Where to find good beer in Singapore

Hitachino Nest Pale Ale

Japan’s Hitachino Nest Pale Ale at JiBiru

As the global craft beer revolution continues unabated, we take a look at where to find great beer in Singapore, both domestic and imported.

I have heard Singapore described as the “easy introduction to Asia”. It’s easy and cheap to get around, contains both colonial and contemporary architecture and history, and exposes the traveller to Chinese, Indian and Malay culture, food and language. It’s a well-functioning Asia in a microcosm and English is the core language. I am lucky to go to the “Lion City” quite regularly with work, so have tapped up the best places to get good beer.

Many expats are drawn from across the world to work in a safe, burgeoning economy with minimal unemployment and impressive growth potential. These expats – and plenty of locals too, by the way – cherish good quality beer. There’s a big home brewing scene partly driven by the price of alcohol. While income taxes are low, alcohol is taxed quite handsomely. As a result, you can expect to pay S$10 (about £5) a pint as a minimum. This means it is even more important to make sure you drink something worth the price.

Happy Hour?

There’s a certain irony about the term “Happy Hour” when the starting price is £5-a-pint, but the afternoon is often Happy Hour, when beer prices in Singapore will be at their lowest. The price then goes up later in the evening – sometimes more than once – so be careful not to order on the cusp on the changeover to avoid unnecessary debates with waiting staff. Even better, have a liquid lunch rather than a big night out.

Best beer bars in Singapore

Brewerkz beer Singapore

The Brewerkz tasting mat

While some beers are imported – like pretty much everything in the island state – there is also a good set of locally-brewed beer. The most familiar brand is the lager Tiger Beer, of which you can buy a four-litre tower to economise on a big night, but there are a couple of local brewers of note.

Brewerkz: Set up by a couple of North American beer aficionados, the Brewerkz brew pub is located in a former dock building by the river. It creates a number of different styles in its on-site brewery; including English-style bitters, India Pale Ales, porters and New Zealand-style pale ales.

RedDot BrewHouse: RedDot was Singapore’s first locally-owned microbrewery when it was set up in 1997. It’s just down the water from Brewerkz in Boat Quay and does a great line in Pilsner.

The Pump Room: Clarke Quay is pumping of an evening, and nowhere pumps harder than The Pump Room. Its Golden Ale won a few awards across Asia last year and everything is brewed onsite.

JiBiru: A good place to coincide a shopping trip with some imported beer is JiBiru outside the 313 Somerset shopping centre on the world-famous Orchard Road shopping street. It’s a Japanese themed bar with great value food and a number of Japanese beers, such as Hitachino Nest Beer, and European beer such as Brewdog’s Punk IPA and some Belgian brands.

If you want a quiet night in, Thirsty is an off licence in the shopping centre off Clarke Quay which stocks all manner of bottled beer from around the world, although prices are still pretty high for those of used to protesting a £3 pint. Expect to pay double that, even for a local beer.

Beer and music pairing with Pete Brown

Pete Brown comperes: beer and music

Pete Brown comperes: beer and music

We drink with our senses. Our nose and eyes play as much a part of the experience as our taste buds, which is possibly why the oxymoronic ‘black IPAs’ throw me so much; so dark and yet so light. So when an invitation came from !TA* Venues to spend an evening at Brewer’s Hall in London with leading beer writer Pete Brown learning about the relationship between beer and music, I couldn’t pass it up.

We turned up a little bit late for Chapel Down’s Curious Brew Brut (4.7%) paired with Sugababe’s Dancefloor (cover of Arctic Monkeys). The Kent beer’s light fruit zing is meant to compliment the light-hearted, pacey number. Made with Champagne yeast it’s a really good beer, you should look it up if you haven’t already.

Next up, the meaty Duvel (8.5%) from Belgium was paired with The Pixies seminal album opener Debaser, a band I will be seeing at Hammersmith Apollo this weekend in fact. The segue here is that Debaser – as with the whole Doolittle album it intros – is punchy and aggressive.

We also looked at another Belgian, the über-sour Gueuze (7%) with the maudlin Paranoid Android from Radiohead, before my favourite beer of the night, Bear Republic’s Racer 5 IPA, another hop-infested tour de force from California.  Aptly, this was pair with Moby’s Porcelain and The Byrds’ exquisite Pete Seeger cover, Turn! Turn! Turn! This is my Vine on the beer:

The Rochefort 10 then cranked it up to eleven – 11% that is – with its Christmassy flavour. It’s loaded with complex sherry-like qualities, orange tangs, chocolate.. Like I said, Christmas. Pairing it with Hendrix was quality. Here’s my Vine…and one of my favourite guitar solos of all time in the background.

We finished off with the Worthington White Shield, the “granddaddy of IPAs” paired with Elbow’s One Day Like This. Pete Brown aptly points out that both the beer and the song are pretty much British institutions. “It sounds and tastes posh,” he adds.

A great evening all-in-all. Thanks again to the organisers, to Pete Brown, and also it was great to meet Steve from The Beer O’Clock Show.

 

How to pitch stories to bloggers

Not enough PRs understand how bloggers operate.

A blog is a personal journey. As such, PRs need to hyper-personalise their pitches to bloggers.

This blog could have been written a thousand times before but the message is clearly not getting through: Too many public relations (PR) people do not understand bloggers, how they work, or how to approach them. While I feel like this post may resonate about as much as a fart in a hurricane we can but live in hope.

I myself am a digital comms consultant with a long history of blogging*so I have also done a fair deal of blogger relations in my time, and bloggers are distinct from journalists in that they do it for the love of their chosen subject, to the point that many now make a living from their art.

To help PRs target these changing ‘influencers’ a number of media intelligence bodies provide lists of bloggers. Some of these are as diverse as ‘Food & Drink’ or ‘Lifestyle’, which means those PRs already predisposed to take the ‘spray and pray’ approach to sending out client material – i.e. send a press release to enough people and hope that some might cover it – can now bombard niche beer writers like me with the life-sapping shrapnel of irrelevance.

Here is a summary of ill-targeted approaches I have received in the last two weeks alone either for The Guest Ale or my on-hold Planet Content digital blog. I have tried to be as vague as possible as not to get any individuals or their agencies in trouble:

Hitachino Nest Pale Ale

We review beer from all across the world, it’s as simple as that.

-          A ‘fairy tale experience’

-          A cocktail menu launch and various recipes

-          A new line of luxury desserts

-          An invitation to a property expo

-          Several new wine launches

-          An invitation to a cooking expo

-          A launch of new teas

-          News of a new toy ad

-          The launch of a new Greek restaurant

-          A warning on the dangers of fad diets

How to pitch stories to bloggers

Good PR: These review bottles came with supporting graphics for me to use

Good PR: These review beers came with supporting graphics for me to use

Bloggers will often complain of the same things when dealing with PRs. The reason the above didn’t ever hear back from me was because they were completely irrelevant to what I blog about and clearly indicated that the PRs had not read my blog at all, otherwise they’d have saved themselves – and me – the hassle.

Just one of the above pitches actually addressed me by name. For those that didn’t bother to research my name, FYI it’s a massive deal-breaker in blogger relations. PRs have no excuses with The Guest Ale because I lay it all out for them on my About and Notes for PRs page.

Summarising how PRs should approach bloggers like The Guest Ale:

  • Read the blog: If you represent a brewer, yes, I’d like to try your stuff and hear your news. I can’t guarantee I’ll cover it but at least give me the choice
  • Search for your brand: has the blogger covered your client previously? An English brewer did this to me recently: asked me if I’d like to review a beer I had, er, already reviewed and they’d have known this if they’d bothered to use the ‘Hunt for Beers’ search box before pitching me. They could then have tried a new angle and I’d have probably been interested
  • Personalise your approach: Know the author’s name (see above)
  • Understand how the blogger works: Does the blogger have a full-time job? If so, then they are most likely going to get little time to post
  • Be clear on what you want out of the relationship
  • Build database on relevant information and update regularly so you don’t miss-target
  • Research blogger on all social media: that’s a sure way to understand their interests and segue intros. Follow us, tweet us…just not in a salesy way
  • Be helpful
  • Offer exclusive content: bloggers want unique content that no other blogs have. How can you help?
  • Share coverage on your social networks: Around half of the reviews I do – and the majority of beer I buy myself – go un-retweeted by brands. Often, small-to-medium-sized brewers with in-house marketing teams are the best at RTing

As long as there is an Internet, there’ll be bloggers, and we’re more trusted than a lot of media sites so form a big part of the consumer decision-making process. We need you as much as you need us, so let’s all work together a little more intelligently and benefit from a solid long-term relationship.

*Just a bit of background, I myself am a comms consultant, writer and journalist, and have been blogging since 2001 (anyone else remember Geocities?). As far back as 2007, the company blog I edited won Best Business Blog from Communicators in Business.

 

 

Book Review: Brewing Britain

For a quick and easy introduction to making and enjoying a pint of beer, Andy Hamilton’s Brewing Britain is an excellent place to start.

Home brewing author Andy Hamilton is back with a new book, Brewing Britain*, a guide to not just making your own beer, but also tasting the ever-widening spectrum of British-brewed beers available on the market. Oh, and growing your own ingredients…

With more than 200 new breweries opening in the UK every single year it makes sense that quality literature should follow, especially of the practical kind. Home brewing is nothing new – I remember those basic kits when I was a student, you know, the ‘mix powered ingredients with water, shake thoroughly and wait a few weeks’ kind – but being creative in the kitchen is somehow very much of the zeitgeist. I believe this means Brewing Britain will resonate.

Tips for homebrewers

As an aspiring – and failing, thus far – home brewer I found Brewing Britain extremely useful. Having attended brewing courses, tasting sessions and attempted around ten full mash brews at home (with only one grainy porter standing out with any pride) the information contained within will stand any aspiring home brewer in good stead.

I have got a number of homebrew books at home, but this is the one I could have done with to start with. While the others I have tried read rather like textbooks, Brewing Britain contains narrative, making the information digestible and – most importantly, enjoyable – in bite-sized chunks. For someone like me with horrendous attention to detail and terrible concentration levels this is invaluable.

My definition is this…

As well as providing excellent summaries of what ingredients bring what flavours and characteristics to the party, Hamilton also tells you which beers use those ingredients so in your mind’s eye (or should it be ‘tongue’?) you can conceptualise the flavour.

He also runs through the definition process, which – as a beer review blogger – I found particularly useful. I stand suitably chastised at my use of the word ‘hoppy’ in prior reviews, when I should have said ‘hop-forward’ and then described the hop characteristic, such as grassy or grapefruit etc. Duly noted.

Thornbridge Jaipur IPA

Thornbridge Jaipur IPA – cited by Hamilton as one of the finest IPAs

A history lesson

While the best beer history book (coupled with an incredible personal journey) I think I have ever read was probably Pete Brown’s Hops and Glory, Brewing Britain also provides a useful history lesson. I believe it’s important to understand how beer developed, especially in an era when old recipes are being dug up and re-created by the likes of, for example, Truman of East London (listen to my podcast with the founder here) and Alloa’s Williams Brothers.

Get a brew on!

Hamilton himself runs a home brew shop in Bristol and includes a whole bunch of recipes of famous beers for home brewers to try to recreate. I will be trying one out this weekend, but the key thing is the demystification of the entire brewing process. The book also contains a useful list of beer festivals and home brew suppliers.

For those of us who didn’t pay enough attention in biology class at school, this is the book for us.

About Andy Hamilton

Andy Hamilton runs brewing workshops at his local home brew shop and the occasional tasting session too. He is also a member of the British Guild of Beer Writers and CAMRA. He also gardens ingredients for beer in his vertical hill top garden and forages ingredients for various alcohol drinks in and around the parks and waste grounds of Bristol.

He has just collaborated with Beerd, the experimental arm of Bath Ales, to create a Scotch Ale.

His website is www.theotherandyhamilton.com

*Bantam Press, the publishers of Brewing Britain, provided The Guest Ale with a copy of the book to review in October 2013.

Beer Review: Bath Ales Wild Hare

I’m sure UK visitors will have come across Bath Ales at some point in their beer drinking. The West Country is a traditional stronghold of cider and perry, but there are some excellent brewers around here too, including Bath Ales.

I’ve previously reviewed  Bath Ales’ Barnsey, Dark Side and possibly its most famous bitter Gem, but its Wild Hare organic golden ale is possibly my favourite Bath Ales product to date.

First up, I love the minimalism of Bath Ales’ branding. We vote with our eyes and it really does stand out. And – if we really do vote with our eyes – then the colour and head are wonderfully presented. It’s a wholesome golden straw colour with light carbonation in the beer but a consistent, vibrant head that stays with you as you quaff – and you will quaff this.

Bath Ales Wild Hare

Bath Ales Wild Hare

At 5% ABV it’s a dangerous one to romp through. There’s a light gooseberry and lemon aroma as the bubble tickle your nostrils, a medium body and great taste – wonderfully balanced caramel with a late malt kick in the tongue.

This bottled pale ale is organic and made from English ingredients, like Maris Otter pale malts and First Gold hops from Kent, so comes with a guilt-free, low carbon footprint.

All-round, a very attractive pint.

The essentials:

ABV: 5%

Colour:  Golden straw

Nose:  Light citrus notes

Taste: Chewy caramel and late biscuit malt kick

Our verdict: A cracking all-rounder. Buy it and judge for yourself.

Website: http://www.bathales.com/our-ales/aid/wild-hare/

Polish Beer Review Special

Polish beer

Polish beer on show today

Polish beer is very accessible in the UK since European Union expansion and many towns will have a Polski Sklep to explore Polish beer. The ones review below with journalist Gordon Kelly were given to me by my very generous Polish colleagues on a recent office visit to Warsaw (highly recommend). The Polish word for beer is “piwo” (pee-vo) by the way.

Rather than write the reviews down, we decided to create a bunch of short six-second Vine videos, similar to those we created at the Great British Beer Festival 2013. Although, I would say that the Ciechan Miodowe (honey beer) was the best honey beer I have ever tasted, from start to finish: nose, palate, the lot.

Here we go and I apologise in advance to any Polish speakers for our terrible pronunciation. Enjoy and do please let me know any other Polish beer recommendations in the comments section, I’m a big fan! Na zdrowie!

Ciechan Miodowe (honey beer – 5.7%)

Ciechan Pszeniczny (wheat beer – 4.8%)

Zywiec (pale lager – 5.6%)

Kasztelan Niepasteryzowane (lager – 5.7%)

Warka Strong (strong lager – 6.5%)

Beer and football: Who does it best?

Pre-match Holsten at Hamburger SV

Laurel and Hardy, Bonnie and Clyde…beer and football; the two are made for each other. At the time of writing this I am in Hamburg, Germany, downing a Krombacher Pils, having attended a heated Bundesliga match between ‘Nordderby’ rivals Hamburger SV and Werder Bremen and reflecting on how beer is served there, while cementing my view that Brighton & Hove Albion does beer best. Read on to find out why.

Beer and football in England and Germany

The drinking culture is very similar in Germany to the English experience: Go to a pub/keller with your friends first to tank up, start chanting abuse at the opposition (sorry, ‘light-hearted banter’) and – if you’re on the kilometre-long walk from the station to the Imtech Arena, Hamburg, take a piss in the bushes in full view of the passing public. Charming.

Once you’re inside stadiums in Germany, the experience is very different. In England’s upper tiers alcohol is banned from the stands, limited to the communal areas (not the case with rugby or cricket, by the way), whereas in the Bundesliga, expect to have your view obscured on a regular basis as the beer carriers haul ass up and down the stairs pouring Holsten and the like to punters for €4-plus a shout. Just hope they’re not in the way when someone scores…

The same old, same old…

Amex Brighton

Brighton’s Amex Stadium

Unfortunately, wherever you go in the football world they seem to serve the generic big brand lagerboy rubbish, assumingly that the average football fan was born without taste buds. But, thankfully, Brighton & Hove Albion of England’s second tier is different.

Brighton is my second team so I am a bit biased, having stood for £5 at the old Goldstone Ground and even having gone to Wembley to support the team in a promotion play-off final against Notts County in 1991. The Seagulls and I go way back…but I digress. When the club moved to its wonderful new base at Falmer, it demonstrated local community spirit by stocking Harveys Sussex Best Bitter, from nearby Lewes.

I, for one, would like to see more of this sort of tie-in. Does your local club support local breweries? I have a feeling Exeter City does. Please let me know in the comments section.

Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt 2013: B Bock by Bateman’s

Bateman's B BockHigh street retailer J Sainsbury is running its third annual Great British Beer Hunt, which offers winning brewers the chance to get their beers showcased in supermarkets nationwide for a six-month period from November. The three best-selling beers from each of the four regions during the three-week competition (11 Sept – 2 Oct) will go into a grand final on 4 October, where a panel of experts will select the two overall winners from a line-up of 12. The winner will be sold in 300 Sainsbury’s stores while the runner-up will feature in 150.

For the third year running, J Sainsbury’s PR team has been kind enough to send me four samples.

Following my recent review of Williams Brothers’ The Honey Thief, I moved onto Bateman’s B Bock, a Bavarian style lager beer which attained the name ‘billy goat’ from the way Bavarians allegedly pronounce Einbeck (the town where the Bock style originates) as ‘ein Bock’, hence hence the goat image (pictured).

Anyway, here it is – B Bock – an English take on the dark Bock style, one of two Bateman’s entries into this year’s contest. Although I drank this beer in the last day of August, it tasted like Christmas. The nose is one of the most pleasingly complex I have ever come across; there’s blackcurrant, sharp cinnamon, other soft fruits and dark chocolate liquor, all wrapped up in a deep, dark, cloudy russet beer.

The taste is a rather toned down take of the wonderful nose, especially that rich chocolate liquor hint.

The Essentials:

ABV: 6.0%

Look: Deep cloudy brown-red hue

Nose:  Complex soft fruits and chocolate liquor

Taste: Christmas in a glass. This had better make the final cut as it’s perfect for December!

Website:  www.bateman.co.uk

Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt 2013: The Honey Thief by Williams Bros

High street retailer J Sainsbury is running its third annual Great British Beer Hunt, which offers winning brewers the chance to get their beers showcased in supermarkets nationwide for a six-month period from November. The three best-selling beers from each of the four regions during the three-week competition (11 Sept – 2 Oct) will go into a grand final on 4 October, where a panel of experts will select the two overall winners from a line-up of 12. The winner will be sold in 300 Sainsbury’s stores while the runner-up will feature in 150.

For the third year running, J Sainsbury’s PR team has been kind enough to send me four samples.

The Honey Thief

The first up for me is The Honey Thief from Williams Brothers of Alloa, Scotland, named after the eponymous 1986 hit by Glaswegian band Hipsway. As the name suggests, honey is present, which always sets off alarm bells for me – but not this time…

Williams Brothers seem to like this competition; it’s got three entrants in this year’s Beer Hunt and was runner up with its Caesar Augustus lager/IPA hybrid in 2011. The Honey Thief is an immediate eye-pleaser, it’s richly golden, zesty in the head and there’s plenty of carbonation. The appearance is capped by a subtle jasmine nose. So far so good…and it gets better.

The beer is smooth bodied and has a wonderful balance of sweet chewy malts, some floral hops and the honey itself arrives very late and only subtle, which is welcome as many honey flavoured beers overdo it for me.

I think there’s something for everyone in this beer and would not be surprised if this makes the final cut.

The Essentials:

ABV: 5.2%

Look: Rich amber

Nose: Jasmine/orange blossom

Taste: Excellent balance of sweet malt, hops and late honey hit

Our verdict: Wonderfully balanced golden beer which doesn’t overbear the drinker with honey. Very easy to drink.

Website: http://www.williamsbrosbrew.com/

Great British Beer Festival: Six-Second Reviews

JW Lees Moonraker

JW Lees’ Moonraker. Hardcore!

A group of us went down to the Great British Beer Festival at Olympia in London last night and it’s well worth a visit if you’re in town. If you’re familiar with Vine, Twitter’s six-second looped video app, then you’ll know how challenging it can be to fit a decent amount of content into just six seconds. However, this is exactly what we did last night, fitting beer reviews into just six seconds of footage!

After a few messy efforts, we finally got there. Here are a few of the best survivors…

 

Gary on Great Orme’s Welsh Black

Gordon on Harveys’ Lewes Castle Brown Ale

Gordon on Oliver Breweries’ Winter’s Wolves dark ale (US)

Gary on Marble Brewery’s Ginger Marble

Welsh Beer Special: Purple Moose

Purple Moose Brewery

The Purple Moose beer range reviewed here

I came across Portmadog-based brewer Purple Moose this summer when I was walking in Snowdonia. Beer is the perfect relaxant after a hard day’s hike and scramble on the Snowdon Horseshoe so there we were in a Beddgelert campsite toasting the day’s exertions with some cwrw Cymreig da (fine Welsh ale) from Purple Moose. Iechyd Da!

Here’s the lowdown:

Purple Moose Snowdonia Ale (3.6%): This is an extremely sessionable golden-style ale. There’s a little Crystal malt in the mix to give an amber edge to it and it’s pretty effervescent. The hop mix is an interesting blend of Pioneer for bittering, and Styrian Golding and Lubelski aromatics from Eastern Europe.

It won Gold in the Champion Beer of Britain Competition “Bitters” category in August 2012, an accolade well earned.

Purple Moose Glaslyn Ale (4.2%): Named after the river Afon Glaslyn, which runs from Snowdon to Purple Moose’s home town of Portmadog, this beer is bitter style which promises fruit in the flavour and a “well-balanced hoppy finish”. The nose certainly promises to deliver on the fruit front with a floral lemon note while the colour is murky deep amber, more typical of the bitter style.

The taste also errs towards malt in the taste and there’s a prominent bitter hop finish. For me, a bit of an identity crisis here:  a beer that smells like a golden but delivers like a bitter. It definitely works for the first pint.

Purple Moose Madog’s Ale (3.7%): Back to the light stuff and the (again murky) red beer Madog’s Ale. Not just light in ABV but also in body. The thin head dissipates quickly and left me with a rather underwhelming experience: a middle of the road bitter that failed to ignite my senses although it certainly stays true to the “bitter” category.

I would rather session with the Snowdonia Ale, given the choice.

Purple Moose Dark Side of the Moose (4.6%): I loved the deep, dark, woody colour straight off the bat. There is something powerful in the hue and if we “vote with our eyes”, as they say, then this wins. Toasty malt wins in the nose and follows through in the bready taste. There are distant raisins in the mix, a hint of coffee if you’re searching for it and a tidy bitter finish. Another, please!

Beer Review: Ben Nevis India Pale Ale

Ben Nevis IPA

The Ben Nevis IPA

The Traditional Scottish Ales (TSA) Brewing Co. has pulled one out of the hat here in the Ben Nevis India Pale Ale. The Ben Nevis stays closer to the traditional British-style India Pale Ale (IPA) style in the manner of, say, the Worthington White Shield, than the very zeitgeist American-style, hopped-up IPAs that fellow Scots Brewdog tend to emulate.

For our international readers, Ben Nevis is Scotland’s – and the UK’s – highest mountain. I’ve climbed it twice and I could have done with one of these at the end, rest assured!

The Ben Nevis IPA weighs in at a comparatively light, session strength 4% ABV. It’s not pale either; more of a ruby/woody colour. The nose is dominated by caramel malts mingled with a little bitter hop.

Taste-wise, the nose pretty much sets you up. I think of all the beers I have ever tasted this strikes the perfect balance of yeast, bitter hop and sweet malt flavour, all in equal measure and all vying for supremacy on your tongue. The result is a wonderfully playful, effervescent beer that should appeal to most beer drinkers’ palates.

Good work, TSA.

The essentials:

ABV: 4%

Colour:  Ruby, woody

Nose: Strong bitter hop and caramel malt

Taste: A perfect balance of yeast, sweet malts and bitter hops

Our verdict:

Website: http://www.tsabrewingco.co.uk/bottled-beers/

 

 

Sussex Beer Triple Header: Arundel and Brighton Rock

Seven Sisters Sussex

Seven Sisters, Sussex

Ah, Sussex by the sea, my second favourite county and the home of possibly my favourite UK beer – Harvey’s Sussex Best Bitter. Add in the impressive contributions from Dark Star of Brighton and Hepworth of Horsham, among others, and you have a brewing scene in rude health. Sussex beer is on the up!

So it is that I turn my eyes to the south again and found a number of local brews at Lewes on my way through to the Seven Sisters (pictured) recently. So, here goes:

Franklin’s Brewery Brighton Rock (4%)

This Bexhill-on-Sea brewery has named its session strength bitter after either the iconic tourist confectionary or the Graham Greene novel of the same name. Either way, this beer is indeed both sweet – and bitter – like its eponymous icons.

There’s an enthusiastic, effervescent start to the Brighton Rock. It looks like a session ale: moody, copper, woody brown. There’s a caramel, biscuity nose to boot.

Franklin's Brewery Brighton Rock

Franklin’s Brewery Brighton Rock

I registered sharp raisin hits which linger and I denoted a little cheeky ginger in there.

It’s very light bodied and, without being spectacular, it is extremely quaffable.

Arundel Brewery ASB (4.5%)

Arundel Brewery’s Arundel Special Bitter (ASB) is a near-premium strength 4.5% and certainly delivers a real old school bitter experience. This copper-brown beer comes with a balanced nose with a little raisin and bitter hop in the mix.

The nose follows through to the flavour, where the ASB delivers a bitter hop hit coupled with raw maltiness late on the tongue.

This one appears in bottle format only, but taste-wise it’s definitely a bitter for the purist!

Arundel Brewery Sussex Gold (4.2%)

Arundel Brewery Sussex Gold

Arundel Brewery Sussex Gold

Coming into season, the Sussex Gold is an enticing deep amber colour, like the fields of barley that undulate across the county. There’s an enticing rich, malty, tangy nose with hints of orange. The taste is tangy, with a subtle bitter hop balance. I didn’t get any of the “citrus finish” I was promised – perhaps a shake-up of the aroma hop content could deliver that. It’s just a quite average blonde/golden – very easy to drink but could be more exciting, in my view.

We’re always on the hunt for new beer, so what’s your Sussex beer recommendation?

Matson’s Beer Triple Header (New Zealand)

Matsons beer new zealand

Matson’s Beer

My international beer quest continues having discovered Matson’s beer of New Zealand’s South Island while shopping in Singapore this week. So, here I am holed up in my hotel room by a tropical storm sans parapluie with little else to do but watch BBC iPlayer and drink Matson’s beer.

What I like about Matson’s is that it’s committed to supporting local producers and avoiding unnatural ingredients. I picked out the Matson’s Lager, Matson’s Pilsner and Matson’s Classic Draught and here’s what I made of them:

Matsons lager

Matson’s Lager

Matson’s Lager (4.5%)

A wonderfully smooth experience. It’s got an amber honey colour to match its honey taste. There is pumpkin in the nose and the smoothness of the experience is quite surprising. There is a little maltiness in there and cheeky late hoppiness from locally-grown Hallertau hops, a great hop for lager.

This beer won bronze at the New Zealand beer awards 2002.

Matsons Pilsner

Matson’s Pilsner

Matson’s Pilsner (4.8%)

This European-style pilsner is made with pilsner malt and Czech Saaz hops, the perfect hops for this style of beer. It’s a little darker than straw colour, with a similar hoppy-honey nose as the Lager. The taste is far more complex, however, with an instant hit of hops, raw pale malts and that ever-present honey.

That bombardment of flavour dissipates and leaves a cheeky honeydew melon taste lingering on the tongue as its passing gift.

Matsons Classic Draught

Matson’s Classic Draught

Matson’s Classic Draught (4%)

This is Matson’s take on the “classic New Zealand draught” beer, so here I was hoping it tasted a lot better than the big brand “piss” I drank when I was in South Island many years ago. It is heavily carbonated with a deep red-brown hue and a rustic yeasty head, which isn’t actually that attractive for my money. Really old skool.

It is smooth as silk, really sweet too: caramel with a cheeky late bitter twist from the hops. This beer won bronze in the New Zealand Hop Marketing awards 2002 and silver in the New Zealand brewing awards 2006.

So, no golds, but this bridesmaid doesn’t need to be the bride to excel. Good work, Matson’s!