Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Master Brew (Shepherd Neame)

Kentish brewers Shepherd Neame proclaim this beer to be their "local hero", widely drunk from Sevenoaks to Margate. It's known as "Master Blaster" by the locals.

The cap lifts off with a pneumatic hiss, and tosses up a wealth of Kentish hop aroma. The colour is a pleasing light amber.

It's idiosyncratic as pretty much all SN beers are, their particular hop/yeast mix proving very recognisable. This 4%abv ale is a commandingly steady drink though, and a good flagship for a brewery that is often associated only with Spitfire and Bishops Finger in the supermarkets.

The opening note is blink of crystal malt sweetness, followed by a grassy and dry main draft. The signature Kentish hops leave a bitter and crisp finish, perfectly session pitched in length. This is the definition of a year-long all rounder for those who can adjust to the slightly "back of the mouth" taste of the local hops.

7/10 - Pleasing and capable everyday ale. Very Shepherd Neame in a good way.

- The Broadside

Monday, 27 December 2010

Espresso (Dark Star)

Black as espresso with a delightful cappuccino head. The smell has noticeable undertones of coffee, but is lead by a charcoaly heavily roasted malt.

Deep roasted malt fills the palate to start, a slightly burnt edginess cracks the tongue like a whip. Charcoal is a key flavour here, holding middle to account before before leading us to our warming finish. It's as hoppy as it is coffee, pronounced bitterness hits then lingers, mellowing and leaving you feeling like you have just drunk cold coffee. A journey for the taste buds of beer, coffee, beer, coffee.

8/10 The best speciality beer I've had. Beer and coffee in perfect harmony.

Thanks to Dark Star for providing, if you haven't heard of them or drunk their superb beers, I encourage you to do so.

Past Masters XX Strong Ale (Fuller's)

A new release from Fuller's as part of their Past Master's range, a series of beers brewed using recipes from their brewers log dating back to 1845. This one comes from 1891.

Pours with a devious fizz, perfectly bottle conditioned, not as dark as I expected, a lovely Amber brown. Fruity and floral aroma, sweet nosed.

Big dry malt takes charge on the initial sip, followed big fruit ripe flavours, plum, and also marmalade orange. The hopping is noticeably generous, but giving a lovely bitterness intertwined with the fruity middle, rather than a bold IPA style finish.

A lively spicy finish, of cloves and pepper, wrapped on a delicious mellow lingering sweetness. Reminiscent of, but different to ESB.

8/10 A beautifully matured, fruity ale, clearly of a different era. One to try.
The Past Master's range is available to buy from the Fuller's shop here

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Seafarer's Ale (Fullers)

Brewing stalwarts Fuller's have taken this 4.2% abv George Gale branded beer under their wing, and will donate a percentage of sale proceeds to the Seafarers UK charity.

It's well carbonated and pours with a fizzy tumult. The drink is crisply golden and sports a hearty white head, which loiters for a while.

The nose is a light hoppy puff with a smidge of tobacco. First sip is fairly yeasty, lots of bread in a rather Wadworth-esque taste. It's very drinkable though, some nice clippings of grass through the length to end zestily, with fine employment of (aptly) Admiral Hops to level out with bitterness.

It comes across as a sort of IPA-lite, but for me could perhaps benefit from having a touch more bitterness in the tail. Still, a fine drink as you'd expect from one welcomed into the Fuller's stable.

7/10 - Very good beer, a sensible buy even without the donation to a fine cause.

- The Broadside

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Phoenix (Greene King)

Here's brewery giants Greene King aiming to resurrect the auspicious Tolly Cobbold mark, with a suitably resurgent mythical bird brand.

It pours a deep chestnut with a floaty wisp o' white head, and the whiff is slight, sweet and fruity.

The first draft is of brown sugar malts, fairly sweet and deep with a turn of dark fruits, raisins and slice of faint orange. The length of it introduces a touch of tea .

It's vaguely toasty but not really very lively. The flavours, whilst winterish and well-mixed, don't really amount to an exciting drink, nor due to the sweetness one that is very session-oriented.

It's capable enough, and I'm sure the massed ranks of beta testers and tasting panels have contributed to what is a drinkable pint, just not one to write home about.

Still, being an East Anglian, it's nice to see Tolly on the label again, let's hope a few more beers come out under the banner.

6/10 - Decent beer, but lacking a touch of spark to set it aside on the shop shelf.

- The Broadside

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Sussex Gold (Arundel)

Arundel Brewery is noted for having done pretty well in various SIBA categories over the years, most notably with it's Sussex Mild.

With that not to hand, let's have a go at the Sussex Gold, their well-selling 4.2%abv ale.

It pours with a fine standard gold colour, and a fresh white head dissipates swiftly. The nose is a bunch of malt, with some grass and slight citrus, mostly lemon, carrying in the air.

On the palate it's much of the same, with sweet malt and a sharpish citrus jab providing an initial flurry of taste, although oddly it seems to drop off mid-draft, and has few discernable features through the middle.

A touch of mulchy, butter flavour slips through as a vector, and it ends crisply enough, but with little bittering it lacks any real character beyond the malt-fruit handshake.

It could be seen as sessiony but the carbonisation is a touch too aggressive for my taste, one less squirt on the soda-stream button would have been my preferred pitching for this beer, this one might be better on draught.

4/10 - Not enough here to be too enthusiastic about. Others offer more in the golden genre.

- The Broadside

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

India Pale Ale (Meantime)

The brewery is very proud of this beer, and understandably so, its won many awards, and even has a page devoted to its heritage.

The cork pops gently, like champagne's less pretentious brother. Pours a beautiful Amber, the smell is outstanding, floral, fresh pine, hints of caramel.

Initially slight bitter on the tongue, developing to a more warming malt, sweetness and equal fruity bitterness dance hand in hand into every corner of the mouth, amplifying the malt again and again.

The finish is a diverse echo of hops reminding you this a IPA of pedigree. A long lingering finishes of reoccurring fruit notes, not overly dry, with final note of raw malt husks.

10/10 Outstanding, without doubt the best English style IPA I've had. A very special beer.

Time for you History lesson : The history of the IPA has more myth than fact, I'm not going to begin to try and cover it here, when so many people have done such amazing work on it. If you are interested i suggest you read the following, as like QI most things you know are probably wrong. Zythophile has an excellent blog, with a well a researched article here
The excellent Shut up about Barclay Perkins blog, also has several great articles here

Failing that, you could just drink it and enjoy it.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Harry's Havest Pale Ale (Purbeck)

Beautiful smells burst out on pouring, wet summer grass, delicate floral notes, even gentle fruit. The colour is a lovely Amber with perfect BC carbonation.

An initially unassuming malt develops into gentle sweetness and crisp dryness in equal measure. The Purbeck yeast normally gives a dominant middle of charcoal smokiness, but in this beer its far more mellow, even offering more biscuity notes instead. The finish is beautiful, a perfectly measured bang of hops, not a blunt numbing of bitterness but a delicate whirlwind of fresh crisp citrus, and lingering dry pepper.

8/10 A fantastic fresh and balanced hop wonder. Perfect crisp refreshment.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Hedge Monkey (Glastonbury Ales)

Glastonbury Ales is an operation born of the famous festival, and their ales seem to be cropping up in a few supermarkets around the country.

The distribution and sales operations seem to be a bit more on the ball than their blog, which gets updated once a year at present - unfortunate as it''s advertised on their main website. Tsk!

Anyhow, what matters is the ale. It pours an attractive deep amber and smells alluringly hoppy. The head is filmy and white, and some nice carbonisation tickles the glass.

The draft is initially a chompload of malt, and follows through with some gentle smoke and biscuit. The tail end is a lather of piney hops, yet it cuts off neatly, and like a standard hollywood movie doesn't have too much bitterness in the epilogue. The 4.6%abv is well pitched to the taste.

It comes across as a form of IPA-light, and is the sort of pint that invites another sip, this is squarely session beer.

Being a bit of a festival buff, I'd certainly seek this out at a tent, and for that matter in a pub or anywhere else. Cracking, beguiling, pleasant and simple ale. Good work Glasto!

7/10 - Very drinkable session beer. A delicious annual all-rounder.

- The Broadside

Friday, 17 December 2010

Conqueror Black IPA (Windsor & Eton)

A Black IPA? Madness. However with my love for dark ales and Ed's propensity for IPAs have we found the ideal Bunker pint?

Here it is, in my hand, in possibly the smartest looking bottle I've seen this year. This is a relatively unusual beer type in the UK, with Thornbridge's Raven IPA the only other I'm aware of. The Americans are slightly more used to it with their "Cascadian Dark Ale" variant, a craft type familiar to many over there.

Windsor historically was a thriving brewing town, and new operation Windsor & Eton are aiming to bring the name back to being representative of fine beer.

It pours a deep black, with a fleeting brown head. Once the head disappears others may well think you have a pint of coke on the go, sitting flatly with a scrying mirror darkness.

The nose is a peculiar hybrid of roasted smells and pine, and is very welcoming in a wintry way.

First taste is a roasted malt explosion., and the nearest beer I can compare it to is Kingstone's marvellous Challenger. The bitterness is almost overwhelming and it makes no bones about being something other than a session drink. This is Event Beer, and a fine one at that.

The IPA character is plainly apparent here, it's hoppy, dry, strong (5% abv) and rather bitter, but like Challenger the bitterness becomes moreish the further down the pint one drinks.

Combine this with classic dark roasted flavours and this is makes for a wonderful creamy cold night pint. I can't wait to dig into the other two beers we have from W&E.

8/10 - Courageous and rewarding collision of ale styles. This brewery is one to watch.

- The Broadside

Monday, 13 December 2010

Anchor Steam Beer (Anchor)

The smell is not overpowering or delicate, just a strong balance of whiskey noted malt, and gentle fresh hopping. The colour is the very definition of beer, a light golden brown.

The initial malt is very distinct, its like a familiar face that you know but can’t place, it reminds me more of fine whiskeys I’ve drunk than of beers, with its unique tangy sweetness. The middle demonstrates glimpses of biscuit and fruit, and leads you like a kind maître’d to the finale. In keeping with what’s preceded it the finish is, well, polite. Its not an overstated crescendo of hops, nor a brash American IPA, its a perfectly measured hop bittering to compliment the malt that came before it. Slight floral undertones dance with the initial malt.

Its like the spinning top of beer, an example of equilibrium away from the battles of malt vs hops IPAs.

7/10 An example in balance, the dictionary definition of beer. If the Russians had won the cold war, this would have been the beer of the Communist States of America.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

30th Anniversary Imperial Helles Bock (Sierra Nevada)

A unique beer brewed as part of the celebrations for the 30th Anniversary of Sierra Nevada. This is Charlie, Fred and Ken’s Imperial Helles Bock.

It pours a golden light brown with a beautiful foamy snow white head. Bountiful aromas of wet grass and light fruit, specifically cantaloupe melon and satsuma’s.

The initial malt is distinct, flooding the palette with a sweet but dry rounded flavour. No big ripe fruit in the middle, no biscuit crunch, you are left with a moment consolidate as the big alcohol builds like a heartbeat towards the showpiece finish.

The ending is sweet and rich, like gin soaked raisins, with an authoritive stamp of bitterness. Strong notes of cracked black pepper on the finish linger on the tongue.

8/10 A beautiful beer, well crafted and critically well balanced. Brewed to match a traditional style, but falling slightly short of expectations for such a special occasion.

A note of Thanks : This beer arrived as a gift from a friend in California, it kindly travelled in his luggage all the way over to the UK, sadly two bottles of Tumbler didn’t. This review is devoted to his stained suitcase, his soaked clothes, and the frantic dry cleaning he had to do on arrival in the UK. Thanks Bushy!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Proper Job (St Austell)

A powerfully hopped Cornish IPA is what the bottle promises, and it delivers. Its bottle conditioned which is always lovely to see, but it pour with a near perfect head and fizz. A lovely fresh aroma of grassy hops builds expectation to the first sip.

It starts with an unexpected sweet caramel taste, with a lovely tongue coating creaminess, shut your eyes you could be drinking the draught product here. What follows in this initial surprise is a dial tone of hopiness and bitter notes. It starts midway through the taste and grips the taste buds until the finish and beyond.

8/10 A fantastic bottled beer, perfectly conditioned, a smooth but powerful IPA.

Thanks to St Austell, you can buy their beers here

Cheshire Brown Ale (Marks & Spencer)

I have to be honest its up there as one of the least exciting ales I’ve seen on a shelf, as a result it was the last of the Marks & Spencer winter seasonal range to review.

It smells of fudge, toffee and crumbly brown sugar. The colour, well its not just brown, but a rather delightful caramel.

Big powerful malt to start, sweet, blending into more creamy fudge flavours coating the mouth. The middle has pockets of ripe fruit bursting through but not overpowering the initial creaminess, hints of hazelnut give a lovely depth of flavour. Gentle hopping at the end provides balance and fresh finish.

8/10 A wonderful sweet malty fudge of a beer. Great for all seasons, the pick of the range for me.

Thanks! St Austell

The bunker was very impressed with St Austell Tribute 8/10, and the near legendary Admirals Ale 10/10, so we were particularly pleased when St Austell sent us the above to review the rest of the range.

Looking forward to reviewing! You can buy there beers here as well as in most good Supermarkets.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Winter Ale (St Peter's)

St Peter's , the Bungay brewery, gets a second review this week with their beguiling Winter Ale - perfect for an evening by the stove when outside resembles Tromso in the depths of the Norwegian winter night.

St Peter's claim this is a ruby ale on the label, although up against the light only the faintest trace of a murderous red frames the solid darkness.

Really, it's a highly charged porter to my eye, as the label warns of a weighty 6.3%abv.

The head is lacy and fluffy, and the solidness of the pint makes it look like it weighs a ton. The nose is all chocolate, peatiness and malty molasses, only mulled wine could smell more wintry.

The first taste is delightfully munchy coffee/toffee/dark fruit with edges of caramel. I got a pinch of cinnamon at the back, possibly a fleeting winter mirage. The carbonisation is soft and perfectly pitched.

If I were to give any drawback, its that perhaps the texture is a little thin for a winter comforter, perhaps a creamier pint might have seemed slightly more apt. This just keep keeps it off the 9 spot for me, although as gripes go it's pretty tiny. What the texture does though, is make it remarkably quaffable for a 6%+ drink.

Finely bittered out at the death of the taste, just enough to tip the balance back from the heavy initial flavours, it's a gorgeous pint. I'm not sure who is doing the quality checks at St Peter's, but I hope those tastebuds are insured. Easy drinking strong seasonal beer.

8/10 - St Peter's strikes gold again. Insulating hearty ale.

- The Broadside

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Ginger Ale (Marks & Spencer) 6%Abv

Strong aromas of freshly grated wet Ginger. Pours lighter than expected a very dark mahogany.

The first taste is fresh and sweet, and well, very gingery. This progresses into a more recognisable maltiness and beery taste, with nice hints of biscuit, Ginger nuts obviously. The finish is lacking somewhat, apart from the obvious powerful Ginger flavours. Beyond that it lingers on the palate like, dare I say it, a can of coke. Yep, this beer actually tastes rather too similar to Ginger Coke.

Maybe it's unfair to review this as a "beer" it is after all labelled as a "Ginger ale" ? The ingredients list "Glucose syrup" as a main ingredient, the taste of which is all to prevalent, making this taste more like a soft drink than a beer.

3/10 This really could be sold in cans as Coke Ginger

Farmers Glory (Wadworth)

Wadworth kindly sent through a nice selection box of their ales recently, this is the first out and opened.

An unassuming bottle with a simple green label, Farmers Glory promises a "celebration of the hard work and fruits of our agricultural industry", so big love out to any farmers reading.

In the pour its Proper Standard Beer, a regulation but comforting chestnut brown. Malt and hops carry on the scent, and the smell promises balance.

First sup and through the sizable malty front door a sweet and orangey fruit hallway presents itself, along with light fixtures of strawberry and laced with a carpet of nuttiness. It's Christmas pudding tasty, if that pudding were to contain no dark fruit, or brandy. Perhaps another cake metaphor needed.

The alcohol (4.7%) isn't very prominent, and that's testament to the brewers guile. Unfortunately for me the end note is a touch crude on the hops, its a sort of gripey hop wallop which doesn't really extend with grace away from the initial sweet tastes. The final taste is a sort of mingled sweet-bitter. I'm a big fan of balance, but I do prefer it to be in the mid-taste and then pinch off gracefully or extend with clarity.

Make no mistake though, this is Good Beer, and certainly one I'd head for in a session at the pub.

6/10 - A solid opener from the Wadworth box. Good ale brewed with care.

- The Broadside

Monday, 6 December 2010

Festivity (Bath Ales)

A deep dark porter, pours with beautiful coffee powdered foam. The aroma is toffee and lightly roasted coffee.

Intial light sweetness, like muscovado sugar, gives way to fuller more rounded light fruity flavours, hints of cherry maybe.

The finish is dry and bitter, like an expresso coffee it lingers on the tongue, with a slightly spicy, slightly warming rum end.

7/10 A beautifully balanced winter porter, lacks some of the special spiciness for a Christmas beer.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Old-Style Porter (St Peter's)

St Peter's of Bungay have been well reviewed so far at the Bunker, their Ruby Red and Best Bitter both scoring fine 7s . Suffolk is blessed with many fine brewers but this classy traditional operation, which bottles in it's trademark oval green glass, is a margin of quality above most.

Porters have a high bar to hit at the Bunker, as we've had some absolute corkers of late. The Flying Dog and Wickwar porters both hit fine 8s, and the Harviestoun and Fullers efforts were just sublime at 9/10.

At the bottle-cap hiss a pleasing air of chocolate framed with slight coffee wafts up, proper porter smells. Against the light it's actually quite opaque, blood ruby light straining through the dark brown murk.

The head is slight, and never rises on the pour, quickly vanishing to a memory. The first sup is fairly thin, and compared to an 8.7% monster such as Flying Dog Gonzo, almost watery. However, I stress in comparison because second or third tastes reveal a subtle and quite delicious drink.

No slouch on the alcohol at 5.1%ABV, the first note is thoroughly porter chocolate laced with raisin. It's less roasty than other porters I've tried, but seems not to suffer for it. The body is medium, cosy, with toffee/chocolate and is a fine precursor to a lightly smoky extended finish, punctuated by gentle bittering.

Old-Style Porter starts drinkable and only gets more so as the glass goes down. Delicious session beer, will we discover a bad porter?

8/10 - Excellent light porter. An accomplished example of traditional dark ale.

- The Broadside

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Which beer goes best with Curry?

Next time you’re settling down to a takeaway or tucking yourself in at your local Indian you might want to consider which beer to order.

Now let’s be clear, I know many people like a powerful IPA or fine Wheat Beer with their curry, and I certainly wouldn't disagree with you, both have their merits, but the below is my attempt to review all the readily available "curry beers" to find out which one comes out on top.

Kingfisher - An old stalwart of the local restaurant, and also a favourite in India and Bangalore where it hails from. But the one you drink in your local will have been brewed in Kent by Shepherd Neame
Cobra - The beautiful ornate labelling would bring many to think this is an Indian beer, think again, it was invented by an UK based accountant. It was initially imported from Bangalore before being brewed by Wells & Young's in Bedford, and now Molson Coors in somewhere in the EU, supposedly Poland.
Mongoose - A new player to the market, its brewed by Wells & Young's using the old Cobra recipe from before they sold it to Molson Coors, relaunched with a new cheeky Cobra eating name.
Bangla - Another relatively new face inspired by the richness of Bangladesh, it’s brewed and bottled in the UK.

So the tasting, we had a range of curries, Dhansak, Jalfrezi, Korma, Tikka Massala. The beers were drunk simultaneously and with myself pouring out of sight to keep the tasting as blind as possible.

The Results
Kingfisher - Crisp, light, clean taste. Light gold beer. Dry finish with hints of toast but sadly very limited, almost unnoticeable hopping. Like a refreshingly blank canvas allowing the curry to dominate the flavour.
Cobra - Crisp taste, slightly maltier, light sweetness. Big bold dryness in the finish, very fresh, slight hints of fruit but again unnoticeably hopped. Slightly more malty and stronger taste allows it to work with the curry but still overpowered quite easily.
Bangla - Big fruity sweet malty, instantly very different to the competitors. A lovely tangy fruit middle, signs of a yeast characteristic, more sweetness. A very disappointing finish, little in the way of dryness or hop bittering. A dominant sweet and fruity, packs plenty of flavour to compete with the strongest of curries.
Mongoose - Fresh, crisp, slight sweetness, noticeable malt. Hints of fruit, maybe melon, dryness and slight hopping in the finish. Of a similar vain to the Cobra but more depth, a lovely balance that rides alongside the flavours of the curries.

The Winner?
Well if I had to drink one on its own without out the curry it would be Bangla, its the least like commercial lager, it has big malty fruit sweetness and you can taste some of the yeast characteristics. This full malty flavour goes beautifully with the curry, matching its strong flavours. Sadly the finish is a bit thin, and its sweetness might clash with a sweet fruity curry like a Dhansak or a Ceylon.
Mongoose takes the runner up prize, it’s a good all-rounder with a decent malty depth and finish. The Cobra isn't vastly different to the Mongoose but slightly thinner tasting. As for Kingfisher, some may love this, but to me it’s very thin commercial lager. But I do accept it could be considered crisp and refreshing by some.

Gold - Bangla
Silver - Mongoose
Bronze - Cobra

Friday, 3 December 2010

Nutz (Bowman)

I approached this one nervously. I like nuts, have nothing against them and like the rest of the public, sometimes only nuts will do with beer - but in beer? We're open minded here, and I'll not let the unforgivable txt-spk spelling of 'nuts' sway my opinion.

Bowman Ales hail from Hampshire, and have a taste for the experimental, having brewed with both ginger and elder flowers.

I have a habit of holding bottles up to the light to check for yeast sediment, and this time I saw actual small nut segments sitting in the deeps. The bottle opens with a gentle whiff of the nut, but not overpoweringly so, it's mostly fine hoppy beer smells.

The head is initially fizzy tending to thin, and the colour a deep chestnut (tout naturellement). On the taste it's not at all bad, and certainly beats the various "beers brewed with honey" I've had, such as Slater's and Well's. In fact, only Well's Banana Bread Beer (must review it here) seems to work as light-strength supermarket speciality beer to my experience so far.

The initial taste is beery and not unpleasant. Light malt arrives in a taxi driven by a couple of nuts, and then more nuts get in the back. The nut thing increases through the length of it, hand in hand with a sort of demerara sugar lilt . It's toasty and spicy on the tongue, and the finish is bitter but leaves a grippy, not entirely beautiful aftertaste on the back of the tongue. The 5%abv alcohol makes itself known in the background and mild bitterness rears up at the death.

As the pint goes down, I tire a little of the taste. It ought to be recognised for what it is, and that is not a session beer. It's an odd sort of early/mid evening ale, and for nut fans, maybe it's nirvana. For me, it's a bit of a struggle to finish a whole pint in quick-order, but that's not to say I didn't enjoy it at times.

5/10 - Competent and interesting speciality ale, I'm happy to have tried it the once.

- The Broadside

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Butty Bach (Wye Valley)

"A burnished gold premium ale, full bodied, smooth and satisfying. Serve with mustardy sausages with apple or rich mushroom risotto" - these are the rather specific food instructions on the label from Wye Valley.

It's bottle conditioned, 4.5%ABV and arrives in a smart little pot. A tidy label explains that the malt is crystal and the hops are Fuggles, Goldings and Bramling Cross (a new one to me).

The beer pours very clear and gold, and has the fastest dissipating head I've yet reviewed, in fact it looks rather like a quenching pint of apple juice once settled in the glass. The nose is full of oranges and has an almost pick n' mix trace of sweetness about it.

First taste is crisp malt with a fairly sizeable bread note. The fruit continues, and morphs between orange and grapefruit. The finish turns bitter, but not overly so and there is a slightly metallic aftertaste which fades to dry and is not unpleasant.

I'm probably drinking this in the wrong season as during the thermal clasp of summer this would have been just the ticket. As it is Bunker Station Two sits wind-locked in a minus four degree cold snap and moose have been sighted grazing on the cliff.

Still, with imagination this is a crisp, quenching summer beer and has some surprisingly novel flavours. None of them stand out enough for me to pick it out as truly special, but Butty Bach is by no means a poor option in the supermarket.

Decent soft golden beer, and one I'd like to try on draught.

6/10 - Like malty wine in its delicate blend of subtle flavours. Good refreshing session beer.

- The Broadside

Duvel Belgian Golden Ale 8%Abv

Pours the colour of light golden sand. Delightfully delicate fresh aroma, bananas, cloves, caramel, honey. Very reminiscent of wheat beers.

It starts gently and unassuming on the taste buds, light sweetness, hints of bittering, then wham! What follows is an hammer blow to every taste bud in the mouth, a hundred different flavour notes at once that smash and echo into the distance, like dropped tray of glasses in a restaurant.

This punctuation of taste, a big yeast crunch, squeezing out fruit flavours, maybe grapefruit. Spicy notes, cinnamon, cloves, definitely pepper, which lingers on long into the finish, where it is joined by the hops. The hops, arrive on the scene like a band who’s support act have played the gig of their life. They are delicate, but not understated, leaving a pronounced bitterness lingering like the pianos being struck at the end of The Beatles “Day in the life”.

Each sip of this beer is like watching a car crash again and again, you try and piece together what’s happened, but even super slow motion can’t help you disassemble a Duvel.

9/10 An outstanding beer. The only possible way to understand this beer fully...is to have another one.

IPA (Isle of Purbeck Brewery)

A deep golden brown beer, very clear. Lovely grassy charcoal smell.

Rich malty start, the limited sweetness is soon matched and over powered by predominant bitterness. Brief glimpses of fruit followed by that unique Purbeck yeast character giving a gentle smoky charcoal taste that lingers to the finish. The finish is crisp and dry, noticeably hopped, but perhaps lacking a bit of diversity in the linger.

7/10 Another very good ale from Purbeck, malty, dry and bitter.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

London Porter Christmas Pudding

Its the time of year when I start to get excited by Christmas, part of the ritual is the making of the homemade Christmas pudding. They really are worlds apart from the dry horribe things you pay a fortune for in supermarket.

The couldn't be any easier to make, and really are suited to an extra special beer inside them. Personally I think Porter or stout is perfect, and I'm hoping the complex flavours of Fullers London Porter will really shine through.

Here is my recipe adapted from Delia's old classic (I've used it the last 3 years and its great!)

London Porter Christmas Pudding
Makes 2 large 2 Pint puddings
225g Shredded Suet (in the baking isle)
110g Self raising Flour
450g Soft Brown Sugar
225g Breadcrumbs
1 heaped teaspoon of Cinnamon and another of Nutmeg
1kg Mixed Currants, Raisins and Sultanas
50g Mixed Candied Peel
75g Almonds
One apple peeled and chopped
4 Eggs (free range please)
A measure of Rum, and another of Whiskey
1 bottle of Fullers London Porter (400ml ish) (or your favorite dark beer)

Mix the all the dry ingredients together well. Beat the eggs and add the beer (holding back 100ml to add if required), then mix with the dry ingredients stiring well. It should be a good dropping consistency that it falls of the spoon with a firm tap. Add a touch more flour or liquid to get this right, its not a precise science.

Leave covered over night for the flavours to blend. Grease your 2 pudding bowls, then fill to the top with the mixture, cut a sheet of greaseproof paper to fit the top, put a clean cloth or cut pillow case on the top and tie tightly around the rim.

Steam over boiling water in a pan for 4 hours, careful not to boil dry. Leave to stand and keep in a cool place until Christmas.

Heat on the day by steaming over boiling water once again for 2 hours.

Enjoy! With good company and lashings of brandy.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

OTT (Hogs Back) 6%Abv

Its described as a "Strong Dark Old Ale" so plenty of expectations on opening.

As dark as the darkest of porters, only glimmers of light escape its grasp. A fantastic smell is unleashed on pouring, rich blackberries and dark fruit, hints of chocolate and noticeable hops.

Rich fruity tastes at the start, filling mouth like an indulgence of blackberries and black currants. Following that is the sweetness of the malt, not too sharp or tangy with all that fruit. The finish is really quite bitter, not like dark chocolate, more like the burnt edge of a Christmas cake. Fruity, bitter and charcoal in one.

7/10 A lovey winter warmer, a dark porter style ale with rich fruit.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Fossil Fuel (Purbeck)

It pours a deep clear gold. Wonderful aroma, fresh grass, sweet floral smells, noticably hoppy.

Fresh sweet initial taste, no big malty dryness, more like gentle honey. The middle is the trade mark Purbeck middle smokiness, a lovely yeasty crunch of charcoal and also hints of biscuit.

A crisp bitterness follows, noticeably well hopped with gentle citrus protruding. The finish is beautifuly diverse with a wealth of gentle hop flavours.

7/10 A lovely golden ale, well hopped with a noticably crisp finish. One for summer days or thirsty folk.

A big thanks to the Isle of Purbeck Brewery for providing these beers for review.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Imperial Russian Stout (Dark Star)

A+ for image. "Imperial Russian Stout" conjures up pre-revolutionary Soviet glory. The bottle is black labelled and the insides might as well be a bottle-shaped infill of coal.

It pours unfussily. The toffee coloured head doesn't hang about, but a filmy froth does, to my eye making fleeting maps of satellite countries yet to be conquered. Coffee, caramel and currants waft on the nose, superpower smells.

First taste is a colossal barrage of dark malt, warming alcohol, cane-sugar and chocolate. The alcohol (10.5%abv) loiters around the tongue almost like a spirit, especially on the following intake of breath. I picked out a slight vanilla note in this heady concerto.

The finish is a powerful thing of wonder. The bitterness does what it ought to in a strong stout, level out the malty sweetness and no more. This is a treasure of a beer, a black gift of stout demolition. If Father Christmas were to be left this instead of mince pies, he would do his round in double quick time and you'd get some damn interesting presents.


9/10 - Do not let your winter pass without this. Potent and smoky - the essence of leather chairs and fight-to-the-death chess games.

- The Broadside

Monday, 22 November 2010

Southwold Dark Ale (Marks and Spencer)

More famously known as Tally Ho, this is brewed for M&S by Adnams.

Pours a ruby brown, the aromas unleashed are certainly unique, fruit but more precisely kiwi and grapes spring out as the mind grapples the tastebuds.

The palate leaps into action with rich fruit, dense plummy flavours take control then giveway to a sweet malt, like sweet muscovado sugar mixed with treacle.

More fruit in the finish, a sharper more tangy, again grapey finish, no noticeable hints of hop bittering.

It was suggested to me to try it with vintage cheddar by this man. I have to say it was tremendous, the cheese takes away the tangy edge of the beer and they compliment each other perfectly.

7/10 Inspired with cheese, drink it instead of port this christmas.

Advent Ale (Hogs Back) 4.4%Abv

Pours like a dark bitter, glimmers of tawny peep through. Smells of dark chocolate and lightly burnt sugar.

Initial roasted malt, rich dark flavours follow with a wealth of coffee, molasses and liquorice.

Smooth fruit in the finish, blackberries and blueberries. Limited hop taste, a dry dark chocolate lingers.

6/10 A charming festive beer, one for a cold dark eve.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

London Stout (Meantime)

Late Sunday afternoon and time for something stout.

Meantime of London have a good reputation for interesting brewing, with coffee and chocolate ales and some organic products on general sale.

Their standard London Stout pours very dark brown, as close as brown gets to black, and is impenetrable to light. The head is a wispy and a pleasing smoky chocolate rises to the nose.

First impression is a very drinkable session stout. On the whole stout drinkers tend to be a looking for a nice bit of munch on their pint but this is actually rather thin. Some might say watery, but a nice bunch of chocolate, roast and smoke tastes rise on the tongue, which seem to suit the consistency well.

Dark fruits continue through the sip and a woody, smoked hint of bitterness finishes it very neatly.

Compared to some of the wilder power-strength stouts out there, this may seem a trifle dull, but at 4.5%abv this is that rare thing, a very drinkable session stout. For those who like their ale dark, this is a fine precursor to an evening and certainly knocks the likes of bottled Guinness into a cocked black hat.

7/10 - A gentle, smoky session stout, capable and clean.

- The Broadside

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Taylor's Tipple (Hambleton Ales)

This has been in the vault for a while at Station Two, so time to give it a crack. Rumours have reached the Bunker shortwave radio that Hambleton Ales have won a few awards in their time, so I was curious to see how this beer stood up.

The label oozes class, in a wine-bottle style. No big cartoon motifs, no zany font, just silvered trim, a lithographed race horse and autumnal plated colours. The text explains that the drink is a tribute to grocer Thomas Taylor, who in 1857 used six tonnes of lime to score a giant horse on to Hambleton Hills.

It pours a proper beery red-brown, deep ambered fudge with a benevolent fluffy head.

The smell of it is remarkable - caramel is very marked, and sweet malts and butter-toffee framing the experience. I rarely salivate just on the smell of a beer but this one got me.

The taste isn't nearly as sweet. Some malty sugar and berry flavours pipe fleetingly up in the pre-taste, but firm strides of tea, earth and a burnt 'something' channel through almost immediately.

Then, curiously for an ale, there seems to me to be a resurgence of sweetness at the death of the taste, albeit hand in hand with a lengthy bitter finish. Sounds illogical but there we are.

It's creamier than cream, and the bitterness closes off like a valve in time to invite the next sip. At 4.5%abv this is an eminently drinkable fine-class product, and one I'd return to especially in the cold months.

8/10 - Well mixed and pleasantly chewy winter beer. Good for later in the evening when the hour invites complex, rewarding flavours.

- The Broadside

Town Crier (Hobson's)

Here at the Bunker, we're acknowledged fans of Hobson's, a couple of their ales making a good showing at recent summits. They recently won the SIBA Best Business Award.

The Old Henry and Postman's knock are sturdy dark affairs, and this is the first lighter beer I've tried from the Shropshire brewery, at 4.5%abv. The cap pops off with a gentle gasp and the drink pours a beautiful pale straw gold. The head is a light muslin wisp.

The nose is clean and unassertive, shimmering with gentle lilting hops and citrus fruit.

First taste unveils a fraction of sweetness, soon mowed over by light but persistent bitterness. Throughout a sort of semi-grapefruit taste endures (though nowhere near the likes of Punk IPA in prominence), again not unpleasant, and the whole effect is of gently drinkable beer. The beer finishes rather dryly, and I imagine this would go down very well with a hearty roast or similar dish.

Again, it's a decent product. It's not quite the wonderment in a bottle of Henry or Postman's, but neither is it a poor cousin. This is decent beer from a fine brewer.

7/10 - Gentle, cohesive and thoughtfully blended, Town Crier is elegant beer from an accomplished ale house.

- The Broadside