Saturday, 27 November 2010

Six of the Best - my beers of the year

It's getting to the time of the year when people take a pause out of their hectic festive schedule and reflect, reminisce and indulge in a spot of quite reflection of the year soon to pass. We order in our heads the high and low points, the happy and sad times and the experiences of the previous year.

The beer monkey is no different and of late I have been wearing my beer memory cap and thinking back through the last year and contemplating the beers that have best been dinging my dong, ringing my bell, floating my boat and generally putting a big beery smile on my face in 2010. To be honest, It was a pretty difficult task to whittle my beers of the year list down into the single digits. It is an exciting time in the world of real ale and craft beer at the moment and there are exceptional breweries making exceptional beers so it was no easy task but i've managed to choose some of the beers that have tantalised, tingled and teased my tastebuds over the last twelve months.

So, in no particular order, I give you my 2010 Six of the Best .

First up, is a beer that I have actively sought out and travelled miles to taste - Fyne Ales Jarl.
I first tasted Jarl at the Fyne Ales Festival in June. It was the first outing of this special beer and it blew me and my fellow drinkers away. It is a fresh and refreshing Pale Ale with tropical citrus aromas and gorgeous grapefruit and lemon Citra hops bouncing all over your tongue that ends in a beautifully dry, bitter finish. It is simply, a stunning beer and one that needs to be tasted to be believed.

I next tasted Jarl at the Great British Beer Festival at Earl's Court in early August and again it was outstanding. It was my beer of the festival and I quickly became a Jarl evangelist, converting everyone I spoke to onto this fantastic Fyne Ale. Everyone thought it was lovely. My hopes for 2011 are that Jarl becomes a regular fixture in the Fyne Ales repertoire and that it soon appears in bottles.

My second beer is a gorgeous Summer Ale from U.S. craft brewers Odell. Odell has spent a lot of time and effort trying to raise their profile and customer base in the U.K. Some of their beers are pretty good, particularly their IPA and Cut Throat Porter but one beer stands head and shoulders above the rest. That beer in question is St. Lupulin Extra Pale Ale and it was the thirst quenching beer that I couldnt get enough of during the summer.

It is a lively and invigorating fruit bowl of passion fruit, mango and lemon with a sprinkling of spicy pepper and sweet honey. It has a clean, and crisp, hoppy finish that leaves you wanting more, more, more. Particularly on a hot, summer day.

My next lip smacking beer of 2010, is a little bit darker than the first two but is no less lacking in full on meaty hop flavour. The beer is Brewdog's Edge and is a cracking example of a well made and tasty Mild. It has split opinion with one beer blogger describing it as merely a Scottish 60 Shilling beer with added hops but that is like describing Gareth Bale as merely a left sided footballer with a bit of pace. Edge is much, much more than that.

It is a complex smoky blend of plums, raisins and rich fruits with a lingering dark chocolate and coffee bitterness. It is only 3.2% abv but punches well above it's weight in terms of body, mouthfeel and taste.  Yet again, those Fraserburgh upstarts have created a beer that is memorably tasty and very, very moreish.

A beer fromThornbridge brewery is next up on my list of cracking beers that have I have enthusiastically consumed in 2010. Thornbridge is a brewery that is a byword for innovative, interesting but above all stunning beers and to pick just one from their mouth watering selection was very difficult but I went for one that I've had the pleasure of tasting and enjoying many times over the past year and on each and every occasion it has been a South Pacific hop explosion of fragrant, tropical shrapnel of pink grapefruit, mango and kiwi fruit flavours and tastes. The New Zealand Nelson Sauvin hops deliver a huge fruity kick that gives way to a long dry citrus bitter finish. Kipling is the beer and it is as sumptiously gorgeous a beer as you are likely to find.

Two left on my six off the best list the next one up comes from Marble  Brewery in Manchester. Marble have a reputation as purveyors of high quality and consistently flavoursome beers. Like Thornbridge,  it was really difficult to choose just the one from Marble's healthy choice of beers. I could have gone for the excellent Dobber or their lovely Manchester Bitter but instead I went for Lagonda IPA. It is an excellent example of an IPA and it's lovely herbal hop aroma is matched by well balanced sweet toffee malt and citrus fruit and floral hops. I thought it was an exceptional, well conditioned beer that was robust and full of flavour.

My last beer of the year is Brewdog's Punk IPA. It is a somewhat lazy choice but to be honest it's usually the first beer I reach for in the fridge and I always make sure that I have a regular supply at hand. It is my default beer of choice when at home and the one that I've probably downed the most of during the last year. It is exactly what I need of a midweek evening and it hits the spot everytime. It truly is outstanding and has everything that I want in a beer. Hoppy, Fresh, Tasty, Flavoursome and Refreshing. I don't know if it's possible for a 6% beer to be classed as a session beer but in my case session means the beer I drink regularly and Punk IPA is the closest I'll get to having a session beer.  Until, that is, Fyne Ales bottle Jarl.

So there you go. Six beers that I have particularly enjoyed this year but as I said earlier, it really was a difficult job to get it down to six as there are a lot of great brewers out there making innovative and excellent beers.

 Long may that continue.

What were the best beers you had this year?


  1. Definitely agree with the Fyne Ales Jarl and the Thornbridge Kipling!! Having some St Lupulin later so I do rate it, but prefer the Odell IPA. Haven't had the Lagonda IPA in years but judging by how good Marble are, I'm sure it's great too!

    Guess the best I've had this year would be both Oakham and Roosters versions of Citra, the Fyne Ales Jarl, Thornbridge Murmansk & Kipling, Titanic Chocolate & Vanilla Stout, Brewdog's reformulated Hardcore, and Marble Manchester Bitter. Out of the English/Scottish beers that is, would need some thinking to work out the USA/German/Danish/Belgian ones!

  2. Some good beers - you need to try a few BlueMonkey ales though. Great wee brewery from Nottinghamshire that's doing great things down south.

  3. 60 bob with more hops isn't a complaint.

    Much as I agree that Jarl is fantastic, I hope it doesn't become a regular beer. I want it to stay special and elusive. If it were available all the time we wouldn't get around to drinking anything else.

  4. Sorry Barm, but good news for the Beer Monkey. We're making Jarl a regular from January, and should be available in bottle around the end of Feb all being well. We get asked for it too often to keep it as a secret!

  5. Excellent news, Jamie. I look forward to trying my first bottled Jarl with relish. Beers as good as Jarl need to be experienced and enjoyed by as many people as possible. I can see it converting loads of folk to the delights of quality beer and that can only be a positive and progressive step. Great that Hurricane Jack is also going to become a Fyne Ales regular. Well played, Sir.

  6. I can honestly say that bottled Jarl is wonderful stuff. I've just opened one 5 minutes ago and it's got the grapefruit & lemon that you describe, it's got good body as well for such a low ABV beer and the finish is lovely - pithy & lemony.