We have a winner: best British Koelsch Klone

A few months ago, we spotted that Young’s bottled Kew Brew (now “Kew Gold”) is a dead ringer for a decent draught Koelsch. We tested that theory again this week and are now prepared to say, outright, that it’s the best substitute for draught Koelsch you can get in the UK.

Filtered, pasteurised bottles of Frueh just don’t compare. It’s even better than Meantime’s slightly bland effort.

Young's Chocolate Stout: now with added smoke

Has anyone else had a bottle of Young’s Chocolate Stout recently? We just tried one at a Young’s pub in London and were astounded to discover that (a) it’s got better and (b) it no longer tastes of chocolate, but rather intensely of smoke and roasted barley. The ingredient list includes oats and “natural chocolate flavouring”.

Any insight much from those in the know would be much appreciated.

Cornwall and beer on the train

We’ve just returned from a week in Cornwall, in the far south west of England, so expect a few posts in the coming days on our beery adventures around St Ives. We got the week off to a good start last Saturday, though, with a few bottles of Marks and Spencer’s relatively new Cornish IPA on the train.

mandscornishipa

We’ve just returned from a week in Cornwall, in the far south west of England, so expect a few posts in the coming days on our beery adventures around St Ives.

We got the week off to a good start on the train from London last Saturday with a few bottles of Marks and Spencer’s relatively new Cornish IPA.

We were pleased to see that the supermarket chain are now crediting the brewers of their own-brand bottle-conditioned beers on the labels (we  beer geeks like to know where our booze is coming from) and that this is a product of St Austell.

We guessed it would be a rebadge of their brilliant bottle conditioned Proper Job, but it’s not. It’s weaker (5% as opposed to 5.6%) and also has a lighter body and drier finish. It’s much closer, in fact, to cask conditioned Proper Job. We thought it was delicious. One of the best bottled beers we’ve had in a long while.

Thanks, St Austell and M&S, for a great start to our break.

Duvel: no dumb blonde

satanbeer

There’s no more illuminating way to taste beers than to try three or four supposedly similar specimens together. When we found ourselves in possession of two notoriously blasphemous Belgian beers (Satan Gold and Judas) we thought it would be fun to drink them along with their evident inspiration, Duvel. The experience gave us a new appreciation for this old favourite.

Satan and Judas look, too all intents and purposes, identical in the glass. They have the same rich golden colour; the same loose, bubbly head.

Satan first. What a let down after the fun and tacky packaging. It smells of pear-drops, nail polish and alcohol. There are some tart apple flavours which might work if they were balanced with bitterness. Sadly, this beer is hardly bitter at all. The stingy hand with the hops is countered by an overgenerous helping of sugar. All in all, a bit like drinking syrup.

Judas is somewhat better, though similar. Sugary: check. Fruitily acidic: check. It tastes, in fact, like stewed rhubarb, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. All in all, not a beer we’ll be hunting down, but definitely drinkable. Unlike Satan, this one didn’t end up down the sink.

And then onto Duvel, which suddenly looks and tastes like what it is — a very sophisticated, well-engineered beer. It’s lighter coloured and lighter bodied than either of its two imitators. The bitterness is refreshing and pronounced. Veritable hops indeed. Whereas Satan and Judas lost their heads almost immediately, Duvel has iceberg-like clots of foam all the way down to the last mouthful.

We have our winner. Just because it’s ubiquitous doesn’t mean Duvel isn’t brilliant.

The Beer Rep Cometh

A band of aggressive beer salesmen seems to have passed through our neck of the woods, or maybe a new cash-and-carry has opened?

Some cornershop beers
Some cornershop beers

A band of aggressive beer salesmen seems to have passed through our neck of the woods, or maybe a new cash-and-carry has opened?

At any rate, the range of beers available at fairly ordinary corner shops and grocers near our house has expanded massively in recent weeks.

Here’s a partial list of bottled beers we can buy on the way home from work without going near a supermarket:

  • Grolsch Weizen (big thumbs up from Bailey, Boak not so excited)
  • Jennings Cocker Hoop, Cumberland and Sneck Lifter
  • Bateman’s Combined Harvest and Victory
  • All the Badgers, including unseasonal Pumpkin
  • Young’s Bitter (bottle conditioned), Special London and Chocolate Stout
  • Wychwood Hobgoblin, Wychcraft, Black Wych, Circle Master and Goliath
  • Hen’s Tooth
  • Cooper’s Sparkling Pale Ale
  • Theakston’s Old Peculier
  • Shepherd Neame Whitstable Bay, Spitfire, Bishop’s Finger, Master Brew and 1698
  • Fuller’s London Pride, ESB, Golden Pride, Honey Dew and 1845
  • Svyturys Ekstra, Gintarinis and Baltas
  • Baltika porter, wheat beer, dark lager and helles
  • Pilsner Urquell
  • Budvar and Budvar Dark
  • Pitfield Red Ale, Stock Ale and EKG
  • Gulpener Rose (eugh!)
  • Paulaner Helles
  • Brakspear Organic and Triple
  • St Austell Proper Job and Tribute
  • Baltika porter, dark lager and wheat beer
  • Usher’s Founders Ale.

That covers a great many of our day-to-day needs, but it would be nice to see more porters and stouts; more Belgian beer; and the return of Brooklyn Lager, which has disappeared from our local off licence.

And, of course, there is a bit of an illusion of choice here, because many of these beers are very similar in taste and appearance and, in some cases, are made and owned by a handful of umbrella companies.