After enjoying their magnificent Queboid last year, Hardknott are a brewery that has been right at the top of my “try their other beers” list. Most of their beer that ends up in bottles is at the strong end of the spectrum, which suits me fine.
Granite is their barley wine – brewed at over 10% ABV, only once a year and in very limited quantities. It is also put into 500ml bottles which for such a strong beer is big – over 5 units!
So when I came across this bottle of Granite 2010 I snapped it up quickly, and then pushed it to the back of my beer cupboard in a bid to obey the instructions on the bottle to “avoid the temptation to consume before it’s best” – the label makes it clear that this is a beer that improves with age. But I’m rubbish at keeping delicious beer in the cupboard, so I opened it today – well in advance of the “irrelevant contradictory semantic” of the Best Before date (which is sometime in 2016!)
In the glass it’s such a dark red as to be almost black, with a nice if fairly short lived tan head on it. The nose is surprisingly gentle; there’s some sweet sugary molasses and hints of blackberry but none of the alcohol hit you’d expect from an ABV of 10.1%. As it warms up there’s even, oddly, a hint of cheese.
In the mouth, it’s a very different story. Dark prune fruit on the tip of the tongue, leading through to a bittersweet black treacle syrup that coats the inside of the mouth before releasing that alcohol heat. There’s more sticky, port-like fruit throughout and then just at the very end, when the stickiness is on the edge of becoming cloying, the big, deep bitter tail puts in an appearance.
As the bitterness nicely cleanses that syrup from your mouth, your lips still sticky from the initial sip, you feel the alcohol warming all the way down your throat and to your belly.
It’s another magnificent monster beer from Hardknott. I wonder how many more of the 804 bottles produced are still available?!