Take it home: a hoppy ale and a real Rioja

Each week, John Wilson selects a great beer and wine to try right now. This week: Northbound Brewery 33 Sticke Alt and Monte Real Rioja 2013

Northbound Brewery 33 Sticke Alt

By rights, you shouldn’t be drinking this until next Tuesday, but we won’t be sticklers for detail. Altbier is the local brew in Düsseldorf , a copper-coloured, medium-bodied hoppy ale that is consumed in large quantities by all who head into one of the brewpubs in the Alststadt, or old town. Sticke Alt is a stronger version, invented by Uerige, one of the Düsseldorf brewpubs. It is produced only twice a year, and released on the third Tuesday in October and the third Tuesday in January.

Based in Derry, Northbound was set up by David and Martina Rogers on their return from Australia, where David worked as a master brewer at Tooheys. I recommended their Kölsch (the traditional beer of Köln) last summer. I enjoyed the Sticke; rich, deeply malty and nutty with plenty of hops and a smooth finish. Perfect for keeping the cold of January at bay. 5.5% alcohol and €3.99 for a 500ml bottle.

Monte Real Rioja 2013


We love Rioja in this country; posh Rioja Reserva sells like hot cakes in restaurants, wine shops and supermarkets. This must be aged for three years before release, and has spent a minimum of twelve months and usually more, in oak barrels.  The idea is the wine comes ready to drink. A good reserva will be rich and smooth with subtle sweet vanilla flavours, but you need to start off the ageing process with good wine. Cheap Reserva is frequently watery and smells of cheap wood. This Monte Real Rioja ignores the traditional Rioja categories and simply calls itself Rioja. It is lightly oaked, but the dark cherry fruit is to the fore, and finishes with some light tannins. A great everyday wine to enjoy with chicken or red meats. €10 from O’Briens