Tweet After going having gone through the oddballs and the modern classics that I had received from St. Peter's Brewery, all I had left were samples of the styles that, in the eyes of many, define English brewing: Mild, (Best) Bitter, (Old Style) Porter and (Cream) Stout (I had already tasted the IPA), plus the Winter Ale, which, since seasonal Ales have been brewed for ever, we can also say it's a "traditional" style of some sorts.
I started with Mild. Not being English, the first time I heard the name of this style I though it was because those Ales were, well, mild (in flavour, ABV, etc.), when actually, it's because thus were called ales that were sold very young, almost without any maturing (if I remember my history well).
I was really looking forward to tasting a representative of the style. Ron Pattison once loosely compared it with tmavé výčepní, an unfortunately underrated Czech style I like quite a lot. I was curious to see how similar they were.
St Peter's Mild's 3.7% ABV is almost the same as tmavé výčepní's, it pours a very similar colour as well. The similarities start to fade from then on. The nose has sweet coffee and molasses. It's unexpectedly full bodied, with an almost oily mouthfeel that coats the palate and fills it with plenty of roast followed by chocolate and licorice. A mild sour touch wraps up a surprisingly tasty ale. I enjoyed every sip, I loved it.
A day later I opened Best Bitter, also with 3.7% ABV. I had already tasted an ale of this style, a bit stronger, but with very similar characteristics to this one from St. Peter's. It pours an orangey amber, a shade or two paler than that one. The nose is mild, with fruit on a dry, almost herbal, base. Light bodied, with autumn fruit and a dry finish with some flowers. Not as flavourful as the Mild, but still, a wonderful session ale. It's a pity that there aren't more micros that want to brew these kinds of ales.
That evening, after dinner, I opened Old Style Porter (5.1% ABV). I had liked a lot the few bottom fermented Porters that I'd had and I was looking forward to seeing what differences that "Old Style" thing was bringing, considering that Poter, as pretty much every other style, had gone through countless changes throughout history.
It pours brown, so my notes say. The bouquet has an attractive mix of caramel, flowers and raisins, mild, but with a lot of personality. It is thinner than I expected, but still brilliant. Nothing much at first, really, quite shy caramel that quickly turns dry with a hint of sourness. When disappointment starts to creep in, the beer shows all it's got, which is plenty, chocolate, coffee, over ripened fruit, leaving a very pleasant feeling and making me wish I had a couple more in the cellar the instant I finish the bottle.
It was time for Cream Stout, with an already respectable 6.5% ABV. Unsurprisingly dark, with some ocher highlights. The nose is ruled by very roasted coffee, with some fruity sourness, it doesn't say much, really. But its taste. WOW! Very bitter chocolate, coffee, cooked fruit, nuts and a subtle smoked touch, everything wrapped in a creamy body that makes every sip almost a gift from heaven. Simply fantastic.
All I had left now was Winter Ale, which couldn't have arrived at a more proper time; it had already started snowing and it was very cold outside.
Funny thing. I liked this Ale and was disappointed by it for the very same reason. I found it too similar to Cream Stout. I was expecting something else, I don't know, perhaps a beefier version of Mild. Don't ask me why. It's a pity I didn't taste it together with the Stout, or at least one right after the other. The biggest difference I noticed was that Winter Ale was a tad sweeter, but I can't be sure. It wasn't what I was expecting, but I can't complain too much, either, I still enjoyed it quite a lot.
The balance is incredibly positive. The only two that were a bit out of tune were Honey Porter and G-Free, at least for me. The rest was great. Perhaps, what I liked the most about them is that they are all simple, but very tasty beers. Innovation and experimentation are all fine and dandy, but sticking so well to what's classic deserves every bit as much praise. Thanks once again to Claire and all the folks there at St. Peter's Brewery for sending me these samples and making my life a bit better.
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