Drinks

Our selection of the new and the notable from the best British drinks producers.
Visit Drinks of the Month for this month's Variety Show

Chiltern Brewery Glad Tidings Winter Stout

Brewed with four malts - Maris Otter, Crystal, Chocolate, Roast Barley - and two spices - coriander and nutmeg and a little fruit in the form of some orange peel, this spiced milk-stout-style beer is a truly complex beast.

And at 4.6% it is not too high in alcohol.

£2.75/500ml; 4.6%; Available through the Brewery Shop, online and also local independent Budgens Stores, Wendover and Bedgrove and other selected stockists - 

London Glider Ciders - medium dry & dry

The people at London Glider Ciders – there are a mere three of them, plus a bank of kindly volunteers – make their cider from fruit, mostly unwanted stuff, which they pick from London suburb Woodford Green’s local urban and suburban gardens.

Thanks to the nature of the fruit gathering process, there’s no single variety involved in these ciders – they tend to be a general mix of dessert apples and cooking apples. (They did, however, keep the crab apples separate to use in a 25% combo with the basic dry cider for a limited edition crab apple cider earlier this year.)

Shepherd Neame Christmas Ale

A rounded caramelised nose sets the tone for this festive amber ale. Winter fruit overtones upfront include dates and cooked apples, alongside spicy hops. More spice on the palate with vanilla and more of those dried fruits reminding us it’s nearly Christmas time.

7%; RRP: £2, Morrisons, other selected supermarkets & independents, and from the Shepherd Neame online shop

Caledonian Flying Scotsman Premium Bitter

We're in traditional bitter territory with this offering from Caledonian – there’s not a flashy hop in sight. And that’s certainly not a slight. An assuringly traditional nose includes some roasted/toasted notes of nuts and coffee and caramel, all rounded together beautifully.

An appealing dark copper in colour, this ale has a clean finish and leaves you thinking of hazelnuts.

 £14.99/8x500ml; 4%; available at Morrisons, Sainsburys in Scotland, and from the Caledonian Beer website  

St Austell Trelawny

This ale has an interesting hops tale to boot. It might not say it on the packaging quite yet but one of the hop varieties to make it into the bottle is Endeavour – the spicy, citrusy newcomer to the British hops scene, so far only grown in one place (Stocks Farm in Worcestershire). 

As brewing director at St Austell, Roger Ryman, points out, the full hop list for Trelawny is Goldings, Progress, Endeavour and Galaxy. However, as supply of Endeavour is limited to date, the proportion is quite low.

Sambrook’s Wandle Ale

There are bags of citrusy hops up front with this very quaffable amber ale, along with a good malty backbone that makes it a good food match. It boasts toasted nuts on the nose, lots of depth to follow and a seriously clean finish.

As English as they come, this brew from Battersea has unsurprisingly garnered a fair few supporters since its inception - as Sambrook’s inaugural beer - in November 2008.

£25.50/12x500ml; 4.2%; available from various stockists nationwide, and from the Sambrooks online shop  

Shepherd Neame Spooks Ale


As the witching hour on All Hallows Eve approaches and the wind whips up a storm outside, what better time to taste test Shepherd Neame's Spooks Ale?

Modestly titled The Official Ghost Brew for All Hallows with the warning Drink if you Dare writ large, this is as enjoyable as it is fun. Made from three different malts, the reddish hued palate is balanced with a light citrus lift.

Available: over 40 Shepherd Neame pubs; 4.7%, 50cl, c. £2, Asda, Morrisons, Shepherd Neame online shop

Compass Box Flaming Heart

We have written previously about Compass Box, the independent whisky bottler with a flair for dramatic names.

Their latest release, the 2012 edition Flaming Heart, matches its name with a big, bold whisky.

A great dram to warm up with when the weather turns cold.

48.9%/70cl, £80-85, from The Whisky Exchange and other specialist retailers

Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Solera Reserve

glenfiddich 15 Year Old bottle and glassMellow and gentle, the 'Fiddich 15 could easily persuade you that it's a sofa dram, a whisky for when you want to switch off.

But sit up and take a deeper sniff and the whisky starts to reveal all sorts of sophisticated flavours – this is a complex malt which offers pleasure on several levels.

40%/70cl, around £40, widely available.

Box Steam Funnel Blower

Have to say, I'm loving Box Steam's new-look, with its inspiration coming from that genius of the South-West, Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

And this Wlltshire-created Funnel Blower tastes as good as its outward appearanc might suggest.

A stout with depth, plenty of dark chocolate and coffee flavours, with notes of vanilla coming through. Its name? Well no sooner had Brunel set sail with the Great Eastern, the world's biggest boat, when an explosion blew off one of her five funnels.