I hadn’t really thought much about cress for most of my life. Not since drawing funny faces on eggshells and growing green ‘hair’ out of it á la Art Attack, actually; perhaps the odd wondering of why on earth someone would consider it a good addition to egg sandwiches. I suppose I would have anticipated having such a neutral view of it for the rest of my life, if I’d ever really considered it.
Then with a thud (well, with a careful handover from a kindly postie), De Molen’s new special ‘Plant & Pittig’ (Veggies & Spice) landed on my doormat and I am suddenly confronted with the star of my failed childhood art projects, this time in a form that seems a lot more palatable than a wonky looking face with green hair, or droopy, damp barbeque leftovers.
From the first smell, this Black IPA is quite something.There’s a gingery element to it, but with a pronounced grassiness and lime zest- if anything it smells like a fresher version of the recently released Kiev & Mule. From the first taste the kaffir lime leaves are the star of the show. Initially they are truly limey, and almost sour thanks to the kick of the sichuan pepper, but as the coffee and chocolate hues of the style begin to seep through it changes into something sweeter and almost minty (After Eight, anyone?). Behind the scenes the koppert cress mingles with the pepper to create a spicy flavour I can only describe as ‘green’ (will this be the third beer I will claim is ‘healthy’ based on this criteria alone?). There’s umami; a slight heat; a grounding flavour which allows the kaffir leaves to shine without unbalancing the beer. The aftertaste is dominated by this umami taste- and now I understand the ‘plant’ part of the name. Actually, it does make me fancy an egg sandwich, come to think of it…
If you’ve never had a Black IPA before (which I guess many new beer drinkers haven’t- it’s been unfairly overshadowed by the popularity of West Coast & East Coast IPAs), I’d recommend giving this a try. Black IPAs are known for a subtle, very thin body and their dark malt underpinnings, and although this is not quite traditional it would be an excellent jump start into this type of beer. For the rest of us, let’s just enjoy the ingenious take on a traditional smile, and maybe consider cress as something more than a sandwich filling from now on.