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The A-Team

Illustration: the A-Team.

Without quite meaning to we’ve acquired some habits — a line-up of bottled beers that we always have in the cupboard or fridge.

What follows is probably as near as you’ll ever get from us to an X Beers Before You Y list.

Bitter (pale ale) or pale and hoppy session beers we tend to drink in the pub. We’re spoiled for choice, really, even in Penzance, and even more so if we take the bus out to the Star at Crowlas. Still, it’s worth saying that St Austell Proper Job is our default pub drink these days. It’s for the more unusual styles that we resort to bottles.

Anchor Porter from the US which goes at around £2-3 per 355ml bottle in the UK is our go-to beer in the stout family. We arrived at this decision after proper testing. When the urge for a dark beer that really tastes dark overcomes us, this is the one we reach for, knowing it will be great every time.

There are lots of great Belgian beers but one that never gets boring, because it’s the best beer in the world, is Westmalle Tripel. There are always a couple of bottles of this in every order we place.

Orval is our favourite example of… Orval. We went from being sceptical to puzzled to devotees over the course of a couple of years. We love it in its own right — it’s always different, yet somehow the same — but we also like to play with it. It’s our house stock ale if you like.

We don’t often need a stout more robust than Anchor Porter but when we do it’s Harvey’s Imperial Extra Double Stout. It tastes its strength, coats the tongue, and comes with a tractor-trailer of funky weirdness that really does ensure a single glass can last all evening. One case every other year seems to do the job, though.

This is both our most boring choice and likely to be most controversial: we’ve yet to find a flowery, aromatic American-style IPA that is better value or more reliably enjoyable than BrewDog Punk. Every time we open a bottle or can we say, ‘Wow!’ which is exactly what we want from this kind of beer. Nine times out of ten Proper Job at the Yacht Inn is all the hops we need but this is the one we keep at home when our blood-humulone levels drop to dangerously low levels.

When we want something sour and refreshing we consistently turn to Magic Rock Salty Kiss. It’s not overly strong, not overly acidic, and is just the right kind of acidic for us, too. (But we won’t say too much — it’s coming up in the current round of Magical Mystery Pour.)

But there are still vacancies — styles where we play the field. When it comes to lager, we currently cycle through St Austell Korev (great value, easy to find), Thornbridge Tzara (yes, we know, not technically a lager, but technically brilliant) and Schlenkerla Helles (the smoke is just enough of a twist to keep us excited). Even though we tasted a load of them we still don’t have a bottled mild we feel the need to have permanently at hand — it’s a pub beer, really. We tend to buy Saison Dupont or BrewDog Electric India but that’s not a lock — we’re still actively auditioning others and saison isn’t something we drink every week. When we get the urge to drink wheat beer, we’re still happy with Hoegaarden, and most German brands do what they need to do, so we just pop to the shops.

So, that’s us. A tendency to conservatism, to the safe option, and to the familiar. (Which is, of course, what Magical Mystery Pour is intended to counter.)

But what about you — do you have any go-to beers? What are they? Or does the whole idea of drinking the same beers over and again just bore you to death?

20 replies on “The A-Team”

Inasmuch as I have regulars, they’re O’Hara’s Leann Folláin when it’s on offer: currently 4 for €10 in Tesco; Spaten: €1.89 in Aldi; and Crafty Brewing Co. Irish IPA: €2.49 in Lidl, though only if it’s fresh.

Duvel and Saison Dupont, I think – plus Boon Geuze Mariage Parfait if I’m feeling swish

Pilsner Urquell – My go-to beer in pubs where the cask ales might be of dubious quality – even better in the growing number of pubs serving the unpasteurised tank beer. Always refreshing cold from the fridge at home too.

Northern Monk Eternal – Best of the canned session IPAs from this country, always have some in the fridge.

Oakham Citra – Don’t often buy it bottled, but lucky enough to come across this often in Cambridge, none better than in the Live & Let Live. However, there was also a “Summer of Citra” where it featured on the Greene King guest list and made visits to many GK pubs suddenly much more appealing. Anything from Oakham is go-to around here – probably the most consistent, reliable “local” brewery.

Fullers London Porter – A classic and always available in Waitrose. Shame its rarely encountered on draught in these parts.

I used to have locked down go to beers, ones that you could almost always guarantee to find in my fridge, it started off with Bristol Beer Factory Southville Hop, then Thornbridge Jaipur, next it was Siren Craft Soundwave, then Beavertown Gamma Ray, and then Magic Rock High Wire Grapefruit. Yes, pretty much IPA is my go to beer style, and the chance of finding others in my fridge was slim.

But over 2016 I seem to have moved away from having a go to beer, I think partly due to the constant change of beers available and the introduction of Cloudwater and seasonal recipes. Also improving my home brewing ability over 2016 has meant that what I brew tends to be the go to beer now, as its sat there in volume.

Hawkshead Windermere Pale is one of my favourite bottled beers though it’s not that easy to get hold of at a decent price unless you live near a Booths supermarket. It’s only 4% (the cask version is 3.5%), pale & hoppy, the sort of of thing I’d normally only drink on cask but really works well with the way they’ve produced it. I can’t think of any other UK produced bottled session beer that I’ve tried that comes close to it. I would happily knock back bottles of the stuff if I could find a local supplier. Writing this now is making me consider buying a batch direct from the brewery, if only I wasn’t such a tight-arse…

Supermarket choice is somewhat limited, but I tend to go for Proper Job, Citra, or Ghost Ship from the PBA range or cans of Vocation.

If I want something dark, there aren’t many options. I might go for Proper Black or Guinness West Indies Porter.

Pub choice is more varied, so I tend to go for something I don’t know – although 90% of the time I still largely stick to something 4%, pale and hoppy. I’ll try the craft keg if its £5 a pint or less.

Unfashionable I know but I’ve always enjoyed the bottled versions of the standard Sambrook’s beers, Wandle, Junction & Pumphouse Pale. They seem consistent & well produced and the Wandle doesn’t seem to have that “copper coin” note that you usually get with non-bottle conditioned brown session bitters.

Proper Job is the best widely-available UK bottled beer, imo, and is £5 for 4 in the Asda at the end of my road.

I have three regular beers at the moment: St. Bernardus Abt, ‘t Ij IPA and Butcher’s Tears Isaac’s Rose. The last of those three, as well as being a rare example of an AK, was also one of my 60th birthday beers.

We’re spoilt in Scotland these days – lots of inventive brewers making great beers across the styles. Fyne Ales Jarl or Avalanche, Tempest Long White Cloud or Pale Armadillo and Black Isle Yellowhammer or Red Kite gets my weekend sessioning off to a start. After one of those, anything’s possible…

I like Brains Dark as a mild, but the bottled version is 4.1% vs 3.5% in cask. Extremely tasty.

I’m either in the pub or getting bottles or cans from the beer shop in St Albans.

Pub (cask): Oakham Citra, Timothy Taylor Landlord and Red Squirrel London Porter. All three of these are on tap pretty much constantly in St Albans. Death or Glory by Tring Brewery is a go-to barley wine when it’s on which is several times a year.
Pub (keg): Fullers Frontier Lager and Brooklyn Lager.

Bottle: I virtually always get a bottle of Broken Dream by Siren or a London Stout/Porter (many recipes/strengths) by Kernel.

Down the pub, Old Peculiar, although only one pub has it on draught here in Cornwall, Dynamite Black Charge if around and now Treen’s Cuckoo (of both types) for Cornish style bitter. Plus Mena Dhu on keg. Bottles: Dark and/or classic IPA, porter, ESB

Punk IPA had been in the past but generally if I’m ordering online (which is majority of my beer consumption these days) I don’t want to waste postage on stuff I’ve had before.
Beavertown gamma ray sometimes sneaks into my basket at local offlicence and like others I have regular breweries Buxton, cloudwater, boundary, eight degrees when I can get hold of them

Beloved standbys include Dead Pony Club, Duchesse De Bourgogne, Stone Arrogant Bastard, anything Marble and Jever.

Cannonball, Gamma Ray, Eternal, Common Grounds and Black Betty are also on heavy rotation, mostly because my local Bargain Booze stocks ’em.

On the whole though I do like to try new stuff when I see it, especially from favourite brewers like the above-mentioned Marble, Buxton, Cloudwater, De Molen and Mikkeller.

Saison DuPont, Orval and Fuller’s ESB are personal favorites that can be had regularly and at a good price. I am always excited to drink them and would keep my fridge stocked if I could.

Punk IPA, Brooklyn Lager, Nøgne Ø Porter and Nøgne Ø IPA are ubiquitous pub offerings and enjoyable enough, but if there’s something I have not tried I will have that instead.

Saison Dupont
Left Hand Milk Stout
Brew Dog – Dead Pony Club
Chimay Blue
Magic Rock Cannonball

I live in France (think £6-pint for Heineken) so finding good beer is hard though my chum with a café (in Trouville, Normandy) has BD Punk IPA on draft (thanks to me : ). On my foraging trips back to the UK I will always get Sierra Nevada, stronger Brew Dogs, Proper/Big Job, Lagunitas, Thornbridge, Siren, Buxton etc. If I get to a Booth’s super-marché I’m like a kid in a sweet shop… I can get Westmalle, Duvel, Orval etc for less than 2€ a bottle, they’re always present in my ‘cave’

Vibrant Forest Cydonia (Martian Red Ale) is amazing (though I do have trouble choosing between most of the innovative VF beers). More conventionally Flack Manor’s Black Jack (porter) and my old favourite Wychwood’s Hobgoblin.

I also agree with B&B on Westmalle Triple (or Dubbel)- I’ve just received a 24 crate (8 each of Dubbel, Triple and the monks very own Extra) from Belgium in a Box. If you have any ‘go to’ belgium beers Kurt at BIAB has to be your ‘go to’ supplier – great service and great prices. How does he deliver a crate of 24 bottles to the UK cheaper than many UK outlets can deliver within the UK? No connection BTW – just a satisfied customer.

Furze Dale Brewer

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