Posts Tagged ‘Wolverhampton’

Beer Review: Brakspear Triple

5 November, 2009

THIS is Brakspear Triple. From ASDA in London’s Isle of Dog, it’s the first Brakspear I’ve tried. And boy, have I thrown myself into the deep-end.

Brakspear Triple bottle

You just know that it’s going to be something special. Something backed-up when you look at the neck-label.

Brakspear Triple front of neck label

On the sides of the classy “Brakspear III’ logo is an award.

Brakspear Triple award side of neck label

Brakspear Triple was “Silver Medal Winner” at “The Brewing Industry International Awards 2005”. And that raises my expectations one notch higher.

Down on the front-label, and Brakspear have taken to the trend of putting their back-label on the front.

Brakspear Triple front label

It’s not bad. You just feel that an olde roundel would fit better, if you know what I mean. Especially as it’s “Since 1779”.

The bee logo is a mystery to me. There’s probably some sort of funny story about it online, but I haven’t got that far yet. So it’ll remain a mystery for now. Unless you’re a rule-breaking reader who scrolls down.

Where a picture of some sort would normally be, you instead find a quote by the head brewer. You can tell it’s by him, because it has his unreadable signature by it. He describes Brakspear Triple thusly: “Thanks to the two fermentations in the Brakspear ‘Double Drop’ system and another in the bottle, this highly aromatic and satisfying strong beer delivers its rich flavour with subtlety and balance”.

If you’ve already spotted the big “Alc. 7.2% Vol.” and “Bottle Conditioned”, your hopes and expectations will be creeping even higher. Three very good things are leaping out at me from all of this. First, it sounds delicious. Second, it’s a bottle conditioned British ale with yeast sediment floating around, which is hard to find and turbo-charges that flavour. And third, it’s shaping up to be no compromise strong ale of the sort you don’t see enough of.

Down at the bottom of the front-label is another thing you don’t see very often. Next to the pretend stamp saying “Quality Brewing Tradition Since 1779” is a unique bottle number. I’ve got “B262633”. What do you have? Leave your number in the comments at the end of the post.

On the other side, the back-label continues on the, erm, back.

Brakspear Triple back label

No wonder some of the back-label made it onto the front. There’s not enough room for a single punctuation mark on here. In fact, having to work through it all is what put me off getting around to ‘reviewing’ this bottle in the first place.

Starting at the top (because you have to start somewhere), we get a nice and detailed little description. Plenty of ingredient names and brewing details for the beer buffs and taste descriptions for the rest of us. And it goes “Crystal, Black, and Maris Otter pale malts provide the backbone of this outstanding rich beer. Hope are added three times to provide a good balance between bitterness and fragrance. Then, bottle-conditioning allows the flavours of this beer to develop further complexity as it matures.”

All very interesting and yummy. Then comes something that elevates it even further. What you can do is use the bottle number on the front of the bottle and their website at www.brakspear-beers.co.uk to find out when the bottle was filled. To test their claim, I went to the website to investigate. I managed to avoid getting distracted by their other beers to find the Triple homepage at http://www.brakspear-beers.co.uk/brakspear2006_packaged.htm. Well I say homepage, it’s more a section half-way down the page, with a table of bottle numbers. A bit of effort reveals that this bottle was filled on the 26th of May, 2009. Interesting, but not the interactive experience that got my hopes up at the start of this paragraph. The date is also not that long ago. I’m tempted to leave it longer for it to bottle condition some more. But I won’t.

The comes the ever welcome sediment advice. This one advises that “this beer can be enjoyed cloudy, or wait for the sediment to settle and pour carefully for a clear sparkling glass”. Which shall I do? The Bavarian swirl for as much sediment as I can get. That should turn the taste dial to eleven.

Then we get to the small-print. It turns out that Brakspear is a Marston’s brand, and that it comes from Wolverhampton. That means that this bottle of Brakspear Triple needs only to be average to be possibly the best thing to come out of Wolverhampton.

Finally we get to a small group of symbols. First is the welcome sight of “CAMRA says  this is Real Ale”. Now that’s something you want on your bottle of British beer. For those that care, this 500ml bottle (why not a full pint?) at 7.2% alcoholic volume weighs in at 3.6 UK units of alcohol. That’s your whole day’s worth of units in a single bottle.

At last we reach the fun part. What does Brakspear Triple taste like? Will it be as good as I’m hoping? Should you buy it? Let’s find out.

Brakspear Triple poured into a glass

From the moment you hear ‘fft-chh’, things start going well. It’s easy to pourwith no massive head to work around. This makes swirling the bottle to get all that yeast out a piece of cake instead of the frustrating pour-wait you endure elsewhere.

In the glass, it’s a deep reddish brown that doesn’t look all that cloudy. The small head is cream-coloured and collapses to an even smaller, patchy layer, soon enough.

One of the first things to hit you is the smell. There’s simply no avoiding it. If you’re going to make a pungent beer, you better make darn sure that it smells good. And would you believe it; the brewers from Wolverhampton have done it. It smells incredibly richly. I’m noticing malty, biscuity and hoppy odours, though you can probably spot more in there.

So it looks and smells good. But what does Brakspear Triple taste like? The first sip is rich, strong and satisfying. So good, that I promptly follow with another. Gut feeling is that this is going to be every bit as no-nonsense and delicious as a strong ale should be.

A couple more civilised and noble sips, and I’m beginning to make some sense of the flavours and tastes. On the flavour side, all is straightforward. A surprisingly sweetness and maltiness take the lead here. On the aftertaste, that sweetness is balanced, perfectly I might add, by a gentle hoppy bitterness. One that finishes not into bitterness like most others, but into a smooth malty and hoppy combination.

What other words can I use to describe it? Well, rich is a good start. And full-bodied, too. You’ll know this, because it isn’t at all watery. Warm is another, which makes it a good autumn and winter beer. Not overly carbonated. Incredibly well balanced and extremely satisfying. Not particularly complex, but then it is a strong ale, so you don’t expect it to be. Like a good strong ale, it manages to be strong and satisfying at the same time as being easy to drink.

So what am I enjoying about Brakspear Triple? As you’ve no doubt have noticed, quite a lot. It deserves special kudos for being so well balanced. It’s sweet and bitter at the same time. It’s as strong as strong ale should be, yet easy to drink, even for the less adventurous. I like that it’s bottle conditioned. I like how many good ingredients are in it, all of which add up to a quality and drinkability that you notice. In fact, I’m nearly at the bottom of the glass, and wishing there was more to go.

What am I not enjoying about Brakspear Triple? I don’t like that it’s so hard to find in shops. Not picking here, it is a beer drinkers beer. Sure, it’s more accessible than any strong ale I’ve ever tried, but lager and alcopop drinkers won’t be making the switch to this one. And maybe a bit more complexity would add something. But this are tiny gripes.

To surmise, Brakspear Triple is one of the best strong ales I’ve tried. Which, admittedly, isn’t a lot. I loved it. If you are an enthusiastic beer drinker or just want a high-quality, no-nonsense ale, Brakspear Triple deserves to be on your shopping list.

Rating: 4.5

Have you tried Brakspear Triple? What did you think of it?

Leave your opinions, corrections, recommendations, places to buy and other tomfoolery here in the comments.

Snack Food Review: MS Authentic Black Country Pork Crunch Savoury Pork Snack

12 August, 2009

I WASN’T going to do another one of these, but the combination of my curiosity and your enthusiastic response to MS’ Traditional Pork Scratchings convinced otherwise. From Costcutter on Brick Lane, here is a bag of MS Pork Crunch; an Authentic Black Country Savoury Pork Snack.

MS Pork Crunch front of bag

First impressions are that they didn’t exactly splash out on the packaging. There’s little to disguise the fact that this is a transparent plastic bag. Nevertheless, it says everything you need to know. Plus you see exactly what you’re getting.

If, like me, you remembering how delicious MS’ Traditional Pork Scratchings were, you won’t care that it looks like it was made on a kitchen table. You will already have pulled one from the cardboard shop display that pork snacks are, for some reason, hung on in shops.

The back of the bag has much the same details as MS’ Traditional Pork Scratchings.

MS Pork Crunch back of bag

The top ingredients are pork rinds and salt. So you might want to skip these if you care about health. If health isn’t your thing, your teeth might be. If that didn’t put you off, they still recommend it only for “people with strong healthy teeth”. Besides the story about them producing Authentic Black Country pork snacks for over twenty-five years, the only other detail worth reading is the address where they came from. And yes, it was “produced in the heart of the Black Country” in Wolverhampton no less.

So what are MS Pork Crunch like? How to they compare to other “Seasoned Pork Rind” snacks? I’m looking forward to finding out.

MS Pork Crunch close-up

MS Pork Crunch are surprisingly easy to describe. They are big, chunky, crunchy, meaty, tasty Quavers. If normal Quavers are too feeble for you, you will love Pork Crunch. Unlike every other seasoned pork rind, this is the easiest to eat of the whole lot. I don’t know why they have the “healthy teeth” message. They are about as challenging as a thick-cut crisp.

What am I enjoying about MS Pork Crunch? A lot of things. They are a lot of fun to eat. And they taste of pork. Not too salty either. This could go very well with some light, summery ale. I also love how they do something different with the pork rind formula. I’ve not yet seen anything else on the shelves like this.

What am I not enjoying about MS Pork Crunch? Very little. Some people will say that they aren’t real pork scratchings because it isn’t as hard as granite. It’s also hard to find. And when you do find it, there’s a good chance that they have already passed their “Best Before” date. Frustratingly, they do not have a long shelf-life.

To sum up, MS Authentic Black Country Pork Crunch is a delicious snack food. They are chunky, porky Quavers. They are unlike any pork scratchings I’ve tried before. And just like that other MS pork snack, I think it is worth your time and money to look out for this tasty post-beer snack when you do your shopping.

Have you tried MS Pork Crunch? What did you think of it?

Do please leave your angry criticisms, praise, opinions, corrections, suggestions and places to buy here in the comments.

Snack Food Review: MS Authentic Black Country Traditional Pork Scratchings

15 April, 2009

BOTH bags of pork scratchings that I’ve tried so far have been from Mr. Porky. And both have been excellent. But they’re not the only pork in town. Here is a bag of MS Traditional Pork Scratchings from a convenience store on Brick Lane.

MS Authentic Black Country Pork Snacks Traditional Pork Scratchings front

The MS name at the top has a border with words describing it as “Authentic Black Country Pork Snacks”. To hammer home the point, most of the bag is coloured black. Under the window into the bag’s contents, are the reassuring words “Finest quality Hand cooked Seasoned Pork Rind”. I don’t know about you, but the words “Traditional” and “Hand cooked” are making me salivate.

MS Authentic Black Country Pork Snacks Traditional Pork Scratchings back of bag

The back of the bag has lots of information on it. It opens with the list of ingredients which, happily, starts with pork rinds. Less happily for your heart, the second ingredient is salt. There are lots of other ingredients, some natural, some not, but all too boring to list here.

Helpfully, they have allergy advice. And there’s a big table of nutritional information. But unless you want to shock yourself with the huge fat and sodium figures, it’s best not to read it.

On the other column is the few sentences you want to read. They tell us that they’ve been making these pork scratchings for over 25 years. And that they use an “Authentic Black Country recipe”. Also making an appearance is that familiar warning that it is “Only Recommended For People With Strong Healthy Teetch”. Sound advice indeed for this kind of snack.

Also on the back of the bag, they tease you with a hint of another, probably tasty snack “Try our Authentic Black Country Pork Crunch”. Darn, that’s another snack I’ve got to look out for. If you find it before I do, leave a comment letting me know what it’s like.

The label closes with their “Heart of the Black Country” postal address. An address of Midland Snacks Limited in Wolverhampton. Apparently the Internet hasn’t reached that corner of the Black Country yet as they have no website or email address.

What are MS Traditional Pork Scratchings like? How do they compare to the Mr. Porky I’ve tried so far? I’m looking forward to finding out.

MS Authentic Black Country Pork Snacks Traditional Pork Scratchings open bag

First impressions are that these a big pieces. Maybe even bigger than Mr. Porky Prime Cut. But, like Prime Cut, there’s a variety of big and small. Somehow, these don’t look as dusty. In fact, they don’t look as well done. They look a little less crispy.

To eat, the taste is a pleasant porky seasoning. Not too salty. There’s just a gentle taste of pork and of things like pepper which must be the seasoning.

The texture depends on what the piece you eat happens to look like. If it’s a small and crinkly bit, it will be like chewing on gravel. Pick up a bigger piece, and it’s like eating some fresh, chewy pork with a crunchy top. And that seems to be what MS Traditional Pork Scratchings are about.

What am I enjoying about MS Authentic Black Country Traditional Pork Scratchings? I like how different they are to the competition. These have a decent sized chuck of regular pork attached to a decent sized layer of crunchy rind. All of which tastes good and isn’t like pouring a sachet of salt into your mouth. I also like how easy they are on the teeth compared to some of the competition.

What don’t I like about MS Traditional Pork Scratchings? They’re hard to find down here. Who know if I’ll ever get to try their Pork Crunch. Some people might object to the non-crunchy bit of the rind. Not me though. I can’t even criticise them for not having many in a bag, because they’ve compensated by having a lager than-you’d-expect bag. If you genuinely like pork scratchings, there’s like to criticise about them.

How can I sum up MS Authentic Black Country Traditional Pork Scratching? They are an excellent snack. If the strong saltiness or gravel-like texture of other pork scratchings puts you off, then try these. As far as I can tell, they are the real ale of the pork scratchings world.

Manufacturers, if you can top these, then get in touch. If you’ve tried MS Traditional Pork Scratchings, do please leave your opinions, corrections, requests, recommendations and places to buy here in the comments.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 42 other followers

%d bloggers like this: