Monthly Archives: February 2014

Hardknott Infra Red IPA


Hardknott is a relatively young brewery that started life in 2005, based in Cumbria. They are a sort of half-way house between a traditional real ale brewer and a trendy craft brewery. This beer has lots of hops and crystal malt. Not really an IPA, although that’s what Hardknott call it – a red IPA. Dave of Hardknott has a good blog.

Hardknott Infra Red IPA, Cumbria
6.2% alcohol
Warm, malty and rich. Smells a bit like a stout, with an iron, bloody edge to the sweet fruit. There’s some spicy hoppiness, but it’s not excessively hoppy. Some hints of chocolate. 7/10

Hitachino Nest, Red Rice Ale

hitachino red rice ale
Kiuchi Brewery is a brewer of the various different styles of world famous Hitachino Nest Beer and creator of some of the best beer label designs in the world.

Hitachino Nest, Red Rice Ale, Kiuchi Brewery, Naka, Japan
7.0% alcohol
I often find that beer on holiday tastes different, and I have never been able to reproduce that novelty at home, even with the identical beer. A clear demonstration about how context is vital to flavour. This beer tastes like I remember lager tasting by the pool. A real fusion of rich lager characteristics and a light ale. An atypical yet appealing flavour very much on the sweet side, but not from sugar I believe, simply from the ingredients and brewing method. Subtle hoppy notes from the Chinook hops on top of Ginjo saké fruit characters and a caramel body, with zero bitter notes. 7/10

Beer Kit: Glasses, Openers…. and why they matter.


As with wine, the beer itself often gets far more attention than the vessel from which it is drunk. And, as with wine, the shape of the vessel affects the flavour.

Flavour is interpreted in the brain mostly from the signals received via the olfactory nerve in the back of your nose—not your tongue. The tongue has five basic senses, salt, acid, bitter, sweet and umami (savoury protein richness) only three of which may apply to any one beer.

The way the glass traps the aroma of the beer and channels it to the back of your nose therefore affects your perception of the beer. You may find you like a beer in one glass and not so much in another. In general, the best shape of glass for any beer is tulip- or egg-shaped, poured to no more than three-quarters full. Straight-sided glasses, often filed to the brim, do not trap any aroma and so reduce flavour.

Don’t forget to look out for bottle conditioned beer. This has had yeast added at bottling to generate secondary fermentation (to make the bubbles) and I find it takes at least two-to-three days to fully settle to the bottom of an upright bottle. The ideal way to pour beer like this is gently, in one pour, and if possible over a white surface with a ceiling light overhead. Stop as you see the tail of the yeast approaching the neck of the bottle. Enjoy bright beer.

Temperature is another factor that affects flavour. In general, the colder a liquid is, the less it evaporates and so flavour is inhibited. Mass-produced lager is far more palatable ice cold than when it warms up, mostly because at a cool room temperature you can actually taste what little unpleasant flavour it has. Higher-strength craft beer, on the other hand, may not be as quite enjoyable as the beer temperature approaches 20 °C as the alcohol will evaporate faster and mask subtle, complex flavours. Different styles of beer taste best at different cool temperatures.

As with the Japanese tea ceremony, the method and the kit is as important as the drink. If you like kit, gadgets and tools, there is much pleasure to be had from the beer glass as well as the crown cap opener. Why not make a change from popping the cap off with your teeth or a Bic lighter and treat yourself to one of the many carefully thought out, beautifully designed openers on the market? None really works better than any other if you are moderately dextrous, but as with art, the beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.
Here are some of our favourites:


Windsor & Eton Brewery Republika Pilsner Lager


Now this is good. It’s a pilsner-style lager with a distinct Czech influence: the malt, hops and yeast are all Czech, and it was originally brewed as a collaboration between Windsor & Eton brewery and Tomas Mikulica of Pivovarsky Dvur. After fermentation the beer was stored at very low temperature for 6 weeks, a process known as ‘lagering’. The result is fabulous.

Windsor & Eton Brewery Republika Pilsner Lager
4.8% alcohol
Saaz hops and Czech yeast. Lovely aromatic nose is fresh, hoppy and citrussy, with some floral notes. Complex palate is very fresh and tangy with grapefruit notes. Proper lager. 8

Five Points Pale Ale

Five Points Ale
The Five Points Brewing Company is another great brewery, from beer central, also known as Hackney. They make just 3 styles of beer. One of the owners also owns The Duke of Wellington pub in Dalston.

Pale Ale, Five Points, Hackney, London
4.4% alcohol
Brewed with malted barley, a little wheat, and Amarillo, Centennial and Citra hops. I have yet to discover if there is bottle variation in beers such as these. I first drank this beer on draught at The Bull & Last near Gospel Oak, and it was a great session ale with character and balance. This bottled version was extremely hoppy and overly bitter to my taste, to the point I couldn’t really taste the good beer under the hops. Verdict: more research needed. ?/10

Hawkshead Windermere Pale Ale


Founded in 2002, independent brewer Hawkshead is now the largest in Cumbria. I really liked this Pale Ale, which fuses the traditional and modern characters to good effect. It’s made with Maris Otter malted barley and full flower hops, with English varieties supplemented by the fabulous American variety Citra.

Hawkshead Windermere Pale Ale, Lake District
4% alcohol. Three English hops plus Citra. Very fruity and lively with peach, pear, spice and some citrus. Exotic but balanced with lovely fruity qualities. Finishes hoppy and slightly bitter. 8

Brewdog Dead Pony Club California Pale Ale

Daniel will probably disagree with me about this particular beer. We have differing views over Brewdog, one of the most controversial of all brewers. Personally, I love their beers, and I think this one is a very clever brew indeed.

Brewdog Dead Pony Club Californian Pale Ale
3.8% alcohol
Hoppy as hell but with low alcohol, so it tastes less sweet than some craft pale ales, and is really refreshing. Bitter, floral, aromatic and delicious with a hint of banana under the bitter hops. 8/10


Crooked Moon Tattoo, Mikkeller

Mikkeller is an epic Danish brewer, making unique, individual and collaborative beers of every type. He is an inspiration to most.

Crooked Moon Tattoo, Mikkeller, Copenhagen, Denmark
9% alcohol
EPIC. From my intro you can probably tell I liked this beer. The first sip elicited a school girl giggle from my mouth, which took me by surprise. This beer is like one of the greatest lap dances you have ever had. The alcohol content means that even if you are sober at the start, it doesn’t take long to really get into the swing. Not only that, due to its rarity and price, it’s not going to be a regular thing, it could be your last, you’ll jolly well remember it and thank god for the experience. Having finished it, I slipped a fiver into the waistband of the barman’s jeans and departed with a smile on my face. This beer is the perfect balance of subtle bitterness, balanced raging citrus, melon, pineapple, grapefruit and grassy hops, some caramel and a silky mouthfeel. 9.75/10

Pale Ale, Rocky Head Brewery

Rocky Head Brewery is a micro brewery set up in Southfields, London by a group of friends inspired by the American Craft Brewing scene.

Pale Ale, Rocky Head Brewery, Southfields, London
6.5% alcohol
On par with the best from The Kernel, this is the inaugral brew from Steve Daniels, the craftsman behind the brewery. This is how you use bags of hops at every stage of the brewing process and not end up with a beer that tastes like someone has put Bitrex in it. Bottle conditioned, so when allowed to settle and poured correctly, it is clear, bright and deep amber. Brewed with malted and toasted barley, the weighty mouthfeel effuses with tangy neroli and a hint of mango. Long tropical subtle bitterness to the finish and some campfire. Flew down barely touching the sides. 9.5/10