A craft beer lover needs no excuse to seek out a good brew, but having a birthday party, bottle share, and huge football success all happen in quick succession has made for one boozy week, featuring lots and lots of incredible beers (not to mention the usual slew of exciting tipples that break into our fridges each week!). Cracking into stunning sippers from some of the world’s best meant this volume of Raycommendations was hard to slim down to just three brews, but the following are some of my favourite ales and tales from the last week. Sappy soul-searching, technical brewing lingo, and football chatter make this one ludicrous edition.
COOLHEAD / TRIPPING ANIMALS – TRIPPING COLA BOTTLES
Behind the scenes fact about me; supporting Arsenal Football Club is approximately 90% of the reason I emigrated from Los Angeles to London, with the other 10ish% being to get a degree. Priorities, right? Seeing us record an unprecedented victory against our Premier League kryptonite, Manchester City this past weekend called for a big celebration. So after watching the match at a new pub in Putney I took my celebrations around the corner to the mighty 👻🐳.
I didn’t think twice about this brew when it first arrived, and if it weren’t for the input of my sour-passionate mate, I may not have ever reached for it. He thankfully plucked it out of the fridge, unknowingly choosing a whimsical, conversation-inducing sipper. I was only half paying attention when pouring, preoccupied with relaying match details to customers and friends, so seeing a neon green liquid shimmering in my glass out of the corner of my eye gave me my second shriek of excitement of the day, the first being after Arsenal’s dramatic 86th-minute winning goal (pictured is Daniel and my shared perplexion). A radioactive-looking, glowing green fluid, redolent of Nickelodeon slime, sat in our fridges without us even knowing. Once over the initial shock, which included parading this around the shop for everyone to see, we finally tucked in to what we unanimously found to be a captivating brew. A huge hit of lemon/lime puckering tartness strikes first, with sweet passionfruit playing second fiddle. Patience is required to taste the titular cola bottle sweets, but it is noticeable in the aftertaste. Very tasty, and easily one of the more surprising beers I’ve had recently.
HUYGHE – DELIRIUM RED
There is something so special about Belgian beers that keeps me reaching for them over and over again: their distinctive Belgian yeast character. Dorky beer geek rant incoming…
Belgian yeast strains have a higher tolerance for alcohol production than other ale yeasts. An easily-fermentable saccharide called candy sugar is often added during fermentation of Belgian beers, providing more sugar for the yeast to convert into ethanol and carbon dioxide. This results in a much drier, carbonated, and high-ABV final product. Belgian yeast is also much more prone to releasing fruity esters and spicy phenols during fermentation, adding a yeast-driven depth of flavour to the finished beer.
Nerdy jargon aside, East Flanders’s iconic Huyghe Brewery is world-renowned for their award-winning ‘Delirium’ series, recognisable by its emblematic pink elephant. My favourite of the range is their cherry-flavoured fruit beer ‘Delirium Red’, so naturally I hurriedly tucked into 2023’s edition the instant it reached our fridges. Deep burgundy in colour, and brimming with fruity aromas, this is one even non-beer drinkers would enjoy, for its exceptional cherry pungency. The aforementioned Belgian yeastiness is present as well, with its customary fizzy, crisp mouthfeel that dangerously distracts from its 8% ABV. A modern classic born from a traditional brewery.
NERD / POMONA ISLAND – ASYNC
After a particularly meaningful shift, spent chumming with regular customers, I had a moment of introspection, reflecting on how content I am in my current position (cheesy, I know, but a damn good feeling). Rather than dismissing this and racing to close the shop and get home, I decided to indulge myself and enjoy the romance of it, pouring myself a splash of something special: this decadent collaboration between Malmo’s Nerd Brewing and Salford’s-finest Pomona Island.
This stunner was fermented with honey, yielding a sticky sweetness that coats the palate with each sip. I’m particularly impressed by the meticulous attention to detail in sourcing bourbon-soaked Ugandan vanilla and cinnamon berries, which the beer was aged on post-fermentation. I’ve had many fruited Imperial stouts before, but few come to mind that dazzled like this. Vanilla sweetness is present both in the aroma and the palate, while the berries themselves add a rich jamminess that works in tandem with the honey to make a more full-bodied end product. Cinnamon spice adds yet another dimension of flavour, with a Christmas spice-esque bite. All-in-all a wonderfully complex sipper worth taking your time to ponder and enjoy.