Dish of the Day: My year in beer – 50 beers in 52 weeks
A year ago I knew very little about beer. I had no idea about the variety of beer available in this country and I hadn’t heard of many of the breweries that beer lovers reel off in conversation. One day last summer, however, I decided to set myself a challenge: to drink every beer on The Independent’s list of the 50 Best British beers. Despite the London Olympics being on at the time, this seemed like a worthy distraction.
A few weeks later I found myself posting a new entry on my blog, publicly committing to search out and drink every beer from the list. Fifty-two weeks, 50 beers. It was almost perfect: a beer a week, with a fortnight off.
My blog is about a couple of things. It’s partly about trying to get fit, but it’s mainly about trying to get fit so that I can eat good food and drink nice things. Here was a new challenge for me. And it did turn out to be a bit challenging.
Starting out, I was able to pick up beers with ease. Fancy a banana bread beer? Then there’s one on the list and it’s probably sat on the shelves in your local supermarket. I’m still not sure how I feel about a banana-based beer, but it wasn’t the strangest-sounding beer I tried.
Fraoch Heather Ale is a heather beer brewed to a 4,000 year old recipe. And it’s pretty good as well: earthy, spicy and bitter. How about a lager brewed with champagne yeast to give it a grapey aroma? That one is on the list as well. From the Chapel Down vineyard, Curious Brew is a refreshing lager. That smells of grapes.
From Scotland I tried crisp lagers from Harviestoun and rich stouts from Cairngorm brewery. Yorkshire offered one of the best bitters I’ve ever tried (York Brewery’s Terrier), London gave me my first black IPA (Windsor & Eton Conqueror) and here in the South West I got to enjoy beers from some of my favourite local breweries: Otter, Badger and St Austell.
As well as improving my brewery knowledge, the list also forced me to try new beer styles. Thanks to this challenge I have enjoyed my first barley wine (Woodforde’s Headcracker: warm joy in a bottle), my first double IPA (Brewdog’s Hardcore IPA) and my first wheat beers. Admittedly, I didn’t really take to wheat beer as a style, but I feel the richer for knowing that. One of the biggest surprises for me was how great lager can be. Something that I had thought of as boring and tasteless turns out to be full of flavour. If you haven’t tried Freedom’s Organic Dark Lager, I strongly recommend it.
One of the things that this challenge has given me is a much better appreciation of how many great beers you can find, wherever you are in the country. It wasn’t all plain sailing though. Trying to find all 50 beers was a challenge in itself, as I hijacked trips to different parts of the country to visit new beer shops, enlisted other bloggers to track down beer for me and had to take to twitter in an eleventh hour bid to find beer number 49 before the year was up.
But I did it, finishing with something really special: a bottle of Fuller’s Vintage Ale (2012), one of the finest drinks I’ve ever had.
Turns out it was worth interrupting the Olympics for after all.
Read Jon’s blog runningbuffet.wordpress.com/a-year-in-beer
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