Now I've never really subscribed to the notion of a patron saint, as an atheist I don't really understand the concept. It's even more disturbing when the notion is taken up by those that use it to identify with a certain kind of Englishness. As Dr Johnson put it "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." And that's before we get on to the controversial subject of who the English patron saint should be. Should it be the current incumbent, a geezer hailing from the Lebanon, Turkey, Greece or some such far-flung place, St George...OR should it be his predecessor St Edmund, the saint that gave his name to the town in which I live. Quite frankly I don't give a bugger. But what I am quite prepared to do is celebrate St Edmund on his day when there is beer involved. A bit like everyone is Irish on St Paddy's day.
I am particularly prepared to forgo my principles because my hostelry of choice, a brew pub now known as the Old Cannon Brewery, has brewed a special winter ale called St Edmund's Head - named after the original pub name where the brewery now stands. It has apparently been brewed to be in tiptop condition to drink on St Edmunds Day, 20th November. Greene King, the other brewery in town, that some of you might have heard of, also recently launched a St Edmunds ale. I've not tried it and I'm not sure I want to. It's served cold and with the option of a head. Think I'd rather perform a self-circumcision with a spoke shave than drink cold beer with a head on it. But it is apparently available at the Dog & Partridge, the pub closest to the brewery. The sort of pub where the clientele might well be attracted to such a beer.
Anyway back to the matter in hand. Today is St Edmunds day and strangely I find myself in the Old Cannon drinking this fantastic new brew on launch day. I don't use the word fantastic lightly either. The advertising blurb refers to it as a heady brew and they are not wrong. The colour of black treacle, with a taste to match, this beer is a perfect winter ale. Weighing in at 4.8%, it needs to be treated with respect when drinking pints of the stuff. If I had to categorise it I think I’d put it in the Strong Mild section. A relatively sweet beer with plenty of maltiness, this brew also has a roasted nutty taste, with undertones of cobnut and sackcloth. Then comes the hop flavour, from Challenger, followed on by the slightest of bitter aftertastes. It’s almost enough to make you feel proud to be English!
The Old Cannon has never bottled its beer. I asked Richard the brewer several when we had the beer shop if he would, but he always declined. For the first time ever they’ve bottled this. It's a limited addition run of 1000 bottles and I've got one. It's not fully conditioned yet, needs a couple more days in the warm, then into the cool. My hope is that it will make perfect Christmas drinking. Merry Christmas everybody!