Sunday, 30 December 2012

Beer of the Week: Goose Island Lolita

Goose Island make some very good Belgian style beers so we were very interested to taste their version of   framboise, Lolita. It's a strong wild yeast fermented ale aged in French oak with 50lb fresh raspberries.

Those raspberries are very apparent in its cloudy red colour and its sharp sherberty aroma. When you taste it the woody oak flavour gives a strong backbone that accomplishes the amazing feat of tasting fresh and aged at the same time.

This is typical of proper Belgian lambic fruit beers but Lolita is heavier on the raspberry than expected with an almost jammy sweeter taste, which is fizzed out with a sherbert freshness at the end.

This is a good representation of the style but at over £15 for a 660mL bottle you could also think about a cheaper Belgian framboise or kriek.

Lolita is available from beermerchants and

Monday, 24 December 2012

Christmas Beer of the week - Shepherd Neame Christmas Ale

Christmas is the time to indulge when it comes to beer. It's now that, without a hint of guilt, you can crack open that special bottle you've been keeping under the stairs or explore the stronger beers on the beer shop shelves. Shepherd Neame brew a strong amber winter warmer for their festive Christmas offering.

After tasting their excellent new beers (the India Pale Ale and Double Stout) expectations were high. Sweet caramel with a hint of dried fruits on the nose promises some winter cheer but the flavour is surprisingly dry. However the 7% ABV is very apparent as is the healthy dose of lingering spicy hops which warm your tongue and belly.

I would normally prefer a richer, fruitier beer for Christmas but I would happily drink this at the end of Christmas lunch with some mince pies or figgy pudding!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Beer of the Week: Tilquin Oude Gueuze A L'ancienne 2010/2011

6.4% ABV

Cloudy amber in colour, clean lemon sherbet and familiar woody lambic characteristics on the nose.

To taste; sour apple, an astringency which catches the back of your throat, it has the acidic shock of sour mix sweets. It's a really tasty well-balanced Gueuze, with just the right level of sourness and hints of fruity sweetness.

Available from and other good beer stockists. RRP £4.95 (37.5cl)

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Beer and cheese matching at Sambrook's Brewery

The concept of beer as the ideal pairing with food is being pushed by breweries and beer writers a lot recently and rightly so. Beer has the ability to accompany and enhance every course of a meal and this quality is most apparent when matched with cheese. It is with this mission in mind that Sambrook's brewery hosted the first event at their brewery bar, Boadicea. The newly opened brewery bar is is a cosy space overlooking the brewery that can easily seat thirty or so guests on long tables.

Sambrook's flagship bitter, Wandle, recently won gold in the pale bitter category at the World Beer Awards.  It was first on the tasting list followed by a further four more award winners from wide ranging categories. Each beer was introduced with obvious knowledge and passion by Jo Miller, Sambrook's head of PR. It is a welcome change to see so much detail being given about beer styles at an event like this. So often the technical details and history of the beers styles are glossed over.

The cheeses laid out ready for devouring

The cheese matches were dreamt up and explained by Bruno D'Abo from Hamish Johnston Fine Cheeses. It was obvious he had attacked this challenge with gusto and at their best, the matches were sublime. The best example of this was the stand-out beer of the night, Thornbridge Raven a black IPA, with one of my favourite cheeses, the beautiful British blue, Stichelton. Together they deliver waves of flavour, just as one threatens to dominate, the other comes through with another delicious layer of complexity.

Another clever match was the Mort Subite Kriek with the hard sheep cheese, Ossau-Iraty. Cheeses like this are often eaten with dark cherry conserve in the pyrenees so it makes a lot of sense to drink the slightly sweet but sharp cherry beer with it.

The other matches that evening were a Kristall Weissbeer with Wigmore and Sambrook's own Wandle with a crumbly caerphilly.

The take home message from this event was to try your own combos of beer and cheese, so in that spirit here are my suggestions for beers to go with your Christmas cheese board. Try them out and I'm sure your family will be impressed.

The boozy sweetness of Fullers vintage range will go well with a traditional mature cheddar. Have a look at our vertical review of a number of the vintages. 

The toasty rich malt make this wonderful porter a great match for milder soft cheeses like brie or Port Salut.

The aforementioned black IPA is the perfect foil for creamy, fruity blue cheese.

This spicy British style IPA will go brilliantly with washed rind cheeses like stinky taleggio.

These are virtually the same beer and their fruity complexity will go superbly with a mature manchego or Comté.

Keep an eye on the website for upcoming beery events at the Sambrook's. The brewery is well worth a visit and there are some exciting evenings planned.