Craft beer has now solidified its place in the world of drinks and there are now, according to some sources, over 3,000 breweries in the UK alone. While we have various lists dedicated to beer, much of the scene revolves around constant new releases.
These are often one-off or annual brews that, in the case of some beers, sell out on launch day. Some craft breweries don’t even have a core range of regulars, instead preferring to make something new each time the kettle is fired up.
Craft beer has become, to some extent, a Pokémon-esque world of trying to catch ‘em all so there’s little point in adding those beers to our main shortlists only to find you can’t go and try them.
So, our Beer of the Week is a chance to keep up with the latest releases as they come and go. It’s all aboard the hype train - and this is our choice this week.
- The best craft beer, taste tested
Burning Sky - Recusant
Previously on Beer of the Week...
Elusive Brewing - Vortex
Double IPAs might be all the rage but a Double Black IPA is a rare find, like getting a shiny in your pack of Pokémon trading cards.
The brewery is well known for its dark beers with owner Andy Parker causing something of a Black IPA revival over the last year or so with his #BIPACOMEBACK hashtag on social media.
To make this beer, Elusive has taken its multi-award-winning BIPA, Shadow of the Beast, and ramped it up into an imperial version.
Vortex pours like a viscous oil and you get a huge and thick tan coloured head, almost like a nitro beer. This, along with the inclusion of wheat, gives a luxuriously smooth and creamy texture making it very drinkable for an 8% beer.
Dark Crystal malt and roasted wheat bring flavours of coffee, toast and chocolate giving a stout vibe and there is also a strong dark berry character with a subtle marmite umami note in the background.
This is still an IPA, so you still get a big hit of pine and citrus from the Cascade, Mosaic and Citra hops. Black IPA might not be a style for the masses but it’s totally worth trying if you want to push the boat out.
About the brewery
Elusive Brewing sits a stone’s throw across the yard from Siren in Finchampstead (which is celebrating its eighth birthday this week), near Reading, with much of the branding related to retro gaming including plenty of 8-bit labels.
Andy, known as ‘the nicest man in beer’, set up the brewery in 2016 after winning The Craft Beer Co. National Home Brewing Awards in 2014 for his American Red Ale, Level Up. He wrote CAMRA's Essential Home Brewing book which includes over 30 commercial recipes.Elusive Brewing - Vortex is available now for £5.50 a bottle.
This week we travel to Belgium for the launch of a new Trappist beer - a rare occasion in the beer world.
Well, new in the sense that this is the first time it’s been available outside the monastery walls. Extra has been brewed for decades but was previously reserved for the monks themselves or lucky visitors offered a taste.
Westmalle is known around the world for its strong Dubbel and Tripel beers but Extra comes in at a much more sessionable 4.8%. In some ways, it’s like a smaller version of the brewery’s Tripel.
Extra pours a pale gold colour with the slightest haze. Like its siblings, this is bottle conditioned providing plenty of carbonation to achieve that thick and luxurious head that Belgian beers are known for.
The high levels of carbonation also aid the body and result in a slightly creamy texture. The yeast is the star of the show here with bags of banana esters along with spices such as cardamom.
There’s more to the beer, though, with citrus aromas, white bread flavour from the malt and a surprisingly bitter and dry finish compared to other Belgian blonde beers.
About the brewery
Westmalle is one of just five authentic Trappist breweries in Belgium, meaning the beer is brewed and overseen by monks in a monastery. Being a Trappist brewery also means that it’s a not-for-profit venture so proceeds go back into the brewery or to charity.
Westmalle is credited with first using the term ‘Triple’ for its strong pale ale, originally made in 1934.
Budweiser Budvar Reserve
No doubt you’ve had Budvar from the pub or purchased cans from the supermarket, but this Reserve version is something very different and quite special - relaunched in a new bottle and branding.
This is no regular lager to drink by the pint, not at 7.5% abv. This is an imperial lager or ‘‘Extra Matured Czech Lager’ having been lagered (meaning ‘stored’) in Budvar’s underground cellars for no less than 200 days.
It’s a long time considering many commercial beers are produced in less than a week and regular Budvar rests for 90 days.
The result is a rich and smooth beer that could be described as the barleywine of the lager world, pouring a clear golden amber colour into a glass.
It’s sweet and boozy at first, with a luxurious whisky liqueur-like body. There’s a strong bread-dough and biscuit flavour from the malt accompanied by a hint of spice and herbal quality from noble Saaz hops.
While it’s rich and indulgent, a crisp and dry finish will have you coming back for another sip before long. It drinks perfectly well on its own but will go very nicely paired with a cheeseboard.
About the brewery
Along with Pilsner Urquell, Budvar is the major beer brand in The Czech Republic and has been brewing in České Budějovice (aka Budweis), South Bohemia, since 1895. The brewery uses local ingredients and even has a Protected Geographical Origin status from the EU.
The brewery is not to be confused with Anheuser-Busch’s Budweiser which was trademarked in the USA. With Budweiser meaning ‘from Budweis’ in German, it’s an understandable confusion.
The history of this dispute is long and debated, but going by Budvar’s version, the two breweries located in Budweis protested at first - they had been exporting Budweiser beer to the USA for ﬁve years. However, in 1911 a contract was signed for compensation and the validity of the US registration.
Regardless, to this day, you’ll still see ‘Original Budweiser’ on Budvar cans and labels and it’s definitely not from America.