Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. – Tropical Torpedo IPA

To be honest, I’m not a big fan of California-based brewing company Sierra Nevada. Well, of the two beers I’ve tried so far; their Pale Ale and Torpedo Extra IPA. They just come across forgettable and bland. But I am a sucker for strong, boozy tropical beers. So when I see a case-load of eye-catching Tropical Torpedo IPA bottles in Whole Foods, I grab two and hit the road.

The bottle, itself, looks like a jacked-up, NASCAR version of smooth, South African orange milk drink Tropika. Sierra Nevada describes it as a “tropical twist on the American IPA.” And straight away, they’ve got my full attention. The mango, papaya and passionfruit kicks are all there, but the flavours are subtle. It’s smooth, fruity and tropical, but gentle at the same time. Restrained. With a 6.7% ABV that sneaks up like sunscreen bottles filled with tequila.

Mosaic, Citra, El Dorado and Comet hops set the pace, while Amarillo adds that wonderfully refreshing bitter finish that makes me lick me lips. Overall, it’s definitely more memorable than previous Sierra Nevada beers I’ve tried. More of a stand out. And closer to magical. Yet, despite all of its island promise, the Tropical Torpedo never goes full Wilson, or “Island” Niles. It never gets really carried away. In other words, it’s no Beavertown Tropigamma. It is good, though.


Fourpure – Juicebox Citrus IPA

Look, it’s great, but to be perfectly honest, I was expecting something juicier. More tropical. More off the wall. I’ve been digging fruity, citrus-packed IPAs lately, and Fourpure Brewing Co.’s lush-looking Juicebox was a long time coming – a mate instagrammed a photo of one last year and since then I’ve been on the hunt. Finally, I found it, a season later, at Utobeer in Borough Market. Needless to say, anticipation was high.

Unlike other tropical IPAs the fruitiness is understated – a massive surprise when you take in the juiciness of the can art. The subtle suggestion of tropical fruit seems to be limited to lingering whispers of grapefruit, which is quite a letdown, really. Still, like I say, it’s a good beer. Fourpure is a great brewery. I was just looking for something special. Magical. I’ll still buy it again, though – unless it’s sat next to a Tropigamma or a Not Guilty OJ IPA.

Cloudwater Brew Co. – DIPA v13 Special Edition

Cloudwater Brew Co. is one of my favourite recent beer discoveries. And DIPA v13 Special Edition is the best of the best. Everything about the Manchester-based, “modern, seasonal beer” company reeks of innovation and style. From its slick, classy designs and packaging to its experimental, boundary pushing brews and here-today-gone-tomorrow, limited edition feel.

So far, I’ve enjoyed every Cloudwater beer I’ve tried. Especially the New England IPA collaboration with craft beer mega giants Brewdog. But this one’s the best I’ve tasted. In fact, it’s currently one of my top five beers of all time.

The DIPA v13 Special Edition pours thick, golden-orange and cloudy, with a fruity, lip-smacking aroma – I’m drooling just thinking about it now. And it looks delicious, too. Like rich, velvety, magic fruit juice in a can. As usual, Cloudwater do an amazing job balancing out the beer’s heavy 9% ABV, this time by combining Citra BBC pellets and a 50/50 mix of WLP4000 and 4786th generation JW Lees yeast.

It’s fruity, tropical, juicy and delicious. It’s soft and surprisingly easy to drink. Smooth, with a nice bitter finish and, of course, a strong 9% ABV boozy backbone. With v13, Cloudwater has achieved total oneness. Inner and outer peace. But sadly, v13 is the last in Cloudwater’s ongoing v series – which is a tragedy, as it taste like pure gold. I wonder if it freezes well…

Tailgate Beer – Peanut Butter Milk Stout

Peanut butter beer? Sounds like a gimmick, right? A con. Like something out of Harry Potter. Or the kind of far-fetched, over-indulgent, Willy Wonka fantasy talk craft beer skeptics laugh at over pints of Bud Light at the local Wetherspoon. But Nashville, Tennessee-based brewery Tailgate Beer ain’t laughing. In fact, the small batch specialists’ Peanut Butter Milk Stout does EXACTLY what it says on the tin.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not the biggest stout fan in the world. But sometimes. When the moon is right. A thick, decadent, dark and boozy stout beer can make a night. Usually, for me, it works best as a dessert beer. But this time, I was waiting for my takeaway order at Yard Sale Pizza, Finsbury Park and I simply couldn’t resist what I read on the board.

First impression; it’s thinner and more watery than I was expecting. Milkier, lighter and more hazelnutty. Like someone melted a Toblerone and a Snickers in a boozy, 5.8% milk stout. It’s a bit like a beery milkshake, really. Sweet yet not saccharine, tasty yet light and refreshing, with a enough of kick to keep you honest. It’s not quite an everyday beer, but it is memorable, something out of the ordinary that I would order again. Probably around closing time.

Cervisiam & Beerbliotek – Not Guilty OJ IPA


Ever since supplies of Beavertown’s fly-by-night Tropigamma Tropical IPA dried up I’ve been obsessed with finding a suitable replacement. A rich, murky brew that’s part fruit, part booze and all magic. So far, the closest I’ve come is Drygate Brewing’s Crossing the Rubicon IPA. But since then, nothing.

Feeling inspired, I headed over to Kris Wines in Camden, the self-proclaimed proprietor of the “best beers” in London. Plucking up the courage, I asked Kris himself if he had any recommendations and he pointed me to a range of neatly canned, fruity sounding beers by Swedish brewery Beerbliotek.

The mouthwatering selection included a Peach Saison, a Passion Fruit of the Loins Imperial IPA and an intriguing-sounding collaboration with Norwegian brewery Cervisiam, called Not Guilty! The OJ IPA. Bingo!

The cleverly named IPA pours thick, dark and hazy. And its 7.5% ABV gives it a rich, heady, full-bodied flavour on top of its refreshing orange undertones. In short, it’s exactly what I’ve been looking for. A thick, citrusy IPA whose fruitiness never oversteps its hoppy, malty beeriness. Sweet, bitter, golden and delicious. Kris, I’ll be back…

Verdant Brewing Co. – Headband Pale Ale


Bought this 5.5 % Verdant Brewing Co. Headband Pale Ale for the pretty can and funky name, but it really delivered. The radiant orange American pale style brew is ripe with flavour, from tropical and citrus fruits to “stinky” cheese and caramel, all working together in perfect harmony with the Headband’s crystal and Munich malts.


It’s bitter. It’s sweet. It’s dank. And it’s juicy. The hops pop and the texture’s thick, rich and delicious. The smooth, low carbonation also adds to the beer’s potency, making sure it’s refreshing, delectable and moreish.


Brewdog – Mr. President Defiant Double IPA


Batten down the hatches, this one’s coming in hot. God damn, Brewdog’s burly Mr. President double IPA’s a toe-curling 9.2% – and not one to be taken lightly. I save it ’til last and by the time I pop the bottle I’m more than ready for the dangerous copper-coloured nectar inside.

Straight away, Mr. President reminds me of Brewdog’s Hardcore Explicit Imperial Ale, which is (was?) also a heavy 9.2%. Although there are some noticeable tweaks. The first impression’s fruity… piney, followed by a jingoistic wave of hops and bitterness riding a chewy toffee malt.

Mr. President’s run for office is surprisingly subtle and understated, however, and the booziness is well hidden and built in. But again, I could have done with something a little wilder. Something richer and more special. More wow. I mean, come on, it’s already 9.2%. We might as well throw caution to the wind and go all in. But I guess that’s not really Brewdog’s style, is it.

vocation life and death

Brewdog – Hoppy Christmas Festive IPA


At first, Brewdog’s Hoppy Christmas Festive IPA reminds me of the classic Jack Hammer Ruthless IPA – which is also a heavy hitting seven-point-two-percenter that makes you pull a face like Homer Simpson sucking a super sour ball (at first). Only, the festive version’s less angry. Less forward and in your face. It’s had a few. It’s merrier.

Once poured the light head disappears quickly, and despite the name, hop levels are relatively subdued. The “pineapples, citrus and papaya” mix is surprisingly gentle as well. Reserved. Held back. And the crisp, refreshing bronze IPA goes down quickly and smoothly.

It’s good, but I was expecting something crazier, really. Something more screamingly Christmassy and special. More off the wall, even. Seeing as how it’s once a year and all. Instead, Hoppy Christmas is subtle. It’s understated. Boozy. With a strong backbone. But… not bad.

double ipa oakham

Beavertown – Applelation Bramley Apple Saison


Beavertown’s zingy Applelation seasonal is a gloriously refreshing throwback to the original thirst-quenching farmhouse saisons. The tasty wine-beer-hybrid is back, and it’s an intense 8.7% wave of flavours, combining classic saison spiciness, the tartness of Bramley apples and the smooth notes of rich honey. It’s fruity, boozy, smooth, sharp and delicious. Definitely a standout saison.

ABV: 8.7%
Malt: Golden Promise, Extra Pale
Hops: Hersbrucker


Drygate Brewing – Crossing the Rubicon IPA


Okay, so I totally judged this one by its cover, but Drygate Brewing’s Crossing the Rubicon IPA more than lives up to its shiny, pink promise. It’s a thing of beauty, inside and out. A real standout that’s anything but ordinary.

With it’s mango, passion fruit and citrus honey flourishes, the rich, cloudy amber beer reminds me of Beavertown’s tropical new IPA Tropigamma. It’s similarly special, and likewise, its boozy ABV (6.9%) and rich malt keep the fruity flavours in check. As does its bitter, hoppy finish. Delicious.

Can art by John Felix.