Words & Photos - Matthew Curtis
Today I’ve had a tough day at work, you might think that this is impossible working in a guitar shop but like all jobs it has its ups and downs. Tomorrow I have my first competitive cricket match of the season, I’m under pressure as the newly promoted vice captain to score some runs (pressure made up by myself) but right now none of this matters, the pressure is off, I have the house to myself and Twitter is in full flow as I immerse myself in a vat of double IPA.
Shortly before I decided to become a beer blogger I joined CAMRGB (The Campaign for Really Good Beer) as I found their ideals and beliefs ran in beautiful symmetry with my own. I had previously toyed with the idea of joining CAMRA for a long time but I wasn’t one hundred percent aligned with their ideals so never had the gumption to sign up. I still might at some point depending on how my career as a beer writer progresses but for now no organisation sums up my beliefs better than CAMRGB.
You should join, it’s free to do so and should you find yourself home alone on a Saturday night with a fridge full of hyper hopped beverages then you know that there’s some really good company no more than one hundred and forty characters away.
A beer that goes against the Status Quo...
Tonight I am blogging LIVE from the CAMRGB #downDIPA event, many members have stocked up on a range of fantastic double IPAs and we intend to drink them in unison. Even better than that, CAMRGB have teamed up with Bristol brewer Arbor Ales who have produced Down Deeper, a double IPA brewed especially for this event. I’ve picked myself a couple of bottles, one to drink tonight, in fact I’m slowly enjoying it right this moment and one to age and review once the beer has reached full maturity. Before I proceed I'd like to take a moment to reflect on how great the label for this beer is, it was designed by our illustrious leader Simon, nice work.
This morning I made sure tonight’s bottle of Down Deeper was carefully stashed away in the fridge along with some other hop laden delights. Later today I discovered that refrigeration has played havoc with everyone’s Down Deeper, destroying carbonation and adding a heavy hop haze to the brew. When I got home I removed the beer from the fridge for a while before it's consumption but the haze would not shift. After finishing my first beer of the night, a sublime 90 Minute IPA from Dogfish Head, I thoroughly rinsed my glass and prepared myself for the beer brewed in honour of this momentous evening.
Cracking open the bottle of Down Deeper I can’t help myself and take a big whiff before I pour, massive chunks of Clementine and mandarin jump out followed by boozy notes of candied orange. Down Deeper pours a hazy shade of amber and fails to produce even a wisp of a head, perhaps a sign that it requires a little longer in the bottle to complete its ageing process. I have another big sniff to fully take in the aroma and it’s the same as before only now it’s in some nice glassware the aroma has taken on more breadth and depth. I’ve managed to leave the majority of the sediment in the bottle but a few small flakes drift around the translucent liquid, it doesn’t bother me though and I take a big swig.
Down deeper has a huge 10.2% ABV and as with most big beers it feels syrupy and slightly heavy in the mouth but it isn’t at all cloying. There is almost zero carbonation and normally this would leave me painfully disappointed but huge flavours of Seville orange and candied grapefruit lace the mouth and a nice bready malt backbone keeps the beer in check to prevent it from becoming too bitter. The finish is long and full of alcohol and my first thought is that this doesn’t taste like a double IPA at all, in fact it feels like a superb interpretation of a Barleywine, huge flavours of fruit and booze combine as the resin from the fresh hops coats your palate.
Justin then suggests to me, through the POWER of Twitter that I try transferring it out of the glass and then back again to try and inject some life into it. I do this once and not much happens but I repeat the process a couple more times and suddenly the beer develops a frothy beige head not unlike the one you would see on a well kept cask ale. A few small bubbles manage to creep their way into the glass and suddenly the zesty, bitter flavours find a way of jumping out and enhancing the overall bitterness of the beer taking it from really good to really quite excellent.
Gareth suggests adding a slug of nondescript lager to add a little life, I don’t have any to hand but I can imagine that it would have a similar effect in bringing out those citrus notes. Although Down Deeper is undeniably brilliant, you can’t help beat the sneaking suspicion that it’s just not ready yet. It’s not the alpha-acid drenched hop bomb I was hoping for, it’s a quintessentially British strong ale with plenty of earthy, peppery notes developing as the beer warms. I look forward to sampling my second bottle towards the end of the summer after it’s had a chance to age and reach it’s full potential and I will of course let you all know the results. Now, I return to twitter and my fellow CAMRGB warriors as we continue in our double IPA adventure. I’m about to crack open a bottle of Brewdog/Mikkeller I Hardcore U, if the hops cause my head to explode please send my girlfriend a corsage.