Sharp’s Connoisseur’s Choice
As I’m sure you’re aware, last weekend saw Leeds host the EBBC, and one (of many) highlights of the weekend for me was enjoying Sharp’s Connoisseur’s Choice range with our meal on Friday night.
Stuart Howe delivered the keynote speech and he couldn’t hide his obvious delight at being able to produce these beers. Clearly the financial input of Molson Coors has enabled him to realise these beers from his notebook and into our glasses, and that’s food for thought for this cynic, at least.
Anyway, onto the beer. We warmed up with Single Brew Reserve (4.5%abv), which he described as ‘A version of Monsieur Rock’, which nods at its spritzy, Saaz-loaded character. I’m not sure about that; it misses the stone-fruit aroma and super, super-light body of MR, but let’s not forget, it is a different beer. As an aperitif it works; easy to drink, hints of biscuit in the body, and a straw-like, noble hop nose. A tasty pale ale, and one that I wished I’d have to hand in yesterday’s sunshine.
Honey Spice IPA followed; this being brought in cask – so no pictures, I’m afraid. This was wonderful, but I’m not sure how available it will be; very much in the American mould it delivered a thick, boiled-sweet body and masses of resinous, waxy orange peel bitterness. Tongues certainly wagging at this point, Honey Spice Tripel (10% abv) popped up next.
Stuart’s interpretation of Tripel is stupendously tasty; big in flavour and unapologetically so. That’s not an insult at all – I loved it; a smooth, thick mouthfeel with a touch of coriander and flowery sweetness bubbling under the surface and a nose blossoming with bubblegum and banana notes. We ate this with Fish in a white sauce and mixed vegetables, and although it didn’t quite hit the mark, this beer would be wonderful with steamed Mussels or Clams, or even perhaps a rich Bouillabaisse, loaded with fennel.
Finally, we enjoyed the surprising Quadrupel (10%abv). Hiding it’s alcohol content very, very well, the nose promised rum and raisin, hints of oak and molasses, but finished with a super-sharp, pithy blast of hops. Again, maybe a Quad not for purists, but so much more wonderful for it. This was the highlight of the selection for me, and one I will seek out again. Served with a Banana-Cream tart, the combined sweetness of the combo didn’t faze me as I wolfed it down. Yum.
Overall, these beers are a world away from Chalky’s Bite and Doom Bar, but a range that I really recommend people seek out; as a set of beers to savour and think about and also a really versatile set for enjoying with food.