stoicism in the aftertaste? Regardless; how ever you care to square it, it speaks to you. Reaching out like a classic work of fiction, each structured element on the taste a distinct chapter. I get the bonhomie of the brotherhood of its creators…I get their…their…shared frustration at the way their art – and it is an art, Ronald, I won’t hear otherwise – is perceived. Oh, and I get plums.
Ok, beer-tasting (thankfully) isn’t exactly like that.* The rough-and-tumble world of pints and scratchings is a far cry from overly analytical tasting wankery. Yet, the other night, I had a beer that summed up exactly why I love the modern beer scene, and the direction – if not with that endgame – in which it is heading. That particular beverage was from Greater Manchester; Quantum Brewing Company’s Stockport Sour; a 2.3%abv pineapple and chilli beer, soured with lactobacillus bacteria, after being brewed with pineapples and Scotch Bonnet Chillies.
* Or did you automatically think I was writing about wine, there?
It may not have been the best beer I’ve had this year – although it was seriously great – but it was unquestionably one of the most interesting; and comes hot on the heels of the sumac, hibiscus, kaffir lime leaf and cous cous saison I had the other week. It’s sure been a boom summer for ethnic supermarkets. Anyway, there will always be a significant sector of the beer-drinking public who will chuckle at beers like this – or not consider them to be beers in the first place. And you know what? That’s fair enough.
But, to them, I would say this. One of the primary reasons why these beers interest me – and others – is that they are just so damned interesting. Not merely for the sake of it – “Quick! The Pug & Pecan are serving that avocado, pastrami and ras el hanout IPA!” I’m not an ingredients whore. I simply find getting odd things from beers fascinating. And even more than that, the moment that sometimes happens with these ingredient-laden specials; the jolt of realisation that suddenly flicks open the eyelids, as you realise just what it is that all these different flavours add up to.
With the Stockport Sour, it wasn’t so much coastal mist as American Hot. Apologies if you’re listening, Jay from Quantum, but one by one the blocks of what I was reaching for clicked into place, and once I’d reached the other side of the board, it was pizza. Now, I’m not implicitly saying that Quantum Stockport Sour tastes like pizza – I’ve actually had a Pizza Beer in the past; and that really, really did taste like pizza. Instead the sour merely left that as a final impression (which is a different thing); the combination of sweet pineapple, rising chilli zip and a touch of sourness – roquito peppers on a Pizza Express American Hot.
That’s why I love drinking these beers. I’m not chasing the rare, or the obtuse. I simply enjoy that moment where the progression of what you are tasting runs its course. Most of the time, naturally, you end up where the brewer intended. Other times, you pick out some of the ingredients, and therefore complete only part of the puzzle. You’re left at the side of the path, searching for blackcurrant, pine or coffee, before you can move on. But sometimes, you dutifully follow all the flavours, and it leads you somewhere totally and utterly unexpected.
But it’s always compelling. And that’s why I love drinking beer.