Another part of our (hopefully) year-long video project, A Year of Beer. looking at the idea of beer and seasonality - how different styles of beer are more appropriate to different seasons, weathers, festivals and so on. There will also be a bit of beer and food matching thrown in because, hell, we love to eat as much as we love to drink.
This week: Old Peculier, cheese and a mince pie
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Old Peculier, mince pies and cheese
Theakston's Old Peculier has been part of my beer life for a very long time indeed. I can remember drinking it in a pub in Whitsbury, Hants. It was a cold night, and I'd motorbiked cross-country to the pub across the gallops belonging to the stud farm on top of the downs behind Odstock, Wilts. At that time, my beer of choice was Tanglefoot, but needing something a bit chewier to warm me up, I ordered a pint of the dark guest beer. Although usually served through a sparker in its native Yorkshire, this pint was served (as the expression goes) as flat as a witches tit, and also a little too warm - perhaps it was on gravity dispense on the bar back? The result was terrific; a big, hearty chewy mouthful of malt, blackberries and a slight whiff of sourness that stopped it from being too cloying. It certainly drove the cold out, replacing it with a sense of wellbeing and bonhomie.
And I'm sure I also remember drinking it inappropriately at summer picnics, sipping it out of wide-mouthed half-pint bottles, The whole top came off like a tin of beans with a ringpull, leaving you with a chunky little bottle; in fact, it was almost like a jamjar of beer. They were great. I wonder what happened to them?
Anyway, in the intervening 20 years between then and now, I guess I've only drunk Old P a few times, most recently at ever-improving The Gunmakers in Clerkenwell. It had that same chewy character, and a characteristic whiff of sourness about it then. It's not a flaw in the beer or the cellarmanship, but just something happening in the background that kept it interesting. Really, it's a great beer, and I've no idea why I drink it so infrequently.
There's an interesting bittersweet edge to this beer that makes it work particularly well with strong hard cheese. The mince pie is gilding the lily a little, but hey, a mince pie is a seasonal foodstuff too.