Posts Tagged ‘ale’

Beer Review: Innis & Gunn Rum Cask Oak Aged Beer

2 February, 2012

IF you’re reading this, chances are that you’ve also read my ancient Innis & Gunn Original Oak Aged Beer ‘review’. And judging by the comments, you loved it as much as I did. So, here it is again…

Innis & Gunn Rum Cask bottle

Or is it? At first glance, it looks nearly identical to its Scotch inspired cousin. The same little bottle with much the same labels. Examine it a little closer however, and you realise that this is going to be a different type of first-class beverage. That comparing this to its cousin would be like comparing a Gieves & Hawkes suit to hedge fund. That said, I did purchase both (the Innis & Gunn beers, not the tailoring or investments) from Tesco at well under the £2 mark.

Innis & Gunn Rum Cask neck label

Oak ageing is to be encouraged. In fact, so enthusiastically have they been encouraged by Innis & Gunn’s lead, that other brewers now make similar ale. Which means that Innis & Gunn is no longer “Oak Aged Like No Other Beer”.

Assuming you didn’t notice the different colour (which I didn’t); it’s only when you reach the main front label that you notice the difference. Not even I missed the fact that this beer was oak aged in rum casks.

Innis & Gunn Rum Cask front label

To its credit, practically everything you want to know about ‘Rum Cask’ is right there on the front labels. Including that it’s “Brewed In Small Batches” and “Hand Crafted Scottish Beer”. Helpfully, they even print basic tasting notes. In this case (or should that be ‘cask’), they describe it as “Fully Bodied Scottish Beer Bursting With Fruity And Spicy Notes”. Experienced ale drinkers will think that looks like the tasting notes for hoppy English ale. Is that what it tastes like?

Down here, we spot another important difference between Rum Cask and Original.

Innis & Gunn Rum Cask lower front label

Original was matured for 77 days. Rum Cask here was matured for 57. Are those missing twenty days important? If you think they are, then you know what to do in the comments section at the end of this post.

Rotate the bottle one-hundred-and-eighty degrees, and you find a neat little semi-transparent rear label.

Innis & Gunn Rum Cask back label

It begins with a helpful blurb. From this blurb, we learn that Innis & Gunn have been experimenting with variations on the theme of oak barrel maturation. That this one, Rum Cask, is one of their favourites. Apparently, they use American oak and rum infused oak. And that this “has impoarted this beer with a delicious warming character that is bursting with fruit and lively spiciness”. That sounds delicious on a cold winter’s night like this one. But I can’t help wondering if they’ve inadvertently re-invented the hoppy English ale. Whatever the case, I can hardly wait to find out.

Next, they helpfully suggest a serving temperature. In this instance, between 4 to 6 degrees C. I guess that equates to room temperature in my cold London flat. Americans and Australians, you might want to store it in a refrigerator during the summer months. It’s also worth pointing out how blindingly obvious it is to put serving temperatures on an expensive bottle of ale. So obvious, that most brewers don’t. So well done Innis & Gunn for being user-friendly.

Even further down the back label are the vital statistics and small-print. First, the alcoholic volume which is a hearty 7.4%. In this 330 millilitre bottle, that equates to 2.4 UK units of alcohol. Or in the vicinity of half of what doctors say you can safely drink per day.

Next, there’s Innis & Gunn’s contact information. For the obsessively curious, it gives their Edinburgh address. For the casually curious, it gives their web address of www.innisandgunn.com. On their helpful and interesting website, you’ll find their Rum Cask product page at http://www.innisandgunn.com/the-range/rum-cask.aspx

The last nuggets of useful information on the back label, are that Rum Cask is a “Product of Scotland”. That it is “Strong Beer”. And that it “Contains Barley Malt”. Nothing surprising at all.

So at long last, here is the bit where I open the bottle and use words to describe what the contents smell and taste like. If you scrolled straight down to this bit, I don’t blame you. So, using the wrong type of glass, chilled by my chilly flat, here is Innis & Gunn Rum Cask poured.

Innis & Gunn Rum Cask poured into a glass (out of focus, sorry)

Pouring was a doddle, thanks to a very controllable head. The cream coloured head, once poured, reverts back to liquid within two or three minutes. With other beers, that would be an annoyance. But with Innis & Gunn Rum Cask, it feels more like a feature, designed to make you wait, and savour it properly.

In the glass, the colour will come as no surprise. I’d call it somewhere between red and brown. Not quite copper, but not far from it. What does Innis & Gunn Rum Cask smell like? It’s pungent enough to hit your nostrils during the pour, but working out what it is you can smell is puzzling. The first impression you get is that it smells light and fresh. Some thorough sniffing later, and all I can discern are a sort of fruity vanillaryness. In short, it smells intriguing and delicious.

Abandoning my attempt to understand the odour, I turn my attention to how Innis & Gunn Rum Cask taste. Remembering that the label used words like “warming”, “fruity” and “spicy”, I’m delighted to say that the very first sip delivered precisely those three words. And so does the second sip. And the third. It’s not at all the variation on English hoppy ale that I was expecting. But as with the smell, finding words to describe it within the limits of a single little bottle are difficult. If you’re lucky enough to have had a few of these, add your own insight in the comments below.

To pull this ‘review’ back from that cop out, I’d describe the flavour as being almost absent. There are some very mild hints of savoury, oaky, fruity, initial bitterness. But Innis & Gunn Rum Cask comes alive with the aftertaste, finish and feeling it gives you. It is dominated by a rich, smokey, oaky, somewhat spicy, fruity and mildly bitter finish. Rich and momentarily intense, but not strong, not overly bitter or too long lasting. And yes, after a good few sips, you even I can detect a tiny taste of rum. All of these qualities make for a warming and distinctive drink.

What am I enjoying about Innis & Gunn Rum Cask so far? As you can probably tell, quite a lot. I love how unusual the taste is. It provides a much bigger taste experience than the Scotch based Original. Oversimplifying, it’s taste of oak and rum is unique, as far as I know. The taste matches the bottle label descriptions, which was unexpected. It is rich and warming to drink, which makes it a great autumn and winter beverage. At 7.4%, I’m discovering that this small 330 millilitre bottle is adequately strong for a weekday evening drink. It’s relatively hard to find, which makes it exclusive and makes you look like a connoisseur. And if you can find a supermarket like Tesco that sells it, purchasing it won’t empty your wallet.

What am I disliking about Innis & Gunn Rum Cask? Not much. To pad out this paragraph, only nitpicking really. A sweeter, fruiter flavour could have been welcome. Or any real flavour, for that matter. But it’s hard to see that playing well with the massive aftertaste and finish. It is however, quite dry, and would be a challenge to drink a lot of over a single night. Nevertheless, I’m up for that challenge. Lastly, price and availability appear to depend on chance and where you live.

How can I sum up Innis & Gunn Rum Cask? It turned out to be completely different to the taste of hoppy ale that I was expecting. It delivers everything it promises in the taste and character departments. By loading the aftertaste with rum driven fruitiness and spiciness and oak powered smokiness, it is bonkers in a sophisticated way. Like Timmy Mallett becoming Chairman of the English National Opera. Personally, I loved it. But not everyone will. If you like intense originality, then add Rum Cask to your ‘to do’ list. If you’re not so keen on that sort of thing, wait until autumn or winter, and then give it a try. If you’re timid, then try the Scotch based Innis & Gunn Original and you’ll love that.

Have you tried Innis & Gunn Rum Cask? Then share your opinions, recommendations and places to buy, in the comments section below.

Beer Review: Švyturys Baltijos

29 March, 2011

SOME people complain that my recent reviews have all been East European beers. So, to correct the balance, here is a bottle of Švyturys Baltijos. From Lithuania.

Švyturys Baltijos bottle

Truthfully, this is one of the most requested and recommended beers out there. Thanks to the brisk growth of East European shops here, I’ve ended up trying a few Švyturys bottles. And each time, the comments section has filled with recommendations for Baltas, and for Baltijos. Commentors; you were right about how good Baltas was. Now you’ve got a reputation to uphold with Baltijos.

For the curious, and those in East London, this bottle came from Russkij Bazaar. The excellent East European shop on Cambridge Heath Road, near Bethnal Green underground station. The price was £1.70 pence, which could have been worse.

Luckily, I didn’t have to ask for it by name. Which would have been a problem. I think it’s pronounced Bal-Tee-Oss. But I’m probably wrong. Much more fun is my botched Anglicisation, in the form of Balty-Joes. As usual, leave your corrections and interpretations in the comments section.

I make a point of doing zero research with these ‘reviews’, hopefully persuading brewers to design more useful labels. With only a tiny scrap of foil around the bottle neck however, much of it in Lithuanian, I broke with tradition. You can read the description and see a photo of it in a fancy glass on the official Švyturys website at http://www.svyturys.lt/produkcija. Then, you either need to ask a Lithuanian friend to translate it for you, or, use Google Translate, which spat out the following:

“Lighthouse in the Baltic (5.8%) – dark dreams / Oktoberfest camp,”Lighthouse “collection of traditional beer, brewed since 1965 Ethnographers believe that this “fighting ” style of beer its color and taste of the coming of the first “lighthouse” of beer in 1784 proposed brewery founder of German merchants Rainkės. Baltic beer category has its won the World Beer Cup Bronze Medal, and the international “Siberian Fair” at the time – the great gold medal. “Dark red, amber-colored beer is sweetish, rich, mouth, long lasting caramel taste. “Lighthouse Baltic aroma and flavor characteristics of the best demonstration of it in a special tasting glasses – large, bubble or tulip-shape with a strong leg. “Lighthouse” Baltic beer in perfect harmony with game, dark meat, oily fish dishes, a strong blue cheese flavor and hard, sweet desserts, predominantly caramel and chocolate combinations.

I don’t think I need to write any more. No one can possibly top that translation for entertainment value. To paraphrase the gist of it, Švyturys Baltijos based on the very first beer introduced to Lithuania by Germans. It’s won lots of awards and is yummy. Or is it? This is where I thrust my subjective opinions into the background noise of online beer reviews.

Starting with the bottle, it’s the same gorgeous bottle that Švyturys use across their Traditional Beer” range. The intricate embossing is exquisite. It looks great, but all the details is squeezed onto a flat of neck-foil.

Švyturys Baltijos front of neck foil

In fairness, almost everything you want to know about it, i.e. whether you’d like it, is in English, on the front of the foil. As well as the usual logos and medals, it describes it as “Dark Red” and “Made with Caramel Malt”. For an East European beer, this is surprisingly helpful.

It goes downhill from there.

Švyturys Baltijos left of neck foil

On the left is a multi-lingual block of text squeezed into a small, undulating foil flap. Some squinting reveals this to be a 500ml bottle with an above average alcoholic volume of 5.8%. The ingredients are water, barley malt, caramel malt and hops.

The other side is even more futile.

Švyturys Baltijos right of neck foil

It has a barely visible web address of www.svytusys.lt. And the out of context detail that Švyturys Baltijoshas been pasteurised. Don’t think about those details. Concentrate instead on the fact that my last mention of “caramel malt” was way back on Ukrainian Obolon Velvet. And that was marvellous.

Will Švyturys Baltijos be as tasty as Obolon Velvet? Will it live up to the hype? And, if you’ve never tried it before, should you go through the hassle of buying this expensive bottle? To attempt to answer those questions, I cracked open the bottle and poured it into the wrong shape of Pint glass. Well it’s all I had available. Okay?

Švyturys Baltijos poured into a glass

Pouring it, my first impressions are how different is looks to the photo on the official website. There’s almost no head, just a few thin cream coloured patches. The hue of the official photo is well off, too. Instead of the near-blackness of the official website photo, in reality, it’s red, dark red or copper.

Next, the fun and subjective opinions. How does Švyturys Baltijos? Rich, malty and slightly hoppy. I found it triggered memories of British ales. Not what you’d expect, but then I like the unexpected. Since you’re reading this blog, you probably will too.

What does Švyturys Baltijos taste like? The translation-mangled official description uses words like “sweetish”, “rich” and “long lasting”. I can’t disagree with any of them. The first couple of sips were very nice. I’m going to add “complex”, because you need much more than a couple of sips to figure out what you’re tasting.

On the flavour side of your gulp, Švyturys Baltijos is finely balanced between sweetness and sourness. When the aftertaste kicks in, you can’t miss it. A humungous hit of maltiness swooshes into your mouth and refuses to leave until long after your gulp. You can taste some caramel in the finish, but only if you pay attention. At one third of the way through, Baltijos has turned into a very rich, malty, drinkable beer.

What am I enjoying about Švyturys Baltijos? It’s not just different to other Lithuanian or East European beers, it is truly distinctive. You won’t easily confuse it with anything else. I love it when a brewer takes a risk or tries something new. Švyturys Baltijos with its heavy maltiness and hints of caramel does that, and it as ancient as flint arrowheads. I like how it manages to be a dark, heavy, full-on beer, and yet is still easy to drink. I like how accessible it is by not being bitter. The “sweetish” flavour could even help it pass the female test. And I like the exclusivity of having something hard to find.

What don’t l like about Švyturys Baltijos? That strong taste is going to put some people off. That’s the hazard of taking risks and being principled. Either the flavour-phobes who love lager, or ale fans that can’t stand rich sweetness could object to it. Then there’s the light flavours and massive onslaught of malty taste. Not smooth. And surprisingly burp-filled for a beer with little visible carbonation.

I tried to compare it to Ukrainian beer, Obolon Velvet. Sorry, but Švyturys Baltijos can’t quite match it for unqualified deliciousness. But that’s unfair. It’s the wrong product comparison. Švyturys Baltijos is more like British ale. And yes, I’m as shocked as you are.

How can I sum up Švyturys Baltijos? Not easily. It is special and well worth your effort to track down. It is even worth spending money on. For Lithuania and Eastern Europe, it is remarkable. I can see why so many of you recommended it. You can easily compare it to the great ales from Britain. And that’s the problem. Because that’s where I live, I can easily find good bottled ales for the same price, without the iffy availability of East European shops. That suddenly makes your location important. No wonder so many Americans are nuts about it. In summary: surprising and satisfying.

Rating: 4.175

Have you tried Švyturys Baltijos? Think you can you correct my mistakes? Leave your comments, opinions, recommendations and places to buy, here in the comments section.

Beer Review: Batemans Combined Harvest Multigrain Beer

22 October, 2010

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you brewed ale using every grain type available? I have, but that question has thus far gone unanswered. Now however, from a Nisa Local shop on Old Street, London, comes the answer, in the form of this bottle:

Batemans Combined Harvest bottle

It is what I presume, Bateman’s standard issue, built-like-a-tank brown bottle. Embossed around the shoulder is the Bateman’s name, their windmill logo and “Est 1874”. There’s a strange, lumpen bulge around the neck of the bottle. Presumably it has something to do with stopping the beer ‘glugging’ when you try to pour it. It’s certainly not there for reasons of elegance.

Good news on the labels begins immediately with the neck label.

Batemans Combined Harvest neck label

“Gold Winner” at the “International Beer Awards” is something to be proud of. No wonder they advertise the fact right at the top of the bottle. Expectations are rising.

The main front label is a picture of idyllic, rural, agricultural imagery.

Batemans Combined Harvest front label

The top has the main facts. The name of the brewery, the name of the beer and the alcoholic volume are plain to see for anyone browsing the shop shelves. I’m surprised it’s not a little higher than 4.7% alcoholic volume, but why quibble over a few decimal points when the taste is as good as I’m imagining it will be.

The main part of the front label is a take on the roundel. Except this time, the roundel-y shape is made up of illustrations of hops and grains and other crops. Supposedly, the same things that went into this ale.

Helpfully explaining for dummies like me, why this is called “Combined Harvest” “Multigrain Beer”, are the names of the different arable crops that went into it. “Barley” is the staple. No surprise there. Then there’s “Wheat” which I remember from most of my all-time favourite beers. “Oats” and “Rye” are the surprises, and al combined, make you wonder what the heck it tastes of.

Fortunately, a back label crammed with facts helps you get to grips with what “Combined Harvest” is all about.

Batemans Combined Harvest back label

Not only do they have an exceptionally detailed description, but also a taste profile box. I love it when brewers don’t skimp on detail. With so much to get through, I better start at the top.

They open by describing it as “a unique combination of barley, oats, wheat and rye”. That it appeals to lots of different groups of drinker because of its “subtle, smooth bitterness”. We also learn that Batemans is “one of the few remaining family brewers”, having been brewing since 1874. And that they’re brewery is in the old windmill of the logo, “on the bank of the river Steeping”.

Then they take it up a notch. Instead of writing a description of the brew themselves, they instead print an independent description by celebrity beer writer and socialist, Roger Protz. Unlike me, he is an old school beer writer, so here he is quoted verbatim from the label:

“A bronze pale ale brewed with pale and crystal barley malts, combined with malted wheat oats and rye and hopped with Phoenix and Target varieties. The superb aroma is dominated by tart orange and lemon slices fruitiness, with a bready note from the rye. As it contains no fish based firings it is vegan friendly”.

He does rather well with that description. And so have Batemans for using it. It sounds as interesting as you can get.

Before reaching the taste profile chart, they also describe Combined Harvest as “an ideal accompaniment to most dishes due to its well balanced delicate flavours”. On to the taste profile chart itself, and I love these devices. Okay, it’s not called a ‘taste profile’ this time, but Badger who use it most consistently across their range, do. So what does this ‘taste profile’ tell us?

This ‘taste profile’ tells us values from one to ten for aroma, bitterness, fruitiness, maltiness and spiciness. The main points we can take from the chart are that it has fruitiness and spiciness in abundance, and that it’s also quite malty and strong smelling. The fruitiness, spiciness and maltiness would come from the all of the grains squeezed into the bottle, and from strong hoppiness. The rest of it, I can’t wait to discover for myself.

Then we reach the small-print. For the curious, this is a 500ml bottle, which with its 4.7% alcoholic volume contents, comes in at 2.4 UK units of alcohol. In you want to write them a letter, their address in Wainfleet, Lincolnshire is printed. As is their web address of www.batman.co.uk. A website best described as trade orientated. Persevering with their website which looks like it was developed in 1999, I managed to find the Combined Harvest homepage at http://www.bateman.co.uk/BeerF.htm. If you want to subject yourself to the horror of a website that still uses frames in 2010, then go to http://www.bateman.co.uk/HomeF.htm.

On to the last bits of small-print, and there is a Vegan Society logo if you happen to be the sort of person who looks for such things. They also recommend that you “Serve Cool”. Not knowing whether my fridge counts as ‘cold’ rather than ‘cool’, I’m going to leave it in the fridge for just an hour or two before drinking it.

So what does Combined Harvest taste like? Finally, I’ve reached the part I’ve been looking forward to. With ale this complex, the only way to answer that question is to crack it open, so let’s do just that…

Batemans Combined Harvest poured into a pint glass

Pouring was no problem. The funny shaped neck causes it to come out in lots of tiny ‘glugs’ before settling into a smooth pour. In the glass, my fridge cooled Combined Harvest is a copper-amber colour. The head has depleted down to a patchy layer of white foam. And you can see a fair bit of carbonation in the glass.

How does Combined Harvest smell? Rogre Protz described the aroma as “superb” and being “dominated by tart orange and lemon slices fruitiness”. I’m going to ignore all that and describe it as smelling strongly of bread. A few more sniffs, and I’m figuring out that the breadiness comes from the wheaty maltiness. After getting used to it, a few sniffs later, I’m starting to fall into line with beer guru Roger Protz. I am now smelling a citrusy fruitiness that can only come form hoppiness.

What does Combined Harvest taste of? The ‘taste profile’ chart hinted at bags of fruitiness, maltiness and spiciness. Beer legend Roger Protz didn’t describe the taste in his description. What a pity. That means you’ll have to go by mine instead.

So what does Combined Harvest taste of? The first gulp is an easy and yummy one, leaving the first impression of that this is going to epitomise what a British ale could and should be. A couple more equally easy and pleasant gulp confirms the direction in which Batemans Combined Harvest is going.

On the flavour side of the gulp, you have a nice, light, savoury maltiness. On the aftertaste and finish side of the gulp, you have a smooth, gentle bitter finish and the taste of that maltiness, carrying with it hints of the taste of all the grain types that went into it. None of them are overpowering. You begin to think of bread, but then the citrusy, spicy, hoppy bitterness creeps in. All of which leave your tongue swiftly, making Combined Harvest very easy to drink.

What am I loving about Batemans Combined Harvest? I’m loving that they took the risk of putting every grain they have into it. I like the distinctive taste experience it gives you. And I love how, despite being a complex, unusual beast, it remains immensely light and easy to drink. Well balanced is another way of putting it. There is no strong bitterness to scare you away. I also like that it isn’t too gassy. And I like very much how good the bottle labels are.

What am I not loving about Batemans Combined Harvest? It is not perhaps, the taste explosion that I was expecting. There’s no in your face flavour. Eight out of ten for “Fruitiness” on a ‘taste profile chart’ from other brewers might have produced much fruitier results. It’s also very hard to find and quite expensive. At least here in London.

To conclude, Batemans Combined Harvest will remind you why you love British ale. It takes chances, it does things differently, it’s delicious and very drinkable. If you can’t tell, I like it.

Rating: 4.3

Have you tried Batemans Combined Harvest? What did you think of it? Leave your opinions, corrections, recommendations and places to buy, here in the comments section.

Beer Review: Badger Cricket

5 September, 2010

THIS year’s meagre summer has made a feeble reappearance this week. Seizing the moment, I bought a bottle of one of this year’s Badger summer ales from the Hall & Woodhouse stable. This one is called Cricket, and cost an outrageous £2.29 pence from the Bethnal Green Food Center.

Badger Cricket bottle

I love Badger ales. Not only are their beers high quality and quirky, as all British ale should be, but they get how important a useful back label is. How is Hall & Woodhouse one of the only industry players who understand that value of this? How?

The neck-label gets things going marvellously.

Badger Cricket neck label

I like the summer-y yellow, and the pictures of musical notes and hops floating around. But most of all, I like that they sum it up with two simple words: “Beautifully composed.” Simply because when you’re glancing at a shop shelf full of bottles, you need something to tell you something about the character of the beer you’re looking at. From those two words, I’d be surprised if it doesn’t turn out to be a well balanced, solid all-rounder.

The sense of Summer and of fun continues on the front label.

Badger Cricket front label

There’s a jolly, if frightening image of, presumably, a cricket. Who, for some reason, is playing a fiddle, amidst a backdrop of falling leaves and hops.

Sticking with Badger conventions, the vital statistics are exactly where you expect them to be. In the corners, one can easily identify this as a 500ml bottle, and that the beer within is a moderate 4.4%.

Toward the top, they elaborate somewhat on the description, with “Harmonious Notes of Lemongrass”. Straight off, I can’t remember what lemongrass is supposed to taste of. Maybe if I shopped in Islington, I would do. For now, I am content that lemongrass sounds like the right sort of flavour to have in your summer salad or ale.

Again, sticking to Badger tradition, the back label is outstandingly helpful.

Badger Cricket back label

The ‘story’ opens by explaining the connection to crickets. No, they’re not an ingredient. Rather “the hum of crickets on a summer evening” is “the perfect background to enjoy this fresh, zingy ale”. They go on to describe it as “ well hopped with a depth of character complemented by harmonious notes of lemongrass”. Sounds lovely. They even suggest that it would go “well with barbecued Tiger prawns or a light Thai curry”.

This being a Badger, they go one step further, with their immensely helpful taste profiles. If this is the first Badger ale you’ve seen, have a look at the close-up below. They describe how it looks, smells and tastes, and rate the bitterness, sweetness, hoppiness, maltiness and fruitiness from 0 to 5.

Badger Cricket back label taste profile

The taste profile pretty much backs up the “Beatifully composed” quote. It does look like it’s going to be a fruity, balanced ale.

Down in the small-print, there’s the usual smattering of facts and warnings. For those that care, Cricket’s combination of bottle size and alcoholic volume means that it has 2.2 UK units of alcohol. The full Dorset postal address is on there, in case you want to write them a letter. And their website is given as www.badgerales.com.  A quick browse of which leads us to the homepage for Cricket at http://www.hall-woodhouse.co.uk/beers/badgerales/lemonycricket.asp on which for some reason, they refer to it as Lemony Cricket.

Does Cricket taste as good as I’m expecting it to? How close are the label descriptions to what I can taste? Let’s find out.

Badger Cricket poured into a glass

Nowhere on the bottle did it say “Serve Chilled”. Being a summer ale I took a chance on leaving it in the fridge for a while. If you know the right temperature to serve it at, leave a comment at the end.

Cricket was easy to pour. Even I was able to decant it into a pint glass with minimal glugging, leaving a patchy covering of foam, sitting atop the brew. What does Critcket look like? The taste profile describes it as “Tawny, golden brown”. I can’t disagree. That said, the word that popped into my mind was “copper”.

What does Badger Cricket smell like? The taste profile describes it as “Robust citrus hop and lemongrass”. First impressions are that it’s not a simple smell. There’s a lot of complementary odours buried in there. Which is what you want from ale. I’ll describe the smell as like that of a hedgerow. Agricultural with lots of foliage. Specifically, a zingy hoppiness. I think it smells lovely. Like a proper old ale.

What does Badger Cricket taste like? The taste profile describes it as “Malt with citrus undertones”. And of course there’s the rest of the label description and taste profile to go on. Once again, those Badger label copywriters are spot on. What you taste is exactly how they describe it. A fact that renders this review unnecessary.

That aside, first gulps of this fridge cold Cricket are that it’s easy to drink and tastier than those ciders that get all the attention at this time of year. On the flavour side of the gulp, there’s little to report. On the taste and finish side of the gulp, you feel how well balanced it is. You can taste the maltiness, hoppiness and some citrusy zing, subtly coming together. All of which leaves your mouth with a long lasting, slightly dry, bitter finish, that’s balanced in a way that makes it more palatable that it sounds. The main impressions it leaves you with is how malty, zingy, light and refreshing it is.

What am I enjoying about Badger Cricket? I’m liking how they’ve somehow managed to fuse rich, ale-like qualities, with a light, refreshing summer ale. For ages, I complained that the summer ales all stuck to the same old formula. Cricket does something different. At last! I also like the zing, the smell, and how it doesn’t make you burp,

What am I not enjoying about Badger Cricket? I want to say that it would appeal to more people if it was sweeter and fruitier. But Badger already does ales that are like that. A little more citrusy zing and a little less malt perhaps? Unless you take the view that the genius behind Cricket is that it has complex maltiness in a refreshing summer ale form. Something we call all agree on is that it is too difficult to find and the £2.29 pence I paid for it is shocking.

How can I sum up Badger Cricket? It is a proper ale, that’s also a summer ale. A niche that’s remained unfilled for too long. I’ve complained here time and again that every brewer produces nearly identical summer ales. Well, here’s the answer. It tastes malty and hoppy, and it looks the right colour. Yet it also has some zing, and it’s light, refreshing and very easy to drink. All of which scores it serious points.

Rating: 4.275

Have you tried Badger Cricket? What did you think of it?

Have you got anything to add or correct? What about your own recommendations and places to buy? Leave your comments here!

Beer Review: Young’s Kew Gold

11 December, 2009

THE Bethnal Green Food Center has been useful lately. Over the last few weeks, they’ve sold more bottle conditioned British ales than I knew existed. Here is my most recent purchase. A £1.99 pence bottle of Young’s Kew Gold.

This is the same Young’s that brought us Special London Ale and Luxury Double Chocolate Stout. And part of the same Wells & Young’s behind Banana Bread Beer and Bombardier Satanic Mills. As such, hopes are high and the bottle looks very familiar.

Why do I like bottle conditioned ales? Who wants yeast floating around in their drink? Simple. It turbo-charges the flavour, and it’s divisive. And that makes for interesting comments at the end of this post.

Back to this particular bottle, and the neck-label is where a lot of the detail lives.

It informs us that it was “inspired by hops grown at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.” And that some of the money from each sale of this bottle, goes to support Kew. I like that fact, because it muddies the waters for people who like to take a moral stand on beer.

Lastly, they describe it as “Light, golden & full-flavoured with a refreshing bite.” And that it is “Perfect with grilled marinated chicken or pasta”. That all sounds very run-of-the-mill for an ale. Where’s the quirkiness and imagination?

The small-print lives on the back of the neck-label.

And it’s almost identical to the small-print on every other Wells & Young’s bottle of beer. Is has their full, Bedford postal address. It has their web address of www.wellsandyoungs.co.uk. But this one has one more. Because of the Kew connection, it also has the address of www.kew.org. If you want to know about the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, it is a very good website, indeed. I’ll have to re-visit it when I stop being young.

With the neck-label done, it’s onwards and downwards to the front-label.

Although, frankly, there’s not much reason to look down here. It’s pleasant and green looking. There’s a simple picture of a bunch of hops. And the live, bottle conditioning is the main marketing point. “Bottle Conditioned Ale” takes pride of place above the Young’s 1831 rams head logo.

Along the bottom of the label is the main selling point: “Matured live in the bottle for a fresher taste”. Along with the vital statistics either side. That this is a typical 500ml bottle (why not a proper pint?) with a modest 4.8% alcoholic volume.

Next is the back-label. Again, much the same as the back-labels for most other Wells & Young’s beer, so I won’t waste your time by going through every tiny detail.

Helpfully, the back-label opens with a bit more detail. Their choice of words for the benefits of bottle conditioning are that it’s for a “fresher taste”. They talk about how you can pour it slowly if you don’t want it cloudy. How you should store it upright. And that it’s best served between 10 and 12 degree Celsius. By chance, that’s exactly how chilly my flat is.

Sadly, it’s nowhere near strong enough to help me get over the cold of my flat. At a moderate 4.8% alcoholic volume, and in a standard 500ml bottle, Kew Gold comes in at 2.4 UK units of alcohol.

The only other details worth mentioning are the ingredients. Well, maybe not. But here they are anyway: “natural mineral water, malted barley, hops, yeast”. Nothing suspicious. Just good, normal, ale ingredients.

So, what does Young’s Kew Gold taste like? Will I like it? And will I think you should buy it? Will the yeasty goodness be worth it? Let’s find out.

It poured easily enough. Certainly much easier than the European wheat beers. It wasn’t cloudy at all until I gave the bottle the old Bavarian-swirl near the bottle. That ‘livened’ up the glass. All without overflowing it.

True to the label description, the hue is golden. The head quickly collapsed to a network of white patches. It’s cloudy, but not overly opaque and looks well carbonated.

What does Young’s Kew Gold? Smell of? Not that much, and not very strongly. You need to give it a good sniff to detect that it’s all hops. A couple more sniffs, and you realise that it smells good, in a pleasant, hoppy way. Fruity, spicy and a bit malty are the words I’ll go with on the smell.

What does Young’s Kew Gold taste like? The first gulp started easily enough. As soon as the aftertaste kicks in, your mouth is swamped by the hoppiest taste I’ve had out of a bottle. And that brought with it that familiar hoppy bitterness. It still caught me off-guard.

A few more sips and I’m starting to make some sense of the flavours and tastes in Young’s Kew Gold. On the flavour side of the equation, there’s not much to say. It’s got a light, savoury, slightly leading bitterness. No flavours really stand out. At least none that my tongue was aware of.

The aftertaste is what Young’s Kew Gold is all about. It has a very full, hoppy, agricultural taste. At first, I was overwhelmed by it and the bitterness, but a third of the way through now, I’m not so sure. It’s turned into a light, smooth and strangely refreshing beverage. Almost a complete 180 degree from where it was on that first gulp.

Nearing half-way through, and what am I enjoying about Young’s Kew Gold? A admit it. I wasn’t expecting any surprises when I cracked it open. So I’m genuinely happy to have had a couple. I like how immensely hoppy it tastes at first. I like how that will put off the less intrepid beer drinkers, meaning you’re in an exclusive club if you’ve got this far. It also scores it points for distinctiveness. I very much like how easy it is to get used to it, and how well it becomes drinkable and smooth. I like how it’s taken the light and refreshing summery ale and put a very hoppy twist in it. And I like how it gives money to the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew, even though I’d rather experience mild electrocution than learn about foliage.

What aren’t I enjoying about Young’s Kew Gold? That massive, initial hoppiness isn’t going to win it any lager or alco-pop friends. Personally, I’d like more interesting flavours, not just pure hoppiness. With such a hoppy beer, it would be good if the labels told us what hops and malts they used in the brew. It’s a little on the gassy side. It’s expensive and hard to find. And, here, now, in a cold flat, in winter, it’s just not right. Summer, or at least spring, is where Young’s Kew Gold belongs.

To sum up, Young’s Kew Gold is one of the hoppiest tasting ales I’ve ever tried. Do I like it? Yes, but despite myself. I didn’t want to, but it’s grown on me. Was the bottle conditioning worth it? For the distinctive, hoppy quality, yes. Should you buy it? In the right season, if you like strong, hoppy ale, if you can find it and afford it, then yes. Definitely.

Rating: 4.2

Have you tried Young’s Kew Gold? What did you think of it? Leave your comments, corrections, opinions and places to buy, here in the comments

Beer Review: Schöfferhofer Hefeweizen

3 December, 2009

IT’S been too long since I last enjoyed a Continental wheat beer. The last time I had ‘Naturtrüb’ naturally cloudy German-variety ‘Hefeweizen’ wheat beer, was straightforwardly wheaty Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier. What, then, will my next German, cloudy, wheat-beer be like? From the Bethnal Green Food Center in London’s East-End, here is a bottle of Scöfferhofer Hefeweizen.

First impressions? Efficient looking but characterless bottle and appearance. It’s definitely German

It has a neck label. Not that it says very much. It has a sort-of coat of arms, the words “Premium Weissbier” and a barcode. Never mind. I’m sure there’s be a proper description of the beer somewhere on it. On the front-label, perhaps?

No. There’s not much of a description on here, either. Just some basic details. Starting with the name and address of the brewer. For the curious, Scöfferhofer Weizenbier GMBH is from Frankfurt am Main.

Under that is a logo, if you can call it that, of Peter Schoffer von Gernsheim. An early printer who worked with Johannes Gutenberg, the Scöfferhofer brewery was apparently founded in his old home. Hands up, who wants their home turned into a brewery, when they’re gone?

Under the Scöfferhofer Hefeweizen name, is some writing that I can’t read or understand. If you can, or you can translate anything else on the bottle, do please leave a comment at the end of the post.

Down at the very bottom, are welcome words indeed. “Naturtrüb”, I think means ‘naturally cloudy’. Thanks to the person who told me that in a comment to one of my earlier posts. “Premium-Weissbier” has to be ‘Premium Wheat Beer’. And “Brewed And Bottled in Germany” is just good news however you read it.

So there wasn’t much of a description on the front-label. Surely, there’ll be a proper description of some kind on the back?

No. There really isn’t any kind of description. Or story. Or anything. Just a massive, multilingual block of ingredients lists and safety warnings, for nanny-state markets across the world.

Even looking carefully, there are only a handful of facts I can extract from the morass of text. The ingredients are water, barley malt, wheat malt, hops and yeast. All the right ingredients. Though I’d prefer if they mentioned which malts and hops they used. Even when the names mean nothing, I love it when the labels give that much extra detail.

Elsewhere, we discover the vital statistics. The bottle is your usual 500ml. Or 16.9 fl. oz.  And with an alcoholic volume of 5%, it’s as average as the entire output of Hollywood over the past decade.

And that’s it. At least I thought it was, until I spotted in tiny writing, a web-address. That web address is www.schoefferhofer.de. It’s an annoying Flash-heavy website, with no English language section. Nevertheless, a few clicks and you start discovering more bottles that will make you wish you were in Frankfurt am Main.

With all of that out of the way, it’s time for the fun bit. What does Scöfferhofer Hefeweizen taste like? How different will it be to Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier? Will I like it and should you buy it? Considering my track record of loving cloudy wheat beers, it could be a foregone conclusion.

Yes, I still don’t have a proper wheat beer glass. But even in my British pint-glass, it looks good. It was easy to pour, too. No glugging, it went smoothly until the last bit, where it frothed up into the sight you can see in the photograph.

The colour is of straw. Cloudy, but clear enough to see the fizz. The head is a thick, lasting, white colour. I can hardly wait to start.

First though, what does Scöfferhofer Hefeweizen smell like? If you bought it hoping for that unmistakable, rich, malty smell, you’re in luck. If you’ve sniffed other European wheat beers, you know what it is. It’s not strong. Just gorgeously rich and sweet.

What does Scöfferhofer Hefeweizen taste like? The first gulp is not bad, but I’m greeted with more bitterness than expected. A few more sips, and I’m beginning to make sense of it. The bitterness was because I was trying to drink the head. Get down to the beer, and it’s much more like what you’d expect from a German wheat beer.

Being a straight-up wheat beer, there isn’t much in the way of flavour. Just an undercurrent of malty-wheatiness. A sweet and savoury sort of flavour, which drifts, easily, into the aftertaste. A taste which has a surprisingly lasting bitterness, and astringent character.

How different is it to the Franziskaner German wheat beer I tried a few months ago? Unexpectedly different. I was half expecting a re-run. Instead, Scöfferhofer Hefeweizen takes the same straightforward wheat beer path, but goes on a bitterer, less smooth and less wheaty route.

What am I enjoying about Scöfferhofer Hefeweizen? Astonishingly, less than I had been expecting. Maybe I’ve got a less-than-perfect bottle. But a few things are nagging me. On the credit side, however, there are pluses. Even if it is bitterer than other European wheat beers, compared to others, it’s well balanced. It’s easy to drink, which means the ingredients are good, and it’s well made. It’s different, too, which scores it marks for distinctiveness. Not too gassy either.

On the debit side, there are some issues. I’m starting to think my bottle has gone off. It doesn’t taste as good as I think it should. That bitterness is just too rough and odd tasting for it to be intentional. It’s also somewhat lacking in the flavour and taste department. Not sure if that’s intended or not. But more interestingness and complexity wouldn’t go amiss. Even the main taste of wheat is hard to pin down.

How can I sum up Scöfferhofer Hefeweizen? I’m left wondering if my bottle is a bad example, or if they’re all like this. Regular readers know how much I love wheat beer. So the roughness and off-notes were a surprise. If it’s supposed to be like this, then you’ll like it if you prefer your wheat beer to have an edge. If, like me, you love the smooth, rich, deliciousness of other wheat beers you’ve enjoyed, then try something else. Unless the one I bought was off, in which case, Scöfferhofer Hefeweizen is probably very good.

This puts me in a tricky situation with the rating. Do I rate lower and risk the wrath of people who love good examples. I’ll take the wait-and-see escape route, and leave a rating for another time, when I’ve tried more bottles of Scöfferhofer Hefeweizen.

What did you bottle of Scöfferhofer Hefeweizen taste like? Did you like it? Did I get an bad bottle or does it normally taste like this? Leave your comments, translations, opinions and places to buy, here in the comments.

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.

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.

Beer Review: Früli Strawberry Beer

2 October, 2009

THIS is Früli. I bought it from Tesco without spending much money in the process. And it might just be the first time I can properly compare something to one of my favourites; the awesome Hoegaarden Belgian White Beer. That’s because unlike everything else I’ve tried to compare it to, Früli here is Belgian and white. And what’s more, it’s Strawberry Beer.

Früli Strawberry Beer bottle

It’s a funny looking, diminutive bottle. It looks a bit delicate if you ask me. But it does have a lot of neck-foil.

Früli Strawberry Beer neck foil

Besides what you can read in the photo, there’s not much to say about it. So let’s look at the little front label instead…

Früli Strawberry Beer front label

It’s a sort of roundel. More of a circle really. It has a picture of a tree, lots of strawberry red and some words to read. The most important of which are in the sentence that reads “Premium Belgian White Fruit Beer”. It might not have many words, but each and every one is good. Belgian beer is good. White beer is good. So is fruity beer. And Premium anything is better than economy.

Then there’s the name Früli. If you know the right way to pronounce it, leave a comment at the end of this post. My guess it that it’s pronounced “Fruh-lee”. What do you think?

In the corners of the front label are two vital statistics. The alcoholic volume which is a moderate 4.1% and the bottle which is a miniscule 250ml. Could this be a girls beer? Leave your thoughts in the comments at the end.

Früli Strawberry Beer back label

There’s not much more to say about the back label of Früli Strawberry Beer either. It’s much the same characterless multi-lingual block of text that you find on most imported European bottles. They do flesh out the description a little with “Früli is a premium Belgian white beer brewed with pure strawberry juice”. Look at the ingredients list and they’re right! It really does have strawberry juice as an ingredient! Früli Strawberry Beer is becoming more and more interesting.

For the obsessively curious, the full list of ingredients is “water, barley malt, wheat, strawberry juice, fructose, hops and yeast”. The wheat alone would have me interested, but strawberry juice as well? Luckily there’s not much small print to read through before getting to the fun part of this test.

Früli was brewed and bottled in Belgium by the Van Diest Beer Company Ltd, and they have a UK address in London. Does anyone know where in Belgium this beer came from? The last bit of small print is the number of UK units of alcohol which is, get this, 1.0. Not a decimal place out. One exactly. Was that by accident or design? Either way, it’ll help you keep count. If that’s something you like to do. Not me. The Government is welcome to jumps off my back and stop looking over my shoulder.

So, what does Früli Strawberry Beer taste like? Is it as good as I’m hoping it’ll be? And should you buy it? I can hardly wait to find out.

Früli Strawberry Beer poured into a half-pint glass

Yes, I’ve probably used the wrong type of glass. But it’s all I could find. And this time, it was not a bad choice. A half-pint glass does the job nicely. Just make sure you’ve either got the glass or your lips very nearby as soon as you open that bottle, because it froths up explosively. Then it collapses back down again quickly enough to fit your little glass.

I’m note sure if the photo captures quite how unusual it looks. It’s red. But not red like a ruby beer. Or any other normal beer. It really is strawberry red. And cloudy and opaque. As is the head.

Some strange darker bits also came out of the bottle and landed on the head. At first, I thought it was bits of foil or dirt. But now I’m not so sure. Looking closely at the empty bottle, I think it is yeasty sediment. Great news. Partly because that’s what Belgian White Beer is supposed to be. Partly because it’ll annoy the people that hate cloudy beer.

What does Früli Strawberry Beer. The clue is in the name. It smells of bananas. No, wait. That’s not right. It smells, strongly, of strawberries. Now that’s a smell I know well. Back in Pembrokeshire, we grew dozens of strawberries in the vegetable garden. And I think, that this beer, smells not of the fake strawberries that sweets are made of, but of real strawberries.

What does Früli Strawberry Beer taste like? The first sip is an easy, smooth and fruity one. Unlike Wells Banana Bred Beer, it isn’t a beer with a subtle taste of something else. This is full on strawberry juice that happens to be a beer.

The flavour. That tastes of strawberries. The aftertaste. That tastes of strawberries too. It’s very sweet and very easy to drink. As easy as drinking strawberry fruit juice in fact. Also in the finish is a hint of wheat and touch of dryness and bitterness, helping balance it out.

It’s also smooth, rich and full-bodied. But does it have that unmistakeable Belgian-ness? If you’ve fallen for the other Belgian ales, you’ll know the thing I mean. Well, it is hidden under a huge pile of strawberries, but yes, I think that Belgian-ness is just about still in there. If you don’t know what I mean, try Hoegaarden White Beer or Duvel Belgian Golden Ale.

Nearly half-way through the glass already, so what am I enjoying about Früli Strawberry Beer? I like the wackiness of it. How they’ve combined the incredible quality of Belgian White Beer with fruitiness of a novelty girls drink. I like how it’s as easy to drink as strawberry juice, and the way it manages not to taste at all artificial. It’s uncommonly sweet, easy to pour and not at all gassy.

That sounds like a lot of risks to take. What are the downsides of Früli Strawberry Beer? Well, if you don’t like strawberries or fruit, you might want to skip this one. If you like the experience of drinking beer, not an alcoholic juice, you might want to skip it. Next, imagine the taste of sugar. It’s sweeter than that. Almost sickly sweet. Then there’s the whole ambiguity over whether it is a girls drink or not. If, like me, you’re a guy, you won’t want to run the risk, so you’ll probably avoid it altogether.

How can I sum up Früli Strawberry Beer? The closest equivalent I can think of is the revolting Polish raspberry Karmi Malínowa Pasja. Früli Strawberry Beer is like that, but done properly. Without the horrendously artificial taste. It’s drinkable and good. Some people will love the sweetness and taste. They’ll find it delicious. Not me. It’s not bad. Just not my kind or thing. I didn’t like it as much as I hoped, and it’s hard to compare to the sublime Hoegaarden. Recommended for the intrepid beer adventurer and for women.

Rating: 3.75

Have you tried Früli Strawberry Beer? Can you answer any of the many questions I asked above? Can you correct any of the mistakes that crept in through my complete lack of knowledge? If so, do please leave your opinions, comments, requests, recommendations and places to buy, here in the comments.

Beer Review: Morland Hen’s Tooth

23 September, 2009

THE next bottle from ASDA is the stronger and more upmarket cousin to above-average, mass-market bottled ale, Morland Old Speckled Hen. It’s called Morland Hen’s Tooth, and it looks familiar. That same bottle has turned up here, here, here and a thousand other places, all easily traceable back to Suffolk’s Greene King. Meaning, what we have here is Greene King Morland Hen’s Tooth. It should be at least above-average then.

Morland Hen’s Tooth bottle

Besides the overly familiar bottle, it looks good. Copper is a good colour to see inside your transparent glass bottle. They have gone an unusual route with the labels though. Not a bad route, just a different one. What they’ve done is put the important bits on the front and all the small-print on the back. And I think it works well.

Morland Hen’s Tooth neck label

For starters, this is what you normally find on the back of a bottle. But instead, it’s up here on the neck label. They describe it as a “fine ale” that “matures in its bottle producing a richer and more distinctive character”. Then they move onto the taste with “a warming blend of fruit and malt flavours are followed by a smooth finish”.

Sounds delicious. But “matures in it’s bottle”? That would mean it has yeast still in the bottle, making it cloudy. Something you hardly ever find in British ales. Look at the bottom of the bottle however and yes, that is yeast sitting on the bottom. That means it truly is maturing in the bottle, and it gets my hopes up even more that this is going to be something special. Bad news for those that hate cloudy beer though.

Morland Hen’s Tooth front label

The front-label takes the quirky-ness even further with two paragraphs muddled into one another. One of them describes it tersely as “A bottle conditioned strong ale” with a correspondingly strong alcoholic volume of 6.5%. The other one describes the same things that you read on the neck label, only this time ending with a quote from the head brewer that ends with “a combination of flavour and character that’s as rare as a Hen’s Tooth”. I’ve never read a label so difficult to describe. Let me know what you think of it, in the comments at the end of this post.

Over on the back-label, and it’s a business as usual mass of multilingual small-print.

Morland Hen’s Tooth back label

I won’t bore you with all the details, so these are the highlights. At 6.5% alcoholic volume, this disappointingly un-Pint sized 50cl bottle weighs in at 3.3 UK units of alcohol before the nanny-state starts wagging its finger. They also have the complete Suffolk postal address, in case you want to send them a letter.

So, what does Morland Hen’s Tooth actually taste of? Is it any good and should you buy it? There’s only one way to find out.

Morland Hen’s Tooth back label

I opted for a Bavarian-swirl to get the yeast out for that full flavour punch. Several actually. The head exploded when I tried to pour leading to a cycle of swirl, pour, wait for the head to collapse and repeat. Clearly I was doing it wrong. If you know the right way to pour Hen’s Tooth, leave a comment at the end of this post.

Once finally in the glass, it looks ok. The head is cream coloured and a thin layer of bubbles. The liquid is a cloudy amber-red colour. Although I’m sure you could get rid of the cloudiness if you wanted to by pouring it differently. Oh, and it doesn’t look carbonated at all.

What does Morland Hen’s Tooth smell like? A couple of sniffs, and all I can think of are Greene King’s other bottles of ale. It’s not a pungent odour. Quite mild really. A kind of malty, slightly spicy-hoppy smell. Maybe a hint of dry fruit. It smells of Autumn. Some smell of Christmas or Summer. This smells of Autumn.

What does this room temperature Morland Hen’s Tooth taste like? The first sip is a slow and civilised experience that reminds you that you’re drinking a strong ale. You just can’t hide from the strong ale taste, even though, at 6.5%, it’s at the low end of the strong ale spectrum. How do they fit such an onslaught of flavour and taste into such a low alcoholic volume? My guess is that the yeast somehow turbo-charges it.

Three slow sips in, and I’m starting to figure out Morland Hen’s Tooth. The flavour is mild. So mild that it’s hard to tell what it is. A couple more sips and I think it’s dry, biscuity malt and fruitiness. Bitterness and some saltiness also hit you right away.

The aftertaste is where Morland Hen’s Tooth comes alive. It is incredibly rich, warming, full-bodied and smooth leading to a very dry, long, bitter finish. The immense horse power of that finish was a lot to take onboard at first, but now, after about seven sips, I’m warming to it. Or it’s warming me to it. One of the two.

What am I enjoying about Morland Hen’s Tooth? I love the intense taste. I love the fun and novelty of having yeast floating around in the bottle to make your poured glass cloudy, or clear, whichever you choose. I like that the flavours and tastes blend well. I like how it’s a drink to be sipped in a slow, civilised fashion. And I like that it’s not too gassy. Not burp free, but it could be worse.

What don’t I like about Morland Hen’s Tooth? Sure, the flavours and tastes dominated by malt and fruit are nice enough, but it feels like it’s missing something. Complexity, layers of interesting-ness and some sweetness for a start. Then, the whole time, I kept thinking, this is Morland Old Speckled Hen with a loud exhaust and even louder stereo fitted. And that looses it some marks for originality and distinctiveness. And there’s the packaging. The quirky and contemporary design would be superb on a trendy summer brew, but it’s all wrong for this warming, civilised, autumnal brew. It’s like putting Helen Mirran in denim mini-skirt and tee-shirt.

So sum up, Morland Hen’s Tooth is tasty, high quality and optionally cloudy way of enjoying a fairly strong ale. If you liked Greene King’s other ales, particularly Morland Old Speckled hen, then Hen’s Tooth is definitely Worth your time and money. If you’re looking for something to help you wind down after a hard day at work this Autumn, this is a great choice. If you like your strong ale to be strong in the alcoholic sense or quirky and unusual, then you can probably find a better choice on the supermarket shelf. In a sentence, very good but not special enough.

Rating: 4.25

Have you tried Morland Hen’s Tooth? What did you think of it? Got any corrections, facts, places to buy or opinions? Any recommendations or suggestions for what I should look out for next review? Then leave a comment in the boxes below.

Beer Review: Chimay Blue Pères Trappistes Trappist Beer

28 July, 2009

THE NEXT unusual bottle to come from Crossharbour ASDA is this $1.74 pence bottle of Chimay Blue Pères Trappistes. Maybe it’s not all that unusual. Somebody left a comment on this blog a few weeks ago that mentioned it. I think it looks like the dumpy little bottles of Duvel Golden Ale which is also Belgian and happens to be delicious. I’ve also got a suspicion that this might be an unfiltered, live, cloudy, yeasty Belgian. And that is a very good thing.

Chimay Blue bottle

Around the neck, are words and a symbol are embossed. But what do they say?

Chimay Blue things embosesd around shoulder of bottle

The “A D S” doesn’t mean anything. Until you read the words underneath it. “Abbaye de Scourmont” is what I could make out. Corrections in the comments at the end of the post please.

Down on the front label, everything is calm, tasteful and, thankfully, much easier to read.

Chimay Blue front label

The numbers either side of the “Chimay” shield logo. Does “2009” make this a vintage conscious beer in the same way as a wine? Is 2009 good or would 1909 be better? Most of the rest of the front label helpfully explains, in a multitude of European languages, that this is a Trappist Beer.

The serenity of the front label is replaced by multilingual overload on the back. It does however, do a good job of answering our questions.

Chimay Blue back label

Considerately, the English language version of the story comes first. They start by pointing out the “Authentic Trappist Product” symbol, which means it was brewed in a real monastery by the community who live there. Monks if we’re honest. Then comes some unexpected news. Apparently, some of the revenue from this beer goes to the monks to support their charitable works. That makes me feel less guilty for buying beer. Thanks monks!

Then they start the description of what Chimay Blue is about. Enticingly, they describe it as “powerful and complex”. They go further than many by giving the narrow temperature window of 10°C to 12°C. I don’t know what that is, so I’ll leave it in the fridge for a while and hope for the best.

Ingredients, at least the ones on the label, are no surprise. “Water, barley malt, wheat, sugar, hop, yeast” are in the list. But look below all the languages, and we spot some things that are a surprise. There’s a cross over a picture of a normal glass, with a side, almost wine glass shaped thing next too it. Next to shat is the same sort of diagram telling you to store the bottle upright, not on its side. Together with the temperature thing, this is turning into one temperamental brew. It also hints at the yeasty sediment that must be floating inside the bottle.

Then we get to the vital statistics. Yes, the 0.33L bottle is little surprise. But the alcoholic volume is. At 9%, Chimay Blue is right up there with the strongest European continental ales, British strong ales and the super-strength alcoholics favourite lagers.

The last bits of detail are just above the barcode. The brewer is one S.A. Bières de Chimay N.V. in Belgium. The Inter-tubes must have reached the Trappist monks of Chimay because they have a website at www.chimay.com. To save you time, you can find history at http://www.chimay.com/en/history_53.php, the Blue homepage is at http://www.chimay.com/en/chimay_blue_220.php and at http://www.chimay.com/en/intro_241.php you can read about the cheeses that they are very keen for you to eat while drinking Chimay.

With that out of the way, it’s time for the fun part. What does Chimay Blue actually taste like? Will I like it, even though I don’t have any cheese? Should you try it? And will many people leave angry comments because I used the wrong type of glass? Let’s find out.

Chimay Blue poured into the wrong type of glass

The closest I could find to the label picture was a wine glass. Despite this, it still frothed up. Fortunately, the froth went down as fast as it went up. And whatever glass you choose, it looks and terrific. Just look how dark brown it is, and how good it looks with the thick, bubbly head. The downside is that I can’t see the yeasty sediment swirling around.

Then there’s the smell that you can smell from the moment you start pouring. Chimay Blue smells unlike anything I’ve smelt before. It smells richly, deeply of dark fruit. A bit like a red wine, port or cherry. But it’s smoothed by the rich maltiness, familiar from other favourite Belgian ales. Oh, and it smells of alcohol. Strongly of alcohol.

What does Chimay Blue taste like? The first sip revealed a taste much like that of the smell. It also proved the vague label description to be spot-on. It is as “powerful and complex” as anything you have ever drank. A few more sips and some sense starts to be made of Chimay Blue.

A few more sips and I’m thoroughly enjoying Chimay Blue. But I’m beginning to wander if that complexity is all it’s cracked up to be. Yes, it’s a hundred times more complex than lager, but I can’t detect a rainbow of flavours. Just a very powerful taste. It does have a flavour. I think. One of rich, dark fruit that reminds me of wine, port, cherry or fruit cake. Then there’s the aftertaste. On the palate, this is as powerful as it’s 9% volume promises it to be. That smooth, distinctively Belgian taste kicks in, the fruitiness goes into overdrive and you receive a delicious taste of lightly roasted maltiness. I love it.

Specifically, what do I like about Chimay Blue? That mysterious Belgian quality always wins me over. Try Hoegaarden White Beer, Leffe Blonde or Duvel Golden Ale to see what I mean. They all have the same quality that this has. Next, there’s that taste. The only thing I can compare it to is the British Old Tom Strong Ale. That had the same sort of strong taste of dark fruit, but Chimay Blue does it the Belgian way. And that keeps its points for distinctiveness intact. I like very much how well made it is. It’s strong, but not too bitter. Amazingly, they’ve kept it balanced. 9% volume is rarely this easy to drink. I also like how clearly this is one of those drinks to be savoured and drunk slowly, in a civilised way. This is one of those ales nudging into wine territory. On top of all that, it’s not too gassy.

What of the downsides to Chimay Blue? Well, it is strong. There’s no denying that. Even though I got used to it soon enough, it’s going to put off the less intrepid and more lager inclined. If you can find a girl who says she likes Chimay Blue, hang onto her. Then there’s the problem of finding the right time to drink this, and all very strong ales. What is the right social situation? If you know, leave a comment. Lastly, Chimay Blue is probably not going to be half-price at your local supermarket. That means it is going to be hard to find where you live.

How can I sum up Chimay Blue? It is the Old Tom Strong Ale I tried last time, but Belgian. It is just as strong, just as dark, warming, fruity and interesting, only in the form of an unfiltered Belgian ale. It is an exceptional beer. If you’ve ever wanted to drink a fruit cake or find ordinary red wine not beery enough, this is the one for you. Just remember to go slowly and savour it, or you risk becoming sozzled, as I have just become.

Rating: 4.375

Have you tried Chimay Blue? What did you think of it?

Do please leave your opinions, facts, corrections, recommendations, requests and places to buy, here in the comments.

Beer Review: Robinsons Old Tom Strong Ale

15 July, 2009

GOOD news; I’ve been to Crossharbour ASDA again and bought three more abnormal bottles. The first of which is this robust little bottle of Robinsons Old Tom Strong Ale that cost £1.58 pence.

Robinson Old Tom Strong Ale bottle

ASDA’s immense swathes of shelving, make choosing the quirkiest bottles a challenge. I picked this one because has a cat as a mascot, the bottle looks like it was designed by Edwardians and because there aren’t enough strong ales in the world. And yes, all that large writing you can see is embossed onto the glass. I’ve never seen a bottle like it. At least not outside of museums.

Wisely, Robinsons put the details you want to know, out of the way, up on the neck.

Robinson Old Tom Strong Ale neck label

I love what strong ale does. Sure, super strength lager does strong as well. But strong ale on the other hand does strong, and proves that you don’t need to sacrifice your taste buds and stomach contents in the process. A bit like having a ploughman’s sandwich for lunch instead of a burger drenched in lard and chilli sauce.

The other thing to love about strong ale is how uncompromising it is. Other ales have all kinds of interesting flavours and tastes from bitterness to biscuits. And that’s all very tasty. But what if you just want straight forward ale that’s as not been cut down to fit a market segment? If you’re not a target demographic, you’ll want to buy a strong ale.

Unsurprisingly, this makes the alcoholic volume slightly important. Fortunately, Robinsons come straight out with the number 8.5%. A number that puts it up there with the alcoholics favourites and with the most potent strong ales and continental beers.

The neck label doesn’t stop there. With a row of four medals, it informs us that it has been an “Award Winning Ale Since 1899”. Unless my calendar is wrong, that makes this ale one-hundred and ten years old. Though hopefully not this very bottle, because it would almost certainly have gone off during the intervening century and now be much too valuable to crack open.

What does the front label look like?

Robinson Old Tom Strong Ale front of bottle

It doesn’t have one. The embossed words “Robinsons Old Top Strong Ale” make up the simplest roundel in the world. The sticker in the centre is of a winking cat. Unconventional, but it does it for me. Let me know what you think in the comments at the end of the post.

The back label is the place to go for the details. And what a crowded contrast to the front it proves to be.

Robinson Old Tom Strong Ale back of bottle

Cleverly, the vital statistics are right at the top. The alcoholic volume of 8.5% is there again in case you missed it, and that this is a 330ml bottle. Under that, because this is a quirky British ale, not a charmless European, we get a story. Highlights of which are that Old Tom is “almost as old as the brewery itself” and that the head brewer illustrated the recipe in his note book with the cat’s face.

They then describe it as a “dark and warming superior strong ale with aromas of dark fruit and a palate booming with ripe malt and hops followed by a deep port wine finish”. Crikey, that sounds intense. And, as I write this in the middle of July, I realise this is as inappropriate as Cornetto in the middle of winter. It sounds like the complete opposite to citrusy golden summer ale.

They continue the story with news that Old Tom has won lots of prestigious industry awards and that it “is now recognised as one of the most famous strong ales brewed in England”. Under that, sensibly, they have the message “Drink with caution! But most of all ENJOY.” Wise words. Even though I can’t remember that last time I saw an alcoholic on the street drinking anything other than lager or cider.

Next to that is a tiny logo. The only words I can make out on it as “Beer Academy” and “Beer Education Trust”. If that means anything to you, leave a message at the end of this post.

Then there’s a bit more about who made this bottle. It turns out to be by a brewer Frederic Robinson Ltd. And it comes from Stockport. What’s more, the Interweb has reached northern England, because they have a website at www.frederic-robinson.com. I implore you to have a look too, as it’s better than the Flash-heavy tripe that the big brewers pass off as websites. The downside is that it will make you want beers that you can’t buy in shops where you live.

Under that, we reach the seriously small print. We learn that this bottle as 2.8 UK units of alcohol. Or, to put it another way, just two of them will be enough for the nanny-state to start tut-tutting you. Most of the rest of the text is in other languages. Sadly, because this isn’t a continental bottle, the only ingredient we know about is “malted barley”.

With nothing else to read, we reach the fun bit. What does Robinsons Old Tom Strong Ale taste like? Will I like it? And do I think you should try it? I’m looking forward to finding out.

Robinson Old Tom Strong Ale poured into a glass

Watch out for the insane head. It’s volcanic at first, so give it a minute to settle down. Thanks to the bottle neck, it’s almost impossible to pour without some glugging. The thing you notice right after that is just how dark it is. This is a long way from pale yellow lager. Not as dark as porter or stout, but getting close.

What does Robinsons Old Tom Strong Ale smell of? Surprisingly, it’s not all that pungent. To smell it, a good hard sniff is in order. The bottle described it as having “aromas of dark fruit”. Pretty much what I’m picking up. It smells of Christmas pudding.

What does this room temperature Robinsons Old Tom Strong Ale taste of? The label described it as “booming with ripe malt and hops followed by a deep port wine finish”. My first sip reveals it to live up to the intense and interesting billing. First impression are that this is going to be one of the most intense, strongest tasting and most wine-like of any ale I’ve ever tried.

A couple more sips, and I’m beginning to figure out the flavours and tastes. It really is one of the most complex and interesting ales I’ve tried. You could easily pass an entire evening trying to fathom it.

The flavour is warmly malty and hoppy. But it’s the aftertaste that dominates Old Tom. It has the most intense, strong, full-bodied, warm and fruity-in-a-port-or-Christmas-pudding-way aftertaste I’ve ever tasted. I must admit, it was a bit much at first, but I’m quickly warming to it. That or it’s warming me up to it.

What am I liking about Robinsons Old Tom Strong Ale? As you’ve probably guessed, quite a lot. I love that it’s a strong ale in a world that has little room for it. I love that it’s so different to any ale you will ever drink. And that scores it serious points for taking risks in distinctiveness and uniqueness. I like the strong taste and high volume. I like how quickly you get used to it and how drinkable it is, once you have. All of which points to quality ingredients and brewing. And you’ve got to love the packaging.

What am I not liking about Robinsons Old Tom Strong Ale? First up, it’s hard to find, and pricey when you do. The intense rush of taste will floor some people. Unless you’re adventurous or used to strong flavours, the first sip could put you right off. And that would be a shame. I love that it takes risks with the taste, but the flipside of that risky strategy is that it won’t please everyone.

How can I sum up Robinsons Old Tom Strong Ale? No wander it has won so many awards over the last century. Distinctive, exceptional and Christmassy are just some of the adjectives I’m going to choose to describe it. This is one of the very best British ales, but be forewarned, it might be too strong for you.

Rating: 4.275

Have you tried Robinsons Old Tom Strong Ale? Got an opinion even if you haven’t? Do please leave your opinions, corrections, facts, recommendations and places to buy here in the comments.

Beer Review: Shepherd Neame Master Brew Kentish Ale

24 June, 2009

AN important gap is being filled this time. So far, I’ve tried Shepherd Neame Bishops Finger Kentish Strong Ale, Shepherd Neame Spitfire Premium Kentish Ale and Shepherd Neame Whitstable Bay Organic Ale. All of which were high-quality and unmemorable. So will the missing piece of the jigsaw, Shepherd Neame Master Brew Kentish Ale keep the mould or break it?

Shepherd Neame Master Brew Kentish Ale bottle

It looks much like its cousins. Helpful if you want to catch ‘em all. You also have to love the long thin neck. It is the Cynthia Nixon of beer bottles.

The neck label is much the same as the other Shepherd Neame ales. But it’s still worth looking at because the one fact on it is so impressive.

Shepherd Neame Master Brew Kentish Ale neck label

If you were “Britain’s Oldest Brewer” dating back to 1698, you would want to advertise the fact prominently too.

With no more facts to read on the neck label, the front label is the next place to look.

Shepherd Neame Master Brew Kentish Ale front label

Well, it’s a roundel. Not much to say about it. Master Brew is, apparently, a Kentish Ale and a “Local Hero”. I don’t know what that means, but it sounds good.

It’s a contemporary take on the traditional roundel, but I can’t help feeling that they’ve missed a few important things. Things like the alcoholic volume and what the beer is like. Hopefully the back label will have some actual information on it.

Shepherd Neame Master Brew Kentish Ale back label

Out of portrait and into landscape for one of the widest beer labels out there. In one of the most terse “back-label stories”, they tell of how well loved Master Brew is in Kent, and that they sponsor Kent County Cricket Club. Depending on which former colony my overseas readers are from, you will either be thinking “how quaint and English” or “what a waste of money because we always beat you at the game”.

Under that are some truly useful tasting notes by someone called Andrew Jefford. He uses words such as “amber-russet”, which I think is about the colour. To describe the character, he uses words such as “invigorating” and “mouthwatering”, which he puts down to “pungent Kentish hops” and “crystal malts”. I don’t know about you, but I’m still confused.

It is nevertheless the “Local Hero” of Kent, and the Kentish people who know about beer. If you want to grow hops, Kent would be one of the best places in the country in which to do it.

Over on the smaller-print side are the vital statistics. This 500ml bottle (why not a proper pint?) has a 4% alcoholic volume which weighs in at exactly 2 UK units of alcohol. All rather ho-hum. The European Geographic Indications adds a little bureaucratic glamour to the mix. And if you want to read more, the website printed on the label in tiny lettering is www.shepherdneame.co.uk. To save you time, the homepage for Master Brew is at http://www.shepherdneame.co.uk/beers/index.php?master_brew.

Right at the bottom is a huge block of tiny, multilingual text. But don’t bother squinting to read it. The only even slightly interesting detail is the postal address of Shepherd Neame in Faversham, Kent.

With that out of the way, we get to the fun bit. What does Shepherd Neame Master Brew Kentish Ale taste like? How good is it and should you buy it? Let’s find out.

Shepherd Neame Master Brew Kentish Ale poured into a glassPOURED PHOTO

From the moment the top pops off, we’re odd to a good start. You can start to smell the pungent Kentish hops, and it pours very satisfyingly indeed. The neck comes into play by making it very difficult to pour without glugging. Normally a bad thing, this time it’s good, because it leaves your pint glass with a thick layer of froth. Shame it doesn’t fill the whole glass though.

You also have to like the copper colour. Or “amber-russett” as they call it. Whatever it is, it looks the part of an English ale.

What does Shepherd Neame Master Brew Kentish Ale smell like? You can smell something from the moment you pop the cap. But figuring out what you’re sniffing takes a little work. My nostrils detected the likes of malt, vanilla and something tangy. But you’d be advised not to trust my nose. If you can figure out what the odours are, leave a comment at the end of the post. Whatever the smell is, it’s complex, not too strong and quite nice.

What does Shepherd Neame Master Brew Kentish Ale taste like? Straight away, the first sip tells you that this ale is all about hoppiness. A couple more sips reveals that there is very little flavour in the palate before the big hoppy aftertaste hits. It’s not devoid of flavour. It’s just very hard to notice the slight maltiness.

Shepherd Neame Master Brew Kentish Ale is a hoppy tasting. That means you’ll find the interesting part in the aftertaste. Usually, the experience is like drinking a hedgerow. If they choose some unusual hops, like the Ruddles County I tried a few days ago, it’ll be different again. Well, Master Brew tastes different again, this time thanks to those Kentish hops. It’s still like drinking grass, leaves and twigs, but this time from a hedge in a well loved garden. There’s some bitterness, but not that much. What lingers is the taste of arable fields, and boy, does it linger.

What do I like about Shepherd Neame Master Brew Kentish Ale? I like the taste. It’s a slight variation on the old hoppy English ale, so it scores half a point for distinctiveness. Like its cousins, it is very well made. You can tell that natural, good quality, things went into it. All of which make it satisfying and drinkable.

There are however, one or two drawback to Shepherd Neame Master Brew Kentish Ale. For a start, it’s not a complex and mysterious. There aren’t hundreds of flavours and tastes to leave you deep in thought. They describe it as “invigorating” which I took to mean the same things as “refreshing”. No, it isn’t refreshing. Or light. And that makes it less than easy for the novice to drink. Even though it does the “hoppy ale” thing very well, it doesn’t exactly push the envelope of originality. And that, like its cousins, might possibly make it less than memorable. Lastly, it is on the gassy side.

How can I sum up Shepherd Neame Master Brew Kentish Ale? Maybe I’m being harsh on it. It’s probably supposed to be a straightforward, traditional, hoppy Kentish ale. And in that, it is excellent. I’ve enjoyed this almost-a-pint of Master Brew. It’s a thoroughly satisfying, uncomplicated ale.

Rating: 3.9

Have you tried Shepherd Neame Master Brew Kentish Ale? Do you want to? If so, do please leave a comment. Share your opinions, corrections, expert advice, recommendations, requests and places to buy in the box below.

Beer Review: Ruddles County

18 June, 2009

THE hilarious yet delicious Ruddles Rhubarb is the only bottled Ruddles I’ve tried so far. That needs to change. Goodness knows what Ruddles could pull out of the bag next. So, from a shop in Bethnal Green in London’s East End, here is a £1.89 pence bottle of Ruddles County.

Ruddles County bottle

Where have I seen this shape of bottle before? You can put money on there being a familiar name on one of the labels. And, because it’s transparent, it’s like having a hunk of copper cast into the shape of a bottle.

Ruddles County neck label

The neck label isn’t what you’d call informative. With nothing more than the “Ruddles County” name, there is nothing to see here.

Ruddles County front label

It’s not very much better down on the front label, either. Yes, I love the “Ruddles” horseshoe motif. The slogan “Proper Country Ale” is exactly what you want to read on a bottle of old British ale. And the alcoholic volume of 4.7% isn’t bad. It’s not strong either, but it’s not bad. It’s just the absence of clues about the ale itself that annoy me. Hopefully the back label will have some actual information about what this beer is all about.

Ruddles County back label

A quick glace reveals that the back label of Ruddles County has all the information I want, and much more besides. They describe it as an “English Ale with a distinctive flavour of dark toffee and caramel combined with a crisp bitterness, derived from using rare Bramling Cross hops.” Sounds yummy.

Even though I know nothing about them, the addition of rare hops makes me want it even more. If you happen to know why Bramling Cross hops are so rare, leave a comment at the end of the post.

Below that we get the “story” bit that makes British ales that bit quirkier than those from the rest of the world. This ones rambles on about their horseshoe motif coming from the tradition of royalty and peers of the realm giving a horseshoe to the lord of the manor when they pass through England’s smallest county, Rutland. An idea that seems like a completely ineffective toll. Wouldn’t money have been a superior currency instead of horseshoes? That sort of small-scale thinking must be why the county of Rutland have ended up so small.

Under that is all the small print. There’s all the usual public health nonsense about recommended units of alcohol. This 500ml bottle, with its 4.7% payload weighs in at 2.4 UK units of alcohol by the way.

Under that, in very small writing is the answer to the question of why the bottle looked so familiar. The answer is that Ruddles is made by medium-sized regional brewing giant, Greene King, of Bury St, Edmunds in Suffolk. Their website is on the label too, which is www.greeneking.co.uk. To save you time, their Ruddles section is at http://www.greeneking.co.uk/launch_ruddles.htm.

So, what does Ruddles County taste like? Is it any good? And should you buy it? Time to crack it open and find out.

Ruddles County poured into a glass

Well the colour isn’t a surprise. The head is not bad. It’s nearly enough for you to forgive it for being a 500ml bottle instead of a proper pint (come on brewers, give us the pints our glasses were made for).

What does Ruddles County smell of? It smells interesting. Not strong. I’m not very good at this, but will go for words like ‘hoppy’ and ‘biscuity’. There’s probably some more odours in there too, all of which can be caught with the umbrella word ‘complex’. In short, it smells of ale.

What does Ruddles County taste like? The first sip reveals something stronger and more intense than I was expecting. The second sip is dominated by a taste of spicy hops. This if going to take a few more sips to understand.

A few more sips later, and I’m making progress. The label described the flavour as a “distinctive” one of “dark toffee and caramel”. Maybe they do. To me, they blend into something malty and biscuity. All of which is swept away by an intense rush of spicy, hoppy bitterness in a long, satisfying aftertaste. That must be where those Bramling Cross hops come into play.

What am I enjoying about Ruddles County? I like that intense hoppiness. Probably because of the Bramling Cross hops, it’s a different type of hoppiness to other hoppy ales. Instead of tasting like you’re drinking a hedgerow, it tastes like you’re drinking a hedge with dash of pepper sauce. It’s distinctive. It’s a risk taker and for that, you have to admire it. I like how well made it is. I like how clean and crisp it is.

What don’t I like about Ruddles County? Honestly, it’s hard going. If you normally drink the dark and heavy beers of the world, this won’t be a problem for you. I just happened to find it less than easy to drink. That distinctive, strong bitterness is going to put off some drinkers.

What’s the verdict on Ruddles County? It is a hoppy English ale, but different to the other hoppy ales. Those Bramling Cross hops give it an edge that the other hoppy ales don’t have. It proved too much for little old me, but some of you might love it. It’s good, but one for the adventurous drinker.

Rating: 3.7

Have you tried Ruddles County? What did you think of it? Do please leave your corrections, opinions, requests, recommendations and places to buy, here in the comments.

Beer Review: Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter

16 June, 2009

BACK to normal this post, and I begin with an apology. So far, I’ve enjoyed Wells’ outstanding Satanic Mills and tasty Burning Gold Bombardier bottled beers. But managed to completely overlook the much easier to find English Premium Bitter. I don’t normally go for straight-up bitters as they’re usually uninteresting, but the ubiquity and patriotism of English Premium Bitter means it must be tried. And, of course, it fills a gaping hole in my coverage of the Wells’ splendid Bombardier range. So here it is. A bottle of Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter. Bought for £1.99 pence from a shop on Bethnal Green Road in London’s East End.

Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter bottle

Looking as solid as an old English oak tree, Wells choose their bottles well. What’s more, they’ve been learning what you should do with the neck label. Brewers, take note, they have put useful information on it. Have a look at this.

Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter front of neck label

Well, okay, on closer inspection it’s more marketing speak than useful information. But it’s a start. Does “burnished copper ale” mean anything to anyone reading? If so, leave a comment at the end of the post.

The front label keeps things simple, traditional and English.

Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter front label

What more can you say about it? It’s a shield in the design of St George’s Cross. The middle keeps things simple. It has the “Wells” logo with the words “Brewers Since 1876” which is a long time ago, but not a very long time ago. Under that are the banners and crest saying “Bombardier” “English” “Premium Bitter”. Under which is that all imported alcoholic volume. 5.2% alcoholic volume makes it strong, but not very strong.

What of the back? The neck label is again the place to start.

Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter back of neck label

It looks like a lot of information until you realise that it’s the same piece of information in many languages. All you need to know is that it was brewed by “Wells & Young’s Brewing Company Limited, Bedford, UK, MK40 4LU.” So there you have it. Interesting beers from a boring place.

The back label proper is where the real detail lies.

Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter back label

They open with a description so informative and concise, I don’t need to paraphrase. Instead, here it is in full: “Our own natural mineral water, the ripest English Fuggles hops and crushed Crystal malt deliver this experience of England in a glass. Peppery aromas give way to the perfect balance of malty richness, tangy hops and sultana fruit on the palate, with a long, soft spicy finish”.

Mouth watering stuff. And, remarkably informative and concise. Not like the marketing speak and dearth of facts we normally put up with. Well done Wells.

Under that is the list of ingredients. And it’s good new again. It’s the full thing, not the one or two ingredients you usually get. Nothing too out of the ordinary apart from two E numbers. Now they’re not welcome. British ale is supposed to be as natural as a hedge covered in brambles. For the curious, the list is “Water, Malted Barley, Sugar, Hops, Yeast, Colour E150C, Stabiliser E405.”

Under all the uninteresting small print are a few bits of miscellany. The web address is www.bombardier.co.uk. And, with an alcoholic volume of 5.2% and a 500ml bottle (why not a full pint?), Bombardier English Premium Bitter weighs in at 2.6 UK units of alcohol.

With that out of the way, we get to the fun bit. What does Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter actually taste like? Is it any good and should you buy it? Let’s find out.

Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter poured into a glass

Frustratingly, this English Premium Bitter fails to fill my English pint glass. The blotchy head doesn’t improve matters either. But the “burnished copper” thing starts to make sense. The photo might not show it, but it’s the colour of copper that hasn’t been cleaned in a few years.

What does Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter smell of? It’s not a smell hat fills the room. Hold your nose over the glass however, and you’re rewarded with a luscious smell of hops. The label described the smell as “peppery”. There’s certainly something giving it an edge.

What does Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter taste of? The first two gulps are nice ones. And ones that tell me this is to be sipped, not gulped. First impression is that there’s not a whole lot of flavour or taste. It’s there, only being a little more subtle than your typical English football fan.

A few more sips, and I’m making some sense of Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter. The label described things like “malty richness, tangy hops and sultana fruit” and a “soft spicy finish”. I think it’s got most of those things, but less of them than you’d expect. There is a mildly fruity taste, but blink and you’d miss it. The aftertaste is soft and gentle, but with such a long, lingering finish, you don’t miss it as easily. I’m going to describe it as malty, biscuity and hoppy.

As for bitterness, the whole flavour and taste experience is so soft and gentle, I’m amazed it’s even called a “Bitter”.  Admittedly, I don’t know much about beer, but if, like me, you were expecting an onslaught of taste and bitterness, Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter will come as a surprise.

What do I like about Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter? I like how well it’s packaged. I like the subtlety of flavours and taste. I like how that subtlety was such a surprise. I like how easy to drink it is; and how much of a surprise that drinkability is. And, like the other Bombardiers, it is very well made with some excellent ingredients.

What don’t I like about Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter? I don’t like my English Premium Bitter to adopt a Euro 500ml and failing to fill a pint glass. Personal preference here, but I was hoping for flavour and taste that the human tongue could detect. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, it is still better than most lagers, but the labels built up hopes of more. Lastly, those E numbers. Is quality ale supposed to have E numbers? Experts, do please leave your thoughts in the comments at the end of the post.

To sum up, Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter is a surprisingly soft and gentle bitter that’s nearly as easy to drink as lager. I think some people might call it a “session ale” for those reasons. It reminds me of Fuller’s London Pride and Marston’s Pedigree. If you want a drinkable ale, but don’t want a summery taste or to feel like you’re easting it, this is the one to choose.

Rating: 3.8

Have you tried Wells Bombardier English Premium Bitter? Can you answer any of the numerous questions raised in the ‘review’? Do please leave your answers, opinions, corrections, requests, recommendations and places to buy, here in the comments.

Beer Review: Edelweiss Weiβbier

3 June, 2009

ALL too soon, I’ve reached the last of my three bottles of cloudy, live, imported wheat beer, from ASDA. Grolsch Weizen was Dutch, lowest priced and outstanding. Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier was German, more expensive and made with quality.  What then, will this expensive £1.99 pence bottle of Edelweiss Weiβbier from Austria be like?

Edelweiss Weissbier bottle 

To recap, wheat beer, especially the cloudy ones, are favourites. They’re some of my favourites, and, judging by your comments, they’re your favourites as well. But they’ve all been a little bit different. And that’s very good news for anyone bored of identical Pilsner style lagers.

Edelweiss Weiβbier is going to be my first beer from Austria. So, what am I expecting from the country that brought us Adolf Hitler and bizarre human enslavement, yet also Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the Alps?  Will Edelweiss Weiβbier be a Ferdinand Porsche or an Arnold Scwarzenegger? I don’t know. Maybe the bottle will tell us?

Starting, unusually, with the bottle top.

Edelweiss Weissbier bottle top

German translators, do please do your thing in the comments at the end of this post. “Naturtrüb” must be something to do with “nature”. And “Hefetrüb” is something to do with wheat. I’m completely lost with “Obergärig”.

Edelweiss Weissbier neck label

What can I say about the neck label? It looks nice. It says the most important things like “Wheat Beer”, “Original” and “Import”. And it has the Edelweiss logo, which has a picture of some alps and the year 1475. Which is a very long time ago.

The main front label however is one of the most impressive shields ever stuck to a bottle of beer.

 

Edelweiss Weissbier front label

It has enough English language to let you know what it is. And enough German language to confuse you and remind you that it really is imported.

First stop is the crest. There’s all sorts of strange gubbins attached to it. Does anyone know the story behind it?

Most of the words around the border are self-explanatory. But, I must ask the friendly translators out there to help with “Hofbräu Kaltenhausen”.

All very symmetrical, precise and Germanic. There’s no details cluttering up that label. Maybe the back label has something a little more descriptive?

Edelweiss Weissbier back label

Err, not exactly. It’s all in English, so it must have been put on especially for us. And, it’s entirely made up of small-print details. No descriptions, no stories about ancient traditions by monks in abbeys. Just the clean facts. How very Germanic of them.

Still, small-print facts are small-print facts, and these are no less interesting. Edelweiss Weiβbier was brewed by “Brau Union Ősterreich AG” Then there’s an address with a possibly answer to the Hofbräu question from the front label. Has anyone been to “Hofbräu Kaltenhausen, A-4500 Kaltenhausen, Austria”? What is it like?

There’s a full list of ingredients. Much more interesting than the abridged version we get here in the UK. Under that is the full table of UK units of alcohol recommendations. The full thing. True to form, it would be impossible for them to stick to the rules and more than they have.

Then there are the vital statistics. Edelweiss Weiβbier comes in the ubiquitous 500ml bottle. It has an alcoholic volume of 5.5%. Both of which bring it to 2.8 UK units of alcohol.

And that’s it. There is nothing left to say about the bottle. The flipside is that we get to the fun bit quicker. What will Edelweiss Weiβbier taste like? How will it compare to the handful of other wheat beers that I’ve tried? Will it be worth the extremely high price? I’m looking forward to finding out.

Edelweiss Weissbier poured into a glass

Yes, yes. It’s not the right glass. I know. But just look at the beer. A magnificent frothy head tops the cloudiest of amber beers.

One of the best things about unfiltered wheat beers is the smell. Does it let Edelweiss Weiβbier down? Not a chance. The smell is every bit as odorous, rich and mouth watering as the rest of them. Crucially, is there any hint of citrus? Some of them have it, others smell more like a loaf of bread. This one is hard to tell. You can smell the wheat, but is that fruit in there too? It’s hard to tell.

So what does it taste of? A couple of gulps weren’t enough to answer the question. This is going to take a few more sips to figure out. A few sips later and I’m enjoying Edelweiss Weiβbier. It seems to be a straight up wheaty wheat beer like Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbie, not the citrus explosion sort, like Grolsch Weizen. There is almost no flavour, which is smoothly followed by a rich, wheaty and malty taste. No bitterness, but a lingering and very taste that clings to your tongue.

More than half-way through already, so what am I enjoying about Edelweiss Weiβbier? I like what it does and how it does it. The wheaty and malty taste is superb. It’s also different to the few other unfiltered wheat beers that I’ve tried. And that scores it marks for distinctiveness. Making it even more distinctive is just how light it is. With no flavour, the entire experience sits on the taste and aftertaste. And, unlike most lagers, it works. I also like how rich and full bodied it is. And, as is the way with these old continental wheat beers, how well made and easy to drink it is.

There are however, one or two drawbacks with Edelweiss Weiβbier. If, like me, you love the smorgasbord of flavours from the likes of Hoegaarden White Beer, you’ll come away a tiny bit disappointed. And, by having almost no flavour but immense taste and aftertaste, it’s a lopsided experience. Like standing on one leg. That leaves it an unrefreshing experience. And also one that’s heavy. I feel like I’ve just eaten a thick, if tasty slice of bread. And, as is the way with beers like this, get ready to burp.

What is the verdict on Edelweiss Weiβbier? I liked it. But that’s hardly surprising. I like all live, unfiltered wheat beers. What is surprising is what Edelweiss Weiβbier does to it. It goes down the wheaty tasting wheat beer route, and still manages to be different to the other wheaty tasting wheat beers. How did it do that? If you’re curious, then try one. If you can find it. And afford it.

Rating: 4.4

Have you tried Edelweiss Weiβbier? What did you think of it? Can you translate anything from the bottle?

If so, do please leave your opinions, corrections, translations, requests, recommendations and places to buy, here in the comments, every one of which I read.

Beer Review: Grolsch Premium Weizen Wheat Beer

22 May, 2009

WHEN I go exploring London, I like to pop into a local shop. Usually an Eastern European or Caribbean store, where I buy one or two new beers from someone who can serve change and bag my bottles whilst typing a text message. This time, in the East End’s Docklands, the local shop closest to hand was Crossharbour ASDA. Expecting maybe two or three unfamiliar bottles, what I found was astonishing. First of all, Crossharbour ASDA is the size of a medium sized village. Second, their beer aisle was the length of a runway. Making a mental note to come back as soon as possible, I faced a new challenge. Where to start?

With limited funds and only a small back-pack to carry them in, I started with the three bottles that I figured would be hardest to find elsewhere. And those which I would enjoy the most. So, here is the first of the three cloudiest, wheatiest, European bottled beers I could carry out of Crossharbour ASDA. Here is Grolsch Premium Weizen Wheat Beer.

Why starts with cloudy wheat beers? Simple. They are the best. And by best, I mean my personal favourites. Hoegaarden White Beer addicted me to them and Erdinger Weißbier, among others, have kept me hooked ever since. And, judging by the comments from other people who agree with those posts, I’m part of a big club of other intelligent and handsome people. If you’re not, then you have our sympathies.

Back to the Grolsch Premium Weizen Wheat Beer, and here is what it looks like.

Grolsch Weizen bottle

The only Grolsch you can find here in the UK is their Premium Lager. The one with the swing-top that tastes okay but not special. Presumably, in the Netherlands, they have a whole range of beers, of which this and that are only two. And Weizen is not the big volume export one. Not very shouty looking, and that’s good.

Grolsch Weizen neck label

The neck label is all about celebrating an award they won. Specifically, Weizen won “World’s Best Wheat Beer 2007” at the “World Beer Awards”. And that is a big, prestigious award. That is a genuine achievement on the part of Grolsch. It also brings expectations for Weizen right up.

Furthermore, it is “Brewed according to the German Reinheitsgebot”. I didn’t know what it meant either, until finding a Wikipedia entry at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reinheitsgebot. Apparently, it has something to do with obsolete purity laws. Readers, if you have a strong opinion on this, feel free to vent it in the comments at the end of this post.

Grolsch Weizen front label

The front label is a roundel picture of European restraint. The borders have the words “Royal Grolsch Holland” and “Natuurlijk Gerijpt Bier”. Inside the roundel are nothing but the simple imagery and bare minimum of text that you can read in the photograph. Still, it would be nice to at least have the alcoholic volume printed on it.

Grolsch Weizen back label

The back label is a narrow strip with only the most important details on it. No stories about ancient traditions or monasteries, sadly. The English language ingredients list includes “water, malted wheat, malted barley, yeast & hops”.

Further down, they advise you to “Store upright, cool & dark”. Only on live wheat beers will you read that sort of thing.

Further down again are this beers vital statistics. The bottle size is, unsurprisingly, 500ML. And the alcoholic volume is a slightly above average 5.3%.

Besides those small facts, that is it. There is nothing else to read on what is promising to be a delicious bottle of beer. But just how delicious is it? What will it taste of? Let’s find out…

Grolsch Weizen poured into a glass

First of all, the glass. I don’t own the right sort. Until I do, this one will have to do.

If you’ve enjoyed yummy wheat beer before, you’ll know to expect a gigantic head. If not, then be prepared or you’ll end up with a table covered in foam. Other than that, look how cloudy it is! What a refreshing change to the usual pale yellow water that calls itself beer.

And the smell is even better. Strong too. It is, in fact, the first thing that struck me as soon as the top popped off. How can I describe it? It is the closest to the smell of Hoegaarden White Beer I’ve smelt so far. It smells rich, malty, citric and fruity. The blend of odours is gorgeous. It puts Grolsch Weizen into the small group of beers that I would happily use as air fresheners around the home.

What does Grolsch Premium Weizen Wheat Beer taste of? The first couple of sips are outstanding. This is indeed turning out to be an exceptional beer. The flavour is malty and wheaty. Smooth, rich and full-bodied, the way you hope it would be. That taste then effortlessly turns into the aftertaste.

The aftertaste is like a bigger lump of the initial flavour. Delivered in a more intense, but not unpleasant lump of taste that lingers for a while afterwards. A few more sips, and you realise that it is more complex than you first thought. You start to notice all sorts of traces of arable crops and fruits you didn’t notice at first.

More than half-way through already, so what am I enjoying about Grolsch Premium Weizen Wheat Beer? I like the smell, the taste and experience that you get with this kind of wheat beer. I love it partly because it’s not mainstream. You feel like you want to keep it a secret from the dimwits who only drink big name lager.

I like how it didn’t disappoint, even with expectations as high as Everest. If you came to Grolsch Weizen wanting a tasty wheat beer, it will deliver. I like the complexity in the flavours and taste, even if you don’t notice them at the start. Besides those things, it is immensely well made, tasty, refreshing, original tasting, clean, crisp and very, very drinkable.

What don’t I like about Grolsch Premium Weizen Wheat Beer? There are one or two issues. For a start, that taste isn’t quite as well balanced, roundel or colourful as, say, Hoegaarden White Beer. It’s not far off, but the lumpy aftertaste could be sanded down to make it a little easier to drink. Mind you, you do quickly get used to it. Besides that, Grolsch Weizen, at £1.50 pence, is expensive and hard to find. If it were on more shop shelves, it would have a big following by now.

How can I sum up Grolsch Premium Weizen Wheat Beer? Admittedly, I’ve not had many wheat beers to compare it to. And I’ve had even fewer live, cloudy wheat beers. Grolsch Weizen sits between Erdinger Weißbier and the sublime Hoegaarden White Beer in my humble estimation. Whether you are an aficionado or casual beer fan, I think you will be highly impressed with Grolsch Premium Weizen Wheat Beer. This is one of the very best.

Rating: 4.4

Have you tried Grolsch Premium Weizen Wheat Beer? What did you think of it?

Do please leave your translations, corrections, opinions, requests, recommendations and places to buy here in the comments. And yes, I do read every single comment. Even the abusive ones.

Beer Review: Marston’s Old Empire Original Export India Pale Ale

5 April, 2009

THE last Marston’s I had was the utterly fine yet unremarkable Marston’s Pedigree Exceptional Premium Ale. There was nothing memorable about the experience. But the quality makes me want to try another Marston’s. So, from my local Tesco comes this, Marston’s Old Empire Original Export India Pale Ale.

Marston's Ole Empire India Pale Ale bottle

My relationship with IPAs has been rocky. I vaguely remember calling some of them boring. But, with an open mind and a British brewing industry that regularly surprises, I’m giving it another try.

Marston’s have gone for the same shape bottle as Pedigree, but with the trendy transparent glass that’s popular with those young people nowadays. This works as long as the beer inside looks tasty. And I’m happy to say Old Empire passes that test. It looks right.

Don’t miss the things embossed around the bottle. Around the shoulder, is the Marston’s logo. And around the bottom we learn that they were established back in 1834. Which is a reassuringly long time ago.

Marston's Ole Empire India Pale Ale neck label

The neck label is the same as other Marston’s neck-labels. That means it doesn’t have anything useful. Only a boast about it being the “Official Beer of England”. Inside the roundel is a crest with the letters “ECB”. Which, I think, means that this is the official beer of cricketists.

Unlike Pedigree, Marston’s have completely abandoned the traditional roundel. Instead opting for a contemporary splash of everything. And I think it works.

Marston's Ole Empire India Pale Ale front label

It tells you everything you need to know. It tells you that it’s an India Pale Ale, or IPA as the Real Ale know-it-alls abbreviate it to. And it tells you that it has an alcoholic volume of 5.7%. Something that makes it stronger than a lot out there.

Where the front label is clear and concise, Marston’s have printed a medium sized novel on the back.

Marston's Ole Empire India Pale Ale back label

Where do you look first? In Tesco, you just don’t know where to look. Sure, you could studiously read the whole thing. But then you hold up the old ladies with their trolleys filled with Bovril.

Reading it for the first time, here at my desk, the top is where I’ll start. To their credit, they do give a good little description of Old Empire right at the top. They describe the smell as a “strong hop aroma”. They describe the flavour as hoppy and the taste as “rich malty” and “bitter”. Oh, and they describe this India Pale Ale which you can see through the glass as “pale in colour”.

This big middle chunk of text is devoted to their Burton India Pale Ale story. In a paragraph clearly cooked up by someone in marketing, we do find that Burton really did do a fine job of refreshing our chaps in the Sub-Continent during the 19th Century. Marston’s Old Empire, they say, is a re-birth of Burton brewed IPA.

Further down, and the small-print begins. They have a web address, which is a mouthful at www.marstonsdontcompromise.com. It’s not a bad website. But that’s not hard when the efforts of many brewers are as informative as tabloid journalism. I even found the Old Empire homepage on the Marston’s website at http://www.marstonsdontcompromise.com/beer/empire.asp. Well worth reading if you want to know about malt, grain, hops and other beer nerd facts.

Under that are the vital statistics. This bottle is the regular 500ml. Which, when combined with the 5.7% alcoholic volume ale within, brings it to 2.9 UK units of alcohol. That means that if you’ve managed two of them in one day, you’ve had too many.

The last little detail is their address. Old Empire was brewed by Marston’s Brewery in Burton Upon Trent. If you’re from Burton Upon Trent and you have something interesting to say about it, do please feel free not to leave a comment at the end of this post.

What does Marston’s Old Empire taste like? Should you buy it? I’m looking forward to finding out.

Marston's Ole Empire India Pale Ale poured into a glass

It looks like there’s a decent head. But there’s not. It settles into a patchy layer of foam. The colour was never going to be a surprise. But something on the bottle is. The back label has a map showing the ship route from Britain to Bombay, which is only visible when the bottle is empty.

How does it smell? The label described the smell as having a “strong hop aroma”. It certainly is strong smelling. This is a pungent beer. But I like it that way. Does it smell of hops? Yes. And a little bit of malt. I like it.

How does it taste? The label described it as having a hoppy taste with a “rich malty, bitter taste”. Does it have those things? Two civilised gulps in, and I’m delighted to report that yes it does. And it does them all very pleasantly indeed.

The flavour is rich, spicy and hoppy. Not heavily hoppy. It won’t overwhelm you with hops. Probably because I think it’s a bit dry and malty. Very quickly, a much stronger aftertaste rolls into the equation. This brings with it an intensely bitter aftertaste. Like the flavour, the finish is hoppy. But unlike almost every other hoppy beer, that hoppy finish doesn’t cling on to your tongue for the next three days. Instead, it gives you a quick burst of hoppy bitterness, gets the job done and exits.

What am I enjoying about Marston’s Old Empire India Pale Aie? I like the flavours and tastes with this one. They are not boring. I like the hoppy flavour and taste it manages without being too hoppy. Not like drinking a hedgerow like with some ales. I like the quality. Like all good bottled ales, you can tell that you’re drinking something pure and well made. And that’s something that helps make it clean and drinkable. I even like the effort made with the bottle and labels.

What don’t I like about Marston’s Old Empire India Pale Ale? That bitter finish is wearing. It’s not hoppy and interesting like some. Or gentle and smooth like others. They could have done something, anything, about it. Some of you will love it though. Within the confines of being an ‘IPA’, they’ve done well. But I can’t help feeling that there are more interesting bottled ales out there. Besides that, I found myself burping a lot. Which could mean that it’s gassy. Or that the bottle was shaken a bit. Which could be true.

To try to sum up, Marston’s Old Empire India Pale Ale is a very good IPA. But less than thrilling compared to some of the amazing bottles that you can find on shop shelves. This is a good, solid, particularly bitter, hoppy ale. Recommended if you like that sort of thing.

Rating: 3.8

Have you tried Marston’s Old Empire India Pale Ale? What did you think of it?

Do please leave your opinions, corrections, requests, recommendations and places to buy here in the comment.

Beer Review: Wychwood Circlemaster Golden Pale Ale

26 February, 2009

THE Wychwood Bewery has been rather impressive of late. Hobgoblin Ruby Beer that I reviewed here a year ago was respectable and well made. Duchy Originals Organic Ale that they made for the Duchy of Cornwall is a well made, ruby style ale that is completely organic. Then the Wychcraft Blonde Beer I tried a few days ago proved to be another, very well made ale, with Wychwood’s brilliant, love-it-or-hate-it fantasy artwork on the label. Hopes are high, then, for this bottle of Hopes are high, then, for this bottle of Wychwood Circlemaster Golden Pale Ale.

Wychwood Circlemaster Golden Pale Ale bottle

It’s the same dark, glass bottle as the other Wychwood Brewery beers. Remember to look for Wychwood’s witch-on-a-broomstick logo embossed around the shoulder.

The neck label doesn’t say anything useful about what the beer will be like. But, it has a word that is going to make a lot of people interested in it.

Wychwood Circlemaster Golden Pale Ale neck label

Not all that surprising when you remember that the loudly organic Duchy Originals Organic Ale was made by the Wychwood Brwery. Wychwood it seems is a name to look out for if you like to buy organic foodstuffs. That makes this beer Islington friendly.

The main front label is another brilliant piece of fantasy artwork.

Wychwood Circlemaster Golden Pale Ale front label

This one features a scarecrow, in a circular clearing in a field, minding some hops, with an owl (?) perched upon one arm. Just a guess, but that circular clearing must be where the name “Circlemaster” comes from.

Some people will call the artwork gimmicky. Personally, I love the fantasy book style artwork of Wychwood. And Circlemaster continues that theme. Why do so few brewers show the imagination of Wychwood?

The roundel is clear and informative too. This weighs in at 4.7% alcoholic volume. Which is reasonable. Neither strong, nor weak. Andw e learn that it is a golden pale ale. Which tells us almost nothing. It’s going to be a golden hue. That’s clear enough. But pale ales can taste of almost anything. Maybe the back label will tell me more about what Circlemaster will taste like?

Wychwood Circlemaster Golden Pale Ale back label

The back is much the same as every other Wychwood Brewery beer. That is to say, the T-shirt offer takes centre stage. This is where, if you send five Wychwood bottle tops and a cheque, you get a T-shirt for less than the normal price.

Fortunately, there’s plenty of well laid out detail for you to read besides that offer. The top of the label opens with an excellent description of Circlemaster by Jeremy Moss, the Head Brewer. To chop down his typically idiosyncratic quote into tiny bits, he first tells us that Circlemaster (or should that be Circle Master – two-words?) is brewed with a unique blend of Plumage Archer barley malt. That whole leaf Target hops are added. And that it has a citrus and malt flavour with spicy bittersweet finish. The ingredients might not mean anything to me, but I love being bamboozled with brewing terminology like that. And I’m literally salivating at the description on the label.

In a green box under the T-shirt offer are all the small print details. Like, for instance, that the 4.7% alcoholic volume in this 500ml bottle brings it to 2.4 UK units of alcohol. And that it has the Soil Association Organic Standard symbol because it has organic certification. There is also the Wychwood Brewery address in Oxfordshire, in case you want to write them a letter. And their web address, which is the same as it always is at www.wychwood.co.uk.

Pale ales don’t get me excited. But I really want to try this one. What does it taste like? Will I like it? Do I think you should try it? Time to find out.

Wychwood Circlemaster Golden Pale Ale poured into a glass

In the glass, this cold bottle of Circlemaster Golden Pale Ale looks the part. It’s as golden as you could hope for. Easy to pour too, as there is hardly any head. Instead, just a smattering of bubbles cover on the surface. A bit more head would be welcome though.

I’m delighted to report that it smells as good as it looks. And, it’s pungent too, so you can’t miss it. I’m never very good at deciphering odours, but here’s my attempt. Citrus takes the lead, followed by malt and then hops. I like the blend. It smells delicious. But what do you make of it? Leave a comment at the end of this post.

But what does it taste like? The label described a “refreshing citrus & delightful malt flavour rounded off with a spicy bittersweet finish”. A couple of gulps in, and there’s not much more I can add to that. The flavour citrusy and malty. Neither really dominates. It seems like a well-balanced blend of the two, to me. Then the Target hops gently roll in to deliver a mildly hoppy “spicy bittersweet finish”.

What am I enjoying about Wychwood CirclemasterGolden Pale Ale? Nearly half-way through now and I’m enjoying it quite a lot. It looks good, both in the bottle and in the glass. It smells equally good. The blend and balance of the flavours and taste are good. It’s light, refreshing and easy to drink. And the Wychwood Brewery quality is as in force as ever.

But what of the downsides? If you don’t like bitterness, that “bittersweet finish” might put you off. Even though you get used to it quickly. It’s rather gassy too. But again, that’s but a minor complaint.

My main concern isn’t strictly directed at Circlemaster. This is a perfectly fine, easy to drink, refreshing, summery ale. The worry is that it’s yet another ‘ideal for summer’ ale. Not a problem on its own. They are perfect for temping lager drinkers to ditch the big names and try something new. But when you remember that nearly every independent brewer out there makes a summery pale ale, it starts to become one. There must be more summery pale ales than there are summer days in this country. It’s a bit like spending a whole year holidaying in new places. You’ll love the sun, the food and interesting destinations. But day after day for so long, and you get bored unless each one is spectacular. Circlemaster is perfectly good. But this, and so many other summery pale ales are in a tight spot if they want to stand out.

Wychwood Circlemaster Golden Pale Ale is a tasty, light, refreshing, summery drink. It it’s the summer, or even if it isn’t, and you like this type of beer, I highly recommend it. If you’re cynical or tried many different ales and want something with more character, then you might want something else.

Rating: 4

Have you tried Wychwood Circlemaster Golden Pale Ale? What did you think of it? Do you work for Wychwood Brewery? Do please leave your opinions, corrections, requests, recommendations and places to buy here in the comments. And check back in a few days for another Wychwood bottle.

Beer Review: Wychwood Wychcraft Blonde Beer

31 January, 2009

MERE weeks before I started writing beer reviews for this blog, I had much fun comparing Wychwood Hobgoblin Ruby Beer with its cousin, Wychwood Wychcraft Blonde Beer. Both bought from my local Tesco. Making sense of their differences was one of the things that inspired me to start the thing that you’re now reading. But before I could get another bottle of Wychwood Wychcraft, Tesco ran out of them.

That was very very sad. Not just because it left a hole in my project. But because I know from the statistics that a lot of you come here looking for beers from the Wychwood Brewery.

Riding to the rescue is an off-licence from Kingsland Road. An off-licence that doesn’t just sell this, but two other Wychwood ales. They’ll appear here in a few days, but this is the place to pick things up with Wychwood. So, a year overdue, here is Wychwood Wychcraft Blonde Beer.

Wychwood Wychcraft Blonde Beer bottle

It’s exactly the same bottle that Wychwood use for all of their bottled ales. And already, it’s showing Halloween character that made Hobgoblin such a hit. Look closely, and you’ll notice a witch riding a broomstick embossed around the shoulder of the bottle.

A theme continued on the neck label.

Wychwood Wychcraft Blonde Beer front of neck label

For this is where we learn that the witch on a broomstick must be their logo. And that “Brewers of Character” must be their slogan. Honestly, I’m amazed that no other brewer took that slogan first. If you’re a small brewery making bottles of ale that have character, surely “Brewers of Character” would be the obvious choice for a slogan.

That’s not all from the neck label though.

Wychwood Wychcraft Blonde Beer side of neck label

“Thrice Hopped” sounds interesting. I don’t know what it means. But it sounds technical and like it will make it hoppier and more interesting. If hopping once is good, how much better will triple-hopping be? I’m looking forward to finding out.

The front-label of Wychcraft is another masterpiece of fantasy novel imagery.

Wychwood Wychcraft Blonde Beer front label

Or, it’s completely unnecessary and detracts from what bottles of beer should be. Personally, I love the Wychwood style. This one has all manner of mythical folk beautifully drawn around what it essentially, a traditional roundel. Kudos goes to anyone who can name what the various folk on the front label are.

The label isn’t just brilliant artwork and Dungeons and Dragons style. It gives you some clues about what the beer will be like. And on a bottle of beer, that’s important. “Blonde Beer” gives you some hints. Although experience tells me that Blonde Beers can take almost any form.

Maybe the almost unreadable red script in the middle of the label will help? I think it says “The four Elements combined to create a Truly Magical brew”. An enigmatic response there to the question of what Wychcraft will actually taste like. It might explain the four characters on the label though.

Maybe the back label will supply the answers that we crave.

Wychwood Wychcraft Blonde Beer back label

The back label couldn’t be much more different to the front.

Most prominent is the T-shirt offer. Send them five Wychwood bottle tops and a cheque or Postal Order for £7.99 pence, and they’ll send you a T-shirt that would normally cost more.

For the curious, they have a website that you can visit at www.wychwood.co.uk. It’s a relatively good website compared to the Flashy marketing that most brewers fob off on us. A bit of poking around reveals a very informative page about this bottle of A bit of poking around reveals a very informative page about this bottle of Wychcraft Blonde Beer at http://www.wychwood.co.uk/beers_wychcraft.htm.

Back on the label, and Head Brewer, Jeremy Moss, does what he can to sum up this complicated ale in a quick quote. He describes it as “A pale golden potion with delicate red hues, Wychcraft has a heady burst of fresh citrus aroma derived from three infusions of Styrian Goldings hops”.

As the only brewer I’ve ever seen who describes their beer as a “potion”, Jeremy immediately scores points for style. As for the three infusions of hops, I can’t wait to see how that squares with the taste he describes. Surely it’s going to taste like a hedgerow with that much hopping.

Down to the small print now, and Wychcraft Blonde Beer has a reasonable 4.5% alcoholic volume. In this regular 500ml bottle, that brings it to an equally reasonable 2.3 nanny-state UK units of alcohol. If you want to get sloshed, best look elsewhere.

For those who like to know where their beer comes from, I can tell you that Wychwood Brewery Co are in Witney, Oxfordshire. It has their address and everything in case you want to get in touch with them.

With that out of the way, we get to the fun part. What does Wychwood Wychcraft Blonde Beer taste like? Do I like it and should you buy it? All questions I shall attempts to answer because it’s time to open the bottle.

Wychwood Wychcraft Blonde Beer poured into a glass

Straight away, Wychwood starts to surprise. The crazy head makes it tricky to pour into a pint glass. It does settle down are a few minutes though into a thick layer of froth. It’s a much darker amber than the light gold that I was expecting, too. That’s no bad thing however. Jeremy Moss mentioned “delicate red hues” though and I’m just not seeing them.

Head Brewer, Jeremy Moss, also mentioned a “burst of fresh citrus aroma derived from three infusions of Styrian Goldings hops”. Whatever it smells of is certainly pungent. This has the strongest odour of any beer I’ve tried for a long time. I’m going to describe it as bursting with hops and citrus. Spot on, Jeremy.

But what does Wychwood Wychcraft Blonde Beer taste like? In a word, hoppy. Not surprising for ale proudly “thrice hopped”. A couple of gulps down, and I’m finding it tasty and delicious. Beware though if you don’t like hoppy bitterness.

How can I describe the flavour of eware though if you don’t like hoppy bitterness.

How can I describe the flavour of Wychcraft? With difficulty. It’s swamped by the aftertaste. What my untrained palate is picking up on are traces of malt, biscuit and twigs and leaves.

The aftertaste is what Wychcraft Blonde Beer is all about. The website describes it as having a “dry biscuit note and a counterpoise of bitterness”. I’ll go along with dry biscuit. Bu that changes, smoothly, into hoppy bitterness. Not a strong or overpowering taste. Just a pleasant one that you get used to quickly.

What am I enjoying about Wychwood Wychcraft Blonde Beer? A great big list of things. The flavours and tastes are delicious. There are a few different flavours and tastes all melded together. That makes Wychcraft complex and interesting. Those are qualities you want your ale to have.

It doesn’t stop there. Wychcraft is also rich and smooth. It’s full of flavour and taste, yet none seem out of place. It only takes a gulp or two for you to get used to it. After that, it’s very easy to drink. All of which evidence just how well made it is. Not too gassy either. Then there’s the brilliantly quirky packaging.

What am I not enjoying about Wychwood Wychcraft? Not a lot. If I had to nitpick, the flavours and taste are quite dry. Something to moisten it up would be welcome. Some people could be put off by the strong-ish taste. Also, the pleasantly hoppy ale has been done before by many other people. That loses it marks for originality. It’s also not easy to get hold of. Besides that, nothing really.

If you’re wandering what it’s similar too, you’ve got a few options. The only one I can remember at the moment is Hardys & Hanson’s Olde Trip. But most of the hoppy bottled ales stand around where Wychwood does.

How can I sum up Wychwood Wychcraft Blonde Beer? Simple. This is an excellent, hoppy ale. A bit on he dry and malty, biscuity side. Very high-quality and easily drinkable by all but the most timid drinkers. I like it and I think you should try one yourself.

Rating: 4.2

Have you tried Wychwood Wychcraft Blonde Beer? Do you work for Wychwood?

Then do please leave your corrections, opinions, requests, recommendations and places to buy, here in the comments section. And remember to check back soon for two more Wychwood beers!


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