Archive for November, 2009

Beer Review: Cusqueña Premium Beer

26 November, 2009

SOUTH AMERICANS are interesting and passionate folk. They make beer, too. But for some reason, the ones I’ve tried so far aren’t good. Or memorable. Brahma Premium Lager, Aguila, even Club Colombia Extra Fine and Corona Extra aren’t bad, just unmemorable. Excellent on holiday to South America, but just don’t work here in cold, rainy, London. That said, I’m an optimist, so maybe this offering from Peru will fare better. From the Bethnal Green Food Center, I’ve finally gotten around to this bottle of Cusqueña Premium Beer.

From a distance, it looks like your typical brown beer bottle. But look closer at the middle. All around the middle is a textured Inca style pattern. It looks good, and it feels good to hold. I don’t know where they got the idea from to do this, but I like it. Why don’t all bottles have unusual surfaces. An added benefit would be that you could tell one beer bottle from another just by touch. Useful in poorly lit nightclubs.

The label is a beg neck-label. The front of which gets my hopes up that this might be the best South American beer yet.

In the background, which doesn’t show up in photographs, there’s a stylised picture of what must be the Andes, with some settlements. Starting from the top, there’s some tiny writing saying that this was brewed by the convolutedly named Union De Cervecerias Peruanas Backus Y Johnston S.A.A. from Lima, Peru.

Under that is a very helpful pronunciation. Apparently it’s not “Cu-kwen-iya” like I thought, but “Cus-Ken-Ya”. Whatever it’s called, it’s “The Gold Of The Incas”. Presumably the only bit that the Conquistadores didn’t take. Incidentally, why can’t we get similar pronunciation help  on Polish beers?

Next, I’ve read enough beer bottle labels to know that “Cerveza Premium” means “Premium Beer”. But, if you know your Spanish and want to correct me, or translate anything, please do so in the comments at the end of the post.

Under the logo is more good news. This is “Imported Beer”. Not a local knock-off. Always a good sign. It’s a “100% Malt Lager”. Something I’m not sure what to read into. And the vital statistics are plain for all to see. This is your worldwide standard 33cl bottle containing a 5% volume beer. You couldn’t make it any more middle of the road.

There isn’t a back label. Rather there’s some small-print either side of the join. And it looks like this. Well not exactly like that. Without a camera, it’s actually quite readable.

On one side is the ‘story’. And strangely for a lager that isn’t European, it makes my mouth water. Admittedly, it’s mostly marketing mumbo-jumbo, but the imagery works for me. The main facts are that Cusqueña goes back to 1911. From the “the foothills of Macchu Picchu, it’s supposed to be “crisp, pure & totally refreshing”. Then they really pique my interest with this: “It is truly the finest premium lager from Latin America”. We’ll see about that.

The ingredients list is on there. No surprises. As is the UK distributor’s details. This came via Chilli Marketing Promotions Limited. They have a telephone number and a website at www.cusquena.co.uk.

A quick look at the website reveals why I’ve seen Cusqueña being promoted where I live, so often. The Vibe Bar on Brick Lane, for example. They’re aiming it squarely at trendy Hox-ditch people. Like me. On the front page, there are a handful of promotional pieces, and literally one is for a place in Shoreditch and the other is for a place in Hoxton.

The rest of the label truly is small-print. This bottle has 1.65 UK units of alcohol. If you bother to keep count of such things.

So, what does Cusqueña Premium Beer taste like? Will it be my new favourite South American beer? Does it deserve a place in the clutched hands of those of us who call Shoreditch our home and playground? There’s only one way to find out. To stop being pretentious and to get to the fun part.

In the glass, my room temperature Cusqueña frothed up nicely. And collapsed almost as quickly. If you’ve ever drank a big-name Pilsner style lager before, you’ll know what it looks like. White head, and yellow, gold liquid.

Will Cusqueña hold any odorous surprises instead? A quick sniff reveals not. It smells exactly like every other unremarkable lager. That is to say, it smells of the familiar blend of malted barley.

So it looks and smells ordinary enough. But what does Cusqueña taste of? A quick swig proves that it tastes much like others as well. But a couple more gulps and it does redeem itself from mediocrity. Okay, I should probably have it chilled, instead of room temperature. Even so, I can tell that it would be clean and crisp if it was colder. As for refreshment, I think it needs to be cold for it to be that. But that’s ok. It’s not bad in those departments, even at the wrong temperature.

It’s a lager. That means it has no flavour. That’s okay too.  Especially with Cusqueña’s aftertaste. A little like Colombia’s Aguila, it is very smooth and drinkable. But unlike Aguila, it’s not too watery. What you get instead is a gently taste of malted barley and a soft and inoffensive bitter finish. At least at room temperature, it has a richer-and-smoother-than-expected malted barley taste. There’s something almost warming about it. I’m not sure what would happen to that when it’s cold.

What am I enjoying about Cusqueña Premium Beer? I like that taste. Usually, your beer would be a darker hue, with a different smell to manage it. So it was a pleasant surprise. Trying a chilled bottle is now on my to-do list. I want to see just how clean, crisp and refreshing it is. My guess is that it would do well. And that’s important, because that’s what a good lager should achieve. I like how smooth and easy to drink it is. Both of which hint at how well made it is and how good the ingredients are. And I like the bottle with the funny, textured middle.

What am I not enjoying about Cusqueña? The last beer I tried was a strong ale. So I’m missing the flavour and quirkiness. Although that’s a bit like comparing an I-MAX cinema to a hot dog. They’re not even attempting to achieve the same things. Comparing it to other lagers then, and Samuel Adams Boston Lager and Pilsner Urquell come out on top. It’s doesn’t have the same class, heritage or distinctive taste.  It’s expensive and not that easy to find, too.

To sum up, Cusqueña Premium Beer is above average, easy to drink and my new favourite South American beer. Possibly even my new favourite Latin World beer. Compared to what most trendy galleries and bars around Shoreditch serve, this competes well.  Good, solid and drinkable if indistinctive.

Rating: 3.75

Have you tried Cusqueña Premium Beer? What did you think of it?
Leave your opinions, recommendations and places to buy, here in the comments.

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Beer Review: Suma Penumbra Organic Stout

20 November, 2009

BACK to beer, and this time something, hopefully, as interesting as it is expensive. For £2.69 pence from the Bethnal Green Food Center, here is a bottle of Suma Penumbra Organic Stout. Why did I choose it when they also had a bottle of Suma blonde ale which also looked good? Simple. Every little brewery has a go at a blonde-this or golden-that. If Suma are taking the risk of stout production, I’m going to applaud them by trying it.

Interesting looking bottle, isn’t it? That funny shape neck should make pouring interesting. Talking of interesting, have a look at the label. Abandoning tradition, they’ve gone for a stylish up, to the minute design on a big wrap around label. With so much black, Penumbra looks different to just about everything else on the shop shelf.

With a nod to traditional roundels, this one has a spooky photo of a half-moon. And, for some reason, the name Penumbra is in a font more at home on anarchist newsletters. If nothing else, Suma are going to corner the market in stout for emo students.

Around the edge of the ‘roundel’, we learnt that Suma is not a normal company at all, but a workers’ cooperative. That makes it the first beer I’ve tried where the brewery is managed and owned by the people that work there. It’s as if they’ve made a list of everything a normal beer is, and then set about trying to do it all differently.

The left-side of the label continues in a similar vein. They start, though, with a description. They describe it as a “Rich black stout containing chocolate malt mixed with oats and wheat, Pemumbra Organic Stout has a full and creamy roasted flavour with aromas of orange, citrus and berry”. Two reactions to that… First, it sounds delicious. Second, it sounds a bit like the excellent Young’s Luxury Double Chocolate Stout.

Then the label goes bonkers. First with a suggestion of drinking it when the moon is out. Then with a health warning you could either describe as the most public spirited yet. Or the most patronising. Suma is a cooperative, so I’ll assume they were aiming for caring public health message. At only 2.4 UK units of alcohol, there’s no reason to panic. More proof of their lefty inclination can be found littering the bottom. Penumbra Organic Stout has full organic certification and a vegan logo.  Fortunately, they also have a “CAMRA says this is Real Ale” symbol.

Next comes the list of ingredients, and you have to give them credit for detail. They could have just said ‘malted barley’ and been done with it. Instead, Suma have gone above and beyond, not just listing darn near ingredient, but denoting if it’s organic. The highlights for the beer-nerds out there are Pale Ale, Wheat, Chocolate and Crystal malts, Pacific Gem and First Gold hops and orange peel. Even I, with my miniscule knowledge of how beer is made, know that that is a lot of ingredients.

Over on the right-side of the label are what I call the ‘story’, the small-print and the vital statistics.

The highlights from the ‘story’ is that Suma comes from the Calder Valley, where they’ve bagged an ex-pat “Dutch Master Brewer”. The good news continues by learning that this is bottle conditioned beer. That spells yeast sediment and all the adding interesting-ness that comes from it. Unusually though, they recommend serving it clear, by stopping pouring when you spot yeast sediment in the neck of the bottle. That would explain the funny looking neck. It does mean you won’t have the novelty of swirling the last of the contents to get the yeast out, so drinkers who can’t stand cloudy beer will be happy.

Down to the small-print now, and there’s a postal address in case you want to write them a letter. They also have a telephone number and an email address.com. Deciphering the email address lands us at the Suma homepage at http://www.suma.coop/. After a surprisingly tough search, I eventually tracked down the Penumbra Organic Stout homepage at http://sumawholesale.com/index.php/branded-goods/beers/suma-penumbra-stout-organic-12-x-500ml-rt214.html. It doesn’t look like Suma are set up for consumers just yet.

Lastly, those vital statistics. This is your regular 500ml bottle and the stout within has an ABV of 4.8%. Presumably that makes it a little more middle of the road than, say, the politics of the people behind Suma.

Hopes are high for Suma Penumbra Organic Stout. Will it be as quirky and interesting as the bottle is? There’s only one way to find out…

In the glass, the most expensive stout I’ve ever tried looks the part. Almost totally black, it’s topped by a thin, cream head. But ignore that. It’s the smell you should concentrate on.

What does Suma Penumbra Organic Stout smell of? The label says orange, citrus and berry. Whatever it is, it’s complex, rich and good. The sort of odours you want an expensive and interesting beer to smell of. It sort of reminds me of fruit cake or Christmas pudding, so I’ll go along with citrus and berry.

What does Suma Penumbra Organic Stout taste like? The label describes a “full and creamy roasted flavour”. Just like with the smell, my tongue on my first, and very pleasant sip can’t disagree. Packed with more malty types than I thought existed, I can’t help wondering what happened to them. And all the other ingredients. It takes a couple more sips to figure out that they didn’t disappear. Rather they’re all doing their jobs in the subtlest of ways. That makes it complex and interesting, but a challenge to try and describe.

How can I possibly describe the flavour of a stout that has more unusual ingredients than a meal prepared by Heston Blumenthal? The creamy roasted flavour is just the starting point. Unlike most other stouts and dark ales, that roasted-ness is much gentler. More like a porter. In this brew, that gives the other flavours and tastes room to breathe.

What does it all add up to? A combination of flavours and tastes that goes something like this… creamy roasted-ness with a hint of citrus and fruit. Smoothly and effortlessly followed by tastes of malt and hops. All wrapped up in a dry, understaded, rich, exceptionally well balanced and very satisfying package. You could probably write an essay on how it tastes, but that paragraph will have to do.

Half-way through the bottle, and there are a few things I’m enjoying about Suma Penumbra Organic Stout. I love how quirky and different it is. One of the things the world loves about British ales is how eccentric and full of character they are. Penumbra Organic Stout is no exception. I love how distinctive and interesting it is. I love that it manages that without being difficult to drink. It’s practically girl-friendly. I like how it smells and that it is bottle conditioned. I like how different it looks

What don’t I like about Suma Penumbra Organic Stout? I don’t like how difficult it is to find, and how expensive it is in shops that only bought in a small quantity of bottles. It’s a little gassy. And I am somewhat amazed that with all those ingredients, it doesn’t shout more strong and unexpected flavours at you. A tiny bit more risk-taking in the flavour department would be welcome by those of us who pay through the nose for unusual beers. That said, these are minor quibbles.

How can I sum up Suma Penumbra Organic Stout? It is one of the most distinctive and delicious stouts I’ve ever tried. Which, admittedly, isn’t that many. I’ll happily drink it again, though I’ll probably need a mortgage to afford another bottle. If you find it, and you can afford it, even if you don’t normally drink stout, buy a bottle of Penumbra Organic Stout. In a sentence, an interesting and satisfying drink.

Rating: 4.275

Have you tried Suma Penumbra Organic Stout? Have you tried another other Suma beer or cider? What did you think? Leave your opinions, corrections, recommendations and places to buy, here in the comments.

Snack Food Review: Steinhauer Oгурчики чесночнЬіе (Salted Pickled Cucumbers (Gherkins))

16 November, 2009

IT’S been months since I did one of these. But I know from the comments that at least one of you out there likes reading about pickle cucumbers and gherkins, and is looking for that elusive perfect pickle. So for that one lonely person, and myself, here is a super quick review of Steinhauer Oгурчики чесночнЬіе, which I think, transliterates as Steinhauer Ogurgicky Chesnochnia something or other. If you know your Cyrillic, do please leave your proper translations in the comments at the end of the post.

I bought this jar at the Brick Lane Sunday market in London’s East-End for £1.70 pence. Why did I choose this one? The Cyrillic writing on the label. That’s how you know you’re getting real East-European food.

The left-hand-side of the label reveals what I can call them until my Cyrillic improves.

Under The English language section, they’re called “Salted cucumbers with garlic”. Not much else of note. Mostly a list of herbs and leaves that mean little to me. Plus the address of the East-London based importer, Monolith-UK Ltd.

Over on the right are a few more small-print details.

The net weight is on top, followed by the drained weight. All you need to know is that when full, it’s a big, heavy jar. Not massive. Just big.

There’s also an address and a web address of www.monolith-gruppe.eu. It’s also worrying. That’s a big, German importer. And I can’t find anywhere that says where this jar came from. Sure, it has some Cyrillic. But it also has the very Germanic name Steinhauer. I’m beginning to suspect that these are more Bavarian than Bulgarian.

Regarless of that, they could still be good. So, what do they look, smell and taste like? Let’s find out.

What do they look like? They look like cucumbers. Small-ish.

What do they smell like? Not bad. Excellent, in fact. It smells of all sorts of herbs. Best smelling pickles I’ve tried yet.

What do they taste like? They’re salted cucumbers. They taste salty. Luckily, not too salty. Instead, being quite mild and easy to eat. You can taste a hint of those herbs and garlic as well. More good news is that they’re fresh and crunchy.

To sum up, Steinhauer Salted Cucumbers with Garlic are not bad. If you like salted cucumbers, they’re the best I’ve tried so far. I’ll go for the sweeter variety next time though. Are they the perfect pickle? They’re good, but not quite perfect.

Have you tried them? What do you think? Do please leave your translations, corrections, places to buy and anything else you want to share with the world, here in the comments.

Beer Review: Samuel Adams Boston Lager

12 November, 2009

AMERICANS are brilliant. They leave some of the best comments on this blog. And they keep mentioning a beer that they like called ‘Samuel Adams’. At long last, that beer has started turning up in British shops. It’s great that they finally sorted out distribution in this country. But it leaves me with a problem. If I ‘review’ it and like it, my Sam Adams loving friends will be delighted. If I try it and hate it, then my polite and informative American readers will be somewhat irked. Still, it’ll be fun to see what happens. So, for an expensive £1.19 pence, on a very fine line, here is a bottle of Samuel Adams Boston Lager.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager bottle

As bottle’s go, it’s brown and fairly plain. For some reason, the stuff you normally read on the back-label is up on the neck label where you wouldn’t normally think to look for it.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager front of neck label

For added quirkiness, they split paragraph with the first half on the left and second half on the right of the “Samuel Adams” logo. But quirkiness is good. I like that.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager left of neck label

It’s good to read the sort of description that you normally find on an ale. About the care, attention to detail and recipe that goes back generations.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager right of neck label

Rotating it around to read the rest, and it keeps getting better. We get the names of hops. And interesting, those aren’t names I remember reading on anything I’ve tried so far. So extra marks for distinctive ingredients.

Then they take the risk. “No other American lager matches this rich robust and complex taste”, finishing with a pretend signature from Jim Koch. The cynic in me says that that means it’s only average because of the dire state of American brewing. The optimist says that there’s plenty I’ve not tried yet, and that Samuel Adams Boston Lager must be something special. Either way. It’s a brave statement.

Down on the front-label, and there’s a big, traditional looking roundel.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager front label

…a label that gives me déjà vu. I’ve seen it before somewhere…

Family Guy Pawucket Patriot Ale

I think it looks good. And so does the Samuel Adams one.

“The Boston Beer Company”, “Product of USA” and “America’s World-Class Beer” all add to the sense that this should be good, and not mass-produced fizz.

Oddly, the small print is tucked into two flappy bits either ride of the roundel. One the left is the address of The Boston Beer Company in Boston, Massachusetts. On the other side is some recycling information for other countries and the all important vital statistics. This is an unusual 355ml bottle. Until you realise that it was designed with fluid ounces in mind, which case one of the numerous online converters brings it to 12 oz. Does that sound normal to you? The alcoholic volume is 4.8% which is unremarkable for a lager. Neither strong nor weak.

Is there a back label? Yes there is. Is it worth reading? Not really.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager back label

It is literally a list of importers. Here in Britain, the rather excellent Shepherd Neame of Kent arranged this bottle’s arrival on the shop shelves.

So, what does Samuel Adams Boston Lager taste like? Will I like it as much as our friends over the pond do? For the sake of the comments at the end of this post, I sure hope so.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager poured into a glass

The fun and quirky touches keep coming. On the underside of the bottle-top, yes, the side that’s inside the bottle, is a proudly displayed “#25 Brussels Gold 2000 International Award Winner”. Well done chaps.

In the glass, it froths up, but the head collapses fairly sharpish into a lumpy layer. Must say, I was surprised at how dark it is. It’s a kind of copper-y amber colour with an almost cream head. It looks well carbonated, but not too fizzy.

What does Samuel Adams Boston Lager smell of? First reaction was “it smells good for a lager”. Almost every pilsner style lager beer I’ve sniffed has some variation on the malted barley formula. Very few stretch that into something distinctive, but Samuel Adams Boston Lager seems to have managed it. Unbelievable, I think it smells of hoppy spiciness and biscuit malt. Normally, you’d only read those words in a review of English ale.

What does Samuel Adams Boston Lager taste like? The first sip is a good one. A very good one in fact. Much like the smell, it’s almost like drinking ale. Some people won’t like that, but I do.

To elaborate a bit, because it is an ale, it still can’t manage much in the flavour department. All I can pick up there is a hint of savoury malty. It’s the aftertaste where Samuel Adams Boston Lager comes to life and where it makes a bold stride away from the crowd. The finish is tingly, tangy, salty, hoppy and spicy and a little bit malty. All this makes it bitter overall, but balanced and with a long and quite smooth finish.

With most of the bottle now gone, what am I enjoying about Samuel Adams Boston Lager? Thankfully, quite a lot. I love how different it is to almost every lager I’ve tried. That scores it serious points for distinctiveness. I love how it’s a lager trying to be an ale. I like the hoppy taste that you normally have to buy an expensive bottle of ale for. I like how it looks and smells different. I like how not many people this side of the pond know about it yet. And I like what a funny size it is, sitting uncomfortably between smaller and bigger Euro bottles on the shop shelf.

What aren’t I like about Samuel Adams Boston Lager? Fortunately for the comments section of the post, not that much. First, I’m burping more than usual, so it’s a gassy drink. It is quite bitter and strong tasting, so I won’t be getting any girls to try it any time soon. Incidentally, if you are a girl who likes Samuel Adams Boston Lager, leave your thoughts in the comments. It’s also unlikely to appeal to the committed lager drinker, unless you’re using this as a stepping stone to real ale. That puts it in an awkward spot between what you think of as lagers and ales. It’s not as crisp and refreshing as other good lagers and not as complex and flavourful as ale. It’s also rather expensive.

How can I sum up Samuel Adams Boston Lager? It is that rare thing. A lager that truly is different. One of those few that thinks it’s an ale. It is better than any of the mass-produced American lagers I’ve tried by miles. I’m going to buy it again.

Rating: 4.15

Have you tried Samuel Adams Boston Lager what did you think of it? Can you correct any of the mistakes that you’ve spotted in my ‘review’? Do please leave your opinions, recommendations and places to buy, here in the comments section.

Beer Review: Brakspear Triple

5 November, 2009

THIS is Brakspear Triple. From ASDA in London’s Isle of Dog, it’s the first Brakspear I’ve tried. And boy, have I thrown myself into the deep-end.

Brakspear Triple bottle

You just know that it’s going to be something special. Something backed-up when you look at the neck-label.

Brakspear Triple front of neck label

On the sides of the classy “Brakspear III’ logo is an award.

Brakspear Triple award side of neck label

Brakspear Triple was “Silver Medal Winner” at “The Brewing Industry International Awards 2005”. And that raises my expectations one notch higher.

Down on the front-label, and Brakspear have taken to the trend of putting their back-label on the front.

Brakspear Triple front label

It’s not bad. You just feel that an olde roundel would fit better, if you know what I mean. Especially as it’s “Since 1779”.

The bee logo is a mystery to me. There’s probably some sort of funny story about it online, but I haven’t got that far yet. So it’ll remain a mystery for now. Unless you’re a rule-breaking reader who scrolls down.

Where a picture of some sort would normally be, you instead find a quote by the head brewer. You can tell it’s by him, because it has his unreadable signature by it. He describes Brakspear Triple thusly: “Thanks to the two fermentations in the Brakspear ‘Double Drop’ system and another in the bottle, this highly aromatic and satisfying strong beer delivers its rich flavour with subtlety and balance”.

If you’ve already spotted the big “Alc. 7.2% Vol.” and “Bottle Conditioned”, your hopes and expectations will be creeping even higher. Three very good things are leaping out at me from all of this. First, it sounds delicious. Second, it’s a bottle conditioned British ale with yeast sediment floating around, which is hard to find and turbo-charges that flavour. And third, it’s shaping up to be no compromise strong ale of the sort you don’t see enough of.

Down at the bottom of the front-label is another thing you don’t see very often. Next to the pretend stamp saying “Quality Brewing Tradition Since 1779” is a unique bottle number. I’ve got “B262633”. What do you have? Leave your number in the comments at the end of the post.

On the other side, the back-label continues on the, erm, back.

Brakspear Triple back label

No wonder some of the back-label made it onto the front. There’s not enough room for a single punctuation mark on here. In fact, having to work through it all is what put me off getting around to ‘reviewing’ this bottle in the first place.

Starting at the top (because you have to start somewhere), we get a nice and detailed little description. Plenty of ingredient names and brewing details for the beer buffs and taste descriptions for the rest of us. And it goes “Crystal, Black, and Maris Otter pale malts provide the backbone of this outstanding rich beer. Hope are added three times to provide a good balance between bitterness and fragrance. Then, bottle-conditioning allows the flavours of this beer to develop further complexity as it matures.”

All very interesting and yummy. Then comes something that elevates it even further. What you can do is use the bottle number on the front of the bottle and their website at www.brakspear-beers.co.uk to find out when the bottle was filled. To test their claim, I went to the website to investigate. I managed to avoid getting distracted by their other beers to find the Triple homepage at http://www.brakspear-beers.co.uk/brakspear2006_packaged.htm. Well I say homepage, it’s more a section half-way down the page, with a table of bottle numbers. A bit of effort reveals that this bottle was filled on the 26th of May, 2009. Interesting, but not the interactive experience that got my hopes up at the start of this paragraph. The date is also not that long ago. I’m tempted to leave it longer for it to bottle condition some more. But I won’t.

The comes the ever welcome sediment advice. This one advises that “this beer can be enjoyed cloudy, or wait for the sediment to settle and pour carefully for a clear sparkling glass”. Which shall I do? The Bavarian swirl for as much sediment as I can get. That should turn the taste dial to eleven.

Then we get to the small-print. It turns out that Brakspear is a Marston’s brand, and that it comes from Wolverhampton. That means that this bottle of Brakspear Triple needs only to be average to be possibly the best thing to come out of Wolverhampton.

Finally we get to a small group of symbols. First is the welcome sight of “CAMRA says  this is Real Ale”. Now that’s something you want on your bottle of British beer. For those that care, this 500ml bottle (why not a full pint?) at 7.2% alcoholic volume weighs in at 3.6 UK units of alcohol. That’s your whole day’s worth of units in a single bottle.

At last we reach the fun part. What does Brakspear Triple taste like? Will it be as good as I’m hoping? Should you buy it? Let’s find out.

Brakspear Triple poured into a glass

From the moment you hear ‘fft-chh’, things start going well. It’s easy to pourwith no massive head to work around. This makes swirling the bottle to get all that yeast out a piece of cake instead of the frustrating pour-wait you endure elsewhere.

In the glass, it’s a deep reddish brown that doesn’t look all that cloudy. The small head is cream-coloured and collapses to an even smaller, patchy layer, soon enough.

One of the first things to hit you is the smell. There’s simply no avoiding it. If you’re going to make a pungent beer, you better make darn sure that it smells good. And would you believe it; the brewers from Wolverhampton have done it. It smells incredibly richly. I’m noticing malty, biscuity and hoppy odours, though you can probably spot more in there.

So it looks and smells good. But what does Brakspear Triple taste like? The first sip is rich, strong and satisfying. So good, that I promptly follow with another. Gut feeling is that this is going to be every bit as no-nonsense and delicious as a strong ale should be.

A couple more civilised and noble sips, and I’m beginning to make some sense of the flavours and tastes. On the flavour side, all is straightforward. A surprisingly sweetness and maltiness take the lead here. On the aftertaste, that sweetness is balanced, perfectly I might add, by a gentle hoppy bitterness. One that finishes not into bitterness like most others, but into a smooth malty and hoppy combination.

What other words can I use to describe it? Well, rich is a good start. And full-bodied, too. You’ll know this, because it isn’t at all watery. Warm is another, which makes it a good autumn and winter beer. Not overly carbonated. Incredibly well balanced and extremely satisfying. Not particularly complex, but then it is a strong ale, so you don’t expect it to be. Like a good strong ale, it manages to be strong and satisfying at the same time as being easy to drink.

So what am I enjoying about Brakspear Triple? As you’ve no doubt have noticed, quite a lot. It deserves special kudos for being so well balanced. It’s sweet and bitter at the same time. It’s as strong as strong ale should be, yet easy to drink, even for the less adventurous. I like that it’s bottle conditioned. I like how many good ingredients are in it, all of which add up to a quality and drinkability that you notice. In fact, I’m nearly at the bottom of the glass, and wishing there was more to go.

What am I not enjoying about Brakspear Triple? I don’t like that it’s so hard to find in shops. Not picking here, it is a beer drinkers beer. Sure, it’s more accessible than any strong ale I’ve ever tried, but lager and alcopop drinkers won’t be making the switch to this one. And maybe a bit more complexity would add something. But this are tiny gripes.

To surmise, Brakspear Triple is one of the best strong ales I’ve tried. Which, admittedly, isn’t a lot. I loved it. If you are an enthusiastic beer drinker or just want a high-quality, no-nonsense ale, Brakspear Triple deserves to be on your shopping list.

Rating: 4.5

Have you tried Brakspear Triple? What did you think of it?

Leave your opinions, corrections, recommendations, places to buy and other tomfoolery here in the comments.


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