Time off spent away in Washington DC visiting my sister and attending a wicked beer festival meant a week without beers at Ghost Whale, and consequently, a week without Raycommendations. Jet lag is best overcome with sessions every day to catch up with what’s new in our fridges though, right? Wrong, but I went that route anyway. Tired? Extremely. But full of good beer and ready to Raycommend some bangers? Hell yea.
BARON – BLANK CANVAS
The first and only beer I drank at Ghost Whale as a customer (prior to my employment), was a delightful pale ale from a brand new brewery I had never heard of, called Baron. A year and change on, I find myself at their barn brewhouse in the middle of nowhere Buntingford, brewing a collaborative Ghost Whale x Baron Double IPA. A lot can change in a year, huh?
An exceptional day for me personally, lending a helping hand with shovelling spent grain out of the mash tun and selecting which hop strain would be best for our desired flavour profile. While our wort was boiling, we had time for a delectable meal, paired with Baron’s newest line of fresh brews, and ‘Blank Canvas’ was my standout of the day. Hopped with Azacca, Bru-1, and the ever-so-polarising Sabro, which is known to lend a creamy coconut, pina colada-esque hop character, that some people love, and others can’t stand. Being that this pale ale made this week’s list of Raycommendations, I’m sure you can guess which side of the argument I lean. A full, chewy malt base is the perfect foundation for these hops to shine, with lemon, pineapple, and coconut flavours in full force. Drinking it an arm’s reach from where it was made, with my own beer in the tank, made it all the more special. A real ‘pinch me’ moment!
FUNKY FLUID / OMNIPOLLO – GELATO XTREME: BIANCA MARSHMALLOW BANANA PASSIONFRUIT MANGO STICKY RICE
I dare you to read that title without giggling. When two breweries who are both known for the outrageous collaborate, you know they have to step their game up and do something monstrous, and that is exactly what’s occurred here. Funky Fluid’s ‘Gelato’ series of ice cream-inspired sours is a stalwart of the Ghost Whale fridges, as are Omnipollo’s often bonkers sours and stouts. Low and behold, Funky Fluid have recruited Omnipollo for this, their first edition of an amped up ‘Gelato Extreme’ series, which doesn’t leave much to the imagination. It’s heinous.
Pouring thicker than a bowl of your mom’s porridge, and bursting with tropical fruit aromas, this truly is one of those brews that makes you question what constitutes beer anymore. Somehow, everything described in the name is noticeable. An absolute rollercoaster on the palate, from gooey marshmallow to vibrant, bright banana, mango, and passionfruit, on a gummy, full sticky rice body. Mental.
I’ve had three sour-beer enthusiastic friends hurry in to try this, all of whom were kind enough to share some with me. I wouldn’t be surprised if I reach for this a couple more times by the time this is published, so hurry and get your hands on one before it’s gone. It’s that silly.
TEMPEST – SMOKE SCREEN
One thing that enamoured me about craft beer in my early days of drinking it, is the endless possibility of flavour achievable. One can walk into a bottle shop or taproom anywhere in the world and utter random descriptors, such as biscuits, clove, pine trees, bubblegum, or toffee, and find something within the bounds of the beer world that fits their desired taste. Even just saying so, I’m sure some beer geeks can think back to individual beers they’ve tried that fit the characteristics I’ve just mentioned. Drinking as much craft beer as I do now, it’s the outliers, the non-conformers, the brews that don’t mind being different, that are truly memorable, and that is exactly what made Tempest’s ‘Smoke Screen’ so special for me.
In last week’s blog post, the Ghost Whale team shared their Beers of the Summer, and what made them stand out. Daniel singled out an Imperial stout from Holland’s de Kromme Haring, pointing out that its peaty, smokey character is something he wishes to see more of in the stout market. His wish was granted with this glorious Tempest Impy, which spent over two years in Islay whiskey barrels, known for their smoked peatiness. To summarise in two words, this is a peat bomb. True evidence of the incredible effects that barrel-ageing can have on a beer. Smoke-forward, with seasonings of brown sugar, milk and dark chocolate, and coffee underneath. Complex and one of a kind.