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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Fuller’s London Pride – English Pale Ale

22 11 2010

fullers london prideLondon Pride is Fuller’s flagship beer and has to go down as being one of the best examples of an English pale ale.

It is widely available on cask in the south of England and is one of the most commonly encountered bottled real ales that you can find, you can even find it on British Airways and American Airlines flights!

The cask version of London pride comes in at 4.1% ABV whilst the bottled version is slightly more alcoholic at 4.7% .  Personally I prefer my London Pride from the cask but there is really very little difference between the two.

The aroma that you get from London Pride is primarily malty with a suggestion of fresh bread, there is a slight note of hoppiness that comes through in the background along with a hint of toffee which adds a pleasant sweetness.

When poured there is a rather thin off white head, about 2 fingers worth, that lasts well and provides a fair amount of lacing. The body of the beer is a  clear amber colour that just sparkles when the light hits it.

 Following on from the dominant aromas of the beer the first flavour that you notice is a rich biscuit taste coming from the malt along with the toffee sweetness some buttery caramel and a light fruitiness.

The hopping in London Pride is great, there is a good level of bitterness that perfectly balances with the rich malts and helps to cut through the sweetness the leafy hop flavour is refreshing and carries through to the finish.

London Pride has a nice well rounded feel to it with a medium body, good carbonation and a wonderful smoothness to it, the flavours are complex and layered with everything working together perfectly.

A truly outstanding beer

4.9/5





Bah Humbug! 6.0% Christmas Ale

19 11 2010

 

As with many real ale breweries Wychwood have a range of seasonal beers that are released at different times of the year only to be spirited away again ready for the next in line.

As you can probably guess from the name and the rather Dickensian label Bah Humbug! is their Christmas Ale.

As usual top marks for the whimsical nature of the label, who better to feature on a beer called Bah Humbug! then Scrooge himself assailed by spirits.

Whilst on the subject of the label I am going to point out that this is the 6.0% version, it is my understanding that the bottles of Bah Humbug! on sale in the USA, Canada and elsewhere are a rather more ordinary 5.0% as such there might be some differences between my review and those of some of  my colonial cousins.

Disappointingly there is very little of an aroma from this beer, it does improve as it warms but even so there is just a generic spiciness a bit of malty sweetness and the slightest hint of fruit, I wasn’t expecting to have my nose blown off of my face but I would have liked a bit more oomph.

Bah Humbug! certainly looks the part when poured, it settles to a deep coppery amber colour that suggests a nice richness to the pint, the head is an off white colour and fades away rather quickly leaving very little if any lacing.

The taste of BH is pretty good, certainly a lot better than the previous seasonal ale I reviews – Rocking Rudolph, which tasted mostly of nothing.

There is a lot of sweet rich maltiness that is prevalent in the beer with a slight hint of honey coming from the maris otter malt that is used, there is a certain spiciness to it but you wouldn’t necessarily pin it down as being Cinnamon from the offset, it doesn’t really come through clearly until the finish. There are hints of butterscotch but in a nice way, certainly not in the sense of diacetyl.

You can pick up the note of banana in there as advertised but I couldn’t really get any of the fruity Christmas cake of mince pie flavours that I would have been expecting.

The finish to BH is surprisingly bitter with a slight hint of alcohol to it this balances out nicely with the sweet maltiness of the beer and works really well.

The one let down that I do have with Bah Humbug is that it is doesn’t really have as much body as I would look for in a winter warmer, it is a little thin and I would imagine that at the lower 5.0% ABV might be a bit wet.

Overall I think that Bah Humbug is a perfectly drinkable beer that has the right sort of flavours for this time of year but lacks the depth and body to really make it stand out as a Christmas Ale. Sure I will probably have one or two of these each year but it certainly won’t be at the top of my list to Father Christmas.

3.8/5





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





Old Speckled Hen – 5.2% bottled/4.5% cask

15 11 2010

So often these days product names come about as the result of million pound research campaigns by marketing executives with perma-tans and expensive hair cuts, this thankfully isn’t the case when it comes to real ale.

Quite often there are quaint little tales of why this brewery is called this or why this beer has such a name Old Speckled Hen has one of these little tales all of its own.

The beer itself is named after an old MG which was used as a runaround for workers in the MG factory. Over years of service, the car became so covered in flecks of paint it earnt the nickname “Owld Speckled ‘Un”,  which Morland changed to “Old Speckled hen” when they brewed a special commemorative beer for the factory’s 50th anniversary in 1979 The name being thought up by one Ian Williams who worked in personnel in the factory at that time.

These days Morland is just one part of the huge brewing machine that is Greene King but thankfully the name has stayed the same and so has the beer.

Old Speckled Hen used to be 5.2% across both cask and bottled versions but in recent years Greene King have reduced the ABV of the cask version to 4.5% in order to promote it as more of a session beer; this certainly seems to have paid dividends for them as the availability of Old Speckled Hen on draft has increased quite significantly since then. Personally I still prefer the kick of the bottled variant though.

So onto the beer itself;

There is a fairly good level of aroma to Old Speckled Hen, it has a predominant smell of medicine or cough syrup with a  nice hint of malty richness coming in as a background note.

The beer pours to a nice bright and clear amber colour that looks very inviting and rich with an off-white head that stay well throughout drinking.

There is a lovely sweet malty taste to Old Speckled Hen along with a slightly burnt caramel taste not dissimilar to cinder toffee. Underlying these sweet malty flavours are delicious spicy hints along with a lemony citrus note that helps to balance out the richness and sweetness.

The mouthfeel of Old Speckled Hen is most enjoyable, there is a real body and richness that balances perfectly with the dry finish.

Whether bottled or cask Old Speckled Hen makes a great session beer  but is also rich and robust enough to hold its own alongside food.

4.5/5





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





The Hobgoblin / Devonshire Arms – Camden

9 11 2010

 

The Hobgoblin in Camden holds the distinction of being the longest surving “Goth” pub in London, both in it’s current guise as the Hobgoblin and under it’s previous name “The Devonshire Arms”.

 I say previous name but the sign for the Devonshire still hangs on the wall and most regulars and locals still refer to it as the Dev’

It’s close proximity to Slimelight has probably played no small part in the longevity of the pub as it ideally situated for having a few drinks before going on to the club.

As previously mentioned The Hobgoblin is primarily a Goth pub and it’s decor reflects this with black being the pre-eminent colour inside the 3 storey mock Tudor building. The walls are liberally covered in posters and flyers for various goth and metal bands and there are the odd pieces of gothic paraphenalia; gargoyles and the like.

I don’t know if it is still the case now but last time I was in The Hobgoblin/Dev the tables had been covered over with various “calling cards” and clippings from porno mags, perhaps not the most child friendly or PC of coverings but woudl you really be in here with your kids or your nan? Probably not.

The toilets in here are and have always been vile, they smell as if a tramp and his friends have taken up permanent residence and they don’t look much better. It is probably for the best that there is no food offering here as I wouldn’t like to think that the hands that touched my sandwich had been in these loos.

The music in here is always good playing a nice mix of classic rock and punk in amongst the heavier metal tracks and there is often a DJ playing of an evening.

There used to be a dress code up until a few years back but that was more to deter trouble makes then to be a pain, now there isn’t officially a dress code as such but you do stand out if you are wearing anything much brighter then black… the admittance policy is now far shorter and to the point – No Wankers.  A policy that I wish far more pubs would operate by.

The quality of the beer can be a little hit and miss but the selection is normally good, last time I was in there were a couple of Wychwood ales on tap along with London Pride.

All in all the Hobgoblin/Dev is alright, the music is good, the decor is interesting and most of the staff and customers are friendly enough.

On the downside the beer can be less then stellar, the hygiene is from the dark ages (cant say I’m overly bothered though) and there are occasionally some overly agressive old dossers in there trying to mooch drinks.

But don’t let that put you off, there are far worse places to have a drink – the world’s end springs to mind and really no trip to Camden would be complete without a pint or two here.








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