In tribute to Mr Henry Flower c/o Westland Row Post Office, a bottle of Hogs Back Gardener's Tipple. Interestingly, for this sideline observer of the UK beer scene, the proud proclamation on the back label is "Brewery conditioned, for all the taste without the sediment". As a selling point that's a new one on me, but is there any truth to it?
Well yes. A gorgeous limpid red amber beer with a very gentle carbonation and lots of hard caramel on the nose. The body is firm enough to transform that into full-on toffee on tasting, with a spicy piquancy which I'd guess is hop-related, though it's very much a malt-driven beer. Rich and unctuous, yet wonderfully refreshing at just 4% ABV. British session beer, in a bottle, at its best.
Onwards and upwards to the 6% ABV stonker in the Hogs Back range: OTT. It's a dark ruby shade, jet black unless held up to the light. It's another complex one, with an almost vinous nose, offering a touch of port next to treacle and toffee.
The first thing I get from tasting it is smoke: a sweet and aromatic buzz reminding me a lot of Theakston's Old Peculier. Under that there's chocolate, spices, and a touch of butter. It's a filling after-dinner beer though drinkable enough to follow the first with another.
Whether the sediment that the brewery so zealously seeks to avoid would have any adverse impact on the flavour of either of these assertive ales is debatable. I reckon there'd be little lost through bottle-conditioning, though at the same time there's nothing missing from them as-is either. Clearly these are beers which should just be consumed and enjoyed without any scholastic musings on gas provenance.