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Beer of the week: Orval - Orval

This week, we head back to tasting the classics.

Beer of the week: Orval - Orval
14 January 2022

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

  • Orval - Orval

    Beer of the week: Orval - Orval

    Continuing our month of classics, we travel over 5,500 miles from the US west coast to Belgium. And when a brewery only makes one beer, it’s got to be good right?

    Okay, Orval does make Orval Vert, at a lower 4.5% abv rather than 6.2%, but it’s exclusively available on keg in the café near the monastery. So unless you’re a local or happen to be visiting, Orval is simply Orval like a self-titled album.

    Located in the south of Belgium near Florenville, brewing at the Orval monastery dates back hundreds of years but the current brewery was built in 1931 to replace the original foundry which was set up to finance repairs following damage from the war.

    The monastery was already producing bread and cheese and also employed lay-people. Although it opened almost 100 years later than Westmalle, it is one of only five breweries in Belgium that carry the Authentic Trappist Product label.

    While there are plenty of iconic beers that come from these breweries - including Westmalle Tripel and Rochefort 10 - Orval is unique for a number of reasons beyond the fact that the others all make at least three different beers.

    For starters, the curvy bottle is reminiscent of a wooden skittle pin with its diamond-shaped label featuring a fish with a ring in its mouth. As legend has it, the widow of the Count of Chiny, Mathilde de Toscane, lost her ring into a spring but a trout returned it so she donated the necessary funds for the building of an abbey.

    The other things that make Orval unique are the fact that the beer, unlike other Trappist brews, is dry hopped - at the time an English method which John Vanhuele, one of the brew team brought over having lived in Blighty for a number of years. It is also made with Brettanomyces, a wild yeast strain.

    After primary fermentation, Orval is transferred to ‘holding tanks’ to condition for a couple of weeks where the yeast and hops are added. It then goes through a third stage of fermentation in the bottle with new sugar and yeast and is only released after two months of resting.

    To age or not to age?

    All of these processes make Orval particularly interesting to the senses but the bottle fermentation means the profile will be different depending on how young or old yours is.

    A fresher bottle will present more of a hoppy bouquet with earthy and spicy tones. However, an aged bottle will see this fade and the funky barnyard flavours of the Brettanomyces dominate, plus the beer will become more dry.

    This interplay of hops and yeast esters over time is why the ‘perfect’ age for Orval is something of an endless debate. The best thing to do is buy a batch of bottles and drink them at different stages of aging to see which offers up your favourite character.

    Previously on Beer of the Week

    Sierra Nevada - Pale Ale

    Beer of the week: Sierra Nevada - Pale Ale

    So far, our beer of the week column has focused on new releases, fresh off the hype train. However, for today and the rest of January, we’re looking at four classic all-time great beers starting with one that really needs no introduction.

    Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale, for many, is the beer that springs to mind as the iconic craft beer, with its highly recognisable green label featuring the quintessential scroll logo. It still bears the design to this day and although the brewery has tweaked it many times over the years, it still retains the heart and soul of the original.

    Let’s rewind for a minute though, as Sierra’s roots go back to 1969, when founder Ken Grossman bought his first homebrew kit - which, still being a teenager at the time, he hid from mum.

    Three years later he moved from LA to Chico, California where he started The Home Brew Shop in ‘76. It was only four years after that Ken’s brewery, built from scratch and named after the mountains he and friends had spent so much time exploring, made its first beer.

    That first beer was actually a stout, made in 1980, but in November of that year Ken created Pale Ale. After just 10 batches the recipe was perfected and this beer helped drive the craft revolution in America following a period of decline caused by prohibition.

    You can largely put its success down to the new hops available from the now famous Yakima valley. Ken had previously driven there in 1977 to convince the growers to let him buy hundreds of small bags of ‘brewers cuts’.

    One of these new hop varieties was Cascade, named after the mountain range near Yakima, and what it did for beer was like the introduction of Technicolor to the film industry. Its vibrant pine and citrus characters gave Pale Ale the injection of flavour that drinkers were craving.

    A special pale ale

    If you haven’t tried it before, the beer is an attractive red-gold amber hue and the aroma and flavour from the Cascade hops is exactly as advertised. What’s so special about Pale Ale is the perfectly balanced recipe, coming in at 5.6% and a middling bitterness of 38 IBUs (international bittering units) balanced with sweet malts.

    It’s a beer for any occasion and the recipe isn’t some heavily guarded secret, you can find it on the Sierra website if you’d like to try your hand at making your own. And it’s easy to get hold of some to compare with your homebrew effort, from stockists such as Sainsbury’s (albeit the 5% ‘draught style’ version) or Sierra’s own Cascade Club.

    It’s no wonder that it helped kick-start the craft beer movement in America and over 40 years later, the beer is still highly regarded and drunk around the world. Perhaps what’s more impressive is the fact that Sierra Nevada remains independent - somewhat of a rarity for a brewery of such popularity and success.

    Five Points Brewing Co - Old Greg’s Barley Wine

    beer week - 31 December

    Cheese and wine might be traditional for New Year’s Eve but what if you want to have a beer instead? Well, our beer of the week is just the ticket you need.

    We’re big fans of Five Points and Old Greg’s Barley Wine feels like an unsung hero of the portfolio, which includes Railway Porter as featured in our best craft beer ShortList.

    The beer is originally a homebrew recipe of Greg Hobb’s, the head brewer at Five Points, and it’s particularly fitting for it to be the beer of the week today as it is brewed annually on New Year’s Eve.

    Old Greg’s is an English-style barleywine and as such uses exclusively English hop varieties including Target, Challenger and East Kent Goldings. Each vintage is aged in the bottles for a year before being released and, like Anchor Christmas Ale, the recipe is slightly different each time Greg goes to brew it.

    At the moment it’s the 2018 vintage that’s available to purchase and it is quite possibly the best yet, or at least it is after three years of maturation. This golden nectar is lightly carbonated and the sugary, boozy aroma is very inviting.

    Take a sip and you’re greeted with an intensely fruity flavour of apricots and plenty of honey and vanilla sweetness, too. There are also nice hints of spice and marmalade rounding things off.

    At 12.4% abv the alcoholic warmth makes itself known so your cheeks will be glowing in no time. It’s delicious to sip alone but if you don’t have it with a cheese board and perhaps some fruits like apples and pears then you haven’t fully experienced how good this beer can be.

    Old Greg’s Barley Wine is available in 660ml bottles from Five Points for £12. Grab it while you can and also look out for the 2017 vintage to appear, which has been barrel-aged giving it more of a Flanders red edge. For 2019, Five Points brewed a tripel instead and that’s a beer we’re keenly looking forward to when it arrives.

    About the brewery

    Five Points has been brewing in London’s Hackney since 2013 and was the first brewery in the UK to be an accredited Living Wage Employer. The name comes from the nearby railway junction and originally the brewery was located in a railway arch under Hackney Downs station.

    Following two rounds of crowdfunding, Five Points has now fully relocated a mile down the road where they previously leased some warehouse space. You’ll now find a shiny new taproom there complete with freshly served tank beer piped in directly from the brewery.

    St Bernardus - Christmas Ale

    beer week - 24 December

    Beer of the week falling on Christmas Eve meant we didn’t have to think too hard about what style to feature today and this one is quintessential of the genre.

    Modern Christmas beer has many roots in Belgium, although not from the Belgian breweries. It appears that around the late 1800s and early 1900s, imported beer, typically strong dark and rich scotch ale by breweries such as MacEwan’s, was simply marketed as ‘Christmas’ (in English) and patrons would only be able to get it for a short period of time.

    It was only a matter of time before Belgian breweries were making their own Christmas beers and nowadays they pretty much all do it. Chimay Grande Réserve (aka Blue) was originally launched as a Christmas ale in 1954 and N'ice Chouffe’s label features a gnome wearing a kilt for a reason.

    St Bernardus’ festive beer might not be a scotch ale as such, but this 10% quadruple has some similar traits. It pours a reminiscent colour, a dark and heady brown but the flavour is far more complex.

    While there are distinctive fruity esters from the yeast, they are more reserved than many Belgian beers. St Bernardus isn’t forthcoming with what goes into brewing the beer but you can expect an intricate array of flavours including chocolate, coffee, caramel, winter spice, dried fruits and perhaps a hint of liquorice, too.

    There’s a lot going on and while it’s great to drink on its own, you can pair it with food like roasted game and chocolate desserts.

    A fun fact about the brewery’s Abt 12, another 10% abv quadruple, is that the monk on the label can occasionally be seen winking. This special label appears on every 1000th bottle coming off the production line.

    The snow and Santa hat on every Christmas Ale label might not be rare but the festive spirit should be for everyone and you can buy it in 330ml bottles at around £4.50 or larger 750ml bottles for around £12.

    About the brewery

    Located in Watou on the border with France, St Bernardus was originally where French Trappists took refuge and started making cheese. Later these monks left and Evariste Deconinck took over the dairy and was invited by the Trappist monks at Westvleteren to produce beer under license.

    This lasted for 60 years, ending in 1992 when the brewery began marketing beer as St.Bernardus. It was a rocky start but a change at the helm in 1998 was the catalyst needed and in the last few years, the brewery has opened a new wing and, among other things, a 360-degree rooftop bar for visitors.

    Signature Brew - Bells End

    Beer of the week: Signature Brew - Bells End

    This seasonal brew didn’t quite arrive out of the fermenter in time to be part of our best Christmas beers ShortList, but we couldn’t not feature SIBA’s Brewery Business of the Year on the column.
    Eagle-eyed readers will spot that the name of this beer matches a popular Christmas song from rock band The Darkness. ESB normally stands for extra special bitter, but for this yuletide tipple it means extra seasonal bitter and it’s back for its second coming.
    The beer inside doesn’t have additions of fruit and spice like a traditional beer but Dan Hawkins, lead singer of The Darkness, said “We wanted a beer that’s punchy and drinkable at the same time.”
    And that’s certainly the case as the beer is perfectly balanced. There are welcoming rich malt flavours, some dark and roasted with others nutty or bready. Bells End also offers up hints of dried fruits and spices giving it that seasonality.
    It’s 5.2% abv which is a little lower than some ESBs but it’s got enough alcoholic oomph to warm the cockles while remaining pretty sessionable. This is helped by the smooth and slightly creamy body which leaves us craving much bigger cans than 330ml.
    Bells End is available from the Signature shop for £3.25 per can or you can get the Bells End edition of the Signature Pub in a Box for £30. This includes four cans of the beer, four core range beers, a glass, snacks and extras like a limited edition The Darkness print, beer mat and quiz.
    About the brewery
    Signature first popped up a decade ago and from the off has had a strong focus on the connection between beer and music. The team is made up of musicians and music fans with one aim being to improve the quality of beer available at gig venues.
    The brewery has made collaborations with a large number of bands and artists such as Frank Turner, Millencolin and Sports Team as well as a whole series with drum and bass label Hospital Records.

    Saint Mars of the Desert - Mice

    Beer of the week: Saint Mars of the Desert - Mice

    We’ve been wanting to feature Saint Mars of the Desert on this column for a while and a flanders golden bitter, being somewhat unusual, felt like the perfect opportunity. We’ve chosen this beer in the name of variety but if co-founder Dann Paquette had his way, the label wouldn’t have a style written on it at all.

    Having been brewing professionally since 1992 and working at more breweries than you can count on both hands in both New England and the UK, Paquette was there before the words ‘craft beer’ were ever stamped on a label.

    In a blog post, he recalls discovering Oerbier by De Dolle Brouwers in Boston at a time where the industry felt stale and “a bit cookie-cutter”. It didn’t mention a style, merely the 9% abv and “Nat & Straf” translating to ‘wet and strong’ in English.

    Furthermore, it tasted “strong and tart, a bit like candy and massively dark with cherry red hues but without any roasted character or obvious sugar”. He wondered if perhaps it was a lucky infection, but a second bottle and a trip to Belgium not long after proved that it wasn’t.

    This De Dolle philosophy of branding would “set us free from the inauthentic world of “craft beer” and into a space of our own” adds Paquette, while conceding that it wouldn’t result in sales in the modern world.

    However, the influence of these Belgian craft breweries that were first founded in the '80s and '90s were a huge inspiration to Paquette and many other brewers out there. So, in both celebration and tribute, Saint Mars of the Desert have created a two-beer mini-series called The Battle of Frogs & Mice, named after an ancient tale of a pointless struggle.

    Mice is one half of the duo and this golden bitter comes in at 6.3% abv. We’ve almost run out of time for tasting notes but you don’t need many to get an idea of how delicious this beer is. An initial pronounced bitterness quickly gives way to fruity sweetness and piquant Belgian yeast esters followed by a lingering dry finish.

    Although this is our beer of the week, try and find Frogs as well. This ‘Special Brune’ as Paquette reluctantly calls it, comes in at 8% with a strong, dark and complex character.

    About the brewery

    After relocating from America, Dann and Martha have realised their dream of starting a brewery and have done so in Sheffield. The pair have recently been joined by Scarlet who is also studying an Apprentice Brewing Program at the University of Nottingham.

    Saint Mars of the Desert, or SMOD, has a 10 hectolitre brewery and Yorkshire’s only coolship, which all the beer passes through for hopping and settling. You will find them specialising in koelship IPAs, stingos (a traditional Yorkshire style) and mixed-fermentation pale ales, but they’re also no stranger to lagers, brown ales and, as we’ve discovered, Belgian classics.

    Full Circle Brew Co - Dooper

    Beer of the week: Full Circle Brew Co - Dooper

    This week we’re celebrating yet another birthday in the UK craft scene, although Full Circle is a baby in comparison to Track and Fyne Ales.

    Full Circle are two years old and that means Dooper is back. The beer is an annual release to mark another 12 months of brewing and, being a Double IPA, it breaks our recent run of darker beers.

    Dooper is a double version of Full Circle’s flagship IPA, Looper. That version is 6.4% abv but Dooper takes the beer to 8.2%.

    Although amped up, the brewery retains the drinkability of Looper which is a difficult task when doubling an IPA. A thick and soft body is largely the reason for this, thanks to plenty of wheat and oats, along with an intensely fruity aroma.

    If you’re a fan of so-called ‘juice bombs’ then this is a beer for you. Heavily hopped with Citra, Cashmere and Mosaic, Dooper has a medley of flavours going on with juicy mango, pineapple, peach and melon backed up by citrus notes of lime and grapefruit as well as some pine.

    At 8.2% abv, the beer is certainly boozy but it’s not so much that it dominates and the Dooper remains an extremely drinkable DIPA. You can buy it now in 440ml cans for £6.40.

    Dooper arrives alongside some special barrel aged beers to celebrate Full Circle turning two. Year of No Light is an imperial stout aged for 12-months and is available in both Cognac and Rye editions, while Summer of 86 is a peach and apricot saison blended from Riesling and Pino Gris barrels.

    About the brewery

    You’ll find Full Circle Brew Co in Newcastle, a stone's throw from the river Tyne. The brewery gets its name due to owner Ben Cleary’s grandparents being in the pub and beer trade, while his parents were in the wine business.

    The brewery makes a wide range of styles from American pale ales to imperial fruited goses. You’ll find 20 lines of cask and keg at the taproom overlooking the brewery.

    Track Brewing Co - If I Had A Soul

    Beer of the week: Track Brewing Co - If I Had A Soul

    This week we are celebrating yet another brewery birthday and heading hundreds of miles south from the Scottish highlands to a trading estate in Manchester where we find Track Brewing Co.

    And what could be more fitting over the Black Friday period than an imperial stout? If I Had A Soul is one of a set of three very special barrel aged impys to celebrate Track’s 7th birthday. All three are collaborations with other breweries with this beer getting the input of Canada’s Collective Arts.

    To say If I Had A Soul was a chocolate and banana imperial stout aged in Jim Beam barrels would be far too simple an explanation.

    Not only has it spent nearly two whole years maturing in those ex-bourbon barrels, but has a long list of ingredients including wheat, oats, vanilla, peanuts, lactose and coffee. Oh, plus the banana, cacao husks and cocoa nibs.

    The beer pours as thick as engine oil and the aroma is intensely boozy, with that Jim Beam influence making itself known like an air horn at a football match. From the adjuncts, the chocolate and peanut are most detectable on the nose.

    It’s one of the most richly flavoursome beers we’ve tried all year with all those ingredients and time maturing adding up to an experience akin to drinking a banana split. It really is like a dessert in a glass as if the banana and vanilla ice cream covered in chocolate sauce and sprinkled with peanuts have been somehow blended up with rich malts and bourbon.

    And unlike a lot of beers that feature banana, the flavour is truly fresh and authentic rather than the typical taste of foam banana sweets. The sticky sweetness and high 15% abv mean you’ll want to take your time with this one.

    The other two beers in the BA birthday set consist of a coffee and blueberry granola imperial stout with Kings & Daughters called Giant Haystacks aged in Heaven Hill barrels and Language Barrier, a Woodford Reserve aged coconut imperial stout. This was made with New Jersey’s Magnify Brewing.

    You can get the set, including a birthday glass and a mixed four-pack of cans, from Track priced at £65. Bottles are only available individually from the brewery in person and there’s also a birthday imperial sundae stout in cans flavoured with things like marshmallow and maple syrup.

    About the brewery

    Track are probably most well-known for its flagship pale ale, Sonoma, and over the years has established itself as one of the top UK breweries for hoppy pale beers. Recently, their series of Gold Top double IPAs have been very sought after.

    A brand new taproom is open Wed-Sun with 20 keg lines and three cask lines fresh from the source with occasional guest beers, too. The taproom is dog and kid friendly.

    Fyne Ales - 20th Anniversary Ale

    Beer of the week: Wild Beer Co - Echo

    Any brewery approaching its 10th birthday (like Wild Beer Co last week) has been around the UK craft beer scene a long time, so the fact that this week’s brewery is celebrating double that milestone is a significant achievement to say the least.

    Fyne Ales, as its beer name subtly hints, has reached its 20th anniversary and to mark this special occasion have released a suitably big beer. This barrel aged barleywine has been launched as a “tribute to the art of brewing”.

    It’s a lot more than just that because it also showcases the skill of blending, as the beer is made up of several vintages that have been separately ageing in first-fill port, madeira and sherry barrels.

    The beer pours dark mahogany with an evaporated milk coloured head. The complex aroma which is like a warm beery hug means you’ll want to dive right in.

    Fyne’s description of “decadent and indulgent” is no word of a lie as the flavour is extremely rich and sophisticated. Strong notes of dates and other dried fruits, winter spices and caramel really hit the spot and, with the malty backbone, creates the illusion of a sticky toffee pudding in liquid form.

    Those barrels provide additional layers of flavour with delicate hints of the fortified wines the barrels previously held interlacing with the beer. The sherry comes through most prominently as if that sticky toffee pudding has been soaked - you’ll want to light it like a Christmas pudding.

    At 8.2% abv, it’s certainly boozy but avoids knocking your socks off before you’ve finished a bottle. In fact, an incredibly smooth and creamy body combined with low carbonation make it extremely drinkable.

    20th Anniversary Ale is available now in 375ml bottles from Fyne Ales priced at £7.95. It’s best before December 2024 so you can see how it develops over the years.

    About the brewery

    As we’ve already discovered, Fyne Ales have been brewing for two whole decades and have been doing so in the Scottish highlands north of Glasgow. You’ll find the brewery at the head of Scotland’s longest sea loch, Loch Fyne.

    The brewery is most well-known for its award winning flagship session blonde ale, Jarl. Fyne also runs an annual festival, Fyne Fest, which combines beer, food and music.

    Wild Beer Co - Echo

    Beer of the week: Wild Beer Co - Echo

    Sour beers are great in the summer but as we learned from Vault City a couple of weeks ago, they can be just as good in the colder months. This week we have another cracker and it’s from one of the most esteemed sour breweries in the UK, Wild Beer Co.

    Echo started its life way back in 2017 and was aged in Sauternes sweet wine barrels after being brewed. After two years of maturation, Wild then blended the beer and transferred it to Islay barrels and added fresh plums.

    Those barrels were previously used for Pilton Cider’s ‘Smokey Plum’ and Wild’s own Modus 5. It sat in these barrels for a total of 18 months before being bottled. The name Echo comes from the way it’s taken on flavours from the previous brews.

    While barrel ageing is a key process in the resulting profile of this beer, its original ingredients are also important. The base beer was made with barley, aromatic malt, crystal rye and oats for depth and body.

    Mandarina Bavaria hops don’t factor too much but Wild has added orange zest and rock samphire, too. It’s perhaps no surprise that a beer four years in the making is hugely complex, in both aroma and flavour.

    While the smell only offers hints of the smokiness from the Islay barrels, the taste is prominently peaty. However, it’s not dominant and the beer is balanced, with a symphony of sweet white wine, tangy plums, balsamic sourness, earthy spices, toasted malt and more every time you take a sip.

    It’s reminiscent of the Flanders red style and one of the most complex and bold sours we’ve ever tasted. It can be drunk fresh or aged and Wild Beer suggests mince pies as a food pairing.

    Echo is available now from the Wild Beer store in 300ml bottles priced at £7.99. Alternatively, you can get it as part of a barrel aged set alongside Big Buck, a barleywine, and BABS 4, a blended imperial stout. It’s £29.99 and also comes with a notebook and Teku glass.

    About the brewery

    Wild Beer Co have been brewing in the heart of the Somerset countryside since 2012 - a long time ago in the craft world - and came out of founders Brett and Andrew’s love of wild fermentation and barrels.

    Now they have established themselves as one of the leading and most innovative breweries in the country with a house wild yeast captured from a neighbouring cider orchard.

    Moonwake Beer Co - Rye IPA

    Beer of the week: Moonwake Beer Co - Rye IPA

    Continuing our run of seasonal beers, we have a fresh Rye IPA and, in fact, we’re staying in Edinburgh for a second week running. Moonwake is located in Leith, a short 3.5 mile drive up the road from Vault City.

    The brewery is one of the newest in the UK and this beer is their first collaboration, with none other than Fierce Beer who we featured back in May.

    As the name suggests, the brew includes rye (a hefty 150kg) as well as the usual barley, and the Fierce influence on this venture is the inclusion of dried orange peel which has been added during fermentation.

    The rye not only brings a darker colour to what would otherwise be a typical looking IPA - a deep marmalade orange in this case - but earthy and spicy flavours that make it very autumnal.

    A complex malt backbone is complimented and contrasted by generous hop bill of Calypso, Ekuanot and El-Dorado. There’s a firm yet balanced bitterness, aided by that orange peel, giving a punchy citrus grapefruit tone alongside rich tropical aromas of pineapple and stone fruit with a herbal edge.

    It’s 5.5% abv and very smooth making it just about sessionable enough to enjoy a few with the fireworks. Also watch out for a reciprocal at Fierce where the same recipe will be amped up in abv, adjuncts will be included (other than rye and orange) and dry hopping will include more than just hops.

    Rye IPA is available now from Moonwake’s online shop priced at £4.40 per 440ml can. You’ll also find it pouring on draught from the brewery’s taproom and Fierce bars in Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Manchester while kegs last.

    About the brewery

    Founders Fin and Vinny started off their beer careers on opposite sides of the globe, the UK and New Zealand respectively. And although Moonwake is new - less than two years since securing a premises - the pair bring over a decade of brewing experience to the table.

    Sarah, who is in marketing and events, plus Wesley working in sales round out the small team with the brewery aiming to “create an open, creative space and culture where we can brew impressive beers with precision”.

    Previously on beer of the week

    Vault City - Blueberry Pumpkin Spiced Latte

    Beer of the week: Fuller’s - Vintage Ale 2021

    Thanks to the innovation and experimentation of the craft beer industry, pumpkin beers needn’t just be brown ales with fruit and/or spice added - as our beer of the week proves

    With Halloween taking place this weekend we thought it fitting to put a pumpkin beer to the test, even though they are pretty rare compared to the US.

    Vault City is no stranger to throwing bold flavours at a beer and this is a great example. The Scottish brewery has made one of the more unusual autumnal options.

    This has no actual pumpkin involved so, as the name suggests, it’s just the spices you’d expect to find in a traditional pumpkin pie.

    There is fruit in the mix though: blueberry, a fruit known to work particularly well with Vault City’s house mixed-culture. This is a sour beer but the addition of creamy lactose sugar is where the ‘Latte’ part of the name comes in, although there’s no coffee flavours.

    Pouring a rich, deep purple colour with a thick light pink head, the blueberry is prominent in more than just flavour. At 8.8% abv, it’s nicely boozy and has a lushious, silky mouthfeel.

    The tart fruitiness and mixed-culture is balanced with the vanilla sweetness of the lactose and the pumpkin spice mix brings a mulled cider vibe. It’s like drinking a tart fruit crumble with some sweet vanilla ice cream on the side. Who knew a sour beer could be so cosy?

    Blueberry Pumpkin Spiced Latte is available from Vault City in 375ml bottles priced at £7.75. You’ll also find it from various bottleshops, and if you’re looking for more pumpkin beers then look to breweries such as Elusive, White Hag, S43, Werewolf Beer, Bridgehouse Brewery and Abbeydale, who have no less than two to choose from.

    About the brewery

    You’ll find Vault City in the Portobello suburb of Edinburgh, one of the UK’s most booming cities in terms of craft beer. They are one of a handful of breweries in the country that specialise in sour beer, although dabble in other styles on occasion.

    They have only been around since 2018 and typically make fruit-forward beers with anything from Peach to Honeyberry - some even have glitter in! Vault City are currently constructing an on-site tasting room and bottleshop.

    Fuller’s - Vintage Ale 2021

    Beer of the week: Fuller’s - Vintage Ale 2021

    From one vintage ale to another, and although this week’s beer hasn’t been aged for six years that doesn’t make it any less delicious.

    Fuller’s is one of the most well-known breweries in the UK and 2021 represents a big milestone for this iconic beer which is now in its 25th year. The London brewery makes it annually and calls it the most special beer to leave the grounds.

    This barley wine style strong ale is a limited edition with each bottle carrying a unique number on the label. Each year the recipe is also different meaning each expression has its own character.

    At 8.5% abv, Vintage Ale brings a boozy warmth perfect for this time of year as the nights draw in. If you don’t have a log burner to drink this by then you’ll no doubt start saving for one next year.

    Though boozy, it drinks very smoothly and has rich autumnal flavours. This year Fuller’s have combined pale ale, Caragold and DRC (double roasted crystal) malts to provide a robust backbone of biscuit, fresh bread and sweet toffee flavours.

    When it comes to hops, the brewery has decided to showcase a range of newer varieties from the UK in the form of Olicana, Endeavour and the experimental CF182. Aromas of strawberry lace sweets and citrus rind lead to flavours of plum and blackberry jam, brandy-soaked cherries and hints of tropical fruits and spices.

    While the flavour is delicious right now, Fuller’s has made Vintage Ale to be kept. It’s bottle conditioned and the profile will mature over time. This beer is also a potential investment as the value increases after just one year.

    A 2015 Vintage Ale on the Fuller’s store, for example, will set you back £50 but you can grab the new 2021 edition for £6 a bottle. It comes in 500ml bottles in a smart presentation box.

    About the brewery

    Though one of the beers, 1845, denotes when Fuller, Smith & Turner officially founded the Fuller’s brand, the site in Old Chiswick has been making beer since the 17th century.

    It was in 1816 when the Griffin Brewery and emblem was acquired while it was under the ownership of Douglas and Henry Thompson. They snapped up the chance after the brewery on Liquorpond Street went under.

    Innis & Gunn - Vintage

    Beer of the week: Innis & Gunn - Vintage

    It can often be only a matter of days between the brewing of a beer and its consumption, but today’s beer has been no less than six years in the making. So it’s more than worthy of the name Vintage.
    The Scottish brewery is well-known for barrel ageing, and this particular beer has spent a total of 100 days in 183 first-fill American Bourbon casks. It’s then been bottle conditioned for a further six years making it the oldest beer Innis & Gunn have ever released.
    With such a long time to mature, the beer is quite lively due to secondary fermentation in the bottle so be careful when you open it. Once it’s in the glass it’s a deep brown verging on black, although if you hold it up to the light Vintage is ruby red.
    This strong ale weighs in at a hefty 9% abv and has strong chocolatey, biscuity aromas similar to an imperial stout - the booze very much making itself known before you’ve even taken a sip.
    It’s no surprise that a beer of this age and strength offers up a complex and rich experience starting with a silky sweet and boozy hit. This develops into a cacophony of brandy soaked Christmas cake flavour: plenty of dried fruits, spices and molasses.
    Although that’s the dominant flavour, keep taking sips and you’ll get something new each time - vanilla, oak, orange zest, coffee, caramel and more are all mingling.
    It’s rare to find a beer that’s been aged this long before release and it’s also a limited edition with only 1,000 bottles available. To this end, it’s priced at £25 for a 500ml bottle and comes in a presentation tube.
    With six years under its belt, it’s ready to drink now - we enjoyed it with beef shin casserole - but you can age it even further if you wish. We’d be surprised if you can keep it past Christmas, though.
    About the brewery
    Innis & Gunn was founded back in 2003 by Master Brewer Dougal Gunn Sharp and is now the third biggest craft beer brand in the UK-off-trade having been one of the breweries to pioneer cask maturation.
    The company is currently building a new brewery in Edinburgh and will be the first large-scale brewery to be built in Scotland’s capital for 150 years. For now, the 20,000HL brewery in Perth continues to operate.

    Pastore Brewing and Blending - Colazione Abbondante

    Beer of the week: Pastore Brewing and Blending - Colazione Abbondante

    From the pudding beer of last week we move to a breakfast beer for this week’s tipple. Colazione Abbondante is a mixed culture breakfast sour but you don’t have to drink it with your toast or cereal, of course.

    Especially when you consider that it’s 7% abv. It’s been brewed in collaboration with Nottingham’s Neon Raptor who are no strangers to unusual sours. We love the artwork humorously depicting the respective mascots dueling over a bowl of cereal with spoons.

    Colazione Abbondante translates from Italian as ‘abundant breakfast’ and is a fitting name for this brew. For starters, the brewery has used actual breakfast cereal in the mash in addition to flaked oats, wheat, rice and maize, plus oat milk added during the boil.

    The cereal adds sugar to be fermented later and the oat milk provides silky texture and mouthfeel.

    Pastore (pronounced ‘pas-tor-ray’) have then fermented and soured the beer with their house mixed culture of Hornindal Kveik and Lactobacillus before conditioning it on vast amounts of fruit puree. There’s blueberry, cherry and raspberry.

    And we’re not done yet as almond, hazelnut and vanilla extracts have been added, too.

    As you can see, the beer pours a deep aubergine colour with a vibrant pink head, smelling of tart fruits. The trio of fruits are the stars of the show in the flavour with the vanilla providing a bit of sweetness to balance the acidity with hints of nuttiness on the finish.

    If you like the idea of a breakfast fruit parfait smoothie in beer form, although understandably not as thick, then Colazione Abbondante is the one for you. You can grab it from the brewery on its own or via the web store in mixed packs, as well as via bottleshops including Beer Merchants and Premier Hop.

    About the brewery

    Founded by father and son team Ben and Chris Shepherd, Pastore is fairly new on the UK craft scene with Colazione Abbondante being one of their 2nd anniversary beers.

    Pastore means Shepherd in Italian and the team specialises in fresh and aged sour and wild beers from their 10BBL brew kit in Waterbeach, just outside Cambridge.

    Tempest Brewing Co - All The Leaves Are Brown

    Beer of the week: Tempest Brewing Co - All The Leaves Are Brown

    Following on from the Marzen from last week, we have another seasonal beer that’s released annually especially for autumn.

    As the name suggests, All The Leaves Are Brown is a brown ale, but not of a traditional 4%ish English style - not by a long shot. At 11% abv, this is well deserving of its imperial status and wouldn’t feel right in a pint glass.

    Brown ales allow malt - one of the often unsung heroes of beer making - to shine, but Tempest hasn’t just tripled a basic recipe to reach the alcohol content. The beer has been aged in Heaven Hill Bourbon casks from Kentucky for an entire year.

    Furthermore, it has undergone refermentation using A-grade Canadian maple syrup.

    The result is an exquisite looking beer that’s the deepest mahogany brown colour you can get before the liquid would be black, with a golden brown head.

    All The Leaves Are Brown tastes just as exquisite as its appearance with a silky smooth body that’s somehow glossy. And the flavour offers bags of toasty malt which develops into a complex journey of slightly burnt brown sugar, maple sweetness and oaky whiskey goodness.

    It leaves a boozy warmth in your chest that feels oh so comforting as the temperatures drop and the nights draw in. A hug in beer form if ever we tasted it.

    It’s one of the best beers we’ve had at ShortList this year and you can try it for £5.50 with the beer coming in 330ml cans. If this sounds tempting then make sure you check out Tempest’s other dark beers including a Bourbon barrel aged chile and chocolate imperial stout.

    About the brewery

    Gavin and Annika met in Canada and after travelling the world, settling down in New Zealand and homebrewing in the garage, the pair decided to move back to Scotland to found Tempest Brewing Co in Kelso.

    What was once a small brewery in a disused dairy in 2010 quickly grew and moved to a 30HL brewery in Tweedbank in 2014. And in 2019 Tempest became the first UK brewery to join the 1% for the planet program where 1% of sales is donated to environmental non-profit organisations.

    Braybrooke - Harvest Festbier 2021

    Beer of the week: Braybrooke - Harvest Festbier 2021

    Some beers are available all year round while others are seasonal. It being the beginning of autumn means it’s time for Oktoberfest (yes, in September), the iconic German beer festival held in Munich.
    While the event itself isn’t going ahead for a second year running due to Covid, you can get a taste of it at home thanks to Braybrooke. They brew a Festbier based on the classic Märzen served at Oktoberfest every year to celebrate the occasion.
    Having been served at Oktoberfest for almost 200 years, the style is steeped in history. If you know a little bit of German, you’ll realise that Märzen essentially translates to March - a bit confusing when it’s served at a festival that means ‘October’ but takes place in September.
    A 1553 Bavarian brewing law dictated that brewing only take place between 29 September and 23 April meaning the Märzen was one of the last beers made before the summer break. With the brewing process requiring high temperatures to boil the wort, it was thought too dangerous during the hotter months.
    The beer was brewed to a slightly higher abv than other styles to help it last the summer months and was lagered (or stored) in caves or cellars where it was cooler.
    Harvest Festbier 2021 hasn’t been in a cave for months, but its 45-day-long maturation period is much longer than many lagers on the market. And in true German tradition, it comes in a bottle rather than a can - unfiltered, unpasteurized and naturally carbonated.
    The Märzen’s autumnal release is perfectly in keeping with its golden amber colour, mimicking the changing colour of leaves. Being a darker colour than your typical lager, it has a fuller and richer flavour, which just feels right for this time of year.
    Malt is really the star of the show here with comforting bready flavours - one slice of fresh and one slice toasted - with a hint of digestive biscuit, too. Enough hops keep things balanced, providing a bitter finish to follow the sweet malt while bringing delicate herbal and floral aromas and flavours along for the ride.
    Harvest Festbier 2021 is available from Braybrooke at £3.20 for a 330ml bottle. Braybrooke suggests pairing it with roast pork and we’re not inclined to disagree.
    If you like this then look out for other Märzens from the likes of Lost and Grounded, Anspach and Hobday and Duration.
    About the brewery
    Braybrooke arrived on the UK beer scene in 2017 after a visit to Mahrs Brau in Bamberg, (founded in 1670), for some tips and contacts for authentic ingredients.
    The brewery was set up on a working farm in the Northamptonshire countryside with a single aim: to make excellent lager. It’s still one of the only specialist lager breweries in the country along with the likes of Utopian and Donzoko.

    Devil’s Peak - Lucy Goes North

    Beer of the week: Devil’s Peak - Lucy Goes North

    For this week’s beer our protagonist Lucy looks to bring the flavours she’s discovered down south and in the tropics to the North. This is South African brewery Devil’s Peak reintroducing its ‘AfroFunk’ beers to the UK after a hiatus.
    Lucy Goes North is the little sister to long time favourite IPA, Jucy Lucy. This is a pale ale, though, and comes in at a slightly more sessionable 5% abv rather than 6%.

    It’s still just as juicy though, and will be a big hit with fans of the modern hazy pale beer trend. The beer pours thick and opaque, almost like a smoothie, with a rich orange marmalade colour and foamy white head.

    As the pour suggests, Lucy Goes North offers a rich and luscious mouthfeel synonymous with the New England style. London Ale III yeast leaves the beer slightly sweet with a soft balance, allowing the generous abundance of hops to really shine.

    A combination of Citra and Amarillo provide bucketfuls of juicy fruits including peach, pineapple, mango, melon, grapefruit, orange and more. Although there’s a hint of pithy bitterness, it’s mild and this beer is extremely drinkable.

    A third hop, Sabro, is a fairly new kid on the block and comes with a divisive flavour profile often presenting coconut, although that’s not a note we detected here.

    Rather than export the beer all the way from South Africa, increasing cost and risking the quality of the beer, Devil’s Peak has partnered with Fierce Beer as a contract brewery. You may remember the Scottish brewery from a few weeks ago when we featured Very Big Flapjack.

    Lucy Goes North is available from today for £3.95 in a 440ml can from the Fierce Beer store where you can also order Juicy Lucy or a limited edition 'The Round The World Pack' featuring beers from both breweries.

    The two beers will also be available from selected bottle shops across the UK, as well as on keg.
    About the brewery
    Devil’s Peak is named after the famous mountain in Cape Town and has sat at the base of said peak since 2021, leading the craft beer charge in South Africa.

    As well as a range of premium, non-alcoholic and ‘Expression’ beers, the AfroFunk series includes barrel aged delights such as a wild sour beer aged in french oak on blackcurrants and cherries.

    Quantock Brewery - ‘Ava Goes On This

    Beer of the week: Quantock Brewery - ‘Ava Goes On This

    The pandemic has been a tough time for the craft beer industry but a silver lining for Quantock was the chance to install a canning line and broaden the scope of styles that could be packaged into the popular format.
    Cans are the current choice for the craft industry due to things like more efficient transportation as well as minimising or getting rid of potential issues such as oxidation and light strike.
    Following on from ‘Rob Doesn’t Like Sours’, ‘Ava Goes On This is only their second kettle soured beer but it’s a barnstormer of a brew.
    As the name gives away, it’s a gose - a style originally from Germany. While it’s traditionally brewed with ingredients like coriander, Quantock has gone in a different direction giving it a modern craft twist by introducing fruit.
    This triple fruited gose uses over 200 litres of peach, pineapple and mango puree along with the conventional use of wheat in the malt bill.
    The result is a thick fruit smoothie of a beer that is bursting with delicious fruit flavours from all that puree, as advertised. This is balanced out by tart sourness and a delicate tang of saltiness on the finish.
    At 6% abv ‘Ava Goes On This is a lovely sipper in the sun while there’s still some summer sunshine left to enjoy. It is available from £4.50 per 440ml can from the Quantock Brewery store.
    About the brewery
    Originally established in Wellington, Somerset, Quantock Brewery now resides in Bishop's Lydeard. It gets its name from the surrounding Quantock Hills - a recognised area of outstanding natural beauty - and the brewery and taproom sits beside the West Somerset Railway.
    Head brewer Rob (he who doesn’t like sours) is a former nuclear engineer and built his own homebrew kit from scratch because his first one from Boots simply wasn’t good enough.

    Wander Beyond Brewing - Pod

    Beer of the week: Wander Beyond Brewing - Pod

    Don’t let the simple name fool you because Pod is one of the most eccentric beers to arrive recently, although it’s not remotely a surprise from a brewery like Wander Beyond.

    The brewery is no stranger to big beers, with most of its selection at any given moment coming in at over 10% abv.

    Pod is 11% but there’s far more to it than just boozy alcohol warmth, although it has that in spades. This is a Rum and Raisin Black Ice Cream IPA, but you could add ‘imperial’ to that given the strength.

    Now you’ve had a second to get your head around a style you’ve possibly never heard of before, we can attempt to describe what it tastes like.

    Like any decent Black IPA, there’s a familiar hoppy aroma but even with your eyes shut, you wouldn’t be tricked into thinking it was a hazy pale. It smells very boozy with a slight smokiness, along with the distinct aroma of raisin and vanilla.

    The flavour is along similar lines, but with lactose providing a silky body and a sweetness that you’d expect from something billed as ‘ice cream’. It’s a clever use of ingredients which also includes Peruvian cacao nibs and rum barrel oak chips.

    The trick with a beer as crazy as this is to keep everything balanced and Wander has managed to do that here, although you might want to share the 440ml can with a friend.

    Pod is available from the Wander Beyond store priced at £6.75 per can.

    About the brewery

    Wander Beyond has been around since 2017 and is nestled around the corner from Manchester’s Piccadilly train station.

    With a love for the outdoors and adventure, the brewery set about to create a tiny universe where adorable hop people could roam and animals represent the flavours found in their beers.

    As you can see, Pod depicts a pod of whales (or are they swimming raisins?) as well as scuba diving hops and ice cream jelly fish.

    Siren - Nitro Pompelmocello

    Beer of the week: Siren - Nitro Pompelmocello

    Craft beer names come in all shapes and sizes and sometimes it doesn’t matter if you can pronounce it or not, it’s what’s in the can that really counts. And you’re in for a treat with this special version of Pompelmocello.

    It first arrived back in 2015 soon after Limoncello and was one of the more interesting grapefruit IPAs around with a kettle soured base, balanced with lactose and both juice and zest of grapefruit.

    It wasn’t a runaway success to begin with, but Siren stuck with the beer due to its popularity at beer festivals and the Tap Yard. Skip forward to 2021 and the brewery has made four different versions of Pompelmocello to celebrate this zingy, offbeat brew.

    ‘Nitro’ might be synonymous with Guinness and is typically used for dark beers outside of Dublin with Siren embracing the tiny bubbles in 2020. However, a nitro IPA is a rare thing indeed, let alone a sour IPA like this.

    With the beer being infused with nitrogen, you need to hard pour it, tipping the can immediately upside down and dumping the contents into a big enough glass. This gives you a cascading effect and a big, thick foamy white head as a result - although it’s not quite as dense or creamy as the one you may be used to from Guinness’ widget.

    Some beers can be a little lively with carbon dioxide, so the substitution for nitrogen gives the beer a feeling of being served on cask rather than keg. It’s not flat, but much easier going in this respect.

    The flavour, as expected, is much the same as regular Pompelmocello: that kettle sour bite of acidity along with a zingy wave of grapefruit while hints of lactose sweetness and citrus hops linger in the background.

    It’s Pompelmocello, but even more smashable than normal, which is a little dangerous at 6% abv.

    Nitro Pompelmocello is available now at £4.20 for a 440ml can or you can buy it with the other special editions - DDH Pompelmocello, Pompelmocello Radler and Pombango (barrel aged) - in a gift pack for £17.

    If you want to go all out then a 10 pack including two of each version, plus two originals is available for £38.

    About the brewery

    Berkshire-based Siren has only been around for a short eight years but is firmly one of the leading craft breweries in the UK.

    Having built a solid following around its core range beers such as YuLu and Soundwave, it now produces an impressive range of styles covering the whole spectrum, along with an impressive barrel ageing program.

    Lakes Brew Co - Session NE IPA

    Beer of the week: Lakes Brew Co - Session NE IPA

    ‘Drink fresh’ is a phrase you hear a lot in the craft beer world and we’ve got hold of the first core range of beers from a brand new brewery - introducing Lakes Brew Co.
    All three canned beers the brewery has made so far are fantastic and were packaged just days ago, but the NE Session IPA is particularly interesting. Note that, unusually, these beers don’t have names but simply state the style instead.
    NE stands for New England, a hazy pale beer that’s been all the rage for some time now. It hails from the east coast of the US but is typically, like a lot of American styles, brewed to a high abv.
    While this beer is brewed in a similar way to others, to find it at a session strength (4.7% here) is somewhat against the grain. It means, for starters, that after a pint, you can go back for another.
    It also allows the ingredients to shine with the familiar inclusion of both wheat and oats creating a soft body and plenty of texture. This beer is really about the yeast and hops, though, with bags of fruity flavours coming from both.
    Fruit-forward esters of peach and apricot are joined by huge aromas and flavours from five different hop varietals: Ekuanot, Citra, Mosaic, Eldorado and Amarillo. The beer is bursting with tropical fruits like mango, pineapple and papaya along with citrus and subtle floral notes, too. Overall, though, it’s a smashable juice bomb.
    Lakes Brew Co beers are so fresh they’re not available on the online store just yet (they should be arriving 22 August), but look out for them at your local bottle shops and bars.
    However, if you happen to be near the brewery in Kendal you can visit to collect cans, including the recent collaborations, including beers made at Siren and Salt Beer Factory.

    About the brewery

    Lakes Brew Co is the third brewery we’ve featured on Beer of the Week to have launched in the midst of the pandemic and there’s even more of a story here. The team - Matt, Michelle, P