Posted by: The Prince of Whales | April 1, 2010

Desert Island Pints


BBC Radio 4 is one of our national treasures and Desert Island Discs is a personal favourite of mine. On the programme, the great and the good are all asked to choose just 8 pieces of music that would best keep them happy whilst castaway on a desert island.

The selections often include some great music but what is sometimes quite amusing is how public figures make selections to position themselves as slightly more trendy than perhaps they really are.  There will be 4 pieces of classical music, 2 arias from little known operas and a couple of punk tracks thrown for street cred.  I tend to admire the honesty of the populists … what’s wrong with Abba or the Beatles?  In this sense, music is like beer and,  for Desert Island Discs as for pints, there should be no shame in being populist.

So here’s my selection of Desert Island Pints:

1. St Austell,  Tribute. ABV 4.2%

It’s not new, the brewery’s not small and it’s not local. Not many Camra members would choose to seek it out but it’s a truly fine example of a golden premium bitter with a lovely floral nose. It seems my love of Tribute puts me in good company as Roger Protz, Editor Good Beer Guide, wrote: “Tribute is a magnificent example of a bronze coloured English bitter, with a rich aroma of biscuity malt and tart citrus fruit from the Willamette hops. Juicy malt, hop resins and tangy fruit coat the tongue, while the finish is long and lingering, with a fine balance between malt, hops and fruit, finally becoming dry and bitter.”

There you go – hard to beat on a sunny afternoon!

2. Nethergate, Umbel Magna. ABV 5%

In 1992 I was fed up with my job in advertising and wanted to leave the Big Smoke and set up a micro brewery. Living in Suffolk, I went to see Ian Hornsey at Nethergate, just 20 or so miles down the road from me in Clare. Ian was very welcoming, showed me around the brewery and offered me good advice. I never did set up the brewery, but I did go on to love his beer.

This uses the same wort as Old Growler (perhaps their most famous beer) but with the addition of corriander, a common practice a couple of hundred years ago. The result is a dark spicy porter that’s simply magic.

Corriander seeds used in Umbel Magna ... "This is beer Jim, but not as we know it"

3. Black Hole Brewery, Red Dwarf. ABV 4.5%

Red Dwarf - Burton Beer at its Best

No selection of favoured beers would be complete without paying homage to Burton on Trent. There would be a good handful of Burton brewed beers that could stake their claim, but this one took me and my regulars by surprise on its Prince debut only last week.  First brewed in January 2006, Richard Swanick the brewer told me he wanted something a little unusual; not brown or golden but a glorious red beer.

4. Castle Rock Harvest Pale. ABV 3.8%

A few years ago I ran a beer festival in an old bus depot – an unlikely setting and a financial disaster. The marketing was weak and the beer selection huge; so me and a few friends had a lot of beer to drink come Sunday evening. Of the 50 tubs we put up, there were two surprises that revealed themselves on the eve of the festival as Tom Whitton and myself sampled all the beers to make sure they were all fit and ready to drink.

As we moved down the row of firkins, glasses in hand, Tom (a Camra member whose drinking experience should qualify him for a Lifetime Achievement Award) and me agreed the beer selection was very good.  Of course the more we drank, the better it seemed!  However there were two outstanding beers. One was a disappointment in that I wanted to be blown away by something I had never tasted before. When we came to the end of the line, we both agreed the Timothy Taylor’s Landlord was fantastic. All the latest brews couldn’t match a pint I first drank back in Lancashire as a 17 year old.

Gold from the Black Country

The other was Harvest Pale and it did blow my taste buds away!

5.  Holdens Golden Glow. ABV 4.4%

The first time I ever tried proper Black Country faggots was at the Holden’s brewery tap in Woodsetton. Now the faggots were good but the beer was excellent. Golden Glow is a cracking pint. Subtle, slightly sweet and with a hint of citrus but its best characteristic is its difficult to have just the one!

6. Purity Pure Gold. ABV 3.8%

For those of you who know the set up at Purity, I have met UBU the Dog, been chased by the Mad Goose but I still love Pure Gold. A great session beer!

7. Kelham Island Pale Rider. ABV 5.2%

This strong, fruity yet well balanced pale ale is a classic, brewed by one of the true pioneers of the craft brewing revival. Steel and cutlery might no longer be the pride of Sheffield but this beer surely is.

And finally …

There are many IPAs, but only one Jaipur.

8. Thornbridge Jaipur IPA. ABV 5.9%

This beer is misleading! It starts off all soft and smooth, avoiding the heavy taste of alcohol you sometimes find in stronger beers. The finish is big, not subtle at all with bitter hops and honey. Wonderful.

So there we have it … my 8 favourite beers for a desert island!

You don’t have to wait to be castaway as all of these beers will be available at The Prince of Wales in Moseley from mid April until the end of May. They will be sharing our 10 handpulls with Acorn Barnsley Bitter, Rudgate Ruby Mild, Salopian Darwin’s Origin, Thornbridge Lord Marples, York Centurion’s Ghost, Oakham Bishop’s Farewell, Bombardier and Abbot! Obviously not every beer will be on every night but 10 of them will and these beers will be our permanent Summer range.

Cheers!

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