17 May 2007

Kwak goes the Bishop

When I was a nipper my parents would buy The Sunday Times every week. I remember being fascinated by the ads for exotic beers only available in Britain. One of these was something called Bishop's Finger. I'm fairly sure that I bought some the first time I saw it on sale in Ireland, but that was long ago. The Bull & Castle Beerhall Challenge brought it my way again and I confess to having no memory of what it's like. What it's like is bitter -- loads and loads of hops, backed-up by a caramel sugar sweetness. It's not bittersweet; it's bitter and sweet completely separately. Whether the double taste sensation is your kind of thing is up to yourself. It was a bit too much for me. I was much more impressed by another Shepherd Neame brew: the blue-label 1698. This is a much mellower affair, sweet and fruity and artfully constructed. I'd take this one over anything else made by Shepherd Neame. I've already mentioned their lacklustre Spitfire, and of course they make an organic ale, called Whitstable Bay. Once again, it's a disappointing organic: slight, verging on bland, with only a hint of the caramel and hops of the Big Finger. Its green credentials are also compromised by the fact that the hops are flown all the way to Kent from New Zealand. Who buys this stuff?

Another turn-up for the challenge sheet was Kwak. Everybody whose familarity with Belgian beer goes beyond Stella must be aware of the one served in the silly flask in the wooden frame. I had a memory of it being just that bit too heavy to enjoy, but I think my tastes have changed since I last had it. Kwak is one of the lightest beers in the "liquid bread" category: dark, sweet, chewy and quite delicious. I won't be so dismissive next time I see it.

I must say I'm really enjoying being forced to drink beer I'd never normally order. Coming up is one Goose Island IPA,which has been described by ICB members and the Bull & Castle management in the sort of terms that felines might describe catnip. To say I'm intrigued is an understatement...


  1. Goose Island IPA is a great beer, its on sale in my second favourite local. Here's my own review of it:

  2. Thanks. Supply seems to be something of an issue: Bull & Castle management claim to have the last couple of cases in the country.

  3. Not had the IPA but their rather fine Honkers can be found in bottles in Belfast