Unwinding with Windsor & Eton
I was drinking in Leeds ages ago (getting on for early Summer last year) when I first came across Windsor & Eton. It was one of those moments of beer serendipity that I like to collect so much; discussing in one pub how I had ‘heard good things about them, but not tried them’, only to come across a refreshingly fruity pint of Knight of the Garter in the next. Thank you, Ninkasi.
Interest piqued, I picked more up as the year went on, and present my findings here. Republika (4.0%abv) really is a top-drawer lager; initially brewed with the input of Tomas Mikulica of Pivovarski Dvur. Perhaps a little darker in colour than one would expect, it packs a lot of flavour into the glass – a creamy, distinctly biscuity foundation in the body topped off with a fresh, grassy, flinty nose and a snappily crisp finish. I’ve enjoyed Republika perhaps the most since the initial taste, finding it popping up at tastings and dinners as ‘the lager offering’ – and rightly so. Good stuff.
Where to start with Conqueror 1075? The steroid-taking older brother of Conqueror, 1075 is one of the best black IPA’s I’ve had the pleasure of tasting. It’s a gift that just keeps giving, new nuances and aspects hitting you each time you sip, or indeed from bottle to bottle. Weighing in at 7.4%abv, it pours jet-black and unleashes aromas of Cedar, Pine and deep woodsmoke as your pour, giving the nose an immensely deep, satisfying nature. The beer itself drinks way too easy, mostly due to an elegantly refined, smooth mouthfeel that takes those woody notes and cleans them up around the edges with more pine and an odd-yet-brilliant fruitness that reminds me, oddly, of parma violets. With more front that Kate Middleton on a french holiday, a touch of alcohol heat pops up at the bitter end, and you’ll be kicking yourself for only buying one when you finish the glass. I was, anyway.
W&E are known for getting behind the Royal connotations of their name, which could turn some of the more fervent amongst you off – but do so at your peril. Windsor Knot, a 4.5% beer brewed to celebrate the marriage of William and Kate, is so much more than a novelty beer. In fact, it’s now one of their regulars, and rightly so. This amber beer is a great example of US and UK tastes coming together; massively sweet belgian-candy notes in the body, rounded out with more subtle fruit sweetness (think raisin and almond cake) and a high, bitter finish with plenty of pithy citrus rind that dries as it fades, leaving you wanting another before you’ve even swallowed.
It reminded me of super-fresh Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (a beer that I’ve found recently has gone right ‘off a cliff’ in terms of flavour) – all sweetness and hops, smooth and moreish. It’s crying out for a plate of quick-sauteed Prawns with Garlic, or some slices of sweet, smoky Chorizo. A bold, tasty beer that you shouldn’t miss out on if you haven’t caught it yet.
Finally, two ‘Jubilee’ beers. Hitting up the empirical connection, Treetops (4.4%abv), named after a safari lodge frequented by the Queen, just missed the mark for me. A stout with ‘Yams, Millet, and Sorghum’ to bring the African connection in, Treetops was just not to my taste. Very sweet, with a rough, grainy, burnt coffee nose that reminded me of the Greek coffee I drink on holiday, the body has plenty of milk chocolate swirling around but there’s an inherent graininess that I can’t escape. You know Hershey’s chocolate? Like that, to my taste. An interesting beer if you like your stouts, however.
Kohinoor (5%abv) is named after one of the Queen’s diamonds and comes across as a cousin to Windsor Knot; those same boiled-sweet and fruit jelly flavours abound in the body, and it’s topped off with a nose of Seville marmalade and slightly herbal, grassy notes. The whole package is lovely; tasty, full of flavour and incredibly light for the abv. I’ll be seeking this out in cask, where it enjoys a slightly lower abv.
Overall, W&E are the kind of brewery that make me want to live nearer to them to drink more of their wares; a brewery quietly going about their business with little fanfare. Reviving brewing in Windsor (according to their site, the last brewery there was Burge’s in the ’30’s.) it’s sleek, elegantly refined brewing that has a massive hit rate within their core range.
Posted on 06/02/2013, in Uncategorized and tagged Beer Reviews, Brewing in London, Conqueror 11045, craft beer, IPA, Jubilee Beers, Knights of The Garter, Kohinoor, London Breweries, Real Ale, Republika, Windsor and Eton Brewery. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.