I stumbled across the Mersea Island Brewery at a food festival last year. Actually, what I stumbled across was the Mersea Island Vineyard stall (wines from Essex? who knew?!) and noticed that one end of their stall was filled with the bottles above, looking distinctly un-winelike.
I must confess that in the end I didn’t try their wines (they only produce whites and I’m more of a red man) but I did bring home a full set of their bottle conditioned ales to try – and I’m very glad I did!
Island Yo Boy (well, it is an Essex brewery after all!) is a 3.9% golden bitter ale. It pours as a nice light amber, clear (except when you eagerly pour all the yeast into the glass as I did in the picture!) with a generous, open head that lingers fairly well. There are nice floral hops on the nose, and a nice medium body. There’s a surprising amount of fizz, light on the malt but with a really tasty balance of bitter and aromatic hops. A light, easy drinking session ale – very tasty, and a great start to the evening!
Next is Island Gold, a 4.5% beer made with lager malt and hops. A pale gold colour, with a less pronounced head on it. There is very little smell to it, just a hint of sweetness and light fruits, almost grape-like. It has a similarly understated taste, with a gentle but surprisingly deep malt flavour, light on the bitterness and more of that green fruitiness. Again lots of fizz but that’s more to be expected with this one; it’s an interesting lager-style beer with a little more flavour to it than you might expect. Not my normal beer drinking cup of tea but it’s a good example of the style.
Island Skippers is a 4.8% Best Bitter; a nice reddish brown in the glass with another generous and open head on pouring. It has a delicious malty nose with milk chocolate and just a hint of coffee roasting; it smells darker than it looks. There is a wonderful smooth mouth feel, a generous body, buckets of malt and a nice undercurrent of hoppy bitterness. Another great beer that hits the spot.
Next is Island Oysters, at 5.1% – the first of two properly dark beers. Pouring such a dark brown as to be almost black, it has a generous if slightly short lived rich brown head on it. On the nose, rich dark chocolate and black coffee. In the mouth, a bold, full body, sweet without being sticky. Distinctly chocolatey, with little bitterness coming through. Deliciously drinkable.
And so, finally, to Island Monkeys, at 4.5%. Still dark, although marginally less so than the Oysters and with a finer textured, more lingering tan coloured head. There’s a generous amount of chocolate and liquorice on the nose. It still has a firm body but is lighter than the Oysters; dark malt and black treacle flavours but not hugely sweet. Bitterness is much more pronounced this time, with a slightly peculiar bitter aftertaste which spoils it a little. Nice, but not their best.
Overall, a very tasty collection of beers with Skippers and Oysters both deserving of a special mention. I haven’t seen the brewery listed on the usual online suppliers, so your best bet is either to get lucky and find them in your local, or ask the brewery itself.