The May beer review
Jeff Evans is back with his bimonthly beer review.
WINDSOR & ETON CASTLE HILL, 5%
The first of this year’s Platinum Jubilee beers to pass my way appropriately comes from a brewery right on the Queen’s doorstep and is made with barley grown on the royal farm in Windsor. There’s also a Commonwealth accent, with Pacific Jade hops from New Zealand forming part of the hop mix.
New World hops can often run riot in a beer, but not here. In fact, there’s more of a restrained English hop vibe going on in this classy pale ale, delivering mellow marmalade fruitiness over the velvet-smooth malt base until becoming more assertive in the big, robust, tangy and bitter finish.
For a celebratory tweak, Champagne yeast is used for some of the fermentation process, which probably adds to the light fruitiness and contributes to the surprising delicacy of a beer packing 5% alcohol.
VOCATION LOWER ALTITUDE, 2.8%
Table beers are back in fashion and I’m all for them, especially when they’re as full of flavour as this one from the hills of West Yorkshire.
The emphasis here is on American hops, with pine, grapefruit, mango and peach notes permeating from aroma to finish, but all perfectly balanced and weighted for a quenching, low-strength beer.
One of the difficulties of brewing such a light beer is that the body can be overly thin, because there’s less malt in the mash tun, but Vocation has avoided that problem by adding some oats to the grist and these also convey a light creaminess to complement the fruitiness of the hops.
Throw in some good, spritzy carbonation and it all comes together to create a crisp, tasty beer ideal for times when you’re looking more for refreshment than an alcoholic buzz.
DC BRAU JOINT RESOLUTION, 5.5%
Importer Heathwick’s latest introductions to the UK market include four offerings from Washington’s DC Brau. They’re the sort of beers that slip down very easily and don’t push any boundaries, but at the same time deliver good, fresh US hop flavours in abundance.
My pick of the four is this hazy IPA which has a big, sharp and inviting aroma of lemon, grapefruit and pine. The same juicy fruit notes zip around the palate, softened a little by the gentle creaminess and faint chalkiness you often find in an unfiltered beer.
The finish is on the slighter side, but hop fruitiness lingers and the modest bitterness is pleasant and moreish. An enjoyable beer you could happily drink right through an evening.
WILLIAMS BROS JUICY JOKER, 5%
Brand extensions are a useful way for breweries to introduce new beers. They guarantee a certain familiarity to, and loyalty from, the customer base, while allowing brewers to branch out in different directions.
This Williams Bros beer is based on the company’s flagship IPA, Joker. There’s already been one increment to the brand in the form of Double Joker, a hefty imperial IPA; now here comes Juicy Joker, taking the name in the direction of a New England IPA.
True to style, it pours a murky golden colour, with oats and wheat not only adding to the cloudiness but also ensuring a rich, vanilla-like creaminess throughout. Spiky, zesty hops bounce along on top of this fluffy base, delivering flavours of pineapple, grapefruit and a little pine.
Hops build nicely in the drying, fairly thick finish, as creaminess lingers and that piney bitterness kicks on. If you love the fruitiness of American hops but cry out for a fuller body and a richer cereal base to keep them in check, this is your kind of beer. Very nicely done.