Here’s the thing: English beers, they get no respect.
Are they warm and undercarbonated? Yes—or are North American beers too cold and fizzy? Are they weaker than a cup of tea at Nana’s house? Again, yes—or are they extremely sessionable? Are they too malty? Of course! They’re also delicious and complex and earthy and endlessly drinkable. The only thing they lack is appreciation.
I like to describe the classic English flavour profile as marmalade on toast. The key to that is in the grain: malts like Maris Otter and Golden Promise impart rich nutty, biscuity flavours, providing a depth of character that German and North American malts could only dream of.
Sadly, there are very few proper English-style ales left in B.C., and even fewer hand-pulled real cask ales. One style that seems to be holding on locally, however, is the ESB, or extra special bitter. Naturally, it’s amongst the hoppiest of English styles, hence why we British Columbians have taken to it.
Abbotsford’s Field House Brewing is usually known for its Belgian-inspired farmhouse ales, but they’ve really hit the mark with Lavender ESB. While the lavender is very prevalent on the nose, thankfully it takes a back seat when you actually have a sip, complementing the herbal hop notes. Like I said earlier, the star of the show is the malt character, with nutty notes of caramel, biscuit, vanilla and toast—and the lavender doesn’t get in the way of that. The beer is assertively hopped, per our North American tendency, but again, it doesn’t distract from the malt, instead cleaning up the finish and leaving on a pleasantly bitter note.
Do yourself a favour, though, and let this one warm up a bit. Give it a vigourous swirl in the glass and let it sit for a bit. You won’t be disappointed.
Lavender ESB by Field House Brewing (5.5% ABV, 38 IBU)
Appearance: Hazy deep amber with an off-white head.
Aroma: Lavender, vanilla, nutty, caramel, spice.
Flavour: Nutty, caramel, toast, biscuit, vanilla, floral, subtle lavender, spice, jammy fruit, herbal hop character, moderate hop bitterness.
Body: Medium bodied with a slightly bitter finish.
Pairs with: Poughman’s lunch, pakora, knock-off Ben Sherman shirts and sitting in a pub for eight hours a day, everyday, forever.