Marks & Spencer have put some thought into developing their own-label beer range. Here are three bottles from the line-up. They’re quite smart beers: not serious hardcore craft material, but considering their customers, they are a bit more edgy than they needed to have been, which is a good thing. These are the sort of beers I am happy to drink if I lack a more serious option, but I won’t be making a detour to find them. I hope this doesn’t seem harsh. They’re really quite good. OK I will be quiet now.
M&S Welsh Golden Ale Brains Brewery Cardiff
Made with challenger hops, late hopped with Cascade and Styrian Golding. Slightly savoury style , with the bitter hops just about winning out over the subtle malty notes. Midweight with some herbiness and hints of spice. There’s some complexity here. 7/10
M&S Greenwich Black IPA
From the Meantime brewery. Beer writer Roger Protz describes this style of beer thus: ‘Black IPA is absurd and an insult to history.’ I disagree. Let the beer talk. It’s made using 7 dark malts, and a combination of English and American hops. Dark, malty and chocolatey with some bitter dark chocolate notes, some herbs and a complex savouriness. Distinctive and attractive. 7/10
M&S Organic Scottish Heather Honey Beer
Made by the Black Isle Brewery, this is organic. A blond beer brewed with heather honey. Sweetly honeyed with some herbiness and subtle malty notes. Pale coloured with some spiciness. The honey influence is quite subtle adding a bit of sweetness. Normally, I’m not a fan of beer with flavourings, but this seems to work well, 7.5/10
Tomos Watkin strives to be an iconic Welsh brand. They brew beer with the Welsh drinkers palette in mind, slightly sweet, clean finishing without going overboard on bitterness.
Cwrw Hâf, Tomos Watkin
Another exercise proving that context is vital to enjoyment. Let’s be clear, this is a great session ale. But my first sip was shortly following a 2.5hr drive with the wife and kids from London to near Newport to spend a weekend with the in-laws in a lovely hotel. I was gasping and this went down like nectar from the gods. It’s a lovely lager gold colour, using a blend of golding, fuggle and cascade hops giving this beer a wonderfully refreshing zesty, citrus taste and a light summer beer aroma. Great balance of weight and flavour with a very enjoyable slightly sweet pale ale finish. 8.1/10
This is why the term ‘craft beer’ needs a definition. Two respectable enough beers from big brewers, but not really craft at all, even though they appropriate the term.
Fuller’s Frontier New Wave Craft Lager
Made with new world hops. Golden colour. Rich and full flavoured with a distinct maltiness and a hint of herby, spicy hoppiness, as well as lemony notes. Full flavoured lager that’s just a little bit boring. 6/10
Greene King Noble English Craft Lager
Brewed with Tettnang hops. Gold colour. Sweet and herby with some toffee notes. Very fudgy and sweet but there’s an attractive tangy, citrussy hoppy edge to the palate which saves it. I’m not keen on the toffee notes, though. 7/10
Moncada is another new-ish (2011) London brewery, located in Notting Hill, west London. I’ve tried the blond before, and it’s fabulous, but this amber is approaching perfection, at least to my palate. Such a well crafted beer, and the website usefully gives a full list of stockists.
Moncada Brewery Notting Hill Amber
Gold/bronze colour. Amazing aromatics of perfumed, floral peach and passionfruit characters. The palate is warm and herby with some spiciness. Really nice balance here: hoppy for sure, but with a lovely grassy, herby, tea-like finish. 9/10
Dominion started life in Ashburn, Virginia, back in 1989. In 2007 they merged with Fordham and relocated to Dover, Delaware, where the brewery is now called Fordham & Dominion Brewing Company. This beer brings together Kiwi hop Nelson Sauvin, assisted by Cascade and Columbus, with a caramel malt background, and it works really well. [This beer was drunk in the wonderful Rake, Borough Market.]
Dominion Hop Mountain Pale Ale
Hailing from Dover, Delaware, this is a deliciously rich, malty, bold, hoppy pale ale. The distinctive feature is the way the hoppiness (from a Kiwi plus two USA hops) is countered by lovely sweet fudgy notes. It also has some nice bite on the finish. Really malty as well as hoppy, in a way that works well. 8.5/10
Time and Tide Brewing has a mission to create great beers, to challenge customers with new ideas and flavours and to change people’s minds about how beer should be drunk.
Calista IPA, Time and Tide Brewing, Deal, Kent
In a seaside town about as far East in England as you can go before the word bonjour is heard more frequently, Sam & Paul know what they are doing. This beer is one of a small but quality range, where the base beer remains constant but the hops change, demonstrating again that you don’t have to have full in the face hops to make great beer. Hops here are very much the support act reinforcing the complexity of really good lightly carbonated light brown ale. Winner. 8.5/10
CLICK HERE TO BUY the finest beer glass we have ever used.
Beer Anorak Beer Glass
The ‘DB Beer Glass’ was designed by Beer Anorak based on the DB wine glass by MT of Austria.
We wanted the same weightless sensation from a beautifully shaped beer glass that we enjoy when using the world’s finest wine glasses by Zalto.
Flavour is interpreted in the brain from signals received via the nose, mouth and eyes. Just as with wine, the shape of the vessel affects the flavour of the beer.
Our extensive “research” has shown beyond doubt that a rounded glass delivers the flavour of all beer styles better than a straight-sided glass.
This glass is a pleasure to hold, makes beer shine… and meets all of our requirements for a good session.
Optimises the aroma and flavour.
Is mouth-blown crystal.
Is eye candy.
Is extremely lightweight and very durable.
May be dishwashed.
Has a maximum volume of 430ml and is designed for 330ml bottles.