HB&B Top Three: Lager, lager, lager

So here we are, in the height of our Great British Summer and how is everyone quenching their thirsts? Besides the abundance of funky, fruity sours flying off our shelves, we’ve never before had quite so many excellent lagers to choose from. From your classic Bavarian Helles to NZ pilsners, you can wave goodbye to watery, adjunct lagers… Here are our top three picks.

Orbit Nico Koln-style Lager 4.8%
Just off the Walworth Road in SE London, Orbit started out in 2014 and Nico, their modern take on the traditional beers of Cologne, is a permanent fixture on our shelves. It straddles a lager/ale definition because, although it undergoes the lagering process, it’s made with top-fermenting ale yeast, making this a light and crisp beer with more assertive aroma and robust taste than you might expect.

Thornbridge Lukas Helles Lager 4.2%
We were alerted to the greatness of this beer by The Kernel’s brew team. When they come to ours for post-work drinks, they usually bypass the big hoppy brews and head straight for a cold lager. Lukas, brewed in Derbyshire, is a fantastic example of a traditional Helles made outside of Germany. It’s subtly full-bodied, bready and malty, whilst being effervescently light and absolutely smashable on a sunny day, a rainy day or any given day.

Augustiner Lagerbier Hell 5.2%
Although no longer staffed by the Augustine monks that gave the brewery its name in the 14th Century, Augustiner Brau Munchen continues the tradition of making classically German beer. With its mild, malty sweetness and crisp, grassy flavour, this brilliantly clear and refreshing beer might just be one of the best lagers in the world…

As selected by HB&B Assistant Manager Catherine Lockhart

The Beer Lover's Table: Orbit Nico Köln-Style Lager and Spiced Chinese Dumplings

Chinese dumplings and lager: they go together like milk and cookies. Preferably a lager that’s effervescent, not too boozy, with a finishing bite of bitterness: just the thing to cut through the dumplings’ oiliness, and to counterbalance all that salt. And while your local Chinese restaurant’s go-to might be Tsingtao, you can do one better with something carefully crafted and made a little closer to home. Orbit Nico, for instance, which washes down these dumplings like a dream.

Technically, this beer might not be the best illustration of lager’s Chinese food affinity. Described by the brewery as a “Köln-style lager” – it can’t call itself a Kölsch, thanks to the style’s geographical indication – this funny hybrid of a brew straddles the lager-ale divide. While it undergoes a period of cold storage that typifies lager production, it’s made with top-fermenting ale yeast.

Stylistic quibbles aside: what you need to know is that lager-like Orbit Nico is mighty drinkable, with a nice twang of lemon, a touch of grassiness, and a pleasingly dry finish. Time to get cooking.

I know what you’re thinking: homemade dumplings? Nah, that’s what takeaway’s for. But bear with me here: making these is no more complicated than turning out a batch of said cookies. The filling, a fragrant mixture of lamb, pork, soy sauce, ginger, and a generous amount of spices, takes only minutes to prep. And thanks to the totally legit option of pre-made dumpling skins – you might also find these sold at Asian grocery stores as “wonton wrappers” or “gyoza wrappers” – a few quick folds and you’ve got the perfect little meat parcel ready to go.

Pro-tip: you’ve made a whole batch, chuck ’em in the freezer and have dumplings and lager whenever you want them – no delivery fee required.

Spiced Chinese Dumplings
Yields 56 dumplings

250g minced lamb
250g minced pork
1 thumb-sized piece ginger, peeled and minced
2 bunches garlic chives or spring onions, finely chopped
2 large eggs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp Shaoxing Rice Wine
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
4 tsp soy sauce
5 tsp sesame oil
1 56-piece packet dumpling wrappers
To serve: additional soy sauce, Chinkiang black vinegar, Sriracha

To a large bowl, add the lamb and pork followed by the ginger, garlic chives, eggs, salt, sugar, rice wine, spices, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Mix until all ingredients are fully incorporated and the mixture is uniform. It should be fragrant and quite wet.

Before you fold your dumplings, prepare a small bowl of water and a clean cutting board or other work surface (and don’t forget to keep a good amount of kitchen roll nearby). Lay your first dumpling skin flat on the work surface and fill with roughly 1 ½–2 teaspoons of filling. It’s better to err on the side of less filling, as over-filling your dumplings may cause them to leak when cooking.

Wet your finger in the bowl of water and run around the circumference of the dumpling wrapper to moisten. Fold your dumpling in half so it’s a half-moon shape and lightly seal the seam. Now, beginning from one end, pinch and fold over so you make a small pleat. Continue until the entire edge of the dumpling is pleated, which ensures that it is well sealed (and looks pretty, besides). Continue until all your dumplings have been made.

While you could boil or steam your dumplings, my favourite cooking method is a combination of pan frying and steaming, which makes for juicy insides and a nicely crisp, browned bottom. In a small, non-stick frying pan (the non-stick part is important here!) add approximately 1 tablespoon of sesame oil and a wee splash of vegetable oil. Heat until oil mixture is hot. Add dumplings (8 is a good number for one portion) and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until bottoms have browned.

Now, pour in just enough water to come roughly halfway up the sides of the dumplings. Cover and cook for approximately five minutes, until dumplings have swelled and are tender. Remove the lid and, if water remains, swirl the pan gently until it evaporates. I like to leave the dumplings in the pan with the residual oil for an extra minute or two here, so their bottoms get crisped up again.

To serve, prepare a small dish of one part soy sauce to one part Chinkiang black vinegar for dumpling dunking. And don’t forget the Sriracha!

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and all-around lover of tasty things. When she's not cracking open a cold one, she's probably cooking up roasted lamb with hummus. Or chicken laksa. Or pumpkin bread. You can follow her at @clairembullen.

Matthew Curtis's No More Heroes XV – Orbit Beers Neu

“You are astronomical fans of alcohol – so welcome in” – British Sea Power, Waving Flags

It’s a tough old gig being a beer geek. First they ram it down our collective throats that there’s a hop shortage. Then a plethora of the UK’s best breweries simultaneously release a set of increasingly rambunctious double IPAs. On top of this, the UK’s best seem to be banging out consistently delicious pale ales with increasing regularity. Nightmare.

While it’s true that a lot of smaller breweries are struggling to get hold of the specific hops they want to use in their beers, consumers are having a whale of a time, with more choice than ever. That choice doesn’t always need to be an intensely perfumed, Yakima hop infused beverage though. An increasing number of UK brewers are creating riffs on classic German styles such as Kölsch, Berliner Weisse, and my current personal favourite; Altbier.

Orbit Beers, based near Kennington in South London, have a place close to my heart. Like me (and, indeed, Hop Burns & Black), their passion for beer is equalled by their passion for music – and this shines through in their branding. Their Altbier, Neu, even takes its name from the German krautrock band of the same name who, just like Altbier, emerged from the town of Düsseldorf.

Neu pours a gratifying shade of burnished copper, not unlike a classic British best bitter. Its similarities between the UK’s national beverage don’t end there either. The flavour of this beer is centered around the malt, there’s a little chewy toffee, hints of brown sugar and just a little bit of hazelnut. After this comes the march of spicy, herbal German hops, which slaps the sweetness back like the rap of a snare drum on an 80’s post punk record. The finish is dry and satisfyingly bitter, it’s one of those beers that you just don’t want to stop drinking.

You could even drink one this Saturday and celebrate/commiserate the 500th anniversary of Germany’s beer purity law, the Reinheitsgebot. This law shaped the evolution of Germany’s beer culture much like CAMRA shaped our own here in the UK, except that its 10 times older.

Music Pairing: 
Increase your enjoyment of this beer by playing British Sea Power’s anthemic Waving Flags from their 2008 long player Do You Like Rock Music? It’s basically the modern indie rock equivalent of a Bavarian drinking song. Lederhosen optional.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog, Total Ales, and Good Beer Hunting, and on Twitter @totalcurtis. And you can get Orbit Neu delivered to your door via our new online shop.

Big Beery Advent Calendar - Beer 6: Orbit Nico Koln Style Lager, 4.8% (SE London)

Each night at 8pm, we'll post a blog about the day's hand-picked beer in our Big Beery Advent Calendar - why we love the brewery, why we've chosen the beer, why we think you'll love it too. Feel free to comment below or have your say on Twitter.

Orbit says: "Our take on the traditional beers of Cologne. Light, crisp and fragrant."

We say: Lager is often the unloved sibling of the beer world thanks to the indignities heaped upon it by big brewing over the years, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Breweries such as Orbit are doing amazing things to restore lager’s good name. This is a fantastic tribute to the traditional Kolsch style - and if we needed further proof of its greatness, along with Augustiner Lagerbier Hells, this is the go-to beer the Kernel and Partizan brewing team drink when they visit the shop. Praise doesn't come higher than that.

New stuff in store, 3 December

It's December, so it's officially approved to use the C-word. It's OK to mention Christmas too. Here's what's new and coming at you this week.


Joining Brewdog Hoppy Christmas IPA, Weird Beard Black Christmas Cranberry Stout, Struisse Tjeeses Reserva 2013 and Mikkeller Hoppy Lovin' Xmas in the festive line-up, we have:

  • Camden Beer 2015 - a malty bock lager aged in bourbon, tequila, rum and cognac barrels. Festivity in a bottle.
  • Mikkeller Santa's Little Helper - a Belgian strong dark ale aged in tequila barrels. That's the Christmas spirit!
  • Mikkeller Fra Til Via - a porter with Christmas spices. Handily includes a gift tag on the label for gift giving made easy.
  • Mikkeller Nelson Sauvignon. A 750ml sharer that's been fermented with champagne yeast, brettanomyces and enzymes, then aged in Chardonnay white wine casks. One to pop for the New Year's celebrations? Regardless, you need this in your life. 
  • Pressure Drop India Rubber Ball - the juicy banger to end all juicy bangers, crammed full of Citra hops and clementines. We are ridiculously in love with this beer and we're not afraid to shout it from the rooftops.


  • Two new beers from the glorious Buxton Brewery that we're beyond excited about. Trolltunga Gooseberry Sour IPA is everything you want from an autumnal sour - delightfully tart - and The Living End Imperial Stout is probably the best bourbon-aged stout you'll drink all year.
  • Two new big 750ml sharers from Wild Beer. The Blend Winter 2015 Beyond Modus II is a limited edition special release based around their flagship Modus Operandi sour, blended with other barrel-aged beers from their library. Try it against the Summer Blend for an study in compare and contrast. Squashed Grapes is the beer that had Glenn blathering on for days after trying (and loving) it at Taste of London. It pretty much does what it says on the tin - it's like red and white grapes got funky. Exquisite.
  • Two new darks from our South Eastern friends Fourpure and Orbit - Fourpure's Morning Star Vanilla Porter is a luxurious chocolate number fermented with French oak chips and matured with whole Madagascan Vanilla beans. And Orbit's Seven Double Stout makes its return for 2015 - we'll be launching it at the shop on Friday, where you'll be able to try it against last year's Seven which we cunningly aged for the past year because we loved it so much.
  • And finally some returns. Magic Rock cans! Cannonball, High Wire Grapefruit, Salty Kiss - come get some. And the always popular Marble Manchester Bitter is back. Happy days.

New stuff in store: 20 May

Somebody say MOTHERLODE? Hold on to your hats, beer lovers - this week is a veritable gold rush of new and exciting brews. (They're being delivered today and tomorrow, so all should be on shelf by end of play Thursday unless something goes horribly wrong.) 

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin. 

  • On the South-East side of things, we've re-upped in time for the Bank Holiday on all your favourites, as well as recent additions from Brew By Numbers (their White IPA has all the beer geeks talking), Kernel (their Black IPA = likewise), a brand new Single Hop Citra from Hop Stuff, Orbit's ever-popular Nico Koln-style lager in cans, Weird Beard's Little Things That Kill, plus the entire One Mile End range is back on shelf, spanking fresh from the brewery.

  • Looking further afield to the rest of the UK, good tings agarwn here too:

    • Three new barrel-aged beauties from Siren Craft Brew - BA Day Dream, Siren's Mikkeller collab, an imperial white stout aged in bourbon barrels; BA Shattered Dream, an imperial stout brewed with coffee, vanilla and cocoa nibs aged in banyuls and bourbon barrels; and Long Forgotten Journey, a golden barley wine aged in Grand Marnier barrels for more than two years with added orange peel. Never say we're not good to you. Never. 

    • You loved the beers from new Manchester brewery Cloudwater so much that we simply had to get more. We've got their IPA in bottles, with their Session IPA set to hit flagon-fill soon. (See what else we've got coming up on flagon-fill here.)

    • Our love for Tom Oliver's miraculous way with cider knows no bounds - we've been gorging ourselves on samples of his Fine Dry Perry over the past couple of weeks and now we're finally sharing it with you. Think you don't like pear cider? Think again. We'd pick this 750ml beauty over most champagnes any day of the week.

  • And, arguably saving the best for last, looking even further afield to Europe and across the pond it's time to get very excited indeed:

    • From the US, we've nabbed a case each of Founders' Blushing Monk, brewed with a ridiculous amount of raspberries and Belgian yeast, and the infamous KBS, an imperial breakfast stout brewed with massive amounts of coffee and chocolates, then cave-aged in oak bourbon barrels for an entire year. Are you visibly salivating in an embarrassing fashion yet? We are. 

    • We also welcome new beers from Prairie (their Funky Gold Amarillo, a mix of tropical fruit and sour Prairie funk); canned heaven from Ska (just how cool are the Rudie Session IPA cans?), the exotically hopped Two Roads Li'l Heaven, made with Azacca, Calypso, Mosaic and Equinox, and Evil Twin's gloriously tart Nomader Weisse; plus Yankee classics in the form of Laguitas IPA and Brooklyn Sorachi Ace in 355ml bottles!

    • From Denmark, we've got three newbies from To Ol - F*** Art, The Heathens are Coming saison, Friends With Benefits APA and another impressive addition to our already-impressive gluten free range, Reparationsbajer GF Pale Ale. That GF shelf will surely be groaning under its own weight soon... Plus we've loaded up on more Mikkeller cans and added the Spontandryhop Citra to the top shelf.

    • Finally, last but not least etc, from Belgium, we say goededag to Rodenbachs in big bottles - the Vintage and Caractère Rouge - and the much-vaunted Straffe Hendrik Wild.

Is that enough for you? If you can't see any of these on shelf, just ask - we too are wondering where the hell we're going to put all of it. See you soon.

New stuff in store: 9 April

A quick round-up of all the AMAZINGNESS that's new on shelf this week. It's been a bumper week.

  • The stunning sours from Chorlton Brewing Co have been such a hit that we've extended the range - you definitely need to check these bad boys out.
  • Orbit's new seasonal, Peel (named after one of HB&B's heroes, the late great John), also hits the shelves - a delicious session blonde.
  • Siren's delectable peaches and cream IPA Life Is A Peach sold out in record time both times we had it on flagon-fill - don't miss it in 330ml bottles.
  • Three very special new releases arrive from Buxton Brewery - one we weren't allowed to name until it launched on Friday 10th, the mighty Two Ton DIPA,, plus two exceptional barrel-aged numbers, Very Far Skyline, a Berlinerweisse aged in chardonnay barrels, and BA Dragon Tips, brewed with maple syrup, chilli and "dry-baconed" with actual bacon.
  • Plus - hold on to your hats - we've got Burning Sky on flagon-fill AND bottle. Burning Sky was named one of the world's top five breweries by Ratebeer this year and is always incredibly popular at HB&B.
  • Be quick... Also on flagon-fill - Magic Rock, Tempest and Beavertown Gamma Ray and Bloody Ell (!!!). We're also now doing cider fills - first up, the delightfully dry Oliver's Gold Rush #3.
  • Oh, did we mention new bottled beers from superstar breweries Stone and Mikkeller?

It's a wonderful time to be alive, people.

No hops, no backstage pass


On Wednesday 25th March, we kick off our Top of the Hops Brewer Showcase series. These are regular 'meet the brewer' events with an HB&B difference - bringing together two of our greatest loves, we're asking our favourite breweries to bring along not just their best brews but also their favourite brew-tunes.

The first brewery to accept the challenge is one of our favourite new breweries, SE17's own Orbit Beers, born from a love of travel, music and beer (sound familiar?).

Mario, Robert and Robbie will be bringing the fruits of their 'hi-fidelity brewing' to HB&B, soundtracked by their quintessential brewhouse tunes, including but not limited to the Velvet Underground & Nico, Neu!, Throwing Muses and more... You'll get to meet the brewers, taste their beers and hear their favourite music (which you'll also be able to buy on vintage vinyl).

It's free to come along and while you don't need to book, for this first event, if you book a place you'll also get 10% off purchases on the night. Reserve your spot here

Upcoming showcases feature Gipsy Hill Brewing (Wed 15th April), Anspach & Hobday (Wed 29th April) and Five Points Brewing (Wed 13th May), with many more to be announced.