It really feels like Manchester’s Marble Brewery has reasserted itself as one of the nation's most relevant breweries over the past few months. Not that there should ever have been any doubt.
Under the watchful eye of head brewer James Kemp and his team, Marble has refined its core range, introduced a breathtaking new range of hop forward beers under its “Metal Series” label and released a series of complex and accomplished barrel aged beers. There was a small blip when they decided to discontinue the transcendent Dobber, one of the most important beers in my personal drinking history, but that’s OK because I’m heading to Manchester to brew it with Marble as part of its 20th anniversary celebrations later this year.
Lost Your Marbles has been released as two iterations – one barrel aged with Brettanomyces and this one, which has been aged in Pinot Noir barrels along with an addition of cherries, blackberries, blackcurrants, raspberries and redcurrants. It’s a collaboration between returning Marble brewer Joe Ince (who until recently was brewing at Magic Rock) and Dan Whitehead de Bechevel, who has recently left Marble to start his own brewery: the imaginatively named Dan’s Brewery.”
The fundamental that fascinates me in this particular beer is not the fruit but the barrels itself. None other than winemaker Andrew Nielsen of Le Grappin sourced the French Pinot Noir barrels that this beer was aged in. You might not have heard Nielsen’s name before but it's one you should learn because he has provided several other breweries, including Redchurch, Wild Beer Co and Burning Sky with wine barrels of their own. [ED: As well as making awesome wine of his own!]
I contacted Marble’s Joe Ince to ask why he selected these barrels in particular for ageing this beer. “I wanted the barrels to help mellow the stock beer, allow for longer term ageing without adding too much tannin, something I'm very wary of with wood,” he says. “I was also hoping they would add a little funk and help the fruit really come through, which I think they did. Although not a wine drinker I quite like Pinot Noir as it always presents with cherry and raspberry to me.”
The resulting beer is velveteen in texture, with a lusciously smooth carbonation. Ince has certainly achieved the low tannin and high fruit flavour content he desired. The rich chocolate malts are met by the tartness of black cherries and raspberries, producing a flavour not unlike black forest gateau, which also happens to have been the brewers' end goal with this beer.
It definitely benefits from being allowed to warm in the glass a little first and I reckon that a few months longer in the bottle wouldn’t do it any harm either – especially if you want those funky, tart flavours to come to the fore. Don’t hang about though - only 1200 bottles have been produced and based on this tasting they won’t be about for long.
The fundamentals of beer are anything that makes up the sum of a beer’s parts. Water, barley, wheat, oats, sugars, yeast, bacteria and even adjuncts such as fruit or maize are all fundamental parts of what make up our favourite beers. You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog Total Ales, Good Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. And pick up a bottle of Marble's exceptional Lost Your Marbles Red Wine BA Forest Fruits in store or online now.