Words & Photos - Matthew Curtis
I take a sip of a beer called Freudian Slip, which simply describes itself as a 'special'. My brain does a backflip and my tongue ties itself into knots as I desperately try and work out what the hell it is that I'm drinking. It poured what seemed to be a pond water shade of dirty brown but when held up to the light it shone a bright crimson. It reeks of toffee apples, burnt brown sugar and over ripe stone fruit and it tastes initially of burnt toffee and then of green apple skins before building to a sweet crescendo of raisins, sultanas and figs. At 6.5% ABV it's somewhere between a barley wine and an old ale, it has a few of what I perceive to be minor faults but I don't really care because although I'm struggling to untangle a mass of chaotic flavours I'm absolutely certain that I like it.
After spending five years brewing for other people including the Bristol Beer Factory and Ascot Ales, head brewer Rob Thomas decided to set up the Naked Beer Company. The brewery was established in late 2013 in the town of Lancing, Sussex and entered the market this February with a range of three beers available in bottle and cask. Its label copy boldly speaks of nonconformity, breaking the rules and smashing the status quo, a schtick that sounds not dissimilar to that of a young Brewdog. This is no bad thing, the passion with which Brewdog sold itself has pushed their business forward astronomically but that trail was blazed deep and those are some big shoes to try and fill.
The Streaker IPA puzzles me, it's probably the only beer of the three I didn't really get on with. The aroma is of candied orange and toffee with a touch of pithy citrus lingering around the edges. On the palate there's more candied chunks of citrus, stewed plums and a small twist of rhubarb like bitterness. It's also dark brown which all adds up to make me think that this is a flavoursome yet traditional best bitter. It just doesn't sing loud enough with hop bitterness to make me think of an IPA and at 4% ABV its just not strong enough to fit this particular style.
The trio of Naked offerings is completed by Indecent Exposure, a porter and this is immediately to my liking. It pours a satisfying shade of Pepsi brown and has faint aromas of stone fruit and molasses. The sweetness of the dark malts is balanced by a savoury note that tastes as if a small dash of soy sauce was added to my glass. It's not unpleasant, on the contrary it's drying and in my opinion adds to the drinkability of the beer. Although this may have been a result of autolysis it didn't take anything away from the enjoyment of this beer for me.
I'm interested to see how the Naked Beer Company progresses and with plans to brew beers such as a peach infused hefeweizen and a pale ale brewed with gorse flowers foraged from the Sussex downs I think they're definitely ones to watch out for. I can see their beers settling in well alongside the likes of Dark Star and Burning Sky on the hand pumps of various South Coast boozers. It does feel though that this is a brewery very much at the start of its journey, still trying to find an identity in a crowded market place. The beers aren't perfect but they are interesting and if they practise what they preach on their labels then they will only go from strength the strength.
These beers were kindly sent to me by Daniel of the Naked Beer Co for this review. Although they were sent for free I don't think this influenced my opinion of them.