Iceni – Men of Norfolk 6.2% ABV

30 01 2011

Men of Norfolk is a strong (6.2%) dark beer from the Iceni brewery in Norfolk.

The Iceni Brewery is situated on the edge of Thetford Forest and takes its name from the Iceni tribe who were ruled by Queen Boudicca (yes, the famous one in the chariot) and occupied most of Norfolk and Suffolk around 61 AD. They have been producing beers since 1995 and even have their own hop garden on site…

I first came across the Iceni Brewery selling bottled beers in a food hall at the nearby Elveden Estate and picked up a couple of bottles for my uncle and I to  have later that day – Roisin Dubh if my memory serves correctly.

Well those couple of bottles went down well and since then I have tried pretty much all of the beers that Iceni have produced.

I have seen Men of Norfolk listed as a couple of different styles over the years, a few pubs have put it down as a porter and I have often seen it listed as a mild… I am going to stick with my original assertion that this is a strong dark ale and will try to steer clear of pigeon holing it unduly.

The pint pours to a rich black colour with a fairly thin cream coloured head that lasts well through out drinking – you could be mistaken for assuming it to be a stout based on looks alone.

The aroma is definitely there but isn’t too pronounced with roasted malts, raisins, chocolate and liquorice coming through clearly, there is also a slightly sour/bitter note almost like a bitter coffee that comes through in the background.

The main flavours are roasted malts chocolate, some sweet dark fruit – raisins, sultanas etc,  caramel and there is a nice cocoa bitterness in the finish The sweetness from the fruits and the slight bit of bitterness from the cocoa work well to balance out the rich roasted malt.

The carbonation is a little light and gives  a very soft mouthfeel that might not appeal to everyone but overall this is a small complaint to have.

I really enjoyed Men of Norfolk, the flavours work well together and have enough punch to carry the strength of the beer so you don’t just end up with that sour alcohol note that can plague some strong ales. 

 A very good beer from a small local brewer 4.5 / 5





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





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





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

There is a





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





Norfolk Nog homebrew

11 11 2010

The time has come for me to start my next batch of homebew.

I have decided to go with a kit of one of my favourite beers; Woodfordes Norfolk Nog.

As I have mentioned in a previous post there is an inherent level of risk involved in this as up until I have only ever made generic beers, as such whilst there might be an overall style that you can judge it against there isn’t any particular named beer that you are expecting to have a clone of.

That said Woodfordes are one of the leaders in terms of home brew kits and having tried homebrewed Woodfordes Wherry before I can say that it was nigh on perfect.

Norfolk Nog is a 3kg all malt kit as such there are no additional sugars that need to be added, this is also a first for me as previously all my beers have had at least some sugars added.

Wish me luck 🙂





Shepherd Neame 1698 6.5% strong ale

7 11 2010

 1698 is a strong ale from the Kent based Sheperd Neame Brewery; Sheperd Neame are the UK’s oldest brewery dating back to 1698, although there is some evidence to suggest that it could be far older, possibly dating back to 1525.

My first memories of 1698 are as a 10.5% special released to mark the tri-centenary of Sheperd Neame, it was then re-released as 1698 celebration ale before eventually ending up as regular 1698 about 5 years back.

There is a fairly strong aroma to 1698 in particular I can pick up flowers, wood and alcohol as being the main notes with a biscuity, citrus undertone. It is a really nicely balanced aroma that serves as a nice invitation to dive right in.

The beer pours to a rich clear honey colour with barely a fingers width of off white head that stays reasonably well for the duration of the pint leaving a nice amount of lacing  on the way.

The flavour of 1698 is also nicely balanced, there is a long sweet start that ends in a crisp bitter finish. You can pick up hints of some summer fruits and citrus but mostly you get a nice biscuity maltiness with a touch of caramel and some crisp hops coming through.

If I have one criticism of 1698 it is that I personally feel that it could do with a bit more punch in terms of body particularly as the a.b.v  is quite high.

4.3/5

kent based, uk’s oldest continual brewer, hop fields in kent strong ale, thrice hopped, its generally ok, remember it as a special at 10.5% for the 400 years anniversary





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

 





An update on my homebrewing project

28 10 2010

 As regular readers will know my most recent homebrew was a traditional IPA, well it now a little over a month since it was bottled so I decided to give it a try and see how it is getting on.

 There is a fair amount of carbonation, certainly enough for my tastes. The beer pours to a very pleasant light amber with a decent sized head that lasts well throughout drinking with a fair bit of lacing.

 There is a decent aroma developing with hops, a slight hint of citrus and a rich maltiness being the predominant notes.

 For me the look and smell of my homebrew are important but the key is very definately how it tastes. Well I can officially say that this IPA is a winner as far as I’m concerned.

There is a good level of bitterness to the beer offset with a nice caramel like sweetness from the malt, I was really pleased as a lto of homebrews that I have sampled before have had an almost cider like quality to them coupled with a rather unpleasant sweetness.

If I compare this IPA with a commercially brewed version I would certainly take this over something like the ubiquitous Greene King offering and not only because this is tipping the scales at a little over 6% (6.2% as close as I can measure it)

I can’t wait until my next scheduled tasting at the end of November 🙂





Harviestoun Bitter and Twisted 4.7% Blond Beer

11 10 2010

I wasn’t planning on having a drink last night, but on hobbling (knee injury dont ask) into my local office licence I noticed that he had some new stock in.

Two particular bottles caught my eye; Marstons Old Empire (review to follow shortly) and Harviestoun Bitter and Twisted.

I have never had the oppurtunity to try Bitter and Twisted in it’s bottled form until now and couldn’t say no!

Bitter and Twisted is probably Harviestoun’s best known beer and with good reason it has won a list of awards literally as long as your arm for both it’s bottled and draught variants including World’s Best Ale at the World Beer Awards in 2007.

Not that their other beers are slackers, they also boast a World’s Best Pilsner amongst their ranks from 2008.

There is a lovely zingy citrus nose to Bitter and Twisted along with some slightly spicy and floral hints in the background.

B&T pours to a lovely pale golden colour with a thin white head that leaves a fair amount of lacing on the glass.

You reallynotice the hops in bitter and twisted which is good considering they have gone to the effort of using 3 separate varieties; challenger, styrian golding and Hersbrücker, luckily though at no point does the hopping seem overwhelming, either in terms of bitterness or taste.

There is a nice balance of caramel sweetness from the malt and a grapefruit/citrus sharpness that comes through strongly along with that pleasing spicy note that you can pick up in the aroma.

I usually only see blond beers as something to enjoy in the summer months, ideally in a sunny beer garden however I found Bitter and Twisted to be a blond that I could just as easilly enjoy on frosty autumn evening by the bonfire.

It might not be the world’s best ale but it is certainly up there.

4.85/5








%d bloggers like this: