What is the Year in Beer challenge?
This summer, the Independent released their latest list of the 50 best beers and I thought, why not sample the entire list? 50 beers. 52 weeks in the year. It’s that simple.
Week 1 – Golden Champion (Badger Ales)
I decided to start locally. Badger Ales are based next door in Dorset and have been brewing since 1777. Being a South West-based brewery, it is very easy to get hold of Badger beers and, indeed, the start of summer is often heralded by the stocking of the cupboard with bottles of Golden Glory (tying in joint first place in Mrs Running Buffet’s list of top summer tipples, along with a glass of Pimms). Having said that, Golden Champion is not one of their beers that I was overly familiar with and this immediately satisfied one of my aims of this challenge, of broadening my beer-awareness.
This is a pleasant golden beer, light and fruity. A beer I could happily enjoy drinking on a repeat basis. That’s a big tick in the box for week one.
Both the write-up in the Independent and the official blurb highlight the hints of elderflower in the beer, but I must confess to missing this particular part of the experience. This is only week one after all; perhaps my beer palate will develop over the year and the subtle tastes and aromas, that are no doubt there, will come springing out of the beer to assault my senses. Perhaps subtlety is not the best starting point and I should acclimatise my taste buds with something a bit more intense…
Week 2 – Banana Bread (Wells)
The flavours and aromas of this beer cannot be missed, even by someone with a beginner’s palate. Opening the bottle, you get an immediate hit of bananas and caramel, satisfying the claim of a “tempting bannofee aroma”. When drunk, the banana taste comes through strongly but doesn’t linger, leaving a more traditional bitter finish.
Brewed by Wells and Young (whose stable includes Courage, McEwan’s, Young’s Bitter, Bombardier and Waggle Dance, amongst others), it was readily available when I wandered the supermarket aisles, list in hand, picking out my second beer.
Now I like beer, and I like bananas, but I’m not sure that I’m totally sold on the combination of the two. It is certainly a very drinkable beer and it is in no way unpleasant. But it does still taste like bananas. It’s like opening a bottle of milk and finding that it tasted of strawberries. That’s never going to catch on now, is it?
Should I find myself in need of a banana-based beverage though, I would certainly return to this one. It is a fine example of how to bring bananas and beer together successfully, without losing either of them completely.
Week 3 – Landlord (Timothy Taylor’s)
This was once described to me by a friend as “that beer from up north that thingy likes”, which says a lot about my friend’s descriptive abilities but not a great deal about the beer itself. Brewed in Yorkshire, Landlord is a multiple award-winner and is described in the Independent as “one to drink all night, it’s a marvel how satisfying it is”.
Unfortunately, week three of this challenge also coincided with week three of the 5×50 challenge meaning that I drank this, post-exercise, in a somewhat frazzled state. Looking back at my notes from the time, I wrote:
Good pale ale. Easy-to-drink. Marmalade?
Seven words a good review does not make. To elaborate, what I think I was grasping at is that Landlord certainly hits that easily drunk, could-have-a-couple-quite-happily mark. On the other hand, the promised “marmalade and fruitcake bitterness” didn’t come through for me. Overall, this is a tasty beer and one that I should give a fairer hearing to when I’m not so tired.
Coincidentally, at the start of the week, a twitter straw poll of the best ales (organised by Perfect Pint UK) saw Landlord placed third. To add a small diversion to the challenge, I also tried the first placed beer: Adnams’ Broadside, a smooth, dark beer with definite fruitcake flavours. Perhaps I am getting the hang of this after all.
What about the beer placed second? That was Wherry by Woodfordes and, unlike Broadside, Wherry does feature on the Independent’s Top 50 list. As such, I shall save that for another day.
It’s Cask Ale Week this week, so enjoy a relaxing pint of your favourite if you can. Or, perhaps broaden your horizons and try something new. My explorations of the remaining 47 beers will continue throughout the year, with further updates featuring in future blog posts.