The penultimate listing in my best new British beers of 2014 was a farmhouse saison that was recommended to me when chancing the shelves of one of my local bottle shops. I knew of the brewer(s) – but had no idea they had collaborated. And goodness me if that wasn’t the recommendation of the year.
Andy Parker knows his way around a brewery – even if he doesn’t actually have one of his own (yet). The 2014 Craft Beer Co Homebrewer of the year, Andy is – not only a seriously nice bloke – but pretty much the only homebrewer who I would think, when in a bottle shop, “Oh, he was in on this? That’s enough for me”. To put that in context, there are several professional ‘gypsy’ brewers about whom I wouldn’t make that distinction.
It’s one of the things that makes brewing such a great industry – it has that gateway of homebrew that gives people a chance to hone their skills, on their own terms, if they harbour aspirations of eventually taking it further one day. It’s not the only industry with that initial stage, of course – behind every head chef, there will be a background of dedicated practice and application at home. But how many talented amateur chefs get to cook in professional kitchens, collaborating on dishes that go out to the public?
Andy joined forces with the ever-excellent Weird Beard brewery to make Lord Nelson. The first thing that struck me about it was the fantastic 8-bit artwork on the label – but the beer inside is even more stunning. ‘Featuring insanely judiciously applied Nelson Sauvin’ – it had lots of that sharp gooseberry, zesty citrus rind on both aroma and flavour, before an extremely long finish, that was delightfully oily and very, very pithy. This was simply a brilliant beer, perfectly balanced, and the ultimate example of what application – both professional and amateur – can lead to.
There’s still one more to come in the best new British beers of 2014; the most stunning collaboration I have had for many a year. Check back tomorrow to find out what that is. As for Lord Nelson – another person who loved it was Rob from Hopzine.com – on the first taste, the only comment he could muster was simply ‘Man alive…’.