Matthew Curtis's No More Heroes XIII – Früh Kölsch

Recently, after a particularly strenuous day, I headed in to Hop Burns & Black for a couple of beers, as you do. Choosing one beer when presented with a breadth of quality as in a shop such as this can be tough – but not on this occasion. I was hypnotised, almost instantly, by the red and white spirals that wrap themselves around a can of Früh Kölsch.

Kölsch as a beer style is often criminally overlooked, for me at least. I’m pleased to see that UK brewers such as Thornbridge and Orbit are having a crack at producing their own interpretations of the style though.

I love the concept of Kölsch: a light bodied beer, fermented like an ale but then conditioned as a lager. It’s perhaps closer to the latter in terms of body and flavour, but something about the fermentation method allows the yeast to come to the fore. Subtle notes of red berries and stone fruit mixed with crushed grain and just the faintest hint of bitterness are the hallmarks of a good Kölsch.

The style originates from the German city of Cologne and there’s probably no place better to enjoy a Kölsch than at its origin point. It’s a style that’s also found a lot of favour in the US, being a staple on the taps at pretty much any brewpub you decide to rock up to. A lot of these never quite hits the mark like a Kölsch really can, though. I think Früh is perhaps my favourite example of the style, wherever I happen to find it – be it at a street side Cologne bar, or in the fridge at my local bottle shop.

With this year being the 500th anniversary of the Reinheitsgebot – the German beer purity law of 1516 - there will surely be a lot of discussion centered around the German classics. There’ll also be a chance to dwell on the beers that exist as a direct result of this law, such as this superb Kölsch. However in my opinion these beers were never meant to be dwelled upon, so I’d just get on with drinking it.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog, Total Ales, and Good Beer Hunting, and on Twitter @totalcurtis. 

Matthew Curtis's No More Heroes XII – Signature Brew Roadie Session IPA

Way back before I started to write about beer I used to play guitar in a pretty cool band called Brontosaurus Chorus. It was a lot of fun, we were even quite good, and you can still listen to our recorded efforts on Spotify.

The best part about being in a band was playing live. For 30 minutes you could transport yourself away from the stage in the dingy venue you were playing, to a world of fuzzy guitar solos and cavernous reverb. The worst part was carrying your heavy gear to every gig and every rehearsal. Schlepping a guitar, amp and a bag full of pedals on London’s public transport system is a long way from the fun of actually playing them.

My guitar rarely leaves the house these days, but my backpack is often clinking with the sound of several beer bottles. The sudden increase in the popularity of the beer can has been a boon. In fact I often find myself choosing cans simply because I can fit more in my bag and they’re a hell of a lot lighter.

Signature Brew, who brew in Leyton, North-East London, are one of the latest breweries to switch their packaging over to cans. The aptly named Roadie is the perfect beer for this format: a session IPA light on alcohol but packed with flavour. What stood out for me about this beer is that, unlike many session IPAs, it isn’t dominated by bitter, unbalanced, citrus flavours. There’s plenty of sweetness that reminds me of the barley sugar sweets I used to suck as a kid. This is followed by plenty of the pithy lemon and grapefruit notes you usually find in a beer like this but the sweetness smooths out the peaks, making this a really enjoyable beer.

Cans are like the beer drinker's own personal roadie, making getting them from place to place that much easier. Next time you find yourself crushing a can of beer at a gig, spare a thought for the poor sods on stage that have to carry all their gear home later on.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog, Total Ales, and Good Beer Hunting, and on Twitter @totalcurtis. 

Matthew Curtis's No More Heroes XI – Northern Monk New World IPA

Last week saw the ingeniously named US beer-rating site RateBeer hand out its annual awards. Finally, all of the brewers who had spent the last 12 months complaining about the bad reviews their beer had received on the site were able to finally sing its praises as they collected their medals at the ceremony.

Now don’t get me wrong, RateBeer can be a useful resource, especially if you’re visiting an area for the first time, and you want to know some of the best places to grab a decent beer. However, despite a select few young breweries receiving a collective pat on the back at the awards, much of the opinion on the site seems to be heavily weighted by the opinions of a handful of super users. It only takes one or two of this elite inner sanctum to go crazy about a release to send hundreds upon hundreds of traders ape-shit with ISO (In Search Of) requests on trading forums. Yes, these things actually exist.

This got me thinking: why do some breweries get all this praise when others don’t, despite brewing beer that’s equally as accomplished? Hyperbole can be a brewery's best friend or its worst enemy – and it might cause the casual enthusiast to miss out on some fantastic beer.

One beer I came back to recently was Northern Monk’s New World IPA. It was a decent beer to start with, but with time, research and effort it’s grown into a truly magnificent product. It’s redolent with notes of pine, mango, lemon juice and has that West Coast sweet malt thing going on that helps you effortlessly ride the wave of bitterness that follows. It’s from what I perceive to be a cool brewery, who've got a cool taproom just outside Leeds city centre, and it’s in a cool 330ml can. I can’t for the life of me figure out why people aren’t losing their heads over this beer. So maybe it’s time you did.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog, Total Ales, and Good Beer Hunting, and on Twitter @totalcurtis. 

Matthew Curtis's No More Heroes X – BrewDog Albino Squid Assassin

Before we begin I want to do a little exercise. Gather all of your thoughts about BrewDog. Collect every last iota of opinion you hold for or against the Scottish brewer. Regardless of whether this newly formed mass of consciousness is mostly fanaticism, ambivalence or spite, I want you to place it in a box, seal it and push it to one side.

All done? Good. Finally, take a few deep, audible breaths, sit back and relax. Now you can concentrate on enjoying BrewDog for what they’re best at: making beer.

I’d imagine that you’re already familiar with BrewDog’s core range of beers. After all, its flagship, Punk IPA, sits resplendent on supermarket shelves across the length and breadth of this fair land.

As solid as BrewDog’s core range of beers is, the real highlights for me recently have been its special releases. Born To Die, a limited release double IPA was my beer of the year and Black Eyed King Imp was one of the best barrel aged imperial stouts I’ve seen come out of a UK brewery. Its latest release; a rye IPA ridiculously named Albino Squid Assassin easily ranks among them.

Squiddie, as I’ve affectionately begun to refer to it, pours a satisfyingly russet shade of red with a rocky off-white head. It absolutely stinks of American hops with tangerine, pink grapefruit and candyfloss aromas fighting for your attention. Squiddie is loaded with citrus flavours that are balanced out with a sweet, white pepper spiciness and just the right amount of sweetness to stop it from becoming cloying. It’s one of the most accomplished beers BrewDog have produced to date.

It doesn’t even look like a BrewDog beer thanks to some great design from artist Joe Wilson that adorns the can. I still have no idea why it’s called Albino Squid Assassin though.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog, Total Ales, and Good Beer Hunting, and on Twitter @totalcurtis. 

Matthew Curtis's No More Heroes IX – Camden Town Brewery Beer 2015

By now it’s likely you’ve heard the news that last week Camden Town Brewery sold to AB-InBev, the largest drinks company in the world, who produce beers such as Stella Artois and Budweiser.

As a local to the brewery and a supporter of small, independent producers, I struggled to hide my disappointment at the news. I collected a few of my thoughts about the takeover on my own blog here. But despite my disappointment, it’s important to remember that Camden still produces some of the best beers in the country and that they’re spearheading a lager revolution in the UK.

Lager is the most popular style of beer in the world, accounting for about 70% of all beer consumed across the globe. With its Unfiltered Hells, Pils and India Hells Lager, Camden are producing three of the most interesting and flavourful riffs on the lager style you’ll find. It’s important to remember that the change in ownership won’t instantly reduce the quality of the beers fermenting away under the arches at its Kentish Town brewery.

Camden also do a lot more experimentation than people realise, which includes a small yet tasteful barrel ageing program that’s been running for a couple of years. The most recent release from this stable is Beer 2015, the third in a series of beers produced to mark the end of the year.

Beer 2015 is a strong lager that’s been aged in second fill whisky, tequila and rum barrels. As these barrels have already been used to age beer in before the flavours absorbed by the beer are less intense but are by no means less complex. What you’ll find is a slightly sweet beer with a flavour reminiscent of an Oloroso sherry. This is followed by a sharp, tannic bite, almost like black tea, which is rounded out with just a hint of oak as the finish dies.

It’s a special beer, and shows what Camden is capable of producing. Beers in big bottles like this are ideal for sharing on New Year's Eve, I know I’ll be cracking one open. Here’s a happy new year from me, and a toast to all the great beer yet to be discovered in 2016.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog, Total Ales, and Good Beer Hunting, and on Twitter @totalcurtis. 

Matthew Curtis's No More Heroes VIII – Delirium Christmas

Before we start this review, I’d like you to humour me a little. Please point your browser at your preferred music streaming service and start playing Sir Paul McCartney’s Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time. Let those bells ring out and that seasonally atonal synth part wash over you, while I tell you all about a little beer called Delirium Christmas.

The mood is right

I love Christmas - it’s one of the best times of the year to be a beer drinker. I don’t, however, enjoy the majority of seasonally inspired beers that flood the market over the holidays. I struggle with Christmas beer, be it a rebranded best bitter or an over-herbed and spiced atrocity against the alcoholic beverage industry. However, some breweries get it just right, and most of them are Belgian.

The spirit’s up

Brouwerij Huyghe’s Delirium Tremens is in itself one of the most underrated beers in the world. Its relatively low cost and the ease at which it is acquired often gets it associated, incorrectly so, with some of the super-strength beers at the lower end of the market.

We’re here tonight

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Delirium has a delicately sweet richness that’s complemented with a spicy, bone-dry finish. It’s near perfect on it’s own but when paired with a hard, nutty cheese such as Lincolnshire Poacher, it really comes into its own.

And that’s enough

Delirium Christmas seems to amplify almost every quality of its year-round brethren. It pours a beautiful, seasonally appropriate shade of chestnut and these darker malts add flavours of stewed figs and plums to the beer. It’s not quite as dry as the regular Delirium but it has that same, slightly spicy, muted bitter note that’s unmistakable in Huyghe’s range of beers.

Simply having a wonderful Christmas time

Delirium Christmas is the kind of indulgent, satisfying beer that’s perfect for this time of year. It’ll go as well with your cheese board as it will with your Christmas pud. It’s an ideal beer to turn to towards the back end of Christmas day, right before the port comes out. And it’s got a pink elephant, alternately ice skating or on a sled [wearing a Santa hat - Ed], on the label, so everyone’s a winner. There’s no doubt that even Macca himself would approve.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog, Total Ales, and Good Beer Hunting, and on Twitter @totalcurtis. 

Matthew Curtis's No More Heroes VII – Redchurch Hoxton Stout

Dark beer has had me vexed recently. Or rather, the lack of dark beer I’ve seen on tap in my favourite bars has. I’m not just talking about stouts either. I’m witnessing a complete lack of stouts, dunkelweizens, doppelbocks, brown ales and extra special bitters. The pale and the hoppy seem to be dominating beer menus wherever I go.

Not that this is a huge problem, I like pale and hoppy beer an awful lot but I like a wide breadth of choice even more. What’s perplexing is that right now brewers are knocking out more variations of styles than ever before, so why is there this lack of stouts? Well it’s simple, we’re just not drinking enough of them and pubs don’t like to stock beer that doesn't sell quickly. So I implore you, the drinker, to rediscover great dark beer this winter.

One of my very favourite stouts is being brewed right here in London by Bethnal Green’s Redchurch Brewery. Of course you might know Redchurch better for their superb Great Eastern IPA or perhaps Paradise Pale Ale. You might even know them for their innovative sour beers. Truth is their stouts, such as their flagship Hoxton Stout, blow these beers out of the water.

Hoxton Stout walks the line between being rich and satisfying to being uncomplicated and refreshing. This is what makes it a great stout. You can sit and sip at this beer, dwelling on the dark chocolate and heavily roasted coffee notes before marvelling at the blast of Simcoe hops in the finish. Or you can simply knock back a pint and let it chase the winter out of your system. We desperately need to see more stouts of this quality pouring in our pubs, so we’d better drink as much as possible in order to convince our landlords that it’s worth it.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog, Total Ales, and Good Beer Hunting, and on Twitter@totalcurtis. 

Matthew Curtis's No More Heroes VI – Founders Centennial IPA

Have you ever stopped to think about how brilliant it is that we can easily pick some of the best North American craft beer in the world at our local bottle shop? Stop what you’re doing and think about it now. Yes, now. Really think about it. Think about how some of the best beer in the world is travelling 5,000 miles to sit on a shelf five minutes from your house, all because someone in America thought you might enjoy it and buy some of their beer.

It’s easy to take this for granted and it’s all too simple to say that we live in a golden age of beer consumption because to be honest, we really do. It’s not perfect, far from it and it probably never will be – but it’s only going to get better. The most important thing to do is to appreciate what’s right in front of us, right now. It’s all too easy to try something new as often as possible but sometimes it’s better to find a really tasty beer and latch on to it for a while.

American IPA is my favourite style of beer and Founders Centennial IPA is surely one of the most dependable. It’s as bright as a recently buffed copper kettle, with mellow aromas of citrus and French toast. To taste Centennial is like receiving a sliced lemon, drizzled in golden syrup and dipped in sugar-coated toasted barley, directly to the face. Unlike a lot of really modern IPA, Centennial stays true to its US roots with that big, chunky, malt flavour keeping those biting citrus notes in check. It’s great, should never be taken for granted and enjoyed as often as possible. Just stop what you’re doing for a moment and think about it.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog, Total Ales, and Good Beer Hunting, and on Twitter@totalcurtis. 

Matthew Curtis's No More Heroes V – Renaissance Stonecutter

Last week we held our inaugural No More Heroes live tasting and it was a real hoot. We worked our way through some fantastic yet criminally underrated beers, some which we’ve already featured here, and raised more than £500 for Mind the mental health charity. In the end it wasn’t just about raising the money or flipping the bird at big beer, it was about the coming together of people in a great space and enjoying some great beers.

One of the surprises on the night came in the form of a scotch ale all the way from New Zealand. It would be criminal to host a beer tasting at Hop Burns & Black without ripping into some Kiwi beer and we felt that Marlborough’s Renaissance Brewing Company deserved to be put in the spotlight. Renaissance make some great beer but they’re often sidelined over here in favour of some of the louder, brasher New Zealand breweries. Their fresh hop beers such as Black the RIPA Black Rye IPA and Grandmaster Fresh Double IPA are up there with the very best examples of these styles.

At No More Heroes we turned our attention to Renaissance's flagship beer, Stonecutter, a scotch ale inspired by the dark, sweet beers that emerged from Edinburgh in the 18th century. Its blend of nine malts gives the beer a flavour reminiscent of the highland toffee bars you could buy for ten pence from the school tuck shop. There’s a raisin-like sweetness in there too and a hint of white pepper in the drying finish.

Of all the beers we tasted on the night, this one surprised people the most. Not because it was remarkably different but because our continued enthusiasm for hops has made us forget just how good a rich, malt-focused beer such as Stonecutter can be.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog, Total Ales, and Good Beer Hunting, and on Twitter@totalcurtis. Thanks too to Claire Bullen for her great photography on the night (of which the below shot is one).

No More Heroes: drinking beer for mental health

Last night we got the chance to celebrate the craft beer world's underrated heroes with a fantastic event at ours hosted by beer writer Matthew Curtis of Total Ales.  

This event came about when both Matt and HB&B were approached by an agency offering us cash or a donation to a charity of our choice to tell them all we knew about craft beer. As it transpired, the agency was working for a multinational brewing corporation, so naturally we both said no - but we didn't want a charity to miss out on getting some much-needed funds, so No More Heroes: A Tutored Tasting of Beer's Great Unloved was born.

With 100% of the ticket sales going to the wonderful mental health charity Mind UK, as well as donations sourced via our JustGiving page, we've managed to raise more than £400 for Mind (much more than what the agency would have handed over!).

If you couldn't make it last night, here's the beer list you missed - wonderful beers matched with some of our favourite punk and post-punk tunes, and even some suggested spicy food matches to try out at home... Keep an eye out on Matt's blog too, where we're sure he'll do an even better round-up soon.

Augustiner Lagerbier Hell, 5.2%
Music Match: The Stranglers – No More Heroes
Spicy Food Match: Chicken Jalfrezi
To be fair, this isn't an unsung hero in our shop any more. We've turned so many people on to the joy of this classic Munich lager that it's always in our Top 10 best-selling beers. It's the lager or people who think they don't like lager. Clean, crisp, bready perfection, and a perfect partner for curry. Here's what Matt wrote about it for us in September.

Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro, 6&
Music Match: Modern English – I Melt With You
Spicy Food Match: Beef Chilli Con Carne
Possibly the best-loved beer of the night, judging by the number of takeaways sold afterwards. A beautiful milk stout that's so smooth and creamy as to be almost 'melty', says Matt - which is why he chose Modern English's killer tune to go alongside. A great match with chilli too - we'd drink it with AND throw it in the pot too.

Beavertown 8 Ball Rye IPA, 6.2%
Music Match: Magazine – Shot By Both Sides
Spicy Food Match: Pepperoni & Jalapeño Pizza
Matt says, "The fact that Gamma Ray and, to a lesser extent, Neck Oil, steals all of 8 Ball's limelight is criminal." Shot by both sides, you might say... "It might not have the in-your-face hop punch of its more popular cousin but it’s a wonderful beer all the same." We couldn't agree more. A Beavertown gem that deserves to be duly celebrated.

Boon Kriek Mariage Parfait, 8%
Music Match: The Runaways – Cherry Bomb
Spicy Food Match: Dark Chocolate with Chilli
A glorious sour from Belgium's much underrated Boon brewery (pronounced Burn apparently - who knew?). Here's Matt's marvellous account of discovering Belgian lambics and geuzes (and his visit to Boon) for Good Beer Hunting, Naturally we paired this with The Runaways. Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-CHERRY BOMB!

Renaissance Stone Cutter Scotch Ale, 7%
Music Match: Th’ Dudes, Bliss
Spicy Food Match: Steak & Cheese pie or a Pig & Hay scotch egg smothered in hot sauce
Renaissance is a terrific brewery from Marlborough, New Zealand, who don't tend to get the attention they deserve over here, overshadowed as they are by their more out-there NZ Beer Collective colleagues such as Yeastie Boys. However they're making some amazing brews, such as their fresh hop monsters Grandmaster Fresh Hop MPA and Black the RIPA. Stone Cutter is their flagship beer, a Scotch Ale that gets better and better with age. Matt recommends drinking it with that bastion of Kiwi cuisine, a steak and cheese pie. And we got to introduce London drinkers to the NZ beer-swilling student anthem that is Th' Dudes' Bliss!

New Belgium Le Terroir 2015
Music Match: Plastic Bertrand – Ca Plane Pour Moi
Spicy Food Match: Chicken Tinga Tacos
Going out with a bang, our final beer of the night had been muled back from the US by Matt himself. The latest in the Lips of Faith series, Le Terroir 2015 is a delectable sour dry-hopped with Galaxy hops from New Belgium, a brewery we've been dying to try for the longest time. Here's Matt's account of visiting New Belgium. We paired it with Belgian's finest musical export, Plastic Bertrand, mais oui!

Matthew Curtis's No More Heroes IV – Chorlton Brewing Co. Farmhouse IPA

Chorlton Farmhouse IPA.jpg

When I think of Manchester, I first think of the fantastic music that the city has spawned. It’s responsible for seminal bands such as Joy Division, The Smiths and perhaps one of my all time favourites, The Chameleons. You might be thinking: “Who the hell are The Chameleons?” and rightly so – they never quite broke through to the mainstream but if you listen to tracks such as ‘Don’t Fall’, ‘In Shreds’ and ‘Tears’ you’ll struggle to understand why.

Much like the early 80s, the last 18 months has seen an explosion of innovative new breweries, such as Cloudwater and Track Brewing Co, emerge onto the Manchester scene. One of these breweries, perhaps one that hasn’t quite been getting the attention it deserves, is Chorlton Brewing Co – and quite interestingly it’s a brewery that is concentrating almost exclusively on sour beers.

They might not be to everyone’s taste but sour beers are rapidly gaining popularity, encouraging a whole new wave of palates to discover great beer. Chorlton produce a range of sour beers, from dry-hopped kettle sours such as its Yakima Sour, to the beer I have in front of me now, Farmhouse IPA.

This isn’t an IPA as you know it, in fact it’s a combination of two beers that have been blended together or ‘vatted’ to produce the finished product. In this case it’s a blend of an IPA that has been aged with the wild yeast Brettanomyces (Brett) and another that has been fermented with saison yeast.

Farmhouse IPA absolutely honks with the characteristic cedarwood and barnyard aromas that typifies a beer fermented with Brett. There’s also a hint of lemon juice on the nose. On the palate there’s a twisted combination of funk and resinous hops that somehow holds it together. The flavours are chaotic, but gloriously so.

It’s by no means a refined beer but then that’s not the point. Much like The Chameleons, it’s harder to get than what you’d consider mainstream but once you do get it, you simply can’t put it down.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog, Total Ales, and Good Beer Hunting, and on Twitter @totalcurtis. Matt also took the photo above. 

Matthew Curtis's No More Heroes III: Beavertown 8 Ball Rye IPA

I don’t usually pay much attention to the A-boards that sit on pavements outside pubs. Those that ceaselessly try to out pun each other with increasingly inane ‘banter’. Recently though, one managed to catch my attention – it simply said ‘GAMMA RAY BACK IN STOCK.’

I thought this was quite remarkable for a number of reasons. Firstly, that this quite ordinary pub was stocking what I believe to be one of the best beers being brewed in the country right now. It makes sense but it was surprising considering a few months ago they assumed that Doom Bar was haute couture. Secondly, because it demonstrated in real terms just how much craft beer is permeating into the mainstream, and that’s a wonderful thing.

I love Beavertown, I love how they’ve grown and adapted and evolved but I don’t want them to become known for one or two beers. There is so much more to these hard working, North London stalwarts that just glorious Gamma Ray.

Take 8 Ball, for example, their rye IPA. This beer is one of Beavertown founder Logan Plant’s original homebrew recipes. It oozes with chewy, caramel malts, snaps with bitter, pine resin and grapefruit hop nuances and bites with a snap of white pepper as it begs you to take another sip. This may sound like a great deal but in actual fact these wonderful flavours bind to form one cohesive whole.

The fact that Gamma Ray and, to a lesser extent, Neck Oil, steals all of 8 Ball's limelight is criminal. It might not have the in-your-face hop punch of its more popular cousin but it’s a wonderful beer all the same and its name deserves to be scrawled on pub A-boards as much as any other beer might.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog, Total Ales, and Good Beer Hunting, and on Twitter @totalcurtis.

Matthew Curtis's Unsung Heroes #2: Augustiner Lagerbier Hell

I don’t want to put a downer on your day but it’s time we faced facts – summer is almost over. Chin up, there’s no need to be glum. I know the deluge of the last few days probably has you reaching into the back of your cupboard for darker beers but I’m confident we can still squeeze out a few more warm days and nights before autumn sets in good and proper.

In order to sustain the Great British Summer for as long as possible, I implore you to drink lots of lager. Yes, lager. I’m not talking about the mass produced, adjunct-laden lager you used to drink when you went clubbing in the late 90s though. There’s a brilliant lager revolution happening all around us. More and more brewers are discovering the beauty in the subtlety of the world’s most popular beer style.

Although some of the most popular brewers in the UK and US are having a crack at imitating the best German Helles and Czech Pilsners around, it’s important to never forget the classics. One of my favourites is the indomitable Lagerbier Hell from Munich’s Augustiner-Bräu.

When you pour this straw-pale beer, make sure you give yourself at least an inch of foam at the top of your glass. This will allow the beer to release its grassy, lemon pith aroma. When you taste it there’s an initial note of freshly baked white bread, which is soon snapped away by a rasping, herbal bitterness.

For me, this beer encapsulates summer. In fact I’d suggest if it’s still pouring with rain outside, that you pour yourself one of these, close your eyes and imagine you’re sat in a sun-drenched Bavarian beer garden, soaking up the last of the summer sun.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog, Total Ales, and Good Beer Hunting, and on Twitter @totalcurtis.

Matthew Curtis's Unsung Heroes - #1: Fourpure Amber Ale

It’s easy to get cut adrift in a constantly ebbing and flowing sea of ever changing pale ales and IPA. To make things even more confusing, a fashionable newcomer, session IPA, has been added to the mix.

Bermondsey’s Fourpure are no different - not content with already knocking out a stunningly juicy pale as well as a rich, well-defined IPA, they also produce a zingy, bitter and low in alcohol session IPA. Shame on them for giving us such a wonderful choice in hop forward beers.

The other problem I have with Fourpure’s range of pale ales and IPA, apart from them being so very delicious, is that they have a tendency to overshadow one of my favourite beers being produced in London right now. Amber ale is a style that doesn’t get enough attention and Fourpure’s Amber is no different. Sure it might not be as exciting as the latest triple IPA or yuzu and lime Berliner Weisse but it’s solid, dependable and tasty.

With its gentle, bready malt character and light snap of Willamette hops, Fourpure Amber is barely trying to get your attention. It’s inspired by New Belgium’s ubiquitous Fat Tire, the Colorado amber ale that helped teach a nation how to love Craft Beer.

If you ask a Colorado native about Fat Tire they’ll likely turn their nose up at you before sinking back into a pint of IPA. But find them a few hours later at the end of a heavy session and you can guarantee they’ll be sipping Fat Tire until it’s time to go home. Fourpure Amber has a similar quality, it’s a beer for any time that requires little thought to enjoy and always manages to satisfy.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog, Total Ales, and Good Beer Hunting, and on Twitter @totalcurtis.