Cream of the hop

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 November, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 November, 2003, 12:00am

If I had a dollar for every time I have been asked, 'What's your favourite beer?', I would have probably saved enough for front-row tickets to a Rolling Stones concert. My answer is always, it depends - on how I'm feeling, who I'm with, what I'm eating, the time of day, whether it's a junk trip on a sunny day or an animated conversation in a bar on a rainy evening.

However here's my current Top 10 list, before it changes again with my next pint. They're all available at Beer Bay (for deliveries, tel: 2541 3222; branches in Discovery Bay, Clearwater Bay, Yuen Long and at the Lamma Ferry Pier), except for the Guinness draft, which is sold at Irish pubs, and Paulaner Salvator, which I enjoy so much I don't mind travelling to Shanghai or Singapore to drink.

Pilsen Urquell This is the true embodiment of the Czech lager style - fragrant, dry, crisp. I love the tongue-tickling spiciness, and enjoy it with cheddar cheese and fish.

Guinness draft There's a delicious whiff of abandon in drinking this black stout. Just watching the thick creamy head form ever so slowly over the devilishly dark liquid gets the taste buds roaring in anticipation. The first few sips deliver the incomparable dry taste and the charred malt flavour and by the end, your mind is drawing shamrocks in joy.

Hoegaarden This is the best summer refresher bar none. Cloudy in appearance, tart, slightly spicy, it is a real feel-good drink.

London Pride Having first tasted this magnificent cask-conditioned brew at the 17th-century Lamb and Flag pub in London's Covent Garden, I grab the bottled version whenever I find it on Hong Kong shelves. Then I rediscover that life is all about balance, in this case perfect poise between the sweetness of caramel malts and the dry bitterness of English hops.

Bridgeport IPA and Bridgeport Bottle-Conditioned Porter Bridgeport Brewery of Portland, Oregon produces these two wonderful brews. The IPA is fragrant, robust and hoppy - a wonderful accompaniment to spicy Indian dishes. The Porter is chocolatey and luscious.

Samichlaus My first taste of Samichlaus was a huge shock. It is a formidable Campari- meets-red wine sensation, with a slightly medicinal aroma. But I'm told this strong, dark red lager develops a more soothing flavour with age and the five-year-old version provides warmth and comfort on a chilly night.

De Verboden Vrucht How can I resist a beer called the Forbidden Fruit, especially when Adam tempts Eve with a bottle of beer on the label? This rich, warming brew is pure nectar, especially with Belgian chocolate.

Paulaner Salvator Served in tall stylish glasses in the Paulaner brauhauses in Shanghai and Singapore, this Munich speciality has an exuberant flavour. No great aftertaste, not much complexity, just a tasty drink that's marvellous with pork knuckles and Nurnberger sausages.

Chimay Blue No list is complete without the silky, port-winey, distinguished Trappist ale brewed by monks in a 200-year-old Belgian abbey. This is my personal choice for an after-dinner beer. Sip it, savour it, then go to sleep contented.