Thursday, 30 August 2012

Sophie's Rustic Ale.

Some people may know I have strong feelings about how beer is dispensed, or more to the point how it should not be dispensed. And before you get worried I'm not an anti-keg CAMRA kind of guy, quite the opposite.

My beef is having traditional highly carbonated beers shoehorned into the cask medium. This means lagers, pilsners, bocks and particuarly saisons.

So it was interesting that last night I found myself not going to the launch of the latest London Brick in Hackney but instead to the launch of Sophie Atherton's Sophie's Rustic Ale in the Bricklayers Arms in Putney. So what is Sophie's rustic ale? From the press release:

Sophie’s Rustic Ale (4.7% ABV) is a bright, burnished copper-coloured ale, with an aroma of honey and hay bales. It has a rich malty flavour with earthy, floral elements and an aftertaste of bread and honey. It is made with Dorset Maris Otter barley, Challenger and East Kent Goldings hops, the dried flower heads of Calendula Officinalis – also known as marigolds – and Saison yeast.  
It was brewed in conjunction with ART Brew, a Dorset brewery who have been popping up in London a lot recently with their cask conditioned hop-forward beers.

The brewer in me had a load of technical questions, particularly about the yeast and fermentation. The yeast seems to be a blend of Fermentis S-04 and another Fermentis dried yeast perhaps S-33. It was fermented at 19-20 Degrees C.

There were two versions of the beer available - one cask fined and the other unfined.

The fined beer was crystal clear,a bit flat, dry as a bone, some hop fruitiness and firm bitterness. To me, there was no real discernible saison yeast character, tasted like a fairly standard, if a bit drier than normal, best bitter.

The unfined was a slightly different beast. Hazy, dry, also flat but it did retain a slight belgian spicy yeast character that elevated it well above the fined version.

I won't go banging on about how a saison should never be packaged in cask. However I would very much like to try the unfined version of this beer served highly carbonated in keg or bottle conditioned where the added carbonation may help deal with the mouth puckering dryness of the beer.

The highlight of the night was the platter of cheese and bread that was put on by Sophie to accompany the beer. As you would expect with Sophie being a sommelier, some of the food matches were truly great. There was a huge focaccia made by the people at River Cottage with red and green tomatoes, when paired with some goats cheese and the Rustic ale everything seemed to just work. The smoked cheese and the blue cheese were both decent matches as well. Perhaps the star was the cheese with green chilli, the beer quenched the chilli heat and the cheese brought out the spicy fruit in the beer.

On a side note the Art Brew Monkey IPA was a stunning match for the blue cheese!

All in all a very pleasant night. Sophie and Becky from Art Brew were excellent hosts and there was a good bunch of great beer people to chat to.


  1. i found Art Brew's Monkey IPA on holiday in Swanage last month and thought they were my little secret! very enjoyable beer, pleased to hear it's available at home in London.

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