Well look at that!
Most beers are best when they are fresh. Some a made to be aged. And a lucky few are lost, forgotten about, and then return as serendipitous sensations.
Harrington’s Breweries The Forgotten Belgian Tripel (8.7%) was brewed in 2012 when the Canterbury earthquake recovery was just beginning. The idea was to age it for year, then release it and reflect back on a year of rebuilding. As we all know, the recovery is taking longer than expected. The release was postponed once, postponed again, and the beer was eventually forgotten.
Harrington’s staff found the beer hiding in the darkest, backest corner of the cellar and, with a bit of guilty trepidation, tasted it. Three years on it is a mature and enticing Belgian tripel. It pours a slightly hazy copper and has a distinct true-to-style aroma, dark caramel toffee flavours, with spicy, peppery notes.
The Forgotten is available in a very handsome 750ml bottle and is worth seeking out. If you can’t get any locally, ask the brewery. You can watch Harrington’s telegenic head brewer Mark White tell The Forgotten story on Youtube here. Bottle supplied by the brewer - cheers!
Yeastie Boys Not Kettle Black (6%) was forgiven rather than forgotten. A batch of Yeastie’s flagship Pot Kettle Black caught a yeast infection. Geyser town! A lot was dumped - "tears were shed" - but some was aged in pinot noir barrels, presumably on the theory that it couldn’t get any worse.
It didn’t. After two years in the naughty corner, Not Kettle Black was released in 2015, maturing into tart, cherry, chocolatey goodness. I’ve only seen it at Festivals but keep an eye out at the better sort of establishment.
8 Wired Bumaye Barrel Aged Imperial Stout (16%) was already a year old when it was released in 2012. Canny Scotsman Colin Mallon set a keg aside and tapped it this year as a mystery guest at The Malthouse’s Darkest Days season.
This one is practically a fortified wine. Thick and black, the high(!) alcohol is clearly evident, backed with pruney, raisiny, woody flavour. To be honest I can’t tell if the aging has changed Bumaye. I haven’t tasted it in three years and obviously there’s no fresher batch to compare it too. Darkest Days had its best-yet line up this year, with many impressively big, black, winter warmers, and this was an extra highlight.
Not every beer could survive a four-year stint in solitary, but each of these three has the alcohol, ingredients and good luck to have accidentally matured into something special. Try them if you find them.