Are You Tasting the Pith? - 6th February 05
Right, here we are with the last of the christmas beers, to whit; one bottle of Anchor 'Our Special Ale' 2004 (5.5%abv), and one bottle of Hook Norton 12 Days, 2004 vintage (5.5%abv).
This is actually the second bottle of OSA2004 that I've drunk, so it's with profound regret that I prise the cap from this last bottle. Found at Utobier in London's excellent Borough Market. Deep ruddy brown, with a fairly clingy head, the nose is wonderfully complex - a deep old ale aroma, dried fruit, orange-chocolate and spice, and a faintly spruce-resin hint. It's not so far fetched that this beer may indeed have spruce tips in it - there is a tradition of this in North American brewing (for example, Alaska Winter Ale), and the minty prickliness reminds me of this. The flavour is equally complex. The palate is great, initially slightly sweet with a big burst of christmas spice, and then a slow fade into the familiar Anchor choco-maltiness in the finish, and again a slight hints of eucalyptus, making me think of the sticky-trunked tree we recently ditched. Superb, and sadly now gone forever. Really forever, in fact, as the recipe changes every year.
After that, I have to say that I was rather downcast, and, like a spoilt child with a broken toy, vaguely determined not to enjoy the Hook Norton. Be impressed, then, that this vintage ale brought a smile to my face as I gave it a tentative sniff, as it had a remarkably similar aroma to the Anchor beer. A bit heady, slighty sherryish, beefing up into a characteristic pear-drop aroma with a harder nosing (how butch am I?). On the palate, it is a little thinner than the previous beer, although that's not such a bad thing - it seems a little drier and moreish. The long finish has a gentle warmth, but perhaps peters out a little too soon for my liking, leaving a dryness with perhaps not quite enough lingering flavour.
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