Saturday, 2 October 2010

Challenger Ale (Kingstone)

I visited Ludlow Marches Food Festival this year, a magical bustling carnival of smells, sights and tastes set within the ancient castle walls.

Chatting to five or six breweries (curiously Ludlow Brewery didn't appear to be there), all were affable and thoroughly interesting sorts. Corvedale, Hobson's, Wye Valley and Kingstone were very approachable, and I walked away with various bottles for inspection.

Kingstone Challenger is a treat on draught. It's not very strong (4%), so I feared for it in the bottle somewhat. It pours deeply copper with a brief head, and the nose is a hoppy confection of toffee and spiced fruit.

The beer is a mix of wheat and barley malts, and as the name suggested, a heavy trowel of Challenger hops are thrown in. The Challenger hop, a British brewing favourite, is apparently one of the few proper "dual purpose" hops, providing "acidity and kettle hop aroma" - and a steady backbone of bitterness.

As far as I can tell, this is the sole hop type in this beer, and so on first taste it strikes me as too bitter. It's certainly a refreshing drink (serving chilled is also suggested), with friendly bottle-conditioned carbonisation, but that tart note was initially a little disconcerting.

However, as the ale goes down the glass the drinker's tongue settles to the job, almost like the conditioning needed to enjoy a fine expresso. This is the way the beer is meant to be, and perseverance is rewarded. The ale empties the glass as a minor session classic, with excellent intermingled hops and malt.

8/10 - Initially a drink for a brave palate, this fine ale asks the right questions of the recipient. It segues from an uncompromisingly bitter first sip into a quality session drink, rewarding application to the Challenge.

- The Broadside


  1. Gotta say I love your Bunker Grading system, and am tempted to borrow it (don't worry, I wouldn't use it without asking first).

  2. I reckon we'd go for that if you link us... :o)

    Nice Beer Quest blog Matt!