Beer Review: Marston’s Pedigree Exceptional Premium Ale

IT HAS been a while since I last tried a pale ale. Greene King IPA was the last pale ale that I remember testing. So it’s about time for another. Marston’s Pedigree Exceptional Premium Ale will provide just that. Not that I knew that this was a pale ale when I picked up this bottle.

Marston’s Pedigree Exceptional Premium Ale bottle

The neck label proudly boasts that this is the “Official Beer of England”. The England Cricket Board coat of arms hints at some sort of sponsorship deal with the tedious and baffling pastime. And resolving my confusion about how any beer can be officially assigned to the English peoples.

Marston’s Pedigree Exceptional Premium Ale neck label

The main front label, like yesterday’s, is a fine piece of traditional imagery.

Marston’s Pedigree Exceptional Premium Ale front label

The logo roundel is tasteful. The logo of what looks like beer barrels are appropriate. The banner with the “Pedigree” name is the right proportion. And the ECB stamp is a sensitive promotional device. Unusually however, there’s no mention of the alcoholic volume.

Over on the back label, and everything is a mixture of black, white and red.

Marston’s Pedigree Exceptional Premium Ale back label

Most prominent of which is the red banner cutting through the middle. This has the Marston’s “Don’t Compromise” slogan. Straight to the point, but unoriginal. How about “Compromise In Order to Reach Agreements” or “Don’t Cooperate”.

The top of the back label opens with what I call the “story”. This one talks about 170 years of uncompromising excellence. It then goes on to say that it is brewed in Oak casks of Burton Unions in Burton Upon Trent. Also, tucked away in this little paragraph, they let slip that this is a Pale Ale. Why it’s hidden away is anyone’s guess.

Underneath the “story” section we get something that looks familiar. Not seen since the back labels of Badger beers, this Marston’s has a little grid and chart describing the taste! Fantastic addition here, chaps. These make it so much easier to know if you’ll like it or not before you buy it.

This take on the grid and chart sees the thing divided up into “Style” which comprises “See”, “Smell” and “Taste” subsections. And into “Bitter” and “Sweet” indicators. All of which shouldn’t need any further explanation by me. The “Style” row is the first place where we learn that this has an ABV of only 4.5%. Pedigree is clearly going to have to work hard in the flavour department to make up for that shortfall.

For “See” they describe the colour as “Golden Brown”. For “Smell” they’ve gone with “Burton Sulphur” whatever that is. And for “Taste”, they have the keywords of “Dry, Biscuity, Malt, Spicy, Hop”. The “Bitter” and “Sweet” indicators which use little pictures of hops and sugar cubes respectively both have two and a half out of five. Balance is clearly the intended order of the day with Pedigree.

Beneath this and the slogan banner, we get into the small print. This kicks off with the web address at Like we’ve seen at least once before, this 500 millilitre bottle is made lighter by using less glass in order to please the eco-mentalists. The postal address of Marston’s Brewery in Burton Upon Trent, England is on there. As is a very detailed box outlining the recommended daily units of alcohol for men and women. Neither of which is exceeded by the 2.3 units in this bottle.

In the glass, it looks the promised shade of golden brown. But there’s a disappointingly absent head.

Marston’s Pedigree Exceptional Premium Ale poured into a glass

The label describes the smell as being of “Burton Sulphur”. I’m not sure if that’s what I’m smelling or not. I’d call it a faint smell of malted barley and an even fainter hint of hops.

A few gulps in and I can report that the “Bitter” and “Sweet” part of the label is about right. They are indeed balanced, in so far as neither are much in evidence. It’s hard to know what you’re tasting apart from the faintly bitter/sour hoppiness. I’m having difficulty finding any of the buscuity, spicy maltiness promised on the label.

And it doesn’t get much better in those other important characteristics either. It doesn’t have an awful lot of body. In fact, you could call it somewhat watery. It’s also not particularly complex for an ale. You could go as far as to call it boring. But then it is a pale ale, so perhaps that’s normal. If you think this is normal for a pale ale, do please leave a comment at the end of this post.

Marston’s Pedigree isn’t without merit however. There is still a lot to like about it. It’s not very gassy. It’s very easy to drink. And the tastes and flavours are almost totally inoffensive. I’ve had coffees that are harder to drink than this ale. This is one of those beers that would go well with a pub meal with friends and relatives.

I know a lot of you will love its lack of strong, complex flavours. But that’s why I can’t rate it highly. Maybe this means that pale ales just aren’t for me outside of the pub meal with friends and relatives scenario. Try it if a pleasant, inoffensive pale ale appeals to you.

Rating: 3.25

Have you tried Marston’s Pedigree or any others of the Marston’s range? Got any ideas, suggestions, recommendations, disagreements, corrections, advice or insults? Then leave a comment now!

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One Response to “Beer Review: Marston’s Pedigree Exceptional Premium Ale”

  1. nigel robinson Says:

    A boring drink, both malt and hops cancelling each other out.

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