Two new brews from St Peter’s Brewery.
It’s always nice when the beer pixies come to call.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, St Peters brewery is based in Norfolk, and if you were to ask almost any Brit what they associate with Norfolk, their first answer would be ‘The Broads’.
However, this is one of those areas where UK and American English divert, in as much as the famous ‘Norfolk Broads’ are not famous (or notorious) females, but rather a large expense of wetlands.
The ‘Norfolk Broads’ cover nearly 120 square miles of East Anglia (that’s the round bit that sticks out of England’s east coast) and includes around 120 miles of navigable waterways; boating holidays on ‘The Broads’ are popular family vacations, and most of the overnight mooring stops have pubs nearby.
All very interesting, I hear you say, but what’s the connection with St Peter’s beers?
Well, ‘The Broads’ were formed by centuries of medieval peat workings. Blocks of peat were dug out and sold for fuel, leaving large areas that eventually became flooded to form the wetlands we know today.
And it is peat, and peat smoked English whisky that flavours these two new brews.
See, you knew we’d get there in the end!
So, to the first:
Suffolk Smokey 4.8% ABV
The first of these is ‘Suffolk Smokey’ brewed using ‘whisky malt’– this is barley that’s been malted over peat – imbuing a rich, slightly acrid smokiness. This is the flavour that Islay Whisky is famed for, and I suspect that it’s not a coincidence that Michael Jackson was equally renowned for his writings on Whisky (and Whiskey) as for his Beer and Ale writings. The basic ingredients are, to say the least, similar.
That said, I don’t consider myself a Whisky drinker, I’m more of an Armagnac man, or better still, Port.
‘Suffolk Smokey’ pours a dark amber colour, with a head that I noted as ‘timid’ – but the nose is full-on peat smoke, slightly sour, slightly sharp as opposed to the ‘smoky bacon’ flavours that are so prevalent in other smoke beers.
The flavour is, not surprisingly, dominated by the peat smoke; it’s smooth and mellow and the smokiness is almost warming. The underlying beer and ale flavours are, by necessity, somewhat overpowered by the smoke, but you just know that there’s a quality ale lurking in there.
I wrote ‘pleasantly overwhelmed’.
I recall giving ‘Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier’ 3½ stars – “Three stars for a competent brew, and the extra half for keeping a unique brewing tradition alive” – maybe I’m getting tougher with my scoring, but I’m going to give this brew just 2½ stars, okay, it’s a competent brew, and it adds an interesting flavour to the pantheon of smoke beers.
But at the end of the day, for all the skill and effort that went into the brew, I didn’t particularly enjoy it and I don’t think it’ll be gracing my beer shelf anytime soon.
The Saints Whisky Beer 4.8% ABV
The Saints Whisky Beer takes the peatiness one stage further, blending the finished brew with the first Whisky to be made in England in over a hundred years.
The English Whisky Company is based some thirty miles from St Peters, over the county border in Suffolk. The distillery is appropriately named St George’s, and so the combination of St Peter’s and St George’s are ‘The Saints’ that give this brew its name.
That St Peter’s is able to add a slug of malt whisky to the brew without changing the overall strength of 4.8% ABV shows some skill, but we already knew that.
In all honesty, having tasted this a few days after the ‘Suffolk Smokey’ I would struggle to differentiate between the two brews, but on balance I think I just preferred ‘The Saints’. It seemed slightly subtler.
I’m afraid I’ll give this another 2½ stars, there are other brews by St Peters that I would turn to first.