Every summer, on the eve of London’s Great British Beer Festival, the Guild of British Beer Writers (of which I’m a member) hold a reception, a great excuse to get together (reviewing beers is often a solitary pleasure) with fellow writers and bloggers, and to catch up with some brewers.
The Summer 2014 get together was held at ‘The Oyster Shed’ in the City of London, a chic, trendy bar on the north side of the River Thames, opposite Borough Market and Southwark. It’s a part of the City where I worked some twenty five years ago and the area, partly because of bars like ‘The Oyster Shed’ is unrecognisable.
It was, however, at ‘The Oyster Shed’ that I bumped into Dr. Mike Cowbourne , the Head Brewer of Okells, the Manx (Isle of Man) brewery.
We last bumped into each other at a similar ‘do’ back in 2010 after which Okells had kindly arranged for the beer pixies to supply me some of their rather splendid ales to review. I rather liked the beers, as you’ll see from the reviews here and here.
Mike – a splendid character with facial hair that wouldn’t look out of place among the dwarves in Peter Jackson’s ‘Hobbit’ films – introduced me to his successor, Dr Pawel Zarychta from Wroclaw in Poland. Pawel and I immediately hit it off, not least because I was able to pronounce Wroclaw properly (Vrosswav); although I have an advantage over most Brits, having worked there for nearly a year between 1990/91.
Mike and `Pawel explained that since my earlier reviews Okell’s have relaunched and rebranded their range of beers, still brewed to the Isle of Man’s stringent brewing rules (formulated by the good Doctor Okell himself).
Better still they promised to send me some samples to try.
A couple of weeks later, lo and behold, the beer pixies delivered a selection of brews for me to try.
I’ve been on an IPA kick of late, so decided to first try their new IPA.
Okell’s IPA 4.5% ABV
It pours pale amber with a head that’s a little reluctant, but tenacious once poured, it hangs in there and laces down the glass.
The nose has some hoppiness, old school hops, but not overly so, with an underlying maltiness.
I’ve written recently about ‘old school’ IPAs, and how they compare to modern ‘in your face’ APAs, Imperial IPAs and so on. Okell’s IPA is closer to the ‘old school’ but with a bit more maltiness. Maybe that’s Doctor Pavel’s influence.
In all honesty, this comes across more as a Best Bitter rather than an IPA; it’s refreshing, well balanced and eminently drinkable, but not quite hoppy enough for my palate.
That said, it’s a fine beer.
Because they were generous enough to send a plentiful supply I’ve tried several bottles and have thought long and hard over rating this brew; I really wanted to score this more highly, but at the end of a glass (or two) it’s just not hoppy enough to rank in the current pantheon of IPAs, However, as I said earlier, it’s a fine brew and I’m comfortable giving this three Brewclub stars.
Fortunately they also supplied samples of their other brews, I’m looking forward to trying those.