The redoubtable Williams Brothers have lots of beers on the market here at the moment, and frankly I'm delighted. I love to see a brewery that isn't afraid to throw something weird into the fermenter and I've been working gradually through the range in recent months.
The bright pink modernist stylings of Róisin stand out from the other side of the off licence. It's made with tayberries and claims on the label to be pink, but in fact pours a dark reddish-gold, permeated by a very fine haze. No sickly fruits or syrups leap out in the aroma, just dry and carbonic notes with an echo of forest fruit, much like those lightly-flavoured mineral waters you get. The texture of the 4.2% ABV beer is light and lagery and the taste is crisp and understated: no hops, nothing identifiable as malt, just a mild raspberry (yeah, tayberry, I know, but I'm trying to be descriptive here) tartness. All-in-all there isn't much going on in this one and I'm not sure I'd buy it again. Though if I did it'd be for drinking al fresco some sunny evening just before dinner: that's its place in the world.
And for a post-prandial: Midnight Sun. At 5.6% ABV this is just inside the digestif category of strong stouts. Actually, it claims to be a porter, but it's very much a stout porter, to be all archaic about nomenclature. It's thick and viscous with a solid head and opaque body. Only a slight promise of roasted grains comes through on the nose, and classic stout dryness is the backbone of the flavour, accentuated by a very mild spice which the label tells me is from the addition of ginger: I doubt I'd have spotted it without knowing. Amongst all this rigid structure there's a soft chocolate heart which keeps the beer all smooth and accessible. The hops make themselves felt at the very end as a faint metallic note -- something I don't care for generally but it doesn't get in the way too much here. All these elements are blended together quite well and the result is a solid heavy stout designed for considered drinking.
Both beers feature in the new lavish breeze-block-sized tome about world beer 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die, edited by Adrian Tierney-Jones and featuring articles by many of the best beer writers around. Plus a few by me as well.
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