Bookended by Belgian beers, from a pine-laden Noble Session Ale to a cherry-imbued golden ale, Susanna Forbes finds a sour raspberry-scented winner and a zesty Scottish IPA, before verging onto the dry cider life with one of Cornwall’s finest.
Braserrie de la Senne, Taras Boulba, Brussels
Extra Hoppy Ale, 4.5%
Very refreshingly bitter on the finish, this is a satisfying, full-flavoured beer, with some great body, a delicate light sparkle, and the telltale signs of dark green hop flavours. A small brewery with two Brussels brewers at the helm, Yvan De Baets and Bernard Leboucq, Brasserie de la Senne is renowned for full flavours and not compromising on ingredients. Not only do they feature in the latest edition of Tim Webb and Joe Stange's Good Beer Guide Belgium (CAMRA), you’ll also find them at Ales Tales, the Belgian-focused festival taking place in the first weekend in June (alestales.com). With a Trade Session on Friday afternoon, this is your
chance to taste with the makers).
£32.45/24x33cl; Cave Direct, 01622 710 339
Cornish Orchard, Dry Cider, Cornwall
Great to find a cider that isn't overly sweet, Cornish Orchards has combined the typical west country duo of Dabinett and Michelin with another bittersweet favourite, Harry Masters Jersey. With ripe, Autumn apple flavours, a pleasant mouthcoating astringency alongside the sweet fruit notes, this has depth. While not over complex, the sparkle is brisk but refreshing, adding to the dryness of the finish. Founder Andy Atkinson is heading towards two decades at the helm of Cornish Orchards, based at Westnorth Manor Farm in Liskeard, part of the Duchy of Cornwall Estate.
POA/12x50cl, 44 (0)20 8996 2000,
Innis & Gunn, Gunnpowder IPA, Scotland
Vibrant, zesty, forest-like and refreshing - and now in a can! Gunnpowder IPA wears its heart on its sleeve, and is loaded with citrus hops in the shape of Cascade, Centennial and Mandarin. One to serve as a palate cleanser, when someone needs a bit of a pick-me-up or when its time for a gentle hop-fix.
POA/33cl can, Innis & Gunn, innisandgunn.com
Purity, Maravilla Sour, Warwickshire
So, was it worth the hassle of removing that tightly-stoppered cork? Hell yeah! Purity's first venture into sour beers is a triumph. Raspberry aromas of the fresh, wild kind lead through to a beautiful balance of tart, wild raspberry flavours, laced together with an elegant sparkle. Maris Otter and Crystal malts mixed with Godiva and Bullion hops and Maravilla raspberries from nearby Herefordshire. A Belgian triple yeast is used alongside lactobacillus from a local cheese maker. The hard work was definitely worth it.
limited edition; £10.06/75cl; £106.74/30-litre, Purity, 01789 488007
Brasserie d’Achouffe, Cherry Chouffe, Belgium
Without doubt one of the more unusual beers I've had recently, but in a good way! Cherries through and through, but more like the wild, decadent, purple ones than your sweet Maraschino kind. Pinky-red in the glass, we are in Black Forest Gâteau territory on the flavour - and aroma - front, but the sparkle gives a lift and prevents the sensation from being cloying. This tends to be in small batches, so snap up when you can. They suggest duck, game, stuffed pepper, even oysters and Gorganzola. I might just savour it on its own.