Many thanks to those who suggested Manchester watering holes; alas, the Marble Arch and suchlike will be for another trip. No sooner did I arrive for my beery weekend than I contracted the dreaded swine flu. Not to be recommended. Match abandoned.
Thankfully, the good friend with whom I was kipping looked after me (indeed, long after I was meant to have left), securing Tamiflu, discussing the world athletics hoo-hah and in countless other ways making a bad situation tolerable. Hats off to the lad.
By way of thanks, having returned to the land of the living and made it back to sunny Cambridge, I logged on to Beers of Europe to send up a thank you pack. My friend received, by country:
Belgium: St Bernadus Abt 12 (10.5%) - a gorgeous, rich, thick, dark glugging, boozy Christmas pud of an ale; Gouden Carolus Classic (8.5%) - in the same ball park as the Bernadus; Girardin Kriek (5%) - a lambic and the best kriek bar none.
Germany: Augustiner Lagerbier Hell (5.2%) - a fantastically clean lager, fresh, pale and with hay, grassy hop tones.
USA: Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA (7.1%) - a textbook US-style IPA with ballsy American hops; Stone Brewing Co. Arrogant Bastard Ale (7.2%) - a real treat for the boy, as I've never tried it (nor any Stone beer for that matter - I'm keen for him to test it out).
Generous to a fault, I'm sure you'll agree. But what would you have sent? Do you, like me generally, go foreign with bottled beers (with the obvious exceptions of BrewDog and Thornbridge), or do bottle conditioned UK ales tickle your fancy?
And which ones work - any guaranteed UK bottle conditioned gems (I'll start the list with Worthie's White Shield)? And perhaps someone can answer this age old question - why does UK bottle conditioned sediment ruin a beer when Belgian/Dutch sediment, while offering a different experience, can be a positive addition?
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