Without the benefit of a pint-shaped crystal ball, no one really knows what’s in store for British beer in 2016. On the other hand, given the excitement that surrounds the current British Beer Revolution as breweries, both old school and new kids on the block, continue to flex their brewing muscles and weave together fantastic flavours, chances are that 2016 will be another year of drinking fabulously.
With that in mind, here are 10 beers, which have either just been released or will shortly be released, that should give next year the title annus mirabilis cervisiam.
Adnams, Triple Knot Tripel, 10%
Over in Suffolk, in between producing their peerless Southwold Bitter and Broadside ales, the Adnams brewing team launched this boldly flavoured Belgian-style Tripel with a difference just before Christmas. Packaged in a swing-top bottle, it’s a beer that has lavender, orange blossom and jasmine added to the brew before being matured for six months. The result is a gorgeous beer whose nose features delicate wafts of jasmine and lavender, while the palate has gossamer light citrus and honeyed notes before it finishes with a bittersweet dryness.
BrewDog, Born to Die, 8.5%
One of my favourite beers of 2015 was this brewery's heavily hopped India Pale Ale, which was only released twice, once in April and then again in November. It stunned me with its intensity of tropical fruit, savouriness, and pungent hoppiness (its name is a reference to the fact that it should be drank within a month of being bought if you want to experience the vivid and vibrant freshness of its hop zinginess). The next edition will be released in April and it is sure to sell out fast.
Cheshire Brewhouse, Dane’ish, 4.9%
Shane Swindells founded his compact brewery in Congleton in 2011 and has made his name with a variety of well-made beers, mainly of the ale family. Dane’ish, which is named after a local river, is a departure for him in that it’s a proper fully matured lager. It will be available to drink in January and early tastings have revealed a dry and crisp beer with an enticing floral aroma and a heady bitterness in the finish. While you wait for it to hit the shelves, why not try some of Swindells’ other beers, including the citrusy blonde-coloured Cheshire Set, which makes use of the rare English hop Early Kenworth.
Cloudwater, Dark Lager, 5.5%
Manchester-based Cloudwater are another new brewery that made waves in 2015, especially as their range of beers changes with the seasons. Heading into 2016, their winter beers include a 7.2% big hitter of an India Pale Ale, but and this - a succulent lager that bucks the trends for oodles of hops. Chestnut brown in colour, this is toasty and roasty with delicate floral notes on the nose and a dry, bittersweet finish with a full-bodied mouth feel. Track it down now, as it will disappear come spring.
Dark Star, Crème Brulee, 5.9%
There’s a welter of heady IPAs and ravishing sours being brewed at the moment, all of which are ideal at the dinner table, but there seems to be a distinct lack of pudding-friendly beers. Step forward this rich and sensual imperial milk stout from Sussex brewery Dark Star, which would be an ideal companion to something like a Bakewell tart or Sussex pond pudding. Currently on limited release, it’s dark chestnut in colour and yes, it really does have the aroma of a crème brulee, with hints of sweet milky coffee and vanilla in the background. It has an elegant and creamy mouth feel, with notes of mocha coffee and soft chocolate brushed with vanilla; the dry and bitter finish keeps the sweetness from overwhelming the beer.
Fuller, Smith & Turner, Brewer’s Reserve No 5, 8.5%
Every couple of years West London brewing icons Fuller’s release another special beer in their Brewer’s Reserve series. The last one was a potent brew aged in Comte de Lauvia Armagnac casks. Spring 2016 will see the latest edition, with the brewery’s barley wine Golden Pride having been aged for two years in Glenmorangie casks — going on previous examples in this series expect a handsome beer that will rival the finest wine in its complexity of flavours. In the meantime, you can make the time pass quicker with the brewery’s latest Vintage Ale (8.5%), a strong and fruity beer.
St Austell, Mena Dhu, 4.5%
Cornish stout anyone? Like many other family-owned breweries, St Austell started life in the 19th century but this longevity hasn’t stopped them from continuing to bring out new and vividly-flavoured beers. Launched at the end of November, Mena Dhu is as dark as a moonless night and would certainly give a certain Hibernian stout a run for its money. There is chocolate, milky coffee and vanilla on the nose while it has a smooth and creamy mouth feel, with more chocolate and coffee, a soft roastiness and gentle bitter finish.
Six˚ North, Tripel, 9%
Based north of Aberdeen in the town of Stonehaven, Six˚ North produces a variety of intriguing beers with a strong Belgian influence. This new release is, as the name suggests, a Tripel, the type of beer that is popular with both Trappist breweries and their secular counterparts in Belgium. Gold in colour, it has a distinctive pear-like note on the nose accompanied with a suggestion of ripe peach skin. On the palate it’s luscious and lustrous with hints of bananas and ripe peach, plus a trace of pepperiness in the background; the finish is honeyed and bittersweet. Close your eyes and you could be in Flanders.
Thornbridge, KMF Pale Ale, 4.8%
Celebrate the dawn of 2016 in style with a new beer from Thornbridge, which is a boisterous pale ale with plenty of grapefruit and mandarin notes on the nose, while the palate chimes with a peal of tropical fruit before finishing dry and bittersweet. The initials stand for Kendal Mountain Festival, for which this beer was first brewed in November 2015, and it was such a success that it will be going on general release. The brewery is donating a certain amount from the sale of each bottle to the Cumbrian Flood Relief.
Vocation Brewery, Life & Death, 6.5%
Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire is home to this new brewery whose beers are swiftly attracting a following amongst connoisseurs. Life & Death is its recently launched American-style India Pale Ale, a beer the colour of bruised gold that positively pulsates with vibrant hop character on both the nose and palate. Think a bowl of ripe tropical fruit, including mangoes, papaya and passion fruit, alongside a spike of grapefruit with a full-bodied mouth feel and big bitter finish and you’re there. Delicious.