Posts Tagged ‘camra’

Beer Review: Fuller’s 1845

4 September, 2008

FULLER’S do seem to make very good bottled ales. Fuller’s London Pride Premium Ale was very good and their ESB Champion Ale was outstanding. I was excited then, to find a bottle of Fuller’s 1845 in a west-London shop.

This one looks special. I’m hoping that it is. Time to look closer and figure out what makes it so special.

The bottle itself doesn’t give anything away. That’s because it’s the same black bottle they use for every other beer. That means it has embossed upon it, phrases like “Family Brewery”. And “Estd 1845”. Maybe that’s a clue as to the origins of the name? Lets read on.

The neck label is always a good place to start. As well as the griffin bearing Fuller’s of Chiswick logo is a clue. And the words “Matured for 100 days” is it. That sounds impressive and significant to me. But I want more facts. What will the big front roundel reveal?

Fuller’s 1845 front label

Quite a lot by the look of it. The gold border says “Celebrating 150 Years of Brewing Excellence”. And around the bottom part of the border, we’re informed that this is an “Award Winning Strong Ale”. Both of those facts are things that I like. Especially as there aren’t nearly enough strong bottled ales out there.

Inside the roundel, the year “1845” takes centre stage, as does the Fuller’s Griffin Brewery of Chiswick logo. But, also catching your eye is that “100 days”. Printed right on the front is “Bottle Conditioned Ale Matured to Perfection for 100 Days”. That’s more time than any other I’ve seen. It even puts the magnificent Innis & Gunn Oak Aged Beer’s 77 days in the shade. In a world where everything is manufactured in colossal quantities, and as rapidly as can be gotten away with, 100 days of brewing is stupendous. That, together with the live-ness from the bottle conditioning and the 6.3% alcoholic volume are going to make this a formidable ale. I hope your mouth is watering at the thought of this, too.

The back label is tall, and full of very small writing.

Fuller’s 1845 back label

But it quickly starts offering more reasons for you to like this bottled ale. In one of the corners, a little symbol tells us that “CAMRA says this is Real Ale”. Which is reassuring. In the big block of writing, they tell us that “1845” was first made in 1995, and has since won lots of awards, including “two gold medals at the CAMRA Great British Beer Festival”. You just know that those guys know their beer, so those are two awards that mean something. Not like the so-called medals festooning some continental bottles.

They then go on to talk about the “fruit cake aroma”. That it is “complex, yet smooth” with “mellow flavours”, all of which are attributed to the mind blowing length of time they leave it to mature for, and the Amber Malt and Goldings hops. They also suggest that it goes well with rich food like game. Sadly, my spaghetti bolognaise ready meal will have to do. Interestingly, they say that you should really keep the bottle stored upright in a cool dark place, and pour it carefully. My one out of three isn’t bad. At least I kept it cool.

Quickly rushing through the small print now because I want to try this drink. It was brewed by Fuller Smith & Turner at the Griffin Brewery. As usual, the full London address is there if you want to get in touch. They’re keen to let you know about their other beers and ale club at their website, which is www.fullers.co.uk. It contains malted barley, and this 500 millilitre bottle, at a strong 6.3% comes in at 3.2 UK units of alcohol. Which is more than most. You won’t need much before you start feeling the effects.

Did I miss anything? I hope not because I want to open it. What will it be like? How will it compare to other strong ales? Do I think you should buy it? It’s time to find out.

With all the advice on the label to treat it as carefully as Nitroglycerine, I was surprised to find it had almost no head at all. Moments after the photo, all that was left was a patch of bubbles, and some around the rim. All that careful pouring for nothing.

It certainly looks substantial enough. It’s a very dark brown. But a shade lighter than stout or dark ale.

It smells potent too. Put your nose anywhere near the top of the glass, and you’ll see what I mean. It has an intense smell of… something. The label says “fruit cake”. To me, it smells, intensely of malted barley and lots of other things. Two things are certain; it smells intense and complex.

But how does it taste? A couple of gulps into this deep, thick ale, and it tastes just like how it smells. That is to say, intense and complex. To try and start from the beginning, what are the flavours? That’s very hard to say without sounding like a wine taster. It’s sort of biscuity, malty, hoppy and other things besides. It’s complex, and interwoven so tightly, I’m having trouble identifying any of it.

If I can’t describe the flavour, what about the aftertaste? It’s much the same. Those flavours blend smoothly into a hoppy, bitter aftertaste that lingers for a while.

If I can’t describe the flavour or the taste, can I at least describe the character of the drink? Now that I can do. Fuller’s 1845 sums up what full-bodied, richly flavoured and all-round delicious ales should be about. I’m about half-way through now, and that flavour and taste is still no clearer to me. That’s the sort of complexity you want from an ale. It’s not only as rich as fruit cake, but smooth too. The flavours are strong, but never too strong. You can even describe them as “mellow” like the label does. And they change seamlessly into the hoppy, bitter, aftertaste. None of them ever seem too strong. And you certainly can’t accuse it of being weak. Lastly, I’ve hardly burped at all, so you can’t even level the complaint of gassiness.

Are there downsides? I like a beer to take risks in the pursuit of greatness. That’s exactly what 1845 does. But doing so inevitably incurs problems. That hoppy bitterness does come in gently, but it ‘balloons’ before easing off and lingering. Lots of you will like the way it does that, but it was a bit strong for poor old me. And that strong bitterness is going to be too much for a lot of other people too. Then there’s the flavour and taste itself. It feels like it’s been sanded and polished so much, there’s little sign of the barley and hop flavours you get elsewhere. Lastly, you’ve got the problems of finding, and affording such an exclusive bottle. I got it purely by chance.

To sum up, Fuller’s 1845 is excellent. If you like strong, interesting ales, you will probably enjoy this. It offers virtually everything. Theo whole experience reminds me a lot of the other strong ales out there. Have a look for Broughton Old Jock, Maximus Strong Premium Ale and Bishops Finger Kentish Strong Ale for something vaguely similar if you can’t find 1845 sold anywhere near you. Not for the faint hearted, and not the strongest either, but thoroughly enjoyable.

Rating: 4.25

Have you tried Fuller’s 1845? What did you think of it?

Leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts, requests and recommendations in the comments boxes below.

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Beer Review: Young’s Champion Live Golden Beer

16 April, 2008

THIS one got my attention as soon as I saw it on the shelves of my local Tesco. That’s because it is Young’s Champion Live Golden Beer.

Young\'s Champion Live Golden Beer bottle

First it got my attention because I enjoyed Young’s Special London Ale. Secondly, it got my attention because of the big mentions of “Champion” and “Live” on the front. “Champion” hints at the winning of prizes. Always a good thing. And “Live” and “Bottled Conditioned” beer are always my favourites. In fact, I’ve yet to try a live or bottled conditioned beer I’ve not enjoyed. And that means that you’ll probably enjoy them too. But will Young’s Champion reaffirm or disappoint? I’m looking forward to finding out.

The neck label is where you’ll find a surprising amount of marketing. Or should I say background to the Ram Brewery. It’s also got a reassuringly large “Bottle Conditioned” on it. If it were up to me, that whole Ram Brewery text on the neck label would be replaced by a list of the virtues of bottle conditioning. Maybe one day, eh?

Young’s Champion Live Golden Beer neck label

The front label keeps things simple, yet stylish. Lots of sweeping lines dominate this one. And the result is quite different to Special London Ale. Which, by the way, I recommend you read now, so I don’t have to repeat myself over all the little details. The Ram logo is in tact again. But this time, the word “Champion” takes centre-stage, plus a small illustration of hops. The 5% volume is on there, but tucked away in a corner so you need to be looking for it. The colour scheme is light and bright, but looks a bit odd on the dark glass of the bottle.

Young’s Champion Live Golden Beer front label

Over on the back, the layout is much the same as with the Special London Ale. The CAMRA logo is on there. As is the symbol telling you that this 500 millilitre bottle has 2.5 UK units of alcohol. And what’s that I see? Amazingly, this is the first time that I’ve bought a recently stocked bottle from Tesco, only to discover that it has passed its “Consume By” date. I didn’t realise it in the shop, but no it’s clear as day. This went ‘off’ after the 31st of January 2008. Outstanding cock-up, Tesco. Readers; check the date on your bottle before you put it in your shopping basket. Or live on the edge. Like me.

Young’s Champion Live Golden Beer back label

The correct procedure here would be to return this bottle and obtain a refund or replacement. But having come this far, I don’t want to turn back. Just how bad can it get in those few weeks? That’s what I want to know. So, in the name of investigating blogging, let’s push on.

The story part of the back label describes Young’s Champion as “light-golden”, with a “full-flavour” and “refreshing bite”. It uses “malted barley” and “Styrian hops” for a “well-rounded floral flavour” with “hints of fruit” and a “dry, hoppy bitterness”. Again, they suggest serving cool, pouring gently to keep the yeast in the bottle. And that the website of this Wandsworth based London brewer is at www.youngsathome.co.uk.

Time to open the bottle to see a few things. One: if I’m poisoned from out of date beer. And two: if Young’s Champion is as good as I’m hoping it will be.

In the glass, there’s a good frothy head. But it’s controllable, staying within the pint glass. It’s light golden and it looks like none of the yeast sediment made its way in there. That said, it is still fairly opaque.

Young’s Champion Live Golden Beer in a glass

Like the good live bottles I’ve tried before it, the smell is good. Definitely above average. That yeasty, malty, hoppy smell is mouth-watering.

A couple of gulps in, and I’m not dead from this out-of-date bottle. But I am enjoying the make-up of the flavours here. None of which really dominate, and thus making it a very inoffensive experience. The malted barley and hoppy, bitter aftertaste are most noticeable. And yes, as you work through it, you do begin to notice a tiny floral hint, as promised by the label.

This is turning out to be a well-balanced and well-rounded beer. It’s also easy to drink. And that’s important, as it makes this bottle of beer even more accessible to the casual drinker. Like you. And let’s be honest here, me too.

It’s also fairly crisp and refreshing. This isn’t a big heavy drink at all. But it isn’t the lightest and most refreshing out there either.

If I had to level a criticism at Young’s Champion, it would be that it’s too inoffensive. It’s not the yeasty, malty explosion of taste that I adore. And you could even describe it as being ever so slightly watery. But then this calls itself a beer rather than an ale, so it can get away with that up to a point.

This bottle may be a few weeks out of date, but that didn’t stop me from liking it. If you want a decent live bottled beer, try it. If you want a tasty, refreshing, quite strong beer with little to complain about, try it. If you want a live beer but are too squeamish about bits floating in it, try it. There’s no bits of yeast sediment if you pour carefully. If you want a big, heavy, strongly flavoured brew that scares away teenagers, have an ale instead. This won’t quite satisfy you. I however liked Young’s Champion, so you might to.

Rating: 4.2

Have you tried Young’s Champion? What did you think?
Or if you’ve got any suggestions for other good live beers, or ones to avoid, leave a comment!

Beer Review: Caledonian 80/-

14 April, 2008

DO you remember when I recently promised you a break from reviews of Scottish beers? No? Good. Because here is a 500 millilitre bottle of Caledonian 80.

Caledonian 80/- bottle

There’s little to distinguish the bottle of 80, but I like the straightforward approach to the label. Both the little neck label…

Caledonian 80/- neck label

…and the main front label…

Caledonian 80/- front label

…keep the details to a minimum.  To sum up, this was brewed in Eninburgh, Scotland. It was established in 1869 and is described as “Definitive” and “Satisfying”.

Over on the back label, the “80” reference is explained. Specifically, by the “80/-“, which makes this an 80 Shilling beer. It has something to do with the duties charged on different strengths of beer in centuries past. And it’s not the first that I’ve tried. Belhaven 80 Shilling was the first. And… it was ok. Nothing special. But I thought the 80 shilling concept deserved another chance. So here we are.

Caledonian 80/- back label

The label also describes a “rounded maltiness” and “distinctive hop character”. “Crystal malts”, “roast barley” and “complexity of flavours” are also on there, none of which is out of the ordinary. What does stand out, is that the cask version was the inaugural CAMRA Champion Beer of Scotland. And that it’s still brewed in a Victorian brewhouse on direct fired open coppers. What the importance of these things are, I don’t know. But I’m looking forward to finding out.

Also on the back label are the web address at www.caledonian80.com and at www.caledonian-brewery.co.uk. And their Edinburgh postal address. The 4.1% volume isn’t very prominent, but the “product of Scotland” isn’t all that common. And with that out of the way, it’s time to see if this 80/- is better than the last 80/-.

In the glass, it’s quite dark in colour. Looks like a bitter to me. It has a good head on it though. Consistent and creamy in appearance. And it smells good too. A strong whiff of hops and malted-barley is never far away. It’s not very complex, but I like it.

Caledonian 80/- in a glass

A few gulps down, and Caledonian 80/- is rapidly revealing its character. Quirte simply, it’s a bitter. Well, technically it isn’t. And the experts out there will point out all the reasons why this isn’t the case. But to me. And my untrained taste buds, it tastes bitter. The taste is bitter and the after taste is hoppy. But apart from that, there’s no real complexity to the taste. And there’s no wide spectrum of flavours. Disappointing considering what the label promised.

I’m not a fan of plain bitters. But I know that a lot of you out there are. And that means that you might really enjoy Caledonian 80/-. And there’s a lot to like about it too. Even though the flavours are mostly bitter, malty and hoppy, they are done well. It’s not offensive. And it’s easy to drink.

The downsides are that it’s quite weak. The lack of anything beyond the usual flavours make it boring and lacking in character. There are plenty of much more interesting and unusual beers on the shelf to choose from.

The bottom line on Caledonian 80/- is that it’s a decent, if uninspiring ale that’s mostly bitter. If you like your bitter, you should be this a try. As you should if you want to see what this 80 shilling business is all about. But if you’re wanting an interesting, unusual and flavourful bottle, then pick something else. Above average, but not special.

Rating: 3.25

Have you tried Caledonian 80/-? Or anything else from the same brewer? What did you think of it?
Comments, suggestions, corrections and insults in the comments box please.

Beer Review: Ridgeway Brewing of Oxfordshire Blue

30 March, 2008

SOUTH of the border this time for a bottle of beer from Oxford. This one is called Blue and it’s from Ridgeway Brewing of Oxfordshire.
Ridgeway Blue bottle

I usually ignore the neck label when in the shop, so it wasn’t until I got home that I noticed this…
Ridgeway Brewing of Oxfordshire Blue neck label

It turns out that this won ‘best beer’ at the Tesco ‘brewing awards’. That makes this the second I’ve tried, with Broughton Champion Double Ale was the first Tesco winner I tried. And very good it was too. This upshot of which is that I now have higher than usual expectations going into this one.

The front label is round. And features mainly blue text. I’d describe what the illustration is of. But I can’t tell what it’s supposed to be. Can you?
Ridgeway Brewing of Oxfordshire Blue front label

The bottom edge of the label has their address. The full address. Post code and everything. And that’s unusual, as the address normally goes on the back label. It does prove that this one comes from South Stoke in Oxfordshire however. Also down there, in tiny writing is “Alc 5% vol.” It’s so small, you’d think they were trying to hide that fact.

Either side of the roundel are a couple of facts. On the left, it says “whole leaf hops”. And on the right, “maris otter malt”. How that will affect the taste, we’ll find out soon enough. If you think you can explain what it means, do by all means leave a comment at the end of the post.

The first thing that jumps out at you on the back label is the “CAMRA says this is real ale”. That’s not something I’ve seen on any other bottle I’ve reviewed so far, and it’s a welcome sight. Always good to know that the Campaign for Real Ale gives it’s approval to something, so that clueless drinkers, like me, can enjoy with one less thing to worry about.
Ridgeway Brewing of Oxfordshire Blue back label

Ridgeway open the rear label with some marketing speak about sharing this bottle or drinking it at a barbeque. Fortunately, they have some useful advice in there too, in the form of a description of what the drink will be like. As always, that’s immensely helpful, as it gives me something with which to judge the success of the drink. This one includes words such as “distinctively hoppy”, “lively” and “refreshing”.

They also suggest “drinking cold”. Whether they mean that the bottle should be cold, or that you should drink while feeling cold is unclear. Assuming they mean that the bottle is the one that should be cold, the include a nice touch underneath it in brackets saying that it’s not compulsory. I like that sort of touch.

The, the label goes on to explain something really rather interesting. And something I’ve met before without realising it. You see, Ridgeway helpfully explain what “Bottle Conditioned” is all about. It turns out, that live yeast sediment goes into the bottle, so that it can ferment some more while it waits for you to open it. And that all Ridgeway beers are bottles that way because it makes the flavour “brighter” and “fresher”. I’m not sure about those two adjectives, but I do know that Hoegaarden does something similar, and that it is one of the best I’ve ever had. And yes, looking closely into the bottle, you can see some of that yeast sediment. There go my expectations up a few more notches. Not just for Blue but for all Ridgeway bottles.

Down to the small print, and this is a moderately priced, 500 millilitre bottle from my local Tesco. It contains malted barley. And the web address given on the bottle is www.ridgewaybrewery.co.uk. Which doesn’t work. Why do so many bottles feature web addresses that are wrong or go to sites that aren’t there? Come on chaps. You’re making bottles of beer for Tesco now. Not just for the county fair.

In a glass, it has a thin head. And yes, while pouring, a small lump of that yeast sediment plopped in. The colour is a cloudy dark gold. And the smell is… quite nice. It smells almost citrusy. But I could be wrong about that. There’s definitely something ‘clean’ and ‘fresh’ about the way it smells. You’ll also pick up hints of the malt, hops and yeast that are in there too, if you sniff hard enough.
Ridgeway Brewing of Oxfordshire Blue in a glass

First thing that hits me is the smoothness. Then the light and palatable bitterness. And a taste and aftertaste of hops and yeast. If you don’t have ale very often, and want to try something that typifies the entire category of drink, this is looking like a good choice.

What else can I say about it? Well, it’s not to gassy. It’s easy to drink, being inoffensive to all but the most beer averse taste buds. And you needn’t worry about the sediment. This is not like drinking orange juice with bits, if that’s something that worries you. Instead, it’s more a smooth cranberry juice, of a beer. Refreshing, but with a sharp bitterness.

Towards the end of the bottle, and I’m growing to quite like Blue. It’s something you’d probably have with a pub meal. But it’s nor without its problems. I like ales to have character and complexity. But Blue is lacking both. The tastes and flavours are straightforward. It does what it does, very well, but ‘best beer’ award winning? I’m not entirely sure.

I liked Ridgeway Blue enough to want to try Ridgeway‘s other bottles. In fact, I will definitely be looking out for them on the shelves. This is a good, decent, quality, solid ale. But it just couldn’t reach my lofty expectations. It’s still worth your money trying though.

Rating: 3.5

Have you tried Ridgeway Blue or any other Ridgeway beers? Let the world know your thoughts and opinions in the comment box below.
Also any ideas for what you think I should review next.


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