Words - Matthew Curtis, Photos - Dianne Tanner
There is a raft of emerging online beer subscription services making it even easier for people to discover new beer. One such service, Edinburgh based Beer52.com asked if I would like to review one of their cases. A couple of days later a tidily packed box of eight beers arrived at my doorstep. I was impressed not only how well packed the case was but the branding looked great and inside was a really useful, informative leaflet telling me a bit about the brewery that had created each beer along with accompanying tasting notes.
The first bottle I got stuck into was 316 Extra Pale Ale from Norfolk's Grain Brewery. I've tried and enjoyed a couple of beers from this brewery before and this experience was no different. This very pale beer had a delicate aroma of gooseberries, it was extremely light bodied and had an almost sauvignon blanc character along with a touch of summer fruit. The finish was nice and bitter, this was an easy drinking lawnmower beer that would've been ideal chilled on a hot day. My bottle was a little under conditioned though which is a shame as it would've been lifted with a touch more carbonation.
Barney's Beer from Edinburgh based Summerhall poured an inviting shade of amber with aromas of brambles and honey emerging from the rocky white head. This was crisp, light and dry with a little honey sweetness followed by a grassy, lemon zest character. Barney's beer is nicely packaged and this bottle was in great condition but it was a bit pedestrian for my personal taste. The label describes this beer as ordinary and I would say that pretty much sums it up.
Next up was a Belgian style Dubbel from Manchester's Tickety Brew, which I had heard good things about so I was looking forward to this one. After the lively pour had calmed down a bit the russet red beer produced fruitcake and white pepper on the nose. It started with a little sweetness on the palate followed by a wave of cinnamon and nutmeg, a grassy prickle from the hops and lots of fruity Belgian yeast esters on the finish. This was really good, not quite as accomplished as some of the classic Belgian Dubbels I'm so fond of but something I'd try again if I saw it.
Church Farm Brewery Harry's Heifer was sadly a tad disappointing. It failed to produce any real sort of head but still managed to achieve an aroma of marmalade on toast. It had an oily quality and was too sweet for my liking, I did detect a little floral bitterness but there wasn't enough of this for me so it ended up becoming a bit cloying as I worked my way down the glass. Not for me.
North America was represented in this case by a pair from Wisconsin's Stevens Point. I started with their Belgian White which poured a pleasant, slightly hazy straw colour. You could easily smell the coriander seed and orange peel that made up its ingredients. It's a good tasting, clean and pretty typical Belgian style witbier albeit a little sweeter than I would expect from the style, I imagine it would go nicely with sushi. On the other hand the uncategorisable Black Ale was, for me, almost undrinkable. The nose gave very little away, a hint of black treacle or molasses perhaps? It was very, very sweet, each sip was akin to putting a spoonful of demerara sugar in my mouth. There was not a shred of detectable bitterness to support the tracing paper thin body and the sweet flavours faded away almost instantly. To me it tasted like fizzy wort that hadn't fermented out properly, this is a nothing beer, avoid.
Thankfully the next beer in the case was an old favourite in the form of Oakham Citra. I've previously gushed on this blog about how much I love this beer, when it's fresh on cask it's unbeatable, the bottles aren't quite as good as this but they are considerably more consistent. Waves of juicy grapefruit dance over a delicate malt base to produce arguably one of the best beers in its class. This is the kind of beer that deserves a place in your fridge at all times.
I accidentally wandered into the launch of Edinburgh's Top Out at the Cloisters Bar when I was in the city for the European Beer Bloggers Conference last year. Sadly my palate was so worn out from all the beer tasting that I didn't try any of their beers on this occasion so it was a pleasant surprise to receive this bottle. Staple Pale Ale has a nice lemon 'n' lime fragrance and is a lovely shade of pale gold. It's floral and pithy and the light body means it's really drinkable. My one complaint is that it could do with a touch more sweetness or general malt presence to back up the bitter, zesty quality but other than that, I'd drink this again.
I think if I was relatively new to beer I would've enjoyed this case a lot more, my jaded palate generally favours beers on the bolder side of the spectrum but there was definitely 3 or 4 beers in there I'd love to try again, especially if I saw them on draught.
If you like the sound of Beer52.com then you can save a tenner on your first case by entering TOTALALES after clicking the 'have a code? Click here!' bit on the front of their website. If you're looking for an easy way to discover new beer then this is a decent place to start.
Disclaimer: I was sent these beers for free but I don't think that influenced my opinion on them. Comments have been disabled for this post, if you'd like to contact Beer52 please do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.