The March beer review
SALTAIRE PILSNER, 4%
For a while, Saltaire has been brewing a very impressive Helles, so I was keen to try the brewery’s new Pilsner. I was equally impressed. It’s very light in body for the style – more of a Czech 10º beer than a fuller 11º such as Pilsner Urquell for those familiar with Czech beers – but that’s not an issue. In fact, it shows how well brewed this beer is. As has often been said, with lager there’s no place to hide – every mistake and flaw shines out in such a delicate beer style and the lighter the beer the more exposed those problems can be. Well, there are no faults here. This sparklingly golden beer is crisp and spritzy, with lemon and bitter herb notes from the tangy, lightly floral hops. The body, as minimal as it is, is very smooth and, while the overall taste is bittersweet, it’s also rather dry, especially in the increasingly bitter, herbal and lightly floral finish. A very clean and refreshing addition to the range.
EPOCHAL THE FIXED STARS, 6.2%
Gareth Young’s Epochal brewery in Glasgow is certainly not conventional. It aims to reflect modern brewing practices and trends while also turning back the clock to bring a flavour of how beers in Scotland once might have been to today’s audience. All the brewery’s beers enjoy a secondary fermentation in wooden casks with an infusion of brettanomyces yeast. This means they have a sense of wildness about them, as beers would have had in centuries past. I’ve tried two of the range, a 12% pale ale fermented in Sauternes barrels that, astonishingly, seems only half the strength, and this oakaged porter that successfully marries a winey, blackberry-like fruitiness with lightly smoky charcoal and liquorice notes from the dark malt. The brett teases the palate, promising an even bigger influence with more time in the bottle, while the bottle conditioning adds an enjoyable, mouth-filling airiness to the experience.
NEPTUNE TRITON, 5.8%
Merseyside’s Neptune Brewery plays around with maritime beer names and if you think you’ve seen Triton before, then you probably have. But this is not the same beer previously sold under that title, which was a 4.4% pale ale. This time around, Triton is a robust US IPA loaded with bittersweet flavours that meander between resinous notes of pine and lots of fragrant tropical fruit. Pineapple, melon and sticky Seville orange marmalade layer the palate, although there’s a welcome drying backdrop at all times so that it never becomes cloying. The strength is pleasantly apparent through the gentle warmth but the lightness of texture that comes from a beer allowed to naturally carbonate in the can ensures that this is by no means too thick or stodgy.
LOST & GROUNDED HOP-HAND FALLACY, 4.4%
Just as with Neptune’s Triton, the name’s been around for a while but the beer just relaunched as Hop-Hand Fallacy offers a somewhat different experience from before. Initially, the beer in the can was a session-strength saison, laced with coriander and orange peel, but the recipe was gradually adapted and modified over time until the beer drank closer in style to a witbier. Now Lost & Grounded has gone the whole hog and amended the cereal base so that it actually ticks all the witbier boxes. The body is rather slender for the style and the flavours more delicate than in other wits, but this is a very refreshing, classy and delightfully restrained beer that slips down extremely easily. Expect bittersweet, balanced notes of lemon, orange and perfumed spice on the palate, along with a soft, peppery warmth.