Archive for January, 2008

Beer Review: Badger Golden Champion Ale

27 January, 2008

All too soon, we arrive at the third and final (for now) instalment of my three-part taste of Badger ales. If you missed them, part one looked at Badger Original, a rustic old ale. Part two looked at Badger Golden Glory, a very flowery drink, possibly aimed at women.

This time, Badger Golden Champion goes under the microscope. How will is fair against the rest of the Badger range? And how will it compare to other ales? Let’s find out.
Bottle of Badger Golden Champion Ale

The bottle is identical to the others. This is no bad thing, as 500ml, just short of a pint is a welcome change to the smaller 300ml bottles that most brewers rely on.

Labels on the other two Badger ales were pretty good at describing their contents. What does this one say? Well, the label on the neck is tells us more than either of the other two. It gets straight to the point by describing a “premium strong ale with a light, fruity flavour”. Making that any more concise would be almost impossible.

Badger Golden Champion Ale front label

Again, we have reference to some award having been won. But again, we don’t know what for. A welcome sight is the 5.0% vol. This makes it the strongest Badger yet. A good thing in my book.

The now familiar Taste Profile box is surprisingly similar to that for Golden Glory. That is to say, it rates highly on the sweetness and fruitiness. Unlike the overpowering Golden Glory, Golden Champion here ups the bitterness quota.
Badger Golden Champion Ale taste profile

The rear label goes on the elaborate further on the little label on the neck of the bottle. We get mentions of “light” and “refreshing character”; typical of beer labels. Where this one goes eccentric on us, is with the “elderflower aroma”.

In a glass, this lives up to the “golden” billing. Interestingly, it has less head than either Original or Golden Glory.
Badger Golden Champion Ale in a glass

As far as smell goes, I have no idea if it is indeed elderflower. I haven’t smelled enough elderflowers to know for sure. What it is, is fruity and flowery. Thankfully however, it’s not as overpoweringly pongy as Golden Glory. More pleasant and intriguing.

Does it taste strong, light and fruity as per the label? Short answer; yes. Bitterness is what first hits you. But that quickly gets replaced by an aftertaste of fruit and flowers. The identities of which, I couldn’t possibly answer.

All well and good, but is it any good? I’d have to say yes. Golden Champion is stronger than either of the other two Badgers, yet it retains the qualities that made the others easy to drink.

I liked Golden Champion. It’s an ale drinker’s drink. It also does something different by adding the fruity and flowery qualities. Doing something different and achieving it without losing drinkability is something you have to respect.

Rating: 4.25

So, what are my thoughts on Badger brand. At least from my experience of Original, Golden Glory and Golden Champion?
Line up of Badger Ales

In a word, good. Original is the archetypical ale and would go perfectly with a lunch. Golden Glory goes off in a totally unusual direction and could find itself in a new niche. For me, it was a little too strange. Golden Champion was an excellent drink that added one or two unusual qualities to the mix. All three were easy to drink and good value without compromising individuality.

Have you tried any of these ales? What did you think? Which one appeals to you most?

And what would you like me to look at next?

Beer Review: Badger Golden Glory Ale

26 January, 2008

Part two of my three part taste of Badger ales brings me to Golden Glory.
Bottle of Badger Golden Glory

Whilst keeping to same dark bottle as the Original, the labels go for something more festive. The ‘Absolutely Glorious’ slogan and flowers give that much away. The Taste Profile box (visible in the blurry photo below) reappears.
Badger Golden Glory taste profile box

The Taste Profile has the sweetness and fruitiness going almost off the scale. The description sheds some light on this. The ‘delicate floral peach and melon aroma’ should explain why the fruitiness is rated so high. The ‘distinctive bitterness’ however seems at odds with the high sweetness and low bitterness on the profile. This is a mystery.

Also getting a mention is reference to an award won. What award it was, we are not told. A welcome sight is that of a higher 4.5% volume. A bigg-ish jump from the Original’s 3.8%. I’m also glad to see that we get a whole 500ml – that’s nearly a whole pint.

Poured into a glass, we get a lighter colour than the Original. And a less frothy head.
Badger Golden Glory poured into a glass

Now… we have a mystery to unravel. What is this drink all about?

The first thing that hits you is the smell. Just as full-on as Original, but so different. It’s like smelling a bunch of flowers that happens to be surrounded by lots of peaches and other fruits. Spray an aerosol of fruit scented air-freshener for a similar experience. Alternatively, a cocktail or alco-pop will provide a similar experience.

After you’ve gotten over the shock of an ale that smells of flowers and peach, you can take a tentative sip. Half expecting another blitz on the senses, Golden Glory ale delivers something more palatable. It’s got that bitterness as a base, but on top of that is an aftertaste of flowers and peach.

Taking that much risk with such an unusual flavour, Golden Glory could easily have turned out revolting. Thankfully, it hasn’t. At no point did I find myself think “not another gulp”. Instead, I looked forward to each glug to take in the bizarre combination of tastes and smells.

I have never seen an ale take floweriness to such heights. It would be easy here to write it off as ‘odd’ or ‘eccentric’. Which it probably is. But that could be missing the point. I think those brewers at Hall & Woodhouse are making baby steps towards something that could be much bigger… an ale; for women. Think about it. The peachy and flowery smell and taste. Badger Golden Glory could be the first ale, to make it big with the female drinker.

What do you think? What would you change to make it the women’s ale of choice? Or do you know one that is even better at this task? Leave a comment!

Rating: 3.5 (more if you like flowers)

Beer Review: Badger Original Ale

25 January, 2008

This time, we start with the first of three-parts. For your entertainment and interest, I will bravely test (ok, enjoy) three of the Badger ales produced by the Hall and Woodhouse. A rustic old family brewers from Dorset. They go all the way back to 1777; a good sign if you like your old ales very old indeed.

We begin with the oldest and most widely available Badger; the Original Ale.

Bottle of Badger Original Ale

The label does all the right things. Hinting at fine ingredients; a head brewer and how old it is.

Badger Original Ale front label

The rear label goes on to talk about how the original Badger ale was used by farm workers in the 1700s and then by the army in the Napoleonic Wars. Frustratingly, reading it a second time however, reveals that this ‘Original’ simply uses the real original from the 1700s as inspiration. A lot like the Greene King IPA unoriginal original.

One of the things I love about the Badger Ales are the Taste Profile boxes. These rate the bitterness, sweetness, hoppiness, maltiness and fruitiness on a scale of one to five, one being lowest and five the highest. If only all beers did this. It would make choosing what to buy so much easier.

Badger Original Ale back label

Badger Original claims to be English ale at its best. Backed up by their taste profile, they claim a well balanced taste. Balanced, that is, between bitterness, fruitiness and spice. Let’s see how well it did…

Poured into a glass, you get a good thick head atop a generous 500ml of liquid.

Badger Original Ale poured into a glass

Odour-wise, you’re treated to a surprisingly full smell of malt, hoppiness and even some fruits. This is what I want from a old ale; for it to smell like a field.

And the complexity carries through to the taste. It’s bitter. But not too bitter. It’s malty and hoppy, but not overpoweringly so. And you can just about detect some other things like fruit in there too.

The whole nearly-full-pint worth of drink went down very easily. Drinkability here is excellent. That said, it may be due to the rather limp 3.8% volume. This is not strong stuff, but it does smell and taste like how you want ale to be. What we have here is an English ale ‘experience’.

But. Is that at the cost of being something specific? It’s not a ‘proper’ bitter. And it’s not a crisp largery beer either. If however, you want big, complex, smells and flavours to go with your pie, this is marvellous.

Rating: 4 and a bit

Beer Review: McEwan’s Champion Ale

10 January, 2008

For this beer review, I thought it time to try one the ales that is always readily available at Tesco: the proudly Scottish McEwan’s Champion Ale. Being one of those bottles that you have probably seen on the shelves, here is a photo of it to jog your memory…
Bottle of McEwan’s Champion Ale

Peering a little closer reveals some rather unusual characteristics. The first being the astonishing 7.3% volume. Compared to even strong ales out there, this quietly promises to be something else. And then there’s the references to it being award winning. Of what award exactly, we are never told. What we do know, is that McEwan’s are fairly confident about how much you’ll like it. You wouldn’t call it “the ultimate Scottish Ale” without at least some certainty on the issue.

McEwan's Champion Ale front labelMcEwan's Champion Ale back label

Poured into a glass, this brew continued to surprise. With a hue darker than any ale I’ve yet seen, and a thick white head, this looks more like stout. Unexpectedly, there’s not much to smell. You can pick up on the barley and wheat, but not much else

McEwan's Champion Ale poured into a glass

About the flavour, the label boasts of its “intense”, “rich” “strong” flavour. “Sweet” and “fruity” also get a mention. Where it takes a risk, is in promising to be simultaneously “smooth” and “surprisingly easy to drink”. Have McEwan’s pulled off this feat? Or is it just beer label boasting?

I’m delighted to tell you that McEwan’s Champion Ale deserves its award. It also deserves a try from you. This is one of the best ales I’ve tried yet. The flavour is rich and strong. Yet somehow, it manages to also manage to be easy to drink. It also avoids the pitfall of many a delicious beer, by arriving in a suitably sized 500ml bottle. Together with it’s 7.3% volume, this is the perfect quantity.

On the debit side, I was hard pressed to detect any of the promised fruitiness. And the sweetness wasn’t quite enough to stop that familiar sour taste by the end of the glass.

Overall, this is truly outstanding and unlike any other ale out there (at least of the small number I’ve tried). Well worth a go.

Rating: 4.25

Beer Review: Ostravar Premium Czech Lager

4 January, 2008

Regular readers will know that I am not a fan of cheap lagers. The bitter/sour taste and aftertaste, and the drinkability are a good simulation of what it would probably be like to consume dishwater. So it is with some trepidation that picked up a bottle of premium Czech lager called Ostravar.

Since I am biased against lagers in general, this one doesn’t stand much chance of scoring top marks from me. That said, I am open minded. The ‘Premium’ and ‘Czech’ elements may well raise this above the hundreds of cheap bottles of dishwater. So lets see how it does.

First impressions are good. The bottle isn’t exceptional, but the label has that ‘imported European’ look. To open it, one must first unwrap this gold coloured leafing from around the top. Arguably a clever marketing device to add that premium feel, but it worked on me. What do you think of brewers who add this?

Ostravar Premium Czech Lager bottle
Ostravar Premium Czech Lager front label
Ostravar Premium Czech Lager back label

Poured into a glass, this produces a satisfying layer of foamy head, atop the golden liquid. This 5% half-a-litre produces a fine hoppy aroma too. By this time, it is indeed living up to its Premium billing.
Ostravar Premium Czech Lager poured into a glass

Being lager, it cannot escape that bitter/sour taste and aftertaste that I detest. But until it’s cheap dishwater counterparts, this is considerably smoother and easier to drink.

All in all, a solid premium lager. For a lager, it’s better smelling and better tasting than most. On the other hand, it’s still lager. And on that basis…

Rating: 3.5

If you like your lager, you’ll enjoy Ostravar.

Beer Review: Greene King Export Strength IPA

2 January, 2008

Welcome to my first beer review of 2008! And we begin with the final beer I had of 2007. Unlike the incredibly complicated Innis & Gunn before it, I was looking forward to something more straightforward. Something that wouldn’t need new words to be invented just to describe it. Well that’s exactly what Green King’s IPA turned out to be…

Have a look at the bottle. Apart from the big green label, it looks unremarkable.
Bottle of Greene King Export Strength IPA
Closer inspection of the label reveals this drink to have originated from Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk. Not a place I’ve yet visited, but the name evokes the mental image of the sort of English county town in which you would want to sip a bottle of fine ale. The label also has a year on it; 1799. That’s a good thing. Heritage is a strength with rustic old ale like this one.

Greene King IPA front label

The rear label goes on to tell the story of how IPA was conceived. And helpfully, what IPA stands for. It transpires that IPA stands for India Pale Ale. Unfortunately, we are not treated to an ale that was actually brewed in India. Rather, it was exported from England to India. It goes on the explain how in 1827, a cargo including this ale was shipwrecked, salvaged, auctioned and proved popular. Green King went on to recreate the IPA taste, producing what we have here: a 500ml bottle (that’s about three quarters of a pint) at 5% volume.

Greene King IPA back label

Poured into a glass, there’s a rather disappointing thin head. This could just be a characteristic of pale ales, I haven’t had enough to be sure. Exactly as it describes on the label, the aroma is hoppy and the taste is bitter.

Greene King IPA poured into a glass

And that sums up the drink. It is a straightforward bitter. I couldn’t discern any notable difference between this and any other bitter that I’ve tried. It’s a solid, drinkable bitter, a.k.a. a pale ale. But that for me is the problem. It’s impossible to compare it to the original IPA on which it is based. And it doesn’t seem do anything exceptional or unusual. If I visit Bury St. Edmunds or any other part of Suffolk, I’ll be happy to have a pint of this. But it’s hard to find a compelling reason to recommend it to a shopper with a supermarket shelf full of choices. This is one for the pale ale/bitter fanatics.

Rating: 2.5

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