I made a pilgrimage to BEER:shop St Albans, just on the other side of town, to get some interesting beers. Well why not, and it even had the wife's blessing because she fancied some good beer. The shop's only been open for three weeks, but it's very smart and carries a carefully curated collection. Some of it is really rather pricey, and with those prices on stickers at the back of each bottle it was a slightly frustrating experience. I'd see something interesting, pick it up, confirm that it did indeed sound like a cracker, then turn it around to find it was £15. I could have three bottles of wine for the price of that bottle of beer! But in the end I settled on eight to take home.

BoBSherunkel

And now, time to sample a couple of them. First up, an extremely local number from The private brewery of BoB which is located only about a hundred metres from the shop as it happens. BoB Sherunkel is 3.7%, described as a "delightfully dark mild". And it really is, with a roasted flavour that lingers on the palette, whilst being incredibly easy drinking. Very pleasant.

BoBSlayah

Next, Bob Slayah, from the same stable, and thought it would appear to be an entirely different beer (5.2%, "premium bitter") it had overtones of the same roasty flavour, so it followed on nicely.

EpicSaison

And finally, The Wild Beer Co's Epic Saison, 5% and as crisp, zesty and spicy as the label suggested. Using exotic American hops, it is quite fruity, almost a bit soapy to Mrs C's tastes. I wouldn't go out of my way to have another one, but it was perfectly pleasant. I also forgot to photograph it post-pouring. Whoops.

 

CineyBrune
This Belgian number really surprised me. It has a hint of lambic sourness, that makes it fresh and interesting and for me separates it from most other standard brunes. It seems that many people don't rate it, but I find it to be an interesting diversion, if only for its subtle sweet and sour novelty. I don't think I'd have more than one of an evening though – it's not that great overall.

LeffeRuby
This beer is a fruity revelation! At least if you like that sort of thing. Officially described as being flavoured with red fruits, with a hint of spice and wood, even a touch of sourness, the result is very impressive. Like most fruity beers it's not strong at 5% but it really does taste wonderful. To me the main fruit flavour is raspberry with maybe a drop of cherry.

I will be seeking out more of this stuff, and if I don't my wife may not forgive me for drinking most of this one.

AffligemBlonde
When I left a job recently, my Belgian colleagues presented me with a basket filled with a vast and varied array of beers. My arms having recovered from carrying it home, it's now time to sample these fine wares.

First up Affligem Blonde, at 6.8% a relative lightweight in the Belgian canon, but I was impressed by the overall result. A bit like Leffe, but more subtle and probably less cloying if you were to drain a few. It's really smooth and well-balanced, just edging only slightly into the treacly tendencies of classic Belgian brews, but definitely going beyond "straightforward lager". I really liked it – it's a great beer to start an evening of lowland delicacies or for general consumption if you're not feeling like the heavy stuff.

Expect more over the coming weeks, and expect them to be mostly in entirely the wong glasses, as above.

 
GordonFinestGold

I do love a Belgian beer. I don't know how they do it, but their strong, sweet creations are the beery equivalent of comfort food to me. But this is a strange creature that I review today.

Bought in the Carrefour Express in Brussels Midi station, it appears to be a slice of Scottishness amid the Belgian fancies, certainly in terms of the branding. But it's 10% by volume and is quite clearly a deliciously sticky Belgian tipple exactly as I would expect, and decidedly un-Scottish. I suppose Barley wine may be the connection. It's described on the bottle as "strong blond and mellow beer" and I can't argue with that.

Is this just a piece of branding silliness, selling a bit of tartan-clad och-aye-the-noo to the rest of the world, who do appear to love that sort of thing? Possibly. But I actually liked it so much that I'd buy it again.

For what it's worth a little delve into its provenance takes us to anthonymartin.com where we find that an English brewer setled in Belgium and started producing beers in 1909 and that this particular brew has been around since 1990 and they own the TImmermans brewery known for Gueuze Lambics.

ClausthalerLowAlcoholLagerBeer

It's been a while – sorry about that. I've been posting very nearly every day on my other site UKNatureBlog so check that out for wildlife including lots from my own garden.

I've also been busy preparing for the imminent arrival of my first child, which is exciting and already life-changing. For instance I've now joined my wife in not drinking alcohol as I may be required to rush her off to hospital at a moment's notice. Hence I have entered the murky world of low alcohol beer! So far we've sampled Becks Blue (zero alcohol), Cobra Zero (zero alcohol) and Clausthaler Classic (< 0.5% alcohol). And I must say that Clausthaler has been a revelation that wins out over the others. It doesn't taste watery and overly bitter (like the Becks) but it's not cloying and overly malty (like the Cobra). In fact it actually tastes like a fairly normal weakish French bottled lager to me, which is a fair feat when it leaves your head clear. I know it's German but it reminds me of Kronenbourg or St Omer in stubbies when camping in France for some reason.

Actually it's truly quite wondrous stuff as you can savour a cold beer or two on a summer's afternoon and not be in the slightest bit muddled or woozy for the rest of the day. It's just refreshing, tasty and beery. I picked it up in Waitrose on a whim, but I now know that it's actually the most popular alcohol-free brand in Europe and I can see why.

I learnt a lot about it from this very good and fact-filled review by a beer-craving pregnant lady, a few notables from which I'll expound upon here. Apparently they brew it in the same manner as other German purity-law beers, but with a special yeast that doesn't generate nearly so much alcohol. This sets it apart from most other low alcohol brews that pass normal strength beer through an osmosis process that knackers the flavour. Clausthaler claim that the small amount of alcohol in their beer is just enough to make it properly 'beery' compared to those with none. Anyway – Clausthaler is thoroughly recommended, though I'm still hoping to find some low-alcohol bitter in the supermarkets. The 30p a can 2% generic value bitter you see in the low-end supermarkets doesn't count as the alcohol content is clearly just the result of penny-pinching.

 

Long Days has a hint of raspberry to make an interesting summer brew. Golden in colour and 4.5% ABV it's nicely weighted for a summer's day and the raspberry is not so much as to become cloying, but enough to make it stand apart from the competition.

I'm a touch annoyed by the labelling on the bottle, which tells us that "to celebrate the summer solstice in the past, ale was often brewed with raspberry leaves as an alleged aid to fertility" but only mentions a "subtle hint of raspberries", in such a manner that I suspect they didn't achieve it by adding the raspberry leaves they evocatively mention. I imagine that if they did then they'd have been clear about it, so they probably get the raspberry flavour into the beer in a less romantic manner – perhaps by adding juice. Labelling like this always leaves me feeling like the brewer has tried to con me with their carefully chosen words, which is a shame as it's a good beer.

LongDays

A mobile beer review today! Who says variety is dead?

Here we see pictured the can of Arkell's 3B that quenched my frazzled business brain after a hard day out of the office a month or so ago. This was on a train back from Swindon to London to be precise, and I have to say that the availability of a half decent drop of bitter on the train was a pleasant surprise. Arkell's is actually a Swindon based brewery too, so it's nice to see the big nasty train company keeping the food miles down and offering local producers.

It's got a decent colour to it, and the well rounded maltiness you'd hope to find from that colour. At 4% the weight is just about right for the circumstances. All in all it was very welcome and dare I say even recommended if you find yourself near Swindon on a train, even out of a small plastic cup!

Arkells3B