We do have a favourite beer from a canalside pub (or two) this year, but compiling a shortlist is a bit of a problem because, but I realise that we had quite a few that I can no longer remember. No, not because I drank too much of it, but because there are so many lovely ales being brewed by microbreweries these days that it’s hard to keep track. What’s worse, even the little breweries often have a range of seasonal ales that come and go month by month. About now we shall start seeing Santa’s Tipple or whatever on the pump clips. I’m suddenly reminded of a Christmas ale I had in Redditch some years ago that claimed to have Myrrh in it!
Now don’t think I am complaining about all these beers. Far from it. It’s just that they come and go and are hard to recall in detail. Still I know what I like. Apart from old favourites from established brewers – Fullers ESB, Timothy Taylors Landlord etc, I really do like some of the modern brews, especially the way they have introduced newer varieties of hops. In the old days English brewers used Goldings and Fuggles hops and not too many more. Differences in beer were more to do with how much light and dark malts etc were used. Some brewers claimed it was their water that made the difference, and that is indeed why Burton on Trent came to be a big brewing centre. Now the big Burton Breweries churn out some good and too much bad and the biggest (Coors) belongs to Americans ! It says something for the demise of Burton, that this year when we passed through there on Herbie, we didn’t even bother to stop!
Back to the little breweries – for it is from there that our 2011 winner comes. These new little breweries have experimented a lot with hop varieties. Some of the “newer” hop varieties have made a stunning difference to beers, and none more so (IMHO) than the variety known as Cascade. This seems to give a lovely elderflowery aroma to the beer and a clean refreshing taste. Cascade beers tend to be pale in colour and in my experience they are always gorgeous. My favourite favourite beer Tring Sidepocket is a cascade beer, although it can’t win this year because we didn’t see any.
Which brings us to this years favourite. Brewed in Warwickshire, so available in some pubs on the North Oxford and Coventry canals, and you can get in bottles (not so good as draft but still very nice) in Sainsbury’s. The brewer’s description says
“Using 100% English Maris Otter Malt with Challenger and Cascade hops, creates a balanced full flavoured beer that is a pleasure to drink.” I’ll drink to that.
The name of the Brewery alludes to the green credentials of their set up. One thing they do is purify all their waste water through a reed bed system, and all their other by products are recycled.
So the winner of the Herbie Award for Best Pint 2011 goes to . . .
I’ll tell you next time but you can guess if you like.