Summary: Reviews and tasting notes of 5 more superb beers that feature in my recommended beers of 2013. Numbers 25-21 come from the UK, Holland, the US and Belgium and there’s not a slack one among them.
This story began with a list of 60 beers and last time out I selected the first handful that made it into my top 30. Read on to find out what comes next in my recommended beers of 2013 – there’s a lot to sink your taste-buds into.
25. Great Yorkshire ‘Blackout’ [5%]
- Style: Porter.
- When and how: A late November draught sup in Pivni‘s, York, England.
- Colour: Abyss-dark with deep ruby-red highlights topped by a thin creamy beige-white head.
- Aroma: Cadbury’s hot chocolate anyone? Tons of dark fruit too, almost no coffee roast.
- Taste: Brimming with milk chocolate, basket-loads of dark hedgerow berries, mingled with a pinch of sweet nutty vanilla and cocoa, and a final faint Terry’s dark chocolate-orange topline.
- Body and finish: Low carbonation, rich and creamy medium body. Fruit-sweetness, silky smooth, mild bitterness and minimal roast. Did I mention the fruit enough?
Cropton Brewery opened shop in 1984 and re-branded themselves as Great Yorkshire Brewery 2 years ago with a new emphasis on kegged beers. ‘Blackout’ is another relaunch of sorts, originating from a recently found 1930’s recipe. My wife, Steph, and extremely patient ‘beer widow‘ companion, despises dark beers and for some strange reason, known only to her, asked to sample this – probably to add to an increasingly a long line of foul black beers she’d continue to hold at bay with the help of a barge pole! However, she took a first tiny sip, considered it … then took a half-mouthful, mused a bit more … and finally took a full-on gulp before asking me to buy a half pint on my next visit to the bar! Mildness won the day. ‘Blackout’ is fantastic.
24. De Molen ‘Hel & Verdoemenis Wild Turkey’ [13%]
- Style: Imperial stout.
- When and how: Bottled version, drank late one night in early October in the fabulous Kelk, Brugge, Belgium.
- Colour: Black with a tan head that disappeared quickly.
- Aroma: Intense bourbon, roasted malt, coffee and chocolate. On the fringes, old hops combined with alcoholic sweetness, a forest’s worth of aged wood and faint wisps of smoke.
- Taste: You’re having a whisky chaser IN your beer! Marvellous. Sweet bourbon, warming alcohol, big oak flavours, vanilla and nuts, slabs of rich, dark chocolate, strong, and slightly bitter coffee. Big and bold.
- Body and finish: Full-bodied, smooth with good lacing on the glass. Warming bourbon ebbs slowly in a long, lasting finish you don’t want to end … ever.
De Molen/The Mill brewery is beneath a 300 year old stone mill in the rural green heart of Holland. Ratebeer reviewers catapulted them into 12th spot of their 2013 world league table. Unsurprisingly, De Molen lead the way in their home country and throughout Europe and have created various noteworthy collab brews with:
- Alvinne [Belgium]
- Flying Dog [US]
- Gadds [UK] – ‘Fresh-Hopped Bohemian’ was my #9 of 2012.
- Haandbryggeriet [Norway]
- Hoppin’ Frog [US]
- Mikkeller [Denmark]
- Närke [Sweden]
- Revelation Cat [Italy]
- De Struise [Belgium]
The Boreft’s Beer Festival takes place on-site each year in late September and offers a carefully chosen range that keeps punters deliriously happy for 2 days. Don’t tell Steph but I think we might be going one year. Come on now, shhhhh! It’s a little secret between you and me, OK?
De Molen are not without humour too. California’s North Coast Brewing Company make ‘Old Rasputin’ and claimed De Molen’s ‘Rasputin’ infringed their trademark. De Molen responded and altered the name of the US export version to ‘Disputin’. Nicely done.
23. Flying Dog ‘Kujo’ [8.9%]
- Style: Imperial stout.
- When and how: Started the year cuddled up to a bottle at home – care of The House of Trembling Madness, York, England. 
- Colour: Darkest brown crowned by a thin mocha-coloured head.
- Aroma: Percolated coffee and roasted grains, heady dark chocolate, buttery toffee, sweet booze and a splash of dark cherry.
- Taste: On the way up there’s a beautiful balance of velvety sweet roasted malts enhanced by a dab of vanilla before the descent into a modest dry and bitter second-half when the coffee, choc and dark fruits walk in.
- Body and finish: Super-smooth carbonation and oat-slick with a long, dry yet mild coffee finish.
My first experience of modern US brewing was through Flying Dog’s beers. The lighter end of their range is a bit underwhelming but the mid and top ABV beers deliver taste in abundance, e.g. ‘In de Wildeman Farmhouse IPA’, ‘Gonzo Imperial Porter’ and ‘Horn Dog Barley Wine’. Flying Dog beer labels will leap out at you owing to their unique artwork by British cartoonist Ralph Steadman and I’d love to try more by them should they find their way over to Europe some time.
Yes, Goose Island ‘Bourbon County Brand Stout’ is lauded a premier example of a bourbon barrel-aged beer [BBA], but I preferred ‘Wild Turkey’ because the beer and bourbon tastes within both took centre stage. Controversial? Probably. I’m sure howls of derision will thunder their way across The Atlantic at uttering such heresy but, hey, these are views from a BBA Limey Novice so go easy on me, eh?
22. Anarchy ‘Quiet Riot’ [6.6%]
- Style: IPA 
- When and how: From cask at the North Riding in Scarborough, England, during a mid-May Anarchy Brew Co. tap takeover night. It was a great night guys.
- Colour: Dense white head over glowing hazy burnt orange-brown.
- Aroma: A market stall of juicy pineapple, mango, orange and tropical fruit hops underpinned by a toffee, caramel toasted malts and golden syrup mix.
- Taste: The aroma in liquid form starts with juicy sweet fruits and ends with dry-edged bitterness, orange citrus zest, pine resins and spicy notes.
- Body and finish: Soft carbonation, smooth texture, medium body. A lasting green-grass hop bitter tang balanced against a full-flavoured malt backdrop. Reminds me of a Double IPA. 
Northumbrian brewery Anarchy have found their stride quickly – check out zesty ‘Citra Star’, rich ‘Sublime Chaos’ and head-crushing ‘Warhead’ for ample evidence of their talents. They maximise flavour by producing hazy, unfined beers and fob off ‘clear-beer critics’ who heckle at such aberrant and abhorrent practices. Defenders of the Anarchy Faith stand unbowed. “Surely taste wins out over crystal-clear appearance? Substance means more than style?” We’ve yet to hear a reply 12 months after asking.
‘Quiet Riot’ is a consistently high performer and equally good from cask and keg and has gone done well wherever I’ve crossed paths with it. Everyone in our Friday night drinking crew gave it a thumbs up which rivals a Ratebeer recommendation for me. My initial encounter with Anarchy inspired this aberration, arguably reason enough not to have anything by them. 
21. Van Eecke ‘Hommelbier Nieuwe Oogst/Fresh Harvest 2012’ [7.5%]
- Style: IPA 
- When and how: From a 75cl bottle during a quiet night at Duivels Paterke, Kortrijk, Belgium, in the first week of October.
- Colour: Bright golden color topped with a big, white, fluffy head.
- Aroma: Grass. Flowers. Herbs. Straw. Honey. Fresh! Subtle, fragrant and vibrant. The shimmering light citrus dances around your nose accompanied by notes of spicy yeast and pale malt.
- Taste: The moderately sweet beginning blossoms into a beautifully blended floral, citric fruit hop bouquet. Soft pine, light zesty grapefruit, freshly mown grass, malted grain and yeast spices finish the tableau.
- Body and finish: Light and crisp, lifted by a lively carbonation. Has a dry mouth-feel and lingering bitter, spicy, fresh green-hop finish.
This extraordinary twist on the ‘hoppy one’ in the Van Eecke stable comes from handkerchief-sized Watou in the slow-paced rural south-west of Belgium.  The community is proud of their hommel  crops and celebrate their importance within the local culture:
- Poperinge Hop Museum [immerse yourself in great exhibits and a few hours of hop aroma]
- Triennial Hop & Beer Festival, Poperinge [the next one is in the third week of September, 2014]
- Hommelhof, Watou [classy restaurant offering dishes made with beer]
- Het Wethuys, Watou [tea room, restaurant, bar and hotel which serves hop ice-cream, hop-accented Mazarine tart, hop-flavoured house cake, hop-infused tea and hop cocktails]
‘Hommelbier Fresh Harvest’ is made with freshly picked hop cones of Saphir, Magnum, Challenger, Brewers-Gold. Brewing of the 2013 version began 3 days after collecting the hops from the field! May this beer highlight another way ahead for Belgian brewers because ‘Hommelbier’ focuses on a distinctive hop identity instead of emulating the hopping styles of other leading brewing nations.
 Thanks to Mike at ‘The House of Trembling Madness’ for another solid recommendation; he’s the tall guy with long tied-back hair who knows their stock inside out and backwards!
 South Pacific IPA?
 Abbreviated to DIPA
 Joke. Give them a try!
 Some sites label it ‘Belgian IPA’, As a rule, Belgian beers, including IPAs, aren’t as hoppy as those from the UK and US but this is still an IPA, just a different take on one.
 The French border is only 5 minutes drive away to the south while the trenches of the WWI Ypres Salient are just 12 miles/21 kilometres to the east.