Sunday 29 November 2015

Beer Tasting: Brixton Atlantic APA

I've had most of the beers Brixton has put out over the last couple of years. While I have quite enjoyed some of them, others have struggled to come together. This Atlantic APA (American Pale Ale) is a pretty good representation of the brewery: the beer has its moments, but it's not without flaws.

The beer pours lightly misty, pale yellow-gold with a thick, tight and creamy white head that really hangs on. The aroma has a bit of pleasing citrus fruits at first but when you dig a bit deeper you get some hay and, alas, plastic. The flavor is lightly sweet with quick citrus, a bit of pale bread, lemon, bitter plastic and grass. Light bodied with fine carbonation. Lightly astringent to finish with further bitter plastic, touches of juicy lemon and tangerine. The plastic notes - could be due to chlorophenols, I suppose - do detract from the beer, which is a shame because otherwise this would be a very pleasant APA.

I picked this beer up from Market Row Wines in Brixton.

Monday 10 August 2015

GBBF 2015: A few beers worth seeking out

The Great British Beer Festival, or GBBF, always presents an imposing array of beers, and not just from the UK, but also the US, Germany, Czech Republic and beyond. Even the most seasoned of beer drinkers is going to encounter breweries and beers that they have never seen before.

With an eye to helping folks navigate the multitude of beers that will be on offer this week, we have put together a list of a few worth seeking out.

If you want a traditional British bitter…

Acorn Barnsley Bitter is a beautiful example of the style. It hits the exact balance of toasty malts, caramel and leafy bitterness that you would want of a bitter. I’ve enjoyed this beer on cask numerous times and it is definitely one of the best in its class. 

Salopian Darwin's Origin is another stalwart. I don't think you could call it a flashy beer, but I also don't think you could fault it. The malt character is classic, while the hops, with accents of grass, hay and citrus fruits, provide a few layers of welcome complexity. Have a pint and get back to me with your thoughts.

If you want something mild...

Goacher's Real Mild Ale is one that I quite enjoyed a few years ago at GBBF. It's just a quintessential mild, with a relaxed malty foundation and mellow accents of brown sugar and dried fruits. If you enjoy milds, I cannot imagine you not liking this one.

If you want something pale, light and hoppy...

Crouch Vale Yakima Gold should be a winner. Crouch Vale does a wonderful series of low abv golden ales that showcase hops, and they have used varieties such as Amarillo, Apollo, Brewer's Gold, Citra and Palisade. This iteration with Yakima Gold is a great one, defined by strong citrusy hops and moderate bitterness, all sitting on a crispy pale malt base. Lovely stuff. 

If you want something dark...

Fyne Sublime Stout will satisfy a craving for the dark stuff. Since the first time I had this beer on cask, five years ago, it has been one of my favourite UK stouts. Weighing in at 6.8% abv, it has the depth of character you would expect and is long on gooey dark chocolate, well roasted malts, burnt wood and cocoa beans. If you’ve made it through a whole session in one piece and want a nightcap, this is a great option. 

If you want something local...

Moncada Notting Hill Amber is a good choice. Since 2011, Moncada has quietly been putting out some of the best cask ales in London, and if you've not had anything from them before then this is your chance. Their Amber is a solid beer all around, striking a healthy balance between toasty malts, caramel, oily pine and ripe citrus. It clocks in at a relatively tame 4.7%, so it definitely won't set you back capacity-wise.

If you want something big, hoppy and American…

La Cumbre Project Dank, out of New Mexico,  was one of the best beers I had at GBBF last year. At 7.5% abv, it’s hefty, and the intensity of the hop profile is a big step up from something like, say, a Barnsley Bitter. For those of you who have negative associations with the term ‘dank’, I would implore you to give this beer a shot. Don’t think about a damp cellar – think about a punchy, resinous IPA oozing with overripe citrus fruits. 

Pizza Port Hops Like Jagger is actually a new beer, so I can’t comment on it definitively, but knowing the typical quality of the hoppy beers from Pizza Port, I am optimistic. For those who aren’t familiar with Pizza Port, it is a collection of brewpubs (and a production facility) scattered around southern California. This particular beer comes from the Bressi Ranch location. In true SoCal style, Pizza Port do well by their hops, and the casks that go on offer at GBBF provide an excellent opportunity to experience this brewery's hop juice in good, fresh form.

If you want a lager…

Keesman Herren Pils is a fantastic option. It seems to be a perennial fixture on the German bar at GBBF, and for good reason. Herren Pils is, for my money and that of many others, one of the best German pilsners in the world. The beer is marked by a miraculously clean, crispy biscuit and cracker character, augmented by fresh, grassy and lightly earthy hops. It’s the type of beer where, as you drink it, you can begin to understand why Germans often drink beer by the litre.

If you want something sour...

The bottled beer selection offers many of the classic Belgian lambics, including such staples as 3 Fonteinen Oude Gueuze, Cantillon Gueuze / Kriek (cherry) / Rose de Gambrinus (raspberry), and Tilquin Gueuze / Quetsche (plum). These are all phenomenal lambics, and it's a great treat for them to all be available in one place. It would be worth your while to get a bottle and split it with some friends (some of these beer will likely come in 750ml format - a good size for sharing).

So there you have it, a few good drops in an ocean of beer. There will of course be tons of other fun stuff to discover, and I look forward to the search. Good luck to you all.

Saturday 8 August 2015

Beer Tasting: Beavertown 8 Ball

This beer has come a long way. The first time I tried 8 Ball, Beavertown's rye IPA, it was on cask back in July 2012, and while I liked it then, it wasn't particularly hoppy, and the rye character was relatively muted. My notes from the time suggest that the skeleton of the beer was in place, but the fat and muscle hadn't really fully developed. It's great to see - and taste - that 8 Ball has come into its own.

The beer in front of me now is a marvel from beginning to end. It pours an attractive copper-gold with a creamy, mostly white head. The aroma exposes rye grains almost immediately, and then also some rindy orange and juicy pine. The flavor follows well, with lots of plump, ripening citrus fruits, bready caramel, some spicy rye, a bit of grassy bitterness, oily pine. It's medium bodied and the carbonation is spot on. In the finish, you get a great resinous, oily hop character, with further juicy orange and tangerine, balanced out with toasted rye bread. It's got that resinous hop character that kind of tires out your mouth but also leaves you craving more. Wonderful.

I'm not always a huge fan of rye IPAs, given that sometimes the disparate elements can be a bit incongruous. But here, the rye, citrus and pine comes together to make a beautiful beer.

Friday 19 June 2015

First taste of Kew Brewery: Pagoda No. 1 and Botanic

It's always exciting to try a beers from a brand new brewery - especially when you know nothing about the brewer or the beers.

So it was that I trekked down to the Kew Village Market on Sunday 7 June, in the early afternoon, to pick up a pair of beers from London's newest upstart, Kew Brewery. With two beers to be had, it was a fairly low-key beginning. But through a brief exchange with the brewer, I gather he will have a steady core range of about six beers, augmented by the occasional seasonal and one-off.

The first two beers are, to put it simply, relatively conservative in their ambition. That's not a put-down, though. I think any serious brewery should master the basics before exploring more challenging territory. One must learn to walk before one learns to run.

The first beer I had was, appropriately, Pagoda No. 1. This initial iteration "in a series of Pale Ales celebrating different English hops" features Target and Fusion hops. I've met Target hops before (I'd say they're smooth, oily and a bit earthy), but I'll be honest, 'Fusion' is new to me. At any rate, I liked the beer. The malt character, biscuity and ever-so-slightly toasty, is almost as forward as the hops, which are a little citrusy, with touches of grass and hay. It's not a 'look at me' beer, which I appreciate in the context of a 4.5% abv pale ale. Whether you are a traditionalist or more in favour of progressive beers, I think you will find something to like in this one.

Next up is the Botanic, which, I would say, is arguably the more confrontational beer. Styled by the brewery as an amber ale, this beer lives up to its name in appearance. Thereafter, this is a beer defined by British hops, namely Challenger, Northdown, Goldings and First Gold. There are a lot of toasted leaves, bitter grass, dried berries and beat-up leather. Thankfully, there is enough malt structure here - think grainy toast - to provide ballast. Overall, it's a fairly prominent hop profile packed into a relatively slender 3.9% abv frame. That said, the beer manages to strike a pretty healthy balance. Fans of British hops will find lots to love here.

To close this one up, I would say that I'm satisfied with the first cuts from Kew. Both of these beers are solid and, given their relatively traditional aspects, they will certainly be met with open arms by certain drinkers. I'll be very interested to see where the brewery goes from here.

Tuesday 16 June 2015

Beer Tasting: Partizan Pale Ale Centennial Citra

This beer was sourced from the brewery. It pours well and hazy gold with a moderate, frothy and pure white head. The nose has a lot of nice fruity hops in it, stuff like mango, grapefruit and melon, along with an enticing pale malt breadiness.

The flavor is lightly sweet with restrained juicy hops, mild lemon rind bitterness, white bread, pithy grapefruit, mandarin orange, slight drying minerals. It's light bodied with fine, massaging carbonation.

Very mellow resinous hops in the finish, with suggestions of pine needles, more juicy fruit character, and just the right amount of balancing pale, bready malt sweetness. A great pale ale. Effortlessly drinkable.

Sunday 14 June 2015

Beer Tasting: Naparbier / Beavertown The Sun Also Rises

This beer was launched last year in September as part of the Rainbow Project, organised by Siren. It's styled as a saison and has been aged in sherry barrels. At 9% abv, it's certainly a potent beverage.

The beer opens with a hiss and reveals itself to be a very slow gusher. It pours a clear, glowing orange-gold, wildly effervescent, with a large, billowing white cream head. There's lots of stewed citrus fruits in the nose, some melon, pale wood, peach and tangerine. The flavor is medium sweet with lots of gooey citrus fruits, honey, moderate boozy kick, some white grape, slight woody dryness. Medium to full bodied with immense, mouth-filling carbonation. Sticky sweet on the finish with touches of caramel, alcohol warmth, peach, orange. It definitely drinks like 9% beer. There are some interesting characteristics at play here, but little nuance or grace.

Overall it's a nice beer, but not something you would want to - or could - drink a lot of.

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Beer Tasting: Brew By Numbers 02 | 05 Golden Ale - Mosaic & Chinook

I picked this bottle up at the brewery. It pours fairly hazy, deep gold with a super tight, creamy off-white head. The aroma holds ripe orange, some bread, melon. The flavor is light to medium sweet with a sturdy, bready malt base, some ripening berries, orange, mango. Light to medium bodied with fine, creamy carbonation. 

Quite clean on the finish with further pronounced bready pale malts along with the juicy hop character of melon, orange and mango, along with secondary notes of berries and pine. A very tasty beer, nicely balanced overall. I could easily knock back a few glasses of this.

Sunday 8 February 2015

Beer Tasting: Brew By Numbers 02 | 08 Golden Ale - Polaris & Cascade

I sourced this  beer the from the brewery. This 'golden ale' is really more of a golden ale/ American pale ale hybrid, in my own opinion. All the beers in this series from BBNo tend to be a bit stronger than what one might consider a typical British golden ale; but at the same time, they are often breadier and not quite as lean as a by-the-book American pale ale. Whatever you want to call it, this is a very nice beer that strikes a good balance, which makes it phenomenally drinkable.

The beer pours a rich, hazy gold with a large, frothy white head. There's a lovely aroma with lots of juicy orange and tangerine, underscored by bready pale malts. The flavor is light to medium sweet with a nicely rounded, bready pale malt backbone, pleasingly dynamic citrusy hop character, just hints of tangy tangerine, mild bitter orange rind, pine and touches of sun-kissed hay. 

It's light bodied with fine, massaging carbonation. This beer finishes juicy, full and rounded, with continuing pale, lightly doughy bread and ripening citrus fruits, along with a slight mineral edge that cleans things up well. This is a very smooth beer and the elements all come together impressively well. 

Beer Tasting: Gipsy Hill Beatnik

I picked this beer up at the London Beer Lab. It pours perfectly clear, lightly effervescent, with a sturdy white froth that lingers. The aroma is bright with grassy and floral hops mixed up with rindy citrus notes, notably tangerine and orange. The flavour is well balanced, with good up-front grassy bitterness that is balanced by a lean biscuity sweetness. There are also additional notes of citrus fruits, some orange rind and grapefruit pith. Light in body with spritely carbonation. 

The finish is pretty clean with only moderate grassy, resinous hop character, further citrus rind, and pleasant balancing pale malt sugars. There’s a slight cleansing minerality in the aftertaste, which I don’t mind at all. The more I drink of this beer, the more I like it. There’s a lot of character packed into its 3.8% ABV frame. 

Low alcohol pale ale is certainly not a flashy style, but when done right it’s a thing of beauty; this one is done right.