Thursday, 8 October 2015

Ale tasting masterclass at The Botanist

As the craft beer revolution gathers a relentless pace and new bars open up in towns and cities seemingly on a weekly basis, how about gaining some all important beer knowledge at one of the UK's Botanist gastro pubs?  Take along six friends or more for a fun evening of beer tasting that will guide you through the history of ales in Britain, Europe or worldwide depending on which package you choose to explore. We were invited to attend The Botanist in Leeds and have a beer expert talk us through the world's history of beer, along with some all important sampling of eight very different ales...

Our beer guru for the evening was a delightfully knowledgeable chap called Kiran. He led a table of eight eager beer enthusiasts on a journey of beer through the ages and for the next ninety minutes or so spoke at length about the various beverages that were brought to the table. First up was a German smoked beer Schlenkerla Marzen. Distinctive in its aroma and taste due to the ancient method of drying  the roasted malts over an open flame, in the case of this beer over the burning of beechwood. Next came the classic Belgian farmhouse ale Sasion Dupont. An extremely dry beer with classic Belgian yeastie qualities. It comes in an attractive bottle, conditioned in there too which gives it a hazy appearance. Not one of my favourite styles of beer it has to be said. Around the table there were notably differences of opinion which when thoroughly debated is a great way to share thoughts and tasting notes with your group of friends. Another complicated style to pin down into a liking for my tastes came with the third beer Lindemans, Cuveé Rene Gueuze. This Belgian lambic is more akin to a sparkling wine or champagne, full of sour citrus and again seemed to split opinion down the middle. 

You can add some more fun to the evening by matching some of The Botanist's nibbles to the various beer styles. Whilst they're not brought out as an actual food/beer pairing, we discovered some delightful combinations with the addition of some Baked Camembert, Cumberland & Pork Chipolatas, Salt and Pepper Onion Petals and Calamari to the various drinks. An additional bit of fun to the already tasty evening.

Midway through our tasting came yet more intriguing styles of beer. An Icelandic toasted porter, by Einstök Brewery (Chocolaty,with strong coffee flavours and a smooth finish). Manchester brewers Ticketybrew with their very popular Dubbel which is their take on the Belgian Trappist style of beer. Those Belgians again eh? And the surprise of the night's package Left Hand's, Nitro Milk Stout. The nitrogen provides a much smoother texture and mouth-feel, the beer cascading from inverted bottle to glass before your very eyes. Lots of milk chocolate flavour with roasted bitterness, mocha and vanilla. A very modern day brewed stout.

Kiran was keen to get our reactions to the beer, as well as providing as much knowledge about each one as he could offload. None of our questions went unanswered and despite the ninety minute set time for this package, we were neither hurried or ignored when it came to our own input.

Staying stateside, out came a firm, established favourite in the craft beer market, Sierra Nevada's Pale ale. Heavy with pine and grapefruit aromas, this American beer can be found in many of our high street supermarket chains now. A nice introduction to someone who might be unfamiliar as yet with the wonderful world of hops and craft beer. Finally, much to my own delight, our last beer to try for the evening was an old familiar friend of mine. Beavertown's Gammaray

The London brewery have nailed this beer with five different U.S. hops adding to an intense aroma as well as flavour. Packed with tropical flavours, mango and grapefruit, this really has become a 'go to' beer for me. Unmistakable eye-catching branding and available in handy cans which as you can see from our picture, stack up a treat. Not to mention the many other benefits of beer in a can. Impenetrable by light, causing no off flavours. Easy to take on the go (handy train beer consumption), and no chance of any damage or smashes.  This is every bit a beer of the moment and brings us right up to present day with a brewery brewing such a distinguished style of craft beers and putting them in a modern day package.

Words - Pete Jackson

To book an ale tasting masterclass, click on The Botanist officialweb site, choose your location, click on masterclass in the menu, and then call them to book for either the 'Best Of British', 'Best Of Europe' or History of Ale package.

Many thanks to Laura, Kiran and everyone involved with the event at The Botanist/Leeds for inviting us to attend. All words and opinions are our own.