Order Of Merit: Beers 1 to 8

To completement the main beer list I wanted to write a bit more on some of my favourite beers. A top 10 seemed too limiting and a top 50 seemed to lack discrimination so in the end I have settled on an Order Of Merit. Therefore you find here 24 beers, listed in alphabeticaly order, that I believe have shown distinguished service in bars across the world. Think of it as my ideal mixed case.

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Beer 1:
Anchor - Steam Beer

The concept of Steam Beer nowadays is really no more than an inventive registered trademark that helps that San Franscisco beer stand out from the crowd. Even Anchor's website admits that it doesn't know where the term came from or how the 19th century steam beers were actually made. All that said Anchor Steam Beer is a fine beverage, an initially sharp but lingeringly dry and bitter amber lager with a full taste. Their Liberty Ale is even finer, but less fun to write about.

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Beer 2:
Black Isle - Scotch Ale

Made by a "small intensely independant organic brewery in the heartlands of the Scottish Highlands" this looks from the outset to be like walking into a pub full of locals and being given a long stare whilst the conversation goes silent. However venture forth and you will find a bottle conditioned red ale made with peat smoked malt and bog myrtle that has the flavour of a Belgian gueuze. Slightly fruity and sharp with a very full flavour.

Beer Picture by ratebeer.com

Beer 3:
Cantillon - Kriek Lambic

More a working museum than a brewery, Cantillon are a small family business based in the outskirts of Brussells who use the same techniques now that they did in 1900. Their output is basically confined to spontaneously fermented Lambic beers, all of which share a dry acidic taste with a distinct citrus edge. At first the taste is disconcerting, but once you've adjusted your preconceptions you discover something very rewarding. Their Kriek is a fruity and sharp beer with big hits of cherry and grapefruit going "zing, zing, zing" on your tastebuds, followed by a deeper interesting after taste. One to enjoy slowly but a very impressive cherry beer.

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Beer 4:
Ellezelloise - Hercule Stout

There are many striking stouts available as brewers have mixed Oatmeal, Chocolate, Oysters and more into the brew. Guinness sets a high benchmark for all the others but many brewers have stepped up to the challenge. Belgian brewery Ellezelloise have produced this Dark, deep, almost marmite tasting beer which is possibly the greatest 'treacle' beer around. Too potent for regular drinking but it's burnt taste is something stunning. It has much in common with the original taste of Guinness (a variant stil produced for John Martin in Belgium) but has an even more potent kick. One to blast the little grey cells with.

Beer Picture by Matthew Trevithick

Beer 5:
Fischer Brau - Weisses

There are a number of brewpubs in Vienna that produce beers that German and Czech brewers would be happy to call their own. The wheat beer from Fischer Brau in the north of Vienna is possibly the best of the lot. It is a light yellow, cloudy wheat beer with a gentle lemon and banana flavour that is not very sharp and feels quite natural. Fantastically refreshing and with a suprising lightness for something with the mouthfeel of a typical wheatbeer, possibly due to having having a slight gassiness in place of the usual bready head. Incredibly drinkable. When in Vienna also try the Marzen from 7 stern brau.

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Beer 6:
Girardin - Gueuze 1882

There aren't many breweries that produce Gueuze, the blended lambic beer produced using spontaneous fermentation, and even fewer that produce the traditional Oude Gueuze that is made solely from lambics. Of this small group I believe Girardin to be the finest. A sharp and sour beer with a fruity note and little if any sweetness. Very impressive and very interesting.

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Beer 7:
Hovels - Original

A hoppy, top fermented beer from Northern Rhineland. Amber coloured, hoppy and citrus smelling, strongly malty with some caramel and bready undertones and dark raisiny fruits. It has a semi-dry, bitter finish. One of the more dynamic and interesting German beers with a significant depth of flavour, this also comes in a really good looking bottle.

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Beer 8:
Innis & Gunn

Scottish beer that is matured in Oak barrels to produced a full flavoured lager with a hint of whisky in the taste. There is a 77 day version that is matured for longer to give a deeper and heavier taste and a blonde version that is lighter with a hint of vanilla. The pick of the bunch is the Rum Cask Innis & Gunn which has an huge taste of stewed fruit and spices with a hit of rum on top. All of the beers come in at a strength of around 7%.

Order Of Merit: Beers 9 to 16

Order Of Merit: Beers 17 to 24