Posts Tagged ‘yeast’

Beer Review: Young’s Kew Gold

11 December, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4.2

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

Beer Review: Früli Strawberry Beer

2 October, 2009

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

Früli Strawberry Beer bottle

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

Früli Strawberry Beer neck foil

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

Früli Strawberry Beer front label

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

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

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

Früli Strawberry Beer back label

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

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

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

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

Früli Strawberry Beer poured into a half-pint glass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 3.75

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

Beer Review: Morland Hen’s Tooth

23 September, 2009

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

Morland Hen’s Tooth bottle

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

Morland Hen’s Tooth neck label

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

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

Morland Hen’s Tooth front label

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

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

Morland Hen’s Tooth back label

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

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

Morland Hen’s Tooth back label

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4.25

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

Beer Review: 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!


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