Sunday, 1 March 2009

Barley Wine & Cheese

Beer & Food at The Stapleton Arms
On Thursday when the rest of the beer enthusiast world (or enthusiastic beer world?) was drinking copious amounts of black lager at the launch of Zeitgeist I went along to the Stapleton Arms (in Buckhorn Weston, Dorset) for a Barley Wine & Cheese tasting. I did send my spy's to Zeitgeist (so more to follow) and had some excellent feedback both on the beer and the evening.

Justin Hawke who is owner and brewer of Moor Beer Brewery lead the evening which included six strong beers and six cheeses. It was a very relaxed evening an opening few words from Kav the landlord and a description of what the beers were from Justin and then a help yourself style open table. I had invited my friend Mal to join me, a man who will eat or drink anything put in front of him, but wouldn't normally consider talking about it. He thoroughly enjoyed the evening but confessed to having never talked so much bullshit in all his life! I don't think I've ever seen him with quite as bad a hangover either...

The beers selected for the evening were Moor's JJJ - a strong Double IPA, so heavily hopped that it broke the pump on the copper the first time it was brewed! Thomas Hardy's Ale - the classic 11.7% Barley Wine. Fuller's Vintage Ale - full of strong aroma's. BrewDog's Hardcore IPA - heavily hopped but with a lovely balancing sweetness. Anchor Old Foghorn - big flavours and aromas of toffee and raisons. Hogsback A over T - full of rich fruit flavours.

The cheeses were Montgommery Cheddar, Green's Cheddar, Stinking Bishop, Ogle Shield, Exmoor Blue and Shropshire Blue. Only the Shropshire Blue and Stinking Bishop were not local.

I meant to take notes and do a full write up on here of exactly what went with what etc... however we may have had a couple too many beers before we started, and then topping up with a number of over 9% beers lead me to not quite managing any notes at all and a slightly fuzzy memory!!
What I can say, was that five of the beers were absolutely fantastic and one was very wishy washy in comparison. We started with the Anchor Old Foghorn, a favourite beer of mine that I have previously reviewed on here, it goes well with a number of cheeses. Hogsback A over T was next it was lovely, rich and fruity and was a big hit with the Stinking Bishop that accentuated the fruit. Moor's JJJ was next, with sweet malt leading to heavy tropical fruit hops, it was a big hit especially with the Cheddars and Ogle Shield. We followed this with BrewDog's Hardcore IPA, which had similarities to the JJJ, but I can't for the life of me remember which cheese it was best with!

The Fuller's Vintage Ale was the biggest disappointment of the night. It hinted at lots of big flavours with the strong, spicy fruit aromas but failed to deliver on any of it. One of our tasters described it as a weak cup of tea, and I don't think that was too far off the mark.
Thomas Hardy's was a nice way to finish its tremendous sweet fruit flavours matching the Shropshire Blue best.

My apologies for the undetailed write up of what was an excellent night. It was nice to do a tasting in a very free and easy way without being talked at too much, Justin and Kav worked their way around the tables for those who wanted to discuss the beers further or needed help in what to look for. The good news is, that I am taking the next tasting evening at the Stapleton Arms in a months time.
So what did I learn from the evening?
Definately not to take my mates if I want to write something later!
But it is more fun that way!


  1. Sounds like a cracking night - beer and cheese is almost unbeatable!! And you had a great selection of both there. I've heard a few good things about Moor beer, especially the JJJ so I need to get hold of that. I love huge IPAs with cheddar, it's a great match.

    What year was the Fuller's? I had a 2004 this weekend and thought it was sensational. I find they need to be kept for a few years to develop.

    And the Hardcore IPA is getting more Hardcore soon - BrewDog have double the hops in it for the next batch!

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