The next in the lineup of best new British beers of 2014 (in order of release) was the result of a collaboration between one of the UK’s most consistently brilliant breweries and a Florida outfit that beer fans here go crazy for. (and yes, Florida isn’t in Britain, but the beer was made here…)
Caribbean Chocolate Cake (7.4%)
Siren Craft Brew, Berkshire (with Cigar City)
Described as the ‘ultimate anti-recession blockbuster’, this beer was a true collaboration piece, in that both breweries sat down with a blank sheet of paper and let imaginations run riot. That’s the best thing about these kinds of meetings; the results of “Well, why can’t we do this” conversations have been some of the standout beers I can ever remember drinking. These flipboard-chats can also be the most risky though, of course, as those imaginations can lead to places that beer should never really end up. However, when you have Ryan Witter-Merithew and Wayne Wambles standing by the water cooler, you know that particular conversation will have a very interesting outcome indeed.
And so it proved. Caribbean Chocolate Cake is a ‘tropical stout’ that involved a technique Siren had never done before (but which is a staple of Cigar City); instead of ageing the beer in wood, wood was introduced to the beer, in the form of Cyprus (chips or staves, I’m not sure). The anti-recession tag was down to the fact it was also brewed with a number of experimental hop varieties, and specially-imported Dominican cacao nibs. Lactose was also added, to give the final beer a richness, and to really complement all the other smooth flavours. I remember picking up a bottle at the Edinburgh BrewDog bar and being instantly, and hugely, impressed. The word ‘interesting’ doesn’t do it justice.
Ryan’s beers always have a huge amount going on – it’s something you just come to expect. Last year’s Limoncello IPA produced with Mikkeller and Hill Farmstead narrowly missed going on the 2013 list, being one of the more memorable beers of that particular drinking year. Caribbean Chocolate Cake smashed pretty much everything else asunder this time around, though. It was stunning; one of those beers where every sip gives you a different flavour – and that is the true mark of a collaboration where absolutely nothing is left on the flipchart.
The fifth selection (out of six) of the best new British beers of 2014 will be revealed tomorrow; an amazing beer produced with one of the UK’s most talented homebrewers. Head back then to discover what that particular beer was. Ryan and Wayne then turned another page on the notepad and produced a special, one-off version of Caribbean Chocolate Cake with added Jerk spices for the Craft Beer Co’s Craft 100 festival…