I've been trying to find a legitimate excuse to write about Weird Beard for a long time now, and thankfully two events inside a week have brought justification to my little love letter to one of London's finest breweries. This was one of my early craft discoveries, lured by the proximity to Brentford, the likes of Fade To Black, Hive Mind and Decadence Stout proved these guys knew what they were doing. And in 2014 they have had a phenomenal year with a raft of impressive new beers being launched. Highlights include Bearded Nurse, a barley wine collaboration with Sweden's Electric Nurse, not to mention the even better Ardbeg barrel-aged version; and the beastly imperial stout Sadako along with its equally impressive little brother Dark Hopfler which is crammed full of flavour and just 2.8% (the two are brewed together as a parti-gyle brew, where the first runnings of the wort is drawn off to make the stronger beer before remashing the grain for the weaker).
Now appearing regularly at the rather excellent The Bottle Shop on Druid Street at the end of the Bermondsey Beer Mile, the first Saturday of every month will see a pop-up bar from the beards, with the promise of new and unusual beers each time. December's choices included the launch of the new Sorachi Faceplant, a hybrid of the massive Holy Hoppin' Hell double IPA and the Sorachi Face Punch batch of the Little Things That Kill series. This is a beer that delivers on its promise; the nose is merely a warning shot as the coconut and sweet orange aromas from the sorachi ace hops jump out, before the first taste delivers a hammer blow of bitterness and tropical fruit. The two are precariously balanced in what is a beautifully refreshing beer, although it will not be one for throwing three back on the trot. And the homemade truffles to go with both this and the Decadence, made with their respective beer, were truly sublime – here's hoping for more culinary delights in the future!
The second treat, and one that I hope becomes more regular, was a pair of open days at the brewery. I went down for the second last Sunday, and despite being fairly remote it was great to see the place very busy all afternoon. The downside was any informal tours weren't possible, but the freedom to go and poke around was fun. And then of course there was the matter of what to drink. Beyond the already impressive choice of wildly different styles, three new brews wowed the collected masses. The crisp rauchbier Smoke and its chipotle-soaked twin Fire venture into the smoked heartland of Bamberg triumphantly. The former is a deeply smoky affair that is remarkably clean; the latter doesn't overwhelm with chillies, instead slowly building the heat like the finest curries.
But the star of the show was undoubtedly Rye Smile, a massive 10.6% rye-laden take on the barley wine style. A rich and hazy amber colour, it pours smooth and thick, oozing a certain luxuriousness. The nose is deep but not overwhelming as pepper and spice notes merely hint at what is to come. These textures and tastes are only magnified once you dive into the beer; it coats your mouth with a delectable mixture of sweet dark caramel and a sparklingly pepperiness that is all balanced by a slight edge of hoppy bitterness. This is a riot, all these conflicting flavours rolling around maintaining against all the odds a modicum of parity; the end result is a hugely satisfying beer that ticks all the boxes. Even more exciting is the revelation that part of the batch has made its way into barrels for a year of aging – that's next year's Christmas sorted!
With the regular pop-up bar and the promise of more open days, not to mention a fairly easily obtainable range of bottles, there is no excuse to not explore the strange and diverse world of Weird Beard. From Five O'clock Shadow to Something Something Dark Side, there is something for most, even if everything is not quite for you. Go on, it will put hairs on your chin. Maybe.
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