Robin Brown, worldtravelguide.net’s managing director and a serious beer aficionado, gives us his Top Ten from the tasting
1. Kernel Export India Porter 5.9%, London, England
Exactly what I am looking for in a solid porter. For me that’s full-bodied, a deep smooth mouthful, but a subtle bitterness on the way down. If you love a more ‘creamy’ porter, perhaps something you might expect from a stout, but with the flavours and aromas of chocolate and coffee, rounded out by a lovely medium sweetness, this is definitely for you. Sit around the fire sipping this one with roasted chestnuts. Winner.
2. Westmalle Tripel, Belgium, 9.5%
Wow. Very rich, very fruity, very powerful, sticky and almost tropical. A delicious creaminess in the mouth, cloves and dark fruits come through in abundance. Not overly sweet. A solid, long-lasting foamy head you could shave with. With such a robust ale it’s easy to forget its strength. However, have more than one bottle of this and you’re likely be on your knees. A superb example of a trappist ale, would pair excellently with a steak and blue cheese.
3. Schneider Weisse Tap 7, Germany, 5.4%
A decidedly full bodied, mahogany coloured, wheat beer with a head that lasts deep into the glass, protecting the rich aromas of cloves, nutmeg, bananas until savoured on the tongue. A surprisingly clean taste though, both sweet and bitter, with a very satisfying finish. This would definitely compliment a hearty stew, sausage or cheese.
4. Goose Island IPA, USA, 5.9%
Definitely hits the mark as an IPA, strong on hops, but not overly so. A delicious lightness in taste for a beer at 5.9%. Hints of tropical fruit and tangerine, but still with a moderate maltiness and a pleasant sweetness. Its solid hop finish will have you counting down the minutes (or seconds) to the next mouthful.
5. Beavertown, Gamma Ray, London, 5.4%
Crazy can illustrations aside, which alone stir the attention of others, this is a really fun pale ale in a can. There’s a lot going on here from a beer in the style of an American Pale Ale, brewed in Tottenham. Everything from a bold hoppiness, some spice, a nice fruitiness even some tropical notes and some refreshing sourness. For me a light body, thin texture, which I didn’t mind, and some sweetness, makes for a fun drink.
6. Fullers ESB 5.9%, London, England
This was surprising, particularly as I’m not much of a Fullers fan. A deep golden ale, luscious and syrupy, silky smooth for a bitter, slightly sweet and seems to stick to the sides of your throat going down, in a nice way. Leaves a deeply satisfying subtle bitterness to a long finish, reminding you that this is a special bitter. Definitely brings a bold smile to your face.
7. Mr Trotter’s Chestnut Ale 4%, England
For pure satisfying drinkability, this chestnut-coloured and slightly-flavoured ale, with a touch of smokiness to it, ticks all the boxes for me. It evokes an autumnal day and that smell of woodsmoke in the air. Not hoppy but a touch of maltiness and a gentle finish; a great session beer.
8. Hobgoblin Legendary Ruby, 5.2%, England
It’s probably the chocolate and crystal malts that combine to produce an immensely powerful copper, ruby red ale. Great maltiness, a touch of dandelion and burdock, caramel and fruit too, makes for a smooth finishing, deeply satisfying brew with a wonderful aroma.
9. Paolozzi, Edinburgh Beer Factory, Helles Lager 5.2 %, Scotland
A nice but surprisingly sweet-edged finish to this golden, honey-noted amber-coloured lager. Some malt, and a mild hoppy finish; doesn’t hang around on the palate and is quite refreshing with its slight bitterness. Not remarkable, but something I found very enjoyable.
10. Liefmans Kriek, 6% (2012 bottling), Belgium
Definitely on the light side for a Belgian beer, but its deep red colour, sweet cherries and touch of marzipan, made this a wonderful mouthful, especially with its hint of sourness. For a beer thinner than expected, it has almost syrupy finish with a sweet aftertaste. This is a beer that could give you your first, gentle, introduction to the world of ‘sour’ beers.