‘The beauty of beer’: a Suffolk beer expert’s introduction to a new world of taste
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You may be missing out on a foreign holiday this summer, but you can still travel the world through the taste of amazing beers.
René van den Oort offers over 450 high-quality beers at Beautiful Beers in Bury St Edmunds, and you’d be hard-pressed to find another store that boasts so much variety of beer from around the world.
From light pale ales produced by local breweries to Rene’s specialities: Trappist beers, brewed by monks in different parts of the world, and Belgian beers, of which there are almost 250 varieties to choose from – whether you’re new to beer, or a true connoisseur, you’re sure to find something that’ll suit you.
We spoke to René to learn what makes beer beautiful and his recommendations for the perfect brew.
Q: If you had to pick a favourite beer, what would it be?
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That’s a difficult question. For me, it’s got to be the Trappist ales. They are brewed by Trappist monks at monasteries in six different countries. Any profit they make is used to maintain the monasteries. If there is money left over, it goes to charity – that fact certainly gives you a good feeling drinking them, and they taste delicious too!
Q: What beers would you recommend?
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If you’re new to beer, or have a sweet tooth, Belgian fruit beers are a great option.
They are brewed with real fruit, making them slightly sweeter and more palatable for those who aren’t so keen on bitter tastes.
The range of German Helles beer is excellent too and is great as a lighter choice. Any lager style and pale ales, such as some of the craft beers from local breweries tend to be lighter and easier going as well.
There’s a new wave of English breweries producing beers with unusual ingredients, such as chocolate, herbs, spices and even preserves.
Q: What makes beer a ‘craft beer’?
The term ‘craft beer’ arrived when more and more smaller breweries started producing beers with all-natural ingredients without any sugar or malt extract additions - they are unfiltered and naturally primed with CO2. The yeast is still alive in craft beer as they are unpasteurised which creates this lovely carbonation, similar to Champagne. They are crafted on a small scale and are often single batches.
Elmtree Brewery from Snetterton is a good example. They produce a light, refreshing craft beer called Burston’s Cuckoo which is perfect for the summer. You can find their full range of beers in our shop.
Q: Can you get vegan beers?
Yes, in fact many craft beers are vegan-friendly because they are unfiltered and unfined (beer without finings) which means they don’t use gelatine or isinglass to clear the beer. It’s best to check before you buy as it’s not always clear on the packaging.
Q: When do beers expire?
It depends on the type of beer and brewery. Most unpasteurised beers continue to develop in the bottle or can and some people prefer to let them age like this before tasting. However, if you wish to taste them as the brewery intended, it’s best to drink it before the best before date.
Beer is rarely unsafe to drink, no matter how long you choose to leave it. I have had some excellent beers which were 30 years old!
Q: Other than a wide variety of beers, is there anything else you offer?
We have a great range of local ciders and mead, which have proven popular since the release of the Game of Thrones series. We also sell home brewing kits which include the grain, hops and everything else you’d need to make your own beer.
The Beautiful Beers shop is re-opening this week, but you can still choose from their amazing range of beverages online and get your order delivered to your door. Free delivery if you spend £15 and live in Bury St Edmunds, or £45 if you live further afield. Please visit their website to check that your preferred product is in stock and to arrange delivery.