Marble: Castle Of Udolpho (England: Old Ale: 10.4% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Moderate frothy beige head.

Nose: Sour grapes. Sultanas. Sour apple. Vinous. Sour red wine. Oatmeal biscuits. Wheat.

Body: Oily. Malt drink. Nutty. Lightly bitter oils. Slightly chalky. Plums. Slight fizzy feel. Malt chocolate. Sour black cherries. Light charring. Sour wine. Cake sponge.

Finish Sour red and green grapes. Plums. Sour red wine. Madeira. Cloying notes. Sultanas. Gooseberry. Sour blueberry.

Conclusion: Oh old ale, I have miss you as a style. Not many people seem to make them these days. Or maybe I just miss them. That kind of cloying, sour, dark fruit beer that emphasises heavy character and class. They don’t tend to hit easy reward receptors, but take your time and they are lovely. Admittedly an acquired taste, but one I consider worth acquiring.

What I like here is that it has those thick, cloying sour notes all the way through – not acidic fresh like a lambic but heavy sour grapes and sultanas. The best, high concept description I can give of this is like red wine soaked plums and sultanas mashed into an oatmeal biscuit then blended and drunk. Yes, exactly like that.

There are sweeter notes, but they are light releases, short lived bursts – usually Madeira notes or slight sweeter fruit – but generally it is thicker charactered. There are some darker grounding notes, such as slight charring or slight chalk -but not heavily so. It seems the brewer knows that too many of those notes would break the balance on this which already demands a lot from the drinker. Instead they push savoury nutty and oily notes that seep in along the sour notes – grounding them but still letting the important dark fruit elements free to do their work.

The vinous notes from the barrel ageing are so closely intertwined with the base beer I find it hard to say where one ends and the other begins. They definitely bring more fruitiness, but the booming character of Pinot Noir now ties its wagons to the more sour characteristics of the old ale. It expands the range of flavour but does not alter the base character. A definite example of barrel ageing done well. A great return to the old ale style here.

Background: I’ve had this in the cupboard for a few months now – as a big beer I felt it would last. This one is a beer named in reference to Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho – not a book I’ve read, but as a fan of the Gothic tales I should possibly check it out some time. More importantly this beer is an old ale aged in Pinot Noir barrels, which sounds good by me- Pinot Noir is one of the few wines I can usually identify by taste. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to Genitorturers -Flesh Is The Law. I’ve been meaning to check them out more since I was first introduced to the band by the Vampire: Bloodlines video game, and later by Diamanda Hagan’s reviews (Hail Hagan!), but only just got around to grabbing some music for myself. S&M themed heavy industrial tunes may not be to everyone’s taste, but if that sounds good to you – check them out.

Advertisements