After much searching and lengthy experimentation, I think I’ve finally found it:- the perfect after-work beer. The pint that doesn’t just hit the spot, but completely envelops it in comforting, punch-out-at-five-pm perfection. There’s an argument, of course, that any beer sunk immediately after finishing work is the best one – but although I can see this, some are suited that much more to forgetting the day’s grind and (as our American friends would have us say) ‘kicking-back’. So, what then are the criteria for this beverage? What specific points result in that perfect marriage of beer and end of day drinking? Well, here are my thoughts:-
a) Refreshment – this is the key at first, the beer needs to have three or four first sips (or gulps, if the day has been bad) that bring you back to life, slake the thirst and bring the sparkle back to tired eyes.
b) Taste – obviously, this then becomes important, as you get to the business end of the pint and begin to enjoy it for what it is. If this wasn’t important, we’d all be drinking lager or macro cider (which is why they advertise solely on refreshment, as they have little else to go on).
c) Lightness – controversial maybe, but after work – unless it’s snowing outside – you want something golden and zesty. I love stouts and porters, but would I drink a pint of Cairngorm Black Gold after work and feel the day’s woes slipping away? As good a beer as it is, probably not. It’s all about context, as ever.
d) Sessionability – you can bend my arm on this one – a 7% IPA would certainly have most of the other criteria covered, after all. But post-work drinking is about fast, consistent, lengthy drinking. Something under 5%, then. Also, as good as kegged beers are, the gentle rolling curves of cask ale are what you need for this particular situation.
e) Aftertaste – this is arguably the most important of all. That moment when you finish knocking the pint back and realise everyone else is staring at you, like that scene in Ice Cold in Alex. Then, the tastebuds start zinging and the day is completely forgotten. When the hops play across the palate, you are fully recharged, and ready to order another before wobbling home.
So, with all that in mind, what are these mystical 5pm saviours?
Dark Star American Pale Ale
The ultimate after-work beer? It was Dark Star’s APA that inspired this whole post, bolted very quickly at the Stockbridge Tap, singing lemon citrus the whole time (the beer, not me). A wonderful beer at any time, if you leave work on the ‘f’ of five it tastes all the better.
Hawkshead Windermere Pale
Ahh, Windy Pale. Bright and zesty, it could revive mummies in the British Museum. One of the most refreshing beers out there, from the kings of the golden English session beer.
Fyne Ales Avalanche
I’ve always said that Argyll’s finest are the Scottish equivalent of Hawkshead (or vice versa, depending on what side of the border you’re on). Both are rural, worth seeking out. Both have sleek brewery taps, and both put on cracking summer festivals. They also both excel at after-work beers. Sure, Jarl is well up there, but Avalanche needs you, too.
Justin at Moor Brewing Co may well have named this pearler exactly for the occasion – when tired eyes scan the pump clips, this is exactly what they are seeking out. Lots of grapefruit to help bring you back to life, alongside that easy-to-gasp name.
This could be the best 3% beer in the UK, and when sunk after work, it absolutely fulfils the brief. The balance of flavour is fantastic, with a crisp dryness marvelling the aftertaste, following citrus hops to reawaken the senses. It’s almost worth going to work for in the first place.
So, would you agree? What are you looking for in an after-work beer? And what are your favourites?