Bateman’s XXXB

3 01 2011

Batemans is an independent brewery from Wainfleet in Lincolnshire; the Bateman family have been operating the brewery on a pretty much continual basis since  1874 and along the way have turned out some cracking beers and picked up rather a lot of awards – the most recent of these being “Best Regional Brewer” at the Publican Awards 2010.

XXXB is their 4.8% premium bitter and has previously been voted as being one of the top 50 beers in the world.

I have sampled XXXB on a number of occasions over the past few years, both on tap and most recently bottled as part of a deal from our local off licence – all Batemans beers €2.00 a bottle, a real bargain by Irish standards!

XXXB pours to a nice clear coppery finish with a mid-sized head that lasted reasonably well with a fair amount of lacing.

The initial aroma that I picked up was that of a slightly bitter  black tea with some citrus and a bit of sweetness coming in afterwards  – possibly toffee.

On drinking this beer the first thing I noticed was that there is very little sweetness to it, the citrus comes through quite clearly along with a slight nuttiness and some biscuity richness from the malts.

There is a lot of bitterness present through out along with the slight taste of black tea, this with the slight element of citrus makes for a very refreshing pint although some might find it a touch sour towards the finish.

The body is reasonably light but the carbonation is spot on resulting in a very pleasant mouthfeel overall.

In my opinion XXXB is better than average but there is certainly room for improvement.

4/5

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Greene King Hop (formerly The Beer To Dine For)

22 11 2010

 So we meet again Mr Bland….

 I was working at Greene King when The Beer to Dine For officially launched, unofficially it was the launch of butt plug beer but we wont go into that here…

Whatever it was called one thing is for certain it is still kicking around today, now under the interesting name “Greene King Hop”. The premise behind beer to dine for was that it would be the perfect accompaniment to food and would help win people over to real beer, particularly women.

The reality was a little different:

It looks fairly good, both in the bottle and when poured, having a nice clear honey gold colour with a fairly small head that quickly dissipates to nothing; I can well imagine it being poured into fancy glasses at some dinner party in suburbia and  fitting in well amongst the Blossom Hill and Jacob’s Creek.

The worry started to set in when I realised that there is no aroma, not just that it is faint but that there is quite literally nothing at all, not good.

The worrying lack of anything continues when you take a sip the best thing I can say about GK Hop/Beer to Dine for is that it is bland.  There isn’t really anything about it that jumps out and grabs your attention. There is some sweetness there and a slight amount of bitterness but being brutally honest there isn’t really much more flavour then you would find in Carlsberg or any other mass-produced lager.

Now correct me if I am wrong but isn’t the whole point of proper beer to steer people away from tasteless crap and onto something with a bit more going for it? Well you will never achieve that goal if the alternative is just as bland and unassuming.

The finish isn’t really anything you would be impressed by either it is thin and just helps contribute to the fact that this might as well be a bottle of fizzy syrup that has been allowed to go a bit skunky.

Oh yes did I mention the fact that due to the naff clear glass bottle 4 out of the 7 I tried had a nice skunky essence to them, just what I would want with my coq au vin!

I don’t go in for the idea of slagging off Greene King because they keep buying up smaller brewers but at the same time they really should know better than to put their name to this muck. It is marginally better with food but that is only because it is bland and inoffensive and doesn’t detract from what you are eating.

1/5





Man Walks into a Pub: A sociable History of Beer by Pete Brown

18 11 2010

Man Walks into a Pub: A Sociable History of BeerMan Walks into a Pub: A Sociable History of Beer by Pete Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have read quite a few books on beer in the past and have found that typically they all have one thing in common: they are either monumentally dull or a total farce.

Weighty volumes that document the complete history of a particular brewery right down to what tiny changes were made to a particular recipe and when are all very well and good. No doubt they are of great interest to men with big bushy beards who wear cable knit jumpers and who carry note books around with them but they are a bit too serious and stodgy for the more casual reader.

On the flip side of the coin I don’t want to read a book written by some tracksuit wearing chav who just wants to brag about how he can drink 20 pints of Stella, fight some rival football fans and still drive his barely legal Vauxhall Nova that should have been scrapped before he was born.

That is where Pete Brown has got things bang on the money, he treats the subject seriously and manages to convey a lot of useful information whilst keeping things light and smattered with humour throughout.

By choosing to focus more on the social history of beer brewing and drinking he avoids bogging the reader down with some of the useless minutiae that a lot of the more serious beer books pride themselves on.

I am also very impressed with the way that Pete Brown handles the often tricky real ale vs. lager issue. A lot of writers fall heavily on one side of the fence or the other and as such we often hear lager being decried as tasteless or a children’s drink or ale being slagged off for being a drink for fat, bearded weirdos who need to get out more.

Whilst I have my own views on the matter I realise no one really wants to hear them, and in return I don’t really want to hear their views rehashed over and over again either.
So it was certainly pleasant to come across an author who wasn’t using their book as a soapbox to take pot shots at their target of choice.

If you have anything more than a passing interest in beer and have ever considered reading more about beer and drinking then you could do an awful lot worse than to take this book as a starting point.

View all my reviews





Rocking Rudolph 4.2% Seasonal Ale

15 11 2010

Greene King launched Rocking Rudolph as a seasonal ale in time for Christmas 2008.

It wasn’t launched directly under the Greene King name but rather under Hardy’s and Hanson’s who were traditionally a Nottingham based brewery but were snapped up by GK in 2006 and since then their beers have been brewed in Bury St Edmunds.

The label on this beer is quite striking, if not quite to my liking; it shows rudolph sporting an Elvis quiff and playing a guitar and has a very modern CGI like look to it. One thing is for sure you would have to be blind not to realise this was a beer for christmas.

The beer pours to a nice dark ruby colour with a very small thin white head, sadly this vanishes away to nothing within a minute or so of being poured.

There is very little if anything of an aroma to this beer which is always  a let down as it usually implies a lack of taste as well…

Guess what there is no real taste to this beer either! When I think of a Christmas ale I am thinking of sherry or rum and rich fruit cake with caramel sweetness and a hint of spice and citrus.

I am certainly not thinking of a general vague maltiness not a single identifiable flavour and just a slight bitterness towards the finish

The body of this beer is a real let down, it is just wet, there is no oomph to it at all. This really isn’t helped by the fact that the carbonation is very flat indeed.

This is only the 3rd beer that I have been unable to finish, there isn’t anything that is overly bad or unpleasant about it but I might as well have been drinking tap water.

1/5





Cornish Coaster 3.6% bitter – cask

2 11 2010

 

Cornish Coaster is a bitter from the normally very good Sharps brewery in Cornwall, I have only ever seen Cornish Coaster available on draft and as far as I am aware there is no bottled variant.

I have tried CC 3 times now, all from decent enough pubs that know how to keep and pour a beer, I make this point for a reason, sometimes with cask beer it is possible to end up not enjoying a particular pint due to how it has been poured or how the beer has been kept.

This time this is not the case.

I have tried hard to like Cornish Coaster I really have but I just can’t bring myself to do it, there isn’t anything that is overly offensive about it but at the same time there is nothing that would make me want to drink it again!

When poured you notice that there are some very subtle aromas of citrus, malt and caramel that you can just about pick up but they are very faint indeed.

CC is a very pale golden colour and looking nice and attractive with the light sparkling off of it, the head however is very light and looks almost oily on the top of the pint – not the most promising of starts!

There aren’t really any flavours that you would say are predominant in the beer, the hops come through as being grassy at best and there is a little bit of citrus but you would could be excused for missing it. There are some hints of caramel and a little maltiness but again it is all very wishy washy, not bad but you wouldn’t write home about it.

The big thing that I have to fault Cornish Coaster for is how it feels in your mouth, it is very thin and very very wet, there is no body to it at all, sure this makes it easier to drink as a session beer but there are limits! I have also noticed a slight oily /buttery feel to CC in the past suggesting that there is a bit too much diacetyl for it to be pleasant.

If I were being nice I would say that Cornish Coaster is quite well balanced , if a  little bitter and that it would be easy to drink as an un-inspired session drink, particularly on a hot day when all you wanted was refreshment.

All in all a little bit grim.

2.5/5

 





An update on my homebrewing project

28 10 2010

 As regular readers will know my most recent homebrew was a traditional IPA, well it now a little over a month since it was bottled so I decided to give it a try and see how it is getting on.

 There is a fair amount of carbonation, certainly enough for my tastes. The beer pours to a very pleasant light amber with a decent sized head that lasts well throughout drinking with a fair bit of lacing.

 There is a decent aroma developing with hops, a slight hint of citrus and a rich maltiness being the predominant notes.

 For me the look and smell of my homebrew are important but the key is very definately how it tastes. Well I can officially say that this IPA is a winner as far as I’m concerned.

There is a good level of bitterness to the beer offset with a nice caramel like sweetness from the malt, I was really pleased as a lto of homebrews that I have sampled before have had an almost cider like quality to them coupled with a rather unpleasant sweetness.

If I compare this IPA with a commercially brewed version I would certainly take this over something like the ubiquitous Greene King offering and not only because this is tipping the scales at a little over 6% (6.2% as close as I can measure it)

I can’t wait until my next scheduled tasting at the end of November 🙂





Great Oakley Gobble 4.5% bitter

30 09 2010

I’m finally sober and coherent enough to start reviewing some of the many beers sampled at this year’s Great British Beer Festival.

One that I have fond memories of  is Gobble from the Great Oakley Brewery in Northamptonshire.  Admittedly a lot of the fond memories I have stem from Alan, Ric and I thinking it was hilarious to approach the young lady manning this particular pump and asking her how much she was charging for a gobble…. I think we might have had a few by that point.

Off colour wordplay not withstanding I did enjoy my pint of Gobble and it seems like I wasn’t the only one;  Gobble won joint bronze in the “Special Bitter” category.

When poured Gobble was a lovely golden coloured beer with a weak head,  the aroma was light and zesty with a nice hint of caramel creeping in at the back and just seemed to scream summer drinking.

In terms of taste Gobble had a nice soft hoppiness coupled with some zingy citrus fruits making for a very refreshing taste, this was offset with a nice hint of caramel sweetness.

I noticed a little bit of an oily texture to the beer but considering the hoppiness and the nice citrus sharpness this wasn’t unpleasant and rather seemed to prevent the beer being too dry.

All in all a very very good little beer and well deserving of it’s award.

4.75/5








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