Name – Chiron
Brewer – Thornbridge
Classification – American Pale Ale
Strength – 5.0% ABV
Verdict - At A Glance
On the eye – Deep, rich, comic malevolent laughter inducing orange amber.
On the nose – The aromatic equivalent of an earthquake. One whiff will literally tear your house down. Apples, pears, grapefruit, nectarines, lime, black pepper, shaking walls, falling masonry...
On the tongue – A bewilderingly complex, exuberant, but refreshingly mild mannered, perhaps even 'gentle' expression of modern brewing capability.
On the subject – I think I can safely say Thornbridge is one of the best and most revered craft breweries in Britain today. Yes, I think I can safely say that. The only objections to this claim might be about my use of the word 'craft', and demands might follow about what exactly I mean by that. I will point those making such complaints in the general direction of their own backsides.
On the market – Well, given their ever enlarging reputation, the reach of Thornbridge is better than most 'craft' (yes, there it is again, just deal with it) breweries, but that really serves to illustrate my point about how poorly represented all the best contemporary UK beers are in the wider marketplace. Anyway, contact the brewery directly for sales info, or try The Real Ale Store.
On the whole – 9/10
On the whole – 9/10
Okay, there's been a certain amount of specific 'talk' about this beer lately, so let me just get right to the heart of the matter.
As many of you will know, Thornbridge brew a beer called Jaipur, which is considered a modern classic by the majority of idiots like me who enjoy beer so much that they sit down and write about it.
Comparisons between these two stable-mates have sparked quite a bit of discussion in the murky realms of beer appreciation.
So here's my contribution to the debate...
I do not prefer today's beer to Jaipur.
There, I said it.
However, upon further inspection, this declaration is far more nonsensical than it might first appear.
It's rather like saying - “I don't prefer this snowflake to that other one.”
Actually, it's even closer to saying - “The bright star up there on the left has less appeal to me than its equally twinkly neighbour”.
Now, it could be very easily argued that one snowflake is different from another, but it would take an exceptionally well made argument to successfully convince a neutral observer than one snowflake is better than the other.
Likewise, what evidence could back up a claim that the heavenly body we call Sirius twinkles more pleasingly than that which we've name Polaris? Sure, one star might appear bigger to us... but better?
I think you get my gist.
Jaipur and Chiron are both stunning examples of their kind. Quite simply, Thornbridge have developed a habit of creating individual products that are all stellar* in their own right.
(* - Not to be confused with 'Stella', for more reasons than I could list in one lifetime.)
Indeed, in many ways these two beers are pretty similar. The are both highly hopped, underpinned with delicate savoury malt base, and chiefly characterised by a super-complex matrix of citrus, floral, tree fruit and soft spice flavour themes which drop your jaw and keep it dropped till it damn well hurts. So numerous are these two beers' similarities, that I reckon someone who's never drunk beer before might not even spot a difference. (After all, we all still know people who think 'bitter' is just 'brown lager.')
But the reality is there are a whole bunch of differences, and although I like a lot of the elements which set Chiron apart from Jaipur, there are few aspects that just don't hit my own personal 'B-spot' in the quite the same way.
It's not the flavours that (microscopically) miss the target. Oh boy no! Chiron thrills with delectable swathes of elderflower, rosewater, grapes, watermelon and mango. It's wonderfully vibrant, fresh, uplifting to the taste.
I think, if anything, it's the intensity of the overall experience which would lead me to opt for one of these beers over the other. Chiron is a subtly gentler giant, providing a slightly more 'laid back' experience throughout. That's all very well and good, and there will be folk who will instinctively vote in favour of that very quality. But for me, I just found myself wishing for something infinitesimally 'additional' from this beer.
I wanted it to be exactly what it was – but be it a shade more.
At a considerably less potent 5.0% ABV, I did wonder if this is just the difference a slightly less robust alcohol content can make to the character of a beer. And maybe that's what also accounts for the slight sense of comparative thinness in the body which, again, is the kind of thing that suits some people more than others. Personally, with beers of this kind, I've found all kinds of consistencies can work very well, and I couldn't say that was a problem for me here.
(Incidentally, many beer writers refer to the aspect of a beer's physical characteristics as 'mouthfeel' – a term I dislike enormously and avoid using because it always makes me imagine sexually repressed dentists.)
(Don't worry, I'm seeking help...)
Look, I really am splitting hairs here. The fact is that Chiron is one of the best brews around. It really is that simple. Yes, it walks somewhat in the shadow of one of the finest beers of our time, and comparisons will always be made - but none of that is any of it's own fault.
It's an exquisitely crafted contemporary high-hopped beer, with a dazzling array of carefully assembled flavours and it's just about as rewarding as pouring liquid into your face can get.
It's another Thornbridge modern great, and you should go out and buy yourself at least one bottle of it at your very earliest convenience.
In the meantime, I'm going to continue wishing on that star just a little over to the right.
I almost convinced it twinkles better.