Best Beers of 2013
If you're a #beerhero then it's part of the job description to keep up with the latest beers and also try as many other new brews as possible. The beer world doesn't stand still and so a dry January would just mean 31 wasted days. Across 2013, our team we're committed as ever to the beer cause and have compiled a list of their highlights from the last 12 months.
These are beers that you should be noting down in that little black book and jumping on the barman when you see them listed. We're not just talking Meantime beers....we know there's a world of beer out their waiting to be drunk and you should be trying as many different styles and brews as possible. Having said that, we hope you managed to enjoy many of the 43 beers that we brewed in 2013. So pencils to the ready to note down those 'must drink' beers heading in to 2014.
- Fruh Kolsch – A really delicate light ale that you would be forgiven for thinking was a lager, brewed strictly in the city of Cologne. Its wonderful subtle strawberry notes won over everybody on the #beerheroes trip there at the start of the year and even a hardened Stella fan when I pitched it to him during a tasting I hosted in June!
- Flying Monkeys Cascadian Dark Ale – Left by a Canadian tour goer and Meantime fan for the Visitor Centre team we were instantly impressed by the message on the underside of the cap - ‘the dude abides.’ However what was effectively a dark (not quite black) IPA was pretty special too.
- Meantime Imperial Russian Stout - A late export only special, we had the fortune of being able to stock a few bottles through the shop. Now, normally, when you open a bottle of traditional Imperial Russian Stout the stink of the booze (these things usually weigh in around the 10% mark) can be smelled from across the room! But as is often the case Meantime have developed a balanced, refined version that is seriously dangerously easy drinking at 8.5%.
- De Molen Kopi Loewak Coffee Stout – For some reason all my beers seem to be heavy hitting and pretty dark but I suppose those were the most memorable ones (or caused the most memory loss at least.) This is something myself and Big Al tried at the Euston Tap and then decided to pick up a bottle to take home because it was so good. At 11.2% it is not for the faint of heart but as with the beer before, it slips down very easily.
- Eggenberg Tmavy Lezak - Full bodied, dark and smooth, with malty caramel and toffee balanced by a dry finish and some Saaz hops. I was brought a bottle back from a friend's trip to Prague.
- Cerna Hora Moravske Sklepni - Unfiltered, with a biscuit malt body and spicy hop finish. My favourite beer from a trip to Brno.
- Harvey's Imperial Extra Double Stout - Pitch black with a tan head, and warm, wine-like nose. A hugely complex, sweet and sour beer with coffee, prunes, licorice, bitter chocolate and dried fruit flavours. Always finish a session at the Royal Oak in the Borough with a bottle of this superb beer.
- Uerige Altbier - Dark mahogany in colour and lightly carbonated. Dry, with some malt body supporting roasty malt and hop bitterness. A great favourite when the Meantime beer sommeliers visited the brewery beerhall where this is brewed in Duesseldorf.
- Martins India Pale Ale, Belgium - I remember the old courage Bulldog well this is a big cousin that I drank in Flanders over New Year. Whilst reviews are indifferent it struck me as an IPA with quintessential British attributes of big but restrained noble hop, combined with a typically Belgian love of high attenuation…great clean bitterness, looks fantastic in the glass, highly carbonated and snappy. I loved it.
- Victory Storm King Imperial Russian Stout……London has all the brewing heritage for extremely complex, big malt, high bitterness beers… and we sometimes forget this. Combine complex malt grists with massive American hop, however, and something special happens. This beer has an amazing aroma of Minooka honey ..its floral, rich and all consuming. We have had some fun with Victory this year running the World’s Best Beer apprentice. I look forward to drinking more of their beer.
- Duvel Triple Hop, 2013, Soraci Ace - Drank this at 9am with the head brewer at the Moorgat brewery a few months ago..amazing stuff…zings with clean bitterness, fresh elderflowers and heady alcohol … Duvel is an amazing brewery… state of the art, rich tradition, modern relevant beers…..after my own heart.
- Meantime Cali Belg was a personal favorite because it was inspired by a trip to California, and delivered with the help of some home grown ‘Belgian’ yeasts…Big hop and confectionary /spice balance. American Brashness, Belgian class…brewed in London.
Big Al's Picks
- Victory Hop Devil 6.7% – A big aromatic punch from pine and citrus from the whole flower American IPA hops, then a full bodied sweet finish from the Munich malt. This beer was introduced to me by the beer aficionado Glenn Page. A well balanced beer that I’ll be having again soon.
- Rodenbach Grand Cru 6% - A Flemish red ale that is matured for an average of 2 years in oak and then 70% is blended with 30% younger beer. It has aromas of red fruit and balsamic vinegar, tart, yet subtle and pleasant. My first outing with this was a beer and food night at The Old Brewery hosted by Head Brewer of Orval, Jean Marie Rock.
- Rochefort 10 11.3% - I enjoyed this beer paired with a rich, dense chocolate tarte and a Meantime Chocolate Porter sorbet and what a match it was ! Strong, port like and with an air of Christmas Pudding, this was an outstanding moment in my 2013 beer drinking diary !
- Meantime Fool’s Gold 4.5% - Meantime brewed this in a collaboration with the lovely boys and girls at ShortList magazine and what a corker…my favourite beer of 2013. It’s brewed with an ale hop called citra and has a spectacular blackcurrant aroma and taste. I sincerely hope we brew a beer like this again, it was the best I’ve ever tasted…exceptional, an epoch, a pinnacle and on the cusp of greatness !