Susanna Forbes' Swift Halves: Five beers from five countries

Jacopo Mazzeo

Jacopo Mazzeo

28 January 2019

Five countries, abvs that range from below 0.5% to over 11% – Susanna Forbes throws off the January blues with a quintet that amply illustrates beer’s diversity and versatility

Van De Streek, Playground non alcoholic IPA, Netherlands

Launched in its Dutch homeland back in 2016 to great success, Van De Streek’s non-alcoholic IPA landed this month in the UK. Pineapple, mango and orange zest on the nose of this accomplished beer, following onto the palate. While the five-strong hop blend continues the zesty interest, light malt notes and pleasant, balanced bitterness finish the package.

Anything else? The Van De Streek brothers Roland and Sander began brewing beer in their flat in Utrecht, Netherlands, before crowdfunding themselves into commercial reality, swift success and rapid expansion.

<0.5%, £40/24x33cl; Morgenrot, 0845 070 4310

Edinburgh Beer Factory, Untitled IPA, Scotland

While giving its Bunk! experimental beer series new names and designs, Edinburgh Beer Factory chose the opportunity to launch a couple of new beers. Our favourite is the Untitled IPA, named as all EBF beers are, after one of famed Scottish artist Eduardo Paolozzi’s creations.

Using modern hops from the strongholds of Slovenia and Germany, there’s a welcome, warm lemon citrus note to the nose. Resinous pine notes and dark bitterness continue on the palate, with a mandarin zest and blackcurrant hit at the end.

Anything else? The other new beer, Z.E.E.P. Mediterranean Pale Ale, brewed with lemon peel and rosemary, comes in at a sessionable 3.5% abv.

5.5%, £37/24x33cl; Nectar Imports, 01747 827030

Oakham Ales, Alpha Inception West Coast IPA, England

Punchy but thrillingly tangy, Alpha Inception is one of three new beers from Oakham Ales. Freshly launched around the country, it’s not just ‘new beer’ but a ‘new look’, with the rainbow-colour cans adorned with a plethora of cartoon characters. It’s like marmalade in a glass but the tang makes for a clean finish. Fashioned with Oakham’s new whirlpool copper, pellets are used during the boil and later, giving the brewery’s trademark hop clarity and intensity. Versatile as a food match, why not go off piste and pair with pineapple-upside-down cake or chicken à la provençale? The west coast hop cocktail includes Columbus, Simcoe, Citra, Amarillo and Centennial.

Anything else? Try also the vibrantly tropical Thrill Seeker New World Pale Ale, and the enjoyable quaffable Best Friend Session IPA.

6%, POA/12x33cl; Oakham Ales, 01733 370500

Einstök, Wee Heavy, Iceland

The Scottish ‘wee heavy’ is a malt-rich style, almost heading into barley wine territory. Einstök’s interpretation is perhaps explained by head brewer Baldur Kurason’s time at the acclaimed Heriot Watt International Centre for Brewing and Distilling, him being the first Icelander to do so. This is perfect to bring joy into the lengthy wintry evenings. Alongside a deep, rich malt bill packed with caramel notes, angelica root adds lift and contrast. Crafted using birch smoked barley, Einstök suggests smoked cheese and fruit desserts – I recommend chocolate. Of any persuasion. The Wee Heavy is one of three brews landing in the UK, the other two including a moreish Toasted Porter and a complex winter regular, the Doppelbock.

What else? Angelica root is highly prized in Iceland and was once used as currency.

8%, £51/24x33cl; Love Drinks, 0207 501 9630

Duvel, Barrel Aged, Belgium

Grab your tulip beer glass and settle down by the fire. Duvel’s Barrel Aged Batch 3 has arrived. Aged for six months in a variety of barrels from top bourbon distilleries, including Four Roses, Woodford Reserve and Jack Daniels, this dark gold ale offers caramel notes, malt sweetness and a heady vanilla note with dark and milk chocolate on the finish.

Anything else? For your chance to taste this and Duvel’s other highly anticipated arrival, Duvel on Tap with its unique tap system, head to the Duvel trade/media tutored tasting on 26 February 6.15 pm at The Bottle Shop, Bermondsey. Places strictly limited and available on a FCFS basis, email

11.5%, £21.80/75cl; Duvel UK, 020 3740 8479

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