We were recently contacted by Sambrook’s brewery marketing team asking us if we were interested in attending a tasting event for their beer which included the tempting prospect of eating hop shoot pizzas.* They’re an active lot, with events regularly cropping up in London, and whenever we’re in the city it rarely takes long before we’re staring face to face with one of their pump clips. Sadly for me, London is a bit of a drag to get to, so the journey happens all too rarely and we had to pass on the pizzas. But I’ve always enjoyed their booze so suggested I could review one of their bottles instead.
The two from their range I was most keen on trying were an Imperial Stout and Battersea Rye. I’ve read good things about the Imperial and it’s a style I like, but it weighs in at a whopping 10.4%ABV. Even in a 330ml bottle that’s 3.4 units of booze – a quarter of the new guidelines recommended weekly amount – and I’ve already got a backlog of tasting to get through this week. Some beer reviewers are in the habit of tasting, then pouring excess down the sink. Not me. Wasted beer is a crime that ranks alongside drinking straight from the bottle.**
So it’s the Battersea Rye at a marginally gentler 5.8%.
I’ve not had this beer before, but I have had the Battersea Rye they brew for Marks & Spencer and enjoyed it. The two beers are not quite the same – the M&S version is a touch weaker and uses a slightly different recipe. I’m not going to sit down and compare them both (that would be more booze units sacrificed) so I’ll treat this Sambrook’s-badged bottle in isolation.
The beer is a rich, ruddy brown colour, shining from the glass like a prize conker with a perky off-white head. It has a very light aroma of malt, almost undetectable, but the first taste is a much more instantly obvious affair. There’s an initial flush of graininess, a gentle building of toastiness, a quick surge of sweetness and a finish of dry bitterness. I’m liking this. Every sip follows the same sequence – grainy, toasty, sweet, bitter – but feels more complex each time, with flashes of sharpness, hints of nuttiness, sprinklings of spice and prods of coffee-flavoured confection. And now that my senses are fully awake the smell is becoming more noticeable, more alluring, beckoning me in for another sip.
Thankfully I’ve only got one bottle otherwise I would be tempted to top up on those units of booze. But then again, there’s still that bottle of Imperial Stout…
Brewery: Sambrook’s, Battersea, London
Beer name: Battersea Rye
Available to buy from Ales by Mail
*Yes, hop shoots are edible and, like many similar looking things are said to taste like asparagus
**You miss out on the full aromas, which also mutes much of the flavour
Thanks to the Sambrook’s team for sending the goods to review