You may remember that last year we visited the Botanist for the first time. At that time, we mentioned that the beer selection they offered seemed haphazardly put together, and that they had some lessons to learn about keeping the precious nectar in tip top condition. But, to be fair to them, they had only opened a week or so before we charged in there and we did say that these may have been teething problems with a brand new venue. It happens.
So when we were invited to go to a beer tasting at the Botanist we thought “great, let’s see how far they’ve come in a year”. We jumped at the chance, thank you very much, and put together a group of beer enthusiasts (and one novice yet to be converted at that point).
Thursday night seemed like miles away but finally yesterday we hopped over to town a little early, to check out what’s on tap, as you do. On cask we spied Red Willow (always a firm favourite of ours) Shameless, Beartown’s Bearly Literate, Purple Moose’s Glaslyn Ale and something new to us; Passionate Blonde (which we now know is brewed by our beer tour guide in conjunction with the lovely folk at Cloudwater Brewery)
The beer selection seemed a lot more consistent and as we deduced after a pint of the good stuff (Shameless) much better kept than the last time we popped in. Could it be that the Botanist had risen to the challenge set by the beer quaffing people of Chester? It certainly looked good.
Once our ensemble had arrived we were guided to the very top floor by the lovely Jess. This was a private little nook at almost ceiling level, perfect for the 7 strong group we were, plus Jess and the Botanists’ “beer guru”, Warren. There were some snacks and many, many glasses for many, many beers we were going to sample.
Warren thoroughly earned his “beer guru” title by talking us through the brewing process and giving us jars of hops and malts to fiddle with. Tom had some to taste as well, I know he may deny it but I know what I saw. Once we were all familiar with the components of the beer, we had some to taste. The beer selection was an ode to good, solid, classic beers with a few little twists:
- Nutty Black – Thwaites – 3.9%
- Passionate Blonde – In conjunction with Cloudwater Brewery (by Warren, our Beer Guru”) – 3.8%
- Lancaster Bomber – Thwaites – 4.4%
- Pacific Pale – In conjunction with Freedom Brewery (by Warren, again) 4.4%
- Bearly Literate – Beartown – 4.5%
- Shameless – Red Willow – 5.9%
- Erdinger Weissbier – 5.3%
- Unser Aventinus – Schneider Weisse – 8.2%
If that seems like a lot to take in – it was! But Warren was very patient with the hundreds of questions shot at him at the speed of light, and by the end of the session, our little group was full of knowledge, if a little tipsy. We experienced some serious beer myth busting, engaged into a debate about cans versus bottles (#teamcans 4-ever) and even our beer novice found a beer they liked. We always mentally high-five each other when someone who declares they don’t like beer, like beer. Welcome to the dark side, my friend, there’s no way out but it’s pretty nice in here.
So, I hear you all asking, what’s the verdict. Has the Botanist risen from the ashes of mediocrity into the fold of good ale houses? In short – yes. They clearly are passionate about what they do and they have a thirst for success, they know beer is “a thing” now and they want to cater for those who subscribe to the “thing”. But they also know that just any old tipple won’t do and the labyrinthine concoction we saw a year ago (a beer menu that left us more confused than thirsty) has now been honed into a finely oiled machine firing at full blast.
If you do get a chance to book yourself into these beer tasting sessions, we heartily recommend them. You can contact the team HERE and THIS is where you can find this particular watering (and feeding? Is that a thing?) hole in Chester.