Downton Brewery Solstice (500ml, 4.6% ABV)
Stonehenge – a word that evokes the ingenuity of prehistoric engineering, the druids, and the heroic incompetence of Spinal Tap. It’s also the image featured on Downton Brewery’s Solstice, a beer mysterious enough not to feature on their website.
It’s the brainchild of Wiltshire-based Downton Brewery, who have been making beer since 2003 (thus predating the similarly-named mega-hit TV show by seven years).
Solstice pours into the glass the colour of a conker and has very little head. A sniff gives me hints of chocolate and a curious pear character that I haven’t encountered since my last bottle of the Belgian classic Duvel.
Although it looks low on carbonation, the first taste reveals a surprise – stealth bubbles, which seem to appear from nowhere! An array of subtle citrus flavours arrive courtesy of the complex blend of six hop varieties (from the UK, New Zealand and Slovenia), and there’s something satisfyingly chewy about the bitterness. Cracker-like malt and a herbal aftertaste also put in a show.
This is a flavourful traditional bitter, the sort of thing you can image servants quaffing after a hard day’s work at the Abbey … or druids, after shifting blocks of stone.
Written by Richard Salsbury