Shepherd Neame Amber Ale

18 01 2011

Amber Ale is a 4.0%  seasonal ale from the  Shepherd Neame brewery in Faversham, Kent.

The Beer was launched in early 2009 as a winter warmer and has been available in January and February in 2010 and again in 2011.

Amber Ale is available as a cask ale however the two pints I had most recently were bought bottled as part of the Lidl Beer Festival which just seems to be an excuse to shift a whole bunch of Shepherd Neame beers as the other choices were Bishop’s Finger, Spitfire, 4-4-2 and Autumn Blaze – not that I am going to complain at €1.49 a bottle!

As the name would suggest Amber Ale pours to a very clear coppery/amber colour with a very thin white head that vanishes away rather quickly. Within a minute or two of the beer being poured there is very little if any visible sign of carbonation suggesting that it might be quite soft in that regard.

The main aromas from the beer are citrus, some fruitiness and hops, LOTS of hops, I found this a little odd as a I would expect a beer billed as being a winter warmer to have a bit more richness to it, maybe a bit more sweetness and perhaps even a touch of spice…

The taste of the beer followed on pretty closely from what I could smell; there was quite a bit of citrus and some fruit – possibly apples married with a big hit of fragrant hops.

There is supposed to be a blend of pale, crystal and brown malts added which I would have thought would add a certain depth and richness to the beer but I have to say I only picked up the slightest hint of malt whatsoever.

The body is rather on the light side and matches the ABV which is a little on the low side for this particular style of beer which more often comes in over the 5% mark.

I didn’t find that this beer put me much in mind of a winter warmer, it just seemed a little too light and lacking in flavour and could have used quite a bit more malt to balance out the hopping. That said I did actually quite like it, I could easily imagine myself enjoying several pints in a sunny beer garden.

3.8/5

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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





Santa’s Sack Christmas Ale

16 12 2010

I had this recently as part of Wetherspoon’s selection of festive beers.

It is the last of Thwaites  “Signature Range” for 2010 and  having enjoyed several of the earlier offerings I was looking forward to an enjoyable pint.

My first impressions were pleasing as the pints that were set in front of me a really dark ruby red with a nice  thick foamy white head on them.

There was a fairly distinct aroma coming off  the beer which was a mixture between chocolate and what smelt like ovaltine, suggesting to me that there should be a really malty depth to the beer.

Well it turns out that looks can be deceiving, I led to believe I was going to be spirited away to a magical Dickensian Christmas  full of luxury and richness. Instead I was dragged on a 3 hour bus ride to Weston-Super-Mare, in the rain, with the windows open and the heater broken.

The predominant taste was that of cheap sugar and burnt toffee, none of the rich fruits, spices or chocolate notes that I would expect to get from a Christmas ale or winter warmer.

The body was so light as to be non-existent and if there was one that sticks out in my mind most about this pint it is wet.

I know that a number of people online have been raving about this beer but I just couldn’t bring myself to enjoy it. So much that I took my pint back unfinished as did my mate.

1/5





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





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

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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





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








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