Camra’s new eighth edition of its Good Bottled Beer Guide names just one North East brewery – Durham Brewery – among the 342 producers of what they claim are the 1,800 best bottled beers in the UK.
So we asked the regions bloggers, brewers and beer lovers for what they think are currently the best bottled brews now, in May 2013, regardless of whether they are bottle conditioned – that is, that they undergo secondary fermentation in the bottle, like “real” ale in a cask – or not.
The top five are listed below – but feel free to agree, disagree or share your own recommendations in the comment section.
A clear favourite amongst the Newcastle beer bloggers, the 28th member of the South West Northumberland brewery’s experimental END series is a pale ale made using Nelson Sauvin hops for a white grape aroma and grapefruit characteristics, then fermented with French farmhouse yeast to give a dry and slightly sour flavour.
Some have suggested it is “probably the closest a beer can get to a white wine.”
Andrew Mitchell (@SheriffMitchell, author of Oh Beery Me / Tyne and Beer Metro) said the 6.5% beer was “an absolute blinder.”
“As tart as a slaggy receptionist, this vinous beauty needs to be stocked by sommeliers to showcase the saison style,” he said. “One of the best.”
Gary Taylor (@TheAleTrail) agreed. “The best bottled beer I’ve had from a North East brewery is easily the Allendale END series,” he said.
“Recently re-released and bottled in the brewery, rather than being sent to to the Ale Wreckers in Cumbria, the Sauvin Saison is a fantastic summer slurper, massively fresh and fruity with a great lingering sharpness.”
Truefitt Brewing Company Erimus Pale Ale
A bottle from one of the south of the region’s newer breweries – Middlesbrough’s Truefitt, which opened in May 2012 – Erimus Pale Ale appears at the suggestion of Andy Mogg (@BeerReviewsAndy / BeerReviews.co.uk)
“A cracking pale ale which really packs a punch for 3.9% ABV, with a really big bitter kick at the end that lasts ages,” he said.
Tyne Bank Brewery Mocha Milk Stout
A dark and sweet beer with chocolate, coffee and vanilla flavours, Tyne Bank brewed its Mocha Milk Stout for the first time in 2012 after it was voted for by the local “Twiteratti.”
It is made using Daterra Bruzzi, a Brazilian coffee bean selected and roasted by Pumphreys of Newcastle, 100% pure cocoa powder and whole vanilla pods.
The resulting beer was launched at the Free Trade Inn, in Byker in February – and you can find out more about the beers origins by watching our video about it.
The beer – which has a bottle label styled to look like a cow – was also turned into truffles by Sunderland-based Jenny Penny Cakes.
“I would seriously urge you to hunt this Mocha Milk Stout out,” said Gary Taylor. “Tyne Bank Brewery have come up with a silky choc winner.”
Darwin Brewery Flag Porter
One of Roger Protz’s “300 beers to try before you die” Flag Porter was created by the clever people down at Brewlab in Sunderland using yeast found in bottles of Victorian beer found at the bottom of the sea.
“It uses yeast salvaged from 150 year old shipwreck and is made from Victorian recipe,” Sunderland and South Tyneside Camra tells us – which at the very least should peke a bit of interest.
As for the beer itself chocolate notes are said to abound, with a subtle, pleasant aroma of black forest cake batter and a more bitter, coffee taste.
Of the five beers on the list this is the only one we’ve never seen in a shop – so if anyone knows where to get one, then let us know in the comments below.
Durham Brewery Temptation
Just because it is one of the brewery’s nine ales to make Camra’s “good” book doesn’t mean Temptation isn’t a cracking bottled beer.
A 10% Imperial Russian Stout, the beer is not for the faint hearted.
“It’s quite thick and syrupy, a beer with genuine gravitas,” said Andrew Mitchell, when he reviewed it as part of his Beer 365 blog last year. “It’s loaded with coffee, liquorice and bag after bag of roasted malt.
“Uncapping is akin to lighting the fuse – your first sip sees the salvo of flavour connect, ripping over your taste buds.
“Sweet caramel spars with the piney, floral, bittering hops, which prickle on their way down.
“The warming alcohol imparts a port-like charm, which is very befitting of this high class brute.”
The Allendale END Export Stout also received much love in our poll.
“The Allendale END Export Stout gives Kernel a run for their money in the bottled strong stout category,” said Gary Taylor. “Certainly one of the best in the UK and it comes from here.”
“Fuller figured, dark and decadent – this would be the perfect after dinner accompaniment,” said Andrew Mitchell. “Smokey and sublime.”