Let’s clear one thing up in advance: I’m not a Beer Ninja. But I’m always open to expanding my palate. On a recent trip to my favourite wine shop (Seven Cellars, Brighton), I found myself drawn towards the beer section. I asked the manager, Matt, for some tips and he advised me that Cloudwater are making “some of the best beer in the UK right now”.
That’s some claim. But Matt knows a lot more about beer than I do, so after visibly flinching at the £4.80 price tag I took a punt on a can. At least if I didn’t drink it, I thought, I could keep it as an investment and cash it in as an annuity when I retire.
So why did I eschew the wine rack in favour of the beer shelf? Well, I recently had my nose attuned to hip hops by a chap called Rupert Ponsonby: PR guru, ale authority and vendor of artisan pork scratchings. Rupert had kindly invited a select group (actually it was more of a duo than a group. It really was very select) to his pad for a sprint through the history of beer. The spectrum of flavours on show was much wider than expected, and this enlightened me to the potential of beer as a topic for review.
Cloudwater IPA Vic Secret
This Cloudwater IPA (that’s India Pale Ale, if you’re even more clueless about beer than I am) is a seasonal beer labelled as DDH, which stands for double dry hopped. The process of double dry hopping is intended to impart a level of freshness and body to the beer, supercharging the hop flavours (and also the price).
On the back of the can is a profile of ingredients that reads to me like thesis on quantum mechanics. In Japanese. “Hop charge”, “London Fog”, “Golden Promise”: I’m not sure exactly what any of these things are, but they’re all great names for bands. From what I can decipher, Vic Secret is the main type of aroma hop used, so that’s where this beer’s name comes from. I guess it’s roughly analogous to talking about a grape variety in wine.
This beer takes no prisoners, popping excitingly into the nose with powerfully refreshing grassy/herbal notes. In the mouth it’s soft grapefruit and orange-peel citrus. I find a lot of citrusy beers too bitter, but this is super smooth, almost creamy. Colour-wise it’s an ethereal amber, like freshly squeezed orange juice, but with the Photoshop saturation slider turned down by 20%.
Clearly I’m not in a position to say whether this is “the best beer in the UK”, but I gotta thank Matt for a revelatory tip. I’ll be back for more. After I’ve remortgaged my home.
5 NINJA STARS
Cloudwater IPA Vic Secret, 6.5% volume. £4.80 for a 440ml can from Seven Cellars
For more info on Rupert’s cracking crackling, see www.mrtrotters.com