A classic amber ale from a new Norfolk brewery and fiery stout from craft giant Beavertown
PUBLISHED: 10:15 06 July 2018
Timing is everything. And when the World Cup is on, the sun is shining, and the barbecue is out, it’s the perfect time for a beer.
I sampled two more crackers this month, and followed the same format as last month’s column - one local, one not.
Picking the local beer wasn’t difficult.
I’d heard about North Norfolk-based Malt Coast on social media and their swish website and sales pitch - “distinctive beers with our own award-winning malt” - was enough to pique my interest. I picked their amber ale.
The brewery touts itself as being a showcase for Norfolk’s most famous - and important - beer export: maris otter barley. Dig into the ingredients of most of the world’s top beers, and you’ll find maris otter is the backbone.
Discussions of terroir - a term most commonly used in wine-making which refers to the character of soil, and the flavours it gives to the grapes grown in it - are becoming more common in the beer world. Particularly so in relation to hop varieties, but it is equally important in understanding malt.
Fortunately, if you live in Norfolk, you live among the finest maris otter growing terroir in the world. It is something we don’t shout about enough, and one reason we are a natural home for so many breweries.
Hence, the amber ale is what you might call maris otter forward, with beautiful biscuit and honey notes, few hops, and a medium crisp finish. It boasts a lovely mouthfeel, avoiding the watery, thin texture that many beers in the style can have. It’s also on the upper end of sessionable, so don’t be afraid to have a few.
Spilling the banks of ‘sessionable’ and moving into ‘potent’ was this month’s other beer.
A collaboration between London-based Beavertown and Dutch brewers Brouwerij de Molen, Fire & Fury is billed as a stout conditioned on cedar, orange zest and pasilla chillis.
That bananas description (for clarity - there are no bananas in it) is just about as craft as you can get, but it more than lives up to it.
It’s a beer I may have picked subconsciously, as Beavertown have been in the news a fair bit the last few weeks.
Firstly, they linked up with Tottenham Hotspur to help them become the first football club to have a microbrewery inside their stadium when the new White Hart Lane opens later this year.
The news was seen as a leap forward for the brewery, which was started by Logan Plant, son of Led Zeppelin singer Robert.
And things were to get bigger still. Just a few weeks ago it was announced that Heineken had bought a minority stake in the brewery, investing £40m to help realise Plant’s dream of creating Beaverworld, a huge brewing facility in London.
But like a trendy beer, that all turned sour. The craft beer world is nothing but hipster, and rival breweries who had shown the brewery a whole lotta love (ahem) soon took against it for ‘selling out’, with many of them withdrawing from this year’s Beavertown Extravaganza, the company’s annual beer celebration, and bars and stockists began taking Beavertown’s products off their shelves.
It’s all very principled and political, but the proof in the pudding for Beavertown will be if the quality of the beer suffers.
It’s too soon to tell, but they certainly haven’t slipped yet, judging by Fire & Fury.
Black as obsidian with coffee, chocolate, dark malts, orange zest up front and a low heat from the chillis, it’s a beer with clout and a fine example of how stouts, while an acquired taste, can be beer at its finest.
Not just sweet, not just hoppy, not just malty, not just citrussy, stouts can be all of that together in an explosion of flavour that can be a hug or a kick in the face. It’s the reason why beer connoisseurs tend to have them at the top of their favourite beer lists.
There we have it. Two more great beers with stories to tell.
My advice? Crack one open, and hope England do the business.