|Day 1: Young Henry's Real Ale|
- Young Henry’s Real Ale (4%) – pours dark copper; medium head; light malt aroma; touch of earthy hop; light malt flavour balanced by medium hop bitterness; finishes toward the bitter with some earthy hop flavour; light on body overall. English ordinary bitter style with a nice bitterness on the finish. All beers of this type would benefit from aeration to bring more texture into the body of the beer. English Best Bitter style with Australian hops (Galaxy; Stella; Topaz), and a solid malt backbone producing some sweet toffee flavours.
- Coniston Brewing Co. Bluebird Bitter (4.2%) – Ahh, a fine bitter drop with body and taste; tart and hoppy (English Challenger) balanced with creamy malt (Maris Otter) – pure Cumbrian class in a glass.
- Nail Brewing Hefeweizen Wombat Wheat (5.2%) – banana aromas and Hallertauer hops flavours; little bitterness; some hints of bread and bubblegum. Tasty and refreshing for a summer’s day.
- Brasserie Lefebvre Hopus (8.3%) – Belgian IPA style; pours golden with copper highlights; vegetal, citrus and hop aromas; fruit flavours with bitter finish; both fruity and peppery, it is a complex little number, but in a good way.
- 8 Wired Brewing Co. 2012 Chardonnay Barrel-Aged Saison (7%) – pours orange with medium white head; peach and tartness on aroma; tart fruit flavour up front; some Brett flavours and acid from the barrel; also wood aromas and flavours from the oak. Aged in chardonnay barrels with added brettanomyces for a year, then dry hopped with NZ hops (Motueka; Kohatu) – an Old World style with a New World hop twist – as close to perfection as it is possible to be (and my favourite beer of the year).
- Williams Bros. Alba Scots Pine Ale (7.5%) – Malty, slight sweetness; pale brown with slight copper hue; juicy flavours; wooded warming taste; faint hops without any resinous taste; like a good strong Belgian that deceptively doesn’t taste strong; “A traditional Highland recipe, popular in Northern Scotland until the end of the nineteenth century. This ‘triple’ style ale is spiced with sprigs of spruce and pine, harvested in the spring and brewed with only a small token handful of hops.”
- Nomad Jet Lag IPA (6%) – Good malt sweetness and body; really good bitter ‘snap’; good tropical hop flavours (mango; pineapples) without too much resinous dry hopping.
- Lervig Brewers LA Rye IPA (8.5%) – Grainy, cloudy taste; citrus flavours; soft bitterness on the finish; some spiciness on the flavour from the rye; oily and resinous flavours from the hopping. From Stavanger, Norway, comes a beer with a lot of taste that fails to be overly tasty.
- Victory Hop Devil IPA (6.7) – American hops and German malts combine to make a big bold beer without any subtlety or finesse, as you would expect. That’s not necessarily a fault.
- Theresianer Vienna Lager (5.3%) – Italian version of Vienna amber lager; soft spruce aromas; lightly caramelised malt; full flavour with a refreshing finish. An interesting, drinkable beer with character.
- New Englander Hop Cannon IPA (6.6%) – Toffee aromas; grainy, soft, earthy hop flavours and gentle bitter mouthfeel. The IPA uses only two malts and lots of whole hop flowers resulting in resinous pine and sweet fruit flavours and aromas.
- Birra del Borgo Seven Hops IPA (7%) – Pours opaque golden with a big white head; fruity, earthy hop aromas; some biscuit and caramel malt sweetness; stone fruit hop flavours; massive mouth bitterness but very smooth; creamy and lightly carbonated. A truly solid example of an excellent IPA.
- Tuatara APA (5.8%) – American Pale Ale made with all-American hops (Chinook; Amarillo; Pacific Jade; Zythos) creates an aggressive palate of citrus with pine notes. Pours golden amber; malt sweetness (NZ malts); earthy hop flavours dominate a softer bitterness. And the scaly, ridged, tactile bottles are fantastic and ingeniously suited to the eponymous reptile, sorry, dinosaur.
- Duvel Triple Hop 2014 (9.5%) – Duvel Tripel Hop is brewed with three hop varieties and each year the third hop is changed to provide its own unique taste and aroma. For 2014 the brewers selected the exotic hop Mosaic from the USA. They say it provides higher aromatic intensity with fresh notes of tropical fruit and an intriguing blueberry flavor. I say, the massive grassy hop aroma and piney hop flavours detract from the subtleties of the main beer, which is lovely and soft with high carbonation.
- Clown Shoes Muffin Top (10.5%) – The intense flavours of American hops matched with Belgian yeast create an intriguingly hoppy version of the Belgian Triple IPA. Notes of oranges and candied peel with a sweetish flavour lead seamlessly to a bready and dry finish; very tasty like a light Christmas pudding.
- Hitachino Nest Commemorative Ale (8%) – Brewed in the tradition of an eisbock where the brew is concentrated by allowing the water to freeze, but not the alcohol. Cloudy amber in colour but crisp and hoppy in flavour, with notes of cinnamon, coriander, orange peel, nutmeg and vanilla beans – a lovely festive ale which combines five malts (Pale; Munich; Crystal; Chocolate; and wheat) with four types of hops (Styrian Goldings; Hallertauer; Tettnang; Saaz). Made to “celebrate the New Year. Please enjoy while you forget the worries and troubles of the old year.” Okay then.
- Temple Brewing Company Bicycle Beer (4.2%) – Very light colour and body; high carbonation; spicy citrus and summer fruit hop overtones (Magnum; Simcoe; Sorachi Ace; Citra; Centennial; Amarillo; Crystal) a touch of salt (added from the Grampians) enhances the hop profile, complements the soft malt character and leaves a dry finish on the palate. Similar to a Radler – thirst-quenching, refreshing and capable/worthy of cycling after.
- Sierra Nevada Hoptimum (10.4%) – Bitter and hoppy with intense aromas and flavours of grapefruit rind, pine, herbs and tropical fruits; it’s an aggressive Imperial IPA; flavoursome but without being resinous – on the perfection end of the IPA scale.
- Brouwerij Verhaeghe Duchesse de Bourgogne Flanders Red (6.2%) – Aged in oak barrels for eighteen months – pours a rich ruby red; exceptionally deep and complex; sour and fruity without being tart and with an underlying malty sweetness – like a sour cherry cheesecake – delicious!
- Abita Purple Haze (4.2%) –Raspberries are added to the pilsner and wheat malts to produce raspberry flavours and vanilla aromas. A fruity wheat beer without much body; not a standout.
- 8 Wired Brewing Co. 2011 Barrel-Aged Smoked Imperial Porter (11%) – A Manuka-smoked imperial porter, re-fermented with farmhouse yeast and aged in American oak barrels for 18 months. Massive malts, light chocolate; Brett aromas on top of rich dark fruit and raisins; some liquorice flavours on the finish. Moderate bitterness – enormous flavour.
- Brasserie de Silly La Saison (5%) Saison-style top fermented old brown beer. Aroma of Belgian yeast and some sourness is deceptive as the flavours are sweeter than expected with hints of caramel, chocolate, nuts and spices. Oddly unsettling.
- 7 Cent Big ‘n Beardy (9.8%) Russian Imperial Stout aged for a year in a whisky barrel; notes of roast coffee, rich chocolate and burnt caramel, hints of oak and vanilla, mild funk and tart berries, classic Imperial hop flavours. This is an amazing beer, and I also love the waxy top that looks like a melted candle.
- Birra del Borgo Hoppy Cat (5.8%) The name and label are winners; the beer is pretty fine too. Describing itself as a Caskadian dark ale, it is otherwise known as a black IPA – hoppy, resinous, berry nose with a touch of sherbet, and coffee, liquorice and peppery flavours. Tasty dark malt (maple syrup?) but a surprisingly hoppy bitter finish.
|Day 5: 8 Wired Brewing Co. 2012 Chardonnay Barrel-Aged Saison|
|Day 13: Tuatara APA|
|Day 16: Hitachino Nest Commemorative Ale|
|Day 19: Brouwerij Verhaeghe Duchesse de Bourgogne|
|Day 24: Birra del Borgo Hoppy Cat|