Uncruliar Brews and Views is our good friend Sean’s incredible blog charting his experiences brewing, drinking and exploring the world of beer. We were delighted when he wrote this guest blog investigating the shandy possibilities of our casks.

Most of us have had that dilemma of what to drink when we are designated driver at the pub. For me, an evening on soft drinks doesn’t really cut it. I have had some great evenings at the Sweffling White Horse on Ghost Ship 0.5%, but I also like to blend a 0.5% beer with a full strength beer when I’m driving. This gives a shandy without the sweetness of lemonade and, in my opinion, a better body than a straight 0.5% beer. Now there are plenty of options for a 0.5% shandy on offer at Sweffling, but which beers blend the best? Read on to find out.

The Backstory

Like most people I know I enjoy going to the pub for a beer. Unlike most though, I have been known to take beer to the pub myself – not for a shady cheap drink I hasten to add, but to share interesting beers with landlords I know well enough to be able to make recommendations. 

In the summer of 2019 I took some Big Drop beers to share with Maz and Mark at the Sweffling White Horse. With their policy of stocking local food and drink I thought they might be interested in Big Drop, an Ipswich based company. I also thought a variety of 0.5% beers would sit well alongside the White Horse’s range of ‘Nilcoholic Cocktails’. When the pub reopened this year after an extended pandemic-fuelled closure, Big Drop beers made their appearance on the menu at Sweffling.

On Father’s Day two of my children were happy to take me out for a drink, although there was a catch – I was driving. So it was that I started blending Big Drop’s Galactic Milk Stout and Off Piste Hazelnut Porter with Wolf Brewery’s Sirius Dog Star, which was available on cask on the day. 

Maz was interested in what I was doing and asked if I would write something about it. That in turn prompted me to think about combinations which would work from the bottled range at Sweffling, which is fairly consistent, unlike the ever changing cask line-up.

Blending Notes

When it comes to blending a 0.5% beer with a regular strength beer it is important to look for beers that combine well while also thinking about the ratio between the two beers. My preference is usually for a 50:50 blend. However for the purposes of this article I thought about the most sensible way of blending the beers on offer at the White Horse. 

A 330ml bottle of any of the Big Drop beers will need just under half a 500ml bottle of one of the regular strength beers in order to fill a pint glass. So this is the ratio I used unless stated otherwise.

Big Drop Paradiso Citra IPA / Star Wing Four Acre Arcadia

The combination of citra with other classic West Coast hops gives Paradiso a definite American IPA flavour. Four Acre Arcadia is the only regular strength bottled IPA available at the White Horse, although it is more in the English style.

This blend comes out closer to an English than an American IPA. There is a definite caramel note in both the aroma and he flavour. However there is a also more than a hint of citrus from the Paradiso. 

Big Drop Paradiso Citra IPA / Green Jack Orange Wheat Beer

Combining an IPA with a wheat beer isn’t necessarily an obvious choice, but the tangerine flavour of Green Jack’s Orange Wheat is a great complement to the citra hopped Paradiso. There is a distinct tangerine flavour and aroma and a very smooth mouthful with just a modest bitterness. 

Adnams Ghost Ship 0.5% / Star Wing Four Acre Arcadia

As Ghost Ship 0.5% comes in 500ml bottles these two blends were done in a 50:50 ratio, meaning two bottles will give you very nearly two pints. This smelled and tasted very much like a traditional bitter with wholemeal bread and caramel flavours coming from the malt and, strangely, a hint of blackberry from the hops.

Adnams Ghost Ship 0.5% / Green Jack Orange Wheat Beer

Like the other Ghost Ship blend this also tasted very much like a traditional English bitter, which was quite surprising as I would have expected the citrus character to be more noticeable as it is a feature of both the beers being blended. However, it was very drinkable as a trad bitter.

Big Drop Hazelnut Off Piste Porter / Cliff Quay Old Strong

All of the blends featuring the Hazelnut Off Piste Porter showed off the aroma and flavour of the Big Drop beer. This one was very much like drinking a boozy fruit and nut cake.

Big Drop Hazelnut Off Piste Porter / Star Wing Stain Glass Blue Porter

This was the most bitter of the Off Piste Porter blends. The hazelnut flavour came through strongly along with a hint of coffee making it rather reminiscent of a cappuccino with hazelnut syrup.

Big Drop Hazelnut Off Piste Porter / Earl Soham Sir Roger’s Porter

Of the three Off Piste Porter blends this one had the least prominent aroma. However, the hazelnut was very much present in the flavour. Sir Roger’s Porter added a chocolatey characteristic making this blend taste just like a well known hazelnut chocolate spread.

Big Drop Galactic Milk Stout / Cliff Quay Old Strong

This blend had a slight aroma of coffee which followed through to the taste. With the Big Drop beer being a milk stout the blend had definite hints of milky coffee, with a slight hedgerow fruit characteristic.

Big Drop Galactic Milk Stout / Star Wing Stain Glass Blue Porter

As I raised this blend I could smell first of all a rich fruitcake and then tiramisu. The fruitiness followed through in the flavour but rather than the Italian dessert I felt as if I was drinking a Black Forest Gateau. That impression was so strong that it brought to mind my dear old Nan, who did love a “Gatoo” as she pronounced it.

Big Drop Galactic Milk Stout / Earl Soham Sir Roger’s Porter

I could smell both coffee and chocolate from this blend and both of these features followed through into the flavour. The Galactic Milk Stout gives all three of these blendsn a smooth mouthfeel and that is most prominent in this one, which reminded me very much of a beery mochaccino.

Big Drop Uptime Craft Lager / Norfolk Brewhouse DewHopper

I must confess to being only an occasional lager drinker and I often don’t pick up on the subtleties that some lager fans really appreciate. Of the two lager blends I slightly preferred this one but I couldn’t honestly put my finger on the reason why.

Big Drop Uptime Craft Lager / Calvors Pilsner

This blend was also very drinkable and I’m sure it would go down well with anyone who regularly drinks lager.

What can I get you?

All of the blends I tested are well worth drinking. Personally I preferred the darker options and especially Galactic Milk Stout/Stain Glass Blue or Off Piste/Sir Roger’s Porter. Of the paler blends my favourite was Paradiso/Orange Wheat. I would certainly be interested to hear what anyone else thinks of these blends, and I’m sure that Maz and Mark would too.  

The Sciency-Legal Bit

In England the alcohol limit for drivers is 80 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, 35 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath. This cannot be safely converted into a certain number of units, as it depends on a number of factors such as gender, body mass and how quickly your body absorbs alcohol. However, as a rule of thumb, two pints of regular-strength beer could put you over the limit.

By blending a bottle of a regular beer with a 0.5% beer you can make that bottle into two drinks instead of one. If you are staying at the pub for a longer session though you should really switch to straight 0.5% beers after that. Unless you’re drinking more than 6 bottles of Big Drop beer in an hour your liver will probably be processing the alcohol from the Big Drop beers faster than you are consuming it so you should be fine to drive home.

Disclosure:

Maz and Mark provided me with the beers to sample for this blog; although I did offer to pay for them. I’m very grateful for their generosity but it didn’t influence my view of the beers.
The title for this blog was inspired by the Twitter hashtag and account, and Youtube channel of Laura and Michael.