Emelisse (NL), Herfstbok: 6.5 per cent, £3.25
EMELISSE aren’t quite as new to our store as some, in fact we’ve sold their range since late 2012.
However, in that time their popularity has risen and the quality of their beers has only improved.
They regularly release a range of contemporary and traditional Continental styles, including Belgian blondes, saisons, and dubbels, and they’re jointly responsible for the sensational Earl Grey IPA in collaboration with Marble brewery, so you’d be foolish to disregard this Dutch outfit.
The bok, however, is a style very much in the Dutch psyche; not only do most breweries (yes, even the big boys like Amstel and Grolsch) produce at least one seasonal bok, but the style is so widely appreciated that an annual festival is held in Amsterdam dedicated to showcasing bokbiers from across the nation.
Herftsbok is a strong, nutty lager, pouring a stunning, bright mahogany with a steady tan head. It looks beautiful in the glass and releases a nutty, wheat-bran aroma with walnut and raisin notes that is divine.
Full bodied, with a bright, spritzy carbonation, the initial taste is a sweet bonfire toffee hit that gradually subsides to reveal coffee, all-bran, dried bananas and treacle before an even, neutral bitterness cleanses the palate. A substantial and hearty lager, ideal for blustery days and cold, dark evenings.
• Recommended by Michael Bates, Trembling Madness, 48 Stonegate, York, YO1 8AS
Dark Star, Six Hop - 6.5%, £3.75
Dark Star, once a small brewery based at the fantastic Evening Star pub near Brighton rail station, have always been the ‘Thornbridge of the South’ in our books. They have established themselves with a range of well-crafted traditional ales and also moved toward keg and centrifuged/filtered bottle products.
This does mean, of course, that a lot of their beer is no longer real ale by CAMRA’s definition, for better or worse, but they are still pretty darn good.
Six Hop is ordinarily a seasonal release in cask, but it’s now part of the brewery’s line of bottled beers – six additions of six hop varieties in a 6.5% India Pale Ale.
Pouring a brilliantly clear burnt copper – it’s pretty obvious this has been filtered – however it also immediately apparent that the hop aroma has not been diminished by this process.
An overwhelming cascade of dried apricots is dusted with pine needles and coconut, with only a nudge of caramel maltiness initially apparent.
The flavour is led by a tangerine and apricot jam, with a thick coating of marzipan. As this hoppy overture begins to fade a treacle toffee maltiness comes through drying out into a resinous pine bitterness.
Despite being inspired by American India Pale Ales the bitterness is soft, tempered by the solid malt backbone. This makes Six Hop rich and hoppy, while remaining perfectly balanced.
As recommended by The House of Trembling Madness, York
Gjulia Sud, Italy - 8.0%, £5.55
If you were asked to name a nice beer from Italy that isn’t some form of lager, most people would probably be rather stumped.
The good news is, however, that of late there have been quite a few nice breweries setting up shop or expanding their market all over the world of late, and Italy is no exception: Brewfist have been exporting their craft beers for a while now, as have Toccalmatto, and let’s not forget Birra del Borgo.
More recently, however, we have managed to procure some of Gjulia’s craft ales, named for the points of the compass; Sud is the brewery’s eight per cent stout, so naturally I started there.
Sud pours a chocolate brown with garnet highlights, there’s no head to speak of but there’s a wonderful marshmallow-chocolate aroma that puts me in the mood for a Tunnock’s teacake.
As it opens up a bit more, you get edges of banoffee pie, coupled with an accent of sharp raspberry sweetness.
The first thing to strike me is that it’s very light-bodied for a stout; this, coupled with the sweet fudge, pecan pie flavour, tinged with a suggestion of smoke, liquorice, and nutmeg in the finish, put me much more in mind of a Belgian dubbel.
This would work wonderfully for those who enjoy their Belgian beers, though if you’re a fan of ultra-heavy stouts I’d look elsewhere.
If we ignore the brewery’s classification of this beer it’s certainly good in its own right.
Reviewed by House of Trembling Madness, Stonegate
Weird Beard, Something Something Dark Side, London (9%, £3.90)
So, Weird Beard’s an odd name for a brewery, and Something Something Dark Side is an odd name for a beer. But then, Weird Beard have a penchant for making weird beer, and they have beards.
Their beer isn’t Brewdog weird – there’s no rum-soaked otters’-nose barrel-aged IPAs here. The experimentation comes about more in just making beer that’s different.
Something Something Dark Side is not a black IPA – it’s too full bodied. Nor is it an imperial stout – it’s far too hoppy and aromatic for that. It’s just... somewhere in-between. It’s also lovely.
It pours black, very, very black indeed, with a thick mocha head. A miasma of raw hop cones, grapefruit, and mint-chocolate creeps out of the glass, gradually mellowing into a more level pine nose.
One taste and things get even more complex – orange and apricots give way to marjoram and a rich, almost-savoury gravy and fresh mint mid-section, before black pepper, dried ginger, and a substantial (though not too abrasive) bitterness closes proceedings.
Something Something Dark Side is rich, unctuous, and doesn’t sit comfortably within any one style, and it’s this sort of delightfully different beer that makes Weird Beard’s beer so enjoyable, even if it might not please everyone.
For those who don’t want to drink something this heavy, dark, and strong, their Camden Beard is also fantastic; a wonderfully refreshing hopfenweisse with an expansive aromatic quality that’s impossible to fault. Great stuff indeed.
Review by our head beer guru Michael Bates
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