Archive for May 14th, 2008

Beer Review: Greene King Abbot Ale

14 May, 2008

MY previous post involved testing big-name, high-volume ale Morland Old Speckled Hen. It turned out to be better than I feared. And it turned out to be from the Greene King brewing goliaths of the South-East.

It’s with some trepidation then, that I turn my attention this time, towards that other big-name, high-volume ale Greene King Abbot Ale. You know the one, normally on the same shelf as Old Speckled Hen, pretending to be competing with it.

Greene King Abbot Ale bottle

This 500 millilitre bottle is from my local Tesco. For exactly the same premium-end price as Old Speckled Hen.

The neck label starts us off with the familiar Greene King logo. And the “1799″ date either side of it. A logo that looks suspiciously similar to the Morland logo.

Greene King Abbot Ale neck label

Under the big “Abbot Ale” name is some encouraging news. It transpires that Abbot Ale was a winner in the 2005 International Beer Competition.

Down to the front label, and everything is tasteful and stylish. In a way that’s similar to Old Speckled Hen? Let your thoughts be known in the comments please.

Greene King Abbot Ale front label

At the top, we get a closer look at that Greene King logo. Didn’t we see a simple line drawn logo dividing an established date on Morland Old Speckled Hen?

The “Abbot Ale” text and red and gold logo featuring, presumably, an abbot does an excellent job of creating the right romantic image. Next to that, in poorly contrasting lettering is the alcoholic volume, which is 5%.

Under that is a sentence. The sort of sentence that long to see on any proper ale bottle. And it reads thus: “Brewed longer for a distinctive, full flavour”. How appealing is that? You would normally only see that on the most obscure, rural ales. Remember that this ale is even available in tin cans. If they truly do pull off longer brewing and strong, distinctive flavours, that is quite a feat.

Over on the back label, and things are a little different to Old Speckled Hen. But there are some similarities.

Greene King Abbot Ale back label

The little “Beer to dine for” and “Contains Malted Barley” symbols are there. As is the quaint “Please take as much care enjoying our beers as we do brewing them”. Just below that is the confirmation of the link with the rest of the Greene King empire; the names “Bury St. Edmunds” and “Suffolk”. There’s also a web address of www.abbotale.co.uk. This website though, is rather more open about its Greene King credentials.

The bulk of the back label gets down to what Abbot Ale is all about.  They describe it as “full flavoured” and “smooth”. And that it has “fruit characters”, “malty richness” and “hop balance”. Good, but vague. But they haven’t finished there. This ale has been brewed with pale crystal, and amber malts. Whatever they are.

What haven’t I covered yet? The ever popular  UK units of alcohol. A good, round 2.5 units are in this bottle. If you count such things.

In the glass, the head is smaller and vanishes quicker than with Old Speckled Hen. It’s also somewhat darker in hue, and fizzier.

Greene King Abbot Ale poured into a glass

The smell is good. Mostly of malt. But accompanied by some hints of malted barley and hops. It’s a good blend. And again, different to what I expected.

And that blend is mirrored by the flavours. The main thing that you’ll taste are those malts. Which are quickly followed by fruitiness. And by some bitterness from the hops. But that bitterness doesn’t linger for long.

Just as the label describes it. It’s rich, smooth, full flavoured and well balanced. It really is all of those things. There’s plenty of flavour, yet none dominate. It’s also very drinkable. With so little to offend, even the more timid drinker will find Abbot Ale easy to stomach.

The downsides? It’s a little gassier than O.S.H. And because of that balance, none really stand out. And that makes it less distinctive and character filled that it would like to be.

Abbot Ale is another pleasant surprise. For a big-name, high-volume ale, it’s good. But not as good as some other ales out there, big-name or otherwise. This is drinkable on its own, but the entire time, I kept feeling the need to shovel a pub meal into my mouth. Abbot Ale then, is an ale best served with a hearty plate of pub grub.

Rating: 4.15

Have you tried Abbot Ale? Or any of it’s other varieties? What did you think?
Got any corrections, additions, comments, thoughts, ideas or suggestions? Any other products you want me to “review”? Then leave a message in the usual place.


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