Saturday, 19 April 2014

Dark Side (Bath Ales)

This is an outstanding 4% ABV stout, increasingly cropping up on pub taps as a default dark, most recently so by the Loungers group.

In the bottle it pours cleanly and with a fine standard head. The notes on the nose are beautiful roasted barley, literally vacuuming the senses towards taking a sip.

The sup is smooth and light. This is probably as near as you can get to a wholly session stout, familiar cloying flavours of a darker beer blended up into a dance of pitchy delicacy. Even those who don't normally drink darker beer should find they can sail through this one without too much fuss, and it could easily act as a gateway to a dark beer prevalence.

8/10 - Wonderfully crafted session stout, skilfully executed.

The Broadside

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

St Stefanus Blonde 7%

It pops open and pours with one of those delightful little Ibiza foam party heads, conjuring delicate notes of caramel and cloves.

The opening taste is unique but unnervingly familiar, it's like looking through someone else's photo albums of places you have been to. The similarities between this beer and Duvel seem obvious to start, the bottle, the aroma, but on tasting the drift away. It has a more prominent malt backbone to it, a creamy caramel, almost fudge like opening. As the sweetness subsides the spicy clove notes come through before leaving a delightful dry bitterness.

Duvel is a wonderful beer, this offers something slightly different, more mellow in aroma and strength with added caramel tones which any Belgian novice could appreciate.

8/10 One to try, not a Belgian Classic, but a thoroughly enjoyable nod to the style.

Ps it says serve at 8c. Hopefully the below gives you comfort around the lengths we go to at the bunker to give every beer it's chance

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Einstök Icelandic White Ale (Einstök Ölgerð)

Here's a fresh little wonder. Brewed in (to me) an unintelligible location in Iceland using "the purest water on earth", this sharp and snappy anaemic wonder is brewed in the Belgian 'witbier' (white beer) style.

Paler than a recently frightened vampire, I can only think of Sadler's refreshing Thin Ice and Skinner's River Cottage EPA as being equally light in colour.

Slightly chilled, it pours unfussily with no lasting head. The nose is stiffly orange, with some background spicing.

Carbonation is tiny and piquant, needly little spikes that encourage rather than detract from flavour. The flavour is fuller than the colour might suggest, orange and coriander tones with an agreeable mineral backdrop. The aftertaste is slightly chalky with a mild swing of grapefruit, but the bittering fades without much fuss and another sup is invited.

It's a pleasing 5.2% ABV beer for those after something refreshing and slightly leftfield. I can't imagine it'll be widely available but worth sniffing out if you get the chance.

8/10 - Icelandic pearl, white and tasty with sophisticated slew of successful flavours.

- The Broadside

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Bunker Rebooted

We've freshened things up with a bit of a sci-fi redesign of the Bunker, hope y'all like it.

More reviewing fun soon as we tackle the world of beer in AD2014.

Paul & Ed

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Greenwich Black IPA M&S (Meantime)

There was a time when the idea of a Black IPA in M&S would have caused grandads to choke on their shortbread, but M&S are becoming more bold with their beer range by the day.

It claims to be an Anglo-American beer, made with "7 black malts" (really are there 7 types of black malt?!) and with a 5.7% abv the anticipation of a bold beer builds.

The nose sadly is as faint as a distant heartbeat, a whisper of American pine but no resounding hoppy backlash.

The first sip is undoubtably thin, almost watery, the disappointment is tangible, no mingled "7 black malts" or "rich caramel" as proclaimed by the bottle. However, there is a recovery, what follows is confident developing of the flavour, no big chocolate or roast flavours, but a multilayered green hop taste that sticks to the tongue. The finish is not overly dry or bitter, leaving the fresh hop taste hanging as the black liquor washes away.

I'd love to love this beer, but sadly it promises far more than it delivers. It feels thin, one dimensional and mass produced. If it's your first black IPA you will enjoy it, but it's undoubtably at the basic entry end of the style.

6/10 Thin, shy and lacking the boldness required to impress. 

Monday, 19 August 2013

+++ Bunker Raid on Purbeck Folk Festival +++

The Bunker hits the road again this coming weekend, as we check out the highly rated Purbeck Folk Festival down at Wilkswood Farm in beautiful Dorset near Swanage.

I'm partial to a bit of folk, but the main attraction will be a selection of 40 real ales and (whisper it) 20 ciders. It'll be mostly local stuff from Hop Back, Purbeck, Corfe, Piddle and exciting new Hawaiian-themed brewery Sunny Republic, but we also hope to spot the odd exotic gem.

Bulletin to follow!

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Viru (Tartu)

Here's an odd little beer.

Viru is an Estonian pale lager. On the pour it generates a thin fleeting head with wisps of corn on the nose.

The mouthfeel is equally thin,  and the sup veers to overly sweet malt. Negligible bitterness and an overly watery length.

Really cool octahedral bottle though, I believe based on ancient Estonian architecture. It's really the only standout feature of a rather unmemorable 5% abv beer.

4/10 - Anonymous body underneath glamourous clothing.

- The Broadside

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Bunker Summit no. 8

The riders and runners

Ah, summer waved her comely tresses and shook gentle sunshine on Dorset this week. Time for a summit!

The usual format applied, three participants (Ed, Glenn, me) bringing four mystery ales apiece, which are divided into thirds and consumed with much pondering, not a little musing and occasionally some note taking.

The first round was held in Bunker Station One's fortified garden, a fine stretch of establish grass and flora, which houses the radar station and long-neglected anti aircraft battery, before the descending temperature and waning light drove the party to amble indoors.

Here's how the candidates went down:

1. Deuchars IPA (Caledonian) 4.4%
Fairly solid starting gambit for the night. We 'can't fault the malt', and there's a little whoosh of hops but it's more a standard bitter than an IPA. Sticky mouthfeel, with a slight electrolysis carbonation tingle. 6/10 

2. Marks & Spencer Single Variety Hop Citra IPA (Oakham) 4.9% 
Absolutely delicious, a single hopped high-class wonder from M&S. Classic grapefruit Citra nose, a slightly oily mouthfeel but a drink purpose-built for summer evenings. The usually uncannily accurate Ed had this as a Galaxy hopped Partizan Saison, but he's banked so many exact tasting identifications he's still in credit. Easily an 8/10 

3. Twin Lakes Greenville Pale Ale (Twin Lakes Brewing Company) 5.2% 
 Wow! Heart-stoppingly lovely. A grand orange hop character, fresh and zingy. This is as good as a standard pale ale can be. Delivered in a can, recieved in adulation. The evening's gold medal winner by a trot. 9/10

4. Avalanche (Fyne Ales) 4.5%
A soapy and rarely seen little golden number. Offers a little bit of malt, hops and bitterness. A biscuity backdrop gives this one a gentle landscape of taste without being overly exciting. Ed described it as the "opening batsman" of the ale world, you'd sink one easily before moving onto other big-hitting event beers. 7/10 

5. Black Rocks (Buxton) 6.0% 
And so the inevitable evening ABV increase. This is a fine black IPA, blackcurrant aroma, softly carbonated with a slightly oily mouthfeel. Smooth with a big hop signature, it's stiff alcohol content is delivered gently and across the length. 7/10 

6. Schneider Weisse Tap 6 Unser Aventinus (Weissbierbrauerei G. Schneider & Sohn) 8.2% 
Ed dangerously raises stakes in the ABV hot war by unleashing this +8% Weizen Bock (dark wheat beer). Appreciated by other drinkers, it wasn't for us - wheaty and idiosyncratic but a little meh in profile, without any particularly exciting dimensions. 6/10  

7. Blacksmiths Ale (Coniston) 5.0%
Glenn reintroduces some sanity to proceedings with a fine wintery 5% ale. A textbook bold bitter, not very sessiony but as English as Bullseye repeats or wondering about the weather at the weekend. 7/10

 Food! Homebrew boiled ham, cheeses, chutneys and homemade bread

8. Scarlet Fever (Wild Beer Co.) 4.8% 
A new wave beer by the inventive Wild Beer chaps. I'm looking forward to trying the Put it in Your Pipe porter, but this effort didn't really impress us. Blunt in taste, a mulchy malt blink is followed by a watery length and gripey bitter finish, sour berries and grubby jam.  4/10 

9. Leffe 9° (InBev Belgium) 9.0% 
Ed continues to try and smash our heads in with a 9% top-fermented monster from Belgium. A fleetingly agreeable sweet big Belgian yeast hit is followed by a tailpipe of unfettered alcohol aggression, seemingly without any covering flavours to rein it in. A small-sipping ale, it's too primal to engage the drinker and unenjoyable in this company. For some reason it reminded Ed of 'having the norovirus', the reason for which we never got to the bottom of. 3/10  

10. Organic Porter (Black Isle) 4.8% 
Glenn whips out his final offering of the night, a tidy sweet and malty porter. Standard porter coffee notes on the exit, its rather agreeable and you'd certainly not turn it down over a game of chess in a high backed leather chair of a night. 7/10

11. Redwillow Smokeless (Redwillow) 5.7% 
My final gambit of the night, and a black beauty of a smoked porter. Velvety and gentle despite a moderately high ABV, this porter is furnished with chipotle chillis to add an agreeable and risque suggestion of heat. Chocolate and dark fruit weavings draw this ale together very nicely.  8/10 

12. XXXX Porter (Ringwood) 4.7% 
The final ale is inevitably a porter again, and its the Bunker local brewery Ringwood's XXXX. Who knows what the four Xs stand for, perhaps the head brewer was particularly sweary the day he created it. Stable berry notes jive along with the standard roast and coffee porter threads, a quality product despite this bottle being noted as three years past best before date on the reveal. 7/10 

- Twin Lakes Greenville Pale Ale (Twin Lakes Brewing Company)

Silver Medal - two way tie! 
- Redwillow Smokeless (Redwillow)
- Marks & Spencer Single Variety Hop Citra IPA (Oakham)

Bronze Medal - three way tie!
- Black Rocks (Buxton) 
- XXXX Porter (Ringwood)
- Blacksmiths Ale (Coniston)

- The Broadside

Monday, 29 July 2013

Chimay - Red (Bieres de Chimay)

Off to Belgium we go.

Chimay Red (or Premiere as it is sometimes known) is a Trappist beer in the dubbel style - Belgian heavy bodied strong brown ale.

The brewery is worthy and characterful - not only do they also make cheeses but the proceeds of sales are solely for monastery support and the good of community projects and local charities in the area. If you fancy a cheese/beer collision experience then I suggest trying to get hold of their "Chimay With Beer" which has a rind soaked in ale. Those monks know how to make a strong brew - the red weighs in at 7%abv, whilst it's senior blue brother a hefty 9%.

It pours a murky pool-hall brown with a high persistent head. The nose is fruity and figgy with a touch of cloves.

In the mouth the beer is ably fizzy and alive, yet full bodied and creamy too, lots of physics to go on. The sup is quite yeasty without being grungy, and has a mild stickiness.

Minimal fruit sweetness yields to a nice nutty mid section, and the tail note is a vibrant fusion of maltiness and bitter hops.

Extremely pleasant and drinkable, this is a Belgian treasure for those in search of full-bodied session ale.

8/10 Characterful and potent Trappist ale.

- The Broadside

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

St George and the Dragon (Wadworth)

This is a bottled version of the Wadworth seasonal favourite, and is 4.5%abv.

Cracking it open, a mildly metallic-fruit whiff of barley and hops greets the nose. It pours a fine beery amber, with a fluffy and moderately persistent head.

First sup shows the signature biscuit-malt Wadworth are known for, but for me the digestive-factor is dialled down compared to some others they bottle. Plenty of fruit to be had here, some orange and a tangy grapefruit hint. Mid section is tending to florid, with a drying hoppy bitterness veering to crisp at the tail, biscuit notes echo throughout.

It's actually a rather nice beer, and I can see why Wadworth have extended this away from the traditional seasonal batch and made it available at other times.

The flavours don't amount to anything revolutionary, but for a steady English pint with a little kick you could do far worse than go with St George. Fine stuff, Wadworth.

7/10 - Good seasonal session beer, much superior to Henry IPA in the bottle, a pleasure to drink.

- The Broadside

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

First Gold (Badger)

Is it me or does nearly every ale have "award winning" on the bottle these days?

This one proudly proclaims it's a "world champion", winning double gold at the "Brewing Oscars", or Brewing Industry International Awards in 2005. In fact Badger are so proud of this one they've even given it its own URL.

It pours a chestnut brown with a thin, but foamy and persistent head. The nose is rather citrus, and hoppily pungent. Its 4%abv, so fairly weak.

The body is fairly thin, and a minor hint of smoke gives way swiftly to a fruity, mildly metallic mid-section.

The chart on the back gives it 4/5 bitterness, and its hard to disagree. They only use a single hop in this one, the eponymous First Gold, the bittering is pleasant although a little one dimensional.

Probably a food-accompanying ale due to its consistency and strength, this is ok beer, and if you prefer your ale bitter perhaps a fine choice for a session bottle. For me, a touch more balance and flavour would be a welcome addition, although don't tell Oscar I said so.

6/10 - Good beer but not the "wow" I was expecting. If you're a bitter flavour fan then add +1 for its hop punch.

- The Broadside

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Grooves on the Green

It's heartening to see real ale moving front and centre of so many events in the past couple of years.

Long established festivals held up and down the country have increasingly seen that punters want to be offered choice, and massive unit-shifting bars of just Budweiser, Fosters or Carlsberg have ceased to be so common.

Here on the south coast, several premises and festivals are rising to the challenge of offering proper real ale choice, and one such event going ahead this weekend is Grooves on the Green, at Parkstone in Poole, Dorset.

Grooves on the Green is a music festival with a homely feel, and raises good money for charity. As well as music, the organisers offer food, poetry, comedy and plenty for children to enjoy. The organisers have hooked up with six local real ale brewers to offer a tantalising menu throughout the weekend of 14th and 15th July.

New Dorset brewer Sunny Republic continue their strong local presence (most notably at the fine establishment Chaplins) by offering up six beers, including a very tasty draft Friesian (north German) style Pilsener, Shark Head.

Shark Head, which we hope to do a full review of soon, is made with Spalt Select and Pacific Jade hops, although the truly interesting thing for me about it is it's run for 24 hours through a Sierra Nevada-style hop torpedo.

The torpedo allows a column of whole-cone hops to impart aroma and flavour over time without stifling the beer with bitterness. The actual hop used in this case is "king of hops" Citra as well, which all leads to a uniquely richly flavoured pilsener

Additionally, Sunny Republic will be dispensing Shark Head at the festival using their 'Draft-Craft' system, not previously used in the UK and developed originally by Ankerbrau. It essentially adds tightly regulated CO2 at the point of dispensing allowing unpasteurised storage and enhanced original flavour retention. I've yet to try it out but this seems a great opportunity.

In addition to Sunny Republic, beers will be on sale from:

Isle of Purbeck
Yeovil Ales
Piddle Brewery
Corfe Castle
Hopback Brewery

With the weather promising to bless the south coast with sunshine, this mini-festival is well worth a visit if you're in the area.

- The Broadside