Posts Tagged ‘bury st. Edmunds’

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.

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Beer Review: Hardys & Hansons Olde Trip

16 December, 2008

OLDE TRIP but contemporary style. Having the shield label and writing on transparent labels and a transparent bottle makes this bottle of Hardys & Hansons Olde Trip look interesting. Interesting and familiar. Something about this bottle rings a bell. I’m sure I’ve seen the crown and “Estd 1799” embossed on the shoulder of another bottle.

Hardys & Hansons Olde Trip bottle

The neck label is the only bit that isn’t transparent. That makes it look out of place. It also doesn’t tell you anything about the ale within. If you’re going to stick a label around the neck of a beer bottle, use it to describe what the beer will be like. Not that I don’t mind being totally surprised by a beer. I like it. But normal people won’t.

Hardys & Hansons Olde Trip neck label

The front label is superb. It gets everything right.

Hardys & Hansons Olde Trip front label

First of all, it’s in the shape of a shield and it has old fashioned writing. If, like me, you’re looking for interesting bottles of ale, this bodes well. Under the glorious “Olde Trip” name, it then comes in with the details you want to know. First by describing itself as a “Premium Ale”. And then by giving the alcoholic volume of 4.3%.

Okay, I do like my ale to be a little stronger than that. But you can’t fault this front label. It gets to the point in a quirky way. And that’s good.

Over on the back label, we get the sort of story we’re looking for on a bottle of British ale. We also get some much needed answers to our suspicions.

Hardys & Hansons Olde Trip back label

The story is tenuous as the best of them. This one tells us how this ale has taken it’s name from “Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem (AD1189)”. Apparently England’s oldest inn, at the foot of Nottingham Castle, where knights went for a drink before The Third Crusade. How charmingly politically incorrect. I’m liking this bottle more and more.

Under the story however, things start to look eerily familiar again. The sensible drinking message rings a bell. As does the malted barley symbol.

Down in the small print now and clearly displayed are the details you want to know. For instance, this 500ml bottle, with it’s 4.3% volume content weighs in at a reasonable 2.2 UK units of alcohol. Which means you can treat yourself to two bottle of Olde Trip before the government sends you a social worker.

Right at the very bottom of the label, in tiny writing is the answer to my suspicions. Hardys & Hansons Olde Trip is in fact brewed by Greene King in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk. So, that explains that.

But, what will it be like? It’s a premium ale, so it could taste of just about anything. So the questions are simple ones. What will it taste like? And is it worth your money and time? Let’s crack it open and find out.

Hardys & Hansons Olde Trip poured

It fizzed right up. Even getting the glass in place swiftly couldn’t save a few drops from making an escape. I recommend playing video games until your reactions become fast enough to open this bottle.

Once safely in the glass however, it looks good. Not surprising. We knew exactly what colour it would be from the transparent glass bottle. But that dark ruby colour is most appetising.

It comes with a fairly good head, too. It didn’t froth up uncontrollably. Nor did it vanish into a few stray bubbles. Instead, it’s a creamy little layer.

What does it smell like? Rich and complex. There’s more different smells than I can make head or tail of. If pushed to stick my neck out, I’d say it smells chocolaty, roasted and fruity. Like a burnt Carbury’s Fruit & Nut. Maybe it’s because it’s been so very long since I had enjoyed an ale, but it smells wonderful. Not too strong and as complex traffic law.

Does it taste as delicious as it smells? A couple of gulps in, and first impressions are fairly good. It’s complex enough for me to need a few more gulps to make sense of the flavours. And it’s tasty enough to far for that to be an appealing challenge.

A few more gulps in, and Hardys & Hansons Olde Trip is coming into focus. What you get in a gulp first, are flavours. Frustratingly, they’re hard to decipher. They don’t last for long before they’re gone, wiped out by the aftertaste. The only flavours I’ve succeeding in identifying are something roasted and some fruit. The flavour part of Olde Trip isn’t exactly forthcoming.

What dominates a gulp of Olde Trip is the aftertaste. It rolls in purposefully and delivers it’s payload of hoppy bitterness. It’s a long lasting aftertaste too. How can I describe it? It tastes like a blend of leaves and twigs. And that, in my opinion, is what a hoppy and bitter ale should do.

Nearly at the bottom of the glass now, and I’m enjoying a few things about Hardys & Hansons Olde Trip. I like very much how complicated it is. I like how it looks and smells. I’m intrigued by the hoppy-ness that is, in the end, what Olde Trip is all about. I love how easy to drink it is. It’s not too bitter or off the wall to be off-putting. There is a lot to like about Hardys & Hansons Olde Trip.

Is there anything I’m not enjoying about Hardys & Hansons Olde Trip? Well, it made a mess on my kitchen work top. The flavours are hiding when they could elevate Olde Trip even higher by staying around for longer. It’s a little gassy and not easy to find in shops. Those however are not big complaints. The big complaint is that it doesn’t do anything new. I’ve tried hop driver ales before. This is an excellent example of one. But without those flavours being allowed to do something unique to the formula, it can’t make the final leap to greatness.

To sum up. Hardys & Hansons Olde Trip is an excellent example of an ale that gives you an interesting hoppy bitterness as an aftertaste. I thoroughly enjoyed this bottle. If you like this type of ale, then it’s worth your time and money. If you like light lager then you might not like it. I on the other hand have enjoyed ever gulp.

Rating: 4.29

Have you tried Hardys & Hansons Olde Trip? What did you think of it?
Leave your corrections, opinions, requests, recommendations and places to buy in the boxes below.

Beer Review: Greene King Abbot Ale

14 May, 2008

MY previous post involved testing big-name, high-volume ale Morland Old Speckled Hen. It turned out to be better than I feared. And it turned out to be from the Greene King brewing goliaths of the South-East.

It’s with some trepidation then, that I turn my attention this time, towards that other big-name, high-volume ale Greene King Abbot Ale. You know the one, normally on the same shelf as Old Speckled Hen, pretending to be competing with it.

Greene King Abbot Ale bottle

This 500 millilitre bottle is from my local Tesco. For exactly the same premium-end price as Old Speckled Hen.

The neck label starts us off with the familiar Greene King logo. And the “1799” date either side of it. A logo that looks suspiciously similar to the Morland logo.

Greene King Abbot Ale neck label

Under the big “Abbot Ale” name is some encouraging news. It transpires that Abbot Ale was a winner in the 2005 International Beer Competition.

Down to the front label, and everything is tasteful and stylish. In a way that’s similar to Old Speckled Hen? Let your thoughts be known in the comments please.

Greene King Abbot Ale front label

At the top, we get a closer look at that Greene King logo. Didn’t we see a simple line drawn logo dividing an established date on Morland Old Speckled Hen?

The “Abbot Ale” text and red and gold logo featuring, presumably, an abbot does an excellent job of creating the right romantic image. Next to that, in poorly contrasting lettering is the alcoholic volume, which is 5%.

Under that is a sentence. The sort of sentence that long to see on any proper ale bottle. And it reads thus: “Brewed longer for a distinctive, full flavour”. How appealing is that? You would normally only see that on the most obscure, rural ales. Remember that this ale is even available in tin cans. If they truly do pull off longer brewing and strong, distinctive flavours, that is quite a feat.

Over on the back label, and things are a little different to Old Speckled Hen. But there are some similarities.

Greene King Abbot Ale back label

The little “Beer to dine for” and “Contains Malted Barley” symbols are there. As is the quaint “Please take as much care enjoying our beers as we do brewing them”. Just below that is the confirmation of the link with the rest of the Greene King empire; the names “Bury St. Edmunds” and “Suffolk”. There’s also a web address of www.abbotale.co.uk. This website though, is rather more open about its Greene King credentials.

The bulk of the back label gets down to what Abbot Ale is all about.  They describe it as “full flavoured” and “smooth”. And that it has “fruit characters”, “malty richness” and “hop balance”. Good, but vague. But they haven’t finished there. This ale has been brewed with pale crystal, and amber malts. Whatever they are.

What haven’t I covered yet? The ever popular  UK units of alcohol. A good, round 2.5 units are in this bottle. If you count such things.

In the glass, the head is smaller and vanishes quicker than with Old Speckled Hen. It’s also somewhat darker in hue, and fizzier.

Greene King Abbot Ale poured into a glass

The smell is good. Mostly of malt. But accompanied by some hints of malted barley and hops. It’s a good blend. And again, different to what I expected.

And that blend is mirrored by the flavours. The main thing that you’ll taste are those malts. Which are quickly followed by fruitiness. And by some bitterness from the hops. But that bitterness doesn’t linger for long.

Just as the label describes it. It’s rich, smooth, full flavoured and well balanced. It really is all of those things. There’s plenty of flavour, yet none dominate. It’s also very drinkable. With so little to offend, even the more timid drinker will find Abbot Ale easy to stomach.

The downsides? It’s a little gassier than O.S.H. And because of that balance, none really stand out. And that makes it less distinctive and character filled that it would like to be.

Abbot Ale is another pleasant surprise. For a big-name, high-volume ale, it’s good. But not as good as some other ales out there, big-name or otherwise. This is drinkable on its own, but the entire time, I kept feeling the need to shovel a pub meal into my mouth. Abbot Ale then, is an ale best served with a hearty plate of pub grub.

Rating: 4.15

Have you tried Abbot Ale? Or any of it’s other varieties? What did you think?
Got any corrections, additions, comments, thoughts, ideas or suggestions? Any other products you want me to “review”? Then leave a message in the usual place.


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