Sunday, 2 August 2015

My Top 10 Beers of All Time

Having recently found out I am intolerant to gluten, it is with a certain sense of trauma I must announce my retirement from the swirling, bubbling world of beer. I can forego crumpets thick with sizzling cheese, stoneground pizza burnt slightly at the edges, and artisan breads slowly steaming after being brought out of the oven. But the real challenge has been to amputate that part of my soul which is beer. Starting with my first childhood experience of 70’s Burton Ale, now extinct, at Pontins Prestatyn, to those many beers that didn’t make it into the list below, regional, craft, microbrewed, and beckoning with headspun bravado. Ho hum, I shall have to re- educate this working class palate to the finer things in life; the grape beckons, but it is not quite the same. Below is my all time top 10, but they are not in any ranked order. After sifting through so many beer memories, and after many hours of reflection, it is quite enough to have arrived at this list. Farewell, beer. I will miss you.


Bluebird Bitter
Coniston Brewery, 3.6%

“Mine’s a pint of Bluebird”.
Saying this, you know you are in for a quality beer which is unflinchingly reliable. To the pure waters of the Coniston hills - add the finest Challenger hops and wonderfully roasted Maris Otter pale and crystal malts to create this finest of fully matured cask conditioned ales. “It is exceedingly pale (21-22 units colour), with just a hint of colour in its cheeks from the dash of crystal malt. It has a massive orange fruit aroma from the challengers, balanced by biscuity malt.”

Snowdonia Ale, 3.6%
Purple Moose Brewery

My Llangefni days working in the wretched chicken factory would have been utterly unbearable without this gently peach infused pale session beauty. It probably was the best of the lot.
Hawkshead Brewery
Bitter, 3.7%

Delicious, refreshing, and moreish, leaving no trace of a hangover; this Lakeland Ale benefits from the fresh Lakes water. I actually prefer this to the premium version, Lakeland Gold. Hawkshead say “A pale, hoppy and bitter ale: a slight elderflower aroma from Slovenian "Celeia" hops, followed by long bitterness. The hikers' favourite - the perfect thirst quencher after a day on the Fells.”

Old Golden Hen
Morland Brewery, 4.1%

Golden Hen was better in its earlier days, in bottles before it went over on to tinnies. I think they changed the formula to scale up production, and lost something in doing that. They also increased the price. Having said that, it remained drinkable, nay, swiggable, even in its neutered form & deserves its place in my top 10.

Landlord Pale Ale, 
Timothy Taylor & Co,

This was my ‘go to’ beer for bloody ages. In the pub, in the supermarket; wherever TT was, there was I, tongue hanging out. Its younger brother, Boltmaker seemed to show promise, but for gravitas Landlord was always in a different league.

Master Brewer’s Choice Shepherd Neame, 3.8%

Already reviewed here
Woodfordes Wherry
Broadland Brewery, 3.8%

Already reviewed here
Lass Ale, 3.9%
Lass O’Gowrie Microbrewery, M/ch

Lass O’Gowrie’s epic microbrewery fizzbomb, now sadly defunct. I was privileged enough to be a regular of the Lass in its BBC heyday. There was a character (and he was a character; Guss: a bald, tattooed, bearded Viking of a man), who used to sit at the bar, chugging away on Lass Ale. Whenever he used to finish a barrel, he’d bawl loudly (nerrr ner ne nerr neh), and put his pint pot upside down on his head. If the night was getting on a bit, and you were unfortunate enough to be ordering a late Lass Ale when the barrel was coming to its end, Guss would jealously challenge you to a duel.   

Engine Vein, 4.2%
The Cheshire Brewhouse

Already reviewed here
Brenin Enlli, 4%
Cwrw Llyn Brewery

In the Llyn Peninsula, going along the B4417 roughly as you get near Nefyn, there is a diamond pub which sells this beauty of an ale on draught (Tafarn Y Fic, I looked it up for you). On a sunny day, sitting outside, breathing the pure mountain air, any Englishman feels ashamed of himself and full of yearning for living his life differently.

North Utsire


  1. Some lovely beers in this post, and you describe them beautifully. It saddens me to hear that you and beer have gone through a messy divorce. Surely something can be done. I hear talk of gluten-free bread. Is gluten-free beer a thing? I agree with your remarks about Old Golden Hen. I remember being very excited by OGH when I first discovered it. Ever so slightly disappointed that the life-changing ex'beer'ience didn't last (to be expected, I suppose). I have the feeling that OGH is best experienced as a very occasional treat rather than a regular ale. I plan to test this theory soon, having not drunk the Golden Hen for a good few months.

  2. Thanks for your comments. You are right! Gluten free beers do exist, but they are lagers, and like most replacement foods; gluten free bread, lactose free, caffeine free, alcohol free, fat free, joy free, they are mostly bland technological chimeras, fit only for the mutants in Total Recall in my jaded opinion. On a more progressive note though, I am beginning to enjoy wine drinking, albeit at a different pace. Happy is the man whose lifestyle conforms to his gastrointestinal fortitude.

  3. And good luck with the Old Golden Hen...