Can someone tell me what’s going on in the sky? Despite living in the UK for five years now, I just don’t understand British weather. Overcast and drizzling but humid and muggy; too hot for a sweatshirt but too cold for shorts… Colour me confused! [The fact that Ray’s talking about the weather means he’s somewhat acclimatised to the British way of life in the last five years. – Ed]
In case you missed last week’s list of Raycommendations, I spent the dying days of summer in the Warsaw, visiting old friends from university. Before taking off on my flight back to London, I thought I’d have a cheeky scroll through the Ghost Whale app to see what new goodies were waiting for me in our fridges, and boy did I have lots to look forward to…
I was back to the comfort of the shop early Thursday morning, fielding deliveries of over 40 new cases of beer and filming a dorky Instagram reel. I felt I had earned a cold beer (or 10), so Daniel and I kicked ourselves into 5th gear and got down to some in-depth product research. Friday was no different with another post-work product familiarisation ‘sampling’ session, all in the name of research of course! The following are my standouts from these shifts-turned-sessions, an incredibly diverse bunch, so slip into your acrobat leotard and leap with me from style to style.
SPATEN – OKTOBERFESTBIER
‘Tis the season! We saw a double-digit amount of both traditional and craft versions of German Oktoberfest lagers hit the shop this week, but Spaten’s stood out for unique personal reasons. I had never tried this beautiful beer before, but remembered the name instantly, from years of my father saying this was his all-time favourite brew. He’s recounted stories to me many times of him drinking this with his back-of-house kitchen coworkers after shifts, at the ripe age of 17, mind you, as well as it being the house beer of his local bar in his early-to-mid twenties. It felt a full circle moment getting my hands on one, and I immediately recognised why it was a family favourite. Floral German hops provide subtle balance to this predominantly malt-forward lager, with bready, grainy, and honey-sweet notes. Will be having many more of these… Prost!
ELM ELEVEN / POMONA ISLAND – WHERE’S THE GRAVITY GONE
About as far away from German lager as I could jump, is Swedish sour producer Elmeleven’s collaborative blackberry peaches and cream pastry sour with Mancunian mob Pomona Island. A personally exciting collaboration, as both are breweries I often reach for. I had two friends coming to visit me on shift, both of whom are self-proclaimed sour-heads, so Elmeleven was the logical place to start, and this ended up comfortably being our collective beer of the evening. Berry tartness strikes first, followed by sweet peach and biscuit character, over a delightfully creamy body. Wonderfully balanced between sour and sweet, and an overall splendid liquid take on a classic dessert.
TARTARUS / NEON RAPTOR – NEPHELE
The return of cloudy skies and soggy streets means one thing for beer nerds: stout season is back! There was lots to celebrate on Friday evening: multiple 👻🐳 regular customers in for beers, imperial stouts being appropriate to drink again, and Leeds-based brewery Tartarus’s 3rd birthday brews hitting the fridges. To honour all three, we cracked their whimsical peanut butter and jelly imperial stout (a collaboration with Nottingham’s Neon Raptor). Growing up on peanut butter sandwiches, I am an absolute sucker for beers inspired by my childhood go-to, and this ticked all my boxes. Brewed with lactose, raspberries, blackberries, grapes, and peanuts, everything comes through brilliantly on the nose, while roasted malts and jammy fruitiness take centre stage on the palate. Notes of dark chocolate and berry jelly make this otherwise heavy beer very smooth and enjoyable.