Blustery, June weather provided the setting for this evening at Nicholson’s ‘Walrus and Carpenter,’ pub, the wind continuing to beat upon the windows of the beautifully decked-out bar. The theme of the evening, hosted by the eternally enchanting beer aficionado, Melissa Cole (above) was Great British summer ales. Year upon year, thousands of British tourists are jettisoned off to various corners of the earth for their summer breaks, all in search of escapism from this consistently rainy isle. There was a concerted effort then amongst the various brewers this evening to scoop a little bit of tropical sunshine from the far-flung corners of the earth and plop them within the pints of ale served.
First up was Red Squirrel brewery based in Potten End, Hertfordshire with their summer ale, ‘Hoppy Horatio.’ Brewed with Cascade and Nelson Sauvin hops, it has a refreshing zing and zestiness. The Horatio dispels the common conception that a high ABV is the route to all flavour. At a relieving 3.8%, it has on the nose, a strong mentholated kick that could shift any lingering cold or sniffle and a continuing fruit intensity that results in a wholly satisfying pint of session ale that has the oomph of an I.P.A without the percentage.
In-keeping with the apparent New World feel of the evening was Thwaites brewery’s ‘Sunshine and Lollihops,’ from Blackburn and Robinson’s brewery’s ‘Globe Hopping,’ from Stockport. The former was nice and moderately strong at 4.6%. Very refreshing in taste and with a dry bitterness, the fruity elements of the beer emerged as the pint went down. A slight error in either transportation or how it was kept meant that the beer had an unfortunate, slight scent of Iodine that you get every now and again with cask ale…hey, it happens.
The Robinsons concoction was a real experiment and really achieved the idea of jet-setting across the planet, because, that’s what they did. Gathering ingredients from around the globe, English malt, American/New Zealand hops with rice and Papaya from Asia, Robinsons’ offering had a genuine exotic scent that gave way to a savoury biscuitiness from the first taste to the last. This was accompanied by a tropical flavour that held it’s own with a subtle bitterness around the mouth.
Another great pale was the ‘Welsummer,’ by Roosters brewery in Knaresborough. Twin brother brewers Tom and Oliver decided also on The United States as the influence for their pale endeavour. Using Cascade, Citra and the very rare Eldorado hop, they created a sessionable, balanced, aromatic moment of the evening with a flavoursome, sweet violet aroma. Upon the subject of ‘terroir,’ the theory of the flavour of an ingredient being endemic to the personality of it’s region, Melissa Cole stated that ‘American hops are loud, forceful and shouty.’ Yes, that does exist in this beer but there is also the tempered British reserve that Melissa explained of our very own hop varieties.
Moving on then, to the ‘Hawaii 340’ by Cropton brewery in Pickering, North Yorkshire. The over-whelming scent was that of a lovely, sweet butterscotch with elements of mint which reminded me of sticky murray mints given to me by my granddad at Margate FC matches. Lovely and refreshing, the malt works in tandem with the hop to create at once, a fruity, tropical flavour whilst maintaining the nutty butter and toffee experienced with the first whiff. Mixed in there too were tasty citrus notes.
With all the citrus, passion fruit and mango knocking around the room, it was time to take a trip to Scotland for a slightly more savoury affair. Not everyone holidays abroad and Perth’s Inveralmond brewery created their ‘MBU’ to show what a great time one can have within the confines of Great Britain. A terrific dark red, this earthy ale had a turf-like smell that also possessed the scent of cress and shiny nuts that had fallen from great trees. Spice emanated from the taste that was resolved with a terrifically firm body. The focus was on the malt (Rye malt which is remarkably difficult to brew with) and not the hops. This did not, however take anything away from how refreshing the beer was.
Ben Lockwood and Duncan Sambrook from Sambrook’s Brewery
London then, as we move on to ‘Lavender Hill,’ by Sambrooks brewery. Famous in the pre-industrial era for the cultivation of the balmy herb, the Lavender Hill’s history is key in this beer (think terroir again). Instead of raw Lavender, Sambrook’s have instead opted for heather honey which is a little less dramatic and resolves itself in more of a silky, smooth way that conjures in my head, memories of summer holidays roaming as a child in Provencal fields. The honey and lavender work satisfyingly in tandem with the beer revealing notes of stewed orange marmalade.
I shall finish with ‘Natural Beauty,’ by Moor brewery in Pitney, Somerset which is ridiculously good. Un-refined and natural, the beer uses the Dana hop from Slovenia. The Eastern bloc relationship does not stop there. Brewed with pilsner yeast (a Czech stalwart) it is bone-dry. There is a sharp grapefruit in the scent, taste and sight. It is at once, earthy, rustic and bracing, possessing qualities of good Eastern European lagers, fresh Belgian saisons and good British cask ale. The citrus pang is constant throughout and makes the punter go back and forth for more.
Ben King and Justin Hawke – Moor Beer Company
John Perry and Greg Blesson from Red Squirrel Brewery
Eight different cask ales using various ingredients from around the world. But we’re good at that in this country. We go around the world, bringing things back and then subverting them in to something that is definitely our own. The brewers gathered this evening showed the power of British ingenuity in this sense. Some day soon, the sunshine will come back, literally and not figuratively providing a fitting backdrop for these beers as they are drunk upon the terraces of the British capital.