We like discovering new things and, in this round-up, we’ve been introduced to some great new things. Like a new retailer for alcohol free beer. And apple-based spirit, Calvados. We may be a little late on the Calvados thing (it has been around for centuries after all) but we’re now eager to make up for lost time…
Drop Bear Co Tropical IPA, 0.3%
It’s always handy to know drinks retailers that offer something a little different than usual. Good Stuff Drinks recently contacted us to introduce themselves and let us know that among their huge range of low alcohol drinks products are a bunch of beers that we might be interested in. Besides a few of our favourites (hello ‘Lucky Saint’ and ‘VandeStreek Playground’) is a selection we’d not encountered before, so the Good Stuff good folk sent us over a quintet to get our chops around (see the main photo for the full line-up).
Thumbs were lofted for the lemony Coast Beer Co’s 0.0% Hazy IPA, but top marks went to Drop Bear Co’s Tropical IPA with an intensity of flavour that few alcohol-free beers can match. It has a strong, rootsy bitterness that suited the chalky dryness you often find in such beers, while our senses were showered with fruity hop flavours. Like much of the British population we’re increasingly stocking up on alcohol free beers and, by the looks of it, Good Stuff Drinks will be top of the list for future purchases.
Michel Huard Vieux Calvados, 40%
Calvados, the French spirit made from apples (and sometimes pears) isn’t a drink we’ve had many dealings with, despite our love of cider. So we welcomed the opportunity to try out five of the best (and a Somerset Cider Brandy) as part of an online tasting session held by Dawn Davis of the Whisky Exchange.
The first revelation was the discovery that some Calvados tastes EVEN BETTER THAN GIN* when mixed with tonic, with the fresh and vibrant Avallen being Dawn’s tonic-pairer of choice. Our favourite of the session was Michel Huard Vieux Calvados, aged for seven years and amazing value at under £50. Hugely complex, it has the tannic apple quality of some of our favourite ciders with bold and boozy oak flavours and a sweet marzipan softness to round it all out. Calvados may just be our new favourite drink.
To Øl Gose to Hollywood, 3.8%
During lockdown, Nick has avoided all large supermarkets, shopping instead at a couple of independent shops with schoolmasterly strictness on distancing policies, and combining these trips with the occasional visit to the wide-aisles of his local M&S. While browsing the beer shelves during his most recent visit he noticed a few new recruits, including local booze from the excellent Arbor Ales and Electric Beer and a change of offerings from Danish brewmeisters Mikkeller.
Just below Mikkeller on the Danish Beer Family Tree sits To Øl and they too are now listed at M&S in the shape of a 440ml can of gose, soured to the max with the addition of orange juice. It’s an outstanding summer guzzler (our cans disappeared in a flash), sour and salty enough to make your eyes squint with an orangey freshness shining through the mineral astringency. Delicious stuff.
Beavertown Nanobot, 2.8%
Beavertown has lately been shuffling towards the big brewery league, having welcomed an investment from Heineken in 2018, and it’s good to see such a player introducing a sub-3% ABV beer into its team of regulars. Nanobot is a session IPA which, at 2.8% neatly sits in the gap between a regular boozy beer and an alcohol-free offering, giving a decent amount of flavour with just a smidgeon of alcohol to the system.
It’s a hazy, tropical kind of IPA-lite beer, with plenty of pineapple and soft peachy notes and a slightly tinny, piney, bitter finish. We enjoyed our cans and reckon it’s one to tuck into the picnic hamper when family picnics are back on the menu after lockdown…
*A bold statement indeed but we’re sticking with it.