Tag Archives: Meantime

The best IPA in Britain


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.

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 2011…the best of the rest

List-making is par for the course at this time of year – which explains our recent flurry of posts detailing our favourite new British beers. The trouble with compiling lists, however, is that you can’t add everything (unless it’s one of those Channel 4 shows like ‘the best 100 children’s breakfast cereals’). Listing our six – and I’m not sure why we decided on six – best new beers that were launched in 2011 left plenty out of the picture. But here they all are!

Well, we did actually mention Kernel IPA Double Black during our nomination of stablemate IPA 100 Centennial. It was almost a coin-flip decision on which of the two made it – they were both sublime. Other beers put out by brewers who made it into the top six were RedWillow Ageless, and Tempest Citra and Canyonero. Ageless in particular drew great praise in 2011.

Looking at Kelso’s Tempest Brewing – Canyonero was one of the more remarkable beers I’ve had for ages. On the face of it, a 5.9% bitter. But the Pacific Jade and Wai-iti hops produced all kinds of aromas and flavours – oak, vanilla, pepper, toffee, spices. Staying in Scotland, this year was a fine one for Black Isle – and their new Scotch Ale and Black Stout could make 2012 their best year yet. They could have made the list, easily.

One of the most blogged-about brewers of the year weren’t represented either – Huddersfield’s Magic Rock. Yorkshire pundits featured them heavily in their ‘best of’ lists – and with good reason. Human Cannonball, Dark Arts, High Wire – all superbly drinkable, and from a pretty much brand-new producer, Magic Rock have really hit the ground running.

Other great new beers that debuted in 2011 – Fyne Ales Sublime Stout, Meantime Yakima Red, Dark Star Carafa Jade and Thwaites Old Dan. Give me each of those on a night out, and I’d be a happy man indeed. The last twelve months have been a great vintage for British brewing – let’s hope the next twelve are even better…

If you have a standout new beer – then let us know in the comments section. Next up on the BeerCast, our annual Christmas Special podcast – our panel get to grips with six festive beers. After that, we preview our most important BeerCast of the year – our fifth annual Beer of the Year Show. Stay tuned…

Meantime, in sunny Greenwich…

We’ve had a bit of downtime on the BeerCast over the last week, as I’ve been in sunny London on a short break. Of course, while I was there I managed to fit in a spot of beery tourism alongside the more traditional kind – nowadays there’s no shortage of places to visit. The brewing scene in the other capital is enjoying something of a resurgence, as the likes of Redemption and the Kernel are gaining plaudits left right and centre. One of the more established players in the London market are Greenwich’s Meantime Brewery, having been established eleven years ago by master brewer Alistair Hook.

We’ve featured a few of their beers before – Meantime do a good job of getting their bottled beer into nationwide supermarkets – but finding their cask and/or keg beer in Scotland is usually much harder. The solution then, is to go to the source – which is what led me to the invitingly picturesque Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich on a barmy Spring afternoon. Located right on the Thames, Meantime moved here last year, re-opening the original 1836 brewery in the process.

I’ve often said that Edinburgh lacks beer gardens – which is understandable if you’ve ever felt a November wind here or seen the haar roll in off the Forth. London has seemingly hundreds – plus you can creep out from the pub and drink on the pavement (within reason). There can be few better things in life than lazing in a sunny beer garden for a couple of hours, watching the world go by (and then landing into Heathrow, if you’re in Greenwich).

The Old Brewery Bar and Restaurant is joined onto the interesting Discover Greenwich museum, which also opened last year. Through a set of large glass doors, and you’re into the Meantime brewhouse bar, which has a pretty impressive range of keg fonts, plus a couple of cask handpulls (including a guest – the brilliantly drinkable Darkstar Hophead on the day of my visit). But as so few of Meantime’s new or more unusual beers make it to Scotland, it was those I concentrated on.

First up was their relatively new Kellerbier (4.4%) – a Bavarian ‘cellar beer’, the historical style of unfiltered lager that was extremely popular in Franconia. Meantime produce a lot of lagers – their London Lager is an attempt to wrestle the market away from macro-producers. The Kellerbier is the same recipe (I believe), only unfiltered and unpasteurised. As a result I found it was more interesting (having had the London Lager previously), with a touch of malty sweetness and a slight spicy edge going on. It is only available from the Old Brewery, direct from the cellar, which adds to authenticity running though it.

Next up was another recent offering, Yakima Red (4.0%), Meantime’s seasonal for March. A fruity-looking reddish brown beer, on draught it was served slightly cold – but in the blazing London sunshine it soon warmed to let the flavours out. Designed to highlight the hops from Washington State’s Yakima Valley, this one is all about the aroma – which was wonderful. Big resinous hops, grass and a decent amount of malt, the flavours follow on from that really well indeed. British versions of the classic American Red aren’t that common – BrewDog 5am Saint springs to mind (Yakima was pretty similar, albeit with less hop bite). Hopefully this will become more than just a seasonal.

After tucking into an enormous plate of fish and chips I had wanted to finish on the big note of another beer only available at the Old Brewery – Hospital Porter (8.0%), but sadly it was off. I settled instead for London Stout (4.5%). I’m not sure we can mention dark London beers without a nod to the Kernel – but I think everyone involved would agree Meantime’s are brewed to be more mainstream. Their London Stout is a decent drinker, good roasty bitterness and some chocolate on the palate, which is quite thin but not so much that it holds the beer back. Sitting in the sun by the Thames, I certainly wasn’t complaining in any way…

Meantime Brewery
The Old Brewery, Greenwich

Lagerboy Speaks – Meantime Union

These days the primary style of European lager that reaches these shores is the all-conquering pilsner (either Bohemian or German). But back in the day there were others that came from the Continent – Muncheners and Viennese lagers that were popular before the light-coloured beer from Pilsen took over. Slightly darker and less hoppy, these styles faded before the Bohemian wave of Saaz-filled treasures from the east. But they do still exist – and recently Lagerboy managed to find an award-winning Vienna style lager from the banks of the Thames – Meantime Union (4.9%). Founded in 1999, Meantime produce a consistently good range of beers, many of which (including Union) having been voted best in class at various year’s World Beer Awards.

The first thing you notice is that Union is extremely fizzy – it pours highly carbonated, with a swiftly dispersing head that leaves a regular rising stream of bubbles. The second thing of note is the colour – a clear coppery brown from the dark lager malts. There’s little hops on the aroma – as you’d expect, Vienna’s being more subtle than pilsners. In fact, the whole flavour is subdued, very dry and with some hops coupled with the malt, making it a smooth, easy drinker. There’s a slight caramel sweetness on the aftertaste that peters out pretty quickly, leaving the whole thing thin and uninspiring. It’s an excellent approximation of the style, but not a great style at that. Gentle, unassuming beers can be great – like Union – it’s just sometimes they leave you wanting more.

Meantime Brewing

BeerCast #14 – London Beers

Our fourteenth podcast features beers from London, and was recorded in December 2007. At the time our Christmas and Beer of the Year specials had to take priority, but now it’s time to delve into the archives, as the ales we sampled deserved recognition – for once on the BeerCast, all four seem to meet with our approval. Panellists Richard, Shovels and Grooben tackle Young’s Special London Ale (6.4%) – which is now no longer brewed in London – before moving on to Fuller’s London Porter (5.4%). The third item on the beery menu is Meantime’s award-winning Chocolate Stout (6.5%), before we finish on a fruity note with Fuller’s Jack Frost (4.5%). Not really one for early April – but in December, far more apt…

1. Young’s Special London Ale (6.4%abv)
Wells & Youngs, Bedford.
500ml glass bottle

The Ram Brewery in Wandsworth started commercial brewing in 1581 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, and produced ale for the local hostelry called the Ram’s Inn. The brewery distributed by horse and cart to the local area until 1803 when the world’s first public railway opened from Wandsworth to Croydon enabling transport by rail. In 2004 Young’s (as they had become) announced a “review of brewing operations” and two years later on the 25th September 2006 closed their Wandsworth concern and moved outside the city to Bedford. Here they merged with Charles Wells’s Eagle brewery and renamed the operation Wells & Young’s Company. So sadly Young’s Special London Ale is no longer brewed in London – but it has been CAMRA’s Champion Bottled Beer of Britain three times (1999, 2004, 2005).

What They Say“Special London Ale is an absolute classic, a winner of many awards. Why? Despite its strength it’s sublimely drinkable. The malty richness is countered by huge amounts of hops to create a perfectly balanced, wonderfully aromatic, dry, fruity flavour.” [Label tasting notes]

What We Say
Shovels – I quite like it, this would creep up on you
Richard – Dark and strong with the higher alcohol tastes 7
Grooben – Malty and nice, with a definite fruitiness 7

2. Fuller’s London Porter (5.4%abv)
Fuller’s Brewery, Chiswick, London.
500ml glass bottle

The Griffin Brewery has been sited in a leafy corner of Chiswick for over 350yrs. Popular with rowers and boating clubs, the Hounslow location by the Thames is on the site of a late-medieval cheese fair (from which the name Chiswick derives). Fullers – full name ‘Fuller Smith and Turner plc’ are one of London’s success stories, having won the coveted CAMRA Champion beer of Britain award five times in it’s 25 year history. Their flagship brand is London Pride, which is available pretty much everywhere in the south of England. They also produce a honey beer which we sampled in episode four (although the panel didn’t really take to it), and a London Porter, which we are trying in this episode.

What They Say“Fuller’s London Porter is smooth, rich, and strong (5.4% a.b.v.), and is brewed from a blend of brown, crystal and chocolate malts for a creamy delivery balanced by traditional Fuggles hops.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Richard – Dark and strong but really nice right from the off 8
Grooben – Classic burnt chocolate and coffee flavours 8
Shovels – Flavourful without being overpowering – a fine porter 7

3. Meantime Chocolate Stout (6.5%abv)
Meantime Brewery, Greenwich.
330ml glass bottle

Founded in 1999 by a group of friends in London, production at the Meantime brewery first started in April 2000. It was the only British brewery to win medals at the 2004 World Beer Cup (for it’s Viennese lager), and repeated the feat in 2006. They went considerably better in 2007, collecting five ‘world’s best’ at the World Beer Awards, then having four of their range included in the International Beer Challenge’s 50 best beers in the world. One of the heralded varieties is their Chocolate Stout, which was one of the five to win at the aforementioned World Beer Awards. Will our panel think it’s a world beater?

What They Say“A silky-smooth suppertime beer, created using dark malts and chocolate. Pronounced vanilla notes fuse the chocolate and malts together to give a rich, warming, flavour that also works well as a complement to fruity desserts, summer puddings and autumn berries.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Grooben – Not to be glugged at but I’m pleasantly surprised 8
Richard – Chocolatey bitterness in the aftertaste, it’s really nice 7
Shovels – Cold drinking chocolate, I preferred the Fuller’s

4. Fuller’s Jack Frost (4.5%abv)
Fuller’s Brewery, Chiswick, London.
500ml glass bottle

Our final beer is another from the Griffin Brewery, London’s most successful independent producer. But moving past London Pride, ESB, or any of their regular beers (which are all pretty good – ESB in particular), the BeerCast tackle one of their seasonals – Jack Frost. An impressively dark reddish beer with added Blackberries (or Brambles, if you’re from north of the border). We’re unsure if this counts as a bona fide fruit beer, or is just a beer with fruit in. We’re not even sure if there’s a difference – but are we sure about Jack Frost?

What They Say“Full flavoured, deep red in colour and exceptionally moreish, Jack Frost is the perfect accompaniment to many a cold winter’s day. Brewed with crystal malt and a dash of blackberries, Jack Frost delivers a fruity, robust yet refreshing flavour that lingers long on the palate.” [Label Tasting Notes]

What We Say
Shovels – Clean, refreshing, all year round this would sell well 7
Grooben – Not really that blackberryish, doesn’t justify itself
Richard – No warmth, nothing to draw you in 6

BeerCast panel verdict

Fuller’s London Porter – 23/30
Young’s Special London Ale – 21½/30
Meantime Chocolate Stout – 21½/30
Fuller’s Jack Frost – 19½/30

Panellists – (from bottom right) Grooben, Richard, Shovels



We’ll be back in a couple of weeks with episode 15 – a romp around the world of Scottish IPA’s. Stay tuned for details…and please leave us comments on the blog or iTunes, or emails. Cheers!

BeerCast #9 – Christmas Special

Happy Christmas from all at the BeerCast! Hopefully you’re all eager to indulge in the trappings of the season – and time spent with the family sitting in front of Morecambe and Wise repeats is great beer drinking time. So with that in mind, the BeerCast panel sample four festive beers that you might come across in your local tinsel-decked bottle shop. Firstly we sample Meantime Winter Time (5.4%), from Greenwich in south London. Then we journey to the scene of our last podcast and taste Erdinger’s Schneewiesse Winterbier (5.6%), to see how it differs from their usual wheatbeer fare. Our third tempter is Anchor’s Special Christmas Ale (2006) (5.5%), surprisingly the first ever American beer drunk on the BeerCast. But as the scores show, one that was certainly worth the wait. Finally, the panel drink a Belgian Christmas tipple with a fantastically OTT label – Gordon’s Xmas (8.8%). Find out how we get on, and if any bring some festive cheer to wintry Edinburgh…

1. Meantime Winter Time (5.4%abv)
Meantime Brewery, Greenwich (UK).
500ml glass bottle

Founded in 1999 by a group of friends in London, production at the Meantime brewery first started in April 2000. It was the only British brewery to win medals at the 2004 World Beer Cup (for it’s Viennese lager), and repeated the feat in 2006. They went considerably better in 2007, collecting five ‘world’s best’ at the World Beer Awards, then having four of their range included in the International Beer Challenge’s 50 best beers in the world. They have a large and adventurous range, from coffee and chocolate beers (the latter of which was recently voted the world’s best), to a porter, IPA, wheat beer and raspberry beer. But today the BeerCast sample their seasonal Winter Time…

What They Say“To best enjoy Meantime Winter Time wrap up warm, go outside and kick up leaves in the street until the end of your nose goes red. Then step back into the warmth, open a bottle and let the soft aromas of roast coffee, chocolate and vanilla beckon. Savour the richness of dark, smokey malts supporting a palate of roast chestnuts, caramel and molasses whilst you wiggle the warmth back in your toes. English fuggles hops, dark malts and smoked malt provide a fireside warming brew.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Shovels – Some burnt flavours in there, it’s a tasty brew
Richard – Dark, smokey maltiness, really nice stuff 7
MrB – Definately a warmer, it’s like a nice smokey mulled wine 7
Grooben – Smells heady, it tastes a bit like a stout

2. Erdinger Schneewiesse Winterbier (5.6%abv)
Brauerei Erdinger, Erding (Ger).
500ml glass bottle

Our second visit to the Bavrian wheatbeer behemoths in two podcasts, as last time out we sampled their extremely tasty Dunkel Weissbier. For this seasonal edition, we got hold of their Schneewiesse Winterbier, or ‘Snow White’. Almost opaque when held up to the light, Erdinger describe it as a ‘special’ winter beer, which they first produced in December 1997. It is matured longer from the summer malt harvest until mid-October, apparently to make the flavours more pronounced. It’s only available from November to February, so is this one-off one to savour, or one to avoid?

What They Say“With a slightly darker colour and a slightly higher alcohol content than the classic Erdinger Weissbier, Schneewieße offers a really pleasant change at the coldest time of year, a time when we like to treat ourselves to something special. It’s amber colour and spicy taste is an ideal compliment to hearty foods such as those round the Christmas table. The taste of winter just got better!” [Official Website]

What We Say
Shovels – Just tastes of wheat beer, not great but not bad 6
MrB – There’s something slightly different that detracts from it 6
Grooben – Some honeycomb going on, I’m not sold on it 6
Richard – If I had it with a turkey dinner it would be nicer 5

3. Anchor Our Special Ale 2006 (5.5%abv)
Anchor Brewery, San Francisco (USA).
350ml glass bottle

The Anchor Brewing Company is a well-known feature of San Francisco, and started life in 1896 under the resourcefulness of two German immigrant brewers Ernst Baruth and Otto Schinkel, who acquired the Pacific Brewery started by another ex-pat, and renamed it Anchor. After overcoming several tragedies, and the prohibition era, the landmark company were saved from closure in 1965 by Fritz Maytag, and have since gone from strength to strength. They are renowned for their annual special Christmas beer – which remarkably is brewed to a different recipe every year. Sadly the 2007 vintage has yet to reach us, but we more than made do with the 2006 version. BeerCaster Shovels used to live in San Francisco, and is a devoted fan of Anchor – but will he take to the Special Ale?

What They Say“Every year since 1975 the brewers at Anchor have brewed a distinctive and unique Christmas Ale, which is available from early November to mid-January. The Ale’s recipe is different every year—as is the tree on the label—but the intent with which we offer it remains the same.” [Official Website]

What We Say
MrB – Mulled red wine, cloves, it’s the most fantastic beer ever
Shovels – This tastes of Christmas, it’s spicy and just wonderful 9
Richard – What a great mix of spices, sugar and Christmas taste 8
Grooben – Great berry fruitiness, for the season it’s exceptional 8

4. Gordon Xmas (8.8%abv)
Brasserie John Martin, Genval (Bel).
350ml glass bottle

John Martin is part of the Anthony Martin conglomerate that dominates Belgian brewing. They also own Timmerman’s, whose Peach Lambic we were distinctly unmoved by in BeerCast 5. A municipality in Walloonian Brabant, along with nearby Rosieres, Genval is home to a large lake and fancy hotels used by Brussels weekenders. The Gordon Xmas beer comes in the most Christmassy bottle any of us has ever seen, and when you’re scouring shelves for potential seasonal ales, this one shouts at you to choose it. But should you?

What They Say“A top fermented dark ruby Scotch ale. The real beer for Father Christmas. Created in the 30’s, Gordon Xmas initiated the tradition of Christmas brews. To accompany your festive evenings, Gordon Xmas is all dressed up in it’s party clothes. Don’t forget to ask for some in your letter to Santa…” [Official Website]

What We Say
MrB – This is port-like after-dinner cheese & biscuits drink 8
Richard – Warming and it lingers, this is really drinkable
Grooben – Sweet and rich, with a thick taste not for everyone 6
Shovels – Sweet sherryness, the more I have the less I like

BeerCast panel verdict

Anchor Our Special Ale (2006) – 34½/40
Meantime Winter Time – 28/40
Gordon Xmas – 27/40
Erdinger Schneeweisse – 23/40

Panellists – (from top left) Shovels, Grooben, MrB, Richard



We’ll be back in early January with our 10th episode, our first annual BeerCast Beer of the Year 2007 show. Stay tuned for details…and please leave us comments on the blog or iTunes, or emails. Cheers!