I've not been shy to proclaim my love of Buxton beers, from the aggressively hoppy yet oh so tropically fruit moreish Axe Edge to the loving caress of chocolate enrobed orange of Imperial Black Rocks and all beers in between I've been pretty impressed by their range. So when I heard about their special reserve releases, I did my best to get hold of some of them, resorting to jiffy bag posting from Beer Ritz (Thanks Zak!).
There have been five in all, though the Berlinner weisse has only just been relased; so hope to pick that up somewhen soon. And if anyone happens to be sitting on a stash of Tsar Bomba...
So in order of release we start with number one, barrel aged Tsar. Original Tsar is a brash brute of an imperial stout, full in body with plenty of coffee and chocolate.
Half a year in the barrel certainly tones it down a bit, but at the same time becomes more complex. Vanilla, caramel and cola on the nose with dusty molasses in behind. Full bodied, coffee, caramel, dry hop bitterness, tobacco, lemon and dry malt towards the end. After allowing to warm up a bit notes of honey sweetness and a long dry, slightly wild yeast finish appear. This is barrel ageing done absolutely right.
Next up is Smokey and the Band Aid an "Imperial Smoked Rye Porter". Sometimes rye beers can be unpleasantly meaty, and this started off that way with an Intriguing aroma of roast lamb and smoked ham with slightly sweaty washed rind cheese. Its a fairly light bodied beer for its 7% strength, with plenty of bitter roast barley and some cocoa combat the gentle peaty caress and sticky sweet meaty rye. A well balanced brew that has probably mellowed with age. Another winner in my book
Last up is James' forray into the world of DIPA, Wyoming Sheep Ranch. Hold-up, i hear you dry, isn't Axe Edge labelled as a double IPA too? Yes, that as may be, but its 6.8% ABV is paltry in comparison into this 8.4% behemoth. But unfortunately I wasn't a fan. They say you drink with your eyes, which didn't bode well for this Super hazy soupy amber pour.
The nose was promising with subtle mango and passion fruit on the nose. A heavy body with floaties and fairly boozy obscures any hop flavours that were once there.Maybe I got a duff bottle? At least Buxton yeast fairly flavour neutral but the hop hit I was expecting from axe edge was missed.When you come to expect perfection, even an acceptable beer is disappointing, but I'll give it another go if I see it elsewhere!
The maverick genius behind these brews has now moved on from Buxton (you can follow James here on twitter) but his sizable boots have more than ably been filled by Colin Stronge of Marble* and Black Isle pedigree. Here's hoping he carries on with these more niche brews.
*Coincidentally, James has been spotted wreaking havoc in the marble brewhouse...