Carrying on from last week’s theme of ‘How can you even call this beer?’ beers, come three more sensationally zany brews. The past week was a particularly beer-heavy one for myself, attributable to a smashing Beak tap-takeover, shipments from some of my favourite European breweries hitting the shop, and a weekend sojourn to Sussex for a mate’s birthday bash. Due to the sheer volume of marvellous beers consumed this week, this will be the first list of Raycommendations that features honourable mentions (AKA beers that were so good that I either drank all of them or suggested them to customers so much that they’re now sold out)!
A tremendous week of incomings was headlined by a slew of decadent brews from Sweden’s Church of Omnipollo, one of my personal favourite breweries. The delivery driver had hardly even left the shop before I tucked into ‘Three Times Three’ their newly arriving Triple IPA. At 10% ABV, this was a bold move for an early afternoon, but seeing it feature an all-star cast of seven (!!) of the finest breweries in the USA, including my hometown heroes Monkish, meant I couldn’t control my excitement. The largest dry hop to date for Omnipollo resulted in an unreal tropical, creamy, and slightly piney, boozy sipper. Turns out putting 7 world renowned breweries in a brewhouse together results in a half decent beer…
Another Omnipollo instant classic came in the form of a second massive collaboration, as Florida’s 3 Sons and Los Angeles’s Bottle Logic teamed up with Stockholm’s premier brewery to produce ‘Andromeda’, a 26-month bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Stout with toasted coconut. Pouring thick as motor oil and riddled with bourbon barrel character, this is quite literally a melted Bounty bar (or Almond Joy for my fellow Americans). Heaps of coconutty and chocolatey goodness make this one of my Impies of the year.
Rounding off this week’s honourable mentions is one of my most-treasured beer styles, a Flanders Red Ale, straight from those who do it best. It’s Rodenbach of course, with their ‘Vintage 2021’, a Flemmish red aged for 2 years in oak foeders. The oak casks contain bacteria that naturally sours the beer, imparting a wonderfully complex balsamic vinegar-esque acidity. Malty sweetness is present too, making for a fantastically well-rounded, elegant red wine-like ale. Now, on to some beers that are both bangin’ and in stock!
POMONA ISLAND – LITERAL VAMPIRE POTBELLY GOBLINS
Before embarking on my weekend away in Sussex, I posed the question to my host, “What kind of beers do you want me to bring down?”, fully knowing there would be sour-beer enthusiasts present. She comedically responded, “Anything that a hardcore classic beer lover would spit at me for drinking,” (yes, that’s word for word) so I figured a Boysenberry and Blackcurrant Sour Double IPA with Ceylon Tea would do the trick.
If you’re bored of the arguably oversaturated market for hop-forward ales, this mental concoction from Salford’s Pomona Island is about as far from your traditional Double IPA as possible, but still an incredibly fun, wacky sipper. Both dark fruits used contribute a remarkably vibrant burgundy colour, as well as sweet, juicy berry flavour that strikes the palate first, followed by an acute, puckering sourness. Pleasant tea notes are present on the back end, adding an inner-cheek-drying tannic astringency to the mix. Seeing people at the party put down their Budweisers and Coronas to try a sip of this was exceptionally amusing. A crowd baffler.
VAULT CITY – FRUITS OF THE FOREST TRIPLE STACKED BREAKFAST WAFFLE
Over a year and a half ago, in my time working for Br*wdog, bottles of this beauty blessed our site’s guest fridge. As someone who was very new to craft beer, and primarily accustomed to drinking P*nk IPA and Hazy J*ne after shifts, Vault City’s dessert-esque sour ales were unlike anything else I was drinking at the time, consistently pushing the boundary of what I understood was possible in the scope of craft beer. Imagine habitually eating McDonald’s hamburgers every meal for weeks, then someone hands you a perfectly seasoned, chargrilled Wagyu beef burger topped with caramelised red onions, crispy fried bacon, fresh, crunchy iceberg lettuce, gooey, melted sharp cheddar, and a rich, flavoursome burger sauce. You wouldn’t know what hit you!
This encapsulates my experience with this horizon-expanding brew exactly. Somehow, it does precisely what the title promises. Sugary sweet flavours of vanilla cake, candied berries, and maple syrup dazzle on top of Vault City’s classic sour ale base. It is definitely worth noting that its 10.3% ABV is inconceivably well hidden. I’m splendidly relieved that this year’s rebrew lives up to the three-word UnTappd description I posted after experiencing it for the first time: “a divine revelation.”
BEAK – VALLEYS
The staggering worldwide popularity of the Hazy IPA style is unarguable. Honestly, who doesn’t love sipping a full-bodied, juicy, hop-forward ale? Lewes’s Beak Brewery has established themselves as one of the UK’s most prestigious IPA producers, regularly releasing smashing examples of the style. (Their core IPA, ‘Parade’, by the way, is easily my personal favourite regularly-available brew, and one I will always Raycommend, as it’s a permanent fixture in the fridges of 👻🐳.)
Consequently, I was expecting our Tap Takeover/Meet the Team event with them to be an evening celebrating all things hoppy. This was initially the case, as we were chauffeured through their newest hop-centric range: a pale ale, IPA, and Double IPA, which of course were brilliant, but Beak really flexed their brewing muscles with the event’s latter two beers. The first of which was a radiant raspberry and yuzu mixed fermentation ale that even some previously non-sour drinkers were impressed with. But the star of the show for myself and many other attendees was their chocolate and hazelnut Imperial Stout ‘Valleys’. Pouring lusciously thick, with a full, tan head of foam, this is practically an 11% liquid Kinder Bueno. Like a rich chocolate cake after a delicious meal, this was the perfect way to wrap up the night. Hats off to them for such a special evening, where they really showed their versatility.