They say…

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

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New Real Ale in a Bottle

Originally published in BEER February 2011. Click on the links for extended reviews.

Hardknott Granite 2009

The good Real Ale in a Bottle just keeps on coming, and this column can barely keep pace! And pleasingly, many of the new bottlers aren’t just bottling cask but aim to tempt a discerning audience with something special.

An excellent example is the Hardknott Brewery deep in the Lake District. Their bottled range includes a tasty 6.5% “oxymoronic ruby red IPA” and a complex 8% barrel aged Imperial Stout. But my pick of a very strong bunch is Hardknott Granite (10.4 per cent), a dry hopped dark ruby barley wine with a rich caramel malt palate set off by chewy hops, spice and an odd but pleasing whiff of Stilton cheese. A vinous, sherryish finish yields chewy roast and slightly burnt tones, plum jam and tobacco. Brewer Dave Bailey is also one of Britain’s most respected and perceptive beer bloggers, and demonstrably practices what he preaches. The flair and imagination in these beers marks him out as a brewer to watch.

Also exercising his imagination is John Bates at Ole Slewfoot brewery near Norwich, named after a bear in a Johnny Horton song. His range of corked and wired 375ml bottles includes Red Wing (5.1 per cent), an attempt at a Flemish red ale with a whiff of roses on the woody aroma. It’s lightly sour – I suspect the addition of brettanomyces yeast – with fruity malt, chocolate, and an authentic irony tang. While not a clone of any Belgian original it’s impressively true to style and very drinkable in its own right.

Green Jack in Lowestoft are unafraid to put strong stuff on the bar and they’re now putting some of it in handsome swing top 750ml bottles, including Green Jack Ripper (8.5 per cent), their award winning barley wine-cum-abbey tripel. This blond beer has a citric, peaches and cream aroma with mineral notes and a grainy, herby palate (coriander, perhaps?) with a distinct note of apricot jam. Rooty hops finally emerge on a spicy dry finish to give a bitter kick that’s pronounced but not excessive.

I admire Edinburgh micro Stewart’s for reflecting Scotland’s distinct brewing tradition in their beers, unlike some of their peers. Among their new bottle conditioned range is the very Scottish Stewart’s St Giles, named after the landmark Presbyterian High Kirk on the capital’s Royal Mile. It’s a cherry red beer with a ripe cinder toffee and malt aroma and a classic malty-fruity palate. Burnt cake and a gentle hint of hops dry the soothing caramel-tinged finish, ideal for relaxing with after a bracing winter stroll in Holyrood Park.

Blythe Ridware Pale, hand bottled deep in rural Staffordshire, is a strikingly pale and delicate yellow colour with a fruity and flowery lemon and honey aroma. A crisp, dry, lightly bitter palate has floral and mineral hints and the tasty finish develops earthy pepper flavours over plenty of firm and fruity malt. This perfectly balanced and very refreshing beer is one of the best I’ve tried of the new breed of bitterish golden ales.

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