So rather than a Top Ten, this post is a run-down of places 10 to 4.
10th – American Pride by Maxim (5.2% ABV)
Appearance: 4.0; Aroma: 6.0; Mouthfeel: 4.0; Flavour: 6.5; Total: 20.5
An amber ale with a decent, lingering head. The nose is full of sweet, fruity hops – rich with an orange citrus edge, and a hint of fudge. In the mouth, a sweet fudge start with some drying hop flavours coming through strongly. The finish is surprisingly bitter, which makes it a nicely constructed beer.
9th – Querkus by Ridgeway Brewing (5.8% ABV)
Appearance: 4.5; Aroma: 7.5; Mouthfeel: 3.5; Flavour: 5.5; Total: 21.0
A perfect deep brown colour, with a lingering, open textured pale tan head. The aroma is full of the smoke of a cold bonfire with a hint of treacle underneath. In the mouth, the bubbles are a little excessive, but the flavour is intriguing – sweet toffee to start, with a deep bitterness and smoke coming through the longer it stays in your mouth.
If anything, the bitter finish is a touch overplayed, but all credit to Ridgeway for getting the smoke spot on – a flavour very tricky to get right in a beer.
8th – Serendipity by Bird’s Brewery (4.4% ABV)
Appearance: 4.5; Aroma: 5.5; Mouthfeel: 4.0; Flavour: 7.0; Total: 21.0
Bright gold with a thin head, this is the only bottle in the lineup that is clear. It will no doubt get marked down by many for this, but it didn’t seem to adversely affect the beer in the glass.
The nose is rich with brown sugar and hints of forest fruit – nice, but somehow at odds with the colour of it. The flavours are nicely balanced; a gentle sweetness and a nice bitterness, with the hops leading into a very pleasant, slightly resinous finish.
7th – Wayfarer IPA by Orkney Brewery (4.4% ABV)
Appearance: 4.0; Aroma: 6.5; Mouthfeel: 4.0; Flavour: 7.5; Total: 22.0
This one’s a little hazy, with a billowing, fine bubbled head. The nose is sweet, sticky and citrussy like a lemon sherbet. In the mouth there are Champagne bubbles; it starts sugar sweet with a quickly growing citrus edge and a nice, deep bitter finish – delicious.
6th – Windermere Pale by Hawkshead Brewery (4.0% ABV)
Appearance: 4.5; Aroma: 6.5; Mouthfeel: 4.5; Flavour: 7.0; Total: 22.5
Another sweet golden beer, with a fresh lemon citrus aroma. Light bodied and gently carbonated, it has a sweet, fresh lemon fruit flavour balanced by a good hop backbone; a great pale ale that goes down alarmingly well.
5th – Harbour Porter No. 6 by Harbour Brewing (6.8% ABV)
Appearance: 4.0; Aroma: 7.5; Mouthfeel: 4.0; Flavour: 7.0; Total: 22.5
My first bottle of this – which is the one pictured above – was a bad one; flat, thin and slightly disappointing. If I hadn’t tried it before, I would have marked it as it was and it would have been in the bottom ten. I bought another bottle, which was more as I expected.
The beer is blackish brown with a thin, fine textured tan head. The nose is dry with coffee notes and rich, dried prunes. In the mouth, there’s black treacle and more fruit balanced by a reserved hop bitterness and a dry, tannic finish. It’s a cracking beer, and it’s a shame my first bottle wasn’t right.
4th – Harbour IPA by Harbour Brewing (5.2% ABV)
Appearance: 4.0; Aroma: 7.0; Mouthfeel: 4.0; Flavour: 7.5; Total: 22.5
Pours with a big billowing head that makes fitting it all in the glass something of a challenge! The nose is full of nice leafy hops, with a subtle tone of citrus lime. In the mouth, it’s foamy and light, starting with some gentle sweetness blending into a nicely drying hop finish. Delicately balanced and dangerously moreish.
Many thanks to Sainsbury’s for providing samples of this year’s GBBH beers.