This post was originally going to be entitled 4 Craft Beers as I got hold of a Beer Hawk selection box containing a branded glass, a bag of rosemary pitta pieces and five cans (one very familiar to me). But before I could finish writing the post I sampled a Castle Rock craft ale in a local pub which I thought was worthy of mention. Especially since by virtue of its limited edition status, it was immediately more crafty than the others. And then I felt bad about leaving out Hoegaarden.

Hoegaarden 4.9% Belgium
I think anyone who enjoys exploring different beers will be familiar with this, the original Belgian wheat beer dating all the way back to 1445, brewed with coriander and orange peel. It was a good basis for comparison to less well-known tipples in the box. 

The story goes that almost 600 years ago in the Belgian town of Hoegaarden, a band of monks experimented by adding oddball botanicals to their wheat beer recipe. Their creation was a unique and refreshingly flavoured beer with a captivating aroma.

Hoegaarden certainly is fruity – even more so with a slice of orange in it. For a period of time in the early 2000s this was my favourite beer served ice cold with a slice of fruit (sometimes I had to make do with lemon). Not as maddeningly hoppy as some other Belgian beers and very moreish. The bitter aftertaste is made up for by the strong flavours and a delicate fizz on the tongue with a thick foamy head but no bubbles to speak of.

Goose 312 Urban Wheat 4.2% USA
Goose Island Beer Company was established in 1988 in Chicago,Illinois, and named after a nearby island. The brewery began as a single ‘brewpub’ in Lincoln Park. A larger brewery was opened in 1995, followed by a second brewpub, in Wrigleyville, in 1999.

Goose 312 is sweeter than Hoegaarden and had less froth. The wheatbeer has a deep fruity flavour and hoppy aroma. It is made with a trio ofmalted hops and tasted great. It was a shame I just had the one small can ofthe stuff which has won numerous awards in the States posing as an English stylesummer ale. If anything, it tasted Belgian to me.

Dark Arts Surreal Stout 6.0% UK
Inspired by the US craft beer scene, Magic Rock Brewing was established in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire seven years ago. Dark Arts Surreal Stout is a full-bodied stout from their core line-up of beers. It is brewed using a combination of four various malts, bittering hops and a ‘big whack’ of whole US and UK hops.

Alongside their core line-up the brewery creates an ever-changing lineup of innovative beers with strong and inspiring flavours which according to their website blurb ‘will challenge and inspire, but above all remain balanced and drinkable’.

Siggy quaffed the stout down admirably. I on the other hand found it rather too strong for my taste. When it comes to stout, I think I’ll be sticking to good ol’ Guinness. The Surreal Stout looked treacley, but was actually lighter in composition to Guinness but with a strong flavour like strong black coffee.

Blue Point Toasted Lager 5.5% USA
Blue Point Brewing was originally set up in 1998 on Long Island’s South Shore in the coastal town of Patchogue. Toasted Lager is the first beer brewed there. It is an American Style Amber Lager so named because of the direct-fire brick kettle used to toast the six different malts used in the brewing process.

Toasted Lager won two World Beer Cup gold medals and is the brewery’s signature beer. The company has been through some changes and expansion, but still maintains its roots in the coastal heritage of its original location.

I found the dark lager, which looks like lemon tea, to have very little fizz or head and to carry very little hoppy taste. It was a relief after the stout but still possessing a complex and smooth flavour. However, I have to say that I preferred the two Belgian beers out of the six listed here.

Harviestoun Brewery Bitter & Twisted 4.2% UK
Bitter & Twisted is a golden ale supposedly named after the brewer’s wife. He’s used a crystal malt, a few oats, and balance of Hersbrucker, Celeia, Bobek and Perle hops in its creation.

Harviestoun Brewery was established in 1983 in an old stone barn on a farm in Clackmannanshire, Scotland, and subsequently moved to the not so picturesque Alva Industrial Estate in 2004. The brewery was bought byCaledonian Brewery two years later. Following the takeover of Caledonian byScottish & Newcastle in 2008, Harviestoun Brewery was bought by a group ofCaledonian Brewery directors and was independent once more.

The golden ale is a lot more hoppy than it is zesty, aromatic or citrus and to my taste doesn’t compare well to the two Belgian beers. Feel free to disagree. Despite this post (and some others I might be doing soon) and the amount of time I spend in the various award winning real ale pubs in Loughborough, I am not a huge real ale fan and tend to go for mass produced lagers of various degrees of questionable heritage.

Castle Rock Fruit v1 4.6% UK
Originally established as Tynemill in 1977 by a former CAMRA chairman Castle Rock has developed a reputation for good real ale pubs such as The Swan in the Rushes in Loughborough and award-winning real ale.

Castle Rock started with creating a local network of pubs around the Midlands. By 1997 the network had grown to 12 pubs, and the Castle Rock brewery was established. It was originally a partnership between Bramcote Brewery & Tynemill. Bramcote since stopped brewing. The site opened next door to the Vat & Fiddle in Nottingham, which is now the Castle Rock Brewery Tap.

Castle Rock’s Fruit v1 is described as a juicy throwback to Summer ‘as we get dragged kicking and screaming into Autumn’. A blend of raspberry, blackcurrant, redcurrant and blueberry forms about 18% of Fruit v1 of the pink beer. In an attempt to add body and sweetness, the brewers have used oats in the malt bill and added lactose. Body it has, but most of the sharp sourness of the fruit remains with the raspberry and redcurrant the predominant flavour. Fruit v1 lacks the subtlety of Belgian fruit beers but was an enjoyable tipple.

(this post used the new WordPress editor and if there are any glitches in the formatting on your device don’t blame me, thanks!)