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Millennium ales from British breweries

* The Liverpool brewery Cain's has, both at a modest 5.0 per cent, a fruity Millennium Ale, with a suggestion of fresh dessert apples. I suspect that those flavours derive from the house yeast rather than from Cox's Orange Pippins.

* At the same strength, Another brewery in the Northwest, Jennings, of Cockermouth, Cumbria, has, at a more modest 5.0 per cent, a special seasonal ale called Millennium Mash (named after the process in which the grains of malted barley are made into an infusion). This has a biscuity, cracker-like, maltiness, beautifully counterpointed by a late, lingering, appetising, bitterness. The last characteristic derives from a Continental hop variety called Styrian Goldings, added at an especially late stage. Jennings' Millennium Mash is one of several seasonal or commemorative brews in which the bottle is housed in a gift box.

* In the Midlands, the Mansfield brewery offers a malt-accented, almost vanilla-like, Millennium Ale (8.5) that gains fullness and roundness from fermentation in open vessels, and an unusually long maturation.

* In Oxfordshire, the Wychwood Brewery (5.0) has the aromatic, earthy, Old

Father Time Millennium Ale with the spiciness of a hop variety called Bramling Cross. The back-label promises that "the hop bitterness will scythe through the malt" - and it does. I admire a beer sufficiently grown up to boast about its bitterness.

* What would a beer taste like if it contained no hops at all? In Suffolk, the St Peter's brewery has in its distinctive green "gin" bottle a Millennium Ale of 7.0 per cent, spiced only with "secret botanicals". It is deliciously treacly and licorice-like.

* In Hampshire, Gale's has a Millennium Brew of 10 per cent, ruby in colour, with the same cidery, Calvados-like, character as its regular Prize Old Ale, which is darker, more syrupy, and sappier.

* In Horsham, Sussex, King and Barnes has a Millennium Celebration Ale, at 8.0 per cent, marketed in a gift box by accompany called Christopher Columbus. This beer is dark and sweetish, with a suggestion of brown sugar and a stinging, rummy, fruitiness.

* The Kent brewery Shepherd Neame - in the heart of hop country - has a Millennium Ale, at 6.5 per cent, called Kent Gold. This uses the newish hop variety First Gold. All hops naturally contain a compound called limonene, which also occurs in citrus fruits, but First Gold is especially rich in this substance. It makes for a tangerine-like aroma in a beer that is peachy, juicy and Champagne-like.

Published Online: JAN 18, 2000
Published in Print: DEC 1, 1999
In: The Independent

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