The craft beer world moves fast, with new beers hitting the shelves almost daily. Breweries and beer fans are constantly on the lookout for the next big thing, the next new style, the next new hop variety or combination. And this is great, it’s why we love what we do, stocking all these amazing beers.
But, we also think it’s important to make sure we remember the classics, the staples, the beers that we think every beer lover must’ve tried before they venture further down the rabbit hole!
Orval brewery was founded in 1931, within the grounds of the Orval Trappist Abbey for the purpose of making beer to generate funds to finance reconstruction works at the Abbey. It has been making beer ever since and it’s flagship ale is one of the most complex and interesting beers in the world. Orval is an amber ale, brewed in a conventional manner using German & Slovenian hops although it is the big malty backbone coupled with the use of Belgian candy sugar which gives it the more dominant flavour characteristics of sweetness, caramel and biscuit. So far so normal. But there are two other aspects that makes Orval so special and interesting. Firstly, and unusually for a beer of this style (and indeed this era), Orval is dry hopped, meaning that hops are added to the beer during the fermentation process, giving it a more pronounced hop aroma than other traditional Belgian beers. Secondly, it undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle with Brettanomyces, a wild yeast strain that imparts dinstinctive flavours of funkiness, spice, fruit and tartness as well as a lingering dryness. All these characteristics contrast pleasantly with the initial sweetness to produce a well balanced but complex beer. For extra fun, due to it’s secondary fermentation in the bottle, the flavour of Orval continues to evolve over time, with younger versions being sweeter, whilst an older botte, which has had more residual sugar eaten up, will be drier and more tart. We strongly recommend you try to get your hands on 3 different aged bottles and do a ‘vertical tasting’ to see how the taste of the beer has changed. Either way, Orval is a bona-fide classic that every beer lover must try.
Orval, 6.2%, Belgium
This beer has to be tried on cask (the hand pull one) to be fully appreciated which means you need to get yourself down to a decent boozer, that knows how to cellar and serve cask beer properly. Landlord is a 4.3% British pale ale, and has won more awards than any other beer, including CAMRA’s Champion Beer of Britain. It’s a pale ale in the traditional sense, more mid-orange in colour than yellow, with a beautiful citrusy, floral aroma, and a smooth, dry summer fruit, slightly sweet flavour. Balance is the key to this beer – it has the perfect balance of malt sweetness to hop bitterness that we have tried and is, in our opinion, the best example of the uniquely British style that is cask conditioned real ale.
Timothy Taylor, Landlord (on cask), 4.3%, UK
Another pale ale? Of course, after lager it’s the world’s most popular beer style! If Timmy Taylor’s Landlord is the ultimate expression of the traditional British pale ale, then Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale is it’s US equivalent, draped in a sparkly American flag and waving a lasso around it’s head. First brewed in the early 1980s, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was one of the earliest beers to use Cascade hops, and use them in large quantities, producing a beautifully fruity yet bitter pale ale, the likes of which had not been seen before. If back then it was a rarity, it is undoubtedly the beer that launched a 1,000 more hoppy beers like it. The modern incarnation still tastes great and is widely available, brewed in both California and North Carolina so make sure to get your hands on a bottle to experience true Americana.
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, 5.6%, USA
Porters became hugely popular in the early 18th century, primarily in London, from where they get their name, popular as they were with the London porters. The Kernel is known for paying homage to historic styles, adhering to old recipes whilst adding their own twist, and their Export India Porter is one of the best examples of this. Pouring a beautiful jet black colour that derives from the use of roasted barley, you are hit with a huge aroma of molasses, liquorice, vanilla, marzipan and burnt fruits like raisins, all underscored with a subtle hop aroma & bitterness on the palate from the American hops used (that would be the Kernel twist then!). Surprisingly refreshing to drink, indeed the historic version of this beer would’ve been exported all across the world, often to hot climates. As far as staple beers go, you really need to make sure you’ve ticked the porter/stout box and we couldn’t recommend Kernel’s Export India Porter highly enough.