261. Brewers &Union Steph Weiss

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Finally, my first African beer of the year… and I bought it accidentally! This is another Hefewiezen, but it’s actually made by Brewers &Union, a South African family craft brewer. Their minimalist bottle designs are matched by a minimalist website, but they seem to do a really interesting range of Belgian and German inspired beers.

Brilliantly, in a website with barely four pages and hardly any words, they donate a whole section to debunking the idea that beer in particular causes a beer belly – they even quote medical journals! Commitment to the cause that.

The beer itself is nice enough, smooth (almost creamy) and sweet to start, the grainy wheat flavours really coming in after the initial taste, with more soft citrus fruitiness – not sour at all. The end has a small amount of dry hops, but not anything noticeable. Pleasant, subtle drinking.

three star

260. Faust Weizen Hefe Hell

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An interesting German Weizen from Miltenberg in deepest darkest Bavaria, this is certainly in the running for beer name of the year.As it is, a “Hefe Hell” beer, translates as “light yeast” which is something of a let down.

The start is bananas and buttered popcorn, really smooth, slightly sweet and silky. There’s a little tanginess in the middle, a touch of citrus bite and bubblegum sweetness. The end has a little of the dry hops, but overall a subtle and airy taste. Not the usual, that’s for certain. 

Worth a try.

three star

259. Marston’s Old Empire IPA

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Another Marstons staple this one, a fairly dark and oddly sweet IPA, but still with plenty of green hop bitter freshness. I struggled to get much in the middle, although there’s a little toffee in the finish. Texture is thick and a little oily, but that might have been because I had it fairly cool.

They say this is meant to be IPA in the true old style, and although they’ve got the green hops, it isn’t light and fizzy, sparkling like a true IPA should be. A shame, and really nothing to shout home about.

two star

258. Meantime London Lager

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I’ve never been much of a Meantime fan, having tried their London Porter and IPA and being of the view that they are rather overpriced and not all that nice, like London itself (what biting social satire!). I have to say however, that the lager has me sold.

Enjoyed after a rather stressful couple of days at work, this went down a real treat, with plenty of kick and bite, back of the throat hopped bitterness and a tangy almost citrus flavour in places. Really refreshing on the palate, would make. Still an expensive drink – 330ml for a 500ml price – this at least has the taste to back it up.

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257. Adnams Broadside

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It has been a long time coming, but here she is, Southwold’s finest. Coming into this year, if there was one beer I knew would get an instant five star rating, this was it. Broadside has been on the top of my otherwise ever changing top ten beer list for years, and there’re two main reasons why.

Firstly, it’s a Suffolk beer, brewed in one of my favourite places on earth, the beautiful seaside town of Southwold. It’s a place where I have many fond memories and although I’m not really a home-body I like having a beer from my home county to be really proud of.

Secondly, and most importantly, the flavour. Broadside is a deep brown, ruby coloured beverage, and fits perfectly into the category of a “fruitcake” beer, which, as I’ve discussed before, is pretty much the highest compliment I can pay. The beer has some sweet toffee malt to start, before it brings in dark fruits, mostly rich plums and cherries. There is plenty of hoppiness toward the end, but it’s a warming, toasty hop, not tangy. It really is best served only cool or even warm, and the fruit flavours come through more as the beer settles. Simply delicious.

The history behind the name is pretty cool as well. The beer was first brewed in 1970’s to celebrate the tercentenary of the Battle of Sole Bay, which took place off the coast of Southwold. It was a huge naval engagement (over 150 ships) between the English/French and Dutch fleets that took place in the Third Anglo-Dutch War in 1672. Although the battle was essentially a draw, the English lost their flagship, and would later go on to lose again against the same fleet in one of the final battles of the war.

The only downside to Broadside? In bottled form this is a 6.3% beer, fairly heavy, and it tends to send me to sleep after two or three. The cask version is normally a little weaker (although you can occasionally find it at its proper strength) so makes for a slightly less sluggish evening.

five star

256. Grain d’Orge Bier Blonde Cuivree

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This strong Belgian beer is actually made en France, and is a fairly potent potable at 8%. Grain d’Orge, if my translation is correct, is simply a “Barley Grain”, so this isn’t a terribly imaginatively named beer, but I would argue that it’s a tad dark to be a proper blonde. The colour is a true amber or dark orange, and the thick, slightly oil texture places this somewhere between a blonde and it’s darker cousins, for me at least.

The flavour is very pleasant, honey sweet to start with a dry biscuity and bready sweet hoppiness in the middle. There’s some more usual citrus bitterness sin the end and the whole drink has a slightly orangey taste underneath slightly tangy sweet. Despite it’s strength it really isn’t very boozy, and I found myself well through a 75cl bottle in no time!

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255. Adnams Southwold Bitter

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Formerly known as “The Bitter” and then just plain “Bitter” before becoming “Southwold bitter”, this is Adnams most generic beer, and probably my second least favourite of their major lines after Ghost Ship, which is such a disappointment.

Such is my love for Adnams that second to last is still a decent beer, and it certainly holds it’s own against the various other bitters out there. Fairly light and fizzy, it has warming hopped flavour all the way through, with a slight tang of citrus to start. There’s some caramel, biscuity sweetness, but it primarily does what it says on the tin with plenty of dry bitterness.

The chap on the bottle is Soutwold Jack, one of Adnams and Southwold’s key icons, someone associated with the local St Edmund’s Church and the War of the Roses. A slightly creepy looking statue of him resides on one of the main brewery buildings in the middle of town if you ever get a chance to check it out.

three star

253. Theakston’s Old Peculier

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Taken me a while to get to this, despite it being one of the better known and more widely available ales out there. Arguably Theakston’s signature beer, it’s an “old style” ale, sometimes known as “stock ale”, which describes anything English, dark, malty and usually quite strong. In the days when a brewer would only probably make two main beers, this was the contrasting style to mild (yuk), so I know what I’d have been drinking.

I’d probably call it a dark ruby myself, but these names are all rather interchangeable I tend to find. It’s a fairly strong number as you’d expect, at 5.6%, but still very drinkable.

The flavour is one of toffee, some slight dark fruits and a middle full of rich, roasty hops, not astringently bitter but pleasant on the tongue. I did get a little burnt coffee taste at the end, but this is quite a dark beer so that’s probably to be expected. In all it has a sticky sweet texture and I can imagine it going rather well with roasted red meats (if I ate such things).

three star

252. Virgin Trains’ Tilting Ale

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Even on a train back from Edinburgh I faithfully update my blog! I must admit some panic is setting in as I realise that I’ll be drinking 50 beers in Christmas week if I don’t write up a few more now! 
Tilting Ale is the beer Virgin commissioned from Macclesfield brewers Redwillow, and perhaps unsurprisingly for a beer created for a huge corporation and sold on trains, it is decidedly inoffensive. When you only make one beer, you want it to appeal as widely as possible.

Tilting is a very average pale ale, fairly weak in flavour, but with an agreeable bready sweetness and warm, dry hopped bitterness in the end.  Still, credit for effort.

Two stars

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