Jeff Evans appraises four recently-released beers
STIEGL HELL, 4.5%
Beer importer Euroboozer has been a supporter of the Austrian brewery Stiegl for many years, bringing its Goldbräu lager into the UK and, more recently, its radler beers.
The latest delivery from the Salzburg brewery is its Hell, which is as delicate and fragrant a lager as you could hope to discover. It pours an attractive green-golden colour and presents a light herbal aroma. The taste is crisp, bittersweet and beautifully restrained, with just the right balance of pale malt and herbal hop notes.
These hops emerge more strongly in the increasingly bitter, dry finish, where a twist of lemon also becomes apparent. This is a beer that has a lot to offer but doesn’t overload the palate, relying instead on the taste buds to gradually appreciate its subtlety.
GREENE KING OLD MASTER HEN, 7%
It’s been an interesting few weeks in the world of bottled ale. A subtle change of label wording alerted customers to the fact that Marston’s famous Pedigree is no longer bottle conditioned, while Greene King has moved in the opposite direction by introducing this bottle-conditioned extension to the Old Speckled Hen brand.
Old Master Hen is a dark copper beer, presented in a clear glass bottle but, thankfully, packaged in a cardboard box for protection against light. Cakey malt, dates and burnt toffee notes feature in the taste, which is not particularly sweet but does have a warming alcohol note, along with suggestions of banana and a pinch of liquorice.
This beer is fuller in body than I remember Hen’s Tooth – the original, and now sadly defunct, bottleconditioned offspring of Old Speckled Hen – with less tropical fruit and more bitterness, but it has a good, fresh taste and an appealing light texture.
THORNBRIDGE CRACKENDALE, 5.2%
A further contradiction to the Marston’s take on the market for bottle-conditioned beer is the recent decision by Thornbridge to dive headlong back into the format.
In 2017, the Derbyshire brewery switched to 33cl bottles across its ale range but has now reverted to 50cl bottleconditioned versions, “to try to replicate, as closely as possible, a pint of cask ale in the pub”. Crackendale is one of the seven core beers converted to the new format.
Described as a “Citra pale ale”, it fairly bounces with juicy citrus flavours – orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit – with a piney tang underneath. Crisp, clean and bittersweet, it also offers a lush pale malt quality that is smooth and slightly syrupy, and just a hint of warmth to reveal the strength.
Overall, this is a fresh-tasting golden ale that is very gluggable for the abv and has the perfect amount of sparkle from the natural carbonation.
BRAYBROOKE PILSNER, 4.5%
Leicestershire’s Braybrooke brewery specialises in lagers and is constantly rolling out short-run, limited-edition variations on the theme. This new Pilsner, however, is a permanent addition to the range and deservedly so.
As with all the brewery’s beers I’ve sampled, it’s beautifully lagered to produce a clean body and slender mouthfeel. The taste is fairly dry up front, with lots of tangy herbal and grassy hop notes, but there’s a delicate sweet maltiness behind and a sherbety sharpness, too. The very dry, bitter and herbal finish is strongly suggestive of the northern German pilsner style epitomised by Jever Pils.
This is a fine aperitif beer, a real palate sharpener that would not look out of place in the best of German pubs, served in the traditional style in a conical pilsner glass with a pretty little paper doily laid around the foot.