Food, Drink & Entertainment
Beer Beers of the Month: April All the talk in the beer world for the last two or three years has been of craft brewers and craft beers. But what’s the difference between the craft brewers of today and the straightforward microbrewers of yesteryear? Well, to the naked eye the most obvious distinction is that craft brewers are much more adventurous in typography and graphic design. Their labels tend to be an undisciplined jumble of colours and fonts and there are generally far too many words, none of which tell you much about the actual contents. So let’s turn to the contents now, and compare an ultramodern hyperactive craft IPA to a version made by a brewery that’s been ploughing the same row for so long now it must surely have succumbed to boredom long ago. Punk IPA at 5.6% abv comes from Brewdog, the pioneering Scottish craft brewer that came to fame through its use of negative marketing, courting controversy to gain the media’s attention. This is perhaps the country’s best-selling craft beer – but is it any good? Well, it’s certainly interesting. My little tasting panel identified aromas of Rooibos bubble bath (honest!), lemongrass, basil, straw and peach, while the palate was honeyed, viscous, sweet, and not unlike a passionfruit J2O – certainly with none of the bitterness you’d expect from an IPA. Similarly the finish – peppery, with a hint of chilli, but with no discernible hop bitterness. Adnams, like many an old-established brewer feeling threatened by these crafty newcomers, has also gone down the bonkers-labelling route for its Innovation IPA (a hearty 6.7% abv); with far too many words, a completely made-up back story, and a list of exotic hop varieties which looks impressive but means nothing to you and me. The beer, though, pleased: sweet citrus notes on the nose – mandarin or perhaps tangelo; a richer, creamier mouth feel than Punk IPA with a slightly soapy sweetness; and a rich, dark, lingering finish. So, then: both excellently fruity and complex beers. Neither of them a bit like an IPA, though.
Beers of the Month: May Something like 1,000 new breweries have opened in Britain in the last 10 years, and even though pubs are closing and alcohol consumption is dropping, almost none of them have gone bust. Clearly they’re doing something right, and much bigger, older, uglier breweries are trying to figure out what. And – joining being a function of not beating – some pretty unlikely candidates are turning to that ol’ sincerest form of flattery. The unlikeliest of them all being Guinness, perhaps the biggest one-product beer factory in the world. Back in December we had a look at Guinness’s West Indies Porter and we liked it. Now it’s (sort-of) summer, we’re looking at Guinness Golden Ale (4.5% abv) – and do we like that too? Well, no. For a start, it’s not golden – in fact it’s closer to copper than gold. And then there’s the nose: “like feet, or warm Stilton – lactic and sour,” was one comment. “Sugary – diabetic trucker’s pee,” was pithier still. The palate? “Thin and sharp.” “Where’s the malt?” “Soda water.” And the finish? Short and sharp with a hint of sour apple. So, not a favourite, then. From Black Sheep of Masham, North Yorkshire, which celebrated its silver anniversary last year, comes a more promising attempt at a “craft” beer. Black Sheep is best known for its eponymous bitter, which is a superbly executed albeit dead traditional malty brown beer formulated with the Yorkshire palate firmly in mind. A golden ale, whose floral hop aroma should burst out of the glass at you like a flowerfilled hand grenade, is something of a departure. Have they nailed it with Golden Sheep (4.7%)? Yes they have – although admittedly it’s more of a fruiterer’s than a florist’s. This is a Yorkshire thing. Yorkies are more about malt than hops and a golden ale is usually more about hops than malt – most even have a dose of wheat malt to keep that body light. But this is a curvaceous mill-girl of a beer: malty nose with notes of lime and cherry; rounded Pimms-y palate ripe with strawberries; then green fruit or even apricot in a long, astringent, thirst-quenching finish. By the ‘eck! Wakes week must be early this year! By Ted Bruning
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