September 16, 2014
Autumn is a wonderful season to be outdoors, we all know that. The cool air, the colours and smells – all evocative of a different time, of a wholesome time, of something intrinsically good. But as it progresses and the nights lengthen, and the weather changes from pleasantly cool to distinctively chilly, it is also a grand time to be indoors. Heating oil soothing through your pipes, a whistling kettle and earthy comfort food that could warm you through a Siberian winter.
And of course it is the best time for drinking that stalwart of English tradition, ale. I’m not talking about synthetic lager or saccharin cider of the summer months, I’m talking about what our American cousins call craft beer. Proper real ale, brewed by passionate advocates of the time honoured drink with Kentish hops and other natural British ingredients.
Time honoured it might be, but that doesn’t mean there’s some great work being done further to the tradition. One thing that caught my eye recently is the array of new, strange and wonderful real ale flavours that are gravitating over here from abroad.
One such brew is made with pumpkin and squashes mixed with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves to give a spicy, fruity, earthy flavour that goes well with hearty roasts and stews. It is big business in the states but has yet to catch on here.
But that doesn’t mean there’s no one trying. This year Stewart Brewing in Edinburgh and Rooster's Brewery in Yorkshire are among the British breweries making pumpkin ale.
Another flavour gradually permeating its way across to the UK is smoked beer. A favourite at this time of the year in Germany, it is made by smoking malt over beech wood. A few small UK breweries are starting to produce ales and porters containing a quantity of smoked malt and they go well with fish or even meaty dishes such as Spaghetti Bolognese.
Other flavours too, including fruit, chocolate, honey and of course ginger are all enjoying a resurgence of popularity as people search for a that perfect mix of variety and quality.
Of course the great thing about real ales is they are satisfyingly weighty, so it is quality over quantity every time. And in this day and age when moderation is advised, that is no bad thing. You can get your fill of the lovely, hoppy liquid without the worry of doing anything embarrassing or, of a headache the next day.
With heating oil providing you with external warmth why not join our continental and stateside cousins and usher in the autumn with some more unusually flavoured ales that will warm the insides? They are bound to bring some seasonal cheer as the long nights draw in.