10 Beers (Out Of 1001) You Must Try Before You Die

Beer in the morning, beer in the afternoon, beer in the evening, start with these top 10 before gearing yourself up for the other 991.
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1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die (Cassell Illustrated) is a testament to the superb example of brewing craftsmanship the world over, a sensory selection of brewing skills, devotion, inspiration and the sheer joie de vivre that brewers bring to their beers. Some of the beers are the Bordeaux, the Burgundies, the Grand Crus, the Sauternes of the brewing world; others the Cote de Rhones, the Cahors, the Spätlese. Many are made by artisans, folk who have turned brewing into a lifestyle, people who have attempted to make their mark on the world with the beer they brew.

All of the beers have a story to tell.  Some, far older and more venerable than others, have a history on a par with the grandest of noble families: they represent a continuity that runs through beer like a river threads its way through the land to the sea. They are supreme examples of their countries’ brewing heritage, beers coming from great brewing nations such as Germany and Belgium, England and Scotland, North America (a country for so long blighted by the folly of Prohibition) and, not forgetting the Czech Republic, where beer is more than a way of life, it is a template for life.

Most of the beers in the book were picked by me and my writers because they represent brewing innovation and imagination. There are beers matured in wood, as complex and concentrated in flavour as the finest single malt whisky.  There are beers aged and oxidized, that have died and passed through the valley of shadows, emerging triumphant and born again. There are beers that shine like the sun in a glass, cheerful and life-affirming, the bright chatter of hops and malt engaging and companionable. There are dark brooding stouts, porters and dunkels, near-Shakespearian in their character. There are hop-driven IPAs, beers that chime and clang with the sensual notes of the hop. There are fruit beers that blossom when cherries or elderberries are added during maturation.  There are beers with spice, beers with coffee, chocolate and even salt and pepper. Within this book there is a whole universe of beer. These ten represent a small smattering of stardust within this universe:

1. Cantillon Lambic 5%

Take a beer trail to Brussels and its surroundings, which are home to the remarkable lambic beers. Sour, tart but eminently refreshing, they are reminiscent of the driest finos. One of the best examples comes from Cantillon in Anderlecht.

2. Birrifico Italiano Tipopils, 5.2%

Fancy a lager? Fancy an Italian lager? Put your Peroni in the bin and come to Como in Northern Italy where Birrifico Italiano produce one of the finest Pilsners known to man — sprightly, bittersweet and quenching. Italy’s burgeoning craft brewing scene is one of the most exciting in Europe.

3. Herold Bohemian Black Lager, 5.3%

How about another lager? Then try this Bohemian Tmavy Lezak (black lager to the rest of us). It’s the colour of a moonless night, topped with an espresso coloured foam and full of chocolate, smokiness, burnt toast and ground coffee bean notes.

4. Saison Dupont, 6.5%

Saisons (or seasonal beers) were once produced for farm workers in Wallonia, but now they’ve become a world beer classic and Dupont brew one of the best. Austere and spicy, it is restrained in its sweetness and has a champagne-like effervescence with a quick drying finish with spice in the background.

5. Thornbridge Jaipur, 5.9%

You might go to Bakewell for tarts, but it’s also the home of this innovative brewery that brew this luscious and languid new wave IPA throbbing with lychee and grapefruit notes. Also try their South Pacific Pale Ale Kipling (not in the book because it hadn’t been released then).

6. Orval, 6.2%

Trappist beer brewed deep in Wallonian woodland not far from the French border; brewery owned by monks though secular workers make the beer. Served in a glorious chalice-like glass, this is creamy and earthy, snappy in its carbonation, has lots of sour and citrusy notes and a bitter tingle of a finish. Even Richard Dawkins would like it.

7. Dogfish Head 90 Minute imperial IPA, 9%

The USA is the most exciting place for beer on the planet at the moment and Delaware’s Dogfish Head is one of its most thrusting pioneers. This is a bold and beautiful India Pale Ale, packed with a stunning array of deep citrus/orangy notes and a lasting bitter finish that goes on and on.

8. BrewDog Paradox, 10%

Up in the frozen north of Scotland stand BrewDog, two young guys, self-proclaimed punks with the aim of shaking up the brewing world. This is their Imperial Stout aged in various whisky casks. There were three ‘editions’ in the Paradox series: Smokehead, Isle of Arran and Springbank Distillery. The latter is full and creamy in the mouth, with buttery toffee, vanilla, mocha coffee and marzipan before a lingering wood-sweet finish.

9. Zywiec Porter, 9.5%

In the past few years Polish lager has spread out across Europe, but this is a more elusive beer, a so-called Baltic stout, a survivor from another age. The nose is full of nutty and cough medicine notes, while the palate has more of the cough medicine, joined by alcohol, roast cereals, dark fruit and a bitter roasty finish.

10. Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier, 5.2%

Marmite beer that people either hate or love due to its intense smokiness, thanks to the use of smoked malt in the recipe. Think kippers or lapsang souchong in a glass and you might be halfway there. It shouldn’t work but it does.  Great mid morning in a tavern in Bamberg, Franconia, where it is brewed.

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