Published in The Independent, August 2003
Coopers Sparkling Ale (Australia, 375ml, 5.8% abv)
A family-owned brewery, producing several uncompromising but accessible beers. Their Sparkling Ale is a riot of fruity flavour (pears, apples, banana), with enough hop dryness present to make it quenching and moreish. Best served cool and cloudy, with the sediment in the glass.
Goose Island IPA (USA, 355ml, 5.9% abv)
American craft beer writ large. From the wonderful floral aroma to the long, hoppy, orange-pith finish, this beer bursts with flavour from the moment you open the bottle. Pleasantly astringent, it’s an excellent palate cleanser and appetiser. It also works well with spicy food.
Cantillon Gueuze (Belgium, 375ml, 5% abv)
Truly an artisan brew, this pale, hazy, naturally-fermenting beer is a shock to the palate. Aged for years in wooden barrels, emphasising the complex flavours, this tart, lemony, dusty, beer is too intense for many. However, as an aperitif, or a crash course in ancient brewing techniques, it is unrivalled.
Traquair House Ale (UK, 330ml 7.2% abv)
One of the smallest breweries in the world produces a big-bodied beer. House Ale is matured in wooden vats, and it is undoubtedly this that gives the beer its distinctive nutty quality. Dark brown, with a malty, dried fruit nose, and a rich chocolatey body, giving way to a long, warming finish.
Caracole Ambree (Belgium, 330ml, 8% abv)
From a tiny farm brewery near Dinant, this golden wonder has a fantastic citrus and spice aroma. Ambree has a really orangey, resinous, almost oily mouthfeel to it, and a long peppery finish, indicative of armfuls of good quality hops being added late in the brewing process.
Schenkerla Rauchbier (Germany, 500ml, 5.1% abv)
Lovers of Islay whiskies will revel in the smoked malt that is used to brew this rauchbier (literally ‘smoke beer’). The smokiness is evident in the aroma, and the rich flavour comes into its own when paired with Bavarian ham, sausage, and, of course, barbecue. A definite must-try.
Cropton’s Uncle Sams Bitter (UK, 500ml, 4.4% abv)
All the beers from this North Yorkshire brewpub deserve a mention, but my personal favourite is their tribute to American craft beer. Pale, with a floral aroma, the beer has a clean citrus palate, plenty of flowery hop flavour, and a long, drying, lemon-balm finish.
Trappistes Rochefort 10 (Belgium, 330ml, 11.7% abv)
No roll call of craft beer is complete without a Trappist brew, and this is the daddy of them all. Dark, richly fruity (dates, figs, christmas pudding), smooth, and worryingly easy to drink. The flavours develop into a port-like finish. An excellent pudding beer, or perhaps even a night-cap.
Hop Back Entire Stout (UK, 500ml, 4.5% abv)
A wonderfully complex, creamy stout. Initial cafe-mocha flavour passes into a smooth blackberries and cream fruitness, before reverting to a long, creamy stawberries and chocolate finish. Its probably sacrilege, but I bet this would be fantastic with a scoop of vanilla ice cream floating in it.
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