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kaboomA man can look pretty odd in protective glasses, especially when he is smashing a bottle of perfectly good beer. Come to think of it, the beer being spectacularly spilled is better than that. It is a superb, rare, ale. Worse yet, the apparently intemperate character in my picture is a brewer.

So why is he smiling? John Redman, director of brewing at Greene King, in Suffolk, England, is baptising a new oak tun, believed to be the first installed there for more than 100 years. No other brewery in the United Kingdom has such vessels.

The new tun increases by 50 per cent the brewery's capacity for its most distinctive product. Hitherto, there were only two tuns, possibly dating from the late 1800s. Each holds 100 barrels.

Once the new tun had been wet on the outside, it was filled with a new batch of beer in a ritual that may become a tradition. A video camera was placed inside the vessel so that the tide of young ale could be watched on a video monitor by guests.

The new tun was constructed to accommodate much-needed further supplies of a beer that the brewery does not sell. Is someone in the management of the brewery mad as a March hare? I do hope so. The first of March, 2001, was a promising day.

As one of the guests, I was given a matured sample of this secret brew, which weighs in at more than 12 per cent alcohol by volume, and has two years' maturation in the oak. I found it every bit as sherryish and cake-like as it was the last time I had the privilege.

The beer is called 5x, and will have a slightly more public airing in my tasting at the National Geographic Society, in Washington, D.C. on March 29.

Beyond that, it will stay home, married to a deliciously malty, licorice-tasting, fruity, brew called BPA, at around 5.0 per cent. The initials are thought to stand from Best Pale Ale, even though the brew is dark. Don't ask ... no one knows why. I enjoyed some of this at the brewery, too.

In normal circumstances, the two are never seen apart. They appear only in a blend, variously known as Strong or Olde Suffolk. Beer-lovers in some states may have enjoyed this 6.0 per cent brew as a selection of the Michael Jackson Real Beer Tour.

Vat at Greene King

Despite a protective coating of a clay-like material called Suffolk marl, a way was found to look inside the tun, but where is the video camera? Maturing with the beer?

Published: MAR 1, 2001
In: Beer Hunter Online

Brewery Review - Beer Review

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