Friday, 4 November 2016

Dark brews for dark nights: Top 5 bonfire weekend beers

"Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and caldron bubble; 
Fillet of a fenny snake; in the caldron boil and bake; 
Eye of Newt and toe of Frog; Wool of bat and tongue of Dog; 
Adder's fork and Blind-worms sting; Lizards Leg and Howlet's Wing; 
For a charm of powerful trouble; like a hell broth boil and bubble..."

Now, I'm no literature buff (as a bloke, we all know that men respond better to pictures than words, which was the basis of my continued subscription to The Beano until age 22), but the Witches in Macbeth had the beginnings there of what could be the next batch of craft beer mysticism from Brewdog. It seems beer and a big stack of fire go together like a toffee apple addiction and the end of my diet, even as far back as when good old Billy Shakespeare was penning his masterpieces. As we move from the dazzling sunshine of Summer, to the dampness of Autumn, we similarly move from the crisp, refreshing lagers and golden ales to the denser, richer, hoppier red ales and dark beers. 

Along with many of the countries population, I am heading out this weekend to a Bonfire Party of my own, where I am tasked with bringing along a few carefully chosen bottles to compliment the scene that is being set at the party. So, although I'm not being tasked to find a beer to match a massive bag of candy floss or spiced apple donut (beer matching to sweet treats needs expert advice, trust me!), but I've got to try and find a few different beer styles to try and cater for a fair amount of different tastes in the crowd.

After loads of 'umming and aaahhing', a whole lot of cap-popping and (thankfully) a trusted sidekick in The Lass, who helped me in my quest, I have come up with my top 5 choices of Bonfire Night Beer for everyone heading out to catch some fireworks this weekend!

1. Unfiltered Dark Lager, Brewers & Union, 5% (£1.50 a 500ml bottle from Cotteridge Wines, Birmingham or available from selected bars)
Something for the lovers of German dark beers and the maltier Belgian styles. My brother saw this and recommended I try it, as I like this richer, coffee bean style of beer. He wasn't wrong in the slightest. A venture from 2 South African brewmasters who were bored with the fare on offer in their home country, they went to Europe and started making many different delights, with the intention of taking them back to SA and share it with passionate beer people back there. Thankfully, some of their beers have made it over here and I for one am over-the-moon about it! A lovely silky texture as you pour it, its a malty delight. Sweet, roasted flavours is the name of the game here and lashings of it. Lighter than first thought, it has a lager-ish crispness which means it won't alienate the people who are struggling to come to terms with the end of Beer Garden weather. A long lasting taste on the finish shows this is a serious bit of beer craftmanship.

2. Estrella Damm Inedit, 4.8% (£10.99 for a 6 x 330ml pack at Majestic)
For lovers of the wheat beer style and one of my stand out beers of the year so far. Estrella Damm is a collaboration between the master brewers of the Damm brewery and the head chef and sommeliers of the the Best Restaurant in the World for many years until its closure, El Bulli in Spain. This has the magic combination of being a brilliant food beer and a drink to have on its owen. A cross between a bolder craft lager style and a wheat beer, it has a fantasic array of spices and peel notes within the beer, giving it a complexity that I only found in beers during a break in Bruges. A light acidity, which adds to the smoothness, I cannot recommend this beer enough.

3. Red Rye, Hook Norton Brewery 4.7% (£21 for 12 x 330ml bottles at
Rye is a grain that is used an awful lot in alcohol making, specifically so in whisky and vodka, but it is now coming back into fashion for beer too, after an awful long time in the shadows. This effort, from a growing brewery in North Oxfordshire, is a super example to get yourself re-aquainted with the style. A spicy, bready effort, with a serious boot up the backside from the orange and baked apple notes, this is a smashing seasonal tipple to get into and a brewery to keep an eye on too.

4. Kriek 1882, Girardin, 5% (£2.30 for a 250ml bottle at Cotteridge Wines, Birmingham, or 6.99 Euro for a 750ml bottle from
Something a bit different for the season, and something that my wine-loving and non-beer drinking fiancee doesn't mind drinking. This style of beer is the bane of 'proper' beer drinkers' lives, as it doesn't really taste of beer, as it is brewed to taste quite tart and weirdly 'sour'. I won't go into the ins-and-outs of lambic brewing, but it well worth getting out of your comfort zone and trying some. This 'Kriek' or cherry effort, again, does the job of combining what is overall a sour beer with the sweetness of the cherries that the brewing beer was steeped in. A slight yeastiness gives the beer a real complex edge too, so its a brilliant beer to match with any sugary titbits you are offered around the campfire.

5. Late Red Ale, Shepherd Neame, 4.5% (£15.39 for 8 at Drink Supermarket)
One for the traditional ale drinkers this one and a favourite seasonal beer of mine. With a colour that looks like Shepherd Neame have collected all the fallen leaves from the front of the brewery and just blended it up with the beer, the rich copper look of it gets you feeling all autumnal inside. The smell is all about this time of year too, with a nutty scent, as well as a slight cooked red fruit character. Not too hoppy, but just enough to keep you interested, the taste is like you'd expect a good bitter style to be. A bit of malt on the approach and earthy tastes compliment the soft bubbles. It can become a bit 'metallic' if you drink too many of them, in my humble opinion, but for a few bottles, you may have just found all the best bits of October and November whipped up into this fantastic drop.

To all of you who are heading out, be safe, keep warm and keep topping yourselves up with some fine drink. But if it does taste of fillet of fenny snake, I hope you kept the receipt...

Have you any recommendations for your 'Perfect Pour' during the Bonfire Night celebrations? Tell us in the comments below, or on our Facebook page or on our Twitter feed!

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