Tag Archives: India Pale Ales

159. Beavertown Black Betty

It’s time for another substitution for a discontinued beer, and it’s a bit of an old favourite of mine. This one replaces Hogs Back BSA, an English-style IPA that I fear I might have struggled to get excited about anyway.

Beavertown Black Betty at the Beavertown Brewery Taproom

You may remember London’s Beavertown from a previous substitution, the Bloody ‘Ell blood orange IPA, and may be concluding that I’m something of a fan. This is their Black IPA, named Black Betty. I’ve wanted to sneak a Black IPA in here for some time, as it’s a style I’m rather fond of, and yet it’s one that simply didn’t exist at the time The Book was written.

Whether an example of the style would have been featured anyway is open to debate. The author Roger Protz apparently is not convinced. Addressing a summit of brewers in Burton-on-Trent a couple of years ago, Protz said:

If you’re tempted, please don’t brew something called Black IPA. As the great American brewer and beer writer Garrett Oliver said on the subject: “Don’t get me started”. In other words, which part of India PALE Ale do you not understand? Black IPA is absurd and an insult to history.

Cue dozens of new wave breweries falling over themselves to brew a Black IPA and name it “Insult to History”.

Black Betty has really become the classic example of the style, and is a thing of beauty. Where better to try it than at the Beavertown Brewery itself, where the tap room is open on Saturday afternoons and into the evening.

Beavertown Brewery

The tap toom is bustling by the time I arrive, barely an hour or so after opening. But the staff are plentiful and efficient, and Threehundredbeers soon has a half pint of beer number 159 resting on a keg of Gamma Ray in front of us.

And what lovely stuff it is. What you get with a Black IPA of this quality is a giant hit of big, hoppy IPA bitterness and tropical fruit balanced out by rich, smooth and toasty chocolate and black malts.

Beavertown Black Betty packs a punch at 7.4%, and I think that’s appropriate for what is, after all, an IPA. I’ve seen weaker Black IPAs at around 5%, but they never seem to quite cut it for me.

This one does. There’s no question this is one of the finest beers being brewed in London today, and Black Betty seems to get better every time I try it, with an almost chocolate milk shake sweetness creeping in these days, and a full, smooth body to match.

A true modern classic, I reckon.

The Bar at the Beavertown Brewery Tap Room

After this it was time to work through the rest of the formidable tap lineup, sampling experimental IPAs, barrel-aged Imperial Stouts, and an Imperial Smoked Porter in short order, all in relaxed and convivial circumstances in among the fermentation vessels.

It was a grand day out, and there’s very little doubt that I’ll be returning to Beavertown before long.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Beavertown, Tottenham Hale, London N17
Style: India Pale Ales
Strength: 7.4% ABV
Found at: Beavertown Brewery Tap Room, Lockwood Industrial Park, London N17
Serving: Keg, half pint

158. Caledonian Deuchars IPA

Our time in Scotland is drawing to a close, and after a night in Aberdeen, there’s just time to break up the long trek home with a final night in Edinburgh.

This time we’ll go for something altogether more local: Caledonian Deuchars IPA is brewed just down the road to Slateford, in the shadow of Heart of Midlothian’s Tynecastle Stadium.

Caledonian Deuchars IPA at the Oxford Bar, Edinburgh

Caledonian Deuchars IPA is a beer I remember well from my years as a student in Edinburgh. I’m convinced it used to be stronger though: these days it’s an eminently sessionable 3.8%.

And where better to try it than The Oxford Bar, famed as “The Ox” of Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels. Inspector Rebus is a regular here, often holding clandestine meetings in the back room, and this is his tipple of choice. When he’s not on the whisky, that is. That’s because Ian Rankin is also a regular here, and has been known to try the Deuchars IPA once or twice himself.

The Oxford Bar, Young Street, Edinburgh

Of course the Deuchars IPA is in good condition here, and served in the correct glassware, always a nice touch.

Some may dispute the labelling of this as an IPA, given its modest strength and subtle hopping, but by traditional Scottish standards it is a hoppy beer. It’s zesty and refreshing, with lemony fruit perfectly balanced out by juicy malts bearing a hint of caramel sweetness.

That’s all sat on top of a slight Burton-like saltiness from the hard local water that helped to make Edinburgh a renowned centre of brewing for many, many years.

It’s a great little pint, this one, and the sort of thing you could drink all night if push came to shove.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Caledonian Brewery, Edinburgh, Scotland
Style: India Pale Ales
Strength: 3.8% ABV
Found at: The Oxford Bar, Young Street, Edinburgh
Serving: Cask, pint

124. Concertina Bengal Tiger

The glamorous, jetsetting life of Threehundredbeers continues as we board a leaking, 30-year-old Pacer at Sheffield station with the feintly terrifying plan of spending a rainy Saturday afternoon at the Concertina Band Club, a rather earthy working men’s club in a former mining village somewhere in rural South Yorkshire.

The reason we’re here is Concertina Bengal Tiger. This is a highly-regarded, award winning IPA that very few have tried. It’s brewed in the tiny cellar here at The ‘Tina, and it’s pretty much impossible to find anywhere else. Even if you could find it elsewhere, it would be an injustice to the Threehundredbeers project and to both of my readers not to make my way to Mexborough and the beer’s source.

The  Concertina Band Club, Mexborough

The club itself has seen better days, and initially feels a little intimidating to a southern softie. Yorkshire folks don’t do the red carpet treatment, but the welcome is warm enough. The club is no longer home to an actual concertina band, that once widespread northern phenomenon sadly having gone the same way as sparking clogs and Sheffield United winning the FA Cup, but judging by the trophies, it does still boast a fearsome ladies’ darts side.

Moreover, the beer is of exceptional quality, unreasonably cheap, and served in generous measures. I could get used to this.

Concertina Bengal Tiger

Would you look at that. The head, the colour, even the temperature is mouth-watering. That’s a beer in impeccable condition, and we’ve been served somewhat more than a pint for an unnecessarily reasonable £2.15.

And it’s lovely stuff too. Concertina Bengal Tiger is a beautiful golden colour with quite the finest white head I’ve seen on a beer in years.

I’m expecting a fairly traditional English-style IPA, with big fat malts and modest hop bitterness, but instead I’m hit full in the face by a giant handful of full-on citrus hops, much more in the modern, American style of IPA. I remember having much the same experience with another Yorkshire brew, the Kelham Island Pale Rider, so I wonder if that’s entirely a coincidence.

As an IPA, this one is significantly and pleasingly more bitter, but as expected that bitterness is happily underpinned by big, juicy, mouth-watering malts. There’s booze on the nose, and there’s a giant hamper of tropical fruit in there too, which surprisingly enough reminds me of a personal favourite, the classic Beavertown Gamma Ray.

There’s the tiniest, slightly acetic sour tang at the end, which initially seems out of place, but eventually is moreish enough to send you back to the bar for a second pint. It helps that the Bengal Tiger is served nice and cold here too. This is not your typical warm, flat brown beer.

Instead, Concertina Bengal Tiger is everything an IPA should be, and well worth the trek to Mexborough.

The Concertina Band Club is found at 9a Dolcliffe Road, Mexborough. Daytime opening hours were 1-5pm on the Saturday that I visited, but it may be wise to ring ahead on 01709 580 841. The club is a brief, uphill stroll from Mexborough station, itself an easy train ride from Sheffield, Rotherham or Doncaster. Whilst the establishment is technically a club, my own non-membership was not an issue, although I’m told CAMRA members are particularly welcome.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Concertina, Mexborough, South Yorkshire, England
Style: India Pale Ales
Strength: 4.6% ABV
Found at: The Concertina Band Club, Dolcliffe Road, Mexborough
Serving: Cask, pint

119. Meantime IPA

Between visits to Brighton last weekend and now Essex, we’re quite the jetsetter these days. You may remember Essex from such beery adventures as the rare and very tasty St. Sylvestre 3 Monts Bière de Garde.

This time let’s pack a bottle of something from closer to home, and once again call upon the help of friends in working through this formidably-sized, champagne-corked bottle of one of South East London’s most famous beers, Meantime IPA.

Meantime IPA

Meantime IPA pours a deep, rich amber colour with a modest dose of white froth. The aroma is initially a somewhat unpromising combination of root vegetables and wallpaper paste, but as it warms and breathes a little things become more fragrant.

This is an exceptionally flavoursome beer, with prominent zesty lime notes and big piney, oily resins from the hops. Indeed there’s a huge amount of bitterness in there, but it’s successfully balanced out by the malting.

I’d say the Meantime IPA seems to strike a really nice balance between the English and American styles of IPA, with the warm, sweet malts of the former combined with the big citrus hops and higher ABV payload of the latter.

Indeed, at 7.4% this is a big, strong beer, but there’s no harsh alcohol burn. Instead there’s just a huge mouthful of chewy flavour and a long, long finish.

Meantime IPA is actually a great beer, and I’m not sure why I don’t drink it more often. I guess the fact that it’s kind of rare to find on tap, or in a sensibly sized bottle, might partly explain it, but it’s definitely one I’ll pick up again.

I’m also slightly curious to find out how this one would age. Whilst the usual advice is to drink a hoppy IPA as soon after bottling as possible, something about the malts in there, and perhaps the champagne cork sat on the top, suggest this one could mature quite intriguingly.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Meantime Brewing Company, Blackwall Lane, London SE10
Style: India Pale Ales
Strength: 7.4% ABV
Found at: Whole Foods, Glasshouse Street, London W1B
Serving: 750ml bottle

115. Burton Bridge Empire Pale Ale

It’s becoming apparent that if I’m to make a great deal more progress through the lengthy todo list, I’m going to have to spend a little more time looking beyond the perimeter of London.

Burton Bridge Empire Pale Ale is a case in point: it’s brewed in the heartland of British brewing, Burton-on-Trent, but the vast majority of it is exported to the States. One of the few places you will find it in this country is at the brewery tap, the Burton Bridge Inn.

As it happens, a day trip to St. George’s Park with The Official Threehundredbeers Sister meant that a visit to the Bridge Inn on the way home was eminently achievable, nay inevitable.

And why not. It’s a very pleasant, traditional two roomed pub of the sort that you’d barely leave if you lived nearby. There can’t be many places where one could get a stronger sense of being back where it all began, beer wise.

Burton Bridge Empire Pale Ale at the Burton Bridge Inn

Burton Bridge Empire Pale Ale is only available in bottle-conditioned form, and I’m immediately impressed that at the Bridge Inn, the bottles are kept in the cellar to be served at the perfect temperature. Fortunately the barman is a youthful chap, and more than happy to descend the stairs to fetch us one.

It’s lovely looking stuff, a honeyed copper colour with a thick tan head that lasts. The aroma is of huge bitter hops—it’s an IPA, that’s for sure—and an unexpected but unmistakable waft of sour notes that can only come from Brettanomyces yeast, of the sort that turns Orval slowly yet deliciously sour as it ages in the bottle.

We’d better get stuck in. Blimey, it’s strong and drinks every inch of its hefty 7.5% ABV payload. It immediately gets to work, flushing your face with warmth, and making you think you should probably take it slowly rather than get giddy and embarrass The Official Threehundredbeers Sister.

Once you get past the initial boozy hit, it’s lovely, mouthwatering stuff. The hop bitterness is huge and uncompromising, and the beer is all the better for it. It’s complemented by peppery spice and sultana fruit from the malts.

This is an IPA very much in the traditional English style, and I suspect this is as close as you can get to the proper old IPAs that were brewed in Burton 150 or so years ago, and exported to the Empire. Hence the name, I suppose.

That said, the sour Brett notes are intriguing, and not typical of IPAs that I’ve experienced. Thinking about it though, the chances of a beer brewed back then, and then transported in wooden barrels in the hull of a ship for several months not becoming inoculated with a wild yeast strain seem fairly remote.

Either way, it works. The combination of bitter and sour mean you’re more than likely to be sending the barman downstairs for another, as I did, and perhaps even taking one or two more home with you.

This is very much to my tastes, and it’s a beer I’d drink quite regularly in London if only it were easier to find. I’d also be fascinated to know how it responds to the long journey over to the States. For the time being, though, it looks like I’ll have to find another excuse for a trip back to the Bridge Inn.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Burton Bridge Brewery, Burton on Trent, Staffordshire
Style: India Pale Ales
Strength: 7.5% ABV
Found at: The Burton Bridge Inn, Bridge Street, Burton on Trent
Serving: 500ml bottle

103. Shipyard Fuggles IPA

It’s funny how things work out. One morning I’d been poring over The Official 300 Beers Todo List, as is my wont, and fretting over how on earth to find Shipyard Fuggles IPA, a beer I’d never seen from an American brewery I’d never heard of.

A couple of hours later I walked into my local Oddbins only to find a freshly delivered case being loaded onto the shelves and into the fridge. And here it is.

Shipyard Fuggles IPA

This could be interesting, because Shipyard Fuggles IPA is an American IPA from Portland, Maine, but as the name suggests, it’s brewed exclusively with Fuggles, a quintessentially English hop that you’d more usually find in a pint of bitter.

The label proudly pronounces this to be “Craft Beer”, which is typically an unambiguous sign that it’s nothing of the sort, and is more likely to originate from a mediocre brewery vainly trying to buzzword their way into a seat on the bandwagon. But maybe this is an exception.

Shipyard Fuggles IPA

Shipyard Fuggles IPA is a warm copper colour with almost no head at all. There’s barely a wisp of froth on there, despite a reasonably hard pour.

The only way I can describe the taste is that it’s what a not-particularly-knowledgeable American lager drinker probably thinks an English beer tastes like, but then sweetened and with the ABV bumped up to make it more acceptable to that same American guy.

It doesn’t really work. It’s sweet, soapy and slightly medicinal with pronounced notes of fungus, plaster of Paris and disappointment. If you were to imagine a poorly-kept pint of something like Doom Bar that’s been left out overnight, and then industrially condensed to accentuate the unpleasantness within, you’d be quite close.

I’m going to be charitable here and assume that this is a beer which does not travel well. At all. Maybe it’s an absolute delight when sampled in Portland. I suspect I’ll never know, but I do rather wish I’d only bought
the one bottle.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Shipyard Brewing Company, Portland, ME
Style: India Pale Ales
Strength: 5.8% ABV
Found at: Oddbins, Rosendale Road, London SE21
Serving: 355ml bottle

68. Worthington’s White Shield

Worthington’s White Shield is a near-legendary India Pale Ale from one of Britain’s most venerable brewing names. White Shield is the world’s oldest surviving IPA, and the one considered by connoisseurs to be as close as you can get these days to the original IPAs brewed in Burton-on-Trent in the eighteenth century to be exported to India.

The Worthington’s brand and White Shield in particular have had something of a chequered recent past, having been shunted around various regional breweries, and almost disappearing from existence at one point, having been deemed surplus to requirements by previous owners.

However, in a perhaps surprising turn of events under the stewardship of international brewing giant Molson Coors, in 2000, production of White Shield returned to Burton-on-Trent where it is brewed to this day almost entirely unchanged from its original 1829 recipe.


Worthington’s White Shield is typically found in bottle-conditioned form. It pours a not-especially-pale chestnut colour with a tight tan head.

There’s a massive, almost paintstripping, hop bitterness front and centre, but it’s perfectly well offset by the fat malt backbone so typical of the older, English style of IPA. There are toffee and caramel notes, dried fruits, and even a hint of esters that are reminiscent of a Belgian Dubbel.

It’s a remarkably complex beer, but all the flavours are in perfect balance, making for a particularly satisfying end product. This truly is a classic beer, and it’s great to see it being brewed to its full potential once again.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Worthington’s (Molson Coors), Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire, England
Style: India Pale Ales
Strength: 5.6% ABV
Found at: The Grape & Grain, Anerley Hill, London SE19
Serving: 500ml bottle

32. Thornbridge Jaipur IPA

Now, here’s a post that I could probably write without even drinking the beer, being rather well acquainted with Thornbridge Jaipur IPA already.

Having said that, there are rules we must follow on this blog. I’m simply obliged to go and buy another bottle. Such hardship.


Thornbridge are one of the success stories of contemporary British brewing. Beginning life as a tiny craft outfit just eight years ago, they’ve managed to marry a traditional product—real ale—with bang up-to-date science and technology, along with an obvious nose and drive for business. In doing so, they’ve grown into one of the biggest names in the field today.

Over the years, Thornbridge have created a prolific range of beers, all of them innovative and of the highest quality, and at the same time, a burgeoning pub empire has emerged, particularly in and around Sheffield in the north of England.

Of their beers, Jaipur is probably the best known and most widely available, and it’s fast becoming the modern British IPA against which all are to be compared. It’s the epitome of a contemporary citrus hop bomb.

I must confess I’m a little spoilt when it comes to Jaipur, having last year enjoyed a couple of pints kept and presented to absolute perfection in one of Thornbridge’s own pubs, the rather lovely Coach & Horses in Dronfield.

Served from cask, the smooth head and restrained natural carbonation help to balance out those zingy hops, resulting in a terrifically satisfying, moreish pint.

In a bottle, Jaipur is a somewhat different proposal, as you’re hit full in the face by the huge fresh, bitter hops with their quite literally mouth-watering lemon and grapefruit nose.

It’s a bracing beer, yet served lightly chilled Jaipur is thoroughly refreshing. Then, as it warms towards room temperature, a biscuity, malty depth emerges and the finish gets longer and longer. This is an unmistakeable sign of a top notch IPA.

Jaipur is one of those beers that fits any occasion, but it’d be especially suitable as a chilled summer beer, as well as being the perfect accompaniment to a good curry. I simply can’t think of a better beer to go with a chicken biryani, for example, and that’s exactly how I enjoyed this one.

A true modern classic.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Thornbridge, Bakewell, Derbyshire, England
Style: India Pale Ales
ABV: 5.9%
Found at: Waitrose, Whitecross Street, London EC1
Dispense: 500ml Bottle

11. Marston’s Old Empire

This was the easiest beer so far to find, as I had a bottle stood in the kitchen even before 300 Beers was conceived.

It seems strange to think that it took Marston’s, founded in 1843 and based in Burton upon Trent – the home of IPA – until 2003 to brew an India Pale Ale. When they finally did, they came up with a real winner, and one which I enjoy fairly regularly.


From the nose alone, you can tell Old Empire isn’t one of the current wave of citrus hop bombs like Thornbridge Jaipur or the Goose Island IPA from a few days ago.

In fact this is a more subtle and complex brew, where the toasty malty flavours are given equal billing with the hops. That said, it’s still very hoppy, as befits an IPA, so it’s really quite a strongly flavoured beer, with a lot of layers to it.

Lightly chilled, Marston’s Old Empire is a perfect curry quencher, but as it warms up there’s more and more to savour. Definitely a favourite.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Marston’s Beer Co, Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, England
Style: India Pale Ales
ABV: 5.7%
Found at: Londis, Westow Hill, London SE19
Serving: 500ml Bottle

2. Goose Island IPA

Beer number two on our journey, and we’re already globetrotting. It’s straight across the Atlantic to Chicago to see if our American cousins can knock up a decent India Pale Ale.

I do like a good IPA, and am instinctively sceptical about the idea of this most British of beers being brewed abroad, but I know IPA is all the rage on the thriving US craft brewing scene, so let’s give it a try.

Goose Island IPA

There’s a huge white head straight out of the bottle, and this is certainly an aromatic beer, with plenty of floral, citrus and of course hop aromas. There’s no doubt that this is an IPA. There’s also something a bit soapy about the nose, but it isn’t overpowering.

This beer is apparently made with water from Lake Michigan, and is bottle conditioned, so there’s a tiny amount of yeast collecting at the bottom of the bottle. This is a very good sign indeed.

Goose Island IPA is a little fuller-bodied and much sweeter than the modern British IPAs, as exemplified by something like Thornbridge’s excellent Jaipur (which we’ll encounter in the fullness of time), but I think that’s quite typical of the American approach to the style.

There’s a pleasing, lingering bitterness, but for me the sweetness does mar the overall flavour. I just don’t want beer to make my teeth hurt.

Overall, a perfectly decent example of the style, but perhaps not one I’ll return to in a hurry.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Goose Island Beer Co., Chicago, IL
Style: India Pale Ales
ABV: 5.9%
Found at: Sainsbury’s, Westow Street, London SE19
Dispense: 355ml Bottle-conditioned