Sunday 18 May 2014

Isis and Tamesis

Based at Frilsham Home Farm in the village of Yattendon, the West Berkshire Brewery have won more than 30 awards for their traditional British brews since they opened their doors in 1995. Their German style pilsner and extra stout take their names from the gods that are said to inhabit the river Isis and the river Thames which both flow through the county from which this brewery takes its name. Effigy's of these river gods are cast onto sticky back parchment and then gracefully attached to the bottles that contain these elixirs but are they as godlike as their titles would suggest?

Isis is brewed in homage to the light, crisp pilsners of Bavaria and does not disappoint. It pours a clear, straw yellow with a tight white head and lots of lively carbonation. The inviting aroma is of rolled oats and freshly cut grass. This lager is as satisfying as it is refreshing, the interplay between the honey sweetness and the nettle-y, herbal bitterness from the German hops is spot on. Above all the flavours are balanced, clean and distinctive. This is indeed a very accomplished pilsner that exists to be sank by the gallon in sunny beer gardens. This would pair beautifully with a hot and spicy curry, as also suggested on this beers label.

Where Isis is an excellent example of its style Tamesis sadly falls short. It dubs itself an 'extra stout' but reminds me more of a rich, dark best bitter such as Adnams Broadside. Although it appears dark and stout-like in the glass holding it up to the light reveals the true crimson red colour of this beer. It produces Autumn like aromas of stone fruit and brambles but I'm getting very little of the roasted coffee bean qualities I expect from a stout. The taste is of slightly unripe plums and blackberries with a little stewed rhubarb also thrown into the mix. There's a pleasing grassy bitterness on the finish and it's very drinkable but it all feels a bit too wishy-washy to be dubbed a stout. This is a tasty beer that would probably be at its best on cask but after being so impressed by Isis, Tamesis has let me down a touch.

I would drink Isis again in a heartbeat if I saw it on draught, I also think as a lager it may fare better in smaller bottles rather than the half litre it comes packaged in. The jury is still out on Tamesis but it's better than your average supermarket beer. It's got good flavour but just doesn't tick my 'stout' boxes.

Thanks to the West Berkshire brewery for sending me these beers. They were free but I don't think that influenced my opinion of them. Original photography by Dianne Tanner

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