British Brews 

I love the Northwest microbrew scene, but sometimes it's good to see what the rest of the beer world is doing. The Brits were crafting wicked good ales back before any Europeans took up the practice in the New World, so they've got a few years on us Colonials. It's always good news when new beers from England show up in our valley, and this week, we've got three worthy arrivals. One has an irresistible label (if you're a Monty Python fan), one comes in a very cool bottle, and one is just a damn fine ale.

Monty Python's Holy Grail Ale

The "g" and the "r" are crossed out on the label, which claims that this ale (ail?) was "tempered over burning witches." In the glass, it's a dark amber color with a thick and frothy head on top. Bright citrus plays against sweet malt on the nose. Smooth malt flavors are predominant on the palate, but they are nicely balanced by lemon zest and lightly bitter hops. First brewed in 1999 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Monty Python, it's not just a great label, but also a very fine ale.

St. Peter's English Ale

The unique bottle has an American connection. John Murphy, St. Peter's founder, fashioned his flask-shaped container after a Gibbstown, Penn., tavern bottle that dates back to 1770. His ale pours a lovely bright amber with a rich, large bubble froth on top. Lightly herbaceous hop aromas come through, marked by a toasted-grain quality. The taste is smooth and completely refreshing with a nice hit of citrus and a persistent hop bite. It's big enough for winter weather but will segue nicely into spring.

Duchy Originals Organic English Ale

This is a new favorite for me with a hazy copper color and a thin but finely textured head. Soft, sour mash and sweet malt aromas come through on the nose. Nothing all that notable in appearance or aroma, but on the palate, this ale is a real standout. Rich and creamy malt flavors with touches of caramel, mocha, orange and toast. This beer shows exceptional balance and remarkable length. The hops add body to the brew with just a light touch of bitterness. It's eminently quaffable and completely delicious.

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