This year, in case you hadn’t heard, heralds Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee. Whether in celebration or opportunism, companies the length and breadth of the UK are marking the event – whether it’s with something specially prepared for the occasion, or just slapping a Union Flag on their regular stuff and hoping nobody notices.
St Austell, I’m very happy to say, have decided to take the former approach and have produced something very special and very limited, in their Royal Diamond Imperial IPA. Presented in a silver-wrapped champagne style bottle, it’s every inch the celebratory drink and you’re even advised to serve it in a champagne flute.
As you can see, I don’t have a champagne flute, so I just pour it into one of my regular beer-tasting glasses.
It manages to pour into the glass in a pleasingly champagne-like manner; a fleeting, large bubbled head which quickly settles down and leaves you with little “bubble streamers” up the sides of the glass. The only real clues to its true nature are its colour – a nice, rich, almost honey-like amber – and the aroma.
Oh my, the aroma! The sweet, floral hops are almost overwhelming; I can smell them from the other side of the table. But unlike some heavily hopped beers there’s no bitter edge to it – it’s just green, fresh, and fruity. Bringing the glass closer to your nose, the fruit builds, and there’s just a hint of rich sweetness and a surprisingly subtle alcoholic heat that belies the 9% ABV strength.
In the mouth, that champagne style shows through again; the fine bubbled mousse makes it feel a little like drinking a marshmallow. There’s a honey sweetness on the tip of your tongue and as the beer works it’s way towards the back of your throat you get surprisingly delicate, green fruit in the centre and delightful hop bitterness flowing off the sides.
I’m slightly conflicted by this one. As a regular IPA I’d say it’s almost great – the alcohol and the sweetness are both a touch understated for my tastes; I’d prefer a slightly richer, darker fruit edge.
As a celebration drink, however, it knocks a bottle of champagne for six. It has the right texture in the mouth, a dryness balanced off against controlled, fresh fruit, and an aroma that is just heaven in a glass.
I’m not a fan of champagne but I could drink this by the Nebuchadnezzar!
This is a very special beer; limited to just 500 bottles available directly from the brewery and certainly fit to toast a Queen!
St Austell Brewery kindly provided Pete Drinks with a sample bottle of this beer.