The best strong beers: taste tested

delicious. magazine beer expert Mark Dredge is a fan of beers with a bit of oomph. With their bigger, richer flavours, they’re good for sipping on a cold night. They tend to go well with food too – but which comes first: the meal or the beer? Mark discusses the brilliance of a strong beer, plus gives his top five recommendations to try at home…

The best strong beers: taste tested

A world of rich flavours

It was when I realised that beer was more than just something drunk by the pint that I saw how brilliantly varied it was. That sidestep from 4% ABV pints over to bottles and cans upwards of 6% ABV revealed a whole new world of beer to me, and gave me flavours I’d never experienced before.

I’d buy dark Belgian ales with their rich, raisiny tones. There were rich and chocolatey stouts. IPAs that seemed to smell like a fresh fruit salad. I’d pour the beer into a fancy glass and contemplate it instead of just quaffing it, wowed by what I was tasting. Things got even more interesting when I started thinking about what I’d eat with those beers. I loved the idea that I could have fun with it. I didn’t need to be making a fancy meal – often my mission was just finding the perfect beer for fish fingers and chips. Or perhaps I’d want to know the ideal chocolate biscuit or type of cheese for whatever beer I had (call me obsessive, but I did also spend hours cooking dinners specifically for certain beers…).

Beer and food pairing

As I got into learning about beer and food together, I found it was always the stronger beers that gave the best combinations – and the most fun ones. Here I’m sharing a few favourite stronger beers with simple food matches. Pints in the pub are perfect for their easy drinking refreshment, but at home you deserve something different – something special.

Five of the best strong beers to try

Tynt Meadow, England 7.4%

Brewed by British monks, this strong dark ale has sweet tea, dried fruits, cocoa and a festive spiciness. It’s my favourite beer with a roast dinner, spag bol or apple cake. Available from tremblingmadness (£2.55).

Tynt Meadow

Salt Beer Factory Ikat, England 8%

A hazy double IPA with Solero-like tropical fruit, sweet peach and some grapefruit at the end. Great with sweet chilli chicken or a halloumi burger. Available from Tesco (£3.50).

Salt beer Ikat

The Kernel Export Stout London 1890, England 7.3% (varies)

Based on a recipe from 1890, this taste of history has dark chocolate, cacao, hop bitterness and boozy dried fruit. Enjoy it with a chilli or some blue cheese. Available from thekernelbrewery (£3).

Kernel

 
Unbarred Brewery Bueno Shake, England 6.4%

This creamy, sweetly smooth stout is brewed with chocolate, hazelnut and milk sugar. It’s great fun on its own, better with chocolate chip cookies. They also make an Imperial Bueno Shake that’s 10% ABV. £4.60 Available from unbarredbrewery (£4.60).

Unbarred

Duvel Tripel Hop Citra, Belgium 9.5%

A Belgian IPA, bright gold with a champagne-like mouthfeel. The citra hops give lots of pineapple and tangy citrus, with a warming and spicy finish. Try with fish and chips or lemon cake. Available from most supermarkets (£2.50).

Duvel

Did you know?

The strongest non-fortified beer ever brewed was an eye-watering 57.8% ABV. Technically ‘ice distilled,’ it starts as a regular beer, then it’s gradually frozen and, as water freezes before alcohol, ice is removed and the booze concentrates. Think of it more like whisky

 

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