Two beers to give a taste of summer
- Credit: Archant
Try two beers, once a month. That's this column's simple raison d'etre.
As an ale lover and occasional beer blogger, it's not a bad gig for me.
But while the task in hand is seemingly straightforward, it's week one, and I've come into difficulties already.
Basically - there are too many good beers out there to make picking just two easy.
It's like when I try and choose a favourite film or TV show.
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I think of one I love, and another cracker pops into my head. To settle on one would feel like cheating on all the others.
And that's particularly true nowadays, with such a fast-moving, diverse and high quality selection of beers out there.
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So rather than be brave and plump for this week's pair myself, I put myself in the hands of someone neutral. That way, I can blame them if this all goes sideways.
The unsuspecting victim was Toby Westgarth from the beer stall on Norwich Market, a cracking little kiosk which stocks all the latest craft-cum-lately wares, alongside the best ales Norfolk and Suffolk has to offer.
He was given a simple brief - I wanted one local brew, and one from a producer further afield.
Scanning the shelves, he soon settled on a beer from South Norfolk brewers, Ampersand Brew Co.
Billed as an IPA charged with chinook and simcoe hops, Copter looked right up my street. Good start, Toby.
Second in the carrier bag was from a brewer that anyone half-interested in beer will have heard of.
Manchester IPA kings Cloudwater loom large over the British brewing scene and have impressed international craft nerds too after being named one of the top five breweries in the world by ratebeer.com
Clearly Toby wasn't messing about, and the double dry-hopped (DDH) Pale Centennial he handed over had me grinning. Once home, this pair went straight in the fridge and were cracked open soon after.
First up, the Copter.
Popping the lid produced that satisfying curl of vapour and a waft of hops, before it poured a dark amber with a biscuit-tinged head.
On the nose that biscuit continued, with the immediate thought that this wasn't a US-style rip-off IPA, but something with a British backbone.
Some Stateside influence came from the simcoe hops, delivering dank, resinous aromas - a real whiff of pine. That dankness was there in the flavour, joined by classic IPA flavours including stone and dark fruits, and some spice and citrus from the chinook.
The finale was a little satisfying booze and bitterness, and a medium dry finish, which I would have preferred to have been a little crisper.
All in all, a solid beer, and enough to make me seek out more from the Earsham brewery.
Next up, the Cloudwater.
I've unashamedly bought into the hype and tried quite a few of the Manchester brewer's concoctions - including several of their fabled double IPAs - so I was looking forward to this one.
While the Ampersand was bottled, the Pale Centennial came canned - and all the better for it.
They haven't always been popular with breweries but cans are irrefutably the best way of getting beer to home drinkers.
By stopping light and oxygen getting in - beer's biggest enemies - they keep it fresher for longer.
Cracking open this beauty proved the point.
Anyone within a three metre radius of the lid would be hit by a blast of hop aroma, delivering enough peach, melon and grapefruit to make your mouth water.
On pouring, the New England yeast shone, with that orange, hazy appearance that the new breed of IPAs are known for.
And looks did not deceive. On tasting there was the pillowy soft mouthfeel characteristic of Cloudwater beers.
The melon and peach was there in the flavour, alongside a little biscuit, and a beautiful rounded bitterness that gave it the same classic edge as the Ampersand.
Two beers to get this column off to a flier. Cheers, Toby.