Last month’s post about Homebrewing certainly drew a response, both on WordPress and on Twitter. There’s a genuinely good feeling about homebrewing (or Amateur Brewing, if you like) at the moment, whether you are simply enjoying doing it yourself and getting close to the process, or whether you simply think that knowledge is power – and that’s all good.
The likes of Nigel Poustie’s Sunbeam Ales should serve as another success story in that case. Walking on a path previously tread by Rodham’s and Five Towns Brewery, he’s managed to get his beers on the shelves of Beer-Ritz from his house in Leeds. I can imagine that sharing shelf – space with Leeds Brewery, SummerWine (another brewery borne of avid Homebrewing) and Ilkey feels pretty sweet. Under the Sunbeam moniker, his beers have a rustic, simple charm and – most importantly – are pretty damn tasty.
Picking up an armful, I went with a wild card in Honey & Lavender (4.9%abv), purely to set a benchmark. Although popular, I’ve never really been that enamoured with Honey in beer; it misfires so often – brewers failing to get any of that essence of Honey’s flavour into the beer without making an over-dry or sickly mess. Add Lavender and …well, it could end in tears.
I close my eyes. I gulp.
It’s delicious. Really, it is. Not only does this straw-coloured Pale Ale carry genuine Lavender notes in the nose, there’s definate sweet Honey in there; lifting the whole beer with a floral, wildflower note that’s pretty arresting. There’s a hint of root ginger in there too, with a fresh, lemon-rind tinged finish. Refreshing and packed with flavour, the whole package leaps out of the glass like a Yorkshire Saison or Biere De Garde; but one unlike any I’ve tasted. It’s been a while since a beer surprised me like this.
Next up, Extra Special Ale (5.2%abv) ; a style that I always like to see and appreciate a solid version of; and that’s what I get. A deliciously tawny colour, with a tan head and a slight echo of chocolate in the nose and body, the beer is nutty and moreish; my tasting notes say ‘Malt Loaf’, and as an overall picture, that’s not far off. Drinking this made me wish I had a cheese board to hand.
Sunseeker IPA (5.7%abv) was my least favourite of the trio; a good-looking beer with burnished gold notes and a really intriguing nose of Pear Drops and Citrus; but those notes didn’t really translate to the taste of the beer. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a really drinkable IPA, but a bit of a let-down after the promise of the nose.
One theme that all of Nigel’s beers had was body; a rich, robust body that is often missed in Homebrew, such is the focus these days on a beer’s aroma (if you ask me, obviously). Sunbeam’s Ales are a real treat, and I wish Nigel luck in the future. I, for one, will be buying more of his wares.