Chimay Bleue – 9% Trappist Ale

25 07 2011

Brewed by Trappist monks in Belgium; Chimay Bleue is for many people the definitive Trappist ale.

At 9% it is the strongest of the three Chimay offerings, four if you manage to get your hands on their Patersbier and the one most frequently seen in pubs and off licences world over.

Like all of the Trappist beers Chimay Bleue is sold solely in order to fund the monastery and to help promote it’s good works….all the more reason to keep drinking!

A quick word of warning, the strength of Bleue is very, very well masked with very little alcoholic taste evident, as such it is quite possible to forget it is 9% and end up really quite drunk 😉

In terms of appearance Bleue is a coppery red/brown with a thinnish off-white head which dissipates quite quickly. It is typically a clear beer but I have had a couple of bottles that were quite cloudy, either way the taste wasn’t affected and that is the main thing!

A lovely sweet and fruity aroma is present upon pouring, it really puts me in mind of Demerara sugar and really plump, juicy raisins or sultanas….mmm heaven

The taste is just great, it really is, for such a strong beer it is surprisingly sweet and well-balanced. Early on you get a malty sweetness with a slight hint of spiciness creeping in, next you get the fruits hinted at in the aroma – again we are looking at dark dried fruits and even a hint of plums or damsons.

There is a nice finish to the beer with just a hint of bitterness beginning to edge in, this isn’t unpleasant in any way and actually serves to perfectly cut through the sweetness and richness of the fruit before it becomes overwhelming or cloying and gives a nice refreshing element which leaves you craving the next sip.

There are very few beers that I really finding myself longing for, sure I have personal favourites or beers that I can’t walk past without drinking but there are literally a handful of beers that I ever find myself craving….Chimay Bleue is one of that handful.

5/5





Hoegaarden Witbier 4.9%

9 06 2011

It has been a while since my last beer review but rest assured I haven’t been resting on my laurels sipping water, far from it, in fact I have been quaffing a ridiculous number of beers covering the whole spectrum; the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

So without further ado I give you today’s offering:

Hoegaarden may not be the most adventurous or hard to find of the beers I have/will reviewed but it a far cry from most of the mass-produced tat you are likely to find being pumped out down your local and as such is well deserving of my time.

Hoegaarden is a Belgian Witbier  that has been around in one guise or another for a damn long time…it has been brewed in the village of Hoegaarden since 1445  to be precise.

The modern incarnation of this venerable beer came about in 1965 when Belgian milkman Pierre Celis recreated the traditional recipe in his hayloft following the closure of the last commercial brewery in Hoegaarden some ten years previous.

Now what a recipe it is;  water, yeast, wheat, hops, coriander and dried Curaçao orange peel.  Not quite what you get in your dull old Heineken!

Now as the sharp-eyed amongst you might have spotted from the picture this is a slightly cloudy pale beer with a good-sized white head that lasts reasonably well with plenty of lacing.

The aroma of the beer is great there are hints of citrus, freshly mown grass, a slight hint of yeastiness rather like freshly  baked bread  and a hunt of spice… a good start.

On drinking the beer there is a big burst of flavour right up front, cloves, coriander and citrus pretty much explode into your taste buds with a background fruitiness not dissimilar to banana and a slight touch of pepper.

This really is a great tasting beer and as much as there are a lot of seemingly strong flavours they are balance out well and there isn’t anything that ever threatens to overwhelm.

In short a really, really good beer.

4.5





Iceni – Men of Norfolk 6.2% ABV

30 01 2011

Men of Norfolk is a strong (6.2%) dark beer from the Iceni brewery in Norfolk.

The Iceni Brewery is situated on the edge of Thetford Forest and takes its name from the Iceni tribe who were ruled by Queen Boudicca (yes, the famous one in the chariot) and occupied most of Norfolk and Suffolk around 61 AD. They have been producing beers since 1995 and even have their own hop garden on site…

I first came across the Iceni Brewery selling bottled beers in a food hall at the nearby Elveden Estate and picked up a couple of bottles for my uncle and I to  have later that day – Roisin Dubh if my memory serves correctly.

Well those couple of bottles went down well and since then I have tried pretty much all of the beers that Iceni have produced.

I have seen Men of Norfolk listed as a couple of different styles over the years, a few pubs have put it down as a porter and I have often seen it listed as a mild… I am going to stick with my original assertion that this is a strong dark ale and will try to steer clear of pigeon holing it unduly.

The pint pours to a rich black colour with a fairly thin cream coloured head that lasts well through out drinking – you could be mistaken for assuming it to be a stout based on looks alone.

The aroma is definitely there but isn’t too pronounced with roasted malts, raisins, chocolate and liquorice coming through clearly, there is also a slightly sour/bitter note almost like a bitter coffee that comes through in the background.

The main flavours are roasted malts chocolate, some sweet dark fruit – raisins, sultanas etc,  caramel and there is a nice cocoa bitterness in the finish The sweetness from the fruits and the slight bit of bitterness from the cocoa work well to balance out the rich roasted malt.

The carbonation is a little light and gives  a very soft mouthfeel that might not appeal to everyone but overall this is a small complaint to have.

I really enjoyed Men of Norfolk, the flavours work well together and have enough punch to carry the strength of the beer so you don’t just end up with that sour alcohol note that can plague some strong ales. 

 A very good beer from a small local brewer 4.5 / 5





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





Stilton Beer…

20 12 2010

British cheese-makers have recently announced that in conjunction with the Belvoir brewery they have developed a Stilton based beer.

The beer has been cunningly named “The Blue Brew” and is said to capture the distinctive creamy and salty flavours of the world famous  blue cheese  by adding stilton whey in with the wort as the beer is fermenting.

Bosses from the Stilton Cheese-makers Association and Belvoir Brewery say it took several attempts to get the drink right but they are convinced drinkers will like the taste of this unique 4.2% real ale.

I reckon it is going to be quite sometime before one of these beers happens to cross my path but I will admit to being rather excited to sample it.

In the meanwhile the information surrounding this beer is a little bit sketchy so I have contacted Belvoir to see if there is any more light they can shed on this cheesy tipple.





Abbot Ale – 5% English Ale

13 12 2010

Abbot Ale is Greene King’s flagship beer and is also one of the first real ales that I ever had the pleasure of trying back in the day.

As such it is probably a little surprising that it has taken me quite so long to work my way round to writing a review on this particular beer.

I guess the biggest reason is that of choice; there are so many other beers out there and I am so keen to try them all (ambitious I know!) that if I am out in the pub I will drink pretty much anything before I consider heading for an Abbot, likewise if I am in an off-license there are literally hundreds of bottles that would come home with me first.

First things first let me state that this is a cask pint from the Hamilton Hall at Liverpool Street Station. It is NOT – note the capital letters –  from one of these cans with a widget in. I don’t really like most ales in a can and Abbot is no exception.

When poured properly, not like my first pint that was slopped into the glass whilst the barmaid was chatting to her friend, you should see a clear golden/amber pint with a decent white head of about 2 fingers width which slowly fades away to a thin layer which stays throughout.

You can quite clearly make out the smell of malts, some fruity sweetness and a touch of hops but everything is fairly muted with no one aroma standing out from the crowd.

The first flavour that really hits you is a sweet toasted maltiness but before that can start to seem a bit too much you get the hops kicking in, there are some floral notes and a slight Earthiness – some have even said it seems a bit skunky on occasion. After the hops have started to recede a little you get the bitterness of the beer coming through along with a slight hint of citrus/orange  as well.

The flavours in Abbot ale are all quite crisp, strong and well-defined the only slight issue that I have is that everything is a little bit mish-mash and all over the shop, for example there is a fairly distinct cinder toffee note that you get right towards the end of the beer and because there is nothing around to balance it or cut through it you are left with a slightly burnt after taste. Not unpleasant by any standards but possibly a little disconcerting to some.

I have an old friend who always accuses me of being more complementary of Abbot Ale than I should be as a result of it being one of my first real ales. He might have a point but then again sod him,  there is something to be said for flavours or smells that take us back to a certain time or place and if Abbot Ale does that for me then so be it!

When all is said and done I still  have my original problem with Abbot; it is a good beer, there is nothing about it that is unpleasant or even less than pleasing but it isn’t a great beer – I wouldn’t ask for a pint to be bought to me on my death-bed.

If you are looking for a good example of an English Ale than Abbot will see you just fine but there are better beers to be had.

4.0/5





Fuller’s London Porter 5.4%

5 12 2010

Fairly recently I wrote a review on Fuller’s London Pride (here) today I turn my attention to another beer from the London based brewery; Fuller’s London Porter.

I’m not going to prattle on at length about the history and origins of porter – trust me I can if you want 😉 but it is great to see a London brewery still leads the way in producing what I and many others deem to be the gold standard of porters.

Ok so where to begin, well it pours very dark brown, not black close enough, there is a slight ruby sheen to a pint if held up directly to the light. The head is egg-shell white and settles out at around 2 fingers, the head fades away a fair bit but leaves a load of lacing on the glass.

In terms of aroma you can quite clearly make out roasted malt, some bitter coffee notes and a hint of toffee or caramel, there is also a slight nuttiness and a hint of hops.

Taste is where Fuller’s have really won through on this one; everything you can pick up in the aroma of the porter is present and more.  The deep roasted malts come to the fore along with the coffee note and that toffee/caramel sweetness.

The chocolate from the roasted malt comes through in the after taste but in a subtle way, it is very much a supporting character in this porter as is the slightly nutty taste. There is a hint of fruitiness that you just about pick up in the background as well, if I had to try and pin it down I would go with raisins or sultanas with a tiny hit of vanilla creeping in as well.

All in all you come away with a rich complex taste that for me ticks all the right boxes, it is rich and malty, slightly sweet and fruity with an underlying bitterness that is refreshing and cuts through the richness which otherwise might be a tad cloying.

In terms of mouthfeel there is only really one word to describe this porter: smooth. In face we are going beyond smooth we are talking baby’s bottoms or the finest velvet gliding across your tongue  – ok well maybe not baby’s bottoms but you get the picture.

A lot of people far more worthy than I have waxed lyrical about Fuller’s London Porter and have even gone so far as to vote it the World’s best porter on several occasions. I don’t often like to follow crowds or ride along with popular opinion but on this occasion I can’t really disagree with any degree of conviction.

There might be better porters out there but if there are I certainly haven’t found them.

5/5





Duvel

3 12 2010

 So as to prove that I’m not some xenophobic “little Englander” I have decided to turn my attentions to the unsuspecting nation of Belgium.

 In particular I have in my sights their very good, indeed often excellent, selection of beers. I am starting with Duvel for no other reason than my own personal love of the stuff, even if too many bottles do result in the mother of all headaches.

 So where to begin, well Duvel is as I say a Belgian beer but it took its original inspiration from English ale of all things.

After WW1 English ales were getting fairly popular in Belgium and Moortgat decided to get in on the act so off they popped to Scotland and got their hands on some yeast and the rest is history…

I have seen Duvel listed as a Belgian Strong Pale Ale and this is probably the closest you will get to pinning a label on it, one thing is for certain at 8.5% it sure is strong, I have known more than one person snort at the diminutive 330ml bottle and knock it back only to find that it has knocked them out for the count – there is a reason it is called the Devil after all.

The aroma of Duvel is rather interesting you get strong citrus notes, some cider like apple, a bit of hay/grass and a strong clean alcohol element that comes through.

Normally I couldn’t give a rat’s arse about the branded glasses that breweries knock out seeing them as a nice little collectible but nothing more, not so this time. 

To really enjoy Duvel at it’s best you need to get your hands on the correct glass, it is the perfect size for starters allowing you to pour the whole bottle in with ample room for the impressive frothy white head; not only that the embossed D on the base of the glass helps create effervescence which aids that head in sticking around. As if that wasn’t enough of a reason the rounded glass helps fully release the flavour and aroma of the beer.

In terms of looks the beer is a lovely clear golden colour that could almost be mistaken for a lager, the carbonation is clearly visible (aided by that aforementioned D) and the pure white head stands tall and lasts throughout with impressive lacing.

The taste of Duvel is to die for; the malt is clean and crisp and lasts from beginning to end, the alcohol is warming and combines with the bitterness of the hops to give a refreshing dry finish that leaves you begging for another sip. There  are hints of pepper and a really pleasant earthiness that are present throughout along with the same citrus notes that you can pick up in the aroma.

There really isn’t a single thing that I can fault about Duvel and trust me I can normally pick holes in anything and everything, I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is the absolute best beer in the world but it damn close

5/5





Young’s Double Chocolate Stout

30 11 2010

There are a lot of chocolate stouts available on the market today and I mean a LOT. It is a popular style of beer that people just can’t seem to get enough of.

Because of the sheer range of chocolate stouts available it is quite an achievement to stand out from the crowd; Young’s Double Chocolate manages not just to stand out but to jump up and down whilst waving.

How do they manage such a feat? Well as odd as it might sound most chocolate stouts actually don’t contain any chocolate whatsoever, the name and indeed the taste actually comes from the dark malt that is used. Young’s however throw a small amount of chocolate into the mix and the difference to the taste is immediately apparent.

The main thing you notice from the aroma of the stout is unsurprisingly the chocolate, you also pick up the rich roasted malts and a slight hint of sweetness. If anything I think that the chocolate aroma is a little bit too strong for my liking, if you were blindfold you could be mistaken for think you were being given a cup of cocoa not a beer.

In terms of looks the stout pours very dark, almost black and has a thick rich look to it with a good sized beige head that lasts well throughout think Guinness but even thicker.

So we come to the main attraction, how it tastes.

Luckily the taste is far more balanced than the aroma, I had been concerned that this would just be sweet and like drinking a pint of chocolate, but that’s not the case at all. You get the taste of good dark chocolate coming through along with a dry nuttiness and a hint of coffee from the roasted malts.

In contrast to the rich sweetness of the stout you get a nice kick of hops that comes in midway through and lingers to the finish, there is also a slight aniseed / liquorice that helps to keep things balanced and a hint of alcohol dryness towards the end.

In terms of mouthfeel this is a very smooth creamy stout that is like drinking rich dark velvet, the body is edging towards the heavy end of the scale and it just feels wonderfully luxurious.

All in all I would have to say that Young’s Double Chocolate Stout is one of if not the best examples of chocolate stout that you will find,not only is it great for the slight novelty value of having actual chocolate added to it but it is a superb stout in and of itself.

4.85/5

There is a





Greene King Harvest Ale

24 11 2010

Harvest ale was one of several seasonal ales released by Greene King.

I say was as unfortunately Harvest Ale is now “retired” and is increasingly difficult to find.

The aroma is rather pleasant with predominately malty tones and a hint of dried fruit creeping in.

In terms of appearance Harvest pours to a very dark brown – imagine coca cola almost with a thin beige head which lasts reasonably well.

Harvest is quite sweet but it isn’t sickly there is a nice dark malty taste with elements of raisins and a nice hint of red berries which carries through to the finish adding a slight element of sharpness which helps to cut through the sweetness.

Considering that Harvest is a mere 3% ABV it is surprising that there is as much body as there is, it is nicely rounded  with a fairly soft carbonation.

All in all I always found Harvest Ale to be a really good example of a brown ale and thought it was a damn shame when GK decided to retire it, especially when you compare it to some of their recent offerings!

4.2/5








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