Susanna Forbes' swift halves

Susanna Forbes

Susanna Forbes

10 January 2018

From a new Cathedral of Beer in Berkshire to a classic cider producer in Herefordshire, via Spain, Edinburgh, and a perfume shop in Oxford Street, Susanna Forbes kicks off 2018 with a typically varied range of strengths and colours, influences and experiences

West Berkshire Brewery

India Session Ale (4.2%), Tamesis Extra Stout (4.9%)

West Berkshire Brewery has just moved into its very own ‘Cathedral of Beer’. With end-to-end glass window from the bar/tasting room to gleaming new brewery, it’s a magnificent site.

To celebrate its new canning line, there’s been a recipe makeover for the Renegade India Session Ale. Clean, bright and refreshing, with lemon and green notes on the palate, this hits home with a well-textured palate and a hit of bitterness on the finish.

The other newbie is Vienna Lager, with its pleasant malty balance. Something old to go with something new: Tamesis Extra Stout. The name has the same roots as the river Thames, from the name of the Celtic goddess of water. And the beer? Dark chocolate in the glass, liquorice and chocolate on the nose, dark and milk chocolate blend on the palate, with good balancing sparkle.

Anything else? West Berkshire Brewery is the proud new home for Yeastie Boys’ British-brewed beers.

POA: India Session Ale, 33cl; Tamesis, 50cl; West Berkshire Brewery, 01635 767090

Reserva Roja, Alhambra, Spain

Bock-style lager, 7.2%

Fascinating. Not what you’d expect from a Spanish beer. But then this is a stylish craft brewer’s interpretation of a German bock.

Dark butterscotch in the glass, we have an almost candied nose, with hints of raspberry. Caramel malts dominate on the palate, with just the right level of sparkle.

Match either with sausages or crême brulée, or somewhere in the middle!

Anything else? Typically stylish bottle – natch. Even the bottle cap has hints of the Alhambra on it.

£35.20/24x33cl, Morgenrot,

Barney’s Beer, Edinburgh

Volcano IPA (5%), Mount Fuji (4%)

Caught up recently with one of Edinburgh’s favourite breweries, Barney’s, located in the arts and crafts-infused Summerhall ‘village’ in the centre of the city.

Founded back in 2010 its bestseller, Volcano IPA, is balanced with good malt hit and a fine New World-tinged hop splash on the palate. Think tropical fruits and deep cut marmalade from the Chinook, Cascade, Perle and Bramling Cross hop blend.

Next, one of the brewery’s limited edition brews, Mount Fuji. A really refreshing collab between Barney’s and ethical tea haven, Eteaket, jasmine and green tea have been added into Barney’s pale ale, giving an assertive but welcome bitterness on the close.

Anything else? Barney Hughes' dad worked in a brewery, and Barney initially learned his craft at Heriot-Watt. Get on the waiting list of Cosmic Ripple cans, a lightly tangy 6% Rye Raspberry Sour, reminiscent of the Mivvi.

Distribution limited to Scotland; POA; Volcano IPA: 33cl, 30l keg, 9 gal cask; Mount Fuji: 33cl, 30l keg; Dunn’s, Barney’s Beer, 07512 253660

Wychwood, Hobgoblin IPA, Oxfordshire, England

Pale ale, 5.3%

With an elegant, seven-strong blend of hops, Wychwood entered into IPA territory in late 2017. Master brewer Simon Yates has teamed four US hops – Citra, Centennial, Mosaic and Chinook – with the European classics, Fuggle and Goldings from the UK, and Styrian Goldings from Slovenia. Subtle green notes join zesty tropical fruit hints.

Anything else? The fragrance of individual hop oils were demonstrated at Hobgoblin IPA’s launch at Jovoy, Oxford Street. Perfume educator Lizzie Ostrom, Odette Toilette, noted that ‘the essential oils in hops are rich in terpenes, important aromatic compounds, which form the building blocks of many fragrances. Hobgoblin’s punchy Citra hop contains a delicious kick of Linalool, also found in lavender and bergamot. It’s one of the most versatile materials in perfumery, helping to build a floral or woody theme.’

50cl, POA,

Birdbarker, Ross-on-Wye Cider & Perry, Herefordshire

Medium, sparkling, 5.2%

A recent trip to The Yew Tree Inn, Peterstow, the wonderful pub owned by Ross-on-Wye Cider & Perry crew, reminded me that its popular medium cider is now renamed Birdbarker and available in smartly turned-out 33cl as well as 50cl bottles. And 30-litre kegs.

All to the good, this speaks of the location, fermented with wild yeasts, with apples from the family orchards. The perfect level of ripe tannins balance a medium breadth of ripe apple sugars. Like apple pie with cinnamon. There’s also a Birdbarker Perry.

Anything else? The name? Owner Mike Johnson’s sprightly sheepdog, Summer, has a tendency to bark at birds. (Of course!)

£32.24/24x33cl, £78.12/30l keg, Pig’s Ears, 01306 627779; Ross-on-Wye Cider & Perry Company,

For more of Susanna's recommendations, see here

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