Buxton’s Coward, DEYA’s hop-brilliance and a new weisse from Scottish sour kings Pastore. It can only be one thing!
That’s right. It’s my round up of the best new beers out there this week.
Buxton’s Coward 2021 is finally here!
This epic stout has already built one hell of a rep for itself, and I’m delighted to report the 2021 edition once again exceeds the hype. Bags of peanut butter and biscuit; thick, rich and delicious. My only minor quibble is it’s a 330ml… but then at 11%, maybe that’s a good thing?!
Dark beer number 2 this week is a toss up between two new DEYA beauties… and the winner will likely depend on how adventurous you are. Let’s go with DEYA’s Alright Mate Stout to begin with. A stout de triumph, this is rich, roasty, syrupy AND nutty… in short, it’s got it all.
But then, as well as the above, DEYA have come out with Best Foot Forward Best Bitter. This is more unusual and (you might say) more exciting. Bitter is making a comeback… and bitters like this explain why.
Getting tired of the deluge of big, juicy hop bombs? Well, DEYA’s new Show Nuff IPA kicks things on. Citra, Idaho 7 and Ekuanot make up this lychee, pineapple and squishy fruit cocktail, but a sticky mix of rye and light caramel malt make for an amber glow and an interesting twist.
Where Show Nuff brings a fresh twist to the traditional juicy hop monster, DEYA’s new Write That Down IPA is more down-the-line. Here you’ve got a juicy IPA with a soft mouthfeel. Dry hopped with Centennial, Galaxy, Mosaic and Riwaka, it’s a classic.
For those unaware, Trolltunga is a freaky wild cliff that juts out 700 metres above Norway’s lake Ringedalsvatnet (Google it, it’s bonkers). As if to highlight the cliff’s severity, Buxton’s Trolltunga Gooseberry Sour IPA got an upgrade this week to 440ml cans, making a tried and tested Goseberry sour great even more alluring. Dare you tread to the very edge?!
7. Pastore Brewing – Passion Fruit Waterbeach WeissePastore’s Passion Fruit Waterbeach Weisse is the other outstanding sour I want to highlight this week. With 200 g/l of passion fruit puree in the mix, this is a tropical solero sour from a sour specialist that knows what’s what.
As always in the craft beer world, the above beers really are just the tip of the iceberg.
There’s loads of bonkers barrel-aged dark stuff coming out right now, including Maltgarden’s Gate Nr. 4/2020 Heaven Hill Bourbon Barrels Aged Imperial Stout and, more left field, Buxton’s Single Barrel Rye Whisky Barrel Aged Rain Shadow Rye 2020. Kees joined in the fun too, with their Caramel Fudge Stout BA Jack Daniels Edition.
As you’d expect at this point in winter, brewers continue to favour heavy dark releases. Frau Gruber Brewery’s Macaroon Imperial Stout is pumped with 500kg of Coconut from the Philippines. Kees Brewery & Frontaal’s Pindakees Caramel Peanut Butter Sundae Stout is actually a gem for those into big darks but with work the next day – OK, it’s 10%, but at least it’s only a 330ml!
I can’t stop myself from mentioning another magnificent Maltgarden this week… Iceman Interview Chocolate Ice Cream Imperial Stout is a brilliant brew.
Finally, Buxton’s Rudenko Bourbon Barrel Aged Barley Wine is something different to explore. You don’t see many of these around – grab one while you can.
Hope you get to try some of these epic new brews this week. Happy drinking & stay safe out there in the wild!
Sour beers used to sit solely in the expert realm of the Belgian specialist or the hardcore beer nerd but it’s style that’s bursting into the mainstream more and more and developing at pace. As we look towards the sun coming out again as the nights start to lighten shine what better time to be optimistic and look at some of the best sour beers and makers out there!?
Like their name suggests Vault City used to be pretty hard to come by – almost as if they were buried away and squirrelled behind bars only accessible to beer-tickers armed with bumbags and tasting notes booklets. Well someone unlocked the gates and the Scottish sour-meisters are now popping up in most good bottle-shops and online websites with their weird an wonderful wares. One thing that should sharpen your attention towards this brewery is that they are sour specialists – and to be more specific sours are all they make…so you’d hope they back themselves to deliver. At the very heart of Vault City Brewing lies thier house mixed-culture. A bit like the sour dough starter yeast it’s the foundation and has to be pretty special to create something so unique. Vault City use a blend of Kveik (A Norwegian yeast we’ve talked about before in this column) and Lactobacillus strains which provide us with delicious tropical esters and a deliciously tart acidity. These esters are added to the pulps of real fruit in amazing concoctions to make these fresh smoothie tasting brews. They have created “straight up” versions like Strawberry and apricot session beers and have an amplified version of these too – typically reaching 8 or 9% ABV. If you fancy something a bit more wild they have dabbled with spiced pumpkin, tayberry (it’s like a redcurrant I’m told) and vanilla. Latest fun releases include a cheeky Vimto sour and a Havana special! I don’t think there’s a better UK brewery at using natural ingredient in their sour beers and Vault City are very much worth unlocking.
We first stumbled across Polish brewery Maltgarden when one of our best customers told us in glowing terms about some of their hoppy beers which he’d managed to wrangle on a beer-swop night. Knowing he was a bit of a top-end craft beer nerd we knew they must be something special so we got hold of some swiftly to try for yourselves. He wasn’t wrong; Maltgarden make huge hoppy modern beers. Then we discovered their dark beer range which was even better – full of peanut adjuncts with lashings of coffee, toffee, banana and chocolate all over the show (there’s even a wax topped can but that’s for another time). We then learned that they made mad sours too – is there anything this brewery cant do? They actually haven’t made a lager but that’s not the point they are certainly a brewery to seek out if you want a range of flavours that really push your palate. The newest sours from them include additions of dragonfruit and mango. As I said they like to play wizard a little bit and don’t be surprised to see the juxtaposition of nuts and spices added alongside the sour notes to really compliment but also throw your tastebuds. If a warm can of Tyskie is your only experience of Polish beer change that right now!
Everything about Pastore Brewing and Blending hints at the exotic. The name itself makes your mind maybe wander to small hidden Spanish village and can artwork and font drag your thoughts out to a sleepy Moroccan fishing village. They are actually based on an industrial estate near Cambridge. Where Vault City are possibly the UK’s best sour makers for fun brews Pastore are a more refined and subtle competitor. The emphasis here is on accessible, fun, modern takes on mix-ferm brewing (using different yeasts including wild ones) and they deliver every time with their beers. Although the basis of all their beers is in the old school of sour brewing there’s enough fun ingredients and flavours poking through to open the doors to the non-expert beer fan. The newest beers on our shelves are perfect examples of this.
Torta Di Morello is a cherry pie pastry sour, conditioned on morello cherry puree, cinnamon, vanilla and almond.
They are a brewery we love supporting, not only do they make some of the most rounded sours about they are a tiny operation even by craft beer standards, a story made even sweeter by the fact the brew team are family father and son combo of Ben and Chris Shepherd.
We get new Pomona Island beers in every week for the site and with good reason. Again they are a brewery that seem to be able to nail all the styles of modern beer going. It’s testament to their quality that we can talk about their sours when we could easily feature their dark offerings or hoppy monsters as well. It’s also testament to their amazing beer that we tend to cherry-pick their beers from the fifty or so new beers we get each week to drink ourselves for pleasure (yes it’s one of the worlds best jobs!)
Pomona sours somewhat launched the brewery to the relative mainstream in craft beer circles with brews that were tart – but not too tart = flavoursome and crazy but not messy and easy drinking. It’s a hard thing to manage especially time and time again but Pomona manage it. A relativity small operation based in Salford Manchester Pomona seem t pp out a pale, IPA and sour each week so there’s always something interesting and new to go at!
Whatever sour you’re drinking in the early spring sun – enjoy.
Thanks for reading out craft beer blog this month. Drink and be happy.
Oli, Craft Metropolis founder.
Five years ago, when my online craft beer club (as it then was) first sprang into existence, Craft Metropolis stocked only beers from specialist, London-based craft breweries. It gave the club a new slant on an existing concept. It allowed us to operate as a tiny business in a market dominated by one or two major players. And, as was the case more than once in the early days, it meant I could drive around London to pick up stock and deliver orders whenever a ‘reliable’ supplier let me down. More than a few companies go on about their commitment to personal service these days. I wonder how many of their owners are willing to drive to their customers’ homes to meet delivery deadlines?
That was five years ago. In time, we began to branch out. Tastes developed. As did demand. Today, as well as continuing to support local craft breweries, we’re increasingly supporting some carefully selected craft breweries from outside the UK. Seeing as we all love good beer, could I maybe introduce you to three such gems?
Gamma Brewing, Smedeholm, Denmark
It’s an unavoidable fact that imported beers are pricey. The cost of shipment needs to be accounted for. And increasingly these days, breweries favour cold-chain shipments (keeping their beers cold all the way from production to sale, for freshness). It’s another factor that eeks up the price. So when you look for imported beer, it’s pretty crucial you don’t end up wasting your furlough payments on brews that aren’t up to scratch. Gamma brews, I reckon, are among the best bang-for-your-buck imports anywhere in existence.
There are two sides to Gamma’s unmistakable MO. On the one hand you’ve got their clean, hoppy, smooth and expertly executed beers. On the other, there’s a rotating smorgasboard of murky hop-monsters. There’s an air of Burnt Mill about the brews on offer (Burnt Mill being a UK-based brewery I also love). Just like at Burnt Mill, the Gamma brewers seem to take a lot of time and care over all that goes into each of their creations. From ingredients and flavour profile to design and even can art, there’s something in these beers that signals nothing was rushed and no corners were cut.
Gamma are a wonderful example of the art behind brewing great beers.
Amundsen Bryggeri, Oslo, Norway
It’s quite something that, despite being a craft brewery, Amundsen has become Norway’s biggest brewery. It’s a well deserved accolade for a brewery that prides itself on their craft. ‘Created by Craftsmen’ is the brewery’s motto, and a delve into any of their wares will return a strong reward for anyone looking for something unique and unconventional.
Sweep aside the (perfectly good) hoppy beers and shuffle straight to Amundsen’s loopy section – dark, sour, barrel-aged; this is where the real fun is. The DIC (Dessert in a Can) series is a great example of what this brewery does so well. These imperial stouts have none of the grown-up appeal of, say, a Kernel or a Buxton beer. Instead they swing right to the other end of the spectrum, combining high sugar, heavy adjuncts and 10%+ ABVs to create beer monsters and flavour freaks. Who’s for a can of Chocolate Covered Salted Toffee Popcorn? Or a Hazelnut Praline Chocolate Truffle stout? A Unicorn Sprinkles Strawberry Doughnut? You get the idea. Wonderful, wacky stuff.
The cans themselves reinforce the madness, adorned with glooping marshmallow-style text as they almost always are. While the concept isn’t for everyone, just to think about making such unorthodox beers – let alone going ahead and making them – is a triumph. And as the brews have helped make Amundsen the biggest brewery in the land, they’re clearly much more than the gimmick purists might suggest.
Equilibrium Brewery, NY, USA
If you want the best hoppy beers in the world then America is where they are. Said a sheep-like beer drinker. More than once. It’s an oft-argued ‘opinion’ that inevitably leads to discussions on craft beer’s beginnings.
In the early days, the discussion goes, the UK made ‘real ale’. Decent stuff, and certainly an improvement that curtailed the exponential rise in mass-produced lager. The Americans tried it. They fell in love with both the idea and the product. So enamoured they were that they took real ale back to the States and started tinkering with it. They added some experimental and out-there hops. They brought it back. It was amazing, the revolution was born and the UK has been playing catch up ever since.
That’s one way of interpreting the current state of play, anyway. The flip side is UK breweries such as Pressure Drop, Polly’s and DEYA are all making beers at least as good as, if not better than, their trans-Atlantic counterparts. But whichever way you look at it, it’s hard not to agree that the US has historically been and remains a driving force for the changing face of craft beer worldwide. Today, the UK and US seem to rely on each other for new ideas and inspiration and team up to push the boundaries of craft brewing ever further. It’s against this backdrop that the appropriately named and Equilibrium Brewery continually comes up with some of the most sought-after beers either side of the pond. Whether it’s enjoyed via Equilibrium’s lactose-laced Double IPAs or their juicy Triples, the quality here is always assured. If you want to see what all the whoopin’ and hollerin’ you hear about stateside brews is all about then look no further. Equilibrium showcases all.
Thanks for reading out craft beer blog this month. I hope you enjoyed it.
Oli, Craft Metropolis founder.
In craft beer circles, every year that unfolds eventually becomes the year of something or other. Certain yeasts, for example. Or certain varieties of hops. More often than not, certain beer styles take the annual ‘year of’ crown – like back in 2018, when everyone seemed excited about brut IPA. I’ve reported before that every year seems poised to become ‘lager year’ (and every year, it never is). This year, there’s a clear title winner already: 2020 is the year of the triple IPA (TIPA), a beer style characterised by an intense hop profile and an ABV that regularly climbs beyond 10%. This year, everyone’s been brewing them. Who wore it best, you ask? Here are three of my personal favourites.
It’s hard to not start with the easiest drinker in the category. Let’s be honest, when you’re dealing with beers that regularly come with double-digit ABVs – especially when they aren’t fireside sippers like imperial stouts – then ‘easy-drinking’ is quite a sought-after quality. Brew by Numbers have always delivered great beers with higher ABVs than the corresponding flavour profiles suggest. Anyone that’s ever tried one of their 55 Double IPA series will almost certainly agree. Would their new 85 Triple IPA follow suit? And what particular nectar variety might it bring us?
Sweet fruit juice is the answer! The current version in the BBNo’s 85 series is a beer that pours very hazy and delivers wave upon wave of ripe (and overripe) stone fruit like peach and mango from the trio of hops BBNo’s brewers use. What really sets the beer apart is the smoothness from the oats the BBNo team add to the brew’s malt bill. It’s a quality that dials down the bitterness (that’s just about lurking) and makes 85 Triple IPA insanely drinkable. It’s complex, juicy and scarily easy to drink! From DIPAs to TIPAs, I’m not sure there’s a UK brewery that consistently delivers high-ABV, hoppy beers better than Brew by Numbers.
With Brew York, you always know they’ll take on a challenge. You can also be pretty certain they’ll serve up on-trend brews, so it was hardly a surprise to see them brewing a triple IPA as soon as it looked like it may be flavour of the season. Brew York is the brewery that brought us delights like Tonkoko – a coconut and tonka bean stout – and Extra Brownie Pints – an absolute chocolate slab of an imperial monster. To put it mildly, the brewery has the darker stuff nailed. But lighter stuff always receives more scrutiny; it’s tough to hide suspect subtleties in lighter beers. With their new triple, however, Brew York have not only cracked the of-the-moment style but have gone and scored bonus points by using of-the-moment yeast kveik while doing so. Brew York’s TIPA couldn’t be more on-trend if it tried (which, thinking about it, it probably did). Go Big & Stay at Home uses the famous Norwegian yeast strain that imparts an added earthiness and spice to the beer that could be overpowering – but isn’t – and leaves Go Big & Stay at Home slightly drier than other beers of its style. The tweak balances brilliantly the booziness of the TIPA and compliments the slight hop-burn you get from the 10.5% ABV. It’s certainly a combination that works. If you’re looking for a beer that throws together everything new that 2020 brewing has to offer, then this is pretty much it… all in one glass.
Polly’s doesn’t really brew a bad beer. The team also knows plenty about getting the best out of the hops they use. Still, until the latter part of 2020, Polly’s had been serving up soupy IPAs and pale ales only. Obviously keen to join this year’s hop-race with a triple of their own, Polly’s have now brewed not one but two TIPAs in the space of a few months. The result has been nothing short of phenomenal, with a lot of people calling their fist triple – Spur – the beer of the year. Spurred on by this acclaim (sorry), the team set about brewing their sophomore TIPA to quell the calls of those clamouring for more. The result is Patternist. Just like Spur, Patternist has a supercharged hop bill responsible for the bucketloads of flavour on show here. Apparently, Polly’s poured over 60kg of El Dorado and Simcoe hops into Patternist (I’m told that’s a LOT for one Polly’s brew). The hefty hop helping makes this beer – despite its 10% booze levels – pure unadulterated juice! There’s next to zero bitterness in the body and the hit on the tongue is straight up mango, passionfruit and papaya. It’s a joy to behold, and it may be my personal favourite of the three.
Beers of the TIPA strength, of course, have long been the drink of choice for certain park bench gentlemen. But natural brewing evolution has escorted us to a wonderful place, where 10% beers are no longer something to be endured rather than enjoyed while wincing in Belgian-beer-house bravado contests.
Stand alone, hefty TIPAs are genuine beer of the year contenders and any brewery worth their salt should be adding one to their catalogue – assuming they’re up to the challenge of brewing something drinkable despite such high alcohol content. Enjoy TIPAs responsibly. And whatever you do if you sample them, don’t go pouring these three back to back to test my tasting notes – it might be the end of you!
Craft Metropolis is an online beer shop and taproom stocking Triple IPAs, amongst brews of a more sessionable strength!
It’s grim up north, so they say. So when lockdown eased recently, I did something odd.
I left behind my small beer shop down in Penge for a quick pilgrimage north. Y’know, just to check. And the rumours are false!
There are plenty of delightful open spaces up north, many of which prove the perfect backdrop for idling. You can chat to passers-by without being reported for harassment. Most important of all, the north is choc-full of wonderful breweries churning out some outstanding beer right now.
Tucked up in the North East, By The River Brew Co. is one such example. It’s part of an amazing and brave concept. The brewery is actually part of the company’s independent container settlement beneath the iconic Tyne Bridge (on the Gateshead side). And that makes it quite a bit more than a brewery. Amongst the fermentation tanks you’ll find Backyard Bike Shop fulfilling many an idler’s custom-built two-wheeled dreams. You’ll find Träkol, a restaurant serving up seasonal grub cooked over an open fire. You’ll find a trendy coffee house. There’s a cocktail bar. At weekends, there’s even a vibrant hawkers market going on. The locals will surely have missed the fun during lockdown – and I’d imagine the brewery most of all.
Fortunately, you don’t need to head to Gateshead to get hold of By The River beer. The brewery distributes its wares pretty much nationwide. Treat yourself to one of their Heedbanger IPAs. The monster can’s bold design houses a classy and clean IPA that’s double-dry-hopped with futuristic-sounding hops like Citra Cryo and Amarillo T90. They could be a new Terminator. Heedbanger is all the better for it.
Wylam Brewery is another great example. The brewery occupies the Palace of Arts in Exhibition Park, Newcastle. It’s a Grade II listed building Wylam rescued back in 2010 in an effort to get more Wylam beer into the hands of beer fans nationwide. Ten years on, it’s safe to say the plan worked. You may well have tried Wylam’s flagship beer Jakehead IPA at some point or another. It’s their mainstay, and fast becoming a stalwart in the craft beer scene. But if you ask me, it’s their seasonal brews that are really worth looking into. Geordie Beer Geek Coffee Oatmeal Stout is a collaboration with Copenhagen-based giants Mikkeller, and it’s a clean-roasted cold-brew coffee in a can. Fans of lager can also do no wrong with Wylam’s Cold Condition Lagerbier, a lager with notes of white grape, gooseberry and lemongrass that the brewers conditioned at 0°C for 12 weeks straight.
Over in Manchester, Track has long been one of my favourite breweries. The brewery focuses on pale and hoppy numbers and Track’s passion for adventure runs through everything the brewery puts out.
If you’ve heard of Track, you probably know of their Sonoma Pale Ale – widely regarded in the craft beer scene as one of the best pale ales out there, especially when served on cask. The brewery’s work and reputation is starting to seep into mainstream consciousness. Track won’t be a secret for long.
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, tuck into their amazing range of sours. Track’s IPAs, too, are something to behold. Intrinsic Space is one such incarnation; a single-hop IPA that highlights ‘it’ hop of the moment Strata. If you want to seem clued-up at dinner parties (even if they are on Zoom and you’re all eating different things), it’s one to try. Smacks of grapefruit and ripe orange. Insanely drinkable.
Manchester’s Pomona Island Brewery is also of note. The team here seem to spend less time telling their backstory than most, which presumably frees them up to think up evermore outlandish names for their brews. My Toe Hurts Betty. Style, Control, Damage & Aggression. Strong Men Also Cry. Bonbonbonbons. They’re all fantastic, of course, but my personal favourite is the DDH Session IPA named Pigs…..In There? A glass full of soft, tropical fruits. What’s not to like?
Each Pomona Island brew has a hidden story and all come cloaked in a minimalistic, purposely naive can design. You’ll know a Pomona Island brew when you see one. Or taste one, for that matter. And I recommend you do.
My final hat tip goes to a Leeds-based brewery that’s cemented itself as a master of both hoppy beers and sours. But really, it’s a lot more than that. North Brew Co. claims to have created the UK’s first ever craft beer bar, North Bar, back in ’97. Either way, as one of the Founding Fathers, the brewery has indisputably had a staggering influence on modern beer. Trailblazers since before ‘craft’ was trendy (or anyone was even buying it), it took North nearly two decades to move from their first bar to their current brewery… and a few years further on knocking out aromatic sours and murky pales has become second nature. If you get a chance, try their latest mango and passionfruit triple-fruited sour. This has so much zing and pulp it’s almost a smoothie – but it’s light enough to sink in record time.
You can, of course, order many of the above online in our Northern Beast Box. But before you do, consider a northern outing. None of us needs a real excuse to head north. See the lockdown escapades of political aides.
Without wanting to dwell on the obvious, summer 2020 feels like no summer before. Hopefully as you read this the sun is shining and, while your industrious neighbours busy themselves revamping gardens and installing patios, you’re lazing around in true Idler style. You’ll need good beer to compliment your summer lounging, of course. So I have one or two suggestions to make.
If you can, hunt yourself out a can or two of DEYA’s Steady Rolling Man. It’s difficult to put into words what makes this beer so alluring. It could be the whimsical musician on the can. Even more likely is the seemingly careless extra 60ml of the stuff you get, pushing the volume up to half a litre. Perhaps it’s the uncompromisingly subtle yet floral liquid inside? Or all of the above and more packaged together?
Whichever way you look at it, DEYA have nailed the summer pale ale here. Many claim it’s the best in Britain. It’s proved so popular via the Craft Metropolis website I’ve had to impose a limit of two cans per order. It’s not all that easy to come by. If you get the chance, grab a can, light a roll-up and prepare your uke for an evening in the garden, man.
If either of the next two recommendations have made it onto your radar already, congrats. You are truly a beer king. I say as much because, for me at least, both are what I’d call “I told you they would be amazing back in summer 2020!” beers. If you too are so insecure that you also try to impress strangers with frightfully useless beer knowledge, then take note, first of all, of S43 Brewery. S43 has been kicking about since 2012 but has made a serious impression in the last six months. After rebranding (the brewery was formerly Sonnet 43 – a nod to the local Durham poet Barrett Browning), S43 has focused on getting its beers out into the wider world. Previously, S43 brewers were cask champions. Today they make the kind of modern and hazy juice-bombs advancing markets applaud. Fortunately, the new focus seems to be more than a marketing ploy: the brewers themselves admit that their tastes have evolved as modern beers have emerged.
Keep half an eye out for S43’s Snickers-themed You’re not You When You’re Thirsty (a 9% peanut butter fudge stout), but go ahead and seek out Juice Cannon this summer. The latter is one for the sunshine. As the name suggests, the beer is tropical and fruity with popular notes of passionfruit and mango. Somehow, it’s also smooth and creamy. Best enjoyed from a deck chair.
The second of my “new breweries to look out for” is Pentrich Brewing. Thinking about it, you’d be forgiven for mixing these guys up with the reborn S43. The cans themselves are similar. But that’s hardly where the similarities end. Again, Pentrich is another “long standing” craft brewery that has been chugging along since before the true craft beer boom. The tale is a familiar one: pre-2013, home brewers Joe and Ryan had eyes on something more. We hear it time and time again in the industry; beer lovers hoping to make a buck from doing something they enjoy. And it’s fair to say the (growing) team has smashed it since inception. They’re hardly retiring just yet, but the beers here are so damn good that, assuming they end up garnering half the attention they deserve, it won’t be long before the founders will have the freedom to do so.
Pentrich’s name comes from the Derbyshire town where the beer is made, the best of the bunch being the aptly named Birthdays in Isolation. This is a 10% Imperial IPA made with a smash-bang-wallop of citra, simcoe and nelson hops. Don’t be afraid of an overpowering ABV. Birthdays in Isolation will blow more than your socks off on the flavour front.
My last recommendation for summer 2020 brings us back full circle. We started with a much-talked-of must-have in DEYA’s Steady Rolling Man. Arise by Burning Sky snuggles into the same corner.
Without wanting (or at least intending) to create a theme here, Burning Sky is another brewery that straddles the “old” and “new” beer worlds. Still incredible cask producers, Burning Sky’s brewers aren’t afraid to both embrace the traditional and plough on with the modern. It’s a philosophy that ensures all Burning Sky beers deliver, cask or keg. With Arise, the brewery has a flagship pale that’s hard to fault. It’s as bright and hoppy as you’d hope. It’s just the right side of ripe and flowery. At 4.4%, it’s far from a monster, and the fruity notes from the hops sit in perfect harmony with the malt bill. Glorious and easy-drinking, it’s a perfect summer pale ale.
Grab yourself one of the above. Or grab them all. Then sit back and let the bees buzz (note: Bill Anderson’s column will likely have more appropriate advice) and the long evenings whisper on. Happy drinking and stay safe out there.
Kveik, Mild, Helles and Brut. At first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stumbled into the travel section of the Idler and were exploring potential retreats to a Scandinavian island. Thankfully not. Kievek, Mild, Helles and Brut are all in fact beer styles, and with brewers gearing up to showcase their takes on rather more challenging and on-trend styles during this year’s festival season, now is a great time to explore each. Pale ales and stouts are two a penny – the beers below are beers not to be missed.
Northern Helles by Donzonko Brewing
With every year in craft beer labeled as ‘the year of lager’, it’s important to never dismiss the classic and understated style of beer. Helles beers tend to have a sweeter and lighter edge – hell meaning ‘light’ or ‘bright’ in German. Unfortunately, it’s rare that anything actually lives up to the billing. Donzoko’s Northern Helles, however, does. Quite simply, if you don’t like this, you won’t like modern craft lagers. That’s a bold statement, I know. But Northern Helles is just about as good as it gets for a UK-based brew. Slightly malty and dark with a sweet edge, it’s a beer that flows down and one you can turn to time and time again. It’s so well executed you’d expect it to come out of Germany rather than Donzoko’s base in Hartlepool. It’s no surprise that Donzoko harbours a fixation with German brewing. The brewers label this “our version of a Bavarian Style unfiltered lager. Sweet malt, subtle floral hops and a crisp refreshing finish. Inspired by lazy days by the river Eisbach, this is our flagship beer that will change what you think about lager.” We can’t argue with any of that and, if Northern Helles is anything to go by, this really IS the year of the lager. Until next year, of course.
Haakon by Drop Project
Kviek is certainly riding a wave in the brewing world at the moment. It’s a type of Norwegian Farmhouse Ale yeast and, when used to ferment at certain temperatures, it “provides plenty of fruity esters and tropical top notes.” That’s basically a pale ale with a bit of funk, and it’s showcased wonderfully in Haakon, a full-flavoured pale ale by the new startup brewery Drop Project. The yeast is a little more sour, more acidic and more raspy (all in a good way, you understand), which leads to a more powerful beer. You still get all the classic pale ale notes but what you tend to get at the end of the sip is an interesting bite. Normally breweries would use bittering hops to give their brews a lingering flavour, but here Kviek takes over, making for something slightly different to your average brew. One to try from a brewery worth watching as they grow.
Zero Gravity by Lost+Found
Onto Brut. This little known beer style is exactly what you think it’s going to be… although if you’re thinking of an 80’s talcum powder you’ll be disappointed. Brut beers have risen in popularity over the last year as breweries seek out a sweet spot somewhere between a lager and a pale ale. This style bridges the two well and at the same time brings an air of sophistication to both. The name comes from brewers using champagne yeast or similar to drive the dryness of a beer down to near desert levels.
In the case of brut IPAs, all the wort’s sugar is converted into alcohol during fermentation thanks to a special enzyme called amyloglucosidase. With no sugar left to caress the palate, the resulting beer is totally dry. This all sounds rather specialist but in Zero Gravity Lost+Found have created a brut beer that’s as drinkable as the day is long. Too dry to be a beer but not winey enough to be wine, brut styles have historically been something of a flash in the pan. New styles keep popping up though, and with summer just around the corner you’ll be sure to find some somewhere near you.
Dark Mild by BOXCAR
When you think of a pint of mild, most minds conjure up an old midlands boozer with uninspiring cheap beer piled on every table as smoke lingers in the air mid-afternoon. “What’s wrong with that?!” I hear you cry. Admittedly not much… but the point remains that mild has long been in need of a resurgence, and it’s happening! BOXCAR are one of the most up-and-coming breweries in London (which itself houses a great many up-and-coming breweries), and they’ve taken on the challenge of making an exciting mild. The result is mild, yes. But not as you know it. Dark Mild has all the classic mild flavours but dialled up a level or two. It’s slightly sweet, brown and delicious. It’s about as far from a working men’s club as you could get – but, thankfully, still not a million miles from mild’s true roots. Look out for this – and a whole raft of other experimental beers – in good beer shops near you.
BIG BEER alert! DEYA are one of the most popular breweries at the moment and when they teamed up with one of our favourites it was a no-brainer to get in some Pressure Drop beers. This DIPA is all things DIPAs should be. Syrupy but light, hoppy yet not overly raspy. It’s a cracker. Two Weeks in Florida is strictly limited to 1 per box folks – sorry! Grab it while you can!
Redchurch are a brand new brewery to the site. They were one of the first breweries we talked to way back in 2015 but for one reason or another they never appeared on the site – until now!
Their style is accomplished and consistent and they are past masters of the sour. Our highlights are their IPL can and the Paradise Pale. Expect more sours and seasonal lagers from them after this first batch.
Another month another set of amazing Brew by Numbers cans. Boring. Haha. These beers can never be boring when they are so good. The 55 Citra, Simcoe & Ekuanot is easily one of the best DIPAs (double IPAs) on the market right now and a series of beers I have a soft spot for. It’s always evolving and never disappoints. Big hops and smooth drinking make this a must-pick. Personally I was thrilled to see 23 Keller Pils make it into their new range this months as I rate this as one of UK’s best Pils by some way. I’d drink it all day (if I could!) and is always on the radar for the first beer of a session.
We move onto Partizan who have literally sprung into spring like a springy thingy with a host of seasonal beers and rebrews.
Lots here to challenge even the most hardened of craft beer drinker including a beautiful Belgian pale Atomium and exceptionally easy drinking White Noise white IPA. We are loving this beer right now! This all comes alongside the usual brilliant offering of IPAs like including the best selling black coffee version (you went mad for this so we had to bring it back ASAP) and a new four hop drop thats fresh as a daisy. My favourite of these new pairs is certainly the white IPA, it’s rare that these come out as well as this and it would be the first bottle in my subscription box if I was picking.
Two breweries up next up who we haven’t seen for awhile. The first is Howling Hops with refreshed the core range and also added a big special can. This would be the first place I’d go but they really do nail the core range so you can’t go far wrong. Also back on the shelves are a load of new flavours of mead from Gosnells. If these don’t get you ready for summer nothing will!
Still with me? Good, because Canopy brewery have some big cans on the virtual shelves. We added their core but also took in the lager cans as it seems everyone is on a summer drive. If Rhubarb Weisse and Goosberry Gose don’t make you smile then nothing will.
I hope you enjoy picking these craft beers as much as I enjoyed hunting them out and trying them!
Cheers and beers!
December. When did that happen? It seems only yesterday we were basking in the summer sun and enjoying the festival season. But worry not the dark nights and festive vibes bring presents, joy, happiness and festive beer!
This month we’ve gone Christmas can crazy. A brewery local to us are absolutely destroying it in the can are Gipsy Hill. 3, 4 or 5 specials each month we couldn’t resist there latest offerings and bring you 6 new specials in can. They are all spot on but our pick of the bunch is the Christmas Kriek. Not just because it’s festive but because GH are nailing sour/fruited beers at the moment. This follows hot on the heels of their mixed berry sour and this is just as good, if not better. We’ve never had a cherry beer with the flavour of real cherries so prominent behind the tart sour front. An excellent winter companion to any fireside evening. Pure Christmas. You don’t see enough White IPAs these days so Momotaro is a lovely addition to their range and Baller, Swamper and Codebreaker are big, juicy fantastic brews – but all very different. Welcome back Gipsy Hill – pop these in your craft beer subscription box now!
We’ve also badgered the breweries at Seven Sisters, One Mile End, Big Hug and BBNo for some wares old and new and there’s some excellent picks in can from them all. Juice is the main player here and, let’s be honest, you can’t beat a bit of Brew by numbers. Soft, sessionable and now in alu 27|01 is outstanding. Don’t miss out one of the most interesting two beers this month in the shape of the Amaretti Impy from Canopy and Buddha’s sour ale. Both something for the adventurous.
Don’t worry we haven’t gone all can-mad. In bottle we have two smashing hop-beasts from Mondo. Both showcase different hops in very different ways but both very modern and different enough to stand out in a crowd – Green Monstah and Hongi are fresh in.
We also have some of the last bottles from BBNo including an IPA 05|01. One of the original craft beers from them and one that is already selling fast. A month can’t go by without grabbing some utterly excellent Pressure Drop beers. Every month they just get better and better and three new brews from them this month scream hoppiness. Try one, maybe two, definitely three. Not to be missed.
We’ve rounded up this months new beers with a bit of pudding too. Who doesn’t like ice cream? Weird Beards Choco Azimut is a mint choc ice cream pale. Yum indeed.
When people start talking of a beer as “beer of the year” you take notice. When it’s a Magic Rock and you’re about to load them onto your site as an Outsider you jump for joy! Good luck or genius timing? You can decide. We’ve had both Magic Rock and Verdant on our site before but never together and this monster 500ml can is basically the best of both.
Verdant do nothing but delivery soupy, hoppy, smooth, low-bitter big beers and Magic Rock are well versed in creating hop-forward brews so what could go wrong? Nothing at all, in fact it’s easily our beer of the month. There’s all that smoothness and tons of hops we spoke about previously but it has a very devilish slightly bitter and treacle-like triple edge to it that sets it apart from other DIPAs. For such a thick beer, and one with so much ABV, it’s scarily easy to drink and 500ml certainly won’t over-face you. Is What are the Odds “Beer of the Year”? Well that’s for you to decide but the only way to know is to try one – so grab one before they go (we have a few left as we type) and make up your own mind.
Notable runners up this month come from the ever-excellent Brew by Numbers and the “back to basics” beautiful 55|09 DIPA. A completely different beast to Odds but a stunning and beautiful brew none the less.
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