HERE’S one I’ve wanted to try for a year. But just before I could buy it, Tesco ran out. So, stepping in to the breach is the ever dependable Bethnal Green Food Center on Bethnal Green Road.
The bottle is transparent, as is the fashion these days. Thanks to the gorgeous dark copper colour of the beverage within, it looks fantastic. The front label is a shield with a transparent background. Which manages to look contemporary and Georgian both at the same time. At the bottom of the bottle are the words “Brewing Perfection” embossed around it. Apart from that, everything is where you’d expect it to be.
The neck label proudly informs us that Old Bob won an award. Apparently, Old Bob here managed to win the “International Gold Award” at “The Brewing Industry International Awards”. That sounds important, so well done chaps.
There’s not an awful lot to say about the front label. That’s because the front label doesn’t have a lot to say. It’s a tastefully done red shield, but it doesn’t have much in the way of useful information.
The “Ridley’s” logo is of what looks like a bull. And it dates back to 1842 which is impressive. Under that, it describes itself as “Strong Premium Ale”, which got my attention right away. There aren’t enough strong ales out there. Sadly, the only other detail on there is the alcoholic volume which is 5.1%. And isn’t strong. That makes this either a weak strong ale or a strong-ish premium ale.
There’s not much detail on the back label either. But it is transparent so at least it looks good.
What detail they do have however, is well worth reading. They open with a description of what this premium ale tastes like. Starting with “spicy citrus fruit flavours”, it will, apparently, “lead into a dried fruit and biscuit malt finish”. Sounds yummy. The British Bottlers’ Institute Awards agree, because the label informs us that it won the gold medal. Twice. Expectations are rising for Ridley’s Old Bob.
Down in the small print, we learn that this all too common 500ml bottle, with it’s 5.1% volume contents, weighs in at 2.6 UK units of alcohol. And, if you look carefully, we see a familiar name. It transpires that Ridley’s is yet another great independent name to no longer be great and independent. That’s because Ridley’s Old Bob is brewed by Greene King in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk.
For those who want to read more, the website they have printed on the bottle is www.greeneking.co.uk. If you can find a section on Ridley’s Old Bob, leave a comment in at the end of this post. I can find every other brand on their website except for this one.
Will it have an award winning taste? Should you buy one? There’s only one way to find out. Let’s crack open the bottle and give it a try.
It pours easily enough. It should be easy because it has no head. And that’s a bit disappointing, because I was rather hoping it would. When there is instead are a few patches of bubbles. That dark copper colour looks tasty though.
How does it smell? I’d say it smells fruity, biscuity and complex. And not in an overpowering or unpleasant sense. In fact, it smells delicious for such an odd mix of odours. And it smells unusual enough to score it points for ingenuity.
How does Ridley’s Old Bob taste? The first couple of gulps into this award winning ale are rich, crunchy and satisfying. It’s got the strongest flavours and taste of any that I’ve had for a while, so it’s going to need a few more gulps to figure out.
The label describes “spicy citrus flavours”. I think I’ll go with what they said. Because, frankly, Old Bob is so complex, I’m having trouble figuring out what I’m tasting before it all gets washed away by the aftertaste. Whatever the blend of flavours turns out to be, it’s there but not particularly strong. It’s the aftertaste that’s risk-taking and full-on.
How can I possibly describe the aftertaste of Old Bob? They describe it as having a “dried fruit and biscuit malt finish”. I’ll begin by saying that it melts into the flavours that came before it smoothly enough. There’s nothing rough or unpleasant about it. It’s the intensity that catches you off-guard. Dried fruit? There’s a tad of that in the same minimal way the flavour was a teensy bit citrusy. Biscuity malt? Yes, there is definitely some of that. I don’t know how they do it, but that biscuity and malty taste gradually becomes more and more bitter. It becomes so unexpectedly bitter that if it were a person, it would go off on a rant about why the world is so unfair. Ridley’s Old Bob has a monumental amount of taste.
Three-quarters of the way through the bottle now, so what, if anything, am I enjoying about Ridley’s Old Bob? Well, it does things with taste that I’ve not seen done before. That scores it marks for originality and distinctiveness. It does some brave things with the flavours and taste that I like, but are sure to put off the squeamish. Even with the strange and unusual things it does, it manages to be easy to drink. And that speaks volumes about the quality of the ingredients and how well it’s made. It’s not at all gassy either.
What am I not enjoying so much about Ridley’s Old Bob? That strong, bitter aftertaste is going to put some people off. The first few gulps made me wince like someone had trodden on my toe. That said, I did get used to it quickly. What else? Very little really. It’s hard to find in shops and a bit on the pricy side. Not much else that I can think of.
How can I sum up Ridley’s Old Bob? This is an uncompromising, man’s ale. You can drink it easily enough, but that aftertaste will put testes on your testes. Did I like it? Yes I did. Would I buy it again? Yes for the right kind of company. Is it worthy of all the awards it won? Probably. Should you buy one? Yes, so you can see for yourself. Just remember to brace yourself first.
Have you tried Ridley’s Old Bob? What did you think of it? Are you the brewer? Then do please leave your opinions, corrections, requests, recommendations and places to buy in the boxes below.