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Ben McFarland

Writer
  • Full member
  • Journalist, Presenter, Performer, Comedian, Public Speaker, Educator, Copywriter, Podcast Host,
  • London
  • Fully NCTJ qualified journalist
  • Presenting, communicating, video and podcasts, consultancy, copywriitng, training, education and tasting/judging

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Triple-crowned “British Beer Writer of the Year” – the first as the youngest ever recipient. Author of several award-winning drinks books on beer (www.thinkingdrinkers.com/shop) , regular contributor to The Guardian, Spectator, National Geographic, The Telegraph, Imbibe and Drinks Retailer News.

Ten years ago, along with fellow drinks expert, he set up a company called Thinking Drinkers. Having become disillusioned with deadly dull drinks tastings, they created a unique comedy show during which audience members sip discerning drinks. Since their debut at the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe and following a transfer to London’s West End, the duo have written and performed five new Thinking Drinkers shows and have just returned from their ninth successive Edinburgh Festival – where they have developed a fanatical following and enjoyed a sell-out run of more than 5000 people.

For the third year in a row, the Thinking Drinkers are taking their show on a UK nationwide tour featuring more than 40 dates and spreading their “Drink Less, Drink Better” mantra to more than 15,000 people.

 

 

Pieces of work by Ben:

  • THE TELEGRAPH: In praise of pubs: why every man should have a local

    A neighbourhood isn’t a proper neighbourhood if it doesn’t have a pub. It helps if it has a post office or a corner shop or some kind of local “character” who points at planes. But, at the very least, every neighbourhood needs a pub.

    Britain has lost more than 18,000 pubs in the last 30 years. A sad and rather shameful statistic, really. To lose one pub is careless. To misplace, say, a hundred is daft. But more than 18,000? That’s just embarrassing.

    Every week, 26 pubs shut their doors. If things continue at the rate they are, there won’t be a single one left by 2050 which, in case you hadn’t noticed, is not that far away. Of course, many of these pubs deserve to die – be they blood-splattered tanking houses or the kind of places where they hand you back change from a pint on a silver platter – but far too many great boozers have been boarded up too.

    What’s driven the decline? Some blame the smoking ban, while others point the finger at the moustache-twirling antics of the dastardly property businesses, masquerading as pub companies, who turn pubs into flats – and a tidy profit.

    But the real root of the pubs’ problem is closer to home. In fact, it’s actually in the home – namely the living room and its irresistible allure. Ensconced in our very own sound and vision aquariums, time gently floating by on the back of box-sets and an anesthetised current of discounted supermarket booze, our attention spans and appetite for interaction have shrunk like a crisp packet in a roaring fire while the regular pilgrimage to the local pub is slipping slowly and gradually into the past.

    It is time, gentleman, please, to leave your living rooms and give your local a little bit of love. For the man at ease with himself, the local is no longer a mere pit-stop in the gormless pursuit of that ever-elusive utopian night out.

    As that overly excitable period of manhood loses its lustre, when the thrill of the chase starts to resemble the opening credits to The Benny Hill Show, every man should be looking to acquaint himself with a regular hangout.

    There’s no need to look beyond the local. In our secular society, the local pub is the nearest thing we have to a church, its pews offered to strangers irrespective of their past, pay packet or social standing. It’s a stunningly simple idea. There should be beer. There should be nuts. There should, preferably, be some kind of dog. But there doesn’t need to be much else.

    We, the British, are a naturally reserved bunch, but in the pub, as we curl our stiff upper lip over the edge of the pint glass, things begin to open up, social barricades are broken down with every sip. More than just a place to drink, the local pub is our “third place”. It can be a safe place. A calming quarantine of quiet contemplation, a restful antidote to a life too busy, a cosy asylum where one can clutch a pint to one’s chest, stare blankly into the middle distance and make soothing small talk with a fusty old colonel.

    Get yourself another and look around. Observe the miscellany of mankind spread out before you, real life played out in front of your pint and your peanuts. And remember that you, an upstanding pub-going pillar of the community, now belong to the last bastion of a world where life was simpler, more nourishing and more decent.

    Then buy everyone a pint.

  • THE GUARDIAN: Six Rules of Christmas Boozing

    It’s (nearly) Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid. Except, of course, there is. Forced festive fun is staggering towards us in its paper hat and comedy jumper, complete with flashing lights, reindeer noses and knowing irony. And then there’s the alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol.

    We do a lot of drinking during December. According to Public Health England (who you really don’t want to be stuck talking to at a party), Brits spend more than £2bn just on the booze we drink in our 165m December pub outings, never mind what we cart home from the shops. In many ways, this can be a good thing. In social situations, hooch can be a wonderful wingman – it’s a camaraderie catalyst, rounding off the edges of unease and making music sound better, conversations more absorbing and colleagues more compelling – even that odd guy with the ponytail.

    Yet alcohol is a capricious character, flipping from faithful sidekick to spiteful psychopath in the space of a few small sips – and its unpredictability is particularly acute at Christmas. The party season is a potential professional and personal minefield strewn with embarrassment, ridicule and final written warnings and, if you drink too much, you’ll be plodding through it in a pair of clown shoes and a blindfold. But after 2016, which has ushered in Trump and Brexit and bid farewell to Bowie, Prince … and Father Jack, feck knows we could do with a drink. The secret, as teetotal Trump will tell you, is to not drink too bigly. Instead, follow our discerning drinking guide to surviving the festive season.

    Drink beer
    It’s what Jesus would have wanted – and it’s his birthday, for chrissake. If you’ve blown the dust from the original Bible like we have, you’ll know full well that Jesus Christ didn’t turn water into wine. No, he turned it into beer. The earliest scriptures state that Jesus, the lead character, turns water into shekhar, a Hebrew word meaning strong drink and, crucially, a derivative of the ancient Semitic word sikaru – which means barley beer. The reason beer was banished from subsequent versions of the Bible was that, in an astonishing display of academic arrogance, 17th-century English translators believed beer to be beneath the son of God. So they took it upon themselves to transform Jesus Christ into a cork-sniffing, cravat-wearing wine-drinker, draped insouciantly on a banquette of an All Bar One. He wasn’t. He was a beer guy. With a beard. Where do you think the word Hebrew comes from?

    Don’t shoot
    Don’t down tequila in one with lemon and salt. It’s better than that. What you want is an extra añejo tequila, aged for a minimum of three years in oak casks, and just as complex and costly as a fine cognac. Serve it alongside a sangrita made with lime, orange juice, pomegranate juice and chilli. Jägerbomb? No. Gently sip Jägermeister as a digestif. Meaning “master hunter”, it was originally designed by a German huntsman, Curt Mast, who wanted to get things moving after great big dollops of freshly killed deer or enormous sausages. They were the wurst.

    Sit down
    In the 1990s, when people were doing pills instead of drinking lager in their local town centre, pub companies devised a rather devious way of getting us all to drink more – by removing a lot of the furniture. Termed “vertical drinking”, cosy snugs and intimate alcoves were replaced with wide-open spaces bereft of tables and chairs on which you could perch your pint. With glasses constantly in hand, people drank a lot quicker, pubs made more money and the number of drunken idiots, come the end of the night, rose considerably. Don’t be that person; take the weight off when you can.

    Drink like Winston Churchill
    Winston Churchill was, contrary to common perception, a very deft drinker and certainly not a drunk – his secret being the watering down of his spirits, especially whisky. Churchill was dismayed by those who drank whisky neat: “You are not likely to live a long life,” he quipped, “if you drink it like that.” Instead, he would kickstart his morning with the “papa cocktail” – one glass of Johnnie Walker that would be topped up with water throughout the day. Do the same by ordering a mizuwari, a Japanese long drink consisting of whisky cut with water to a ratio of 1:4, served over ice. It’s what all the cool daddios are drinking these days, and it’s a lot nicer than a snowball, which is essentially alcoholic custard. With a sparkler.

    Be nice to bar staff
    Smile. Tip bartenders. It’s a nice thing to do and it will see them through January when you’re at home righteously sipping kale smoothies. Stand next to the till where you will be more likely to establish eye contact; don’t order an old fashioned or a mojito when it’s a dozen deep behind you; if you’re getting a Guinness, order it first; and, whatever you do, don’t shout, click your fingers or, unless it’s going in the tip jar, wave £20 notes – everyone around you is paying for their drinks with money as well. Alternatively, go to the pub dressed as Santa Claus. No one has ever had to buy their own drink while dressed as Santa. Ever.

    Own your hangover
    If you wake with your head pounding, your liver whimpering in the corner with a snot bubble protruding from its nose, and what Kingsley Amis describes as that “ineffable compound of depression, sadness (these two are not the same), anxiety, self-hatred, sense of failure and fear for the future”, then you have two options. You can either drink lots of water or, if that doesn’t work, and it probably won’t, you can make yourself a corpse reviver No 2 – a cocktail created in the 1930s by the legendary Savoy bartender Harry Craddock to “raise the dead”.

    (Makes 1)

    25ml Plymouth gin
    25ml Cointreau
    25ml Lillet blanc
    25ml fresh lemon juice
    aDash of absinthe

    Shake with ice and strain in to a coupe glass. Garnish with lemon zest.

  • TELEGRAPH: All the best world leaders have loved a drink

     

     

    Jean-Claude Juncker. What’s that all about? No-one seems to like him very much do they?

     

    He’s grey, he smokes, he wears glasses, he’s bound to worry our sheep or interfere with the shape of our bananas and, lest we forget, he’s from Luxembourg – a nation so unashamedly uber-European that, even now, its teenagers still wear Kickers.

     

    But worst of all, the new overlord of Europe likes a drink. What’s more, he likes the ones with alcohol in them.  Don’t fear Jean Claude for his fervent Federalism, fear him for being a shameless philopotes – a ‘lover of drinking sessions” lurking in the dark wooden, decadent drinking holes of Brussels –thinking up unfair agricultural quotas over a carafe or twelve.

     

    No-one gets drunker than Juncker, that’s for sure. At the Bildeburg Meetings, he’s always the first to get up and do the Owl Dance and before starting his long days of systematically undermining all of the United Kingdom’s political and economic interests, Jean Claude likes nothing more than slurping frantically at a sizeable snifter of cognac while eating his cornflakes or, more likely, sprinkling chocolate on hard cheese – as that’s what they do over there.

     

    Word on the European Union grapevine is that he sometimes drinks over a long lunch, enjoys ‘strong beers’ and, circulating somewhere around cyberspace, there’s even a picture of him drinking wine with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. It’s enough to make your liver quiver.

     

    David Cameron may feel it dangerous to have a dedicated dipsomaniac in charge of Europe but it’s ludicrous to lambast him for his apparent love of liquor. History is saturated with illustrious leaders and legendary politicians who had more than a healthy enthusiasm for hooch.

     

    Let’s start with Alexander the Great, whose casual conquering of other countries makes him, arguably, the most impressive emperor of all time. In the 4th century BC, Alexander took the throne of Macedonia from his father Philip II, a man renowned for his copious wine drinking and for inventing the drunken conga.

     

    Yet Alexander exceeded his old man’s alcoholic excess by organising a drinking Olympics in India. Instead of running around and throwing things, athletes had to imbibe enormous amounts of wine. Thing is, the locals weren’t built for that kind of thing and nearly all of them died.

     

    This lackluster Olympic legacy aside, Alexander’s prestigious displays of drinking asserted his authority, oiled the wheels of diplomacy and gave him the cajones to pick fights with pretty much any kingdom who looked at him funny.

     

    Having inherited an uncouth European enclave, Alexander died (after drinking 33 pots of wine) as the ruler of the biggest empire the world has ever seen.

     

    Wine was also Cleopatra’s most valuable political weapon. Not content with bathing in it, she used wine to woo both Julius Caesar and Marc Anthony – charming the latter by dissolving a pearl in a glass of red and drinking it. History boffins estimate that, in modern money, Cleopatra’s glass of wine would be worth approximately £10m – for a 250ml, obviously.

     

    Several glasses of Madeira helped shape the Declaration of Independence which, like all good ideas, was drawn up in a pub. It was signed by a distiller, a cidermaker, several brewers, a maltster and a cooper – who celebrated with 60 bottles of claret, 54 bottles of Madeira, 22 bottles of port, 8 bottles of hard cider and eight bottles of whisky, a dozen ales and several bowls of alcohol punch.

     

    The Founding Fathers were constantly in their cups too. Thomas Jefferson was the original wine nerd and instrumental in establishing America as a leading winemaking nation; George Washington illegally imported rum and built his own brewery and distillery when he retired; while Benjamin Franklin wrote a dissertation discussing why different wines produced different kinds of farts and the best scents with which to mask them – bergamot worked well with Claret apparently. .

     

    Notwithstanding Franklin’s treatise on trouser trumpeting, the most significant drink driven diplomatic decision to shape history, however, was taken in the 9th century by a chap called Prince Vladimir of Kiev. He was the Russian ruler and one day, taking time out from poking his dancing bear, he thought that the pagan Russia could really do with a religion.

     

    So he put it out to tender. Kicking the tyres of the various religions, Vlad was intrigued by Islam but simply couldn’t stomach its strict no booze policy. Vlad loved a vodka see, so he threw his considerable military might behind Christianity instead – and Islam was subsequently ushered from Europe, enabling the West to sidestep a future of sobriety.

     

    Vladimir was just one of a rich seam of great drinking Russian leaders. In the 18th century, Elizabeth of Russia took power after bribing the military to usurp an eight week old baby from the throne while Catherine The Great, famed for her adoration of all things equine and for allegedly dying on the toilet, had a serious soft spot for Stout brewed in South London.

     

    Then there’s Josef Stalin who was given a vodka-soaked cloth as a baby instead of a dummy and gave each and every one of his troops a daily ration of vodka throughout the Second World War while, back in the Kremlin, he was a tyrannical toastmaster during debauched dinners – standing-up and seeing off 30 odd shots of vodka before strolling off to bed and leaving foreign dignitaries scrabbling around for their dignity.

     

    Yet Stalin’s drinking prowess was put into sharp perspective when, in 1943, he went glass-to-glass with Winston Churchill and Franklin D Roosevelt (FDR) at the Tehran Conference.

     

    It was a meeting of alcohol-addled minds. FDR was a global missionary of the Martini. When he ended Prohibition in 1933, he celebrated with a Martini made with Tanqueray gin and, during his long stint in the White House, he insisted on a dedicated Martini hour every day, serving it up using his own special set of silver shakers.

     

    In Tehran, with talks getting tricky and with millions of lives on the line, FDR (quite literally) broke the ice by giving Stalin his first ever Martini. When FDR enquired how he liked it, the Russian replied: “Well, all right. But it is cold on the stomach” yet, despite Stalin’s initial indifference, its role in Tehran caused Nikita Khrushchev to later declare the martini “America’s lethal weapon.”

     

    Churchill loved drinking with Roosevelt but, let’s face it, Churchill loved drinking with pretty much anyone. Perhaps history’s most promiscuous drinking politician, Churchill was an across-the-board, elbow-bending omnivore who embraced almost every alcoholic libation Europe had to offer.

     

    He cherished champagne – especially Pol Roget and consumed enough Armenian brandy – given to him by “Uncle Joe” Stalin – ‘to fill three railway carriages’. Lord Richard Butler, a contemporary of Churchill, wrote: “I had no less than eight gargantuan dinners with him alone…the dinners being followed by libations of brandy so ample that I felt it prudent on more than one occasion to tip the liquid into the side of my shoe.”

     

    Churchill started each morning with a Papa Cocktail – a chunky glass of whisky which he watered down throughout the day – a habit honed during his time in South Africa covering the Boer War. “The water being unfit to drink,” he wrote, “one had to add whisky and, by dint of careful application I learned to like it.”

     

    Churchill was dismayed by those who whisky neat, “you are not likely to live a long life,” he quipped, “if you drink it like that.” He was equally intolerant of daft drunkenness, famously declaring: “I have been brought up and trained to have the utmost contempt for people who get drunk.”

     

    A speech impediment, which slurred his S’s, saw him often and unfairly accused of over-intoxication but that was very rarely the case and his hearty appreciation of hooch, along with his fellow allies FDR and Stalin, helped defeat Hitler.

     

    And what did Hitler drink? Nothing. He was a tea-totalling Totalitarian who didn’t moisten his mini-moustache with anything intoxicating – something to bear in mind when demonizing Jean Claude Juncker for enjoying a drink or two.

     

  • IMBIBE MAGAZINE: Battle of Britain

    ired of foreign beers coming over here and taking our jobs? Ben McFarland seals off the borders and prepares to repel the invaders with British versions of classic continental beer styles

    Back when Britain ran the show, all those centuries ago, its breweries were the envy of the world and we exported our proven depressants, available in a wide range of flavours, to every continent on the planet.

    But that was then and this is now. The tide has turned. The tail is now wagging the dog. And that dog probably has rabies – because our brewing borders are currently being flooded with ales and lagers brewed by foreigners in their foreign countries using foreign ingredients. It’s disgusting.

    In their hundreds and thousands they swarm. From Belgium, Germany, America and other third world countries. You see them in our ports, often huddled in groups of 24, rattling around under cellophane in the back of British lorries heading to bar chillers up and down the country with dreams of getting their greedy foreign mitts on the United Kingdom’s ‘leisure pound’.

    It’s just not cricket. The only way to fend off these flavoursome foreign invaders, with their umlauts and their grave accents and their flick knives and their devil bangers, is to stock British versions of these beers instead.

    Without the issue of terroir to complicate matters and with brewing horizons broadening beyond just British beer styles, a growing number of domestic brewers are now making beers more readily synonymous with foreign countries – from German Rauchbiers and Belgian sour ales to American IPAs and Czech pilsners.

    German Bock: Batemans English B Bock, 6%
    Bocks are strong and massively malty, mostly seasonal and once exclusive to the north German town of Einbeck. But, following the town’s demise in the Thirty Years’ War, they were revived in Bavaria and are now brewed all over Germany and, of course, Lincolnshire.

    Rich, warming and full-bodied with a notably long, lingering finish, Batemans B Bock has, like all good bocks should, a picture of a goat on the label (the word bock, a distortion of the ‘beck’ part of Einbeck, translates as billy-goat).
    Batemans, 01754 880317

    German Helles: Camden Unfiltered Hells Lager, 4.6%
    This Bavarian pale lager has its roots in Britain. Sort of. The man who created it, Gabriel Sedlmayr from the Spaten brewery, originally learned all about pale malt from British brewers.

    He also sneakily stole yeast from British breweries using a special walking cane and took it back to Germany with him. ‘It always surprises me,’ wrote Sedlmayr, ‘that we can get away with these thefts without being beaten up’.

    The chaps at Camden Brewery in North London boast two Helles-style beers – there’s the delicately hopped, flint-dry filtered straight Hells (sic) or a more complex, cloudy unfiltered version that has more hop character to it.
    Camden Town Brewery, 020 7485 1671

    German Rauchbier: Beavertown Smog Rocket Smoked, 5.4%
    Imagine a Lapsang Souchong-sipping, iodine-soaked smoked kipper doing laps in a loch of Islay whisky. Think of the elbow pads of a geography teacher and the whiff of Winston Churchill’s leather-clad mahogany desk after a long night drinking drams, chomping on cigars and pushing little soldiers about a map with a windscreen wiper.

    That sound like your kind of thing? Then you’ll enjoy the Rauchbiers of the picturesque Franconian town of Bamberg.

    For something more drinkable, though, take a trip to Tottenham, where Beavertown brews a milder, mellower version. Pouring dark brown from a cool-looking 33cl can, there’s gentle smoke on the nose, a chunk of dark chocolate and a lovely dry tobacco finish.
    Beavertown Brewery, sales@beavertownbrewery.co.uk

    German Dunkel: West Dunkel, 4.9%
    Until the 1840s, all German lager was ‘dunkel’ (dark) and the daddy of German dunkel comes from the historic Kaltenberg Brewery in Bavaria. But one of the best British versions of this style can be found brewing in Glasgow where West brewery brings together five different malts and a light hop presence to produce a wonderful wintery lager.
    Available from Euroboozer, 01923 263335

    German Hefeweizen: Bad Seed Hefeweizen, 5.9%
    The Bad Seed Brewery from North Yorkshire is home to a hazy hefeweizen with all the phenolic clove, light banana character and sprightly effervescence that you’d expect. Hefeweizen is a classic German style that was last drunk in the Bavarian Bierhalle back in the mid-1800s.

    Disillusioned with what they regarded as a dated drink for grannies, locals clamoured for the clean, clear and contemporary lager-style beers instead but hefeweizen was dragged from its deathbed by George Schneider, brewer of Schneider Weiss.
    Available nationally through Pivovar, 01904 607197 (Yorkshire); New Wave Distribution, sales@anewwave.co.uk (Scotland); The Big Beer Co, sales@thebigbeerco.com (Bristol); and Pig’s Ears, 01306 627779 (London)

    Kölsch: Thornbridge Tzara, 4.8%
    It looks like a Kölsch, smells like a Kölsch, tastes like a Kölsch but zee pesky pedantic Germans say it can’t legally be called a Kölsch unless it’s from Cologne. Stylistically straddling a golden ale and a delicate lager, it’s bright, brisk and light on bubbles with a faintly citrusy fruit twist.
    Thornbridge Brewery, 01629 815999

    German Altbier: Orbit Beers London Neu, 4.7%
    Shiny of shoe, vast of wallet and all BMW, belts and braces, Düsseldorf is known as ‘the office desk of the Ruhr’. Unsurprising, then, that the name of its beer-style is also a button on a keyboard.
    Düsseldorf’s not like London’s Elephant and Castle at all – but that’s where you’ll find a smooth, nutty Alt alternative courtesy of the guys from Orbit brewery, where sweet music is played to the mash tuns. It strikes a nice balance between bitter and sweet without veering into acrid, burnt barley flavours.
    Orbit Beers London, 020 7703 9092

    German Oktoberfest/Märzen: Meantime Fest Bier, 5.6%
    A graduate of the notable Weihenstephan brewing school near Munich, Meantime founder Alastair Hook has championed Germanic brewing traditions more than any other British brewer.

    This is an authentic interpretation of a beer that would have been brewed in the spring, stored in cold cellars for the summer and drunk in the autumn. Brewed with malt and bottom-fermenting yeast from Bavaria and hopped with noble German hops, it’s a deep copper-coloured lager that is stored for several weeks and released unfiltered.
    Meantime Brewing Company, 020 8819 7479

    Belgian Abbey beers: Adnams Triple Knot Tripel, 10%; TicketyBrew Dubbel, 6.5%
    There was a time when monks brewed all the beer in Britain. We don’t have monastic beers in Britain anymore because, unlike Jay Z, Henry VIII had lots of problems with his bitches and they forced him to dissolve all the monasteries in the 16th century.

    In Belgium, however, monastic brewing was revived in the 1830s and both abbey ales and Trappist beers remain the cornerstone of Belgium’s rich beer culture. The two beer styles synonymous with monastic brewing are dubbel (double) and tripel (triple). Brewers would mark their barrels with either two or three Xs to let the largely illiterate locals know how strong the beers were.

    They may not be monks, but TicketyBrew in Stalybridge is a rare British brewery dabbling in the dark world of dubbels. Available in both bottle and keg, its deep maroon colour is deceptive as no roasted malts are used, merely a drop of dark sugar syrup (as per Belgian brewing tradition). The sweetness is balanced out by the dry bitterness of German hops and there’s a swirl of dark fruit, pepper and toffee apple in there too.

    The latest British brewer to try a tripel is Adnams on the east coast. Brewer Fergus Fitzgerald has taken the Sole Bay sparkling beer and added a few Belgian tweaks. Tripel Knot Triple is spiced with lavender, orange blossom and orange, bitter hopped using El Dorado, double fermented – once with the Adnams house yeast and then with a white wine yeast – and then lagered on yeast for approximately six months.
    Adnams, 01502 727272; TicketyBrew, 07970 093 665

    Belgian Lambic: Elgood’s Coolship Blonde, 6%
    Belgian lambic beer is the oldest beer style in the western world and regarded by some as the most quixotic and cultured expression of the brewing art.

    But most people think it tastes horrible and can’t see the attraction of a sour beer that tastes like a goat smells and whose tartness makes you draw in your cheeks as if you’ve seen something saucy happening in the pantry.

    Closer in character to cider or fino sherry, what distinguishes lambic from conventional contemporary beers is that it’s spontaneously fermented with naturally-occurring, local, airborne yeast specific to Pajottenland in Brussels.

    This means that you can’t make it anywhere else. Or can you? Elgood’s in Cambridgeshire has had a damn good try using the same age-old traditional methods, authentic and iconic shallow coolships which expose more of the beer to the yeast, as well as similar fermentation techniques and oak-ageing.

    We have no idea what kind of yeast is floating about just off the A1101 but whatever it is and whatever it does, the results are really rather impressive – earthy, funky, acidic, woody and citrusy sour. Just like licking a cellar door.
    Cambridge Wine Merchants, 01954 214528

    Belgian Witbier: Six°North Wanderlust Wheat, 4.6%
    Unlike the Germans (who have, of course, historically been forbidden from furnishing their wheat beers with anything but grain, hops and water,) those crazy Belgian bastards have always revelled in adding all manner of esoteric ingredients into their unfiltered witbier – coriander seed and orange curaçao peel being the most common.

    Creamy, cloudy and showcasing that fruity Belgian wit yeast, Wanderlust Wheat from Six°North brewery in Aberdeen is one of the finest wits outside of Wallonia. Made for mussels.
    Six°North, 01561 377047

    Czech Pilsner: Windsor & Eton Republika, 4.8%
    The people of Pilsen were fools. When they invented the first ever truly golden lager in 1842, they failed to patent it. Other breweries copied it and soon Pilsner was being brewed all over Europe and America. They tried to trademark their beer in 1899 but, by that time, the horse had bolted, the stable door flapping in the wind and more than 100 years on, pilsner is still brewed all over the world – though with varying degrees of success.

    Historically, there have been a lot of piss-poor pilsners out there, many contract-brewed in Britain by less conscientious mega-mainstream brewers. But now there are quite a few very good British pilsners made by brewers with the equipment and, crucially, the patience required to perfect the Pilsner style.

    Windsor & Eton Republika, brewed in association with Czech brewer Tomas Mikulica of Pivovarsky Dvur, is lagered for six weeks and delivers the light aromatics, the sure malt backbone and the elegant, spritzy hop bitterness associated with a perfect pilsner.
    Windsor & Eton Brewery, 01753 854075

    American IPA: Salopian Catatonic, 5.7%
    The Americanisation of India Pale Ale is the most significant event to have shaped beer in the last 30 years. Not content with re-inventing IPA by cranking up the aroma and bitterness, America’s craft brewers have doubled it, tripled it, made it Imperial and even taken it into the black.

    And more than 200 years after English brewers were exporting heavily hopped ales and porters to India, hundreds of British craft brewers are brewing American-style interpretations of IPA.

    Often with a fresher hop profile than their US counterparts, some amazing IPAs are being brewed all over Britain – those made by Meantime Brewing Company, Magic Rock Brewing, The Kernel and St Austell Brewery, not to mention the hugely underrated Worthington’s White Shield, being just a few.

    But we’ve gone for this: a bold, vibrant and collaborative IPA brewed by two of the most talented brewers in Britain; Salopian Brewery from Shropshire and Tiny Rebel Brewing Co from Newport in Wales.

    Brewed using two kilos of American hops (Chinook, Citra and Mosaic) per brewer’s barrel, then dry-hopped for four weeks and centred by a pale malt canvas, it flexes some phenomenal fruity, herbal aromas and – unlike with mindlessly bitter IPAs – your palate won’t wake up with a crowd around it.
    Salopian Brewery, 01743 248414

    Saison/Bière de Garde: Burning Sky Saison à la Provision, 6.5%
    A couple of years ago, saisons were the cool style among craft brewers but few have captured the complex spiciness, herbal highs and yeasty funk quite like the brilliantly bucolic Burning Sky brewery in Sussex.

    Its Saison à la Provision is a ‘tavern strength’ saison, first fermented using a sprightly saison yeast followed by a blend of ‘wild’ yeast – lactobacillus and brettanomyces – then aged in oak vats for three months.

    A softly sour, lightly fruity quencher with touches of apricot, greengage and pear drops with some funky brett action in there too. Will slake that rasping thirst following a long hot summer’s day swinging a scythe in a Belgian field.
    Burning Sky Beer, 01273 858080