Showing posts from April, 2011

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Struise Rosse 2008

Today is, of course, a special day. A very special day. One we’ve all been waiting for with baited breath. It’s a day when we can all join in and share the moment. And, for such a grand occasion, I am more than willing to break my holiday embargo on breakfast drinking.
So, without further ado, let’s congratulate Open It.
Open It is the beer bloggers mind-meld where we all choose a beer we have been waiting to try and share the experience with our fellow imbibers. I’ve chosen a bottle of Struise Rosse 2008. Why? Because I found it in the beer cupboard and haven’t got a clue how it got in there. But I’m going to drink it anyway.
The basics: It’s 33cl, 6% and unpasteurised and unfiltered. It poured amber with a fluffy off-white head. The aroma was a pleasant mix of yeast, stone fruits (apricot, mainly) and light spices.
Taste: Medium bodied with a very smooth mouthfeel. It was also dryer than I was expecting. There’s some bread yeast flavour on the palate along with overripe cherries and ap…

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Islay Ales Single Malt

Islay Ales come, naturally, from the isle of Islay where they have the honour of being the only brewery. They have been brewing since 2005.
The basics: It’s a bottle-conditioned, 5%, ale made with Pale Malt, Amarillo and Bramling Cross hops. It poured a healthy amber colour with a fluffy off-white head. The aroma, perhaps surprisingly given the name, was a pungent mix of grapefruit and orange.
Taste: Medium bodied and crisp. There is a gentle backbone of malt, but the hops dominate here. There is a very refreshing burst of citrus hops that builds and lingers on the palate.
Finish: Long and very dry, bitter hop finish.
Conclusion: Excellent. A very refreshing beer that drinks well under its strength. The Amarillo and Bramling Cross are combined perfectly to give a crisp, dry edge. One for the birthday bash.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Thornbridge Wild Swan

Not much introduction needed here. Thornbridge are known for brewing beers of distinction, from the sublime Kipling to the barely drinkable Lord Marples. Wild Swan is their session strength beer and is highly prized on cask.
The basics: It’s 500ml and says it’s 3.5%, unfiltered and unpasteurised. They also use the “C” word. Yes, it’s a “craft” beer. But I’ll try it anyway.
It poured a very pale gold with a soft, fluffy, white head. The aroma was a pleasing waft of spicy lemon and citrus hops. .
Taste: Light bodied and very clean tasting. A refreshing beer with plenty of zesty, spicy lemon tones, exotic fruit and a sharp bitterness. However, not surprisingly, it lacks the crisp definition of the cask version and feels more “softened”.
Finish: Lingering and pleasantly dry, hoppy finish.
Conclusion: Whilst lacking the complex subtlety of the cask version, this is an excellent and refreshing session beer. Perfect for breakfast or even, should you be that way inclined, for later in the day. On…

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Ole Slewfoot White Dove

The oddly named Ole Slewfoot is named after an old North American Bear that has been the subject of many songs. The brewery produces variations on English and Belgium ales.
The basics: This is a Belgium style white beer. It’s bottle-conditioned, 3.7%, is naturally cloudy and is suitable for vegans. It poured very pale and very lively; it came out of the bottle faster than Usain Bolt at a free, all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet.
The head was large, white, and fluffy with an aroma of cloves, spices, banana and elderflower.
Taste: Thin on the palate. There is coriander and some spiced ginger, but in surprisingly low quantities. Perhaps they feared overload in such a low strength beer?
Finish: Meek and mild.
Conclusion: Not bad, but not as refreshing as I had hoped. There’s potential here, but it needs more oomph, as the appearance is rather of a thinner younger brother, rather than the real thing. One for your maidenly aunt.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Nobby's Wild West

Nobby’s Brewery is based in the Ward Arms pub in the High St of Guilsborough, Northamptonshire.
The basics: It’s 500ml, bottle-conditioned and 4.6%. It poured mahogany with good carbonation and a tight beige head. The aroma was roast barley, sweet malt and some fruit.
Taste: Medium bodied. A strong dose of roast barley, along with some coffee and a little liquorice toffee. The roast barley gives a lot of almost astringent bitterness that is never balanced out.
Finish: Medium level of roast coffee bitterness.
Conclusion: Not sure what this was supposed to be. Stout? Porter? The roast barley dominated too much for my palate and made it very one dimensional and quite hard to drink. One for the meter reader.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Red Panther

Panther have only been brewing since 2010 and explain their raison d'être thus:"Inhabitants of the small Norfolk town of Reepham claim to have seen a large panther-like cat prowling and secretly stalking the countryside. This hand-crafted ale is dedicated to this beautiful animal.”
The basics: This is a bottle-conditioned, 500ml, 4.1% ale. It poured tawny with reasonable carbonation and an off-white head. Aroma was fruit and biscuit malt.
Taste: Quite smooth on the palate. There’s some biscuit malt and a hint of toffee before the tart fruit and good old English hop bitterness kicks in.
Finish: Initially fruity, but becoming quite dry.
Conclusion: Well balanced mix of fruit and hops. A good solid, English Bitter. One for your cousin.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Lymestone Stone The Crows

Lymestone are based in Stone (no coincidence) in Staffordshire. They’ve been brewing since 2008. I’ve come across their beers several times, mainly in Wetherspoons, but hadn’t tried any of their bottled beers until today.
The basics: It’s 5.4% and 500ml. It poured deep ruby with a small beige head. The aroma was quite slight; with sweet malt, caramel and a little fruitiness . Taste: Medium bodied. The bottle claims Styrian Golding, Millennium and Nugget hops, but there was little evidence of them here. Mainly sweet malt and caramel with some dried fruit.
Finish: A short burst of caramel sweetness.
Conclusion: I’m not really sure what this is supposed to be-perhaps a strong Mild? But at 5.4% it really lacked any definition and was rather insipid. One for your dog.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Quantock Stout

Quantock are based in Somerset and have been brewing since 2007. I haven’t tried their beers before, but have heard good things about them.

The basics: It’s 500ml and is a bottle-conditioned, 4.5%, “distinctive dry Stout.” It poured black with a tight beige head. The aroma was a heady mix of dark chocolate, caramel and hints of coffee and dark fruit.

Taste: Medium bodied with an initially smooth mouthfeel. There’s a lot going on here with plenty of chocolate, coffee and lingering notes of dark fruit. Behind it all is a dry bitterness that builds up as you go further down the glass.

Finish: Medium dry bitterness. Conclusion: Excellent. Does what it says on the tin. A satisfying, complex and, importantly for me, dry Stout. One for your great-uncle.

100% Cask

It was doubly good news when the Old White Lion on Bolton St recently returned to the cask fold. Firstly, with the appearance of Bury’s very own Outstanding Blonde on the bar, it means that all the pubs in the town centre are once more offering real ale.
And, secondly, it was particularly gratifying to see a handpump back in use at the OWL as it’s a CAMRA Heritage Pub. More information about its historical content can be found here . As an aside, it also boasts some rather old-school keg fonts. Not surprising as it boasts some rather old-school clientele who love the old-school singalongs that the pub regularly hosts. So, if you’re stuck in the 70s, why not try the Trophy Bitter (brewed at Hydes, I think), the Bass Mild or the Whitbread Light?

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Dent Ramsbottom

Dent Brewery are a Yorkshire brewery based in Cumbria. Eh? Yes, they’re in a remote part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park that is actually in Cumbria. So now you know.

The basics: It’s 500ml and comes in at 4.5%. It poured chestnut with little or no carbonation and a soft, quickly disappearing head. There was a slight aroma of sweet malt and toffee. Taste: Medium bodied. It had a sweet malt, caramel taste with a little dried fruit underneath. No discernable bitterness, just a layer of sweetness that lies on the tongue.

Finish: Short burst of sweet malt.

Conclusion: An unexciting venture into the premium Bitter category. More Ramsbum than Ramsbottom. One for your sister’s boyfriend.

Beer of the Week: Buxton Gold

Sampled at the Waterhouse in Manchester. This golden ale beautifully combines Liberty, Amarillo and Nelson Sauvin hops to give a very aromatic and refreshing beer.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Mallinsons Tandleman: I Can't Believe It's Not Lees

Well we said we would party like it’s 1999. And we did. And we saw in the dawn of a new day with nothing less than Tandleman’s own beer, due to the sheer number of requests for it. Plus it was the nearest case that was open.

But was that the right time to do it justice? It’s a well known fact that breakfast is the ideal time for an epicurean experience. So, on the morning of the day after the day before, I reached for this bottle once again.

On a technical note; people often think this was bottled solely for the Tandlemeister’s benefit. It was actually done for his better half, ‘er indoors, Mrs T, to give out to her colleagues and friends

The basics: It’s a bottle-conditioned 500ml, 4.6%, golden ale. It poured a pleasing pale gold with good carbonation and a tight, off-white head. There was a subtle aroma of soft fruit and citrus hops. Taste: Light and refreshing. A smooth mouthfeel gives way to a medium bitterness and some dry, tart fruit hops. Lingers nicely on the palate.

Finish: A sa…

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout

It’s the weekend. It’s Saturday. It’s the FA Cup semi-final Manchester derby. It’s the swaggering, moneybags vs. the poor underdogs. That’s Man City v Man Utd for those not paying attention. Win or lose, it’s a big day. And what better way to start such a big day than with a big beer?

And so to Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout. Great Divide are based in Colorado and are well established on the American beer scene, having been brewing since 1994.

The basics: It’s a tiny 355ml bottle. However, even I can’t begrudge it that, as it weighs in at an impressive breakfast-bowl-busting 9.5%. Imperial Stouts were named after the connection with the Russian Imperial Court who liked their beers strong, so that’s fair enough.

It poured black as a coalmine with a very large brown, latte type head. The aroma was intense. Heavy doses of dark bitter chocolate, roast malt and coffee.

Taste: Impressive. Packed full of intense flavours, but it’s far more drinkable than I was expecting. Chewy chocolate and …

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Wold Top Bitter

Wold Top beers are quite common on this side of the great divide, but I had yet to try one of this Yorkshire brewer’s bottled offerings. Until today.

The basics: The bottle was 500ml with an unusual (for bottling) strength of only 3.7%. So a straight attempt at reproducing their flagship Bitter. It poured light-amber with little carbonation and a thin beige head. There is a subtle aroma of sweet malt and some fruit hop.

Taste: Medium bodied with a well balanced, moderately malty, base. There is some tart fruit before the bitterness of the hops comes through.

Finish; Short, but quite dry.

Conclusion: A successful adaptation of the cask version. The Crystal Malt and Northdown hops are used to good effect to create an easy-drinking, old-school, session ale. One for your doctor.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Iceni Men of Norfolk

Being a sucker for punishment, I decided to try yet another Iceni beer for breakfast. They can’t all be bad, can they? 

The basics: It’s 500ml, bottle-conditioned and weighs in at 6.2%. It poured black and completely flat with no real sign of life. The aroma was slight; roast malt and some dark fruits. Taste: Surprisingly thin for such a strong beer. Not much in the taste, but roast malt dominates with some dark fruit (blackberries?) and a little coffee round the edges. Finish: Short with a little roast malt. Conclusion: Flat and insipid. It doesn’t work as a strong Mild as there really isn’t anything to justify the strength and Mild doesn’t mean dull. One for the guy who’s always pushing in front of you at the bar.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Summerskills Guzzale

Summerskills are based in Plymouth and have been brewing in their present incarnation since 1990. The brewery owner is a former member of the Royal Navy and their logo is the ship crest from H.M.S Bigbury Bay. The Royal Naval Association benefits from sales of this bottle.

The basics: A 500ml, 4.6% bottle-conditioned ale. I liked the bottle which gave a lot of local detail. So I leant that the name of the beer stems from the nickname for Plymouth and where the lager malt, Pilgrim & First Gold hops came from. This was very lively. It poured amber with a very large off-white head. There was a slight sweet malt, toffee aroma.

Taste: Quite creamy. Mainly caramel/toffee notes and a little fruit in the aftertaste. Not much in the way of bitterness.

Finish: Short and malty.

Conclusion: A reasonable standard Bitter. However, it lacks the bitterness to tickle my personal palate. One for you aunty.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Atlantic Red Organic Celtic Ale,

Atlantic brewery are based on the coast of Cornwall, near Newquay, and have been brewing since 2005. This is a “full bodied Bitter” made with home grown organic hops and is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

The basics: It’s 5% and comes in a clear 500ml bottle and is bottle-conditioned. It poured copper hued with very little carbonation and a thin beige head. The aroma was caramel and biscuit malt.

Taste: Medium bodied. Mainly malt with some sweet fruit and a nutty, biscuit texture. Quite smooth with just a slight bitterness coming through.

Finish: Short and mildly bitter.

Conclusion: Inoffensive and quite palatable as an ordinary Bitter. However, at 5% it lacks anything to really make it stand out from the crowd. One for your mother-in-law.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Sambrooks Wandle

Sambrooks are part of the new wave of London brewers and are based in Battersea. Their beers are often to be found on handpump in the capital, but this is my first trial of the bottled version.

The basics: It’s 500ml and is bottle-conditioned. At 4.2%, it’s slightly stronger than the 3.8% cask version. It poured burnt gold with good carbonation and a small off-white head. The aroma was gentle; lightly hopped with malt with some tart fruit.
Taste: Quite smooth with both caramel and malt coming through initially, followed by a dry, slightly sour aftertaste. Some bitterness but not as crisp as the cask version.
Finish: Short and bitter.
Conclusion: Slightly disappointing. Despite beefing up the ABV, the bottled version lacks the bitterness of the cask version and comes across as rather ordinary. One for your great-uncle.

Beer of the Week

It’s Citra. It’s by Oakham. In the words of the great Stan Lee: ‘Nuff said.”

March Beer of the Month

Ossett Oregon Pale

March Cheese of the Month: Hawes Handmade Wenslydale

Matured for nine months to give it a creamy and mild, yet subtly, fresh tang. Crumbly and slightly moist, there is a slight honeyed texture and, thanks to the extra maturation, a pleasing acidic finish.

Very moreish

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Avery Brown Dredge

It’s Sunday and the sun is shining. It’s time to kick-start the week with something different. Something brash and exciting. Having misplaced my Skol Super Strength, I’m forced to look elsewhere for my breakfast fix. And where better than with the beer of the moment: Avery Brown Dredge.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Who in tarnation has named a beer after a firm of solicitors? Rest easy, dear fellow imbibers. They are not a team of litigation experts, but a jolly band of funky, hip, brewers. Not much is known about their origins, but the stories are legion. Some claim they are part of the Illuminati (or is that crafterati?) whilst others say they are followers of Voldemort and that their likeness can never be captured on film.

What we do know about these Tandleman wannabes is that they are planning to take over the brewing world. Before launching their takeover bid for InBev, however, they decided to do a test run at Brewdog. Their ultimate aim was to produce a Budweiser clone with a…

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Elmtree Dark Horse Stout

After my somewhat sweeping statement about the quality of bottled Norfolk beer-mainly based on my experience with Iceni-I was urged to try some others. Elmtree are a very small brewery in Snetterton, Norwich and have been brewing since 2007.

The basics: I liked the look of this bottle. It gave lots of information apart from the basics that it’s 5% and bottle conditioned. I learnt that it’s made from East Anglian barley, contains Challenger and Goldings hops and is suitable for vegans. The beer is allowed to condition in the bottle for two months.

It poured jet black with, despite my best efforts, no discernible head whatsoever. The aroma was an appealing, quite subtle, mix of coffee and sweet fruit.

Taste: Medium bodied and velvet smooth on the tongue. Roast malt and some tart fruit gives way to a pleasing crisp hop bitterness.

Finish: Mellow with some fruit and bitterness lingering.

Conclusion: Whilst some drinkers of strong Stouts may find this lacking, I liked it. It was very smoo…

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Iceni Cascade

Now I’ve not had the best of luck with Iceni beers, but I’ve been assured that their Cascade is the best there is. After all, how wrong can you go with Cascade hops?
The basics: It’s another bottle conditioned 500ml bottle that comes in at a surprisingly weak 4.1%. It poured cloudy orange with the very thinnest of heads. The aroma consisted of a whisper of citrus hops.
Taste: Thin. It was like someone had dropped some hops in a glass of water. You could tell there was Cascade in there, along with a little buttery malt, but there was nothing else.
Finish: A brief burst of bitterness.
Conclusion: Very disappointing. Lacking in body and even the slightest complexity, rendered this akin to drinking a slightly bitter fruit drink. One for the dustman.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Hopshackle ESB

After trying Hopshackle’s Historic Porter, my curiosity was piqued enough to try their Extra Special Beer.

The basics: It’s a standard 500ml, bottle conditioned and weighs in at 4.8%. It poured dark amber with good carbonation and a large beige head. There was quite an aroma of toasted malt and caramel.

Taste: Medium bodied. There was an initial taste of caramel and some fruit, but mainly it’s toasted malt and a little astringent bitterness.

Finish: Short. A quick burst of medium bitterness.

Conclusion: Disappointing. There’s nothing particularly special about this Extra Special Bitter. One for the milkman.

Breakfast Beer Down Under

As something of a pioneer of, and currently No.1 in the breakfast beer rankings, I was taken aback by the headline ““Breakfast Beer” slammed by critics.” Was I to face the wrath of Alcohol Concern and the other government lackeys?
No. As it turns out, it was referencing a new beer to be launched in Auckland, New Zealand at 7am on Thursday. The cherry-flavoured wheat lager is being launched by Marlborough brewery Moa and is 5.5%.

It’s the description that is sending the self-righteous into apoplectic fits. It’s apparently “a beer the ladies can enjoy too ... if you're having a champagne breakfast but don't fancy champagne, have a beer instead.”

Sounds good to me.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Hopshackle Historic Porter

Hopshackle are based in Market Deeping, Lincolnshire and have been brewing since 2006. The unusual name stems from an episode of Call My Bluff that the brewer happened to be watching.

The basics: It’s 500ml, bottle conditioned and tips the scales at 4.8%. It poured a deep ruby, almost black, colour with a frothy beige head. There was a strong aroma of coffee, chocolate and some tart fruit.

Taste: Quite chewy texture. Initial smoothness gives way to a complex mix of treacle, roast malt, dark fruit and liquorice bitterness.

Finish: Dry with roast malt and some liquorice.

Conclusion: An interesting beer. For my personal preference, could be a little dryer, but it’s a solid example of its style. One for the brother-in-law.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Meantime London Lager

I’m a big fan of Meantime beers. But then who isn’t? So I had high hopes of their London Lager.

The basics: It’s a svelte 330ml and 4.5%. It poured clear golden with excellent carbonation and a soapy white head. There was a delicate aroma of fresh dough and malt.

Taste: Very mellow and clean tasting. It doesn’t just imitate a real Johnny-foreigner lager, it is one. A light backbone of malt is offset nicely by the Kent hops to give a refreshing crisp edge.

Finish: A little sweet malt and fruit.

Conclusion: Delivers what it promises. The only real minus is the child-sized bottle. Whether that’s to cater for the Stars & Stripes market or simply the old take that lager should be served in smaller bottles is irrelevant. It’s silly and needs sorting. One for your brother.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Green Jack Orange Wheat

One of the beers I’ve yet to try in the current Wetherspoons beer festival is the Green Jack Orange Wheat Beer. As a precursor to that, I thought I would try the bottled version.

The basics: A standard 500ml bottle that clocks in at 4.2%. It poured as a golden ale with poor carbonation and a very thin white head. Not much in the way of aroma except for a faint impression of marmalade.

Taste: Quite thin and bland really. You do get some orange, some dry bitterness and a slight sourness, but not in any great measure.

Finish: Slight orange dryness.

Conclusion: Disappointing really. I see that the Ormskirk Baron has rated it a 3/5, but I’d say 2/5. Whilst the American hops did lend it some bitterness, there simply wasn’t enough. Ditto for the East Anglian Wheat and the orange peel. One for the significant other.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Brentwood Hope & Glory

Brentwood are based in the town of the same name in Essex and have been brewing since 2006. Hope & Glory is described as a “traditional red bitter”.

The basics: It’s a standard 500ml bottle and comes in at 4.5%. It poured a deep copper with reasonable carbonation and a medium off-white head. There was malt and some caramel in the aroma.

Taste: Medium bodied. A little fruit and some chocolate malt dominate initially before the East Kent Goldings come through to deliver crisp bitterness on the tongue.

Finish: Medium with lingering bitterness.

Conclusion: I was initially worried it was going to taste like Shepherd Neame, but I needn’t have worried. There was a healthy amount of crisp bitterness here. Probably best described as an old-fashioned Bitter. And there’s nothing wrong with that if you can do it well. One for your granddad.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Ballast Point Big Eye IPA

Ballast Point is an American brewery which is based in San Diego and has been brewing for some 15 years. All their beers celebrate their love of fishing.

The basics: It’s a 355ml bottle and weighs in at a respectable 7% with a healthy 85 IBUs. It’s a good job I’m not driving to work. Or indeed planning to do any work today!

It poured clear amber with a large, white, frothy head. The aroma is pungent floral hops and some citrus.

Taste: Medium bodied and pleasantly smooth. The four types of malt work well to give it some balance and allow the Cascade & Centennial hops to soak through onto the palate. Plenty of grapefruit and floral bite, but not as overwhelming as some others.

Finish: Fades away to give a lingering back of the throat dryness.

Conclusion: An excellent, well structured IPA that drinks under its strength and deserves its moreish reputation. One for Mother’s Day.

Breakfast Beer Tasting: Teignworthy Maltster's Ale

This is a winter ale brewed in celebration of the malsters art.

The basics: It’s 5% and bottle conditioned and comes in a 500ml container. It poured copper coloured with medium carbonation and a thin off-white head. The aroma was sweet malt and some fruit.

Taste: Medium bodied with mainly caramel malt and sweet fruit. Surprisingly heavy on the palate with only a little hop bitterness to balance things out.

Finish: Like my granny. Short and sweet.

Conclusion: Inoffensive really. Tastes just like a strong Best Bitter. I’m going to have to mark it down, though, as it really can’t justify being 5%.