Saturday, 6 November 2010

Old Tom (Robinson's) - 8.5%abv

Old Tom is sold in a lovely little bottle, dark and chunky. It has embossed glass lettering in the industrial-era style, and a small picture of a cat, winking cheekily as he invites you to your downfall.

For this is strong ale, not just your 5/6 percent sturdy pint, but a whopping 8.5%, a beer to hearten the soul before a day at the factory. That said, it's from Stockport , and the brewery appear to be extremely proud of this Victor Ubogu of an ale. "World's Best Ale 2009" says the label. This is some feat, as the brewery has been going since 1899, and the beer itself sold for almost as long.

Old Tom is sold in chocolate and ginger variants, but the bottle I have is of the standard ordnance type. It pours very dark indeed, somewhere between ash and bitumen in colour, and if it were served to me as a pale porter, I'd not disagree. The nose is mostly soft chocolate malt, but with a mere hint of banana and edged with peril.

The taste is sweetly, thickly malty but an immediate second channel of aniseed hops opens up to counter this. The unbroken rodeo-bull of the alcohol has a sturdy back, and carries these combative tastes with ease, allowing them to dance but never obliterate each other. The malty brass and hoppy woodwind notes are joined by picaresque strings of coffee and molasses, and the whole sum is a striking hybrid taste - new yet very old and refined over the years.

The final note is a sweetening port strain, seductive and moreish. The temptation and hazard within this small bottle could as easily be named Old Nick as Old Tom, such is it's infernal allure.

It's a head-kicker, have no doubt, but it's also genuinely sumptuous ale, and a prime example of how to create a potent barley wine. Fantastic.

9/10 - Near faultless. Delicious sturdy old-world flavours.

- The Broadside


  1. I met one of the guys from Robinson's at the SIBA North judging and he's offered us a brewery tour and some bottle sampling when we are there!

    After reading this review I can't wait!

    Now we just have to set a date...

  2. One of my favourites, my first real forray into strong beer.