This month’s Swift Halves from Imbibe’s beer and cider editor Susanna Forbes is a mixed bag, ranging from a punchy double IPA to a subtle saffron beer, with some pretty funky packaging and Mikkeller’s first core range completing the quintet
ABK, Hell, Germany
Bavarian helles lager
ABK’s Hell, a beautifully balanced Bavarian lager, took the Supreme Champion title at the 2018 International Beer Challenge. To reach this far, Hell beat off a succession of more showy fellow Trophy winners, including a Russian Imperial Stout and Birra Del Borgo’s L’Equilibrista, ‘a love story between beer and wine’.
With its beers available in 15 countries, ABK’s brewery dates back over 700 years to 1308, with its current head brewer Bernd Trick still wholly devoted to the 1516 German Purity Law. One of a baker’s dozen of senior judges deciding the final trophies, I caught up with Trick afterwards. ‘We want to deliver typical Bavarian beers,’ he said with a smile. Job done, I’d say.
Golden in colour with a medium body, this is the perfect example of a lager. Light cereal base notes support delicate floral and herbal hints from the hops, and a well-judged sparkle results in a moreish finish.
Anything else? ABK beers draw on pure Alpine water and locally grown Hallertau hops with their floral notes.
5%, POA/50cl and dolium keg; Rok Drinks
Boss Brewing, Boss Boss, Wales
Visitors to Imbibe Live may have been lucky enough to catch up with dynamic Sarah John, co-founder of Swansea-based Boss Brewing. Rapidly making a name for itself, here’s its double IPA Boss Boss, where double of everything – malts, wheat, aroma hops and yeasts –results in something with more than double the impact.
A well-thought out malt bill ensures caramel-infused base notes to balance the hoppy flourish. Tangerine and Seville orange zest envelop the palate, following through to the finish where they join green pine notes to offer a moreish resinous depth.
Anything else? While I didn’t match this with the blue cheese the brewery suggested, I can confirm aged Double Gloucester is a winner with it.
Mikkeller, Wood Will Fall Down, Denmark
Passionfruit Berliner weisse
As we look forward to the opening of the Mikkeller bar with none other than 80s popstar Rick Astley next month, Imbibe was more than delighted to road test the four Mikkeller cans that form its first core range.
Alongside an eloquent hop-infused trio – the pale ale, IPA and pils – is our favourite, Wood Will Fall Down, a passionfruit-infused Berliner weisse. I’ve no idea where Europe’s most famous nomadic brewer gets his beer names from, but what I do know is that this is as restrained as it is refreshing. A lemony tang on the nose flows through to a bright, enlivening finish. Alongside its light passionfruit notes, the beer’s sour nature serves as a true palate cleanser. Definitely not one for over chilling.
Anything else? In the 12 years since Mikkel Borg Bjergsø made his brewing debut, Mikkeller has released over 800 different beers.
4.2%, £36.95/24x330ml cans, £106.84/30l keykeg; Euroboozer
Bignose & Beardy, Hedgerow, Sussex
Still, dry cider
Having had my curiosity piqued by Bignose & Beardy’s Turning Japanese pear cider, it was lovely to check out a few of Phil Day and Steve Sark’s other ciders. The cidery, named after the pair’s most prominent features, is based in Framfield, Sussex, on the edge of the Weald.
Hedgerow is the pair's dry offering, crafted from a blend of dessert and cider varieties, including Howgate Wonder, Cherry Cox and Dabinett. Lively and tangy with ripe peach and orange zest notes throughout, Hedgerow is slowly fermented with wild yeasts and released unfiltered and unpasteurised. With good acids alongside fine fruit notes, this works well as an aperitif or with light dishes, with or without creamy sauces.
Anything else? Bignose & Beardy has a cider club whereby individuals can not only donate fruit, but also get involved with picking and production.
6%, £44/24x33cl bottle, £53/20l BiB; Eebria Trade
Hush Heath, Jake’s Saffron Beer, England
Here’s something a little more unusual: a subtle lager, suffused with saffron fresh from Morocco. Jake, son of Hush Heath founder Richard Balfour-Lynn, is the name behind Jake’s Kentish Cider, as Balfour-Lynn senior's estate has an orchard as well as a vineyard.
Jake is also a partner in Saff Tali, which imports saffron. Having crafted a saffron beer in France, he wanted to replicate the experience in the UK, and worked with Westerham Brewery in Kent to produce this elegant table partner, where Hersbrucker and Challenger hops offer a light bitterness on the close.
Anything else? The saffron comes from the village of Taliouine on the edge of the Sahara desert where purportedly the finest crocus flowers thrive.
4.8%,£15.60/12x33cl cans/bottles; £85/30l E-kegs; Hush Heath