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

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Hamilton Hall – Liverpool Street Station

29 04 2010

Hamilton Hall is part of the J D Wetherspoons chain of pubs located at the Bishopsgate Street entrance to Liverpool Street Station.

Due to it’s location it gets busy and I mean BUSY, obviously there aren’t locals as such (unless you count the tramps) and the clientele tends to be a mixture of train passengers, local workers and away day football fans – a heady mix! The pub is set out over two levels each with a bar and a seating area, the furniture is typical Wetherspoons; cheap dark wooden chairs, tables and stools with the ubiquitous table numbers for food set into them. The decor however is about as far removed from the usual Wetherspoons as you can get; it used to be part of the old Great Eastern Hotel and depending on who you ask was either part of the banqueting hall or ballroom. Regardless of which the it is stunning, there are a lot of original features and gilding throughout and several massive floor to ceiling mirrors that help add to the overall feeling of light and space.

The staff here are ok, they always seem to be the usual mix of students and backpackers that you find in most pubs in the city. One thing to note is that due to how busy it gets in here it can take a while for staff to notice you as such if you are due to be catching a train make sure you give yourself an extra few minutes, particularly if eating. One nice feature that is a new addition this year is the set of screens on one of the walls showing what trains are next to leave from which platform, it certainly beats having to run up and down from the station. The food is the standard Wetherspoons menu of pub grub, cheap and plentiful, some of the prices are higher than you might pay in other Wetherspoons but they are still cheaper then anything else you would find at the station. So onto the most important thing, the beers. As with most Wetherspoons there are all the usual suspects when it comes to the generic McDrinks, Strongbow, Guinness, Heineken etc there are also what I think of as Wetherspoon’s “standard ales” Greene King IPA and Greene King Abotts Ale, neither of which are a bad pint but they wouldn’t get me overly excited either. So if we put these standard offerings to one side what do we have at the Hamilton Hall, well downstairs at the main bar there are 10, thats right 10 handpumps. These handpumps are set up as two groups of 5, one grouping at either end of the ramp, sometimes there might be one or two particularly popular guests ales that put in an appearance at both ends but even then that is still 6 different beers for you to try. This week I was lucky as it part of was Wetherspoons beer festival and as such there was a very varied selection of ales, milds, porters and more! Now obviously not every week is going to be part of the beer festival but even so the beer selection very rarely dissapoints. So overall the decor is stunning, the location is very handy and easy to get to and the beer is good, on the downside it does get very busy, the football fans of a weekend can be a real nuisance and it isn’t really somewhere you would want to take a family into. Overall I would have to give the Hamilton Hall a very solid 3.8 out of 5, it isn’t perfect and wouldn’t be my first choice of pub however if you want a good selection of beer at excellent prices (particularly by city standards) then you wont go far wrong.





Wetherspoon Real Ale Festival

29 04 2010

Today (25th April) is the last day of the Wetherspoon Real Ale Festival 2010.

Whilst I didn’t manage to get over for the full run of the festival (April 7th -25th) I did manage to spend a fair whack of time in various Wetherspoon establishments and put a fair dent into their selection.

According to the festival programme and “tasting notes” that were being given away in the pubs there are up to 50 ales being featured this year, including several that have been brewed exclusively for the festival.

I am not usually a big fan of the so called festivals that are run by pub chains but I must admit that this offering from Wetherspoon really did win me over.

To my mind they did more or less everything right, there was a large and varied selection of beers, they produced a festival t-shirt, there was the oppurtunity to enjoy the beers in 1/3rd glasses so you could get round more without getting too drunk ( I didn’t avail of this option!) and they even lowered the price of a pint, where we were drinking at the King’s Ford in Chingford we were paying a measly £1.55 a pint!

I was impressed that it wasn’t just the more mainstream breweries or varities of beer; nestling alongside the run of the mill ( a term I use lightly) ales were milds, porters, stouts and even a couple of real ciders and the choice of breweries was excellent and from as far afield as Hawaii and South Africa.

One added bonus that might be of interest to people even after the festival has finished is the CAMRA membership form at the back of the festival programme, not only can you sign up and show your support in helping protect and preserve great beers but you will be sent 20 quid of Wetherspoon vouchers for you to use, not bad seeing as you can get a membership for £20 a year (£14 a year if under 25 or over 60).

I guess this festival pretty much sums Wetherspoon up for me, yeah they are a big faceless chain that is changing a lot of the pubs we have known and loved over the years but they are also doing a lot of good, not just in promoting real ale but also in helping to prevent pub closure, I think the fact that CAMRA are so pro Wetherspoon just helps highlight just how much good they are doing








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