Tag Archives: Marble

The best IPA in Britain

AxeEdge

This is, in truth, a post I’ve wanted to write for a long while. A list – my list – of the best IPA’s in Britain. The problem is, every time I sit down and riffle through the selection of names, there are more to consider. Another one arrives seemingly every week. The demand for India Pale Ale on this, rightful, side of the Atlantic is growing at a pace comparable to the other side. Well, almost; the US craft beer scene is the standard-bearer for hop-forward IPA’s, and probably always will be. But, we’re catching up here in the UK, fittingly churning out more of our beloved style.

That s-word is one that leads to a whole host of blind alleys, each one containing a different beer expert, slowly pounding a cudgel against an open palm. This post is by no means intended to be a definitive list of IPA’s – heck, some might not even be true India Pale Ales. I’m no style expert. Nor do I enjoy constraining beers into rigid pigeonholes. However, I have used a few simple rules. These are beers I (or RateBeer/Beer Advocate) consider IPA’s – so therefore I have excluded Double/Imperials as a result. No Moor JJJ, Fyne Ales Superior IPA or Magic Rock Human Cannonball here.*

*That’s pretty much the start of the next list, I think…

Also, I’m going with fairly golden, reasonably standard IPA’s – so, likewise, there’s no place on this list for India Pale Ales that are black (Hardknott Code Black), red (Brodies Hackney Red) or those that have other grains in (Tempest RyePA) or unusual adjuncts (Kernel Suke Quto Coffee IPA). Speaking of the Bermondsey powerhouse, to stop a brewery having too many hits in the list, I’ve also taken the hard, hard step of only considering each brewery once. This prevents over-Kernalisation (something to be welcomed, on any other day).

Originally, I was just going for ten – but came up with so many alternatives I broadened the scope to twenty. In truth, I could probably have piled in even more. You may notice that the list reflects a certain style of IPA – feel free to comment on that if you’re a fan of Deuchars IPA or Sam Smith’s India Ale. I go for strong, hoppy, fresh-tasting IPA’s that make my tastebuds tingle. This list reflects that. Please feel free to disagree in the comments, or (as is inevitable) mention any that I have forgotten or neglected to include. Cheers!

 

RajIPA20. Tryst Raj IPA (5.5%)
From one of Scotland’s most under-rated brewers; one of Scotland’s most under-rated beers. When it came out around five years ago, Raj IPA announced a step change for John McGarva – until that point, session ales were his thing, either dark or light. This was his first beefy number, and on cask it still has the power to surprise, even today. Alongside the lemon and orange flavours, there’s more than a hint of earthy backbone about it – on cask, there are few IPA’s from north of the border that can match it.

 

 

 

MarbleLagonda19. Marble Lagonda (5.0%)
Here we have the first application of ‘the Kernel rule’ – with Marble’s Lagonda IPA. The Manchester concern have long dispensed golden hop bombs to the lucky locals of the Marble Arch – and there are few better beers than Lagonda to enjoy as the glowing sun filters through the windows there. Utility IPA could also be on this list, quite frankly – and if I was allowing adjuncts, Earl Grey IPA would be too (very near the top). As it is, one brewer, one IPA, and we can more than make do with the brilliant Lagonda.

 

 

 

WilliamsJoker18. Williams Brothers Joker (5.0%)
Joker is in this list for one simple reason – I was reminded recently just how good it can be. Having drunk more than my fair share of Williams Brothers’ IPA in the past, it had been registered, logged and mentally filed away. A great beer – also under-rated in Scotland – one of the best ‘no-thinkum’ beers you can stack the fridge with. However, a visit to Leith’s Vintage the other week – a charbar* part-owned by the Alloa brewers, and a pint of Joker brought back all those memories – and more. In short, it was superb. You can fly through this, nuzzled by citrus as you go.

*charbar being the modern, charcuterie-forward version of a gastropub, of course.

 

 

 

RadicalRoad17. Stewart Radical Road (6.4%)
Loanhead’s Stewart Brewing have been quietly upping the ante over the last year or so – beers such as No3 and Copper Cascade making way for black IPA’s, Belgian-style tripels, and the beer that arguably started it all – Radical Road. Brewed as a one-off, it has swiftly moved into the ‘regular’ folder for Stewart – based largely on public opinion. As their new brewery is taking shape, complete with public brewkit and growler station, their honeysuckle-edged Radical Road definitely seems to have marked the crossover point.

 

 

 

Cannonball16. Magic Rock Cannonball (7.4%)
Huddersfield’s finest were one of the easiest to include on this list – as a series of beers, their ‘Cannonball run’ has blasted into the hearts of hop-loving drinkers all over the UK. The original may have been overtaken on the geekblogs by the walloping double IPA Human Cannonball (itself surpassed by the upcoming Un-human Cannonball), but the debut India Pale Ale is one of their very best beers (and talking about Magic Rock, that’s not an easy assumption to make). But an abundance of tropical fruit and resin – what’s not to like?

 

 

 

HoxtonSpecial15. Brodies Hoxton Special IPA (6.6%)
San Diego or Portland may consider themselves IPA towns, but London is the place for our favoured beer style. Brodies are one of the city’s most prolific brewers, churning our dozens of different cask beers from their base in Walthamstow. A full-on blast of California sunshine, Hoxton Special sings out of the glass with every mouthful. Passion fruit, grapefruit, papaya and mango – as good as any hop-forward C-bomb from the Pacific Coast.

 

 

 

MeantimeIPA14. Meantime India Pale Ale (7.5%)
Staying in London for our next pick, Meantime claim to be ‘Britain’s only producer of authentic India Pale Ale’. Whether that means they are the only ones to pack Goldings and Fuggles into a beer like this, or they send it to bottle shops via Kolkata, I don’t know. But it’s a great beer – and a fantastic IPA. Greenwich’s finest have put out a lot of different lines since their India Pale Ale came out, but few better.

 

 

 

LotusIPA13. Ilkley Lotus IPA (5.6%)
Another cracker from another seriously under-rated brewery. Ilkley hit the jackpot with Lotus IPA – a fantastic mix of Cascade and Summit hops – giving a sweet, pineapple and peach flavour to the beer. Lotus is a prime example of a cask-led, session-strength brewery turning everything up, just a little, and really coming good. Of all the IPA’s on this list, Lotus is the one that would catch up with you the quickest, being supremely quaffable at 5.6%.

 

 

 

HarbourIPA12. Harbour IPA (5.0%)
Cornwall – pounding surf, pasties and fishermen with impenetrable, fixed-distance stares. As they stand, rigid, on the decks of surging trawlers, maybe they are thinking about the one that got away. Or, they could be rapt with attention on the beers they’ll be knocking back once they beach the boat and stumble up the shingle. Harbour IPA – again, since enveloped by doubles of different hoppage, is a cracking beer in cask or bottle.

 

 

 

SummitIPA11. Acorn Summit IPA (5.0%)
Barnsley’s finest knocked one halfway to Leeds with their single-hop Summit IPA, brewed (as far as I can tell) just the once. I was trying to avoid hard to find, unusual beers such as this (otherwise Rooster’s Serlo de Burgh would have to be in this list), but had to make an exception for Acorn’s Summit. I only ever saw this once, in Edinburgh on cask, and it was fabulous. Like standing on a Caribbean beach at sunrise (only with rain battering on the windows).

 

 

 

SWBDiablo10. Summer Wine Diablo (6.0%)
There can’t be a harder working pair in British brewing than Andy and James from Holmfirth’s Summer Wine. They seem to be permanently at work, double brewdays throughout the week, travelling to all ends of the country (even Scotland) for their craft. Hard work only gets you so far, of course, but the SWB guys really back it up with their creative take on modern styles. As pretentious as that sentence sounds, it’s absolutely true of Diablo – the first Summer Wine beer I ever had. I can still remember reeling in Mr Foleys, Leeds, from the grapefruit-laced right hook it delivered.

 

 

 

SouthvilleHop9. Bristol Beer Factory Southville Hop (6.5%)
Modern, hop-forward IPA’s are all about the fruit flavours, and how they interplay with the other components of the beer. The sweeter malt notes, or the punchy, bitter resin. Southville Hop (to my taste buds, at least) combines two of the most complementary of those fruit flavours – pineapple and grapefruit. Yes, it sounds like a Lilt advert – but if any brewer in the UK would be advised to release an Alco-Lilt, it would be BBF. Southville Hop is a stunner, and deservedly in the top 10 British IPA’s.

 

 

 

69IPA8. Lovibonds 69 IPA (6.9%)
Speaking of two complementary elements, the next IPA on the list features the easy marriage of Centennial and Columbus. Lovibonds 69 IPA blends the two C-hops almost perfectly, and gives a beer that would not be out of place in any Pacific hop-den – which was pretty much the intention. Lovibonds’ beers are as outspoken as their creator, Jeff Rosenmeier; 69 IPA walks the walk, and strides boldly into the resinous territory of the puckering tastebud. A revelation.

 

 

 

Halcyon7. Thornbridge Halcyon (7.7%)
So, back to the ‘Kernel rule’ and representing Thornbridge – who, had to be in this list somewhere – is the jaw-trembling Halcyon. Jaipur probably has more fans – or, it certainly used to – but Halcyon is simply stunning. It may verge into the double IPA category, but when a beer is this good, styles go out of the window (as do morning meetings the next day). Prepare that shaky-sounding phone call to the boss, and crack open another.

 

 

 

BraveNewWorld6. Tempest Brave New World (7.0%)
With India Pale Ales, I get the impression that some are made by breweries because they feel obliged – the kind of ‘oh, well, people like them so we should put one out’ mentality. Without exception, those kinds of beers become middling, and unbalanced. It’s almost as if that attitude becomes reflected in the final beer. Thankfully, there are IPA’s where you drink them and think ‘You know what? I bet this beer is the first thing this brewery wanted to make’ – Brave New World is just such a beer – I’ll wager any amount you care to mention that it’s the favourite beer of the guys in Kelso. It certainly shows in the final product.

 

 

 

GreenDevil5. Oakham Green Devil (6.0%)
Peterborough’s Oakham produce some spellbinding golden, hoppy cask beer – such as the (almost) peerless Oakham Citra. The cheerfully menacing scaly hop peers out from that pump clip, just as his horned counterpart does for Oakham Green Devil. This is one of those beers that if you ever see it on at a pub, it’s time to count the blessings and order it. Doesn’t matter what else is there – dance with that green devil and forget everything else. Without doubt, one of the best beers in the UK.

 

 

 

AKA4. Cromarty AKA IPA (6.7%)
From here on in, these beers are pretty much interchangeable depending on which I have sampled the most recently. Cromarty AKA is (in my opinion) the best IPA in Scotland, and getting on the way to taking over the whole country. Made by the most charmingly affable brewer you could ever hope to meet, in a brewery that looks out over the wind-churned whitecaps of the Cromarty Firth, AKA is the real deal. It shows exactly what the modern IPA should be about – that blend of citrus and resin on the flavour is pretty much as good as it gets. If you haven’t heard of this beer yet, you will – it’ll make Craig Middleton a household name in brewing circles.

 

 

 

GreatEastern3. Redchurch Great Eastern India Pale Ale (7.4%)
Drinking beer is (amongst other things) about discovery. Hearing about new breweries, stumbling across new pubs, and trying new beers. I remember trying Redchurch’s Great Eastern IPA for the first time, in the Holyrood 9A in Edinburgh. It reminded me of a distilled sweet shop – honeysuckle, pear drop, pithy orange zest. For such a new brewery, it’s a quite astonishing achievement. London is awash with new breweries – which is great, of course – but as the other capital’s legion of drinkers nose around, looking out these new drinking options, they need only head to Hackney for the very best.

 

 

 

KernelIPACitra2. Kernel India Pale Ale Citra (7.2%)
Well, Hackney and Bermondsey. The Kernel are unstoppable – since moving into larger premises they have continued almost unabated. The freedom they have from brewing whatever they want, with whatever hops or malt they can get hold of, is infectious. People in the food industry talk about seasonality. The Kernel do this with brewing – small batch, no fuss, get it out fresh, simple and effective. They’re the brewery BrewDog wish they could be, but never will. Evin’s original IPA Citra is still one of the beers that truly affirmed my love of modern, well-made British beer. Some bigger IPA’s have Citra piled in to such an extent, it gives a leading edge of astringency – but not this classic.

 

 

 

axe_edge2709101. Buxton Axe Edge (6.8%)
So, here we are. The best India Pale Ale in Britain comes from the Peak District – Buxton’s Axe Edge. This, to me, could be the perfect beer. High strength, to give the alcohol body, but not monstrously high that you can’t have at least a few. The mix of Amarillo, Nelson Sauvin and Citra that point to every part of the hop compass – sweet orange, vinous lime, juicy pineapple. For me, it’s mango that always seems to come out first (the most moreish of all hop flavours), building to a rich, sweet pine and caramel finish. It’s sublime, and works on cask, keg or bottle. Soon to be brewed by the newly arriving Colin Stronge – no pressure, Col – it remains the IPA by which all others should be judged. Oh, and I know the label says Double IPA, but I couldn’t put this list together without Axe Edge, pride of place at the very top.

UPDATE
Denis at Buxton confirmed to me this morning that Axe Edge has not been referred to as a ‘Double IPA’ for a while – they class it as a regular India Pale Ale…

Best new beers of 2012…the best of the rest

Last week, we turned the BeerCast over to the newcomers – the six best new British beers of 2012. Of course, with twelve months of full-on beer drinking under our (gradually expanding) belts, there were plenty more that could have made the list. As we move into the final blog-posting week before Christmas, it’s time to look back at the rest of the great new British beers we were lucky enough to try, and run down some of the ones that were just as outstanding as the six we mentioned last week.



Back in January we named Tempest Brewing Co as the Scottish brewer to watch, and over the course of the year, they didn’t disappoint. Released back in February, Cresta Black had a huge amount of flavour at 4% (possibly due to the added walnut power bars), and they then followed it with the 8% Double Cresta. Their all-rye beer World of Pain still causes wincing from Gavin and Allan, but it was (to us drinkers, at least) utterly worth it. Tempest are currently looking for larger premises near to their converted Kelso dairy, and when they get a larger facility sorted – look out.

We have a rough rule of thumb – referred to around BeerCast HQ as ‘the Kernel rule’ that only a single beer from each brewery gets into our top six.* So, step forward Marble Earl Grey IPA, Roosters Londinium, and pretty much every other beer Craig Middleton made up in Cromarty. Rogue Wave, Red Rocker – both sit alongside AKA IPA as the very best you can get hold of at the moment. I don’t want to pre-empt our 2013 breweries to watch post, but I’ll give you three guesses who we’re picking for next year.

*Ironically this year, not a single Kernel beer did actually make it – but their Table Beer is an absolute treat, and the pick of their many, many, full-on IPA’s released in 2012 was surely their IPA Double Citra.

It wouldn’t be a best new beers feature without mention of Summer Wine or Magic Rock. They both have that brewing gift – augmented by skill, forethought and a huge amount of hard work. You could pretty much name any of their beers from the last twelve months, but I particularly enjoyed two of the lesser-praised SW beers – Half-Wit and Mokko Milk Stout, the latter being the best representation of the style I’ve had for a long time. As for Magic Rock, it was Clown Juice, the ‘India Wit’, that really sticks out – just superb.

Finally, heading back to Scotland, other picks from the year in hops would have to include Fyne Ales Superior IPA (which was – in every respect), and Stewart Brewing Radical Road – a modern classic, and one which spurred them on to producing a great Black IPA. This year’s SRAF saw me drink a lot of Spey Valley’s Spey Stout – the pick of the festival – but the beer that so nearly made it into last week’s top six is that pictured above – Alechemy Five Sisters. As good an amber ale as you can find, anywhere.



Well, that’s a lot of beer – and I didn’t even get to mention Redchurch’s Great Eastern IPA. There were other things I haven’t touched on – so join us on Wednesday as we talk about the brewery who made the leap in 2012 into becoming, hands-down, the best in Scotland. Find out who (and how) then, and let us know in your comments other great new British beers you enjoyed in 2012 – or stablemates of those we’ve mentioned that we should have included!

Best new beers of 2012…Marble Northern Quarter Bitter

The next in our list of best new British beers of 2012 (which we are posting in order of release) first appeared back in late August, and was the perfect example of how important context can be. A bitter – made in Manchester, named after an area of Manchester, and drunk in Manchester…



Northern Quarter Bitter (4.5%)
Marble Brewery, Manchester
(cask, released August)

At the start of October, the Independent Manchester Beer festival took place amidst the hugely atmospheric Edwardian splendour of the Victoria Baths. Travelling down from Scotland for the IMBC, I managed to meet my Dad for a few beers prior to the festival (having dragged him out of his local, the City Arms). We went, entirely on my suggestion, to a pub neither of us had been to before – the Marble Arch, purely because I wanted to pay it a visit and try more of Marble’s beers (they rarely make it this far North).

We had a great time there, surrounded by rugby league fans and sinking back several pints – as such, I turned up at the IMBC already half-cut, which isn’t exactly great preparation for a festival of that potential. But, at it turned out, one of the Marble beers I had earlier that day knocked spots off anything I had there. Named after the nearby hip area of the city, Northern Quarter Bitter was first launched at the annual bank holiday street party, in late August. On the bar at the Marble Arch, alongside Pint, Dobber and the rest, Northern Quarter was, to us, an entirely unknown quantity.

But what a revelation. Described as a ‘heavily hopped best bitter’ the balance of biscuit dryness and citrus was just fantastic – the wonderful way it moved from semi-sweet caramel, through to lemon and lime, before finishing dry and earthy. Northern Quarter is as near to the perfect cask-conditioned bitter I’ve ever had. As much as I enjoyed IMBC (and I really did), the most memorable beer of the weekend turned out to be that pint of best sunk with my Dad beforehand.



From tomorrow, we have only two more best-of beers to go – and for the next choice, we (finally) come home to Scotland, for the release of a beer that got everybody talking. Find out what it is tomorrow, and then check back on Saturday for our final best new British beer of 2012.

In praise of…The Marble Arch

Manchester has no shortage of great pubs, and for someone travelling there from some distance away, stumbling around and discovering them is a great pastime. However, a couple of weeks ago I was down for the IndyManBeerCon and managed to combine the festival with a specific, targeted visit to one of the city’s institutions. I’d wanted to go to the Marble Arch for some time, having heard all kinds of good things about it – and with my Dad also in town for the day, it made perfect sense – particularly as he was willing to chance his arm on a pub other than his local, the City Arms.

The Marble Arch is found on Rochdale Road, a decent stroll from the city centre through the Northern Quarter – an interesting lattice of one-way streets and quirky shops. Not for everyone’s taste, though – I passed a couple of teenage girls in time to hear one say “I can’t stand places like this, it’s full of posers.” I guess you can’t please everybody. On that particular Saturday it was also full of rugby league fans – surely the least poserish group of people on the planet. The Challenge Cup Final was taking place at Old Trafford, so Manchester was teeming with Leeds and Warrington fans, in their vibrant polyester shirts.

Even from the outside, the Marble Arch looks the business. Back in the day, it must have been a real focal point for the passing trade on Rochdale Road – now it’s sadly overshadowed by steel and glass buildings, and blocks of flats. A large advertising board screens one entire side of the pub, hiding it from the road. Inside, the pub is astonishing – everything in the front room is tiled (except for the floor, which is mosaic’d). My pathetic cameraphone photos couldn’t do it justice – the green walls and vaulted ceiling are fabulous. The bar is at one end, with a separate dining canteen through the back (and beer garden – if only Edinburgh pubs of this calibre had beer gardens).

I found my Dad – or, rather, he found me – as he was sat with a bunch of Warrington Wolves fans on the long side tables that run up either wall. It’s always fun when you sit down with a group of people you’ve never met and the first thing they say is “So, this is him, eh?” – but the rugby fans were great. Their game kicked off in five hours, but there they were, already ‘warming up’. It’s often said how different league fans are to football fans, but it really is true – both Wolves and Rhinos fans were drinking away together, bantering about the game. The Warrington fans we sat with were doubtful of their chances though (and so it proved – one of their players even making a significant sacrifice during the eventual defeat).

The Marble Arch is home to the Marble brewery, of course, and as a brewery tap it’s one of the best I’ve been to. Plenty of their beers were on – there was a full beer menu on every table (along with a food and a cheese menu – the Wolves fans were joking about there being a crisps menu). The two we sat with – Paul and Richard – were going from left to right along the bar, a neat idea let down by the fact that they had to backtrack for new beers that appeared filling the gaps. Also, when they’d arrived, the first beer on the left was Marble’s collaboration IPA brewed with Quantum – Physics – which rolled in at 7%. A nifty loosener.

I was only going to have a couple before heading off for several hours at the IMBC festival, but in the end enjoyed several pints there – how could you not? The beer was fantastic, even my Dad found a beer he loved (Marble Best – fulfilling his bitter-centric criteria). The Northern Quarter Bitter was even better, in my opinion, alongside classics such as Dobber and Lagonda IPA. There was a great selection in ‘keg corner’, including the Earl Grey IPA, and a solitary guest beer – Raw Brewing’s Citra Black Ale, which I was intrigued by, but couldn’t move away from the beers made on site.

The Marble Arch is a fantastic pub – it pretty much ticks all of the boxes. It looks amazing, makes its own beer, serves (apparently) great food, has menus on the tables, friendly staff – what could be better? Richard was keen to try his favourite Marble Ginger, and the woman serving made a point of coming over to us when it had gone on. I’m not sure his mate Paul appreciated it, being a mild fan – but a pub like the Marble Arch encourages you to try new beers, and strike up conversations with the people nearby. And isn’t that the best thing about drinking in this country?



The Marble Arch
73 Rochdale Road, Manchester M4 4HY
0161 832 5914
Marble Arch Twitter / Marble Brewery website / Marble Brewery Twitter

The beers of EBBC

Last weekend’s European Beer Blogger’s Conference wasn’t just about sitting listening to speakers, or catching up with fellow internet warriors from different parts of the country. Drinking beer played an unsurprisingly large part of the proceedings – whether brought by sponsors, poured by brewers, or snaffled from the case of Brooklyn Lager left at the back of the room.

There was also a live blogging session (or in my case, live scribbling) – ten beers, five minutes each, rotate to the next one. Rough and ready, it was a challenge when trying to listen to the brewery rep, and ask questions at the same time! Here are my notes as taken, before a few of the other beery highlights of a cracking drinking weekend.



LIVE BLOGGING SESSION

1. Otley Oxymoron (5.5%)
Black IPA – not on bandwagon, brewing this for years. Chinook, Galena (bitt) Galena, Citra, SAce (aroma) Carafa Malt, as style. Mocha and citrus on nose – roasty on taste. Too roasty for style? Great beer though – served from cask too. Bonus points.

2. Brains Dark (4.1%)
5mins very fast – more Welsh beer! Dark Mild. Styrian Goldings. Where are they from again? No head, plenty carbo. Molasses and coffee. Ashen finish. Had this before Conf started. Welsh people very friendly.

3. Marble Earl Grey IPA (6.8%)
Limited release, brewed with Emelisse. Their idea, everything else Marble. 40IBU. Mittlefru and Goldings. Earl Grey added in fermentor. Hazy gold. Lot of pineapple. Get the EG on finish (just). Tannins. Citra in aroma. Lovely.

4. Roosters Baby Faced Assassin (6.1%)
Homebrew recipe served from cask today. 100% Citra. Has every brewer used Citra now? Huge mango, smooth tropical fruit all the way – like a smoothie. Hides alc brilliantly. V v good indeed. Could drink this all day.

5. Great Heck Stormin’ Norman (6.5%)
Brewers are bringing the strong stuff for the bloggers. Described by Denzel as a hospital beer. Cask only – GH don’t bottle. Thin bitter. Perle hops. DH – Cascade Columbus. Decent.

6. Slaters Top Totty (4.0%)
Now infamous – 50% of their entire output. Wouldn’t answer how much it was before controversy (or couldn’t). Average beer – nothing wrong with it, other than the label. Did well for them though.

7. Camden Hells (4.6%)
USA hops rather than German. Unfiltered. Simcoe. 20IBU. Hazy gold, floral, touch catty from the Simcoe but really nice. Easy drinker. Mark Dredge can talk.

8. Adnams Ghost Ship
Missed abv. Presentation on ipad. Citra, DH w/Citra. Lots of crystal malt on finish, quite sweet. Not really favourite.

9. Innis & Gunn Scottish Pale Ale (7%)
Much-practiced answer to clear bottle question. Still think Irish Whisky Cask only good I&G beer. This one – flat, hugely sweet banana, slick whisky. What’s Scottish about this?

10. Leeds Hellfire Bitter (5.2%)
Serve Cold. From bottle. Good idea to pitch to clubs for drinkers. Beer is nice enough. Touch of sharpness. Looks like a ginger beer though, would confuse Stella drinkers.



Beers of the EEBC

Unfiltered cask Pilsner Urquell (4.4%)
A revelation. Tapped personally by the head brewmaster from Pilsen himself, we were presented with glass after glass of this. Softens the edges of the regular PU brilliantly, it reminded me of the unfiltered lagers I’d just been drinking in Berlin. Floral, slightly fruity – if they sold this in the UK I’d buy it all the time.

Extraomnes Zest (6.9%)
Served at the ‘night of International beer’ by the exceedingly dapper Alessio Leone – many of the Italian beers really hit the spot. Extraomnes’ zest was lovely – lots of lemon sherbert, straw, white pepper and a dry finish. Maybe next year’s EBBC should be in Milan?

Sharp’s Honey Spice Tripel (9.0%)
I really wasn’t expecting to like this, but it was really very nice indeed. Five hops, six spices and honey – there’s a lot going on, but it all works. What would otherwise be a sweet honey cereal beer is balanced by the dry spicing.

Roosters Londinium (5.5%)
Served by Ol and Tom Fozard at the Rooster’s tour (see tomorrow’s post), they make almost exclusively pale beer – but this is one of the exceptions. A coffee porter, really very drinkable. Creamy on cask, plenty of sweet mocha and almost no alcohol. Bitter finish – a cracker. Recently won the guys their first award.

Birra del Borgo L’Equilibrista 10.9%
Another Italian beer stole the show as well – del Borgo’s ‘champagne of beers’. Made with 39% sangiovese wine wort fermented with wine yeast, then refermented with champagne yeast – it’s as complex a beer as you could find. Hugely vinous, it almost smells like green asparagus. Bitter and first, then the yeast arrives – but dry finish. Wonderful.



Many thanks to all the brewers who gave up their time to talk to us bloggers, and everyone who provided the samples for us to try. Special thanks to Leo and the other European bloggers and brewery workers who made the long trip with their wares. Tomorrow on the BeerCast – a tour of Yorkshire’s best new secret – the rejuvented Rooster’s Brewery.

RateBeer Roundup V

With the latest RateBeer tasting coming only a few days after the end of the GBBF at Earl’s Court, it always threatened to be a big one. So it proved, as a combination of guest bloggers and GBBF-engorged suitcases resulted in twenty-five beers being drunk over the course of six hours. 25! Thankfully it was a week-end, so the tasting became relatively consequence-free. I say relatively, of course. Many thanks, as ever to Craig for hosting and providing most of the beers, also several from Steve at Beers I’ve Known were really good indeed.

We began with one of those – Holgate The Empress (10%), hailing from a Victoria brewery that few around the table (Australians excepted) had heard of. What a way to start – a chocolatey imperial stout, with a sweetness that gave it a chocolate brownie flavour. That may get a touch sweet after a while, but on a sample it was tremendous. We followed that with another couple of dark ones – Sierra Nevada Fritz and Ken’s Stout (9.2%), and Deschutes The Abyss 2010 Reserve (11%). The latter was a touch bourbony for me, but the SN was lovely.

Into the specials next, with the raspberry juice flavours of Redoak Framboise Froment (5%), the lemon juice flavours of Pretty Things Jack D’Or Saison (6.4%), and the Demerara sugar flavours of Sierra Nevada Brewer’s Reserve Grand Cru (7.8%). Other highlights included the remarkable O’Hanlon’s Special Reserve 2010 (12.9%) – walloping booze mixed with sweet, woody caramel – and New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red (4%), which reminded me of the triangle of mulchy jam in a cherry Muller Fruit Corner.

Next up, 3 Fonteinen Oude Gueze 2007 (6%) – a violently fruity Belgian sour, which was more dry than puckering – and very lime cordial-esque. The darker beers then came back – we fired through Brooklyn Black Ops (10.7%), Struise Pannepeut 2006 (10%), SKA Nefarious Ten Pin (8%) and Avery Czar Imperial Stout (11.6%) in short order – the Brooklyn being the pick, extremely well-balanced throughout – unlike the Ten Pin, which didn’t really do it for me.

British beers came next, as we sampled Marble’s Manchester Tripel (9%) – very nice, quite zesty. Tasted like a strong IPA at first, but the Belgian flavours appeared on the aftertaste. Kernel Pale Ale Riwaka (4.9%) showcases a hop I’d not heard of until recently, but it was lovely. Refreshing citrus and grapefruit. However, Kernel’s Pale Ale Mount Hood was frighteningly bitter – so much so that it dominated every other component, and was overly sharp. I think that’s my seventeenth different Kernel beer, and finally I found one I don’t like.*

The next slab of dark American beers came and went – Full Sail Imperial Stout (7.5%) was a highlight, a classic roasty coffeeish boozefest. South Oregon Pinup Porter (5.5%) and Pelican The Perfect Storm 2009 didn’t quite match up – the Pinup because of the abv (although it would make a terrific session porter – we’re not alcohol whores here). The Pelican was a barrel-aged barley wine, a style I just can’t get along with – whisky, syrup and woody sweetness in spades.

That was about it – by now it was approaching 1am and the tasting notes were getting a little out of focus. I’d also sustained a minor shoulder injury after being shot by the cork from one of the Sierra Nevada reserves (ceiling ricochet – we all accept the risks in this business). We had time for an Imperial Rye Munich Ale – which is a new style in my book (Short’s Brew Ginger in the Rye), and a very nice big NZIPA from Epic (Mayhem at 6.2%). To be honest, ‘very nice’ is about all I can remember.



Thanks again to Craig for hosting – you can get a second opinion of the tasting at Steve’s blog here. Considering I’d put away 25 beers, I felt pretty chipper – a new record…!

*Not that I was looking, of course. 16/17 is a pretty outstanding strike rate