25 September 2017

UK hun?

British craft beer is unavoidable these days. Most of the handful of talked-about producers have a presence here, though I can't help noticing prices have stayed buoyant as sterling tanks. Anyway, here's a few that I've tried recently.

London is the hub of the British new wave and Bermondsey's FourPure is one of the most solidly reliable of the capital's brewers. Its Southern Latitude, which showed up on the taps at 57 The Headline, is in the daring style of New England session IPA. It's 4.4% ABV and a not terribly sessionable €6 for a 400ml glass. It doesn't look very New Englandy either: quite dark and almost completely clear. The flavours are clear too: juicy peach and then a double dryness from high carbonation and a slightly aspirin tang. It's refreshing, though, which does meet the session IPA requirement of the spec. Not FourPure's best work, however.

Derbyshire's Buxton is a rare sighting in this part of the country and we owe the presence of Myrcia IPA to The Headline's management relentlessly pursuing it. This is another session IPA, 4% and claiming to be hop bursted. What's not to like? The aroma starts it off well, bright and lemony, but the flavour is very muted and consists predominantly of yeast. It ends up tasting as mucky and dreggy as it looks. Searching desperately for a lighter point I found a slight lemon buzz but no freshness and no real hop character. I guess the lesson is that you need a clean beer to get the benefit of loading all the hops into the end phase of brewing. As is, this was a huge disappointment.

Scotland is inevitably represented here by BrewDog. Their latest "India Pale Weizen" Nine To Five Wizard warranted a special daytime launch event in UnderDog. That was all quite jolly, and proof that BrewDog can still draw a crowd in this town. The beer itself wasn't all that impressive, offering little more than you'd get from a standard weissbier -- banana, cloves -- just given a little extra poke at 7.5% ABV. The lovely smooth texture is perhaps its best feature, coming with a very mild burn, hops or alcohol, at the end. I'm chalking it up as a definite positive that the extra hopping has not been allowed to interfere with the classic flavours as so often happens in poorly conceived hybrid styles like these.

Seemingly the only Welsh brewery that counts in craft circles these days (where did Otley disappear to?) is Newport's Tiny Rebel. Two of theirs came my way lately. One was a can I drank in Brewery Corner in Kilkenny: Clwb Tropicana. This is a fruited IPA, or "tropical" IPA, as the branding insists. It's pale yellow and smells of Lilt. The texture is sticky; the flavour is sickly, and there's no real beer character going on. I have now witnessed a pub customer working along the fruit IPA selections on a particular bar, so it seems beers like this are answering a market demand. This specific one, however, demonstrates clearly to me what's wrong with the whole segment.

Meanwhile, on draught, over at The Headline was Cali American Pale Ale. It's quite a severe beer: a chalky asparagus bitterness being the main feature, and all at the front. I waited for the middle to happen but it didn't really. It feels like there should be a sudden inrush of tangerine or something, but nope. I couldn't stay cross with it for long, however. That one punchy mineral feature is something I enjoyed coming back to sip after sip. This is a no-nonsense beer, take it or leave it, and I'd happily have another.

Dessert, then, and the dark side begins at Wild Beer's Millionaire stout. "Salted caramel" is your Brucie bonus in this one. And yes, it's a little bit sticky, though not overly so. Really it's just a typical, ungimmicky, sweet-ish stout, tarry of texture but with light easy-going flavours of vanilla and honey, as well as a proper hop bitterness. I was genuinely convinced it was a strong one so was very pleasantly surprised to discover it's only 4.7% ABV. I could have handled a pint of this no problem