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

Friday, 5 July 2013

Old Bob (Greene King)

I'm starting to get the suspicion that Greene King frets about its popularity amongst real ale drinkers. Here's another brand from the past, resurrected for a GK drink, much like the banner of Tolly Cobbold was for Phoenix (6/10).

Founded in 1842, Ridley's was the longest established brewer in Essex until 2005 when, struggling under high debt, Ridleys was bought up by it's behemoth East Anglian neighbour. The plant was closed and the brand assimilated into the wider GK business.

Old Bob is a "Strong Premium Ale", and at 5.1% abv they're not wrong about the clout.

It pours fairly flat, with a whiff of toffee and grass on the nose and a deep potent chestnut colour. The brief suggestion of a head makes a fast exit within seconds, like a sweetshop robber making off with a marshmallow.

First taste is a bit toffee, with some slidey citrus flavours segueing into darker fruit. It's quite pleasing, and the biscuit-malt lilt at the tail end is verging to sweet but capped off by a brush of hoppy bitterness.

The brewers making this have done some good work here - there's no doubt this is a sweet beer, but the tangy fruit and hops really staple it down so that it has no chance to become sickly.

The alcohol carries gravitas throughout, and the final effect is a creamy, robust cold-weather pint, well suited to the bottle.

I'll likely never get a chance to sample the original Ridley brews, but whatever you think of large brew corporations hoovering up smaller competition, this still stands as a fine ale.

7/10 - A fine example of acrobatic balance in the stronger pint. Rich, creamy quality.