It’s a lofty claim, ‘Ultimate‘.
Being a young lad in the early 90′s, the first reaction that my malt-addled brain fired onto the back of my retina upon seeing the beer on the shelf was the Ultimate Warrior, a truly fearsome fighting machine that exploded onto the WWF (as it was known then) scene, smashed everyone in his way, and then disappeared from view. He was a blaze of Heavy Metal glory, neon tassles and facepaint, a hybrid of Gorilla and Human; muscle and bone, blood and spit.
BBF’s Ultimate Stout (7.7abv) has a lot to live up to, then. It doesn’t disappoint. In fact, it assaults the rest of the beer cupboard and leaves them cowering, yet reveals hidden depths as you get through it, like a Chav with a Camus novel in his back pocket. Of course, it’s a strong beer- ideal for sipping and savouring. The lush head that sits on top of it recalls Chocolate Mousse; and underneath lies an aroma of Roasted Malt, bitter Coffee and – most interestingly – Blackcurrant, Redcurrant and earthy, bitter fruit.
The beer is undeniably sweet at first taste; digestive biscuit, molasses and creamier, latte-esque coffee notes all taking a bow before that fruity, Belgian-esque wildness (a sort of bubblegum & black pepper thing) comes in at the end and wraps up all that sweetness and body in a zingy, fruity bearhug.
Then the alcohol comes in and delivers tingles to your toes and fingers, loosening the muscles and bringing a smile to your lips. It’s dark, rich and as sleek and quietly deadly as a B2 Stealth Bomber. A wonderful beer indeed. Now, where did I put that Royal Rumble DVD?
It’s been years since I’ve had anything from Bristol Beer Factory. However, much like buses, three have showed up at Foley’s this week.
Milk Stout (4.5%) is a multi-award winner and is a welcome sight – Milk Stout’s not a style you see a great deal of. BBF’s version is super, super smooth, with a sweet, roasted malt nose. Upon tasting that smoothness is the first thing you get, and then the underlying creamy, lactic note you’d be looking for. It is very sweet – perhaps a little too much so for my tastes – but perfectly drinkable. A welcome change from the usual Stout gang.
Acer (3.8%) is a deep gold-hued pale ale; a solid backbone of biscuity malt and a huge, green-hop finish. It’s very clean, dry, and perfect for this little early-autumn sunshine we seem to be enjoying. Surprisingly assertive, it’s an interesting variant on the Pale Ale theme – IPA Fans could do worse than seek out this Pale; it’s anything but plain. And at 3.8%, anyone who thinks you can’t put flavour and vibrancy into lower-strength Pales needs to taste this.
Saison (4.8%), for me, is the pick of the bunch. The aroma is crazy – massively perfumed, tonnes and tonnes of Coriander, and - I swear – Sandalwood ( I know, it’s all a bit Jilly Goolden but I don’t want to leave anything out!) . To be honest, the nose alone makes you wonder how it’s going to taste, but upon sipping you get all those flavours but really toned down and balanced out – thank god. It grew on me; it’s light, refreshing and different. Do try it while you can.
As it happens, I recently had a brush with Southville Hop. Whilst finishing up for the night at The Euston Tap a few weeks ago, I spied two bottles in the fridge, and nabbed them both. After a heavy couple of days on the Beer whilst enjoying GBBF, SH really refreshed a jaded palate – it is super-hoppy, but with such body and balance behind it that you forget the hops alone and appreciate the beer as a whole. Grapefruit and Lemon abound, and it’s a different kind of Hop Flavour to Acer’s green, almost herbal note. Although this was bottled, Southville Hop is currently residing in Foley’s cellar and will be on soon; so keep an eye out.
One final note – take a look at those pumpclips. Note the succint, easy-to-grasp tasting notes on the bottom there, ready to tell the uninformed drinker what to expect. No fuss, perfectly pitched. Credit where its due – Fantastic design work from Bristol Beer Factory.