Tag Archives: Thornbridge

Mix It Up


Is it me, or are brewers releasing far more beers these days than they used to? I know starting a blog post with that kind of question makes me sound like an old timer rattling his cane from his easy chair, but there you go. And I’ve got no evidence with which to back this up – it just seems that since I started writing about beer all those years ago, there are more launches, more styles and ever-wider core ranges. Buxton have probably scaled back from their seventeen-strong core lineup, but they – like plenty of other breweries of the moment – continue to put out beer after beer; morning noon and night.

In no way am I complaining – having all these new beers to discover is brilliant, it’s what got me into drinking decent beer to begin with (after seeing the light and ending what is probably best described as ‘the Carling years’). But how on earth do you stay on top?

By mixing it up.

In one fell swoop, a mixed case gives you a chance to cover several months-worth of new beers at once. I’m becoming such a big fan of doing this that I’ve more or less stopped regular visits to bottle shops for three or four bottles, instead choosing to pool the beer fund and unleash once a month on a sturdy cardboard container of fun instead. The latest to arrive; twelve difference bottles from Thornbridge, who have produced some fantastic stuff over recent months, all of which I am now able to taste. Sure, it does cost more in one go than repeated impulse shelf-clearing, but it seems to me that there are so many advantages…


I think the best analogy for the importance of a mixed case is if you compare it to an album. Sure you can buy a series of singles over time and listen to your chosen hits, but listening to the album in order gives you the only chance to put everything in context, as you work through the music in sequence. How songs fit with each other, the musical timeline, hopefully gives you a better idea of the band’s talent as a whole – and mixed cases are the same. Start at the lower abv, the lager, the house pale, and work up. I think it leaves you better placed to appreciate the brewery as a result.


And that leads into the next point. If an IPA-heavy brewery continues to fire out pale and hoppy – which there is nothing wrong with, of course – then it’s easy enough to simply carry on picking them up. So when you order a dozen or two-dozen from the same producer, chances are there will be a range of styles that eventually come up the driveway with a wheezing courier. Here’s your best shot to see the overall level of expertise at this brewery. Can they do big and dark as well as light and hoppy, or are they hiding behind the dry-hop? How does the house yeast carry through? Is there balance across all styles?

Find a favourite

As I said above, getting a selection of beers from one brewery at once (even if you don’t drink them all in one sitting) leads to an ideal chance to discover new things. And carrying that example from the above paragraph onwards, if the producer does actually turn their hand to imperial stouts as well as IPA’s, then you’ve instantly found a new favourite that you might otherwise have never discovered. So next time you are in that bottle shop, maybe you’ll be able to pick something out a little different to give you a bit of all-important variety!

Order direct

Finally, you can go direct to source with a mixed case – order from the official website and the beers will be fresher, they will be posted to your home (although you have to then be there) and there’s literally nothing that can go wrong! Well, until the courier leaves your mixed Thornbridge case on the doorstep without knocking and the rain soaks through the cardboard so the entire thing nearly comes apart halfway up the stairs. There’s literally nothing that can go wrong!

So that’s it – I think from now on I’ll just be buying my beer in this way, with no exceptions. Well, apart from all that US beer as the shipping costs would be huge. And there are some great Belgian beers in Edinburgh bottle shops at the moment. Plus the Anchor Seasonal will be out very soon. And it would be rude not to pop in when I’m going past, I guess…

Cool as a Cucumber – beers from the fridge


With no apparent end in sight to ‘HeatWave2013: The Summer of Vengeance’* these sultry, sticky times call for increasingly desperate measures. One of the straws that major lager companies cling to is that their fizz has the power to refresh, something we can all appreciate in weather like this. But, whether you partake of their products or not, merely being bombarded with their adverts is enough to drill home the message that all beer should be served ice-cold, dripping with shards of frosty pep. Are they on to something? If you’ve ever drunk a Miller Genuine Draft at room temperature you’ll appreciate what they are talking about, at any rate.

*Other than the enormous heavy rain that has appeared nationwide since this post was drafted at the weekend, of course

So, if beers that don’t have a huge amount of flavour are best chilled to near-absolute zero and regarded as lightly alcoholic water, what about decent stuff? Beer ponces like myself go on about ‘cellar temperature’ – the near-mythical cool-but-not-cold level of perfectness that implies a wine-like collection of dusty, cobwebbed bottles. Anything warmer, and you’re into to the territories of real ale, comforting imperial stouts and then Irish coffees. But what about the other direction? Can we appreciate great beer straight out of the fridge?

Why the hell not? On a recent trip to the Bow Bar, a supremely chilled keg pour of Fyne Ales/Wild Beer Company Cool as a Cucumber absolutely hit the spot. As they now bottle it, the herbal, cucumbery flavours would be marvellously refreshing fired straight from the fridge. Here, then, are a few other beauties to enjoy straight from the chill-box, cracked open and poured lustily (or even, to antagonise the geeks yet more, gunned straight from the bottle)…

Thornbridge Italia
Bakewell’s finest produce a range of fridge-friendly numbers, but their spanking pilsner is right at the top. It entranced Lagerboy when he tried it, and deservedly so. The result of a collaboration between Thornbridge and Birrificio Italiano’s Maurizio Folli, Italia jolts you with a chilled blast of citric lemon and lime, providing the perfect relief from sticky afternoons (or mornings, or evenings). Best drunk sitting in the garden, with the light shining through the stream of gleaming bubbles.

Camden USA Hells
Hop-forward lagers are a growing trend – which is great news for me, as they are fantastic. Camden’s home-fired Hells is a great domestic thirst-quencher, but their American-themed number is a bona-fide classic. If I lived in London, I’d have three or four of these in the fridge at all times – now is the perfect time for them. Get home from work, throw down the keys and head straight for the fridge. Absolute perfection.

Sierra Nevada Torpedo
Yes, Torpedo is a monster. But sub-five degrees the edges are tamed by the cold, and you get to appreciate the complexity of the hop-load as the beer warms. Of course, you may finish it before it reaches that point, but there you go. Another joy; the Sierra Nevada bottles look as if they were made to be grabbed from the ice-box and chugged. Decant carefully into a snifter if you wish, by all means – but Torpedo still tastes great before the cap has finished spinning on the kitchen counter.

Fyne Ales Vital Spark
Proving that frigid fun needn’t be restricted to the see-through (or new-fangled unfiltered) beers, Vital Spark also fires into life when charged through straight from the cooler. The darker, blackcurrant edges come out more when the beer is cold, and it almost (almost) tastes like some kind of beery, fruit-based, energy drink. At least, that’s what I tell myself. Aside from that, it’s Fyne Ales’s most under-rated beer, by a country mile.

Maui Mana Wheat
I offered one of these to my father once, and the look on his face was priceless. ‘A pineapple wheat beer? Really?’ Yes, really. With apologies to Fyne Ales, Maui Mana Wheat really does taste like a fruit drink; not surprising, being an American hefeweizen with added Hawaiian Maui Gold pineapple. From the fridge, where it sits perfectly in a can, it’s astonishing how quickly you can chuck one of these back. More refreshing than all of the macro-lagers in the world, put together.

Brooklyn Monster Ale
I know that this is slightly cheeky, as Brooklyn announced in May that they were ceasing production of Monster – but until it vanishes from the bottle shop fridges, snaffle all you can see. A barley wine that tastes fantastic chilled right down, as being a Brooklyn beer the hops never truly dominate. Instead, you get cool honey, grape skins and alcohol, which wallops home before the beer inevitably warms and the sticky caramel flavours come out. An absolute belter, which will be sorely missed.

Which beers do you fire through straight from the fridge? Or is this all a load of nonsense, and a waste of great beer that you can’t taste properly?

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…

Binge drinking, crafted


Sooner or later, every beer fan will fall into the situation I found myself in last Thursday at Islington’s Craft Beer Company. I say fall – more likely they will meticulously plan to be there rather than stumble across it, but sometimes these things do come around purely by chance. I’m talking, of course, about the happy accident of turning up at a public house to find some kind of monumentally exciting event taking place – as if you’d been guided there by a celestial beery force (as opposed to, say, Twitter). Trouble is, for one reason or another, you’d only planned for ‘a couple’. What to do?

a) Binge.

Now, this term is something of a dirty one amongst the beer community, craft or otherwise. Binge drinking happens somewhere else, to other people, and involves unpleasant beverages of dubious ancestry. Beer fans don’t binge – we merely appreciate, faster. Given a single hour in CraftN1, a couple of relaxed halves between trains (mainline and tube) turned into a frantic, sudsy chase through pretty much every beer the peerless Thornbridge Brewery have turned their hand to recently. Pin back the liver and go for it. But is it acceptable?

After all, it’s not like I was drinking cheap cider. Admittedly, the beers I was gracefully pounding through were about as strong – and came carefully poured in branded tulip glasses. But, nevertheless, getting through that many in so short a space of time can only really fall into the ‘B’ column, so rounded upon by the gutter and hateful press. The fourth time I went back to the bar, the same chap who had served me the first three times acknowledged this with a slight, but perceptible, raise of the eyebrows and nod of respect.

I remember, last year, being in the Marble Arch in Manchester with my old man – who can get through bitter like a Dyson airblade working in reverse – as we table-shared with two rugby league fans attempting to drink each and every handpull. They’d started at the far left and were working their way along, troubled only when one they’d already polished off was replaced by something new. After brief discussion (to which we offered our opinions), they decided anything new from a handpull they’d previously visited was to be ordered, and drunk, immediately.

The thing is, the Warrington fans were going to be there for hours – they were awaiting the Challenge Cup final later that afternoon. On my visit to the Craft Beer Co, I had only a brief moment to try as many beers as I could. It pains me to say this, but I did what had to be done – to make efficient use of my limited drinking time, I ended up leaving some of the halves unfinished. For spellbinders like Twin Peaks – their collaboration with Sierra Nevada, I made a (wonderful) exception, though. But how many times will I get to try Thornbridge’s Weizenbock, or their 7% Imperial Rye ESB in Edinburgh? You weren’t there, man. You weren’t there. It had to be done.

Binge drinking is for teenagers. If you have purpose (and a smartphone), is it acceptable?

BeerCast #71 – Hidden Meanings

It’s high time we recorded another BeerCast, so the team gathered to vent their collective spleens over four more beers for your listening pleasure. Following on from the hop-heavy MrB holiday special, this time we return to calmer waters with British beers that all have unusual reasons behind their names. Firstly, we sample Thornbridge’s Vienna lager Kill Your Darlings (5%), before moving on to York Brewery’s Micklegate (6.1%). Our strongest beer of the night is Stewart Brewing’s Radical Road, and we finish on another from here in Scotland – Unforgiven – Tempest’s 5.4% smoked rye and juniper beer. On the panel this time – Richard, Shovels and Grooben – who reveals his astonishing knowledge of Westerns at the Oscars.

1. Kill Your Darlings
Thornbridge Brewery, Bakewell, Derbyshire.
500ml glass bottle

We’re no strangers to Bakewell’s Thornbridge Brewery here on the BeerCast – their imperial Russian stout St Petersburg is our reigning beer of the year. They began in early 2005, and have launched the careers of several notable brewers – not to mention won many awards along the way. Kill Your Darlings is their Vienna Lager, a style rarely brewed in the UK – and takes its name from the William Faulker quote about removing the best thing about your work to remain truly objective. That’s why MrB isn’t on this podcast, for example.

What They Say
“Reddish brown in colour with a medium body and characterized by a malty aroma and slight malt sweetness. A twist on this style has been added by late hopping with Amarillo and Tettnanger hops. After a period of cold fermentation, the beer has been lagered for five weeks.” [Official Website]

What We Say
Richard – Sweet, hoppy and bready, I think it’s cracking 8
Shovels – Nice darker malts in there with the crispness of a lager 8
Grooben – It’s a type of beer I’ve not had before, it’s nice 7

2. York Micklegate
York Brewery, York.
500ml glass bottle

The current York brewery is the first working facility within the walled city for over forty years, having been established in an old motorbike showroom in 1996. Their very first brew was Yorkshire Terrier (which we covered on BeerCast #20). This year sees their fifteenth anniversary, so to celebrate they released a one-off strong beer, named after the nearby street and gateway into their home city – Micklegate. Taken from the Old Norse ‘mykla gata’ – it means, simply, ‘great street’.

What They Say
“A tawny red ale, fruity and floral with a distinctive hop aroma and flavour which is robust and very satisfying.” [Bottle label]

What We Say
Shovels – Nice balance of bitterness and a bit of fruit
Richard – Dark, roasty fruits and well-hidden alcohol
Grooben – I’m finding it difficult to get excited about it 6

3. Radical Road
Stewart Brewing, Loanhead, Edinburgh.
500ml glass bottle

Stewart Brewing have established a solid lineup of cask and bottle session beers in Edinburgh, chipping away at the dominance of the Caledonian Brewery in Slateford. But they have been rolling the dice a lot recently on stronger or more unusual offerings. Radical Road is the first triple-hopped beer they have produced, and was a labour of love of head brewer Iain Couper. We tried it on keg back in July at the release – this is the first time we’ve sampled the bottle. The beer is named after the walking path that circles Arthur’s Seat in the city, which was first paved by the unemployed following the ‘Radical War’ of 1820.

What They Say
“Three different hops are added to the kettle at five different stages during the boil, it is then hopped in the fermentation vessel and finally the beer is dry hopped in the conditioning tank before the beer is bottled. This makes for the highest hopped beer in the Stewart Brewing repertoire and of course some very hoppy beer!” [Official Website]

What We Say
Richard – I think this might be the best beer they do 8
Shovels – Was better on keg at the launch, I think
Grooben – I’d expect more hop character for a 6.4%er 6

4. Unforgiven
Tempest Brewing Co, Kelso, Scottish Borders.
500ml glass bottle

Tempest Brewing Company blasted onto the scene midway through 2010, and have already made several outstanding beers in that short time. Fond of keg dispense and interesting adjuncts, they are based just behind Kelso’s Cobbles Inn – the recently announced CAMRA pub of the year for SE Scotland (something for everyone there, clearly). All of their beers have imaginative names, so including one was a natural fit for our ‘hidden meanings’ podcast. I contacted Tempest to discover what the thinking was behind Unforgiven. It turns out, predictably, there is none – they just liked the name.

What They Say
“Unforgiven contains Tempest’s signature NZ hop backbone, but true to form also involves a whole lot more – in this case, oak chips and dried juniper berries.” [BeerCast review]

What We Say
Richard – Juniper in there is a great idea, fantastic balance
Grooben – It could have been nuts, but it’s not
Shovels – Smoke eases and becomes secondary to the juniper 7

– (clockwise from top left) Shovels, Grooben, Richard

BeerCast panel verdict
Thornbridge Kill Your Darlings 23/30
Tempest Unforgiven 22/30
Stewart Brewing Radical Road 21½/30
York Brewery Micklegate 20/30

  • Listen to the episode on Soundcloud here:

Please keep those comments and emails coming in, and check back next month for our next podcast – probably our mugh-hyped Black IPA special. Or we might find another load of beers to put out…stay tuned, and keep looking for those hidden meanings!

Lagerboy Speaks – Thornbridge Kill Your Darlings

Lagerboy hasn’t had a run-out for a while, but as the days are starting to lengthen and the rain that plunges from the grey Scottish clouds becomes a tad warmer – it’s time to stop chewing those noble hop pellets and get with the liquid. The first tempter to pass his cage hails from the Derbyshire peak district – Thornbridge’s Kill Your Darlings Vienna Lager. Not many UK brewers bother with this style – which is a pity, as they can be lovely. They also provide Lagerboy with something slightly darker, and therefore, variation.

A quick check on RateBeer reveals Thornbridge’s KYD sits at number 9 on the Vienna chart (there’s a New Romantic joke in there somewhere). Underlying their “We might make one, we might not” status, those ten beers hail from six different countries (I’ll let you guess how many are from Austria). Unusually, the UK has two, both produced by Thornbridge. Equinox sits in tenth place.

Anyway, that’s enough tick-bollocks. Kill Your Darlings puffs out of the bottle like a watery stew, with a sweet, slightly spicy nose. Honey as well – bready too, like inhaling a Turkish dessert trolley. If Lagerboy knew what an American Brown Ale was (too many words for him), he might think it had a similar taste – brown sugar, bready malt and some sweet caramel. However, the cutting finish brings it back into his ballpark. It shuts the door in your face – a fantastic crisp end to a really rather lovely beer.