Words & Photos - Matthew Curtis
It's refreshing that off licence chain Oddbins has not only embraced craft beer but also totally gets it. It's the fastest growing part of their business and with ambitious expansion plans already in the pipeline the retailer is going to put a lot more great beer into peoples hands. Their active involvement in beer doesn't stop there though, last Christmas they collaborated on a Christmas beer called 'Oddbins No. 1' with the East London Brewery. In the summer they brewed again, this time with Compass Brewery of Oxfordshire to produce a smoked Kölsch, which I really enjoyed. Both were fine examples of how a business more known for its wine is keeping pace with the rapidly moving world of beer.
Recently Oddbins have been collaborating again, not once but twice, producing a pair of India pale ales. Oddbins No. 3 is a joint effort with Livingston's Alechemy whose beers are a common site in the chains Scottish stores. It pours a deep, coffee brown with a faint ruby red tinge emanating from around the edge of the glass. The nose is a simple combination of tart raspberries and liquorice, both of which shine through on the palate. The finish reminds me of the taste of burnt coffee grounds and the lingering bitterness is ever so slightly astringent. This is a true black IPA and a decent one at that, there are better being brewed in the UK such as Thornbridge's Wild Raven or Beavertown's Black Betty but neither sit at this more sessionable 5% ABV. It's a good beer but probably not one that I'd personally go back to.
The next collaboration, imaginatively titled Oddbins No. 4 is a white IPA brewed at the Moncada Brewery in West London. A white IPA is part India pale ale and part wheat beer, in this case a Belgian style wit. This pale gold beer has a subtle nose of banana and bubblegum. On the palate these delicate, ester led flavours are followed by a sharp, pithy lemon bitterness that lingers at the back of the throat and is pleasingly drying. This beer is resolutely crying out for a beautifully cooked fillet of sea bass and creamed parsnips. It's the best of the two and I'd quite happily drink this again.
I was very kindly sent these beers for free but I don't think that this has influenced my opinion of them. Both beers are available now from your local Oddbins.