Posts Tagged ‘youngs’

Beer Review: Young’s Kew Gold

11 December, 2009

THE Bethnal Green Food Center has been useful lately. Over the last few weeks, they’ve sold more bottle conditioned British ales than I knew existed. Here is my most recent purchase. A £1.99 pence bottle of Young’s Kew Gold.

This is the same Young’s that brought us Special London Ale and Luxury Double Chocolate Stout. And part of the same Wells & Young’s behind Banana Bread Beer and Bombardier Satanic Mills. As such, hopes are high and the bottle looks very familiar.

Why do I like bottle conditioned ales? Who wants yeast floating around in their drink? Simple. It turbo-charges the flavour, and it’s divisive. And that makes for interesting comments at the end of this post.

Back to this particular bottle, and the neck-label is where a lot of the detail lives.

It informs us that it was “inspired by hops grown at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.” And that some of the money from each sale of this bottle, goes to support Kew. I like that fact, because it muddies the waters for people who like to take a moral stand on beer.

Lastly, they describe it as “Light, golden & full-flavoured with a refreshing bite.” And that it is “Perfect with grilled marinated chicken or pasta”. That all sounds very run-of-the-mill for an ale. Where’s the quirkiness and imagination?

The small-print lives on the back of the neck-label.

And it’s almost identical to the small-print on every other Wells & Young’s bottle of beer. Is has their full, Bedford postal address. It has their web address of www.wellsandyoungs.co.uk. But this one has one more. Because of the Kew connection, it also has the address of www.kew.org. If you want to know about the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, it is a very good website, indeed. I’ll have to re-visit it when I stop being young.

With the neck-label done, it’s onwards and downwards to the front-label.

Although, frankly, there’s not much reason to look down here. It’s pleasant and green looking. There’s a simple picture of a bunch of hops. And the live, bottle conditioning is the main marketing point. “Bottle Conditioned Ale” takes pride of place above the Young’s 1831 rams head logo.

Along the bottom of the label is the main selling point: “Matured live in the bottle for a fresher taste”. Along with the vital statistics either side. That this is a typical 500ml bottle (why not a proper pint?) with a modest 4.8% alcoholic volume.

Next is the back-label. Again, much the same as the back-labels for most other Wells & Young’s beer, so I won’t waste your time by going through every tiny detail.

Helpfully, the back-label opens with a bit more detail. Their choice of words for the benefits of bottle conditioning are that it’s for a “fresher taste”. They talk about how you can pour it slowly if you don’t want it cloudy. How you should store it upright. And that it’s best served between 10 and 12 degree Celsius. By chance, that’s exactly how chilly my flat is.

Sadly, it’s nowhere near strong enough to help me get over the cold of my flat. At a moderate 4.8% alcoholic volume, and in a standard 500ml bottle, Kew Gold comes in at 2.4 UK units of alcohol.

The only other details worth mentioning are the ingredients. Well, maybe not. But here they are anyway: “natural mineral water, malted barley, hops, yeast”. Nothing suspicious. Just good, normal, ale ingredients.

So, what does Young’s Kew Gold taste like? Will I like it? And will I think you should buy it? Will the yeasty goodness be worth it? Let’s find out.

It poured easily enough. Certainly much easier than the European wheat beers. It wasn’t cloudy at all until I gave the bottle the old Bavarian-swirl near the bottle. That ‘livened’ up the glass. All without overflowing it.

True to the label description, the hue is golden. The head quickly collapsed to a network of white patches. It’s cloudy, but not overly opaque and looks well carbonated.

What does Young’s Kew Gold? Smell of? Not that much, and not very strongly. You need to give it a good sniff to detect that it’s all hops. A couple more sniffs, and you realise that it smells good, in a pleasant, hoppy way. Fruity, spicy and a bit malty are the words I’ll go with on the smell.

What does Young’s Kew Gold taste like? The first gulp started easily enough. As soon as the aftertaste kicks in, your mouth is swamped by the hoppiest taste I’ve had out of a bottle. And that brought with it that familiar hoppy bitterness. It still caught me off-guard.

A few more sips and I’m starting to make some sense of the flavours and tastes in Young’s Kew Gold. On the flavour side of the equation, there’s not much to say. It’s got a light, savoury, slightly leading bitterness. No flavours really stand out. At least none that my tongue was aware of.

The aftertaste is what Young’s Kew Gold is all about. It has a very full, hoppy, agricultural taste. At first, I was overwhelmed by it and the bitterness, but a third of the way through now, I’m not so sure. It’s turned into a light, smooth and strangely refreshing beverage. Almost a complete 180 degree from where it was on that first gulp.

Nearing half-way through, and what am I enjoying about Young’s Kew Gold? A admit it. I wasn’t expecting any surprises when I cracked it open. So I’m genuinely happy to have had a couple. I like how immensely hoppy it tastes at first. I like how that will put off the less intrepid beer drinkers, meaning you’re in an exclusive club if you’ve got this far. It also scores it points for distinctiveness. I very much like how easy it is to get used to it, and how well it becomes drinkable and smooth. I like how it’s taken the light and refreshing summery ale and put a very hoppy twist in it. And I like how it gives money to the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew, even though I’d rather experience mild electrocution than learn about foliage.

What aren’t I enjoying about Young’s Kew Gold? That massive, initial hoppiness isn’t going to win it any lager or alco-pop friends. Personally, I’d like more interesting flavours, not just pure hoppiness. With such a hoppy beer, it would be good if the labels told us what hops and malts they used in the brew. It’s a little on the gassy side. It’s expensive and hard to find. And, here, now, in a cold flat, in winter, it’s just not right. Summer, or at least spring, is where Young’s Kew Gold belongs.

To sum up, Young’s Kew Gold is one of the hoppiest tasting ales I’ve ever tried. Do I like it? Yes, but despite myself. I didn’t want to, but it’s grown on me. Was the bottle conditioning worth it? For the distinctive, hoppy quality, yes. Should you buy it? In the right season, if you like strong, hoppy ale, if you can find it and afford it, then yes. Definitely.

Rating: 4.2

Have you tried Young’s Kew Gold? What did you think of it? Leave your comments, corrections, opinions and places to buy, here in the comments

Beer Review: Crest Super 10% Super Strength Premium Lager

14 April, 2009

A YEAR ago, I tried all the super strength lagers I could lay my hands on. This meant subjecting myself to Tennent’s Super Strong Lager, Kestrel Super Strength Lager, Carlsberg Special Brew and Skol Super Strong Lager. They were universally awful means of alcohol consumption. Not surprisingly then, they’re a favourite of homeless alcoholics, which is why they’ve acquired the nick-name “tramp juice”.

Besides being revolting to anyone who drinks less than eight each day, there was one other commonality. They were all 9% alcoholic volume. For whatever reason; fear of regulation, corporate social responsibility or a gentlemen’s agreement, there were none above 9% this side of the English channel. That’s what I thought, until I found this. From an off-license in Kennington, South London, here is a can of Crest Super 10% Super Strength Premium Lager.

Crest Super front of can

At first sight, everything looks promising. For a start, this has a classy purple exterior, unlike the stripy competition. It has pictures of hops and a “Master Brewers” ‘seal, all adding to the sense that this is a real beer.

It even has a proper roundel. With two bears at the top, the upper border says “Brewed With Best Quality Barley Malt”. And the lower border has words continuing with “And The Finest German Aroma Hops”. So this is German is it? If you’re going to have a strong beer, Germany is one of the places you want it to be from. This is shaping up very well indeed.

Crest Super join side of the can

Turning the can around, you won’t find much on this side. There’s a join. And the words “Serve Cool”. Advice I intend to pay heed to when it comes to tasting this mysterious, yet probably explosive beverage.

Crest Super barcode side of can

Ah good. This side has some writing. Lets read it. Maybe it says from where in Germany it came?

No. No it doesn’t say that. Right at the top, it says “Brewed And Canned By: The Crest Brewing Co. A Division of Wells & Young’s Brewing Company Ltd, Havelock Street, Bedford UK, MK40 4LU”. Regular readers will know that any beer that pretends to be imported when it isn’t immediately gets docked points. Would you rather try something from Bavaria or Bedfordshire?

It’s not necessarily bad news though. That is the same Wells & Young’s who brought us Bombardier Burning Gold, Luxury Double Chocolate Stout, Banana Bread Beer and the magnificent Bombardier Satanic Mills bottled ales. Yet they seem intent on hurting their name with licensed beers like Kirin Ichiban and this can of Crest Super.

Back to what the can says, and next up come the vital statistics. This is a big 500ml can. Oddly, for a UK produced can with a 10% alcoholic volume, I can’t find any UK units of alcohol rating. An intentional regulatory and moral dodge? Or an innocent omission? Your opinions at the end of this post please.

Another oddity is that the only English language in that big block of sideways text is telling you to look under the can for the best before end date. It has a full list of ingredients, but in German. Not English. Luckily, our language is similar enough to German for me to make sense of what it says. If you’re expecting the ingredients to be of typical beer ingredients plus some chemicals, you’d be spot-on.

Right then. I was hoping to drag out the descriptive part of this review as long as possible. But I’ve run out of things to read on the can. I’m going to have to drink this stuff and try to describe what it’s like. A task I’ve been putting off for weeks already.

What does Crest Super 10% Super Strength Premium Lager, the strongest beer I’ve ever tried taste like? Will be as drinkable as I’m hoping? Or as vomit inducing as I’m fearing? Curiosity is getting the better of me as it’s time to find out…

Crest Super poured into a glass

There’s some head. But not much. After a few moments, you’re left with a patch of foam. But what get’s me is the colour. That bright orange-amber colour would look more at home on a cider. It looks as natural as Jordan.

Does it smell as synthetic as it looks? The roundel promised the “Finest German Aroma Hops”. I’d say that it smells like the other super strength lagers. But maybe slightly more delicate. Whatever the case, you can’t hide from the distinctly un-beery smell of this and other super strength lagers. It reminds me of the smell of gobstoppers or other such sweets. Not a natural and tasty beer.

How does it taste? I’m going into this with a totally open mind, by the way. No prejudice whatsoever. So what does it taste like?

Two gulps in and I realise that gulps are the wrong way to go. If I’m to avoid seeing my dinner again, sips over the course of the night are the only way to go.

How can I describe it? Not easily. My entire digestive system is currently telling me not to consume any more. The rest of this review might be a bit shorter than normal.

A few minutes later, and I gingerly attempt a few sips. Unusually for a lager, it does have a hit of flavour. A flavour of hops and chemicals and think. It’s hard to pin down because of the massive aftertaste that swamps you. You get hit with a gigantic wave of bitterness, alcohol and chemicals. Unsurprisingly, it lingers for a good long time.

Nearly a quarter of the way through now, so what am I enjoying about Crest Super? I like that does something a little different to the other super strength lagers. I like that it’s 1% stronger. If I were an alcoholic or someone who enjoying drinking many cans of super strength each day, I would be delighted with Crest Super.

What am I not enjoying about Crest Super? Nearly everything. It is the most undrinkable beer I’ve had in more than a year of doing this blog. I doubt I’m going to finish this beer tonight, and it’s the first time that’s ever happened. It’s as if my body is shouting “no more! Please no more!” after every sip. This literally gut wrenching effect means I can’t even start to enjoy the flavour and taste.

How can I sum up Crest Super? It is the most extreme beer I have ever tried. It is the strongest. And the most undrinkable. Slightly different to the other super strength lagers, but not necessarily better. If you are an alcoholic, or if you enjoying drinking many cans of super strength lager each day, then you will love Crest Super. If however, you’re a normal person, then you probably won’t. It will either send you to drunken oblivion or to the toiler to throw up. But maybe I’m looking at it all wrong. Maybe you should treat it not as a beer, but as a spirit. It certainly tastes like one.

Rating: I’ll leave that up to you.

Have you tried Crest Super? Draught or out of a can? What did you think of it?

Do please leave your opinions, corrections, thoughts, requests, recommendations and places to buy.

Update:

Armed with experience from my first can, and from the comments sections from the other super strength lagers, my second can of Crest Super was much better. I can confirm that it’s absolutely essential to drink it only while it’s very very cold. Even if this means leaving the dregs at the bottom, because the contents will have warmed up too much in your hand. And don’t do what I did and pour it out. Drink it from the can to make sure you don’t accidentally smell it.

With this in mind, you can nearly enjoy it. At Arctic temperatures, it really does have a long, hoppy finish. And yes, the can is more solid than others. But there’s still better ways to get wasted than this.

Beer Review: Kirin Ichiban

6 April, 2009

Asahi Super Dry was my favourite Japanese beer. Until I discovered that it wasn’t Japanese at all, but was brewed here in Britain. So I was thrilled to find another Japanese-looking beer at a shop in Dalston. Here it is: Kirin Ichiban, “Japan’s Prime Brew”. It must be Japanese. Surely.

Kirin Ichiban bottle

It reminds me of Erdinger Weisbier. What do you think?

It’s almost impossible to read, but the neck-label has writing either side of the “Kirin Ichiban” logo.

Kirin Ichiban neck label leftKirin Ichiban neck label centreKirin Ichiban neck label right

Careful squinting at the left-hand-side of the neck-label has them describe it as a “unique premium beer”. That’s welcome for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they didn’t say “lager”. Secondly, anything that makes a beer unique is very warmly welcome. The last thing the market needs is another generic lager pretending to be Oriental.

What makes it unique? The other side of the neck-label says something about a process and only using “the most flavourful portion of the finest ingredients”. I don’t know about you, but that explained nothing.

The front-label does away with the traditional roundel, yet still manages to be conservative and conventional.

Kirin Ichiban front label

All the important details are there. That this is a regular 330ml bottle. And that it has an equally regular 5% alcoholic volume. As out of the ordinary as rain. But right at the bottom of the label is another mention of “The Authentic Ichiban Shibori Process”. What is a “Shibori Process”? Why is it unique. I’m hoping for some answers on the back label.

Kirin Ichiban back label

First impressions are not good. Shiny golden text is not readable when there’s a light bulb switched on in the room. Or any illumination at all for that matter.

After much squinting, I’ve deciphered this. They describe the character as “pure, crisp and intensely satisfying”. And that the Ichiban Shibori process has something to do with pressing the ingredients once and then throwing them away instead of using them over and over. Sounds interesting. I’m looking forward to trying this one.

Then comes the bad news. This hasn’t been imported from Japan. Instead, it was brewed under license from Kirin Holdings by Wells & Young’s Brewing Co in Bedford. They even have a European web site at www.kirineurope.com. Surprisingly, it’s not bad. There’s lots of history and background if you prefer to read about beer instead of imbibing it.

The last little detail to mention is the UK units of alcohol. It’s nearly impossible to read, but that doesn’t matter. It’s only 1.7 UK units of alcohol.

What does Kirin Ichiban taste like? Is the Ichiban Shibori process just marketing guff? Should you buy it? I can hardly wait to find out…

Kirin Ichiban poured into a glass

Watch out for that head. It froths up a treat. A couple of minutes later, it has settled down, but it’s still bigger than most I’ve seen recently. On the surface at least, it looks like a lager. Fizzy and pale in colour. I was rather hoping that the famed “Ichiban Shibori” process would do something about that. Apparently not.

How does it smell? It smells a bit lagery. Again, I was hoping the “Ichiban Shibori” process would change that too. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t smell bad. It smells of a rich blend of malted barley. Not like many lagers out there at all. But still a little lagery.

Does it taste like a lager too? Sort of. But not in a bad way. A couple of gulps in, and I’m liking Kiribn Ichiban. Or at least this Wells & Young’s version. The flavour and taste won’t really impress you. Unless you love lager. It has much the same taste of malted barley that most lager style beers have. It’s the way it does it that impresses me. It is so rich and smooth, it’s like drinking Leslie Philips. The bitter “bite” that lager drinkers seem to love, and that I hate, isn’t there. In it’s place, is a pleasantly mild bitter taste that you barely notice.

What am I enjoying about Kirin Ichiban? I love how easy it is to drink. It is so gentle and so smooth, no one will object if you offer then a bottle. I’ve had a few other good lagers like this, that are this smooth and easy to drink. I’ll happily add Kirin Ichiban to the good lager list for these reasons. The drinkability also speaks about the quality of ingredients. It doesn’t taste like you’re drinking preservatives and flavourings, like with some. It also has that crisp, clean and refreshing quality that this type of beer should have.

What don’t I like about Kirin Ichiban? For a start, I don’t like the whole idea of licensed beers. I’d be much happier if this were a little bit more expensive, but imported from Japan. Beer from Bedford is never going to be as exciting, even when it pretends to be Japanese. Besides that, the head could be a handful. It’s so easy to drink that you could be mistaken for thinking that you’re drinking water. And, disappointingly, it’s not as unique as the label promised. The special process has made a very good lagery style beer, but there are others like it.

To sum up, Kirin Ichiban is a very good lagery style beer. I’m not sure if it really is a pilsner style lager, but it shares a lot in common. As such, there’s no flavour and very little taste. But it is very easy to drink. And I think it would be brilliantly well with a spicy meal. I really would like to try the genuine Japanese version though.

Rating: 3

Have you tried Kirin Ichiban? What did you think of it? Do please leave your opinions, corrections, requests, recommendations and places to buy, here in the comments.

Beer Review: Wells Bombardier Burning Gold

18 March, 2009

I COULDN’T believe it either. But my local Tesco Metro is selling something interesting again. And it is a golden ale from England’s most patriotic of ale brands: Well’s Bombardier Burning Gold. That’s the same Wells that brought us the delectable Luxury Double Chocolate Stout, quirky Banana Bread Beer and sublime Bombardier Satanic Mills porter. I’m looking forward to gold in bottle shape.

Wells Bombardier Burning Gold bottle

Just look at it. You won’t mistake it for many other bottles. It’s as if someone made a gold coloured jelly in a bottle shaped mould, and then stuck some labels on. Look closely and you’ll see the Wells bottle design with the words “Independent Family Brewer” embossed around the shoulder.

Here is the front of the neck-label.

Wells Bombardier Burning Gold front of neck label

Whatever your take on English patriotism, the label ticks all the right boxes. And that’s worth celebrating because so many brewers get it wrong. Look past the “Drink of England” and the tenuous link to William Blake’s Jerusalem and you find some useful information.

They describe it as a “lively, refreshing golden ale”. Every bottle of beer should have that sort of description on the neck label. It just makes your ‘buy’ or ‘not buy’ decision in the shop so much faster.

The neck-label doesn’t end there though. It wraps around. And the back of it helpfully tells you who brewed it, bottled it, and where.

Wells Bombardier Burning Gold back of neck label

For the curious, the full name of Wells is Wells & Young’s Brewing Company Limited. And they come from Bedford. And I can’t think of anything interesting to say abut Bedford. If you can, leave a comment at the end of the post.

The front-label takes the standard Wells shield and makes it gold.

Wells Bombardier Burning Gold front label

It doesn’t say any more than it needs to say, either. The Wells name proudly sports the date 1876. Which is good. And the alcoholic volume can’t be missed. The 4.7% in Burning Gold isn’t bad. Not strong, nor weak.

Over on the back label, and Wells’ polished house style continues its gold theme.

Wells Bombardier Burning Gold back label

It goes straight into a more detailed version of the description from the neck-label. They describe it as “an instantly refreshing beer”. That the aroma is “zesty”. And that it has a “dry, crisp flavour with more than a hint of citrus on the palate and a smooth lasting finish”. Sounds yummy. When you read the back of a beer bottle in the shop, that is the sort of thing you want to read about. Not a back story involving legendary figures and ancient traditions.

The ingredients are water, malted barley, hops and yeast. In, presumably, order of proportion. And that’s good because usually, they are not. Water, if it gets a mention at all, it hidden away at the back of the list.

The web address they print on the bottle is www.bombardier.co.uk. I encourage you to visit. It’s not too Flash-heavy and far from the worst brewer website out there. The closest I could find to a homepage for Burning Gold was half a page shared with Satanic Mills. Both well worth reading about, and drinking, but surely they deserve their own obsessively detailed homepages?

The only other bit of small-print worth repeating are the UK units of alcohol. This 500ml bottle and 4.7% alcoholic volume brings it to 2.4 UK units of alcohol. That means you can have nearly two before you are in receipts of an ASBO. And, if Sir Liam Donaldson gets his way, your wallet will be nearly £1.50 pence lighter.

So, will Wells Bombardier Burning Gold be as delicious as I’m hoping it will be? What will it taste like? And should you buy it? These questions and more I shall attempt to answer for you, now…

Wells Bombardier Burning Gold poured into a glass

The colour is no surprise. It’s exactly the same dark golden hue as you saw the bottle. Not much head to speak of. There is a patchy layer of foam, but nothing to imperil your pouring. My pint glass easily contained it all.

The label promised “zesty aromas”. Does it deliver? Impressively. It smells delicious. It’s pungent enough for you to smell it easily enough, too. “Zesty” is definitely the right word for it. There’s all kinds of citrusy and plant-based smells in there. It reminds me of that lemon scented kitchen and bathroom surface cleaner. In a good, unmistakably beery way. It really does smell very nice indeed.

What does it taste like? A couple of gulps in, and it is very pleasant. The label describes the flavour as “dry” and “crisp”, “with more than a hint of citrus”. Yet again, I can’t disagree. Citrus is the main flavour. But I think the dry malty taste adds some biscuit to the blend of flavours.

I can’t disagree with the description of it having a “smooth lasting finish” either. After the flavours pass, the transition to the aftertaste really is as smooth as the service at a Swedish railway station. There is no bitter “bite” anywhere to be seen. Instead, what you get is a lightly malty and hoppy finish that lasts and lasts. You’ll struggle to know what it is you’re tasting, it is that gentle. But you’ll be happy that it’s there.

Nearly half-way through, and I’m finding a lot to like about Wells Bombardier Burning Gold. For starters, there’s enough layers to the flavour and taste to keep you thinking. Everyone of them is blended into something that tastes superb. And it does this while being smooth, crisp, light and refreshing. On top of all those things, it’s very easy to drink. Something that must reflect on the quality of the ingredients and effort that went into it. Also, unlike with some ales, you won’t feel like you’re eating a heavy meal. And, it’s not gassy, either.

However, I do have a few problems with Burning Gold. Foremost among which is what it stands for. Burning Gold seems to be yet another well made summery ale. Yet another one. Why would you choose this, over say, Morrissey Fox Blonde, Wychwood Circlemaster Golden Pale Ale or any other of the expertly made, delicious, summery ales? There’s nothing wrong with them, on their own. Just a lack of imagination when you round them up together.

Besides that, there’s not much to dislike about Wells Bombardier Burning Gold. I’m not a fan of ‘dryness’, but I’m sure a lot of you out there will love that about it. If I had to nitpick, it would be that it’s still quite hard to find. The stock in my local Tesco could vanish never to be seen again.

To sum up, Wells Bombardier Burning Gold is a delicious, high-quality, drinkable, if slightly unimaginative summery ale. If you normally only inflict cider on your body, treat it to some Burning Gold. This is an outstanding transition ale to help you bridge the flavour gap. Nothing about Burning Gold will put you off. If you’re trying to decide whether to buy it, I say yes. Burning Gold is an excellent use of your weekly drinks budget. I just wish that they had shown a tiny bit more imagination. Put some moss or coconut in and make it truly inspired.

Rating: 4.2

Have you tried Wells Bombardier Burning Gold? Do you work for Wells & Young’s? What did you think of this bottled ale? Do please leave your opinions, corrections, ramblings, requests, recommendations and places to buy here in the comments. And yes, I do read every single one of them.

Beer Review: Young’s Luxury Double Chocolate Stout

14 January, 2009

I LOVE it when a brewer comes over all rebellious and decides “I’m going to make something with all the wrong ingredients”. You get magnificent results like Ruddles Rhubarb, Wells Banana Bread and Badger Blandford Fly. The flavours and tastes they have shouldn’t work in a beer. But they do. So I’m thrilled to have here a bottle of Young’s Luxury Double Chocolate Stout.

Young's Double Chocolate Stout bottle

This one was procured from the every surprising Bethnal Green Food Center for the sum of £1.79 pence.

The bottle is Young’s standard bottle. The dark glass does look particularly good against the purple labels in this case though. What of that detailed looking neck label?

 Young’s Luxury Double Chocolate Stout front neck label

Well the front of it is mostly marketing speak that read like a mission statement. It’s all well and good, but it doesn’t actually say anything useful. The other side of the wrap-around neck label is full of small-print.

 Young’s Luxury Double Chocolate Stout neck label back

Buried in the tiny print, we learn that this was bottled and brewed by Wells & Young’s Brewing Co Ltd in Bedford. And that their website is at www.wellsandyoungs.co.uk. Which, of course, reminds us that Young’s is part of Wells & Young’s, the UK’s largest privately owned brewery. It’s an interesting, if dense read on a better than average website.

A quick look around and we find the page dedicated to this very bottle of Double Chocolate Stout. The address is http://www.wellsandyoungs.co.uk/wellsandyoungs/beers/ales/youngs-double-chocolate and I thoroughly recommend that you give it a read because the labels on the bottle don’t do it justice. From the website, we learn that Double Chocolate Stout has won at least four Brewing Industry International Awards. That it was made with no less than pale ale and crystal malt and chocolate malt. Fuggle and Goldings hops. And real dark chocolate and chocolate essence. This is stacking up to be something special. Even if the labels on the bottle aren’t.

Back over to the front label now, and everything is where it should be.

Young's Double Chocolate Stout front label

It helpfully describes it as “Silky Rich & Creamy Smooth”. That, together with the purple colour and typeface makes it sound and look like chocolate packaging aimed at women. Which is probably what Young’s are aiming for with this Double Chocolate Stout.

Tucked away in the corners of the front label are the vital statistics. This bottle is the ubiquitous 500ml size. And the stout within weighs in at a healthy 5.2% alcoholic volume.

The back label, unfortunately, is a multi-lingual mess.

Young's Double Chocolate Stout back label

Look carefully though, and you’ll find some interesting information. They recommend that you serve Double Chocolate Stout “chilled”. And there’s the most complete list of ingredients that I’ve seen for a very long time. To quote the list, it was made with “brewing water, pale ale malt, chocolate malt, oats, sugar, hops, yeast, natural chocolate flavouring”. Not an ‘E’ number of preservative in sight.

The only other detail on the back label that isn’t on the front are the UK units of alcohol. What with this 500ml bottle containing a 5.2% alcoholic volume drink, you’ll get through 2.6 UK units of alcohol should you drink the contents of this bottle. That means that if you have two of them in a row, technically, you’ll be binge drinking.

Sadly, I only have the one bottle. And now it’s time to put that bottle of Young’s Double Chocolate Stout to the test. What does it actually taste like? Do I like it? And do I think you should go out and buy one? Let’s open the bottle and find out.

Young's Double Chocolate Stout poured into a glass

The first thing you notice about Young’s Double Chocolate Stout is that it doesn’t have a head. There are a few patchy bubbles floating on the surface, but nothing like the head that sits on top of glasses of Guinness. It’s as black as you’d like, but doesn’t look impressive without that head.

At first, I couldn’t smell any chocolate. The first few sniffs only turned up that delicious roasted smell that stouts have. It took a few more sniffs to realise that in that smell is chocolate. Yes, it really does have a faint smell of chocolate. And it’s rather nice.

What does it taste like? The first gulp of this thick stout is a pleasant one. As was the second one. What Young’s Double Chocolate Stout is not, is complex. Double Chocolate Stout has a gentle, largely uncomplicated taste. It tastes a tiny bit of chocolate. But the flavour that dominates is a variant on the roasted malty taste that all stouts have. Unlike lots of other stouts, there’s no real bitter aftertaste. There’s so little bitter aftertaste, that it’s almost not there at all.

That else? Well, the drink itself is rich and creamy. Much like how they describe it on the front label in fact.

What am I enjoying about Young’s Double Chocolate Stout? The answer is quite a lot. The flavour is easy-going and tasty. The aftertaste doesn’t deliver an unpleasant sting in the tail. And those things make it one of the easiest to drink stouts on the market today. I love the rich flavour and how smooth it is. And how I can drink it without burping. This is a very good quality drink.

What am I not enjoying so much? It’s still a stout, so if you don’t like the syrupy liquid that makes you thirsty, you might not like this one. Even thought this one fixes a lot of my criticisms of what stout is. The biggest complaint I have is that the chocolate isn’t as prominent as I had hoped it would be. It’s very easy to forget that you’re drinking a chocolate-y stout in Double Chocolate Stout. I’d like to see it take bigger risks with the flavour by being as chocolate-y as the billing. The only other complaints I can think of are that it’s not easy to get hold of. There’s every chance that the shop where I bought this bottle will be selling something else the next time I visit.

Where does this leave Young’s Luxury Double Chocolate Stout? It leaves it as one of the best stouts I’ve tried. Forget the chocolate element. Sadly, the chocolate hardly features. And that means Double Chocolate Stout won’t be one of the great flavour-hybrid beers of the world. What it does have is the easiest drinkability of any stout I’ve tried. And that’s an achievement worth drinking to.

Rating: 4.15

Have you tried Young’s Luxury Double Chocolate Stout? What did you think of it? Leave your corrections, opinions, suggestions and recommendations in the boxes below.

Beer Review: Courage Directors

15 October, 2008

IT’S been a long time since I’ve had good British ale, hasn’t it? It certainly feels like it. That’s why I’m delighted to have here a bottle of ale from a brewer I haven’t tried before. Here is Courage Directors.

It gets off to a good start in the looks department. The bottle looks the right shape. It looks like a miner excavated it from a seam and then chiselled it into the what we have before us. It also has things embossed around the shoulder. Pictures of hops make an appearance. As do the welcome words “Independent Family Brewer”.

Around the unusually long neck, is an equally long neck label.

Courage Directors front neck label

It tells us that this ale was originally brewed for the “directors”. And that it’s “now brewed with distinction for you”. That’s an excellent story. But it belongs on the back label. The neck label is where you expect to find information about what sort of drink it is.

The neck label doesn’t end there though. It has a back.

Courage Directors back neck label

The small writing on this side of the neck label tells us that it was brewed by Wells & Young’s Brewing Company Limited in Bedford. Which, is a bit disappointing. I was hoping that Courage would be independent. Especially as that’s what it has embossed around the bottle’s shoulder.

For the curious, they have their postal address and web address both printed on this label. Their web address is at www.wellsandyoungs.co.uk. It’s a pretty good corporate brewer website. No annoying Flash. After a bit of searching, here is their page about Courage Directors: https://www.wellsandyoungs.co.uk/wellsandyoungs/beers/ales/courage-directors-bitter

The front label is one, big, good-looking roundel. That combination of purple and gold looks very classy.

Courage Directors frotn label

First up, the “Courage” logo. Why does it feature a cockerel? Near all the hop and barley imagery is also a date: 1787. I don’t know about you, but that’s more than enough heritage. Things are looking good for Courage Directors.

Under the “Directors” name are a few bits of vital information. First, they describe it as a “Traditionally brewed superior quality ale”. Which doesn’t tell me quite as much as I’d like to know. Not that I’d necessarily understand it, but I like to read details. Especially if they baffle me. Under that, and standing most prominently of all is the alcoholic volume. This ale weighs in at 4.8% volume, which is neither very strong nor weak.

Courage Directors back label

The back label has some more information. But not as much as you might think. That’s because most of it is taken up with a few small details being repeated in half a dozen different languages.

It starts well enough though with a decent background and description. We learn that Directors was originally brewed for the directors of the brewery. That they describe it as an “amber ale”. Which is confusing because they describe it with different words on the front label and on the website as a bitter.

Fortunately, they dive straight into a detailed description of what it tastes like. They describe it as “full of character, with a distinctive spicy hop aroma, the perfect balance of crystal malt with crisp, fruity, butty hops and a lasting finish”. Crikey, that sounds complex and delicious. Exactly like an ale should be. My mouth is watering.

Underneath that, they give a refreshingly complete list of ingredients. To quote the label again, it contains “water, malted barley, sugar, hops, yeast, colour, E150C”. I like to see a full list of ingredients. Even if colour and an E number are an unwelcome sight. You’ve got to respect the honesty. I just hope it won’t taste artificial.

Below that, the details become even more mundane. You’ll probably have guessed that this bottle is the typical 500ml size. And that, together with the 4.8% volume brings it to 2.4 UK units of alcohol. All very boring.

What you want to know is what does it taste like? And will you like it? There’s only one way to find out.

What with them describing it as an amber ale, I expected an amber yellow colour. That is not how Courage Directors looks. It’s more of a light shade of brown. It looks like how I’d imagine a straightforward bitter to look. As for the head, there isn’t much. Just a patchy layer of creamy white.

The label described it as having a “spicy hop aroma”. Whatever the aroma is, you’ll have a hard time identifying it. It’s not very strong. From the little I could smell, I’ll happily go along with “spicy hop aroma”. It smells kind of ‘bitter’ in a hoppy way, and in a tangy way. Which, I’ll call ‘spicy’. It is weak smelling though. But is it weak tasting?

After a couple of gulps, Courage Directors tastes like a good bitter tasting ale. The label described flavours like malt, fruit and nutty hops. After a few more sips, I’m detecting some flavours of maltiness, a small bit of fruitiness and a tiny taste of hops. With so many flavours on the label, I expected an onslaught of interesting flavours. But that’s not what this ale is about. Apparently.

Yes I can taste hints of all of those things, bit it’s the lingering, bitter, hoppy aftertaste that Courage Directors is all about. Of the many, many promises on the back label, a “lasting finish” was one of them. And that’s where it truly delivers. You get a decent, medium intensity, hoppy aftertaste that doesn’t go anywhere. You can taste those “nutty hops” form some time. It’s going to stick in my mouth until I Listerine my mouth before going to bed.

What am I enjoying about this bottle of Courage Directors? Quite a few things. I like the blend of flavours and taste which I haven’t tasted elsewhere. That’s something that scores it points for distinctiveness. The taste is rich. The hoppiness is nice and easy to get used to. So much so, a regular beer drinker can enjoy this. It’s smooth and not at all gassy. Strong enough, too. All in all, a well made, honest, hoppy, bitter ale.

What aren’t I enjoying about this bottle of Courage Directors? Well, it could be incredible if the flavours weren’t hidden by the blanket of hoppy bitterness. It really is dominated by that side of it. And that makes bores me. Even so, I know a lot of you will love it for that down to earth bitterness. Also on the list of downsides is how hard it is to find. This bottle came from a wine shop in Cockfosters, North London. And it was the first bottle I had ever seen. At £1.99 pence, it’s expensive too. Aside from those things, there’s not much to dislike.

How can I sum up Courage Directors? It’s an ale with the emphasis on bitterness. If you like your ale to focus on the straightforward bitterness, this is one to try. It’s probably also worth a look if you like the big name bitters sold in cans in every supermarket. Personally, it’s interesting and unusual flavours that do it for me. So I probably won’t be buying up lots of bottles of Directors. But if I find this on tap, then why not?

Rating: 4.05

Have you tried Courage Directors? What did you think of it? Do you know anywhere to buy it in your area of the world?

Do please leave your corrections, opinions, information, advice, requests and recommendations in the small boxes below.

Beer Review: Young’s Waggle Dance

23 April, 2008

HERE is a bottle, and a category of beer that has long intrigued me: Young’s Waggle Dance. And it’s a honey beer. Yes, I’m confused by what that means, too. But apparently there are other honey beers out there. This one looks as good a place as any to start with honey beers.

It’s from the Wells & Young’s English brewing empire. The same one that brought us the excellent Wells Bombardier Satanic Mills and the above average Young’s London and Champion beers. Expectations are high-ish, then for this 500 millilitre bottle regularly stocked by Tesco.

Young’s Waggle Dance bottle

The first thing you notice is the honey coloured theme. The transparent glass bottle lets you glimpse liquid of a colour you would normally associate with a different supermarket shelf entirely. The temptation at this point would be to fill the labels with pictures of bees, beehives or beekeepers. But Young’s go and so something quite unexpected.

The neck label doesn’t do anything at all. Absolutely nothing. There’s some honey yellow shades and some wavy lines, but that’s it.

Young\'s Waggle Dance neck label

But the main front label goes for a photo of a woman dancing. Seriously. See for yourself.

Young’s Waggle Dance front label

Another thing that strikes me about the front label is how much of it is simply blank, yellow coloured space. Apart, that is, from a tiny, lone picture of a bee. Above that, and the dancer, there is the very prominent “Waggle Dance” name. Maybe the woman pictured is dancing the Waggle?

Reading on… The rest of the front has the important details such as the 5% volume. Which I’m pleased to see. The Young’s established date of 1831 is also there. And above the main title is the description “a Light & Refreshing Honey Beer”. Sounds delicious.

Turning the bottle around and restraint is again in evidence on the back label. No pictures of dancers, bees or anything.

Young’s Waggle Dance back label

Instead, there’s a paragraph of background and the usual small print. This time, the background story is really worth reading. If for no other reason, than to explain what this Waggle Dance business is all about. And Young’s open the story with perhaps the best sentence you could have on a beer bottle… “Unusual name, unusual beer”. Tell me even you wouldn’t want to read on after that?

It goes on to explain that the Waggle Dance is something a bee does in a bee hive, to tell the other bees about a source of nectar. A sort of communication through expressive dance.

Furthermore, Waggle Dance is brewed with “a touch of honey” which gives it the taste it has. And that it has a “healthy dose of hops” to provide bitterness, giving a “delicate flavour”.

All very feminine. Which leads me to a theory. That Waggle Dance is aimed at the woman drinker. The picture of the dancer on the front. The warm colour. The choice of words on the label. It’s all painting a picture. And that picture is carrying a handbag.

Also tucked away on the back label are the small print details. That this has 2.5 UK units of alcohol. That it was brewed and bottled in Bedford, England. And that the web addresses that matter are www.youngsathome.co.uk and www.wellsandyoungs.co.uk. Both of which go to very professional websites.

Will my theory hold true? Will the honey taste be noticeable? And is Waggle Dance any good? Time to find out.

In the glass, you can see that it’s a good dark golden colour. And that it comes topped by a nice frothy head.

Young’s Waggle Dance poured into a glass

But while I was pouring, what struck me was the smell. It really is quite strong. And quite pleasant. To me, it smells like yeast and hops. But I’m notoriously bad a judging smells. Are yeast and hops what I’m smelling here? Or is it something else? If you think you know what Waggle Dance smells of, leave a comment at the end of this post.

A couple of gulps in and the first thing I’m noticing is the hoppy bitterness. So far, that’s all I’m noticing. It’s both the fore and aftertaste. It’s also rather gassy.

Further in, and the smoothness and quality are starting to shine through. This is not going to be difficult to drink quickly. I’m not sure if it’s my imagination, but I am now starting to detect that very slight hint of honey sweetness, buried deep beneath the hoppy bitterness.

About half way through now, and I’m starting to enjoy this Waggle Dance honey beer concept. It’s bitter, but it’s not hard going. And if you look hard, it’s balanced by a little bit of sweetness. Whether it’s sweet or fruity enough to satisfy the tastes of female drinkers though, I’m not sure. So girls, if you’ve tried this beer, leave a comment on what you thought of it.

If it were up to me, I’d add a whole lot more honey inspired sweetness. Not being a huge fan of bitterness, I think a very sweet beer would be an excellent niche filler. As it is, I’m awarding some extra marks for originality. Because even though there are some other honey beers out there, it’s hard to call them mainstream yet. But I’m taking some away because it could go a lot further.

Overall, Waggle Dance is another above average beer from Young’s. It does something somewhat unusual. It packages it in an inspired way. And it’s very drinkable. But at the end of the day, it’s another mostly bitter tasting beer.

Rating: 3.85

If you’ve tried Waggle Dance, leave a comment! If you’ve tried any other honey beers, leave a comment on what they were and what you thought of them.
Any other suggestions or ideas for the blog are also very welcome.

Beer Review: Young’s Champion Live Golden Beer

16 April, 2008

THIS one got my attention as soon as I saw it on the shelves of my local Tesco. That’s because it is Young’s Champion Live Golden Beer.

Young\'s Champion Live Golden Beer bottle

First it got my attention because I enjoyed Young’s Special London Ale. Secondly, it got my attention because of the big mentions of “Champion” and “Live” on the front. “Champion” hints at the winning of prizes. Always a good thing. And “Live” and “Bottled Conditioned” beer are always my favourites. In fact, I’ve yet to try a live or bottled conditioned beer I’ve not enjoyed. And that means that you’ll probably enjoy them too. But will Young’s Champion reaffirm or disappoint? I’m looking forward to finding out.

The neck label is where you’ll find a surprising amount of marketing. Or should I say background to the Ram Brewery. It’s also got a reassuringly large “Bottle Conditioned” on it. If it were up to me, that whole Ram Brewery text on the neck label would be replaced by a list of the virtues of bottle conditioning. Maybe one day, eh?

Young’s Champion Live Golden Beer neck label

The front label keeps things simple, yet stylish. Lots of sweeping lines dominate this one. And the result is quite different to Special London Ale. Which, by the way, I recommend you read now, so I don’t have to repeat myself over all the little details. The Ram logo is in tact again. But this time, the word “Champion” takes centre-stage, plus a small illustration of hops. The 5% volume is on there, but tucked away in a corner so you need to be looking for it. The colour scheme is light and bright, but looks a bit odd on the dark glass of the bottle.

Young’s Champion Live Golden Beer front label

Over on the back, the layout is much the same as with the Special London Ale. The CAMRA logo is on there. As is the symbol telling you that this 500 millilitre bottle has 2.5 UK units of alcohol. And what’s that I see? Amazingly, this is the first time that I’ve bought a recently stocked bottle from Tesco, only to discover that it has passed its “Consume By” date. I didn’t realise it in the shop, but no it’s clear as day. This went ‘off’ after the 31st of January 2008. Outstanding cock-up, Tesco. Readers; check the date on your bottle before you put it in your shopping basket. Or live on the edge. Like me.

Young’s Champion Live Golden Beer back label

The correct procedure here would be to return this bottle and obtain a refund or replacement. But having come this far, I don’t want to turn back. Just how bad can it get in those few weeks? That’s what I want to know. So, in the name of investigating blogging, let’s push on.

The story part of the back label describes Young’s Champion as “light-golden”, with a “full-flavour” and “refreshing bite”. It uses “malted barley” and “Styrian hops” for a “well-rounded floral flavour” with “hints of fruit” and a “dry, hoppy bitterness”. Again, they suggest serving cool, pouring gently to keep the yeast in the bottle. And that the website of this Wandsworth based London brewer is at www.youngsathome.co.uk.

Time to open the bottle to see a few things. One: if I’m poisoned from out of date beer. And two: if Young’s Champion is as good as I’m hoping it will be.

In the glass, there’s a good frothy head. But it’s controllable, staying within the pint glass. It’s light golden and it looks like none of the yeast sediment made its way in there. That said, it is still fairly opaque.

Young’s Champion Live Golden Beer in a glass

Like the good live bottles I’ve tried before it, the smell is good. Definitely above average. That yeasty, malty, hoppy smell is mouth-watering.

A couple of gulps in, and I’m not dead from this out-of-date bottle. But I am enjoying the make-up of the flavours here. None of which really dominate, and thus making it a very inoffensive experience. The malted barley and hoppy, bitter aftertaste are most noticeable. And yes, as you work through it, you do begin to notice a tiny floral hint, as promised by the label.

This is turning out to be a well-balanced and well-rounded beer. It’s also easy to drink. And that’s important, as it makes this bottle of beer even more accessible to the casual drinker. Like you. And let’s be honest here, me too.

It’s also fairly crisp and refreshing. This isn’t a big heavy drink at all. But it isn’t the lightest and most refreshing out there either.

If I had to level a criticism at Young’s Champion, it would be that it’s too inoffensive. It’s not the yeasty, malty explosion of taste that I adore. And you could even describe it as being ever so slightly watery. But then this calls itself a beer rather than an ale, so it can get away with that up to a point.

This bottle may be a few weeks out of date, but that didn’t stop me from liking it. If you want a decent live bottled beer, try it. If you want a tasty, refreshing, quite strong beer with little to complain about, try it. If you want a live beer but are too squeamish about bits floating in it, try it. There’s no bits of yeast sediment if you pour carefully. If you want a big, heavy, strongly flavoured brew that scares away teenagers, have an ale instead. This won’t quite satisfy you. I however liked Young’s Champion, so you might to.

Rating: 4.2

Have you tried Young’s Champion? What did you think?
Or if you’ve got any suggestions for other good live beers, or ones to avoid, leave a comment!


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