Posts Tagged ‘english’

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.

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Beer Review: Badger Blandford Fly Premium Ale

4 April, 2008

ALL too soon, we reach the end of our second round up of Hall & Woodhouse brewed ales. If you haven’t read my reviews of their other brews yet, then here’s your chance to catch up. Brace yourself, they’ve built up a vast range of bottles:

Badger Original Ale, Badger Golden Glory Ale, Badger Golden Champion Ale, Badger Harvesters Ale and River Cottage Stinger.

Hall & Woodhouse do traditional ales very well, but that they aren’t afraid to try new things and throw in the unexpected. But will that be the case with Badger Blandford Fly?
Badger Blandford Fly Premium Ale bottle

On the outside the Badger style is much in evidence. And as usual, the neck label is the place to start.

This one goes with a little sentence that describes it as “An unusually refreshing premium ale subtly spiced for EXTRA BITE”. Their capitalisation. Not mine. Which hints at what will make this refreshing ale, stand out from the crowd.
Badger Blandford Fly Premium Ale neck label

Down on the main front label everything looks rustic and traditional. And that background. Does it remind you of bees wax? Or wallpaper?
Badger Blandford Fly Premium Ale front label

Onto the roundel, and all the details are where they should be. It’s not overcrowded. And I happen to think it all looks quite attractive. The old Badger 1777 logo makes a more prominent reappearance this time. And the little illustration of a Blandford fly inbetween the words “Subtly” and “Spiced” hint at a story behind it. The 5.2% volume is on there. And besides the mentions of Hall & Woodhouse and Blandford St. Mary, Dorset; there’s not much to report from the front. Apart from the symmetry. Maybe that’s why it looks just right?

Around on the back label, things are straightforward again. Accompanied by some little illustrations of flys buzzing around, it starts with a concise description of what this ale is all about. As well as aiming to be a refreshing premium ale, it also has spicy ginger overtones and a warming character. The spicy ginger must be what gives it that “EXTRA BITE” mentioned on the front.
Badger Blandford Fly Premium Ale back label

Those of you wanting a story to go with your ale won’t be disappointed. This one goes with that of the Blandford Fly of Dorset’s River Stour. You see where they got the name for this ale? It transpires that the fly in question has a habit of biting people. And that custom was; ginger would provide an antidote. Which would explain the name and idea behind this ale. Okay, it’s a tenuous link, but it’s better than some of the stories on beer bottles.

The invaluable ‘Taste Profile’ chart is always worth a look. Especially with Blandford Fly. This is the first time that I’ve seen one element of it rate as a five and another rate as a zero. In pole position this time with five out of five, is ‘Sweet’. ‘Bitter’ and ‘Fruity’ both receive three. ‘Malty’ has two. But ‘Hoppy’ isn’t even on the chart. According to this chart, Blandford Fly will be sweet, fruity and not even slightly hoppy. I can’t wait to find out what that’s going to be like.

But unfortunately there’s the small print to get through. Which I happen to know that some of you out there do like to know. So let’s plough through them quickly in order to get to the fun part of the review… The Blandford St. Mary, Dorset address is on there. So to is the www.badgerales.com web address. This is a 500 millilitre bottle, so the 5.2% volume gives it 2.6 UK units of alcohol. And it contains malted barley. That’s the dry part of the review out of the way. Now, time to find out what Blandford Fly is really all about.

Once in the glass, there’s more head than I’ve become used to from Badger. It’s surprisingly frothy. But. It does make the 500 millilitre bottle completely fill the pint glass.
Badger Blandford Fly Premium Ale poured

This has one of the most distinctive smells I’ve yet witnessed. You can smell the ginger. And it is as unexpected as you’d imagine. Even after reading the label. You just don’t expect to smell it from an ale. Unusual and a good start.

Within one gulp, you can tell this is exactly as advertised on the label and the ‘Taste Profile’. The first taste you get is one of sweetness. Quickly followed by bitterness and fruitiness. Followed by an aftertaste of ginger. And that, is the sting of the Blandford Fly.

Some, if not most ales, need the entire bottle to figure out. But this gets straight to the point. And I have to say, I like it. And not just the being polite, acknowledging the quality, half-heartedly liking it. Blandford Fly is excellent. It’s easy to drink. Quite refreshing. Not too gassy. And it has that unusual ginger ‘sting’ that adds the most important quality. Difference. And I love beers that do something different.

The downsides. That ginger flavour is strong and won’t be to everyone’s tastes. So it won’t please everyone. You couldn’t describe it as ‘inoffensive’.

To try and sum up then; Blandford Fly is a Marmite of an ale. You’ll either love it or hate. I happen find it outstanding. And as it’s my blog, it gets a high rating. If you like unusual beers and ales, this is well worth the risk.

Rating: 4.35

If you’ve tried Blandford Fly, I’d be interested know if you liked it as much as I did. Or if you didn’t.

If you’ve got any suggestions of your own for ginger flavoured ales, or anything else you want me to review, leave a comment in the box below.

Beer Review: Hall & Woodhouse River Cottage Stinger

3 April, 2008

ONE of the more unusual innovations to come out of Hall & Woodhouse, is this: River Cottage Stinger.
River Cottage Stinger bottle

From the same Dorset brewer that brought us Badger Golden Glory Ale and yesterday’s low-alcohol Badger Harvesters Ale. Jettisoning the rule book, Hall & Woodhouse appear to be on an innovation binge with this 500 millilitre bottle. The bottle shape and shapes of the labels look the same as the Badger range, but as far as I can tell, that’s where the similarities end.

The bottle top is green with a ‘River Cottage‘ logo atop it. The neck label alludes to something unusual indeed with “Tongue Tingling Ale” surrounded what look like… no it can’t be… are those nettles?
Hall & Woodhouse River Cottage Stinger neck label

The plot thickens on the main front label.
Hall & Woodhouse River Cottage Stinger front label

In place of the usual badger logo is the “River Cottage” one. But under the large, green, stylized “Stinger” text, I’m glad to see the old badger still makes an appearance. An appearance from foliage that looks like… nettles. There they are again. A reassuring and disconcerting illustration. But one that makes you want to read on.

Under the illustration is the biggest mention I’ve yet seen of Hall & Woodhouse on the front of one of their bottles. “Brewed by Hall & Woodhouse” wasn’t on the front of their other bottles. Presumably because this one is more of a River Cottage ale than a Badger ale.

Next there’s a very stylised description of “using organic nettles hand-picked in Dorset”. That explains it. This is made from organic nettles. As for the hand-picking part, all I can think is, I hope they had plenty of dock leaves to hand. If you don’t know what I mean, that’s because you are a townie. You have my sympathies.

Also on the front is a respectable 4.5% volume.

Over on the back label, and the River Cottage connection becomes clear. There’s a photo and extensive quote from Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall. You know, the celebrity chef, author and journalist from Channel 4’s River Cottage series of programmes. At first, his involvement with an ale, organic or otherwise baffled me. That was until I learnt that his River Cottage is in Dorset, and thus, the link to Hall & Woodhouse became clear.
Hall & Woodhouse River Cottage Stinger back label

At this point, I must confess that I’ve never watched more than a few odd minutes of Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall’s television programmes. I’ve seen enough to get the gist that he likes the back-to-nature ways of cooking. And that’s something I respect. But anything more than a few minutes at a time and I’m afraid I might start voting Liberal Democrat.

Back to the label, and I’m delighted to see the little ‘Taste Profile’ chart has made in tact to this bottle. Albeit, minus the ‘See’, ‘Smell’ and ‘Taste’ additions from Harvester Ale. With this one, ‘Malty’ and ‘Fruity’ come out top with four out of five. And ‘Sweet’, ‘Bitter’ and ‘Hoppy’ are three, two and one out of five respectively. Something tells me that this is going to be distinctive.

The main text on the back label is actually a gigantic quote from H F-W himself. To summarise, he wanted to create an organic beer. And sums up Stinger with words like “delicious”, “refreshing”, “West Country character”, “depth”, “slightly spicy” “light bitterness” and “subtle tingle that comes from the nettles”. I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly intrigued at this stage.

Among the usual small-print details, there’s one little symbol that makes it’s presence know. And that is the Soil Association Organic Standard mark. Yet again, we’re seeing another ale making a deal about being organic. This really does seem to be the next big thing.

Of the other small-print that may or may not interest you, is the little symbol telling us that this bottle has 2.3 of your UK units of alcohol. That is contains malted barley. The H & W address in Blandford St. Mary, Dorset, England. The www.badgerales.com web address. And, also, the www.rivercottage.net web address.

Enough chatter. Let’s see if this strange and unusual drink is actually any good.

Once safely in the glass, the first thing that surprised me was the colour. I was half hoping for an outrageous nettle green colour. But alas, it’s a straightforward light gold. And one with a predictable, thin head.
Hall & Woodhouse River Cottage Stinger poured

It does smell a little different however. And… I don’t know how to describe it. It smells kind of fruity and a little malty. But not in any ways that I’ve smelt it before. It’s not overpowering, and quite pleasant. I like beers that do something different, so in terms of smell, Stinger is doing well so far.

Only smell isn’t the most important part. Flavour, taste and drinkability are. So let’s get drinking. And my first impressions are good. Excellent in fact. A couple of gulps in, and this has a full, proper ale taste. Regardless of the unusual way in which it was made. Only I’m having some difficulty figuring out what it is that I’m tasting. Let’s compare it against Hugh’s description…

Yes, it is refreshing. Not the most refreshing ever, but served cool, it ticks that box. It’s got that character and depth that made me love the other Badger ales so much. So, if like me, you like your ale to be a complex blend of stuff, then you’ll probably get on well with Stinger too. Hugh also describes a light bitterness, with a spicy tingle. The light bitterness is definitely there. And it’s one of the lightest bitternesses I’ve seen for a long time. And it comes with hardly any bad aftertaste. So if you don’t like bitterness, you’re fairly safe with Stinger. As for the spicy tingle, I can’t quite find it on my taste buds. I’m getting a tiny hint of something tingly, buried in the blend. But the nettle-like sting isn’t much in evidence.

Over half of the way through now, and Stinger is proving to be a very enjoyable, and easily-drinkable ale. Easier to drink than even yesterday’s low-alcohol Harvesters Ale. This is turning out to be quite different to what I was expecting.

Stinger seems to be avoiding the downsides of being very hoppy. While being a little of the bitter, arable side of the flavour spectrum. Not greatly so, mind. And that I think, could be the weakness. It’s just not as unusual as I hoped it would be. Not that I expected nettle leaves to be floating in the bottle. But more of a nettle flavour would have helped Stinger stand out. And as a fan of homemade nettle soup, I can vouch for the tastiness of nettles.

To sum up then. What Stinger is tuning out to be, is a not an outlandish, new-age inspired eco-drink. But rather a quality, mild, drinkable ale with a nice taste. If you can find it stocked, I’d say it’s worth your time.

Rating: 4

Have you tried Harvester? What did you think of it?
The comments box is below. You know what to do…

Beer Review: Badger Harvesters Ale

2 April, 2008

LOW-ALCOHOL beer. What is the point? To me, something always seemed disingenuous and suspicious about low-alcohol beers and lagers. In the same way that ‘edutainment’ computer games would try to cover up learning with fun. Or Open University documentaries would try to disguise facts with a garnishing of entertainment. Whenever you consumed them, you would always have that suspicion that you were being manipulated into being ‘good’.

Realising this, yet still wanting new markets, the big brewers scratched their heads and did a spot of innovating. Most notably, Carling with their “mid-strength” 2% volume, C2 launch in 2006, aimed at the so-called ‘metrosexual’ man who wants a “proper pint” without getting drunk.

While I haven’t reviewed C2, I did review Tesco Value Lager. Which is also 2%. And a taste-less, pointless waste of time. And that, I suspect, is true of most low or mid-alcohol lagers. But… what about low-alcohol ale? Could that be the answer? Could it be a genuine, tasty, full-bodied beer for the health conscious socialite?

To answer this question, I have here a bottle of Hall & Woodhouse’s Badger Harvesters Ale. This comes from the same brewer as Badger Original Ale, Badger Golden Glory Ale and Badger Golden Champion Ale, whom insisted that I try a few more of their beers. So, let’s take a closer look at Badger Harvesters Ale.
Badger Harvesters Ale bottle

And one of the first things that grabs your attention is the little label on the neck of the bottle. And it’s a label I’ve been seeing a lot of recently.
Badger Harvesters Ale neck label

Broughton Double Champion Ale and Ridgeway Blue both have them, and Harvesters Ale joins them as a 2008 winner in the Tesco Drinks Awards. This time, in the category of ‘Lower & No Alcohol’. From my experience with those two other Tesco award winners, they tend to pick good drinks. So my expectations are going up. Albeit from a low starting point.

The big front label is a distinct variation on the Badger theme.
Badger Harvesters Ale front label

The entire design shouts, or rather whispers “take it easy”. The soft yellowy colours and the little picture of, presumably a harvester, relaxing under a tree paint a picture of pre-industrial rural bliss. Look a little closer and you’ll also notice the stylised ‘Harvesters’ logo has an arable touch to the letter ‘H’. There are also some simple pictures of birds, one of which is placed like an apostrophe above the logo. Or is it supposed to be Harvester’s and not Harvesters?

Standing out prominently is it’s own corner is “ALC 2.5% VOL”. And that could be key. It’s 0.5% higher than some of those awful medium-strength lagers. Over on the other corner, Harvesters is described as “refreshing” and “well-hopped” and as having a “lighter touch”. I hope all of that proves to be true.

Around to the back label, and I’m delighted to see the taste profile. And this label has made some additions to it.
Badger Harvesters Ale back label

The main part of that godsend of a chart gives ‘Sweet’ the highest of them all, with ‘Bitter’, ‘Hoppy’ and ‘Fruity’ all in joint second place. ‘Malty’ is the lowest.

The additions come in the form on three little boxes next to it. ‘See’, ‘Smell’ and ‘Taste’ all have their little icons, and, as you’d expect, give us yet more of an insight. Under ‘See’ we have “Light golden brown”. Under ‘Smell’, it is “Light and hoppy with grape undertones”. And for ‘Taste’, is tells us to expect “Medium bitterness & sweetness”.

I happen to think that these little boxes and the taste profile are terrific ideas. They give you an idea of whether you’ll like it or not, when you’re in the shop. And it gives me something to judge it by when it comes to my own taste test.

As with the other Badger ales, this one comes with a story behind it. This one revolves around the ale given by landowners to labourers at harvest time. And how, to avoid the calamity of drunken labours failing to do the harvest, less potent ales were sought. And that this is just such an ale. Light, yet supposedly not comprised in the things that matter.

There’s also all the small print you expect. That this is a 500 millilitre bottle. The Hall & Woodhouse Ltd. address in Blandford, Dorset, England. And www.badgerales.com web address. That this contains malted barley and sulphites. The fact that this only has 1.3 UK units of alcohol. And a few more details that don’t make it onto most other bottles. There’s a small table listing the recommended daily maximum of alcohol units; 3-4 for men and 2-3 for women. Also, next to the usual ‘drink responsibly’ message and recycle symbols, there’s one indicating that pregnant women should not drink. This takes corporate social responsibility to the next level.

But is it any good. We’re about to find out…

Well, it’s a golden brown colour. As described on the label. It’s topped off by a creamy and consistent head. As for the smell, it is as mildly hoppy as hinted at by the label. I’m not so sure about those grape undertones however. Although there’s a hint of something citrus in there if you sniff it hard enough.
Badger Harvesters Ale in a glass

The label described the taste as having medium bitterness and sweetness. A couple of gulps in, and I’m undecided about it. It is bitter. A little too much so for my personal taste. And leaves a hoppy aftertaste. But the sweet fruitiness. And the rich, complex flavours that make ales so good just weren’t as much in evidence as I had hoped.

On the other hand, it is refreshing. Not too gassy. And importantly, it’s also quite easy to drink.

While this is much much better than the watery Tesco Value Lager, it doesn’t quite deliver the full ale experience minus the alcohol. That said, it does get pretty darn close. If I were having a beer with a meal during a lunch break at work, this would be the right thing to have. It sets the standard for low-alcohol ales. By and large, it accomplishes what it sets out to do. Even though it didn’t really do it for me.

Rating: 3.15

Have you tried Badger Harvesters Ale?

Or do you have any recommendations of your own for low-alcohol beers?
Comments, ideas, suggestions and insults below please.

Beer Review: Young’s Special London Ale

31 March, 2008

FROM Oxfordshire, we take the short journey to Wandsworth, London with Young’s Special London Ale. This one was from my local Tesco, where I also noticed a Young’s Bitter. But since I don’t much care for bitters, that would have been a pointless choice. So here we are with something that does very tasty indeed.
Young’s Special London Ale bottle

The shape and colour look good. This bottle stands out in the crowd on the shelf. Then your eye gets drawn to the label on the neck.
Young’s Special London Ale neck label

Above the identification that this comes from The Ram Brewery is an award. Apparently, this is a ‘Bottle Conditioned Beer’. Like yesterday’s good Ridgeway Blue, and the outstanding Hoegaarden. It also happens to have won the ‘Silver Medal’ in 2004 by CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale. What surprises me is that a second-place prize is used to market it. But the knowledge that people much more knowledgeable than I am like this bottle. Plus the fact that it is bottle conditioned, get me salivating, and no longer worrying about what got the gold medal.

The front label does what you’d expect of a London Ale. The silhouette of the London skyline is good. If touristy. The Ram Brewery logo appears to feature one, or is that two rams? It’s a good piece of design, but looks out of place on the blue and black colour scheme of the label.
Young’s Special London Ale front label

Another thing that grabs your attention on the front is the alcohol volume. Which is a surprisingly high 6.4%. That might put some of you off, but I like my beers and ales not to comprise on strength. That and the bottle conditioning are raising those expectations. Let’s hope it doesn’t disappoint.

The rear label fits everything important onto a small, but readable little label.
Young’s Special London Ale back label

And Young’s start the label by not letting up on those expectations. They tell us that it won those awards by being strong, but very drinkable. There’s the “CAMRA says this is Real Ale” logo. Which, although it doesn’t mean that much, is still a nice addition.

The label goes on the tell us what it will be like to drink. Here are some of the words they use: “malty richness”, “huge amounts of hops”, “balanced”, “aromatic”, “dry” and “fruity flavour”. Wow. That is a lot to take in. Let’s see… Malty can be good. If it’s the right type. Hoppy can be good if it doesn’t leave a bad aftertaste. Balanced; that’s only used to describe beers I’ve enjoyed, so I’m glad to see that word in there. Fruitiness is almost always a good addition. Not sure what to make of the “dry”-ness at this stage, though.

Young’s go on to suggest gentle pouring. And that leaving the yeast sediment safely in the bottle is what they think is best. I’ll do my best, but I can’t guarantee that enthusiasm won’t get the better of me.

Also on there are the brewers’ Wandsworth address. Their www.youngsathome.co.uk website. Which works. And that this 500 millilitre bottle has 3.2 of your UK units of alcohol. Enough of this prattle. It’s time to pour. Very very gently.

The first thing that surprised me was the head. The instructions to pour gently made me expect that it would suffer from an uncontrollably frothy head that would spill over the glass and flood my flat. What I got was a thin and patchy head.
Young’s Special London Ale in a glass

The colour is cloudy dark-gold. It really is cloudy in there. Much more opaque than most other gold coloured brews. That must be the yeast doing its job.

The smell is pretty good. Maybe 70:30 of hops to malt. No sign of those fruits though.

The first gulp tells you that this is going to be nice and smooth. Not very gassy. And full of flavours. If only I could tell what they were. This is going to take a few more gulps to figure out.

Just like the smell, I’d say the flavour is split between the hops and the malt. With the hops managing to dominate. Time to check how accurate the label was… “Malty richness” is there. “Huge amounts of hops” are present, I’d say. “Balance” is harder to judge. All I know is that this is turning out to be quite drinkable. So I’ll say ‘yes’ and hope that it is. If you can explain in layman’s terms what “balance” is all about, by all means leave a message in the comments at the end of this post.

“Aromatic” is true. It smells like an ale should. Is it “dry”? It has a mild bitterness and sour aftertaste. Not in an off-putting way. But I’ll say ‘yes’, it is “dry”. “Fruity flavour” however, I can’t detect at all. Maybe someone with taste buds that haven’t been dulled by Pot Noodles will be capable of noticing the fruitiness. I however, could not.

Fortunately, this is one strong ale. And that makes the promises on the label; correct or otherwise; as irrelevant as a Zimbabwean vote count. This is an easily-drinkable, hop tasting, strong ale. You would have to be very averse to bitterness not to enjoy this one. By the end of the bottle, I’d very happy crack open another.

It is no surprise then, that a quick glance at their website reveals that the Young’s brewing company, is in fact part of Well’s & Young’s. The parent behind the excellent Bombardier Satanic Mills. I’m delighted to report that there’s been no compromise with Special London Ale. It is largely deserving of its award winning status. If I had to nitpick, I’d say that the bitter flavour might put some people off. But I enjoyed this bottle. If you like good, cloudy, strong ales, you’ll probably like this too.

Rating: 4.2

Have you tried Young’s Special London Ale?
Disagree with my rating? Want to pick up on the many mistakes I made?
Or want to share your ramblings, thought or suggestions?
Then leave a message in the little box below.


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