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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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





King Goblin 6.6% Special Reserve

21 11 2010

This is what Wychwood have to say about Hobgoblin’s big brother, King Goblin:

Brewed only on a Full Lunar Moon. 

As the full moon casts its eerie light over the shadowy old Eagle Brewery, a magical brew gurgles forth from the casks.

A beer enlivened by the energies of the universe, when the elements are converging into a harmonious alignment. Truly a brew fit for a celestial majesty.

As much as I would like to imagine that this beer was indeed only brewed on a full lunar moon I can’t see that this is anything more than marketing spin on the part of Wychwood.

One thing that is a bit special though is the presentation of the beer itself. the label features the hobgoblin we all know and love but this time he is surrounded with a little silver border which is repeated on the neck label. There is also a little booklet attached to each bottle advertising their hobgoblin/king goblin  engraved tankards which is a nice touch if not quite to everyone’s tastes.

The aroma from King Goblin is reasonably strong there is a rich, sweet maltiness along with a definite hint of citrus fruit, grapefruit if I had to try and pin it down.

The beer pours to a deep rich coppery colour with a fair sized off white head which lasts well whilst drinking and leaves a reasonable amount of lacing, so far so good!

The flavour of King Goblin surprised me in a pleasant way, quite often when you find a “special reserve” version of an existing beer it can be a bit of a let down, it either tastes nothing like the original and they are just cashing in on an existing brand or the extra alcohol kills the flavour of the beer. King Goblin falls prey to neither of these traits.

You can still taste the fact that this is a beer that is based on Hobgoblin; there is still the same toffee sweetness backed up by deep rich malts but the fruitiness that was present before is far more prominent, you get a full on hit of grapefruit and citrus.

You can also get a definite taste of rich dark chocolate coming through alongside the malt which all goes towards making King Goblin have a bit  more complexity than his little brother.

There is a nice smoothness to KG that means hat it goes down oh so easily, the body does feel a little on the thin side though, not watery but just not quite matching the level of alcohol.

Whilst speaking of the alcohol content you do notice that it really does drink it’s strength in fact I have heard some people say that if they didn’t know better they would put it above the 7% marker…

I actually think that in some ways King Goblin does the job of a winter warmer far better than some of the actual winter warmers I have reviewed recently, that said I would be more then happy to enjoy a few anytime of year.

4.5/5





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





Brakspear Triple

29 04 2010

As it is a first I decided to kick things off with one of my absolute favourites, Brakspear Triple.

Brakspear Triple

This is a superb beer from Oxford based brewer Brakspear who survive today as part of Marstons. Triple is only available as a bottle conditioned beer, however this helps rather than hinders this particular gem. Brakspear describe this beer as being for the ultimate connoisseur and they aren’t lying! Each bottle is individually numbered and if like me you have no life you can go to the Brakspear website and see when your beer was brewed. It takes it name from the fact that is a triple fermented beer and is also triple hopped. Basically this means that the beer itself undergoes 3 separate fermentations, twice during the double-drop fermentation used at the brewery and once more in the bottle. Hops are added three times during the brewing process and this along with the choice of malts; Crystal, Black and Maris Otter pale, mean that there is a really good balance between the beer being aromatic and bitter and also gives a real richness. This isn’t a beer that you would be quaffing as part of a session, firstly it is to my mind a little bit too good to be thrown back and needs to be savoured and enjoyed. Secondly this beer is strong, we are talking 7.2% ABV! Taken by itself this figure might not mean much but to put it into context Brakspear’s regular on tap bitter is 3.4% on draught. It is a serious beer. It is a wonderful reddish/amber coloured beer with a small cream coloured head that collapses to be even smaller. I prefer to try and get all the sediment into the glass when I have a bottle conditioned beer as I find you get far more flavour, if you don’t want bits in the glass you can just be more careful when you pour The smell of beer is very strong and pungent with a malty and almost biscuity smell, not unpleasant at all, in fact very inviting. Brakspear Triple is an absolute delight to drink; it very full bodied with no real wateriness, it is slightly sweet but not cloyingly so and there is a nice bitter aftertaste but again not too much.It is very warming and yet for such a strong beer it has a surprising delicacy about it that makes it very easy to drink. I find Brakspear Triple to be a beer that can be enjoyed more or less anytime, I have drunk it as winter warmer after a long cold day at work, but equally I have enjoyed in the garden in the middle of summer with a nice ploughmans 4.8 / 5








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