The latest beer review by Jeff Evans
GRITCHIE RUBY ESB, 5.5%
Film-maker Guy Ritchie’s farm brewery in Wiltshire offers a number of interesting beers, all lovingly packaged in striking cans depicting archangels in stained glass. I’m sure these must really stand out on the shelf.
The latest releases include Three Hop NEIPA, Key Lime Pie Pastry Sour and an imperial stout, but the one that really works for me is this impeccable ESB. Living up to its name with its bright russet hue, this is a malt-focused strong ale, with notes of caramel fudge, red berries and subdued orange, plus some rye in the mix to add a slightly spicy edge.
Despite the malt fullness, this is not a heavy or cloying beer. Indeed, the finish is, if anything, a touch underpowered, but this is a polished and rather classy beer I’d very happily choose to drink any day.
MOONWAKE GOSE, 4.2%
Only a few years back, it seems, hardly anyone had heard of gose. This style of sour German wheat beer, laced with salt and coriander, had gone out of fashion decades before. Then some brave soul dusted off the archives, pulled out a recipe and, in Jurassic Park style, gose was reborn.
Now, it’s common to find gose in the beer lists of many thrusting young breweries and Moonwake’s new attempt at the style is as good as any I’ve tried. It pours a hazy yellow colour and has a tart taste, filled with sharp lemon and gooseberry, with a touch of tangerine. The texture is a little doughy from the wheat, the salt does just enough to tease the palate and, as a package, it all comes together very well. It’s a pleasant quaff at this time of year but I can imagine it being remarkably refreshing on a hot summer’s afternoon.
STF BELGIAN CHRISTMAS 2023, 6.5%
Phil Sisson’s adventures in beer continue as, in his Glasgow Simple Things Fermentations brewhouse, he explores the world, selects some interesting styles and adds his own twist to the tale. A New Zealand pale ale and a warming but very accomplished honey tripel are two of his latest offerings, alongside this seasonal beer, which oozes Belgian character from the first sniff.
Its ruby colour seems appropriate for the strawberry and other estery fruit flavours, which combine very nicely with toasted malt and a faint medicinal hint. The sweetness on the palate, with cola notes in the background, pulls everything together, allowing a little tanginess from the hops and some clove bitterness to show through. Thankfully, like the Gritchie beer, it’s not overly thick and heavy. It’s also can-conditioned.
The early sample I was sent was a little low on fizz but, by the time supplies reach shops, this should be in sparkling form.
NORTH BREWING AUTOMATIC, 4.5%
Looking for a crisp, clean, spritzy US session IPA? North Brewing in Leeds may have the answer. This vegan-friendly beer – described as a “California IPA” – is the latest addition to the company’s already very extensive range.
It delivers pretty much all you’d expect from the style, except perhaps that it has a hazy lemon appearance and many people might expect West Coast IPAs to be bright and clear. American hops – four varieties: Cascade, Chinook, Mosaic and Citra – are employed to ensure there’s plenty of orange, lemon and piney resins in evidence, from the jelly-like aroma onwards, and any sweetness at the start is soon reined in by a drying backnote that’s present at all times. The leafy, piney finish, with yet more orange, is fairly short and gentle, but surprisingly moreish. A beer that slips down very easily.