You can’t fail to have noticed that a lot of new booze is being released at the moment. Not only are craft producers are springing up all over the shop but established brands are also getting in on the act with shelf-loads of adventurous new product ranges.
Besides eagerly seeking out new boozes in pubs, supermarkets and online we also get sent more than our fair share of drink samples from businesses and PR companies eager to hear our feedback on their products (and hoping we’ll give them a mention in the press).
Until now we’ve not done much with these drinks, other than tweet any that particularly impress or intrigue, but we think the time is right to give the best of them some coverage on our blog. So here’s the first of an irregular series of ‘new booze round-ups’, covering the best of the booze that we’ve been sent or stumbled across.
St Austell Celtic Beer Festival
In November, Nick headed down to Cornwall to spend an evening at St Austell Brewery’s annual beer festival. Along with their regular beers, and a selection from other Cornish and national breweries, were a load of one-off specials brewed by various members of the St Austell and Bath Ales (owned by St Austell) brewing teams. Inspired by Cornwall’s wintery, stormy skies, Nick’s pick of the beers was a pair of dark brooding brews. Bath Ales ‘Honey I Shrunk The Porter’ (5%) was a delicious honey porter with a heady aroma of coconut rum, lots of sweet toasty malt flavours and a warming booziness, while St Austell’s annual release of its barrel aged Black Square Russian Imperial Stout (10.4%) was even better: slick and creamy with mellow fruitiness, bitter chocolate and a rich vibrancy from its barrel ageing.
Earl Grey and Biscuits
The best beer to arrive through the post came from the good folk at Borough Market who worked with brewer Daniel Tapper of The Beak Brewery to create a 5.2% saison made with Earl Grey tea (provided by trader Organic Life) and hops grown at the front of the market hall. We like Earl Grey as an adjunct – it’s a tea that’s flavoured with Bergamot which has floral orange flavours that aren’t a million miles from some hops while the tea’s tannin gives beers an extra dryness at the finish. This saison suited the Earl Grey addition exceptionally well: an amazingly fresh and spritzy beer with those tea characteristics perfectly well balanced with the clean and punchy malt, yeast and hop flavours.
We were also introduced to Surrey outfit Crafty Brewing in the form of a three pack featuring their Five Hop IPA, Pale Ale and the brilliantly named Loxhill Biscuit (3.8%). It’s a golden sweet and light biscuity brew with subtle orangey citrus flavours from Amarillo hops (it also includes First Gold and Challenger) that perk up through the moderately bitter finish: one to file in the ‘easy drinking’ category.
Bourbon and Gin
Our most recent commissions for the i paper included round-ups of gin (Rich) and bourbon (Nick). Among Rich’s selection was a quince gin from distillers Whitley Neill which features the flavours of the under-appreciated Persian fruit with earthy and piney bitter notes of juniper and spice. Rich thought it had a not-too-sweet zestiness and recommended skipping the tonic and drinking neat, pairing it with cheese over the festive period.
Among Nick’s bourbons was an organic spirit from Koval, a Chicago distillery making inroads into the UK market. Along with the bourbon he also got hold of a bottle of their whiskey made from 100% millet, an incredibly smooth and creamy spirit with quite a noticeable aroma and flavour of pears mingling with the soft grains.