Beer of the month – July 2016 – Buxton Tsar Bomba

A fairly even mix of beers in and out of the home this month. We start off with something from Aldi, a Spill The Beans by Brains Craft Brewery, full of coffee, chocolate and hazelnut flavours. This was the best of the Aldi range of beers that they have commissioned so far.

We move to another supermarket commissioned beer next, a Marks & Spencer Black IPA by Purity Brewing Co, a good mix of dark maltiness and hop flavours. A good nose and well balanced. This trend of supermarket commissioned beers shows no sign of going away, and on this evidence, that’s ok with me.

We take a trip to town next for a High Wire West Coast Pale Ale by Magic Rock Brewing at the Needle & Pin. This was another beer to be tarred with the epithet Hoppy McHopFace…

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Just an hour or so later, an Elvis Juice by BrewDog at The Swan In The Rushes was passing my lips, a beer full of happy grapefruit hoppiness. Thank you very much.

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To finish off this month, we go dark. First, we are off to a field just outside Chipping Norton for some Bourbon Oktober by Vibrant Forest Brewery. This was quite stunning. Vibrant took their existing beer, Black October, a full bodied strong stout (with aromas of dark chocolate and liquorice) and then aged it in a fresh bourbon barrel for nearly 6 months. It was certainly worth that extra work. Bourbon barrel brilliance.

In other months, that would have been an obvious winner. However, this month it came up against a formidable opponent indeed. Let’s have a little story.

In 1978, The Courage Brewery brewed a batch of Imperial Russian Stout, aged it in infected wooden barrels and some time later it was put into bottles. In 2012, someone at Buxton Brewery opened a bottle, drank the beer (which was apparently amazing) and then rescued the intruiging combination of sedimented yeasts and debris from the bottom of the aged vessel. They then inocculated a barrel of their own Russian Imperial Stout, Tsar, with this precious sludge and left the beer to its own devices for 9 months. The only attention they gave it was a weekly “roll around the brewery”, apparently the same as the Courage barrels got.

Following this 9 month ageing, the beer changed in character thanks to the Brettanomyces strain of yeast that had laid dormant in the bottle for all those years waking up when being introduced to some young, fresh Imperial Stout, adding a delicious tartness to the beer to go with the hop bitterness and deep malty and dark fruit flavours.

The Tsar Bomba was born.

I bought my one back in May 2015. I’ve been letting it rest, but I couldn’t let it rest any longer. Good call. Dark. Bitter. Sweetness. One for slow sipping and a strong contender for beer of the year.

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Sadly, you won’t be able to buy one like it, until they make the next generation version (much like Cloudwater and their DIPA releases)…

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