Friday, 30 July 2010

Dutchy Originals Select Ale (Wychwood)

A bold ale with clear intent, strong aromas of raspberries and other summer fruit make their mark instantly.

A strong matured maltiness fills the palate, some sharper grapefruit flavours coming through. It finishes with a bitter and dry finish, leaving the strong nature of the beer hanging.

7/10 A mature beer of class.

London Pride (Fullers)

Pours a perfect light brown colour almost Tea colour, to me this is the colour of beer.

A full and beautiful malty taste washes through, filled with sweetness and a lovely hint of caramel. It finishes with a strong bitter finish that is well disguised within a smooth creaminess.

On draught this is the ultimate session beer for me, but the bottle is an entirely different beast, it lacks the creamy subtle and delicate flavours, instead providing abrupt punches of malt and bitterness that lack the class and flair of the pub pint.

4/10 On draught a thing of beauty, sadly the bottle disappoints.

Check out the full range here

Monday, 26 July 2010

ESB (Fullers)

Unleashes a wonderful array of aroma’s on pouring, perfect carbonation leaves this looking like a beautiful draught pint.

Like a rich fruitcake filled with dried fruits and exotic spices this beer fills the mouth providing a diverse explosion of sweet fruity flavours. Hints of brandy and juicy sultanas add luxury to an already decadent beer, the finish conjures up tastes of a spicy Christmas chutney or a luxury marmalade.

8/10 Pure luxury, as if Delia Smith herself was adding cake mixture at the brewery.

Check out the full range here

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Summer Lightning (Hopback)

As Ale Gods go this is certainly one of them. Real ale fans the length of the country know all about this beer, it’s a legend, like something out of Greek mythology, something sent to earth to redefined ale. Its has four CAMRA’s Gold medals to its name, testament to its quality on draught and in bottles.

It’s a golden ale, and it shines bright like the precious metal itself, beautifully clear, with a gentle fizz released on pouring. It has a beautiful oily smell of fresh hops that lingers over the surface.

Hops. Hops, hops, hops. Yep this is a hoppy beer, they burst through at start overwhelming the malt and leaving all but a gentle sweetness. The finish is like you have never tasted before, a combination of gentle zesty notes combined with a kick like a shire horse wearing hop covered hooves.

When best enjoyed : Basking in the sunshine, or when you need a beer to waken you up and slap you round the face.

8/10 This truly is the God of Golden Ales and Hops, but lacks a bit of balance to earn top marks for me. If you like hops, you will be in heaven.

Kindly provided by my friends up the road at the Hopback Brewery you can buy their ales here

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Organic Ale (Dutchy Originals)

A lovely, almost coppery brown beer is released from this regal looking bottle. If the bottle is a reflection of the beer a classy beer of breeding is expected. Brewed by Wychwood using organic barley from the Highgrove estate.

It starts with a lovely gentle malt, sweet notes hit the palette, followed by a warming matured flavour that washes over the corners of the mouth. There is limited bitterness and a distinct lack of a IPA style hop kick, but what you do get is a warming Carmel flavour with beautiful biscuit malt.

When best enjoyed : At home when you want to gently saviour some gentle, full flavours without a high alcoholic strength.

7/10 As comforting as a caramel covered digestive….but much classier than that.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Barnstormer (Bath Ales)

"The weather forecast for tonight: dark" - George Carlin

Summer engaged again with Bournemouth today, shaking her thermal tresses and casting a crisp gentle glow on the Broadside's spot by the sea.

Casting about for an ale to review, he settled on a pitchy little bottle with a cave-art drawn rabbit or hare fleeing from the right, and wondered if it was a Liberal Democrat rabbit.

Much has been promised of the quality of Bath ales, but with only the amber, bittersweet beauty "Gem" experienced so far, the Broadside saw this as an opportunity to expand his Somerset ale wisdom.

The cap popped off with little ado, and a churning, fizzy stream of mocha-coloured ale swirled eagerly into the glass. Like the best interviews the head was bright and brief and soon gave way to a deep, almost porteresque pint, wielding murky mystery and a faint sniff of chocolate.

This wasn't exactly a summer beverage prospect, a dense good-when-snowed-in meaty drink was expected, a confectionary bovril of a pint. However, from the first taste this ale proved to be a light delight.

The chocolate is evident in the initial note, but it is a subtle echo and not at all too rich. The Broadside usually prefers to think of his ales as a three-part act of initial taste, body and finish, but this ale weaves a complicated pattern of fruit across the tongue in several stages. Its piquant fizz drives the taste onto the tongue, but not in an unpleasant Coca-Cola hammer-manner, more like lively energetic postal workers couriering the sophisticated mix of flavours to the taste buds.

The finish, for of course it must have one, is snappy and bitter in the best sense of the word. No unwelcome residual squatting afterburners here, swallowing leaves a hydrated feeling of lightness and eagerness for the next sup.

At 4.5%, this is a wonderful example of a lighter strength bottled dark session beer. Towards the end of the glass the taste is very settled and moreish, and it is with great regret that only one bottle was in the house.

8/10, Bath Ales! Bravo!

- The Broadside

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Bitter (Young’s)

I think that title speaks volumes. I don’t want to use the phrase “No nonsense” as that conjures up a screaming of the taste buds at the once great (so I’m told) Jon Smith’s, which has since been destroyed by the big commercial giants, but this beer as a beautiful simplicity about it.

If it was a product it would be an Iron, its design and use unchanged in two hundred years, so perfectly created was its initial design that it hasn't needed to be altered since.

This beer as a lovely bitterness that hits the palette immediately, what follows that is a tidal wave of malty flavours that fill the mouth in the manner you would normally expect from a strong matured ale. The hopping that follows is one of balance, not fierce bitterness as punctuation just gentle flavouring with a finish of fruitiness.

When best enjoyed : When you feel like you have earned a beer, this has a beautiful feel of reward for hard work about.

7/10 A classic Traditional English Ale, if there is a better example I would love to taste it.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Pale Ale (Sierra Nevada)

Another American brewing legend, it pours a beautiful bright orange, like morning sunrise, instantly drawing you to question “how come there aren’t any English ales like this?”

It has a beautiful smell of freshly squeezed fruit, the first taste fills the mouth with juicy citrus flavours, hints of Oranges and Satsumas burst through. Following comes a more gentle and subtle biscuity malt. The finish is a gentle linger of citrus, trying to underline the initial fruit burst and punctuate the middle malt.

Where to enjoy : In a quiet moment on your own, a hundred delicate flavours that need to be smelled and explored.

7/10 A beautifully crafted beer

Boston Lager (Sam Adams)

So its got lager it the title, this is going to be pretty bland and tasteless right? Wrong.

Wow! An explosion of the senses, it leapt out of the bottle like a genie held captive for a thousand years, caused a tornado of fizz into the glass, and released a spectacular bouquet of sweet floral smells before settling like traditional ale.

Its sweet to taste but with light maltiness and wonderful crisp refreshment. The finish is subtle, a mix of delicate flavours simmer through, like a walk through a Moroccan spice market, each fading away before you can grasp them, before easing off without the expected finishing hop kick.

Mesmerised, amazed, speechless, I want to kick down the doors of Carling, Fosters and the rest of the impostors who have muddied the once great name. This is Lager, a thing of beauty, drink it up, enjoy it.

America, Sam Adams, I salute you, you have taught me a lesson today.

When to enjoy : Anytime time of the day or night, this is refreshment in a bottle.

8/10 Go out and try it.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Bishop's Finger (Shepherd Neame)

This ale looks like very few others, it has an intriguing brown ruby colour to it.

This ale also tastes like very few others, I'd be amazed if anyone as ever had a bottle of this and not thought "ooh whats this?"

It has a very strong malty taste, with very little sweetness either at the start or the end, or the middle come to mention it. Combined with the hops and that "distinctive" Neame yeast it leaves the taste buds bullied, beaten and dry as sandpaper. There isn't another ale around i could compare this too, and I am not sure I am brave enough to try.

Where to enjoy : Surrounded by lager drinkers you don't want to switch to ale, one sip of this and they won't make the leap in this lifetime.

2/10 Some may love this and its "distinctive" full flavours, not me.

Old Thumper (Ringwood)

In 1988 this was the best beer the country had to offer, Awarded 'Champion beer of Britain' by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).

I can understand it, at the time it was a bit of a landmark beer, a strong ale that made people think twice about what microbrewing could do. But this is 2010, and its in a bottle, produced by an ever growing Ringwood brewery who are now owned by Marstons.

It has a lovely sweet malty taste, followed by deep mouth filling fruity notes that trick the mind into thinking its eating a summer pudding. It has a reasonably strong hop finish to balance with the malt.

Lets be clear, this beer leaves you in no doubt you are drinking a strong ale, but one with something different to say. Its a beast, but don't be fooled into thinking its been tamed.

Where to drink : Somewhere where you have transport home arranged.

7/10 But you can't help thinking some of the magic has been lost trying to cage a beast like this in a bottle, and you'd be right. On draught its 5*s all the way.

Spitfire (Shepherd Neame)

Well, they maybe "Britain's Oldest Brewery" but they are certainly one of a very few brewers who use clear glass bottles. For me this spoils the excitement of a the pour a bit, its like finding your Christmas presents under the tree wrapped in cling film.

It pours a lovely light toffee colour, there is initial sweetness combined with a dry bitterness, followed by some unexpected delicate toffee notes, not what i was expecting.

It certainly has that Shepherd Neame distinctive yeast flavour, I'm sure some people must love it, but for me it cuts through the flavours and swamps them like a bag of dry roasted peanuts.

Where to drink : Parties where you don't know anyone, take a carrier bag of these with you, you won't mind dishing them out if required, you won't be labeled as a boring ale-man or as uncool, and if all else fails you can just enjoy them on your own.

5/10 thanks to those toffee high notes.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Cricket (Badger)

In Manchester it's City or United. In 'ocker' country in Australia you drive a Ford or a Holden. In Bournemouth as an ale fan, you head for a Ringwood or Badger pint.

I fall fairly squarely into the first camp, certainly from the pump.

To be bashed over the head of a night I'd rather recline in the warm, threatening, willowy embrace of Old Thumper than trip mantrap-locked through the pitfalls of Tanglefoot. Similarly, for a character step-up from Best, 49er ticks all the boxes for me. That Ringwood ale's Willy Wonka burnt toffee finish is an exquisite performer on the buds, and to my taste a yard up from most of the Badger "gold" beers found elsewhere.

However, from the bottle Ringwood seems to let it's arrow slip wide of the mark. The phenomenon of pump-bottle differences is well discussed elsewhere, but only Old Thumper seems to stand up. Thumper's heady potency creeps ably into the bottle like a Hampshire genie sleeping stealthily in a brown glass lamp, it's only two wishes to grant being tasty pleasure and walking issues with gravity.

How, then, fares Badger? Today's tasting is of the rarely-seen and possibly new 'Cricket', found at Tesco in a cheery yellow label, it's strapline promising "harmonious notes of lemongrass". The Broadside was dubious, and images of past unfortunate experiences with Thai cooking hove into the mind's view as he lifted it into the trolley.

The cap lifted off with a startled gasp akin to an HGV air-brake, so we can tell this is a boisterous little guest. The head, as imperfect yet characterful as the Sphinx, reinforced the impression as it poured jovially into the glass. The colour was deeply ochre, a terracotta tile of a shade, which promised fudgy frivolity.

First taste impressions - festivals, laying on grass, a not-unpleasant sortie on the tongue of a zingy, characterful tipple. The opening note is as crunchy as a spiced-up rich tea, with vast grainy hops disguising the relatively weak 4.4% strength.

The Broadside's taste experience enters phase II as the middle cackles up a basket of fruit and veg, although none he's tasted before. This may be lemongrassy, or star or dragon-fruity, a range of colliding citrus tastes piling across like an untidy round of Tetris.

The finishing note is prolonged and gamey, and not for my taste. I'll return to the festival pint comparison, in that this is a beer that would sit well with an experience out rather than a night in with just the TV and this long woolly carpet of an aftertaste. From that night out this taste would remind you of that time: this is a waymark of a beer, a cairn-like memory-jogger, like the glance of a distinctive exotic lady happily recalling time well spent.

To mark this characterful yellow firework I'd hazard a 6, although if 6.5 were available I'd jot that on the card. A happy summer effort from Badger, and I'd have gone higher were it not for that overlong postscript taste, which loiters like the last guest at a party who wants to keep talking about the party.

6/10 - If you see it, you'd do a lot worse than pop it in the basket, although make sure you have an event planned for that crackly opening moment.

- The Broadside

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Discovery (Fullers)

Not sure where to place this one, it has a lovely unexpected fresh fruitiness to the start, with hints of sweetness. The finish is not hop packed, but a more delicate, gentle, refreshing dry finish.

Where to enjoy : This is definitely one for outside, slight chilled with the sun on your face.

7/10 Iif you're sat in the sun, with it slightly chilled it might fare better

Wainwright (Thwaites)

Pours bright and golden with perfect gentle fizz. A clean and crisp taste with initial sweet and bitterness combined.

A beautifully balanced ale with, equal sweetness and bittering throughout. This really is one to saviour all year round.

Where to enjoy : Sat outside in the sun, or indoors on a spring day, a great all rounder.

7/10 A cracking blonde for the summer

Thursday, 1 July 2010

What do the scores mean?

0* Undrinkable. Doesn't even resemble ale, so poor you can't or don't want to finish it.
1* Poor. Is anything from barely drinkable to drinkable with considerable resentment, it either lacks any real flavours or overpowers your taste buds. Whatever you paid for this, you want it back.
2* Average. A drinkable non offensive pint but doesn't inspire in any way, you drink the beer without really noticing it or any of its flavours.
3* Good. A Good beer, pleasant flavours at the start and finish, you could sink another afterwards and take a mental note of the label, but its not good enough to interrupt the polite conversation amongst friends.
4* Very Good. Excellent beer, pours bright and looks good. It has aromas and clear crisp flavours, balanced between start and finish leaving a palate begging for more. You find yourself reading the back of the bottle to know more about where and how it was brewed.
5* Perfect. Probably the best you are ever likely to find, like a perfect pub pint. Cancel all plans and take the phone of the hook. You find yourself wanting to visit the brewery, collect its beer mats, and look adoringly at its logo every time you see it. You're in love, if only you could get the head brewers name you could become friends with him on facebook.

Welcome to the Bunker

I am Ed, I am not writing a blog because I am a beer expert, in fact it's quite the opposite. Lets just say I am a beer enthusiast, who hopefully enjoys a nice beer as much as you.

I hope to share with you the beers I taste, what they look like, where you can get them, the ones i like and the ones i don't.

I'll score them too, and try and give a sense where they could be best enjoyed.

Hopefully your enjoy the journey, and if i am able to help you make an informed decision next time you face a wall of beer, well then it will be mission accomplished.

Good hunting!