Black Sheep: Black Sheep Ale (England: Bitter: 4.4% ABV)
Visual: Yellowed brown. Clear. Still. Small grey head.
Nose: Earthy. Caramel sweetness. Palma violets. Sulphur.
Body: Slight fizzy feel. Nettles. Earthy notes and palma violets. Lightly sour. Light chalk. Soft vanilla back. Light cherries. Sticky brown envelopes
Finish: Dry roasted peanuts and chestnuts. Earthy notes. Light bitterness. Palma violets. Sticky brown envelopes. Turmeric.
Conclusion: You know, earthy bitters catch some shit. They get overlooked so much. I can see why – they aren’t bursting with tropical fruit. They don’t have huge malt sweetness to sooth. They are work-a-day beers. Not to mention they are, by definition, earthy. That is a hard sell. No one likes the idea of drinking earth, right?
The thing is, while it isn’t going to set the world alight, when done right a bitter has a slight sourness, very mild but just there, that makes it refreshing. It is why they are so good as a work-a-day pint.
This is one of those beers that does it right. It is earthy, with that slight sour refreshing note – and in a unique element for this one, matches that with a kind of palma violet cleanness to the whole thing – if that makes sense. Also, if it doesn’t make sense. It makes the earthiness feel less wearing over time, which solves what is oft a flaw of those type of bitters.
Now, it is pretty one note, a one trick pony; It never changes from that beer it is at the start, but it balances itself well – even using a slight vanilla sweetness and slight chalk grounding to polish the edges. I’m not going to rave about it as a beer – I’ve yet to run into a solidly earthy bitter that can make me rave about it. That may be your breweries challenge for 2017 if you are reading this and want to take a run at it. This does do the job though.
Not fancy, but hopefully from my meandering writing of the past few paragraphs I have shown why I’m glad beers like this exists, even if they are an oft overlooked style.
Background: Second in my “Sheep” themed tasting notes. An intentional theme. Honest. Anyway, this s part of a Christmas gift from a workmate. Many thanks! Drunk while listening to the latest Spektrmodule podcast. Black Sheep brewery is actually close to where I used to live once up North. Never visited it though. Possibly should do that one day. I am minorly biased towards the North for beers, cos I love the North, but try not to let it affect me.