In the first of a new series, our beer expert Jeff Evans appraises four recently-released beers.


In 2016, Phil Sisson won a home-brewing challenge organised by Thornbridge Brewery and Waitrose. His winning beer, a Belgian wit laced with rose petals, gave him a launch pad to start his own business and Simple Things Fermentations in Glasgow was born. Sisson has set out to explore new avenues for taste in beer. Among his range are a wheat wine and a dubbel infused with dates, for instance, but there’s a more conventional selection that includes a best bitter with a comforting, chestnut-like maltiness and this new pilsner, which is almost its polar opposite. With its playful, spritzy tone and bouncy mix of citrus hop flavours, offset by a hint of sappy spruce, it’s not a classic continental pilsner by any means, but it’s good fun, refreshing and very enjoyable


This beer has been around for five years but it has just been launched in the UK via Euroboozer. The rainbow packaging emphasises the connection with New York’s Stonewall Inn, a venue for gay rights demonstrations in 1969. Inclusivity was clearly a watchword when this beer was created, because what has emerged is a drink that has wide appeal beyond craft beer hunters. Typical of a New World IPA, it is loaded with notes of pine and tropical fruit from the hops, but in this case everything is reined back a little. Bittersweet pineapple and guava flavours are bold enough to stand out yet mellow enough to blend in, making it very accessible, even for people who might say they don’t like beer. It’s not going to give diehard hopheads their intense lupulin fix, but there’s really plenty to enjoy in this nicely controlled IPA.


Six years ago, I was invited on to Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty’s Friday Night Feast programme to discuss the launch of a beer produced using leftover bread – a novel concept recycling fresh produce that would otherwise go to waste. Today, Toast ale is well established, delivering its own beers and collaborating with other breweries. One of the latest collaborations is with Fyne Ales and is described as a New World pale ale, by which I understand it showcases hops from the US or southern hemisphere, but the varieties are not mentioned on the can. Not to worry, because the beer inside is a delight, bittersweet and bursting with grapefruit fruitiness, with a piney, resiny note beneath and fragrant floral notes along the top. And the bread? Well, it doesn’t make itself obvious in any way, except perhaps for a faint saltiness.


The latest vintage of Thornbridge’s powerful bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout is as mighty and spectacular as previous years’ editions. This impenetrably deep brown beer opens with an aroma of bourbon and Bournville and is sweetish on the tongue but by no means cloying, thanks to a drying back note from the oak. Flavours of creamy dark chocolate and bourbon are complemented by hints of caramel and sultana, but the real impact comes from the warmth. There’s no hiding the alcohol in this beer and I don’t mean that in a bad way. After a warming swallow that would melt a hard winter frost, the beer leaves a little fire in the belly, too, while a touch more bitterness from the dark malt emerges and tangy oak continues to dry the palate long into the finish.