This Wednesday, we were lucky enough to host Weird Beard at our shop in Balham as part of our ongoing “We Brought…” series. Gregg, one of the two co-founders, and Chris, a part time brewer at Weird Beard, came across from their Acton base in west London to join us. We have had their beers in the shop from the day we opened, for very good reasons. These guys are consistently putting out some of the most exciting beers  in the London beer scene – whether it is a 2.5% hopped milk stout or the soon to be released triple IPA. Having started in 2013, they quickly established themselves as a genuinely excellent brewery, being ranked as the fifth best new brewery in the world by the RateBeer website. This was no mean feat considering over 600 breweries opened that year in the US and UK alone!

In front of a packed out crowd and standing upon an upturned Delirium Tremens case, Gregg talked us through the first two beers we had drunk that evening. The first was Little Things That Kill, a punchy 3.4% session IPA that belies its low ABV. In a cool twist, we learnt that the hop profile for each batch is created by different members of the brewery. We  were told that this was one of their best batches – and it just so happened to have been designed by Gregg himself. Instead of attempting to replicate a full on 7 or 8% ABV IPA, they’ve gone for the body and balance of a 5.5% beer. The aroma is very bold and could easily be coming off regular IPA. It is replicated in the flavour of the beer, with the familiar juicy tropical fruit flavours bursting in the mouth. Perhaps the only hint of the low alcohol is in the slightly thinner body and a touch of sweetness. Nevertheless, this beer was the perfect way to kickstart the night.

Next up was Marianna Trench, by far and away their most popular beer. A 5.3% pale that uses kiwi and American hops, it’s sessionable enough for people to get through a few pints of it, and interesting enough for them to want to. Originally an all kiwi hopped beer, the recipe had to be changed after BrewDog laid claim to almost all the Nelson Sauvin coming into the country for their Punk IPA. Turning to the American hop, Citra, this beer was given just enough of a malt profile to provide a backbone for the beer, but ultimately it is all about the hops. Mango, passionfruit and grapefruit all show themselves in the flavour and aroma profile of this beer. A big citrusy finish leaves you wanting another swig.

At this point, Gregg stepped down to rest his voice and give us a chance to hand out the next beer, their American IPA, 5 O’Clock Shadow. Whilst the Little Things tries to come across as stronger than it is, the 5 O’Clock Shadow definitely falls into the category or what my dad calls “dangerous juice”. You could happily have a few of these and not notice that it’s weighing in at 7.0%! Despite its lack of booziness, all the intense traits you could want from an IPA are present – as soon as it is poured you get a pronounced tropical fruits aroma, a pithy bitterness hitting the back of your mouth. At this point in the tasting, we were taking on a little diversion from the beers at hand to find out about the beer brewed in Gregg’s honour, Faceless Spreadsheet Ninja. Since opening, Gregg has had to become less hands on with the brewing to concentrate on growing the business. This beer was named to celebrate those who work behind the scenes to keep a brewery running. Despite not having this particular beer present, I’m sure we would have all raised a glass of it to him and those like him.

So far, all the beers we had enjoyed had been from the taps, so it was time for the first bottle of the night, Saison 14A Belgian/French beer style, saisons were originally brewed for farmworkers to drink when working in the fields because of the unsanitary nature of water in ye olden days. Plus, yaknow, who doesn’t like some beer at work! This beer style is brewed to show of the yeasts profile, with only a very gentle hopping regime. As a result you get far more of a funky aroma and flavour coming from the beer, along with a sweet, dry finish. Perfect for a hot summers day, this is a very moorish and quaffable beer.

In one of the most entertaining and brilliantly self-depricating stories of the night, we learnt the origin of Saison 14’s name. Having entered this beer into a home-brew competition when still an amateur, Gregg was convinced that it would succeed. The saison category was the last to be presented, and having achieved moderate success with his other beers, he became steadily more confident. Marks over 40 out of 50 are considered to be exceptional, whilst anything below 13 means you failed to spell your name correctly. Upon receiving his final score of 14 and the feedback “yuck”, Gregg could at least console himself knowing he could spell his own name. When going pro, he decided the best way to get back at those early critics was to proudly display this beers score on the bottle itself.

For the final beer of the night, Weird Beard were not content in simply showing off their excellent imperial stout, Sadako. They also treated us to unlabelled bottles of the Sadako that had been Heaven Hill bourbon barrel aged. Both beer and whiskey use a malt barley base; it’s just that one is distilled whilst the other is brewed. As a result, the combining of the two can cause incredible new flavours to emerge and develop over time. The normal Sadako is an impressive enough beer in its own right. Honey, molasses and fresh roast coffee combine perfectly to give this beer big smoke, chocolate and coffee characteristics. Incredibly gentle, with moderate carbonation, this beer may not be sessionable, but it won’t destroy your pallet for the next 24 hours either.

The barrel aged version is a different prospect entirely. Vanilla, bourbon and oak notes are now added to this beers repertoire, all of them creating even more layers of complex aromas and flavours. The body of this beer is huge, giving it a really luxurious mouthfeel. Maturation in bourbon barrels accents this beers booziness, a warmth running down the back of your throat as you sip this beer. As it warms up, the flavour profile subtly changes, bringing out characteristics that you may not have noticed before. If you are lucky enough to lay your hands on a bottle, settle in for a while, because the barrel aged Sadako will keep you in good company for a long time.

With the memory of these excellent beers, we unfortunately had to bring the night to the close. Both Gregg and Chris hung around for a while to chat to everyone and answer some questions. One moment which I feel sums up Weird Beards dedication to creating excellent beer came when I overheard a conversation Chris was having with a regular. Despite having won numerous awards and plaudits both within and outside the industry, he was saying that they have not stopped tweaking a single recipe. They are constantly striving to improve the quality and consistency of the beers because they are not prepared to settle back and rest on their laurels.

Next time your are in the shop, be sure to check out whatever shelf Weird Beard are on, because chances are, there’s going to be something you’ll want to have on it.