I’m a total sucker for a pretty drinks menu, so when I sat down at the table to hear about the new ales at the Botanist on Temple St I was already curious, and that was just because of some snazzy stationery. Usually if I got to The Botanist, or anywhere really, I’ll stick to sprits and preferably in cocktail form. It’s nothing personal, I’ve just never really spent the same amount of time learning about beer and which ones I like. But then I got an invite to a tutored tasting from Kieran Hartley, one of the beer gurus at New World Trading Company, Botanist’s parent company, to hear about the 13 need beers and cider on the menu. So I figured what the hell…
As one of the early birds, I ended up chatting beforehand with Bob and Sarah from Midlands Beer Blog, which is frankly a much better guide to beer drinking in the city. For some reason we ended up discussing a Millionaire by Wild Beer Co. On hearing our conversation, Kieran swapped out one of the beers to let us try this and I’m so glad he did, because it was so different from other ales I’ve tried. Using lactose, which yeast can’t process so remains in the beer, it was designed to mimic salted caramel millionaire shortbread and did a pretty good job with an immediate salt hit, developing into dark chocolate. Personally I’m not sure I could finish a whole bottle of the stuff, but I’d be willing to give it a try – or share it with a friend for a liquid pudding.
I really enjoyed the variety of beers we tried, which suggested that there was something for everyone. The Camden Town Brewery’s Gentleman’s Wit is an award-winning Belgian style white beer made with slow-roasted lemons and bergamot. It was a light, almost summery beer with not much aftertaste but very drinkable and would be good with dinner. The Goose Island Honker’s Ale is an American take on English bitter, with dominant hops and a malty backbone whereas Thwaites Crafty Dan 13 Guns is an English take on an American style IPA – confused yet?
I should probably point out that we were trying sample sizes of the beers along with hearing some history of the production of beer. I’m a sucker for a good story so I always enjoy hearing the folklore surrounding drinks and there are plenty around beer. The story Kieran told about the possible origins of India Pale Ale which accompanied us trying the Vedett IPA was entertaining, as was hearing that the samples of wheat grains that were passed round to get us to understand the history of beer had accidentally been eaten as a snack by another group!
Honestly I couldn’t tell you what state The Botanist’s beer menu was before the new addition, but it now feels like a fairly comprehensive menu which had a wide variety of styles from IPAs to Belgian white beer, dark porters and a few oddballs. Birmingham is quickly becoming a bit of a haven for beer drinkers and the Botanist’s new beer menu certainly makes it feel like it should be included on any ale trail.
Disclosure: I was invited to the tasting and drinks were complimentary, but that didn’t mean I had to be. One day I’ll get better at remembering names and I might remember what styles of beer I like.