Posts Tagged ‘Edinburgh’

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.

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Beer Review: Foster’s

20 March, 2009

UNTIL now, there’s been a Foster’s shaped hole in my blog. Last summer, I endured most of the bigname lagers. And, to the chagrin of dozens of angry commenters, I slammed them all. Foster’s escaped until now, because it took until now to find it in bottled form. Not easy, when most shops sell cans.

Some of you get all huffy when I turn my attention to a lager. So, allow me explain something. If I think your favourite big-name lager is awful, then it probably is. That’s my opinion. It doesn’t mean I despise all lagers. Perła Chmielowa Premium Pils and Leżajsk Beer were lagers, and they were both excellent. What it means is that you could do so much better when you’re next in the off-license or supermarket.

So, what will Foster’s be like? With hopes this low, all it needs to be is adequate to exceed expectations. If you’ve never seen what Foster’s looks like in a bottle instead of a can, here it is.

Foster's bottle

Funny looking little thing, isn’t it? It’s nearly half neck. Look closely and you’ll spot the Foster’s “F” embossed around the shoulder.

Foster's neck label

Yes, it has a neck label. The message is simple. There’s a big Foster’s “F” logo. And the slogan “The Amber Nectar”. When you have branding this good, you don’t need much else.

It’s a similar story with the front label.

Foster's front label

It conveys less information than any other bottle of beer I’ve seen. Even foreign language beers convey more than this. You’ll learn more from a copy of The Star than you will here. But then, do they need to say anything? With a name this well known, they could have stuck on a photocopied address label with the “F” logo, and we’d all immediately recognised what it was.

Fortunately, the back label makes of for the lack of information elsewhere. And they appear to have squished it into a label nearly the size of a Post-It® note.

Foster's back label

On it, we learn that Foster’s is “Australia’s famous award winning quality lager”. Award winning? From whom? When? Was it for their marketing by any chance? Whatever the case, we learn that it’s “enjoyed in over 150 countries”.

They describe as “clean, crisp and refreshing”. No mention of flavour. But then this is a lager. And all those qualities are what a good lager should have. In my opinion. And that’s what I hope Fosters’s will have. To give it the best chance possible, I’ll even try to drink it “Super Chilled at 3 C” like they recommend. Honestly, I’m completely open minded about Foster’s. I sincerely want to enjoy a good lager right now.

Sadly, Foster’s itself isn’t quite so sincere. That’s because it was brewed not in Australia, but here. By Scottish & Newcastle in Edinburgh. That makes it as Australian as bagpipes.

In a tiny space near the barcode are all the vital statistics. This is a small 275ml bottle. The alcoholic volume is a moderate 4%. Both of these facts together give this bottle 1.1 UK units of alcohol. That must be the smallest number of UK units of alcohol of any bottle I’ve ever tried for this blog. Astonishing. There’s a small section advising men not to exceed 4 daily units, and women, 3. But with bottles like this, you’re quite, quite safe.

So, what is the bottle of Foster’s actually like? What does it taste like? And should you buy a bottle? Time to crack it open and find out…

Foster's poured into a glass

At 275ml, it fits your half-pint glass perfectly. And, through the miracle of surface tension, the small layer of foam doesn’t overflow either. Give it a couple of minutes though, and that layer of head turns into a forlorn patch of bubbles.

The colour isn’t as pale as some cheap lagers. But then it’s never going to be Newcastle Brown, is it. All in all, a good amber hue. Just like they said it would be.

What does it smell like? It smells of pilsner style lager. It has much the same blend of malted barley in it’s odour as every other pilsner lager. Compared to some, it doesn’t smell strong. Quite light and inoffensive.

What does it taste like? A couple of gulps into this “Super Chilled” (40 minutes in my freezer ice box) Foster’s reveal a taste that’s identical to the smell. It tastes like most pilsner style lagers. That is to say, that is tastes of a blend of malted barley. And, like the smell, you can barely taste it. That makes it completely inoffensive.

A couple more gulps in, and I’m still struggling to find any tastes and flavour. If you concentrate really hard, you can just about make out a trace of malted barley. Although I could be imagining it.

Foster’s, when it’s very cold, does have some good points. For a start, it is clean, crisp and refreshing. Exactly what it advertised on the label. And those things are exactly what a lager should be. I can go better than that. This very cold bottle of Foster’s is pretty smooth. It’s not gassy. And, best of all, it doesn’t have that bittersweet “bite” that most lagers use to kick you in the throat. Yes, some of you love that “bite”, but I don’t. Which is why I think that Foster’s is easy to drink.

There are, however, one or two drawbacks. Not suffering from lager “bite”. The drinkability. They’ve come at a cost. This is one of the wateriest lagers I’ve had ina long time. It’s also one of the most tasteless. Even other lagers have more malted barley flavour than this. Only Tesco Value Lager can match this for lack of taste. And that had only 2% alcoholic volume.

How can I sum up Foster’s? I’d hate to have tried it warm. I’m guessing that having it “Super Chilled” helped it to be clean, crisp and refreshing. Sure, it has those qualities. But nothing more. This is one of the weakest, blandest lagers on the market. Totally drinkable and inoffensive; because you’re effectively drinking water.

You can buy better lager, so buy better lager. You can buy better beer than lager, so do that too. Buy Foster’s either to not offend anyone or out of habit. There is no compelling reason to drink this pretend Australian water.

Rating: 1.8

Have you tried Foster’s? Do you want to leave an angry comment? Do you agree? Whatever the case, do please leave your opinions, corrections, thoughts, requests, recommendations and places to buy here in the comments.

Beer Review: San Miguel

2 August, 2008

WITH few bottled beers on the shelves that I haven’t tried, the options are running thin. Something would have to give. And that something is quality. So, even though I swore I would never bother with it when I rounded off my look at Peroni Nastro Azzurro, here is San Miguel.

San Miguel bottle

Thanks to all the advertising from this international mega-brand, the bottle looks as familiar as Fanta. And first impressions are good. It’s all very tasteful looking.

The neck label sums up much of what you need to know.

San Miguel neck label

The famous “San Miguel” name and logo uses a tasteful red, green and gold colour scheme. They also describe this beer as “International Premium Lager”. Rather vague and unimaginative don’t you think? I suggest “Bland Generic Lager”.

The main front label doesn’t add much more.

San Miguel front label

In fact, it’s virtually a bigger version of the neck label. The main exception to that is the alcoholic volume which is 5%. Which isn’t exceptional at all. There’s also a small red crest in the bottom-right corner. Featuring as it does three castle turrets and an anchor, I’d say that this bottle is subtly hinting at Spain’s past naval might. A fact made laughable when we look at the back label to discover where this “International Premium Lager” was made.

San Miguel back label

Sure, the paragraph on the back label may name Spanish cities such as Seville and Barcelona. And that it’s “uniquely refreshing taste” has made it Spain’s most loved export. But the fact remains that this was “Brewed in the UK” by Scottish & Newcastle in Edinburgh. And that makes this lager as Spanish as Rab C. Nesbitt.

Elsewhere on the back label, and the Spanish equivalent to “Cheers”; “Salud!” is a good addition. Down in the small print, this 330 millilitre bottle of 5% lager weighs in at 1.7 UK units of alcohol.  It, predictably, contains barley and wheat. And the web address hints at the true Spanish origins of this famous lager, because it is at www.sanmiguel.es. And, sure enough, it takes you to a Spanish language website. Why they have that address and not the English language, UK specific www.sanmiguel.co.uk, I don’t know.

With nothing else worth reading, it’s time to open this “International Premium Lager”. Can’t say I’m looking forward to it. But no one said the hobby of reviewing bottled beers would be easy.

San Miguel poured into a glass

In the glass, everything looks very ordinary. It’s a similar pale yellow colour to most other lagers. It has a head. Albeit a patchy one. And it has a weak, bland smell of malted barley.

But, will this be one of those drinks that looks terrible, and then surprises us all? Lets take a couple of gulps to find out. No. No it isn’t. It has exactly the rough, cheap lagery taste I was afraid it would have.

It tastes of the same blend of malted barley and hops that you’ll find in almost any other lager in the world. The difference is the after taste. There’s no smoothing of the lingering bitter after taste here. No rice softening the blow. Instead, you’ll find a rough, lingering bitter after taste.

Digging deep, there is a brief list of points on the plus side. I left this bottle in the freezer for a good few minutes, and I suspect that it has made it that much more drinkable that it would otherwise have been. The label describes it as having a “uniquely refreshing taste”. And served cool enough to dull the flavour, it is fairly refreshing. And that, in turn, makes it begin to be drinkable.

The list of points on the negative side is, as you’d have guessed, substantially bigger. Foremost among them is that taste. Some people who like their strongly flavoured lagers will like it. I don’t. In fact, I hate it. That lingering bitter after taste is about the worst I’ve ever tasted. Worse even than some of the Polish lagers.

And it doesn’t stop there. Putting aside that atrocious after taste for a moment, everything else about the flavour is bland. In fact, there is almost no real flavour. Just a colossally bad after taste. The same goes for the smell and the look.

To sum up, San Miguel is unexceptional in every way apart from the after taste which is exceptionally bad. If you like your lager to be strong tasting, you might like it. Otherwise, choose something different. Even a Polish lager. Because it will be more drinkable than this.

You might be thinking at this point that my prejudices clouded my judgement with this one. That I went in expecting it to be bad, so it was bad. But that’s not the case. You see, this was brewed by Scottish & Newcastle. And I thought other S&N licenses Kronenbourg 1664 and Foster’s Ice were good for what they were. Despite my open mind, I couldn’t find anything to love, or even like about San Miguel.

Rating: 0.3

Have you tried San Miguel? What did you think of it?
Leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts and recommendations here please.

Beer Review: Miller Beer

13 June, 2008

GEARS of the brewing industry grinded yesterday, when Belgian brewing giant InBev (home to countless European beer brands) offered to buy American brewing giant Anheuser-Busch (home to Budweiser) for $46.3 billion US Dollars. This, Forbes postulated, was bad news for that other international brewing giant, SABMiller, because no one wanted to buy it. This raised an important question for me. Namely, how good are their respective beers?

InBev have so far provided the highs of Hoegaarden, intriguing Gold Label Barley Wine and lows of that alcoholics choice, Tennent’s Super Strong Lager. And that’s just a microscopic portion of the brands they own. The only brew from the SABMiller stables that I’ve tried so far was the very average Castle Lager from Africa. I’ve not even tried anything bearing the Anheuser-Busch name in the small-print. So the time was right to fill in some gaps.

Whilst visiting my local purveyor of alcohol, I was disappointed to note that Budweiser is a lager. And therefore no better than average from the word go. Furthermore, the Czech Budweiser, Budwar is also a lager. If there is any demand out there for me to give them a try, I will, but most lagers are a waste of time.

I needed to find a beer. And, in the nick of time, one turned up. Here is a can of Miller Beer. An American beer, and part of the SABMiller family.

Miller Beer cab

First impressions are that is looks cool. The silver background is fetching, and makes everything printed on it readable. The “Miller” logo goes for the über-American look. There’s a large bald-headed eagle clutching a bunch of barley and hops. There are stars around the circular border. And the typeface looks as though it belongs on the jerseys of a baseball team. It does have a date on it though. 1855 isn’t at all bad in terms of heritage.

Under the big logo, the origins are proudly displayed for all to see. “Miller Brewing Company Milwaukee U.S.A.” Maybe my American readers can leave a comment saying if being from Milwaukee is something to be proud of. Or not.

At the bottom of the ‘front’ of the can is a big blue band. And in it, we can clearly see that this beer has an alcoholic volume of 4.2%. Not very strong. Barely moderately strong. But above weak. And there’s the ubiquitous advice to “serve chilled”. Don’t worry, I’ll be very relaxed when serving.

The small print is all tucked into a single column. And it begins with some bad news. This can wasn’t imported from Milwaukee. Instead, it was brewed “under license” by Scottish & Newcastle in Edinburgh. There’s a UK customer careline. A S&N email address at miller@scottish-newcastle.co.uk. And their Edinburgh postal address. It’s not the S&N are bad. It’s that I’d love to have more American beers over here that aren’t simply pretending to be so.

Miller Beer side of can

The can size is the homogenous 500 millilitres. Which, at 4.2% volume has 2.1 of your UK units of alcohol. Besides a summary of recommended maximums and the news that this contains barley and wheat is something unexpected. If not often that you find a full breakdown of nutritional information. But this has it. Energy, protein, carbohydrate and fat content are all listed. So if you’re on a calorie controlled diet, or looking for a product to write about for your biology class, this one is for you.

With nothing else to write about, it’s time to answer that all-important questions. Is Miller Beer any good?

Miller Beer poured into a glass

Be careful with the pouring. It has a tendency to froth up. My pint glass was able to cope, but you wouldn’t want a can that had dropped several times. After a couple of minutes the head died down to a thin and patchy layer, so it was time to get a closer look.

The colour is a decent shade of amber. Not to cheap looking and not artificially bright. There’s not much of a smell though. An indistinctive smell of beer ingredients is there. You just need to sniff extra hard.

A few gulps down, and first impressions are okay. The taste is very mildly bitter and sour, with hint of barley, wheat and hops. But not much.

About half-way through now, and there are a few things I like about Miller Beer. It’s very light. It’s very easy to drink as there’s little for the taste-buds to dislike. And it’s refreshing.

But all of those things can’t cover up some gaping holes. For starters, where is the flavour? It is almost tasteless. I’ve had bottled water with more flavour. Then, the taste and flavour it has, is cheap and nasty. Good beers and ales make you feel as though you’re drinking a carefully chosen blend of natural ingredients. This doesn’t. It could easily have something to do with coming out of a can instead of a bottle or keg at the pub. But it’s hard to escape the economy quality and artificial taste it leaves in your mouth.

To sum up, Miller Beer is tragically disappointing. I really wanted to like this one. Or to at least find it to be a quality if indistinctive beer. But it roundly fails to reach even average status. This is bland and low-quality. I’d rather have a lager.

Rating: 1.7

Have you tried Miller Beer?
What reputation does it have in the States? What did you think of it?
Leave your opinions, corrections, thoughts, suggestions and recommendations here please.

Beer Review: Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc White Beer

3 May, 2008

COULD this be my new favourite? You remember how much I adore Hoegaarden White Beer. And you remember how much I like fruit beers like Badger Golden Glory? Well this distinctive, white bottle, bought at a premium price from Tesco, promises to combine them both. So let’s see… will we have a new favourite here?

Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc White Beer bottle

The bottle top, not normally worth a mention is the only place on this bottle that you’ll find the coat of arms.

Kronenbourg Blanc bottle top

Instead of the usual neck label, front label and back label combination, this bottle surprises yet again. Instead, it has a main front label, but all the usual back label small print is on the little label around the neck of the bottle.

Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc White Beer front neck label

Here’s the front of the neck label. The Kronenbourg 1664 brand name is still here though, reminding us of its connection to it’s more mainstream sister. Above it, is what I think is French. And it reads “La Bière Blanche De” And then the Kronenbourg 1664 logo follows. Using my almost non-existent French language skills, I’d say that it means “The White Beer of…”. Is that right?

Turning the neck label clockwise takes us to the UK units of alcohol warnings.

Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc White Beer details side of neck label

This bottle has 2.5 UK units of alcohol. And the label gives a summary of the daily maximums for men and women. Four and three respectively. All very dull.

Next to that though, we get a clue as to this beer’s origin. This one was “Brewed in the EU by Scottish & Newcastle” before giving their Edinburgh postal address. Even if that is under agreement from Brasseries Kronenbourg from Strasbourg, France, this news comes as a let down. If you feel strongly about that, then you might want to contact their consumer care line or email, both of which are directly under their postal addresses. Their email is given as kronenbourg@scottish-newcastle.co.uk, although I haven’t tested it. If you give it a try, leave a comment at the end of this post to let us know if they’re any good at replying to emails.

Turning the bottle further, brings us to the barcode side of the neck label. This is the side where all those important little details are hiding.

Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc White Beer barcode side of neck label

As you would imagine, being only the little label around the neck, there’s not an awful lot of detail. It describes itself as “White Beer”. And says that it “Contains Barley & Wheat”. Hardly surprising for a beer of any type. This is a 500 millilitre bottle. And I’ve never seen it in any smaller quantities. Have you? Does it exist in can form? Lastly, this has a volume of 5%. Strong-ish, but not remarkable.

Where you would expect it, there’s the main front label. And I think it fits in rather nicely with the rest of the bottle. The text is stylised, but easy to read. And the background matches the colour of the bottle, so it has a very classy appearance.

Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc White Beer front label

The word “Blanc” is the most prominent part of it. And for the few people who don’t know that “Blanc” means white, directly under that is the description “White Beer”. But it’s the text below that in a sort of gold colour that tells us most about this beer. It describes itself as a “Refreshing”, “Fruity”, “Imported White Beer”. I’m salivating already. Are you?

With nothing else to read on the outside, it’s time to open this bottle up and see if it’s as good as I’m hoping it will be.

Poured into a glass, you’ll do well to keep the pouring slow and smooth. But even I managed to keep the head under control, so you won’t have a problem. And what a creamy head you’ll get atop your beer. And it dies down to a drinkable level within a minute or two.

Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc White Beer poured into a glass

This is also a very cloudy, nearly opaque beer. I’d guess that this is because it’s live rather than filtered, like other white beers out there. Even though it doesn’t say so anywhere on the bottle.

The smell is as gorgeous as I had hoped. The fruitiness of the aroma is the first thing you notice. And not of one particular fruit. More like what you’d smell if you were standing over a big bowl of fruit salad. Not unlike the many other fruit beers out there. Sniff a little harder, and you’ll notice the rich, yeasty maltiness. A similar yeasty maltiness to Hoegaarden White Beer and Leffe Blonde and Leffe Brown. Am I the only one who loves the way that these all smell?

After all of that, I was expecting an explosion of flavours. But did in fact find my first few gulps to be treated to some very subtle flavours. None of which really dominate or jump out at you. And that surprised me.

After some pondering and tasting a few times, I’m starting to make sense of it. The main flavours are yeasty and malty. And that’s not surprising, considering that this is a white beer. What is surprising is how much they are in hiding. The other flavours that you’ll notice are of fruits. No one fruit group stands out, but there’s definitely something citrusy in the there. Again though, it doesn’t jump out at you.

Kronenbourg Blanc is very very smooth. It has the full-bodied taste and consistency that I demand of beers and ales, so no complaints of watery-ness here. Not only is it surpremely drinkable, but the lack of bold flavours means it won’t offend anyone. And that makes it accessible. Accessible enough for it to appeal to female drinkers too, I suspect. Girls, what do you think of Blanc?

If I had to look for downsides, I’d say it’s a little bit gassy. Although my belching during this review might have been due to the kebab eaten just before posting. Also, while the lack of strong flavours might make it inoffensive, it’s not quite what I was hoping for with Kronenbourg Blanc. I was hoping for the strong flavour of Hoegaarden or Leffe, but they just weren’t there. It’s clearly not what Kronenbourg were aiming for, but I found it rather disappointing for this reason, none-the-less.

What Kronenbourg Blanc is all about, are tasty aromas and flavours, deliciously arranged in subtle, understated ways. Some of you will adore the way that nothing about it is too strong. Other, like me, will be wishing that at least of it’s many qualities were more prominent.

Rating this beer, isn’t easy.

Rating: 4.35

I’ll happily drink Kronenbourg Blanc again. And recommend it to people. But it misses out on the highest scores by failing to take a chance and stand out with its flavours. That said, it’s still a feast of smells and flavours.
Have you tried Kronenbourg Blanc? What did you think?
Got any corrections, suggestions or ideas of your own?
The leave a comment now. Go on. Do it. Now.

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.


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