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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Strong and special beers

Originally published in BEER November 2010. Click on the links for extended reviews of the beers mentioned.

Marble Special and Decade. Pic from the Beer Emporium: www.thebeeremporium.com

While it’s great that good beer in Britain is a ubiquitous, everyday drink, the way in which the British perceive beer as an everyday, unpretentious quencher sometimes deters brewers from pushing the limits of their art. In countries where the development of craft brewing took a different course, such as the USA and Italy, numerous beers are marketed as rare and relatively pricey artisanal products – the sort of thing you might give as a gift and not be thought a cheapskate.

One brewery daring to challenge the “ordinariness” of British beer culture Manchester’s Marble Arch brewpub, which now offers a pair of strong limited edition beers, Special Barley Wine and Marble Decadence Imperial Stout, conditioned in 750ml Bordeaux-style bottles with wired and waxed corks, at an eyebrow-raising but realistic price of £9.99 a bottle. Both are excellent but the stout (8.7 per cent) impressed me most, with its spice cake, tropical fruit and Marmite aroma, a palate bursting with pineapple syrup, lemons, raisins, plums and crystallised ginger and a long drying chocolate finish with a charcoal touch.

Moor brewery in Somerset has enjoyed an upmarket makeover recently, with an American influence most obviously explained by the Californian origins of its current owner-brewer Justin Hawke. Moor JJJ IPA (9 per cent), in an elegant 660ml bottle with art nouveau label, is a “triple” IPA that could challenge many West Coast examples, bursting with complex hop character: roses, fresh hay, citrus, caramel, coconut and cracked pepper but still grounded, just, by toasty and fruity malt.

Publicity-shy family independent Samuel Smith’s of Tadcaster has recently added to its range of excellent but filtered specialities a barley wine, Sam Smith’s Yorkshire Stingo (9 per cent). This is not only bottle conditioned but matured for over a year before bottling in oak casks, some of which are over a century old. The deep burgundy brew has spiced toffee and grapes in a cakey aroma, and a broad oak note colouring a malty, nutty palate with red fruit and spiced candy – serious quality stuff.

An anniversary is a good excuse for a special brew and Wye Valley, Herefordshire-based suppliers of one of Britain’s best bottle conditioned stouts, mark their quarter century with Dorothy Goodbody’s Imperial Stout (7 per cent), a limited edition of 6,000 bottles in attractive presentation boxes. This sweetish dark ruby beer has plenty of chocolate, coffee and blackcurrant with a crackle of roast in an unctuous, slightly sticky finish. It’s enjoyable and satisfying, though lacking in the challenging and intense flavours of established imperial stouts.

The 18th century brewhouse at Traquair House in the Scottish Borders remains a unique source of strong and old-fashioned beers fermented in the original unlined oak vessels, and owner-brewer Catherine Maxwell-Stuart has marked the second decade of the third millennium with 20,000 stylish bottles of Traquair 2010 (10 per cent). Vanilla and cloves on the aroma herald a beer that’s firm and generously malty, with banana and oak, and minerals, wood and vine fruits on the finish. Although filtered, Traquair beers age well and this one should keep developing toward’s the millennium’s third decade.

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