As a Billy-no-Mates in my unglamorous hometown of Barrow-in-Furness (which is not a town festooned with good pubs and beer anyway) I'm currently deprived of quality pub time. Inevitably I find myself buying beer from Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Booths.
Before any tickers, raters or scoopers get a bit sniffy about the non-rarity of my recent beer consumption I'd just like to say - been there done that. For those of you who don't actually know me, a quick reminder – my brother and I created, owned and ran MICROBAR (terrible picture!) in London. Our beer range was pretty damn good. We scoured the whole of Europe and several places beyond for beer we thought exceptional. Several times we could boast the full range of Trappist beers, including the Westvleterens. I also worked for Utobeer for two years and was involved in the set-up of the Rake. Had Ratebeer been around in the late nineties into the naughties my latent list-making urge would have come into play. But it didn't. I do still pick up odd bottles of more exotic stuff on my travels, but I'm not as obsessed as I once was.
Anyway... at the weekend I was tidying up and getting ready for the recycling collection when it occurred to me to photograph my recent domestic beer consumption – as you do.
Here goes (from the left, sort of):
Melbourn Brothers Apricot – I know this one doesn't meet with universal approval, but I love it. I'm told it's discontinued, and that makes me sad. I'd prefer it to be a bit less sweet, but I love the layers of flavour. Here's an extract of a review I wrote for Difford's Guides - ". numerous attractive flavours nestled snuggly side-by-side - we marvelled particularly at white chocolate, fresh apricot (naturally) and a herbal, hoppy finish."
Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout – a renowned beer for grown-up palates. I though it would be robust enough to benefit from a couple of years in my little cellar. Sadly it was extremely oxidised. "OTF" as they say in the business.
Sierra Nevada Celebration – the last-but-one of a case of 12 given to me by the importer in 2006. I've always found this beer to be too bitter. I'm not averse to high bitterness per se but it always seemed a bit "shouty" in SN Celebration. After two years in storage the bitterness had muted and the overall flavour matured into something quite special. Brilliant. I've read that this is a good beer for ageing, and I can confirm it.
Brewdog Punk IPA – excellent. I think Thornbridge Jaipur may have the edge in overall enjoyability and I intend trying them side-by- side sometime soon.
Anchor Old Foghorn – my favourite barley wine. Excellent for drinking when you've got a cold, even better when you haven't. Better than SN Bigfoot, its obvious rival.
Praga – I don't know much about this beer. It's a proper Czech lager at 89p found on the bottom shelf of supermarkets. Drinkable and infinitely superior to Stella etc, but, ultimately, nothing special.
Cotswold Lager – OK, nothing wrong with it but nothing remarkable. I like the idea of a British micro dedicating itself to lager, I wish more would branch out from the 3.5-5% ale obsession.
Urquell – legendary, but not my favourite lager by any means.
Spaten Munchener – excellent soft biscuity malt character. Another good reason to shop at Aldi.
Bernard Dark – Tesco Drinks Awards lager category winner Oct '07 - I was on the panel.
Young's Special London Ale – Is it just me or have Youngs beer improved since the Bedford move? SLA reminds me of one of my all time faves - Anchor Liberty Ale.
Barngates Red Bull Terrier – My fave Cumbrian beer. The bottled version lacks a little of the depth of the sublime cask version, nonetheless an excellent beer.
Harviestoun Bitter and Twisted – I have to be in the right mood for this one. I always look out for their beers on draught.
Bakalar – Cheapo Czech lager from Morrisons. Nice malt but let down by a metallic edge.
Broughton "The Gillie" – I've thoroughly enjoyed this in the past finding it a like Orval-lite but I didn't enjoy this one. Perhaps I was in the wrong frame of mind.
Sharp's Chalky's Bite – Comment here.
Wychwood Black Witch – Seemed promising but ultimately two-dimensional. Juvenile branding perhaps having a psychological effect on me.
Okocim – the lager I most enjoyed recently.
Grolsch Weizen – Although the Bavarian weiss beer style isn't a favourite I do recognise this as an absolute corker. The Germans must be furious.
Hawkshead Brodie's Prime – A truly great complex dark ale on draught, again the bottled version lacks a degree of complexity.
Williams Brothers Midnight Sun (not pictured) – Tremendous. I've been a bit underwhelmed by Williams Bros beers in the past but this one was great. Another Tesco Drinks Awards Winner.