It is almost a running joke with my beer drinking friends that I will try the honey beers at a beer festival as a priority. Each Great British Beer Festival I have been known to list the honey beers before the festival then seek them out first thing. Some have been very poor, others have had some interesting aftertastes – but amongst the not so good have been some very impressive beers. I would class Skinner’s Heligan Honey as one of the good ones and have recommended it to a few people that I know also like honey beer.
The nose is sweet honey, malt and lemon peel. The initial sweetness melts into a malty middle with slight caramel and honey throughout, then comes a balancing grassy hop character and medium bitter finish with a hint of spice.
The thing about Skinner’s Heligan Honey is that it has a sweet honey taste, many honey beers play on the rich flavour of honey rather than it’s sweetness. This leads to a beer tasting odd as the expected sweetness of the honey is not there. I can understand why you might do this as many people prefer a much more bitter beer – but I think that this misses out on an opportunity for something different and quite effective. Skinner’s Heligan Honey takes the sweetness approach and so ends up with a distinctive honey beer, the malt in the middle is well balanced with the light hopping and there is little bitterness. This makes a beer which tastes honey sweet.
Skinner’s Heligan Honey will not appeal to everyone, sweet beers rarely do. But the balance achieved should mark it out as a good beer to even those that prefer their beers savoury and bitter. If you like beers such as Bristol Beer Factory Milk Stout or some of the sweeter strong ales then this might be a good weaker option at 4%ABV.
For me Skinner’s Heligan Honey is a beer I enjoy at the end of a hard days work outside, slightly chilled, it has a refreshing character and the sweetness has a reviving quality. Definitely a summer beer for me, it also goes down well at BBQs (if the weather improves).
Heligan Honey is named after the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall, well worth a visit if you are ever in the local area. It won the 2007 Gold award at the SIBA national beer awards for speciality beer.
Having had this both from bottles and at beer festivals I would say that it is good no matter which way it is served. At home I prefer it lightly chilled, but as with most beers it should not be too cold as this will deaden some of the flavour.
If you want to try Skinner’s Heligan Honey then it is readily available in regional supermarkets or from online beer sellers, alternatively all of the Skinner’s bottled beer range are available from their website.