Tuesday, May 3, 2011

CT Column 20/04/2011: Take note!

CALL me jaded, call me spoilt, call me hard to please, but it’s not often that a new beer comes along and really gets me excited.
Last week I tried a beer that truly got me going, Such was the intensity of the aroma I knew it was going to before I even got the glass to my nose, and then once I had sipped it I knew I was going to have to tell everyone about it.
The beer in question is fittingly called Nota Bene which is roughly Latin for ‘take note’ , and take note I did. Nota Bene is a rich golden coloured Belgian style abbey ale that treads a similar path to the Trappist classic Orval although controversially I think it does a better job, achieving a deft balancing act that leaves the beer both complex, challenging and incredibly drinkable. The beer combines a firm malt character with some spicy hop notes, and a dazzlingly complex range of fermentation derived flavours and aromas from the special range of yeasts that are used to ferment the beer to its 8.7%abv strength. One of the yeasts is a wild strain called brettanomyces which most brewers go to great lengths to keep out of their beers. Brettanomyces gives the beer a slightly tangy, funky, aniseed tinged, wild character that adds a huge amount of depth and complexity to the beer, if it was a wine it would be described as being ‘rustic’.
Nota Bene is brewed by veteran New Zealand brewer Ben Middlemiss. Back in the late 1990’s Ben brewed a very similar beer called Australis Benediction that captured the imagination of the beer writer Michael Jackson. Jackson ended up selecting it to feature at his World Beer Showcase at the University of Philadelphia in the year 2000 and included it in his influential Great Beer Guide. At the time this was a huge achievement and one which means Benediction is still in high demand in the United States. Benediction ceased to be when the Australis Brewing Co closed down. Now Nota Bene is here to continue the theme.
The funky Belgian rustic character of Nota Bene makes it a perfect match to pungent washed rind cheeses, which is exactly how I intend to enjoy my next bottle!
Ben Middlemiss Nota Bene is available from Hashigo Zake, The Malthouse , Regional Wines and online retailer The Beer Store.

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