They say…

Des de Moor
Best beer and travel writing award 2015, 2011 -- British Guild of Beer Writers Awards
Accredited Beer Sommelier
Writer of "Probably the best book about beer in London" - Londonist
"A necessity if you're a beer geek travelling to London town" - Beer Advocate
"A joy to read" - Roger Protz
"Very authoritative" - Tim Webb.
"One of the top beer writers in the UK" - Mark Dredge.
"A beer guru" - Popbitch.
Des de Moor

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Hardknott Infra Red, Æther Blæc and Granite 2009

(Granite)

ABV: 6.5%, 8% and 10.4%
Origin: Millom, Cumbria, England
Website: http://hardknottale.co.uk/

An extended review of a beer featured as a new real ale in a bottle on the bottled beer review page in the February 2011 issue of BEER magazine, sent free every quarter to CAMRA members, who can also view it online. The magazine is additionally available in selected newsagents.

Infra Red

As Hardknott Dave, Dave Bailey is one of the most informed and perceptive commentators on the beer blogging scene, and a champion of great beer made with imagination and pride. Dave is also a brewer – originally a landlord, at the idyllic Woolpack Inn at the top of Eskdale in the Lake District, he added a brewery partly because he thought it would help get the pub into the Good Beer Guide. His beers became so successful he’s now shed the pub to concentrate on beer production full time on an industrial estate in nearby Millom. Being both a campaigning beer writer and a brewer is rather brave as there’s an obvious test for checking if you practice what you preach. Happily, it’s a test Dave passes with distinction.

Hardknott, named after the steep pass that links Eskdale with the Duddon Valley, is one of a small but growing band of British brewers experimenting with bottles of what in the US would be called “Extreme Beer” – generally strong, with an eclectic approach to style, full of big and vivid flavours and amenable to attentive sipping. The fine trio of bottle conditioned beers I tasted all fit this profile.

Infra Red (6.5%) is a typical style fusion – it claims to be an oxymoronic ruby red India Pale Ale, but it could be a particularly hoppy US-style amber ale and the dry but biscuity character also suggests a dry brown from the other side of the M6. It’s a rich amber-red beer with a light and fine orangey-white head, made from pale and crystal malts and Cascade and Centennial hops.

Hardknott Æther Blæc

A malty and fruity aroma has a liquorice note, and a very biscuity and toasty palate yields big thistly grapefruit and lychee hop flavours nonetheless well balanced by quite a soft sweetness. A long, robust and satisfying finish offers bitter orange marmalade and lightly charred, slightly tannic malt tones, with a late gritty note.

Æther Blæc (8%) is an eccentric take on an , aged in a cask which previously held 29-year-old Caol Ila Islay malt whisky. This black beer pours with a thick and creamy deep beige head and a leatherish, creamy, fruity aroma with a note of herb liqueur and the definite salty iodine tang of Islay malt. Whisky notes are also immediately evident in a malty, lightly fruity and slightly woody palate, with smoky and phenolic notes shading towards disinfectant, though smoothed wonderfully by malt.

Hardknott Granite 2009

A touch of dark marmalade on the swallow leads to a full, warming and slightly tart fruity finish, with touches of cedar smoke and ash. Not the most complex wood aged beer I’ve tried but highly impressive – it would be interesting to taste again in a couple of years, though it might not last quite as long as the whisky did!

And finally Granite (10.4%), a dry hopped named for the local rock that provides a natural filter for Dave’s brewing water. This very dark ruby brown beer with a fine mid-beige head has a tart fruit and malt aroma with a whiff of Stilton cheese. That cheese note, intriguing rather than offputting, persists on a full, rich caramel malt palate that’s tantalisingly complex. Chewy hops emerge, then sweetness, then mouth-numbing alcohol, with spicy, fruity esters escaping as the beer warms in the mouth. A vinous, sherryish finish yields chewy roast and slightly burnt tones, plum jam and tobacco.

This beer should definitely age well – Dave is known for his polemics against best before dates on beers like this, and my bottle bears the legend “best before February 2015 but probably better after.” Narrowly the pick of a very strong bunch, and hopefully the sign of great things to come from a very talented brewer.

To download BEER if you’re a CAMRA member, see http://www.camra.org.uk/page.aspx?o=beer.

To find out more about CAMRA membership, see http://www.camra.org.uk/page.aspx?o=joinus.

Read more about these beers at ratebeer.com:
http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/hardknott-infra-red/129597/
http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/hardknott-aether-blaec/124172/
http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/hardknott-granite-2009/127218/

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