The October beer review

Jeff Evans back with his bimonthly beer review.

CLOUDWATER SOCAL, 4.8% 

Manchester’s Cloudwater Brew has relaunched its core range of canned beers. It features three existing brands and two new creations, one called Fuzzy, which is a hazy pale ale, and this one, SoCal, its bright and shiny cousin. 

At a time when haze is all the rage, new crystal-clear American pale ales are an increasingly rare find, so this is a refreshing discovery on more than one front. The beer pours an attractive golden colour and I really like the oily hop resins in the aroma, with suggestions of rape seed and pine, complemented by a squeeze of grapefruit at first and then some orange. 

On the palate, the beer is spritzy and crisp, with a bittersweet taste filled with zingy tangerine and oily hop notes. It is rather light bodied for its 4.8% abv, but that just adds to the drinkability, as does the generous carbonation. A good, spicy, bitterness builds in the drying finish, with plenty of tangy orange left on the palate.

WESTERHAM/RAMSGATE/SAMBROOK’S STAND WITH, 9% 

In recent months, a number of British breweries have done sterling work to support the beleaguered people of Ukraine, including Westerham and Ramsgate breweries in Kent and Sambrook’s in London who have all got together to create this formidable dark beer. 

Gluten-free and vegan-friendly, Stand With has been made with ingredients supplied free by a number of generous suppliers, with profits from its sale going to the Disasters Emergency Committee’s Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. 

As for the beer itself, well it’s as robust and flavoursome as you would expect from an ‘anti-imperialist stout’, sweet to start but soon turning more bitter as the dark grains kick in. Coffee and chocolate notes, polished leather and suggestions of liquorice in the taste are offset by a peppery warmth, with, lurking beneath, a vague fruitiness that falls somewhere between dark, juicy berries and tart plums. A powerful beer for a good cause. 

MOONWAKE XPA, 3.4% 

I’m all for lower-strength beers that pack in the flavour, so this new, cloudy, US-style pale ale from Moonwake in Edinburgh ticks lots of boxes for me. 

Oats add to the body and contribute to the smooth, creamy mouthfeel, but it’s the rainbow of bright fruit notes that dominates the palate. The brewer reckons that apricot and passion fruit are the flavours that particularly shine through, and you can certainly identify those once you hear that. But my first impression was of sherbet lemons, pineapple cubes and fruit salad chews, which probably says too much about how I spent my pocket money back in the day.

After all that vibrant colour, the finish is contrastingly flinty and dry. Fruit lingers a while but bitterness, with a piney note carrying over from the taste, has the final say.

BLACK ISLE SILENT SPRING, 4.5% 

Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring, which was published in 1962, was an important work in drawing attention to the harm that pesticides can inflict on the environment. To commemorate the 60th anniversary of its release, and to highlight ongoing biodiversity issues, this new pale ale has been created by Black Isle, a Scottish brewery with a long history of producing organic beer. Half the profits go towards tree-planting projects. 

The beer pours a hazy golden colour, with cantaloupe melon and oranges in the aroma and a bittersweet taste of oranges and grapefruit, tinged with a light honey-floral note. The bitterness of orange pith resonates long into the finish but, overall, this is a fairly restrained, very quaffable beer that should appeal to a wide range of drinkers.

 

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