Third Moon, Balance, Hudson Valley beers at Ghost Whale.


Regular readers of my Raycommendations have come to expect big flavours advocated for in these blog posts, and this week’s edition may just be the most diverse set of styles / flavour profiles covered so far this year. Sour IPAs from those who do it best, a new Canadian brewery for us at Ghost Whale satisfies my inner child, and one of my most cherished beer experiences in a long while are all explained below. 


Few breweries have built a name synonymous with a unique beer style like New York’s Hudson Valley have with Sour IPAs. For those out of the loop, a Sour IPA predictably combines the brewing techniques and flavour profiles of Sours and IPAs. Could have guessed that, right? Lactobacillus, the strain of bacteria that is used to ferment yoghurt, is utilised to produce tart lactic acid in the beer. This is often, but not always, paired with Lactose, your common milk sugar, that attributes a creamy body and residual sweetness in the finished beer. Puckering tartness and full body accounted for, Sour IPAs are then highly hopped, as any IPA would be, adding floral and fruity flavours that are accentuated by Lactobacillus’s gift of acidity, making this a delightfully complex style. 

Silly sours and big IPAs are two of my favourite styles, so the gorgeous fusion Hudson Valley has struck is right up my street. Although a range of their cans are situated in our fridges right now, it was actually at Manchester’s Vocation taproom that I had the pleasure of sipping ‘The Map’, a Sour IPA made with lemon, black lava salt, lactose, and juicy, citrusy hops. The lemon and lactose partnership offered sherbet tartness and vanilla meringue sweetness, while the salt added a refreshing salinity that made this feel like an adult lemonade. Simply class.


I often like to joke that I wouldn’t be alive today if it wasn’t for peanut butter. For thirteen years of my life, from kindergarten through to graduating high school, I munched a peanut butter, no jelly, sandwich every single day for lunch. It became a part of my identity, that friends would poke fun at for years, but nothing could interrupt my unwavering love for the simple classic. From then on, whether it’s in a spicy curry, rich dessert, or craft beer, if I see peanut butter in food or drink, it makes my decision making easy. I just love the stuff. Peanut butter Milk Stouts from Colorado’s Left Hand and Islington’s Hammerton have left me impressed in the past, but this Imperial iteration from Ontario’s Third Moon takes the cake as the best peanut butter beer I’ve come across. It shares the aroma and flavour profile of Reese’s, with overwhelming chocolate and peanut butter notes. The addition of lactose adds a delicious creaminess, giving this a proper milkshake feel, without being overly sweet or cloying. Incredibly impressive.


When discussing my plans to have a beer-y whistlestop tour of Manchester this past weekend, Balance’s taproom came up amongst friends as a must-visit spot. We arrived right at their open time of noon on Sunday, slightly hungover after a very long, heavy day of taproom and bottle shop hopping on Saturday. Their co-founder Will was working the taproom that day, and was kind enough to walk us through their barrel house, explaining their origin story, brewing and blending processes, and what special beers they had conditioning in the 300+ barrels stacked in the back end of their space. Walking around their gorgeous archway setup wouldn’t be the same without a beer in hand, so, being early afternoon, I opted for their first attempt at a Table Beer, the easy drinking ‘Empty Chair’. Table-strength Wild Ale is a new, novel idea for me, and this was executed wonderfully. Very light in body, with a dry, fizzy mouthfeel thanks to the Saison yeast they opted for. English Bramling Cross hops offer earthy, herbal, and slightly lemon-y notes. The barrel ageing lends slightly funky farmhouse character. All in all, sipping this while chatting with Will was such a special experience. He is an incredibly knowledgeable guy, clearly passionate about bringing the blending process traditionally found in Belgium, to the UK. I couldn’t recommend popping in to see him and try their beers enough. Major thanks to him, and his partner James, for producing such high quality brews.