Hey, speaking of Buxton- you know where this is going.
The first of the roster is (possibly?) their flagship, Axe Edge, an IPA with an apparently intercontinental blend of hops forming its lupuline highlights. And what highlights they are.
This is a near perfect IPA for me; pungent pineapple, grapefruit and passionfruit do indeed suggest the presence of US and Southern Hemisphere varieties, at least on the nose. The palate gets a loving treatment of sharp, bittersweet tropical fruit with plenty of zest, candied peel and generally lively fruit expression on a nice, full and soft biscuity base, no doubt helped heaps by the inclusion of oats and wheat. This is squeaky clean, bright and superbly expressive stuff from Buxton.
Equally enjoyable, if not as layered an experience, is Bloc Head. This pale yellow thing is listed as a saison on Ratebeer, but the label itself tells another story altogether - a sour farmhouse pale ale is the name of the game here, and it's this version of events that's corroborated by the liquid itself. A dose of pure squeezed lemon juice shouts down just about everything else going on, so at the very least, it is sour. There's no real agrarian character to the beer, though, but for puckering, thirst quenching prowess I forgive such superfluous designation. At least it can't be argued that it is an ale, and it is pale.
Being called Red Point is reason enough for people to expect you're going to be pretty much red, but Red Point the beer is actually not as red as you'd think.
I mean, it's more or less red, but still.
The nose gets pithy, juicy, clean and sweet ripe citrus fruits, but it's all bitter to taste. Thankfully it does keep up the good citrus work, all orange and lemon and zesty to the end, but at 7.5% it gives off more heat than it should. Some
contemplative pretentious swirling and warmth brings sugary tangerine to life, but the peely bitter finish never lets up. Good, but not great, and not the hoppy beer masterclass that was the Axe Edge.
Last and most certainly least is Tsar, though it comes with the heftiest price/ABV combo of the lot. This imperial stout was already over a year old by the time I opened it up but that's usually no cause for concern, even if Buxton do recommend that you drink it fresh. Still, it's well within the BBE date and come on it's a 9.5% bottle conditioned stout.
The first sign of trouble is the ridiculously overenthusiastic effervescence, producing a head bigger than the sun. Through this, there's not a whole lot of aromatic notes to be pulled other than some faint milk chocolate, but the whole horrible shitshow shambles to life on the palate, dragging by its ankles thick tar-trails of bitter scorched coffee. From the very first sip, it's a slog. Time and patience unlock some bittersweet dark chocolate but not enough to even dream of competing with the crime scene that is the main character of this beer.
Now, unless the taster is willing to accept that their palate is the supreme, finely-tuned standard by which all flavour in the universe should be gauged (and I'm not), he or she has to take on board the information given by the producers (who we assume to know the product better than anyone) when assessing that product.
"Drink Fresh" they said, and I didn't, so I'm willing to give Buxton the benefit of the doubt and assume that this Tsar was not the Tsar I want to be tasting.
If you see the Tsar and he isn't fresh, don't do it.
Stick to the Axe Edge and everything will be OK.