Saturday afternoon after a morning of 1250 first draft words on Ontario's brewing heritage in the 1950's and 60's. What better reason to pop open a couple of very different examples of what perry can be. I have to admit, perry is one of those things I can daydream about. Like an Ürziger Würzgarten Auslese Riesling, it is sweeter and lighter than most anything called beer but it can still have a fruited complexity and authenticity that can make one start wondering about "terroir" - or maybe just tree-iorr - in a way that beer can't really claim.
I've written about Spirit Tree before. This bottle comes from a case picked up last summer on a trip that saw us travelling up Highway 10 between Toronto and Owen Sound. Until a moment ago, I knew zippo about Oliver's that wasn't on the label. It's from Herefordshire, has been in oak for 8 months and packs a reasonable 7.1% punch. And the owner works on the side in rock concert tour management. Spirit Tree's perry comes in at 5.5% and is not according to the information available to me connected to rock concert tour management. Jeff is heading towards Herefordshire as we speak so we may learn more soon.
In the glass each give off its own separate scent of pear. Oliver's smells a little candied without cloy. With a little barnyard funk, too. Spirit Tree is lighter with what I might call a nod to pear blossom except that my experience with pear trees is that their scent in bloom is not so swell. Maybe that is a varietal thing but suffice it to say this smells better than my tree, like cut ripe fruit or, better, like fresh cut bough.They are very lightly yellowed, Oliver's with a nod to gold while Spirit Tree actually leans a bit towards silver.
On the telling gum wash, both do what they want very well. Oliver's has the dry oaken bit in the middle but the finish lingers with fruit. After an hour and a half, I get a bit of acetic acid at the end. Not off putting and, overall, it's part of the aged aspect that faintly reminds me of that candied stuff at the edges of BBQ ribs. The first attack, however, is quite light. Just for a mo. Three or four stages of flavour jangling along in there. Very good stuff. Spirit Tree may seem simpler but as it is also fresher, you are getting more flavours of pear peel in there and, with a little more acidity and greater carbonation, it is simply playing from another point in time. I really like both and, best of all, the room smells like mid-June.
By the way, blending was a small mistake as the best of each was lost. RB on Spirit Tree here and Oliver's here. Note: Pete has two pages on Tom Oliver in his book as well as references to Spirit Tree.