Fundamentals #76 — Donzoko Big Foam Rustic Lager

Donzoko Fundamentals Hartlepool Lager Matthew Curtis

Foam is unquestionably one of the most joyous parts of drinking beer. Most European nations already know this.

Take the Dutch or the Belgians,­­­­­ for example: deftly serving up chalice after chalice laden with froth, before deftly whipping off the top with a swish of a knife. It’s elegance personified. In Germany and the Czech Republic, they know that all of the delicious flavour from noble hops is packed into a beer's head, so they make sure plenty of it is there for you to enjoy. The Czechs even take this to the extreme with the mlíko pour – a glass of nothing but gloriously bitter foam that is meant to be downed in one go for the ultimate refreshment experience.

In the UK, we often take foam for granted. I wince every time I hear someone ask, “Can you top that up please?” Proper, tightly packed, mousse-like foam is integral to a beer. It promotes aromatics, protects the remaining liquid from oxygen and let’s admit it, looks damn pretty sitting atop your golden pint.

One brewer that understands this is Reece Hugill, founder, brewer and, well, everything else at Hartlepool’s Donzoko Brewing. He’s been running his one-man outfit since 2017, with much of his focus on brewing excellent lagers. Northern Helles – Hugill’s adaptation of the traditional Munich lager style – quickly and deservedly won Donzoko a small army of adoring fans. But Hugill wanted more: namely, more foam. And so he created Big Foam.

This so-called “rustic” lager (named because it uses locally grown spelt along with German pilsner malt and has been naturally acidified with lactic acid to make it extra tasty) has been designed to present as much foam as possible, from your first sip until your last. Pouring with vigour into a long, straight glass (I prefer a Willi Becher, but you do you) will reward you with plenty of lively bubbles and a nose of lemon zest and white grape will present itself.

There’s so much classic lager quality in this beer: it’s clean, it’s crisp, it’s got bready malt character married to a snap of hops. But there’s also more to keep you interested – an almost Sauvignon Blanc-alike character amid the zesty click of fingers from Hallertau Blanc and Astra hop varieties. It’s a sensational beer, and a wonderful tribute to the temple of foam that worshippers of the holy froth will cherish.

Matthew Curtis is a writer, photographer and editor of Pellicle Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis and @pelliclemag. Pick up a can of Donzoko Big Foam now, or sign up to our All Killer No Filler subscription box, where you'll find incredible beers like this every month plus more great writing from Matt and our food writer Claire Bullen...


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