A couple of weeks ago, I took a break from being a boring-arse serious fulla – and posted a pointless-but-fun piece about my desert-island beer styles: the six styles that I simply couldn’t live without if I was marooned with no hope of escape. A friend (thanks, Phil) pointed out that the idea was probably inspired by ( / flagrantly stolen from) the Desert Island Beers series that All Gates Brewery used to run; but a good idea is a good idea, so I’ve decided to run with it.
As promised at the end of my own mixed-six, I’ve asked some of my brewer-mates to provide their own desert-island styles – to furnish a new and somewhat-regular blog-series. First-up is the Founder and Benevolent Dictator of Yeastie Boys, Stu McKinlay. Stu’s the kinda guy who instantly adds fun and substance to any conversation that he’s part of; and thus he was an obvious choice for first cab off the rank.
The words are his; he’s an annoyingly-good writer.
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I absolutely love pale lager, becoming even more enamoured since I moved closer to its birthplace, and Dortmunder just ticks all the right boxes for me. Slightly stronger than pilsner and hells, with the full malty backbone you’d expect from that, and perfectly balanced with a firm hop character and a minerally dry finish. Perfect for the long hot days we’re experiencing on The Weald in South England, this summer.
DAB is my first love, and I often miss the few New World supermarkets in New Zealand where the 500ml cans were always available, but Ben Middlemiss made a cracking one in around 2008 that I’ve been trying to get him to rebrew ever since.
Pilsner (North German)
Pilsner is a wonderful experience in the fact that it can so easily be thought of a single style when it really crosses at least three true historic styles and several modern ones (and, of course, the pseudo “Pilsner” sold by industrial giants all over the world). North German, my preference, is the driest and lightest in body of them all. The hops are bold but well integrated and the bitterness is very firm. It’s the type of experience that is the perfect first beer of the day and
Jever Pils is my go to classic but Warsteiner and the quite uncool Holsten Pils are more easily available and both excellent.
Earl Grey IPA
You have to love yourself before you can love anyone else, so they say. Well I certainly loved beer before I loved any of our own, but I do think we created something unique and very special with Gunnamatta, our earl grey IPA. It’s probably the thing I’m most proud in the first ten years of Yeastie Boys and every glass I drink is special. Six years on it’s great to see earl grey being used by brewers all over the world and, occasionally, to get asked for advice and tips on using this unusual ingredient.
Gunnamatta is the classic, of course, but lovely earl grey IPAs are also made by Marble in England and Brouwerij Kees in Netherlands (among others).
I think of old ale as the best, and by far the most underrated, of all the big classic beer styles. The main problem with the style is the fact that it’s too easy for them to sway towards overly sweet and cloying. At its best, however, the old ales I love are sweet and fruity on initial inspection but with a real depth of complexity and a dry finish reminscent of a great Port, Madeira or Marsala.
The best examples I’ve encountered are Marble’s Prize Old Ale series (inspired by and in collaboration with Fuller’s of London), Harviestoun Ola Dubh, Orkney Island Dark Reserve and Fullers 1845.
My first dog was a heading dog (or eye dog), which had been around for over a hundred years but was initially a cross between a border collie and a greyhound. Heading dogs have the best attributes of their two base breeds but are are not officially recognised as a dog breed. Flemish Stout is also a mongrel, a cross between a Dry or Foreign Export Stout and a Flanders Red or Brown. Think the best stout you’ve ever had, with the added complexity of the best red wine.
My picks for this are Townshend’s Flemish Stout – one of my favourite New Zealand beers of all time – and Monolith by Burning Sky in Sussex.
Saison (Mixed fermentation)
I love really dry pale beers, especially when they have a great complexity… I’m happiest when you cannot tell the place where fermentation characteristics end and the hops start. I get this most from the kind of beers that have the fruitiness we all love with modern new world beer styles but the fermentation character of the best strong Belgian styles.
My favourite examples of this are Logsdon Farmhouse Ales’ Seizoen Bretta and Burning Sky’s Sasion Anniversarie… and I would tentatively place De Ranke’s XX Bitter in here too. Think Orval with a slightly modern makeover.
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So there it is: Yeastie Boy Stu McKinlay’s desert island mixed-six. My sincere thanks to Stu for taking the time out from conquering the UK to put finger to keyboard in aid of a poxy blogger; he really is a good sort.
My aim is to find an equally-generous brewer to contribute their own mixed-six every couple of weeks, at least until Christmas – and probably on a Thursday night, for consistency. It’s appointment-codswallop!
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