Are You Tasting the Pith? - 13th June 04
Given that Westvleteren beers can only be purchased from the Abbey of St. Sixtus on the condition that they are not resold, I'm quite lucky to have any at all. Repeated requests from our Belgian beer importer eventually brought a very generous gift of several bottles of the good stuff - the 10% abv Yellow Cap. I preserve what's left of my Catholic dignity by accepting them as a gift, and not trying to purchase them.
The very heavily sedimented beer (about 2cm) pours fairly clear (it never really settles), with a soft head that quickly disperses. The beer is a very attractive ruby red, and the aroma leaps out of the glass. Initial impressions are a yeasty, appley smell (Muscadet?), underpinned with a much richer fruit note (overripe red berry fruit) and hints of vanilla. Astonishingly complex.
On the palate, these flavours are carried through and amplified. The berryish fruit flavour is more pronounced, slightly sweet, with a toffeeish edge. The vanilla flavour comes through fairly forward, and develops into a nutty, marzipan finish. Extraordinary.
If you live in the North of England, you'll be familiar with the effect of this little perforated plastic nozzle, producing a tight, creamy head on your pint. After a trip down south (see last weeks article), I started to muse on the effect of this gadget, and have been asking barpersons to remove the sparkler before pulling my pint.
Having carried out a couple of experiments in Arcadia, our local quality watering hole, I am fairly sure that the sparkler affects the flavour. The hop flavours seem to be a little more pronounced, particularly with any beer that trades on a delicate citrussy flavour (Hop Back Summer Lightning and any of Rooster's Brewery's beers, for example). The only thing is, I prefer the flavour without, and my partner (whose taste I would obviously describe as impeccable) prefers the sparkled version. So, perhaps neither is better, but do try it differently and see what you think.
BACK TO TOP