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Drink of the week

Republika Pilsner: possibly the best lager in Britain?

Republika Pilsner: possibly the best lager in Britain?

The idea of a Czech-style lager made by a very traditional-sounding British brewery may sound bizarre but this is one of the best lagers - if not the best - I’ve tasted in the UK.

It’s a collaboration between Windsor & Eton brewery and Tomas Mikulica, Head Brewer at Pivovarsky Dvur which is just outside Prague. They used Saaz hops and Czech yeast which Mikulica brought over with him and the resulting brew was lagered for six weeks. It’s quite simply delicious - really fresh and full-flavoured. I was sorry I was tasting and couldn’t have a full glass.

You can buy it from the brewery website for £29 for 12 x 330ml bottles, from beermerchants.com (who seem to have run out of stock currently) and from the brewery shop in Windsor. Oh, and it's 4.8% if you're wondering.

As a footnote Windsor & Eton has also brewed a Brazilian blonde beer flavoured with guava called Maracana for the world cup in collaboration with a new Brazilian brewery Container who are brewing the same beer in Blumenau (rather hilariously called Wembley). Given both England and Brazil’s ignominious exit from the World Cup I imagine they may well still have stock. It too is available online and in pubs in the Windsor area. If you're a local have one tonight for Brazil!

The Pickle House Original Pickle Juice

The Pickle House Original Pickle Juice

If you’ve ever been to the great Pitt Cue Co in Newburgh Street, Soho you may well have had a drink called a pickleback - a bourbon washed down with a chaser of homemade pickle juice.

Well some enterprising company called The Pickle House* has now bottled their own pickle juice and if you like tart, tangy flavours you’ll love it!

You might well think - wouldn’t the juice from a jar of dill pickles do? and the answer is no - it’s too sharp and sour. You could drink the pickling liquor if you made your own dill pickles but who’s got time to do that these days? (Answer, me when I go on holiday in a couple of weeks’ time!) But at £7.50 for a handsome-looking 500ml bottle this is an easy way to get your pickle fix.

Incidentally although I prefer it as a chaser they were mixing it on the stand [at Imbibe Live] with bourbon and ginger ale. (I felt it disguised the flavour of the juice so it didn’t do it for me.) It’s also supposed to be good in a Bloody Mary.

You can buy it direct from The Pickle House website or write to them for other stockists.

Incidentally if you want to know more about picklebacks there’s a good post on The Thrillist website here.

*Based in Hackney. Of course.

Coconova Sparkling Brut

Coconova Sparkling Brut

In general I use the drink of the week slot to feature a wine - or other drink - that’s really impressed me but occasionally it’s all about the right wine for the moment.

Today could be Brazil’s last day in the World Cup (I hope not for their sake but I’m also a big fan of Chile) so you might want to mark the occasion by buying this bottle of Brazilian bubbly from Marks & Spencer.

I can’t say it’s amazing - think inexpensive prosecco rather than champagne - but it's perfectly fine and would make a great cocktail with some fresh fruit juice and maybe even a dash of something stronger. And the label just screams ‘party’.

You’ve got a couple of hours to get it before the match begins or, if Brazil stay in the Cup, time to order a couple of cases in time for the next match - or even the final. It’s normally £8.99 but until Monday night you get a 25% discount if you buy six bottles in store or two six-bottle cases online which brings it down to £6.74 a bottle.

If you’ve got a sweeter tooth - or simply want something to sip with cake - try the Moscato d’Asti-like Carnival Sparkling Moscato, again £8.99 but £6.74 if you buy six bottles or two cases.

Dard & Ribo Crozes-Hermitage and Vinujancu Etna Bianco

Dard & Ribo Crozes-Hermitage and Vinujancu Etna Bianco

I couldn’t make up which of these terrific wines to recommend from yesterday’s London Wine Sessions so I’m going for both.

They were featured in a ‘Moonwalk’ or biodynamic wine tasting by wine writer and blogger Jamie Goode and Doug Wregg of Les Caves de Pyrène

I was familiar with Dard & Ribo but this is a particularly delicious vintage, so alive and vibrant with incredibly fresh-tasting mulberry fruit. Or “a wine with edges’ as Jamie nicely described it. You can buy it from Les Caves de Pyrène for £22.02 or for £24.22 a single bottle from Wine Bear (£21.38 if you buy a case of six).

And the 2011 I Vigneri Etna Bianco was extraordinary - sumptuously rich and peachy, with a luscious lick of honeysuckle and a surprisingly fresh finish for a wine that’s made in such a hot climate.

According to the Caves de Pyrène list it’s made from grapes that are grown in a vineyard 1200m above sea level and is a really unusual blend of Carricante, Rhine Riesling, Grecanico and Minnella.

"The winemaker [Salvo Foti] doesn't use any chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides. The grapes are harvested by hand from the end of September until mid October. Fermentations are done in open vats, without the use of yeast inoculation, enzymes or thermal control and racking and bottling are done by the lunar cycle. The wines are bottled with little or no filtration."

We enjoyed the bottle I brought back with a warm roast chicken with herbs tonight but apparently it’s a good match for artichokes according to a blog called The Italian Wine Geek - one of the few wines that are.

As a caveat I’d say you'd be likely to enjoy the Dard & Ribo even if you've never tasted natural wine before but you might find the Etna Bianco challenging. I’d strongly recommend it though if you’re adventurously minded. It’s not remotely weird or cidery, just different - and in my view gloriously different - from conventionally made wines.

You can buy it from Les Caves for £23.02 a bottle.

Dappa Grape Marc Spirit

Dappa Grape Marc Spirit

I confess it was the name that hooked me on this week’s drink of the week, Dappa being Devon’s answer to grappa.

It’s a grape marc spirit made by the recently founded Devon Distillery from the skins of fruit from a number of different vineyards including Sharpham in Devon, Three Choirs in Gloucestershire, Bolney in West Sussex and Biddenden in Kent.

The grapes that have been used - Pinot Noir, Pinot Noir Précoce, Rondo, Dornfelder and Regent - are all red wine varieties which, along with its 43% ABV - gives Dappa a robust, spicy, earthy flavour. If you’ve never tried grappa before you may find it a bit fiery. If you have and like it it it should be right up your street.

Grappa is generally drunk as an aperitif or with coffee but there are apparently cocktail ideas to come. I must admit I quite enjoyed it with a couple of ice cubes though that's not traditional.

If you’re visiting Sharpham vineyard for English Wine Week this weekend you may meet its founder, the splendidly named Cosmo Caddy, in person. You can also taste it at Pollen Street Social and Hix in London.

The only downside is that at £50 for a 35cl bottle it’s really quite expensive though you can buy a miniature for £9.50. But with Father’s Day coming up it would make an intriguing gift for the man who has everything . . .

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