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Back when walking into an unfamiliar brewery taproom and trying a few beers was a thing I did, I instituted the habit of starting with a pils or similar. Most places had one and it's generally a good indicator of the brewery's overall acumen. Also, I like pils, but that's neither here nor there. I was thinking about this rough and ready approach to assessment when I came to these cans from Zagovor Brewery of Moscow. I have had a couple from them before, three years ago, and wasn't impressed. But here were three styles very much representing the basic styles of modern craft brewing. Could these boost the brewery's reputation for me? None was a pils, unfortunately.

First up it was Surf in a Big City. Only the headline information is in English so while I knew it was a Fruited Sour Ale, I wasn't feeling energetic enough to practise my Russian and figure out which fruits are involved. The internet tells me it's pineapple, passionfruit and blood orange. It's a happy, glowing, medium orange with a shortlived head: all par for the course. The aroma is pleasingly passionfruit-like with a twang of tartness, like a sorbet. That had me expecting clean and zingy but it turned out quite thick on the palate. I might have known that would be the case as it's 5% ABV rather than anything in the mid-to-low 3s. A juicy sweetness comes with that density, its orange side rising to match the passionfruit. This is at the expense of the sour side, which only just clings on, determined to offer a clean finish and preventing a sweet and sticky mess. It wasn't quite what I'd hoped for but it's well put-together and has a definite charm. If the fruit is the important bit of Fruited Sour Ale for you, get hold of some of this.

Naturally it's a New England IPA next: Stop 'N' Go, brewed with lupulin powder to 7% ABV. It looks bang on -- a pale opaque yellow with a fluffy white head -- and it smells great too, of mangos and peaches and all that juicy goodness. It's juice in the flavour too, though a more mundane orange sort, yet surprisingly realistic. Behind it there's a little citrus bitterness for balance and a touch of fuzzy grit because nobody's perfect. A little vanilla emerges as it warms but the alcohol remains well hidden. Citra and Mosaic are the hops, and their contrasting characteristics lend this beer an excellent balance. Despite that one, entirely style-appropriate, flaw this is a very good example of what New England IPA is supposed to be. The juicy smoothness and the fresh hop flavour are archetypal and it's frankly astounding that so many other examples aren't as well poised as this one. Zagovor passes the NEIPA part of the test with flying colours.

And of course you have to have a big pastry stout. Barrel-aged for preference, but I won't hold that against them. This is Algorithm DC. The brewery says it's based on chocolate cake but doesn't contain lactose. It's a massive 13.5% ABV for extra craft points and fully dense and dark to go with that. Here I have no idea what the adjunct ingredients are but would be willing to bet coconut is involved. Chocolate too, I'd say: big surprise. And then there's a strange sort of crisply burnt caramel, tasting like that lattice you get on desserts in posh restaurants, with maybe an element of ginger snap basket. It's fascinating how they've made it taste like dessert without being super sweet. There's a gentle waft of fresh-roasted coffee for afters. It's a polite sort of extreme stout, the flavour elements lining up one after the other to present themselves. It could stand to be more warming, and maybe that's where the barrel ageing would come in. At the risk of damning with faint praise, I deem this interestingly off-kilter.

It's a decent showing from Zagovor, then. They've covered the fundamentals of modern beer styles as proficiently as any top-tier European brewery. I'm still holding out for that pils, however.