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Des de Moor
Best beer and travel writing award 2015, 2011 -- British Guild of Beer Writers Awards
Accredited Beer Sommelier
Writer of "Probably the best book about beer in London" - Londonist
"A necessity if you're a beer geek travelling to London town" - Beer Advocate
"A joy to read" - Roger Protz
"Very authoritative" - Tim Webb.
"One of the top beer writers in the UK" - Mark Dredge.
"A beer guru" - Popbitch.
Des de Moor


Downton Chimera Dark Delight and India Pale Ale

ABV: 6% and 7%
Origin: , Wiltshire, England

Originally published in BEER, February 2007

CAMRA North tasting February 2010 (IPA only)

Downton Chimera Dark Delight and

As sharp-eyed readers will have noticed, this page has for some time carried an open invitation for beer suggestions by email, all of which are gratefully received. Both breweries featured this month came to my attention through reader recommendations.

brewery once used to boast it was the only brewery in Downton, a large and historic village (or town, depending on who you ask) near Salisbury. It lost that distinction in 2003 when a new micro opened on the very same industrial estate.

Far from being a hostile rival, however, Hop Back has been a friendly neighbour – in fact Downton brewer Martin Strawbridge once worked for the bigger brewery. Hop Back leased Downton space and plant, and bottle and sell its beers.

Two impressive real ales are offered in a bottle under the Chimera brand name. Dark Delight is an old ale that was a Tesco beer challenge runner up in 2004, and became Downton’s second bottled beer in November last year.

A grist of Crisp Norfolk-grown Maris Otter pale malt, maize, roast barley, crystal wheat malt and chocolate malt from Warminster maltings is hopped with Challenger and East Kent Goldings, with a late dose of Pioneer for aroma.

The beer is a rich deep chestnut colour with ruby hints and a light off-white foamy head. The aroma is generously malty and chocolatey, developing a chaffy cereal note and lightly perfumed raspberry fruit.

The palate is surprisingly light hearted, with moist fruit cake, Demerara sugar, a blast of dry coffee and spicy ginger and cinnamon notes. A dry leafy finish has a hint of roast, leaving the impression of a full-bodied but very drinkable beer.

The brewery’s other bottled beer is an award-winning revivalist India Pale Ale, with a golden colour, robust gravity and generous use of hops recalling the late 18th century founders of the style. East Kent Goldings and Pioneer do the honours, with a dash of Organic Fuggles for aroma in more recent brews and a grist of pure Maris Otter with a dash of maize.

My bottled poured a lightly cloudy yellow gold, with a fine bubbly white head. Oddly, the perfumed hoppy aroma turned out to have something of a Germanic character, with honeyed and vanilla notes.

A crisp but quite soft, full and sweet palate is quick to turn hoppy, with resins, pepper, hints of pineapple and a slightly soapy note that isn’t at all unpleasant.

Hops persist in the finish which is peppery and twiggy, but again with that sweetish malt to soften things out. A little more sweetness would have been cloying, but instead the beer manages a perfect balance with vivid flavours.

The Chimera itself puts in an appearance on both labels – an impossibly monstrous creature from Greek mythology with the heads of both a goat and a lion, and a snake for a tail. The beers also bring together disparate ingredients, but with a considerably more harmonious and agreeable result.

For more reader recommended beers see next post.

Read more about these beers at

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