Beer: Titivate your tipple

Posted on: 30 July 2010 by Mark O'haire

Don't just down the same old pint night after night - be brave and experiment says beer expert Jonathan Goodall.

BeerAsk a Belgian barman for “a beer” and you might escape with a quizzically raised eyebrow. The country that feeds a thousand Euro MPs takes eating and drinking seriously and its rich diversity of beer is a symbol of its very Belgian-ness.

Of course, there is room for both beer and wine in our lives – with beer as the healthier, less alcoholic, less calorific option – but here we’ve been so seduced by wine’s blowsy charms that, for a while we were in danger of throwing the beer out with the bathwater. Thankfully, we’ve come to our senses.

There’s a broader beer selection in our supermarkets than ever before and even Michelin-starred restaurants like Le Gavroche and Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons offer beer lists that are every bit as imaginative as those for wine.

Try these beers

  • Brooklyn Lager will appeal if your tipple is normally Greene King IPA.
  • The Belgian Duvel ale is a treat for the confirmed Grolsch drinker.
  • If Gold Label is to your taste, you should try Brakspear Triple.
  • Always ask for a Merrydown?  You should try Lindemans.

If you like fuller-flavoured lagers like Pilsner Urquell or Grolsch you’ll like Duvel. Despite its deceptively pale golden colour, it’s not a lager but a blond ale, brimming with complex flavours and oozing Belgian sophistication. To celebrate the end of World War I the Moortgat brewery gave the name Victory Ale to its flagship beer, but in the 1920s this was changed to Duvel (“devil” in Flemish) to reflect its wicked strength. A personal favourite of mine, this is packed with dry but fruity, lemon-pithy flavours that sing with grilled white fish and roast chicken. (8.5% alcohol, 33cl bottle)

If fruity beers like Merrydown you’ll appreciate Lindemans Kriek, from Bavaria. It has the refreshing tartness typical of wheat beers and their trademark aromas of banana, cinnamon and cloves but this is a darker, fuller-bodied version. It’s unfiltered, so a bit cloudy, but there’s lashings of spice lurking in its murky depths. And there’s no perceptible bitterness. Delicious with gammon and roast pork, or raisiny desserts like bread and butter pudding. (5.4%, 50cl)

If floral, hoppy beers like Greene King IPA float your boat you’ll like Brooklyn Lager from the Big Apple. The Brooklyn Brewery has applied the English technique of dry-hopping (adding hops after the beer has fermented) to a Vienna-style amber-coloured lager to create an American original. This is a full-bodied lager, combining malty sweetness (apricots on the nose) with the bitterness and perfume of hops. Delicious with burgers, pepperoni pizza, mildly spiced Chinese food and barbecues. (5.1%, 35.5cl)

If you like rich, powerful barley wines like Whitbread Gold Label, you’ll enjoy Brakspear Triple from Oxfordshire. When Wychwood Brewery relaunched the Brakspear brand – the original brewery closed in 2002 – they pulled out all the stops with this strong, bottle-conditioned ale. The Triple is fermented and hopped three times for flavour and complexity. Bitter/sweet marmalade assails the nose, spicy sultanas dance on the palate; the whole enveloped in honey – quite similar to rum or Madeira. Its intense flavours work equally well with the saltiness of Stilton and mature Cheddar or the sweetness of Christmas pudding and mince pies. Gorgeous with game. (7.2%, 500ml)

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If you like the bite of Fentimans ginger beer, you’ll like a nip of Blandford Fly from Dorset. The Hall & Woodhouse brewery named its ginger-spiced beer after the local biting fly that terrorises Blandford Forum during the summer. This is a medium-bodied, sweet and spicy ale with virtually no bitterness. It’s great with barbecued spare ribs, mildly spiced stir-fries. Blandford Fly is ginger beer for grown-ups – served chilled it’s a real quencher. (5.2%, 50cl).

What’s your favourite pint? Is British beer the best?

Let us know by leaving a comment in the box below or share your thoughts with other 50connect readers in the forums.

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