It’s a hard life writing about beer! No sooner had I recovered from the festival than Christmas and New Year appeared on the horizon, bringing with them the usual raft of pub trips, from after-work outings to family catch-ups. Luckily most of the pubs I visited over the festive period had some great quality ales on offer – a perfectly kept pint of London Pride down in deepest Berkshire sticks in my memory. As much as I enjoy trying new beers and breweries, sometimes the classic ales can be just as satisfying when treated with respect.
As I sit and write this column with two months’ worth of cask ale check-ins to try and whittle down to a top three, I can’t help but wonder what 2019 will have in store. Will we see the continued dominance of pale and hoppy beers, or will porters, stouts or even milds start to see a comeback? And as hops get more expensive, who knows what kind of weird and wonderful flavours will end up in our nonik glasses this year. Whatever we end up with, I’m sure we’ll all have fun trying it.
What: Plump Penguin (5.0%) – Little Critters (Sheffield)
Where: Bankers Draft
Plum porter, hasn’t that been done before? Well of course, it’s by no means a new idea but this seasonal brew from Sheffield’s own Little Critters is one of the best takes on the concept I have tasted. The juicy, fruity flavour of the plums was perfectly balanced with the bitterness of the roasted malt, and the smooth, rich mouthfeel was reminiscent of the Titanic Brewery original. The perfect beer for those cold winter nights, it’s a shame it’s only available two months of the year!
What: Fakir (3.7%) – Empire (Slaithwaite)
Where: Fat Cat
Session beers can sometimes get a bit of a bad reputation, and often I can’t argue with that, but done properly they can be just as enjoyable as their more robust siblings. This low-ABV pale from was on the pumps at the Fat Cat, so I had reason to trust that it might be one of the better ones and I was not left disappointed. The beer poured a lovely straw colour and the aroma of the American hops was evident straight away. On tasting, the lower strength allowed the hops to come to the fore, without being overwhelmingly bitter. Definitely one you could stick with for the evening.
What: Storm (6.0%) – Ramsbury (Marlborough)
Where: Gardeners Rest
When I arrive at the bar to find a brewery I’ve not tried before, I don’t usually need much encouragement to rectify that. Wiltshire’s Ramsbury Brewery don’t make it up this way too often, but on this showing they’re more than welcome to make a return. This American pale ale, brewed using hops grown locally to the brewery was a nice amber colour in the glass with a slight hint of haze. Bursting with hop aroma on the nose, upon tasting the hop flavours balanced nicely with a slight boozy sweetness. Will certainly be looking out for this brewery again in the future.