Pressure Drop, Baron and Pollys beer cans.


Pressure Drop, Baron and Pollys beer cans.

Now that I am finally feeling properly back into the swing of things, and fully re-oriented with our fridge offerings after a nearly three week vacation visiting family for the holidays, we’re back with the first edition of Raycommendations of 2024! At long last… As fantastic as it was to see the fam-bam and reassure myself that the sun still exists, it really is so great to be back in SW London doing what I love: drinking good beer with you wonderful people! That being said, after many catch-up tasting sessions, these are my favourite bits of what’s on show at the moment. You may be surprised, as two beer styles make their Raycommendation debut. On we get! 



Am I really opening my first list of recs of 2024 with an Ordinary Bitter..? YES, because Polly’s absolutely hit this one out of the park. Any time a modern craft brewery attempts a traditional style like this, I am always keen on giving it a try, and was caught by surprise by how much I enjoyed this balanced brew from the Welsh wizards. 

As a style that originates in the UK, Ordinary Bitters are conventionally hopped with locally-grown British hops, that offer herbal, earthy, and resinous flavours and aromas, but Polly’s reached for American strain Azacca to mix things up. Azacca is what’s known as a ‘dual-use’ hop, meaning it’s full of both punchy bittering compounds and flavourful essential oils. It’s in the name, Ordinary Bitters should be noticeably bitter, and, in this case, Azacca’s delicious floral, citrusy character, and moderate bitterness comes through, but it’s the malt profile that stood out to me, and made this more of a modern rendition. A foundation of caramelly, toasty, and nutty malts adds biscuity sweetness that appeases my American constant-sweet-tooth-having palate. Both delicious and different.



Okay, I have to come clean… When my coworker Dan grabbed this for us to split, I wasn’t very enthused about trying it, especially off the back of another shared IPA, and may have even offered other beers for us to sip on instead. But, thanks to him and his persistence, this ended up being one of my favourite UK-made ‘American IPAs’ I’ve tried in recent memory. Although this was intended to be a West Coast IPA, we agreed it fits more of the American/Mountain IPA category, which is essentially a combination of the best bits of West Coast and New England IPA flavour profiles: assertive bitterness and juicy fruitiness, respectively. This struck that balance wonderfully, with a crisp, bitter punch up front that lingers into the aftertaste, and grapefruit and lemon citrus notes in between. Look at that collab, though! How did I ever doubt such an all-star cast? 



Yet another traditional style to round things off? Couldn’t resist. Nerdy bits out of the way first: Baltic Porters originate from the countries bordering the Baltic Sea (surprise surprise, right?). Although it is long-established that porters are brewed with ale yeast, bottom-fermenting lager yeast is better suited to surviving cold Baltic temperatures, and was therefore opted for in this area. Therefore, despite the dark colour, caramel/toffee/dried fruit malt character, and high ABV that are contrary to what the majority of people associate with lagers, this is indeed, *technically* a lager. 

I learned at my first time meeting him, that Baltic Porter is my colleague Daniel’s absolute favourite style of beer. He has a rich history of drinking them in his homeland of Poland, which gave rise to his incredibly high standards when it comes to this style. That being the case, he is always my point of reference when it comes to taste testing Baltic Porters, as he knows as well as anyone what an authentic example should taste like. I’ve seen numerous attempts at the style from across the UK and abroad arrive and underwhelm him, so I was counting down the days until one of my favourite breweries in the country, Baron’s take on a Baltic Porter hit the fridges. Thankfully, its delivery perfectly coincided with a shift I shared with Daniel. We cracked it, and those sharing it sat in silence looking at him, cautiously waiting for a response before developing an opinion of our own. A joyous sigh, up-and-down head nod, and immediate thumbs up reassured us that Baron had done what we previously thought was impossible: satisfy Mr. Baltic Porter himself. Its malt notes of toasted bread, coffee, and dried fruits hid all 8.4% of it’s ABV, and its traditional use of lager yeast made it feel light and drinkable. Job well done.