Anyway, in all our infinite wisdom, here's the low down. I haven't included any prices as I imagine this will vary from place to place and be dependent on whether you are paying bar prices or off sales. I've also tried to keep local once again - all these beers are brewed in the UK.
(from left to right)
Natural Brewing Company Premium Ale
Ingredients: Barley, Hops, Spring Water
Claims to use only natural ingredients from sustainable sources and is brewed in small batches in a traditional tower brewery. Not unlike the Brew Dog also sampled, this had a fruity taste, though it was a far lighter affair. Pleasant enough.
Lincolnshire Best Bitter (Exclusive to M&S)
Ingredients: Malted barley, Malted wheat, Hops, Water.
This was the only beer we tested that had the Vegan stamp of approval. Though one might assume that all beers should be free from animal products, many contain Isinglass, a substance obtained from the dried swim bladders of fish, while others fail to be awarded the stamp due to using animal based glues on the labels. So this was actually quite a find.
It had a definite caramelly (again, I'll defend this word, it's in Rebenectionary) light taste. Personally I found it a little on the bland side, though Damien liked sweetness, and the fact that it left no noticeable after taste. Out out of all drinks tested this was what we deemed to be the most palatable, in the sense that you could drink this all night and not feel sickened.
Unusually didn't have a traditional ingredients listing (I thought everything had to these days?) but it noted as being made from malted barley hops.
This brew carried the soil association stamp and is prepared to 'organic standard'. It was light and golden in colour, more like a lager or European beer. Best bottle design of the night by a country mile, like a big medicinal bottle you'd expect street urchin's to be swigging their gin out of in a Dicken's novel. Kudos for that alone.
Ingredients: Water, Malted Barely, Malted Wheat, Dried Thistle, Dried ginger and Yeast 4.5%
This dark ale had a really distinctive ginger taste, without technically being a ginger ale. It was fresh and crisp but had a denser flavour than you'd expect given the percentage. I've never really chowed down on thistle before, so I couldn't honestly tell you if that came through or not, though there was a noticeable twang in the after taste, so perhaps that was it. Damien thought that is had quite a weird smell, but I didn't notice it. It was certainly my favourite of the night. I'd recommend this if you like ginger ale, but find the sweetness get too much after a while. This has the flavour without the sugar.
6%,Ingredients: Barely Hops, Yeast and Water
Light amber in colour, this had an initial apricotty (it's a word, really it is) taste and aroma, and a dry/bitter after taste. Both Damien and I agreed that it reminded us of something else, I thought a special edition Oktoberfest brew I'd had a few years back. It was strong, but not overwhelming in flavour; as Damien put it, 'like Arnold Swartz in a teddy bear suit.' Now that he's in his 30s, old man Damien was put off by the packaging initially, it's not traditional enough for his liking, but it didn't sour him against it and I rather liked it.
South Wold Winter IPA (another M&S exclusive - this doesn't make me posh by the way, it's just my local shopping centre only has a Sainsbury's and a Markseeees)
Ingredients: Water, Malted Barley, Wheat, Hops, Yeast, Carbon Dioxide
Not bad, a fruity pale ale, with a slight sharpness. Was drank last and as a result didn't really make that much of an impact.
The morning after the night before...
One thing you're often told, especially when you're a student and will drink pretty much anything, is that the additives and artificial ingredients in a lot of drinks, especially the likes of alcopops, cheap cider and drain cleaner, can lead to worse hangovers. So how did we feel this morning? Well admittedly we didn't drink that much (but lets face it, since having a baby all it takes is a pint of water and packet of wine gums and I'm half cut), but there was no noticeable hangover. I did however feel thirsty most of today and received a text from Damien complaining about noxious gasses - perhaps that's the price to pay for a clear head.