Saturday, December 17, 2011

CT Column 14/12/2011 : Rex Revisited

IN July I wrote about the launch of Yeastie boys Rex Attitude, the world’s first beer to be brewed with 100% peated distilling malt. I thought the beer would change significantly as it aged. I suggested that the volatile peaty character would meld and develop in the bottle.
As I wrote that column I decided I would put some of that first batch into the cellar and compare it with a younger example later in the year. A few weeks ago I used the return of a friend who has been living in Liverpool as an excuse to open the two examples and compare the golden peaty contents. The first batch poured a hazy gold with healthy head, while the younger example poured a brilliant much clearer gold with the same white fluffy head.
Aromatically the older example offered up Rex Attitude’s characteristic heathery smoked kipper character, autumnal bonfire notes and a suggestion of charred timber. The newer example displayed the same heathery smoked note but also an earthy, raw, gamy character and a medicinal note and a spike of ashen flavour.
Tasting Rex Attitude is always a complex experience. Many are put off by the first taste and never let their palates acclimatise to the peat and pick up the complex range of flavours that are present in the beer. The older example presented sweet malt, mellow smoke and a hint of earthiness while the younger example was much rawer and bolder with medicinal notes, earthy smoke and tropical fruit hop flavour all vying for attention.  The aged version had mellowed significantly with the peat character maturing and rounding out much as it does in the single malt whiskeys that usually slumber for years in wooden casks before being sold. The compromise has been that the wonderful tropical fruit hop character that features in the younger version has been lost as the beer ages.
Last week the Yeastie Boys released an imperial version of Rex Attitude which they brewed to celebrate the Morton Coutts Award for Brewing innovation that they won at the Beer Awards this year. Named xeRRex (pronounced x-rex, as far as I can work out) this 10%abv version of Rex is ironically a far more drinkable beast than its smaller brother. Sweet malt, earthy smoke, and warm bonfire aromas give way to rich rounded sweet malt, complex smoke and a hint of tropical fruit. xeRRex strikes perhaps the perfect balance between complexity and drinkability. There are also rumours that there is a chardonnay barrel filled with some of the first batch of Rex Attitude slowly aging up. This may at some point come out as a super limited edition beer although I have also heard from a reliable source that it may be destined to become a ‘Directors Reserve’ and all be consumed by the Yeastie Boys themselves.

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