Bishops Finger

Last week I had a holiday from work, which also meant a holiday from my blog. I’m back this week and stronger than ever! I’ve decided that I need to mark at least 100 beers off my epic list prior to year’s end; that’s another 18 beers before New Years. Not a difficult task, considering I’ve been hoarding some in the beer fridge for some time now. Time to get drinking – here’s beer number 83, Bishops Finger from UK brewer Shepherd Neame.

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The bottle says:
Even before my beer epiphany, I would always notice this beer on the bottle shop shelves; Bishops Finger is both the funniest and the seediest name for a beer that I’ve ever seen! The label explains the true and innocent origin of the name – something to do with travellers being directed to a Bishop via a sign in the road shaped like a pointing hand, known as the ‘Bishops Finger’. However when I read the alcohol percentage, I realised that at least one person in the company has embraced the dirtier connotations that the Bishops Finger evokes – at 5.4% it’s ‘right up to the knuckle’…so very wrong.

First Half:
The body is dark amber, nearly brown. Head is a light tan and diminishes quickly. Initial aromas are muted; there’s biscuity malt and an almost chocolate aroma similar to a porter. It even smells a little roasty?! The flavour at this early stage is also muted, but it’s the body of the beer that has me curious. At first the mouthfeel is light and inviting like a lager – quickly the bitterness emerges along with more sweet and roasted flavours, with the overall feel becoming thicker and heavier. Weird…but it is British, so I should give it some time to open up to me.

Second Half:
I’ve let it warm now, but the beer is still being difficult. The aroma hasn’t opened up much; it’s the same players with a little liquorice to boot. The taste is still confounding me. The sweetness has intensified into a toffee like malt. The bitterness has also become stronger, and is present from start to finish. It’s not an intense bitterness, but it’s full of complexity. The finish still shows the unexpected roasted flavours, and there’s even some grape skin tannins in the aftertaste.

Final Thoughts:
Bishops Finger is a strong ale that seems to have an identity crisis; It looks like an amber ale, has a mouthfeel that teases of lager, with flavours that point towards a porter. Not to mention the aftertaste of red wine – the grape skin ‘tannins’ become more apparent well after the drink is finished, and you realise that your mouth feels pasty & dehydrated, just like after you’ve been drinking red wine. It’s not what I would consider a refreshing beer, but it is very interesting.
This beer got the better of me, and I found it very hard to distinguish specific flavours and aromas. This may have been because it was my fourth drink of the night at the time; maybe because it was an exceedingly hot and humid night more suited to lagers and golden ales. Either way, I’ll be revisiting this beer again, in a sober state and during winter.

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