Seeing past the Rhetoric

It is probably inevitable that a beer release heralded with a little bit of hype, controversy and showmanship is ultimately going to result in some disappointment, and last Saturday night I found exactly that.  This might sound strange to anyone involved in, or following, the OpenTheRhetoric hashtag on Twitter, and even more so if you read my own tweets on the subject that night.

The thing is, I really wanted not to like this beer.  And if that wasn’t going to happen then I could at least be a bit unimpressed.  The hype and controversy I referred to harks back to a little competition where a number of people, myself included, were selected to receive a bottle before its official release, to hold onto until it was deemed ready.  This was all wrapped up in a discussion on integrity, in particular of bloggers, and provided further fuel for discussions at the European Beer Bloggers Conference.  There were spin-off debates about sending bottled beer out before it is deemed ready, and the risks that involved and of course it was also a canny little bit of marketing, making sure Rhetoric got plenty of attention!

So, on opening my bottle I was disappointed that I couldn’t leap up with a loud cry, proclaiming my integrity intact and picking fault after fault.  To say, there you go, sorry, it was free but I don’t like it and I don’t mind saying so.

Instead I was welcomed by a captivating aroma, full of rich dark fruits and dominant but not overwhelming alcohol.  At the time I mentioned rum and raisin – that rich alcohol-steeped fruit scent – and there was something else too.  Something citrussy, but dark, rather than lemony-light.  The flavours lived up to the aroma with a fruity richness and warm alcohol burn.  That citrus was there again, tangerine came to mind, but one having been roasted to darken the skin and bring out a slightly bitter caramel edge.

For a beer of 10.2% the body was much lighter than expected, giving the overall effect of a Christmas pudding with all the heavy stodginess taken away and just leaving the light but rich flavours behind in a very drinkable form.  Condition-wise, it was fine, bearing in mind that a fair amount of the bottle-conditioning was while it was in my custody.  It would be interesting to compare (and would have been even more interesting as a direct comparison) to see how my bottle compares with one that has spent longer at the brewery in better controlled conditionsk, but there was certainly nothing wrong with this one.

Overall I think the Hardknott team have done a great job with this experimental beer.  I wouldn’t say it was perfect, and I’m sure there would be things that would be changed if it was brewed again.  I can’t really say either that it was a leading example of a Belgian Quad style because I don’t have enough of a baseline to compare that too.  Was it the best beer Hardknott do?  Tricky that, because I haven’t tried them all, and is it a fair comparison? I don’t think so – there’s too much of a time and place thing with different beer styles.  However, I enjoyed Rhetoric enough to order a couple more bottles.  Ideally one to leave for 18 months or so to see how it ages.  The other one I could have now, to compare how the brewery conditioned bottle compares to my own, or alternatively hang on until this Christmas when the flavours will suit the occasion just perfectly.

In the meantime, Dave, damn you for disappointing me in such a delicious way and I look forward to seeing what Rhetoric Edition II is like!

For the record, yes I received this beer for free, for which I am very grateful, and have tried to remain objective.  I’ve ordered (and paid for) two further bottles, because I felt it was worth it.

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4 Comments to “Seeing past the Rhetoric”

  1. Dave, I’m so glad that you were able to enjoy not being able to enjoy this beer, I’m not going to tell you how I enjoyed it, or not, nor share a link to my review, you may not enjoy enjoying that either…

  2. I might have to order myself a bottle or two at some point for ageing purposes naturally!

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