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.
ABV: 5.1% and 7.7%
Origin: Hainford, Norwich, England
John Bates’ Old Slewfoot brewery at Hainford near Norwich, founded in 2009, is one of a small but growing number of brewers using bottle conditioning to explore unusual styles in controllable batches. There’s an nod across the Atlantic in the brewery name – from a bear in a song by Johnny Horton and the bottled beers I’ve tried take something of an American approach to mixing and matching styles in a range of Belgian-inspired beers in 375ml corked and wired bottles.
Red Wing (5.1%) is John’s take on a Flemish sour red ale. It’s a burgundy colour with some pinkish head and quite a low carbonation, with a sharpish cherry note and a whiff of roses on a fruity, slightly woody aroma. The palate is only lightly sour – presumably through the use of an inoculated wild yeast – with chocolate, fruity malt and an irony tang appropriate to the style. A satisfying finish has tangy fruit, wood polish and a bit more chocolate. An intriguing beer – not a clone of the Belgian originals but recognisably in the style, and distinctive in its own right.
Friend of the Devil (7.7%) acknowledges a debt to strong golden ales of the Duvel variety in its name and a notable pear hint, but its deeper colour puts it into the amber camp. Aside from pear there’s malt and brown sugar in the aroma, and biscuity, fruity malt on the palate, which is slightly sugary, nutty and perhaps a touch musty. A touch of hops lifts a nutty, chewy finish, but overall the beer didn’t quite work for me.
The experimental Friend of the Devil Brett Version, dosed with Brettanomyces yeast and not tasted yet by John himself when he sent me the bottle, shifts the character of the base beer in an interesting way. This beer had a good condition with a champagne like fizz and that distinctive wet plastic brett aroma. A flowery, lightly biscuity and nutty palate had tangy acid balanced by firm malt, leading to a slightly figgy, chewy, toasty finish with lingering nuttiness and a touch of hops. An experiment worth pursuing.
Read more about these beers at ratebeer.com: