When we headed down to St Austell for their Celtic Beer Festival last year, it was an all too rare opportunity to catch up with Eddie, from Harbour Brewing.
Like every brewer I've been lucky enough to meet, he's a thoroughly nice chap, and I took the opportunity to give him a couple of bottles of homebrew (Coffee Stout and #IPADay) that included ingredients he'd given me on our visit to the brewery.
To my delight he brought something for me too; a bottle of a seriously limited edition beer – my bottle is labelled as 37 out of 50!
I know it's wrong to judge a book by its cover, but just look at this bottle of Double IPA No. 6 – the short, squat bottle, the wax cap, the plain label with a handwritten luggage tag. Even before you open it, you're expecting something special.
On pouring, it's a rich, deep amber beer with a thin, lingering white head and streams of fine bubbles rising, champagne style.
The nose is sweet and fruity with buckets of citrus hops, satsumas and just a touch of warm caramel which hints at the alcohol lurking underneath.
In the mouth, it's full of soft, gentle bubbles that slowly dissipate revealing a remarkably delicate beer – sweet toffee, overripe orange, and a restrained pine resin bitterness. There's definitely some alcohol present as it slips down the throat, but it doesn't taste anything close to 9.3% ABV.
And then it's gone; somehow slipping away, leaving a sweet fruit aftertaste and a need for another sip. And another.
I can honestly say that I don't think I've ever tasted a beer quite like it. The soft, delicate carbonation wouldn't be out of place in the finest champagne. The light fruity sweetness is perfectly balanced; the resin bitterness comes through in the finish in just the right amount to control the sweetness without destroying it. The alcohol is significant but wonderfully understated.
Some monster beers scream and roar, and attack you with their flavours. This beer doesn't need to – it whispers, it caresses, and before you realise what's going on, it's slithered down your throat.
It's almost a crime that this is a limited edition. Part of me wants to march down to Cornwall and demand that Harbour brew me a case or two, for my own personal use.
5 stars. If not 6.
Edited to add: I've just been told by Harbour that Double IPA No. 7, "bigger and better", is in production right now!
This review was originally published 7th February, 2014. It was last updated 1st June, 2023.