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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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





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





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





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

 





Theakston’s Old Peculier – 5.6% Old Ale

30 09 2010

Theakston’s Old Peculier is one of the most widely recognised real ales out there, not only that but it is also one of the oldest having been brewed since at least 1890 so it genuinely is an old ale!

The eagle eyed amongst you might notice the rather odd spelling of Peculier; well no it isnt a typo or an intentional misspelling it’s a totally different word in and of itself and one just as interesting as the beer it adorns.

The word peculier refers to a parish or place of worship that falls directly under the jurisdiction of the crown as opposed to the local diocese.

In the case of Old Peculier Theakstons are making reference to the Peculier of Masham in North Yorkshire where the beer is brewed; the town was declared a peculier after the archbishop of York Minster couldn’t be bothered to make the trip north to oversee it’s affairs.

When poured the beer is thick and viscous with an opaque dark brown colour and a nice frothy head, exactly what springs to mind if someone were to talk about an old ale.

The aroma of the beer is full and hearty, there are rich fruity notes of plum and raisin and a slightly yeasty bready undertone. I have often heard people say that they get a banana like smell off of Old Peculier but I will hand on heart admit to never having noticed it myself, or to at least having not identified it as banana.

Before I start on the taste of OP I am going to go ahead and give a little bit of advice, ideally don’t put this into the fridge at all or if you really must chill this beer then leave it to come to room temperature for a while before you dive in. The flavour really does develop better at a slightly warmer temperature and you will find it a far more enjoyable pint.

That said let me get on to how it is to drink; it is a good bit thicker then a lot of commercial beers but I find that just reinforces the Old Ale feeling for me. It is a fairly sweet with a nice plummy taste coming through this is perfectly balanced with a good solid bitterness and a nice amount of hoppiness that stops it from ever tasting too rich or cloying, you can also pick up the alcohol, not enough to be unpleasant but just enough to keep things dry and slightly spicy.

You can pick up lots of dark maltiness and fruit along with a hint of coffee and molasses, this is truly a complex beer and not something to try out on your unsuspecting guests who have only ever had a mass produced lager before.

I have been a big fan of Old Peculier ever since I first tried it many years ago, I think that it is a perfect example of what real ale is all about, flavourful, unique, slightly challenging and yet still incredibly accessible.

5/5








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