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A flea's hat and an otter's pocket...

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On paper, this box looked very interesting. Some familiar names, some new, a wealth of pales of varying styles and a couple of swerve-balls.

The weather was almost warm enough to set foot outdoors without succumbing immediately to exposure, which is good enough for an Englishman to fire up the BBQ. With the grill loaded, the nuts decanted form bag to bowl and the tunes set to 'chill', we began...

Overall, a good box ranging from average to sublime. Here are some bullet points for ease of digestion.

  • Scottish breweries seem to be killing it. Cromarty's 'Man Overboard' was exceptional
  • The Anchor Chilli Dark Lager is proof that gimmick led beers can enchant

Notes from the Editor:

The vast majority of our craft beer is small production and sourced locally. The reviewed beers are not always available in all of our stores, however, we have put a guide to availability under each review. Please use our store finder to locate your nearest branch and call ahead to guarantee stock is available.

Cromarty Brewing Co. Man Overboard Double IPA
This one came out a deep, cloudy, orange colour with a thin, white, lacing head.

The smell's clean, uncomplicated and lightly citrusy - favouring the orange end of the spectrum as opposed to the yellow/green end.

Wow! This is full bodied, with moderate, yet tight carbonation. The flavour is equally impressive; this reasonably sweet, malty gem has accents of tangerine, peach and mango.

James Beer Score
A good dose of caramel up front. Good depth, sweet over bitter.

Score 4.5
Matt Score
A full on malty backbone holding up an array of fruits.

Beer Score 4.5
Availability: Scotland stores, Blackheath Beer Store

Victory Headwaters Ale

This was aggressively fizzy, I thought it might take the French polish off the dining room table, but I just about managed to get it in the glass before it geysered itself everywhere. The resulting pour left a big, foamy off-white head atop a clear amber liquid.

Aromas of fresh, piney hops gives way to caramel, biscuit, malt and a hint of candied orange. It smells pretty good.

Feels nice in the mouth, medium body, low to moderate carbonation. Flavour is fairly light, bittersweet with a dry, earthy finish.

James Beer Score
Very drinkable, a decent session ale.Beer Score 3.5
Mat Beer Score
Very hoppy, tasty and easy to drink. Smelt like a brewery.

Beer Score 3.5
Availability: Blackheath Beer Store, Aberdeen stores, Chorlton branch

Five Points Brewing Company IPA
I tend to like these bold, strong IPA's so...

It looks suspiciously murky, like rusty water. It has a short-ish, off-white foamy head, which didn't hang around.

The smell was a cocktail of sweetness - citrus, passionfruit and maybe a fleas hats worth of banana - and a bitter, earthy quality. The underlying earthy odour incongruous with the sweeter notes.

Medium bodied with low to medium carbonation, on point for an IPA I'd say.

It tastes much like it smells, there's a little citrus, a little passionfruit, a soupçon of banana, which tails off into a piney, bitter finish.

James Beer Score
This is just a little bitter for my palate, a solid IPA for those who like the bitter end of the spectrum.

Beer Score 3
Matt Beer Score
Very bitter and it lingers, good if you like that sort of thing.

Beer Score 3
Availability: London stores

Five Points Brewing Company XPA
Admittedly I had to look up 'XPA' because...what is it? Apparently it's something like an American Pale or an IPA, and something like an exercise in marketing.

Whether XPA exists or not, this beer does and it's hazy, straw-yellow liquid with a short white head that laces the glass.

It smells mostly citric, lightly tropical, slightly malty and rightly hoppy.

It felt a little like soda water, a little too watery in the body. It's a little malty, a decent showing of citrusy hops with a dry-ish finish. It's not quite as juicy and fruity as the marketing spiel implied, a little thin with a medium bitter finish.

James Beer Score
Not bad, a little too light to write home about, but a decent bet for a session.

Beer Score 3
Matt Beer Score
Nice tropical fruit aroma. I would session this.

Beer Score 3
Availability: London stores

Brauerei Heller Lagerbier
Let's get this out of the way, it is a truly awful label. Looks like a stock Word template for a German style beer. I'm sure it's awesome though.

As a Helles should be, it's golden and frothy in appearance. It has a pleasant scent, mildly sweet and floral with an Otter's pockets worth of smoke.

Light on body with tight carbonation, there is however, a reasonable depth of flavour...for a lighter beer style. Clean grains, malt, not too sweet, not too bitter.

James Beer Score
Indicative of the style, really good session beer.

Beer Score 3.5
Matt Beer Score
Good nose, not a big flavour, but what's there is good.

Beer Score 3.5
Availability: Blackheath Beer Store, Edinburgh stores, Aberdeen stores and our London Bridge and Chorlton branches

Stewarts Brewing
A deep copper coloured pour, with a short lasting thin, white head.

The aromas of fresh, grassy hops against floral notes make this smell like a rainbow's end bathing a spring meadow in colourful glory as the birds flutter and sing. Not really of course, that would be horribly trite, unlike this beer, which smells fresh.

It feels thick and full with low carbonation resulting in a smooth and full beer, rather than watery. The flavour has candied citrus peel, clean grains, a little yeast, sharp and bitter grapefruit, and a slight metallic quality. It's an interesting journey, starting sweet and ending quite dry and bitter.

James Beer Score
Not for a session, but this is interesting and complex.

Beer Score 3.5
Matt Beer Score
A mix of bittersweet fruits and biscuit malts. I liked it a lot.

Beer Score 4
Availability: Aberdeen and Glasgow stores

Weird Beard Brew Co. Mariana Trench Pale AleSuspiciously cloudy and yellorange in colour with a slight, white fluffy head.

It smells pretty tasty, a good showing of fresh and floral hops, bitter pine resin and citrus fruits.

It has tight carbonation, but not so fizzy you'd struggle to discern the beer's character. I thought this beer was really well balanced, the fragrant, piney hops and sweet malt working in tandem for a flavourful citrus and tropical, fruity ale. Not too bitter.

James Beer Score
Fresh floral hop odour. Light, but pleasing. A fine and tasty ale.

Beer Score 4
Matt Beer Score
Sets the standard for a good, drinkable APA without impressing too much.

Beer Score 3.5
Availability: London stores


Remember, ale's well that ends well. Until next time.