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Friday, 2 November 2012

Beer Review: 1698

Hmm, it's been a while.  I may be out of practice.

Tonight I have been mostly drinking 1698, a heavily fortified beer from Shepherd Neame brewery, who appear to be fast approaching being the one I drink the most from.  Certainly my last sojourn to Black Sheep left me feeling that it was no longer my beer.  This one is in a stout little bottle and makes few or no claims for itself.

Presentation wise, which is not something I usually comment on, this was a good beer for me.  It has the name of the beer and not a lot else on the bottle and that got me intrigued.  The bottle smoked nicely when I opened it and the smell, well, it was a good smell.  There was something almost manful about it, like it was about to go out and hunt some woolly mammoth.  I poured it out, into a glass(!) and found it to be a very nutty brown.  It's like they took autumn and bottled the colours before adding alcohol.  The smell remained positive, like burning wood hanging on a wet breeze or the smell of old woodsmoke on the morning mist.  No, really, pretentious that may sound but it is the truth.

First taste was good.  A nice, heavy-set feel to it.  Also, a bit of a kick, like a mule kicking out from behind a heavy velvet curtain so that it doesn't hurt, but you still feel the power behind it.  At 6.5% ABV it certainly wasn't hitting below its weight and it was a good reminder that you can't really have more than a couple of these on an evening.  No getting totally plastered on this one unless you specifically set out to do so!  The taste was reassuringly close to the smell, there is a definite hoppy quality to it in the mouth and the fizz from carbonation doesn't rob too much from that but the malt... I don't usually go in for the malty beers, they often feel a bit too heavy and run like treacle ought to, but this one was warm and familiar and, well, smooth.  It took over from the hoppiness at the right point and left the bitter tang that I like in a good beer.  I wish I were being pretentious and 'foody' but these are genuinely the best ways I can think of to describe this.  It is a strong taste too, one that can survive the kind of food I have with a beer on a good night, which is a distinct positive.  However, it is not over powering so it is possible to have this with a meal without it dominating proceedings.

Drink this in the cold cold evening, after the sun has gone down and when there is the sound of drums over the horizon.  Drink to keep out the chill, in front of a roaring fire when you feel as though danger is near or there are haunted things out to spook you.  It's not a typical Hallowe'en beer, you could just as easily drink this throughout the winter, but by gum it's a good'un to have around you at that time of year.  I will, most certainly, be acquiring this to have again and I think it may have edged out Sovereign as my favourite!

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