From the revival of a much-loved icon to a trans-European collaboration and a great-tasting low-alcohol beer, it’s a rich crop for Susanna Forbes with this month’s Swift Halves
While the standard of low-alcohol beers continues to rise, it can still seem a bit hit and miss. Here’s one from Lucky Saint that’s certainly in the ‘hit’ camp. There’re definite malt tones in there as often happens, and serious bitterness on the finish. What’s different is that there’s a welcome mid-palate.
The pilsner malt has been put to good use. By cleverly working on the beer post-fermentation, founder Luke Boase uses a nifty process to drive off the alcohol at a lower temperature than with many other low-alcohol beers. This means he is able not only to have a decent malt-bill, but also to avoid the burnt flavours so often seen in the lower-abv sector. The lager has a full six weeks conditioning and is unfiltered to retain character and flavour.
Anything else? Hostelries around town that have taken on Lucky Saint include Honest Burgers.
0.5%, £23/20x33cl; Lucky Saint, firstname.lastname@example.org
Good things come to those who wait, so for those who’ve been enjoying Tetley’s beers on cask, two of its beers have hit the bottling line, the first to do so in four years.
Our favourite was No. 3, the pale ale. Brewed with a recipe inspired by Tetley’s original pale ale 150 years ago, it includes the brewer’s unique yeast. A rounded hop repertoire makes for great flavours, with notes of pine mingling with citrus – orange and hints of lime – and peach. Well-textured with judicious sparkle, they suggest rhubarb crumble, along with pie and peas (perhaps mushy).
Anything else? There’s also a zesty Golden Ale (4%) with similarly versatile food-matching potential.
4.2%, POA/8x50cl, Carlsberg, 0800 027 4144
Sparta from Bohem illustrates how, in the right hands, lager does not have to be timid or inconsequential. A serious maltbill suggests hazelnuts and hints of caramel, while the palate has just the right amount of dark, pine forest hop bitterness on the finish alongside tangerine skin zestiness.
Founded by expat Czech brewers Zdenek Kudr and Petr Skoce and based in Tottenham, Bohem is dedicated to Czech-style beers, and this is one of four beers that go into can. The pair brew on Czech-built equipment, but also commit themselves to a full five-weeks lagering process.
Anything else? Bohem has launched a lager manifesto, a ten-point plan covering everthing from process and equipment to storage and serve.
5.4%, £51.60/24x44cl can, Bottle Shop, 0203 490 9252
IMBC/Buxton/Magic Rock/North Brewing Co/Stone Brewing, Fellow-Sip IPA
One of the best things about beer festivals, particularly those where like-minded brewers congregate as at Indy Man Beer Con in Manchester’s historic, atmospheric Victoria Baths, is the collab beers they trigger. What’s even better is when there’s some beer left after the event.
Well that’s what our quartet have done this year. Four of the brightest breweries headed to Stone Brewing’s Berlin brewhouse and produced this humdinger of an IPA. Each brewery is renowned for its affection for hops, so each brought along ideas from their own IPA recipes.
Light yellowy-gold in the glass, pine citrus influences dominate on the nose. The bitterness is tangible, but in beautiful balance to the bold hops.
Anything else? The Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens includes up to 75 beers on tap and has won the Bier, Bars & Brauer award for Best Beer Gastronomy in Germany.
7%, £36.50/12x50cl can, £137.20/30l keg, James Clay
Ross on Wye Cider & Perry is out to dazzle with the release of its new flagship cider Raison d’Être. Albert Johnson, son of founder Mike, wants to push cider towards a more premium image, which is where this cider comes in. It’s a blend of Dabinett and Michelin, Ross’s two most prolific apples, fermented in oak barrels and given time before release.
It’s bone dry, but elegant, with hints of smoky tannins counterbalanced by tart apricot notes on a medium-bodied palate. Albert wants ‘to showcase that cider is a natural product with year-to-year variation, that you can’t control – that you don’t need to control’.
Looking forward to observing how each vintage of Raison d’Être evolves, Albert says: ‘They’ll all be at different stages of their cycle.’
‘Some years they’ll be better earlier than others. Some years it will be the fruit that leads, other times the barrel.’
Anything else? Ross on Wye has also just released eight single-varietal ciders in its renowned 50cl format, including a debut for White Norman and Hagloe Crab.
8.4%, £30/6x75cl, Ross on Wye Cider & Perry, email@example.com