Wholesale Communications Manager Chris Hall
Beer can do anything, or rather, it can be almost anything. Every one of the beers we stock at The Bottle Shop is one that we can stand by, hand on heart, and celebrate for its own unique qualities, flavours and personality. As you might expect, we’re all beer geeks here, because we love beer for the spectrum of what it can do.
Personally, my beer journey has led me from the approachable reliability of locally-brewed cask beer, through the vibrant intensity of flavours so sought after in craft beer culture, all the way back around to that impressive drinkability found in traditional styles both in England and around the world.
It’s easy to forget that the many beer styles ‘reborn’ in the 1970s and 1980s on American soil were paying homage to those of the Old World. The drinkability of English pale ale, IPA, porter and mild, as well as the supremely quaffable stronger beers of Belgium and the Low Countries, inspired American homebrewers and their professional counterparts.
Yes, everything from IPA to Saison was given a serious injection of body by ambitious ABVs and assertive bitterness from oily, unctuous hops, but the core of these beers, and why we enjoy them, is their enjoyable balance and moreish texture. To highlight a few examples from our own range, here are some beers that really exemplify drinkability, often in spite of how we perceive them.
Alpine: Windows Up – 7%
Whilst the East Coast influence has won the hearts and minds of brewers and drinkers at the bleeding edge of UK craft beer, we have an unabating love for the bitterness, balance and crushability of West Coast IPA.
Alpine Beer Company’s Windows Up has all of these qualities in spades – and then some. Whether you’re craving the nostalgia of IPAs that were ‘juicy’ without appearing to be fruit pulp, or if West Coast is a whole new side of IPA for you, Windows Up is an excellent introduction to this finessed and frighteningly drinkable delivery system for intense hop flavour and aroma.
Marble: Barley Wine – 12.4%
Barley Wine may, indeed, be life. As with so many traditional British beer styles, barley wine has been accepted and indeed embraced by American craft brewers as both something to be cherished and challenged. Better still, British breweries are rising to the challenge and rediscovering the many legendary beers of history that made us the great brewing nation we are.
Marble have good form in this area, having helped to revive the Gale’s Old Prize Ale brand with Fuller’s, as well as releasing several polished strong ales, imperial stouts and barley wines of their own. Their straight Barley Wine (sold in a wholesome, safety-first 440ml can) has all the hallmarks of an accomplished take on the style – fusing soft, pillowy vanilla notes with rich, warming, freshly-baked-biscuit grain character, and landed with a firm, peppery hop finish. It has absolutely no right to be as drinkable as it is, which is why it’s so bloody good.
Founders: DKML – 14.2%
Some beers aim to challenge us, some aim to push the envelope on style guidelines, and others are simply too much fun to care about any of that. Founders in Michigan have a reputation for big beers – Kentucky Breakfast Stout, Canadian Breakfast Stout, Backwoods Bastard to name but a few – but its also a brewery that has loads of pint-able hoppy beers in a range of strengths. DKML (you’ll have to ask us over a pint what it stands for) pulls all these skills together – in a 14.2% Malt Liquor, of all things.
Founders being Founders, it’s not quite as simple as that. This is a high gravity pale beer brewed with corn, bourbon barrel aged for six months, then dry hopped. The result balances grain sweetness, oaky, spicy barrel character, a slick and warming alcohol body with fruity, almost juicy hop notes. It has the drinkability of a Belgian tripel, potent flavour profile of a DIPA, and rich texture of good barley wine. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it will make you smile.