Beer Review: Ridley’s Old Bob Strong Premium Ale

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.

Ridley's Old Bob bottle

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.

Ridley's Old Bob neck label

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.

Ridley's Old Bob front label

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.

Ridley's Old Bob back label

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 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.

Ridley's Old Bob poured into a glass

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.

Rating: 4.175

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.


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15 Responses to “Beer Review: Ridley’s Old Bob Strong Premium Ale”

  1. Trev Says:

    used to drink Old Bob and Bitter in the old days – proper beer sham the berewery has gone

  2. JayJayDee Says:

    I never tried this before the Greene King takeover; but it tastes just fine as it is. Way up there in my personal top half dozen of the real ales alongside Oxford Gold and Fullers ESB (though I’ve only tasted maybe 80 – 100). Not a connoisseur, but an enthusiast as you can see!

    I cleared all the remaining stocks off the shelves at Morrisons Holyhead Road, so don’t bother looking there for it!

  3. Old Bob Says:

    Excellent real ale. I have been drinking ales all my life and this one of the best – really outstanding. I cleared the stock at our local Tesco in Watford before Christmas and now I need to know who else stocks it in this area.

  4. AndySwansea Says:

    Never used to be a fan of bitter/ale, always a lager man, until i went to asdas and seen on offer all real ales 3 for £4 so i thought id try them all and after a good few of them i really liked ‘old bob’ so am now buying 2 ‘old bob’ and sampling 1 other at the same time and so far have found nothing comes near so will be stocking up on this ale for xmas.Only downfall is it is a bit pricey.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Old Bob is the best I have tasted, really stands out.

  6. Istvan Kovacs Says:

    To whom it may concern,

    I have been collecting beer labels of different breweries for years and I am aware of your great products.
    I would be very grateful if you could send me some spare and extra labels of your products of past decades and today. They would mean special parts of my collection.
    Thank you in advance.
    Best regards,
    Istvan Kovacs
    Address: 49 Szechenyi u.
    6300 Kalocsa,
    p.s. I wish you a happy and prosperous new year!
    Tudom sokan sokfélét kérnek mégis reménykedem kérésem teljesítésében. Köszönöm.
    Számomra nagy örömet okozna a küldeményük.

  7. famous quotes Says:

    motivation sayings…

    Beer Review: Ridley’s Old Bob Strong Premium Ale « Hywel's Big Log…

  8. Dave Says:

    Sat with a bottle of Old Bob. Was surprised not to have seen it or drunk it before today. Was so pleasantly surprised by the taste that i Googled it and found your entertaining review. Keep up the good work.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    steve from colchester exciled in sw london for the last 35 years, weaned on green king tolly and ridleys. getting mellow on old bob!can i come home now please?

  10. Bob Corke Says:

    Where can I obtain this ale,
    Old Bob

  11. Bob Edwards Says:

    I had some Old Bob and others,bought me for my recent birthday, and Old Bob leaves anything else standing by a Country Mile very hoppy, and very drinkable, my next favorite is completely different, but very drinkable and that is HPA (Hereford Pale Ale) by Wye Valley Brewery, sold on tap at “the Kings Head” Cubbington Leamington Spa. The have also just put on Draught a new beer “Red Alert” from a Coventry brewery, and that is also a dark beer similar to “Old Bob”, but the Hoppyness of “Old Bob” gives it the edge.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    someone mail me a bottle, please….. ok… let me know where i can buy one

  13. Steve Siviter Says:

    Used to drink Old Bob regularly when it was a proper Ridley’s ale at the Bird in Hand in Earls Colne Essex. It has always been my first choice. Moved away from Essex 15 years ago and was initially dismayed that Ridley’s had gone, and my old Bob was now brewed by Greene King.
    Found it again at my local Asda here in Somerset and was so pleased to find my favourite ale again! Seems very close to what I remember back home..and it is still the tasty premium ale that I have always loved. It does seem to be a little tricky to get hold of though as the stock in Asda and Morrison’s can be erratic.
    I’ll never tire of this beer…it reminds me of home!

  14. Mark Woodward Says:

    Can’t find old bob ale in s Devon since Asda stopped stocking this tasty ale 🙁 no other supermarkets stock it down here either help bring old bob back to Devon !

  15. Keith Berrisford Says:

    The only way you can purchase Old Bob is from the brewery shop at Bury St Edmonds you can purchase it online from them

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