It's been a while since I last did a blind beer tasting at home. It was only when I noticed I had three ginger beers in the stash that I reckoned one was on the cards. One of them was the seemingly ubiquitous Crabbie's, a beer I'd heard a lot about and none of it good ("it's basically an alcopop", was the gist). I also had the Ginger from the mighty Williams Brothers (yes, them again), and a total wildcard: the organic, fairtrade Little Valley Ginger Pale Ale from Yorkshire, one so loved-up it may as well be wearing sandals and have a wind turbine in the cap.
So how did they fare, and would it be possible to tell the craft beers from the supposedly unpleasant one?
The answer to the second question is overwhelmingly yes. Though all of them poured roughly the same fizzy pale gold, only one of them had zero aroma and a hideous sugariness, plus a metallic saccharine tang and a horrible oxidised staleness. I have never poured a beer down the sink in my life, but Crabbie's brought me close.
Another one I found very bitter, with a green, fresh veg, aroma. It was the most beery of the three, with the ginger almost an afterthought on the end -- with just a small sweet-spice kick of candied ginger as it tails off. Otherwise I found it a bit boring: thin and fizzy. This turned out to be Little Valley: another example of organic and fairtrade badging covering up for a basic lack of beer quality.
That left the Williams, which had a fantastic Canada Dry ginger ale smell and a lovely full body, despite being only 3.8% ABV. There are no hops in here, just added sugar, lemon juice and rind, and ginger. Lots of ginger. It burns in a most wonderful way, and the flavour lasts and lasts. It's far and away the best ginger beer I've had and would be a great summer refresher. Do not serve cold. Do not serve over ice. Do not mix in a cocktail or add fruit of any kind. Proper ginger, proper beer, proper craft.
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