ELUSIVE BREWING JUXTAPOSE, 6%
Juxtapose is a clever name for a black IPA because that’s what a brewery sets out to achieve in this style, albeit in a harmonious way. On one side of the flavour profile you have punchy, fruity New World hops and on the other the smoky, grainy notes of roasted malt.
Getting the balance of these right is a real skill and not all brewers are successful, with their attempts sometimes horribly jarring. Well done, then, Elusive Brewing, which – unsurprising to me – has mastered the technique in this new beer. A smooth layer of chocolate and coffee from the dark malt is countered by Riwaka and Eclipse hops that burst with juicy pineapple, grapefruit and pine needle flavours.
Both elements – malt and hops – hold their own, but the hops eventually come out on top to crown a dry, slightly warming finish. A bold beer that acts its 6% abv strength.
BRAYBROOKE RADIATOR, 7.5%
The doppelbock beer style takes its inspiration from Salvator, the classic strong lager brewed by Paulaner in Munich, with many other beers in the style bearing names that also have the suffix ‘ator’, as a tribute to the original.
Now we have a British beer that does the same. It comes from Braybrooke, a lager specialist based on a Leicestershire farm, and it ticks all the right boxes. There’s plenty of alcohol to provide a pleasant tickle on the palate and warmth in the throat, but more importantly there’s also a wealth of dark malt flavours that span the range from chocolate biscuit to a pinch of liquorice, with a sultana fruit note for good measure.
Overall, this beer is sweet and rich, but nearly four months of lagering ensure that it is also clean, slender and not at all cloying.
NORTH BREWING VOLTA, 4.1%
There have been quite a few gimmicky sours produced by British breweries that have never seen the light of day again after the first run has dried up, and rightly so. But there are exceptions. Volta, first brewed in 2017, has returned every spring since, which says a lot about its appeal. This year it’s been packaged in 44cl cans for the first time.
Described as a “blood orange and rhubarb sour” – made with local Yorkshire rhubarb – the beer tastes immediately tart and surprisingly lean and dry. Sweetness from the blood oranges outpoints any rhubarb flavour, but is more than tempered by the acidity produced by souring the beer in the kettle. Don’t expect much bitterness as there are no hops in the recipe but, if you like a crisp and spritzy beer to sharpen the senses before a meal, this one’s for you.
THORNBRIDGE/ DONZOKO HADERN, 5.2%
Thornbridge’s latest collaboration is with the County Durham lager specialist Donzoko, and together they have produced a delightful take on the Bavarian dunkel style. It’s not the most imposing dark beer you’ll ever drink but everything is in its place and the balance and harmony of the flavours are spot on.
A berry fruitiness opens up the aroma, contrasting with toasty, biscuity, light chocolate notes from the dark malts. The same berry notes lead in the taste that falls just on the sweet side but with a drying, grainy backnote from the malt, more hints of chocolate and some tangy, herbal, Hallertauer hop notes.
Fruit is obvious on the swallow before a dry, biscuity and nicely bitter finish, where hints of smoky dark chocolate and nut become stronger and a clean hop note re-emerges. Light bodied, crisp and supremely easy to drink.