Thursday, 28 February 2013

#126: Anchor Porter

After trying and being very impressed by Anchor's Steam Beer and Liberty Ale, it was recommended that I try their porter. Bradley's recently restocked the range, so I thought I'd indulge.

Anchor Porter pours black as you'd like with a small cap of while foam. The aroma brings forth lots of roasted character with hints of chocolate and spritely, dark fruit fizziness. The taste emphasizes those chocolate notes on the opening with bitter coffee and light fruit highlight following up, before a gorgeous finish of marzipan and liquorice. It's lovely and smooth throughout, caressing the mouth like a malty caramel, while there's plenty of hop presence to keep things nicely balanced.
It's full bodied and richly textured, producing a complexity of flavours I have to admit I wasn't quite expecting. Anchor have yet to let me down.

A beautiful porter, one that I'll certainly be trying again.
Just as it was recommended to me, I recommend it to you.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

#125: Shepherd Neame

I don't know why, but after picking up an old bottle of Spitfire from work I felt compelled to try some of the other Shepherd Neame stuff along with it. Turns out, that's not a great idea.

Spitfire is up first, and as I've said, it was an old bottle. It was in it's month of expiry (or BBE) so I guess it's important to bear that in mind. Also important to note is the infamous habit of Shepherd Neame using clear glass bottles. I think I've heard somebody somewhere say it's done so that you can see the colour of the ale inside, as if looking at it in the glass wasn't enough, but that's unverified. However vague the reasoning behind it, there's no doubting the dire consequence. 

The first thing you get from the aroma is a terrible singed sweetcorn skunkiness. Really, it's a nasty smell to get anywhere, let alone from something you're expected to consume. Underneath the mess there's a faint silhouette of what the beer was or should be: toffee and light fruit. The taste is marginally better, forgoing much of the skunk material and heading straight for the light toffee malt and hinted hop presence of Spitfire Proper, followed by a tin foil finish I might still expect in a fresh, unskunked bottle.  Still, this counts for very little as it's hard to drink without smelling it, and it's hard to enjoy anything that smells like this.

Next up is Canterbury Jack. This one wasn't exactly fresh off the press either, but it still had plenty of time left on it's BBE, so there should be nothing to worry about. True to this, the Lucozade-coloured beer in the glass doesn't assault the nose quite like the Spitfire, although it does have a touch of the same defect. There's some dried corn and grain, like in an adjunct lager, with a hint of some toffee malt and a light hop profile. The taste is again *yawn* toffee malt leading into a fruity character, perhaps leaning more towards citrus than darker, red fruits. The regulation English Ale biscuit flavour rears it's head at the finish, and that's that. Nothing to see here, move on people.

Bishops Finger is the last of the three, and I had high hopes for this one. You see, the Spitfire was nasty as hell, but it was old, and had been sitting out and enjoying the light for quite a while. The Canterbury Jack also had some months beneath it's clear-glass belt, and was generally boring anyway. The Bishop's Finger, on the other hand, was purchased in Lidl, and that works very much to its advantage. Lidl leave their beer in the boxes they come in, just opening the side so you can reach in and grab a bottle. In this way, I knew I was getting fairly fresh beer, and by fishing around the dark back of the box I could find a bottle that's seen next to no light exposure since leaving Kent, so hey, this should be perfect, right?


The Spitfire Nastiness® was pretty prevalent on the nose here too, albeit penetrable by the fruit, malt and nutty aroma of the beer to some degree. The taste is almost exactly the same, with the first real bitterness of the trio turning quickly into a twang of tin foil in the finish, not to mention the curious sugary character throughout. It's not too bad, and unlike the others, I managed to finish the entire bottle to a level of satisfaction that I can only describe as being below average. Still, that's not exactly value for money. If you're buying beer in Lidl, you're best bet is to stick to the Franziskaner.

So, there you have it. I don't think I've ever been this let down by three beers in a row. Still, the Destrier rides on, and will bravely (yet perhaps foolishly) continue it's investigation of Shepherd Neame.
I just know you make good beer, and I'm determined to prove it.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

#124: Back in Business

I haven't posted in a while, thanks to a rather dry spell brought on by a finally successful job hunt. This is also the reason why I sadly didn't get to attend the Franciscan Well's Winter and Cask Ales Festival over the weekend, but at least this way I can save more ducats for the Easter festival (and possibly a trip to Dublin for some well-needed beer exploration). Either way, the gap left in this blog by missing that festival needs to be filled, and I may just about manage to do so by scraping together some notes from the recent past. 
Excuse their disjointed-ness.

I got in the mood for summer with Sierra Nevada's Summerfest, their seasonal pilsener lager. It looks and smells pretty much like a conventional, perhaps even tame European pilsener. The taste however, is really something. It's light with lemon notes interspersed with the potent hop character that leans towards the usual Sierra Nevada peel and pine sort of thing. Underneath all of that there's a good biscuit and grainy quality that really comes into play in the finish, with floral hops lingering. As a lager, it's very interesting, and offers an experience more appropriately, well, summery than a Sam Adams or Brooklyn. 

A good beer to have two or three in the sun I'd reckon.

In the same warm-weather category is Paulaner Hefe-Weissbier, this time appearing from the can, a novelty I just couldn't pass up. It really is very similar to the bottled version. That is, a reliable hefeweizen that won't inspire or delight the palate, but will satisfy a thirst admirably, much in the same vein as Franziskaner, although that particular beer is much more affordable and therefore more appropriate for the purpose.

Staying with Paulaner, I opted to re-evaluate their Salvator, which came off as far too harsh with it's ice-cold serving in the Porterhouse a while back. This time around, it's altogether more controlled, while still releasing some seriously deep toffee malt notes on the aroma, with curious hints of green apple and a touch of booze. Strange, and not at all unpleasant. The taste opens a bit like a Dubbel, with red berries and dark fruit appearing in muted form before being smothered by the powerful and sticky malt that characterises the beer. It's a veritable malt bomb, with a touch of booze at the end reminding you of the 7.9% ABV. 

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

#123: On the Pig's Back

As part of Bradley's' ongoing 4 for €9 offer on beers nearing their death bed, I picked up this pair from the Hogs Back Brewery in Tongham, Surrey.

The first was mainly selected by merit of it's name. Tea is, of course, the world's other great tipple. This TEA (Traditional English Ale), however, is completely different. Pouring a colour that is actually not totally unlike a black tea, the nose picks up on some nice sticky malts, with toffee and light fruity highlights the most notable characteristics. The taste is delicious, continuing the line of toffee malt backbone, while grapefruit fades into realization as the dominant fruit number. A touch of maple syrup, a hint of almond marzipan, and a light green apple-skin aftertaste lend a surprising depth to this beer. It's certainly a nice one to try, and seems to be a malt-driven ale with a low hop profile. I'll be having this again if I can't make up the numbers in my next deal.

Next up is Burma Star Ale. I don't know what this is, despite it's cryptic billing as an 'old-style ale'. What is that? Aren't most styles of ale old? Anyway, it was certainly old in another way - a December expiry date meant that this had likely seen better days. Still, the nice caramel malt character of the aroma does it's best to mask any ill effects of age, with the grapefruit element here much less welcome than in the Tea, and a sharp tang hidden somewhere in the folds betraying the beer's handicap. The taste is quite nice though, with another malt backbone, although this time not as sweet or dark, and with more of a bitter bite from the fruity, almost herbal hops. It's difficult to mark out any real flavour characteristics, but the experience as a whole is easy-going, very drinkable and at least averagely enjoyable. That is, until the unpleasant sharpness of the finish kicks in.

Oh well.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

#122: Bierhaus Miscellany

With college in full swing again, drinking patterns are disrupted, being mainly limited to bottles. However, I present to you here a strange grouping of beers I've found time to explore over the past few weeks in one particular Cork City pub.

First up is Gouden Carolus Classic, this time on draught in the Bierhaus. I thoroughly enjoyed the bottled version, finding it a great investment for the Dubbel or Quad drinker. However, unlike the the Abt 12, which was glorious on tap, this seems to hit a bit of a bum note in it's transition to the bar. The most dominant aromatic element is at first bubblegum. While not necessarily bad (and nowhere near as off-putting as I&G's Winter Treacle Porter or the Floreffe Melior), the sweetness is rather detrimental to the drink. It has just a shadow of the dark malt and dark fruit flavours you look for in a beer of it's kind, and while the experience remains just about positive on the beer-scale, it really scrapes by on it's warmth and relative drinkability. Worth a taste as a curiosity, but any bar serving this is likely to have something more interesting on offer.

And such was the case at the Bierhaus. I had my first true cask experience with London Pride here, and this time there was a much more interesting beer on offer - O'Hara's IPA. Again, a beer I've thoroughly enjoyed from the bottle, and one I was excited to have brought to life in the cask. It pours golden with a creamy slice of head, and produces a gorgeous zesty, sharp cirtus aroma, with hints of a much different bubblegum sweetness. Tropical fruit are abound on the palate, with citrus fruit rinds pushing the malt very much into the back seat. The dry-hopping can be appreciated better here than in the bottled version, and I'd certainly recommend it to whomever gets the chance to try it. With any luck, it'll rear it's tasty head again at the Fran Well's Winter and Cask Ale Festival next weekend.

Finally there's the latest incarnation of Metalman's Chameleon, their shape-shifting limited edition beer. I've had their Ginger before, but this time it's Garnet, an amber ale. Garnet is aptly named, as it certainly pours the shimmering ruby red hues of a garnet, while releasing a lovely aroma that's at once waxy hops and sticky toffee. The taste is more fruit-driven, with red berries featuring prominently over the citrus you might expect to pull from the hops. The finish reverts to the syrupy malts, and the beer as a whole comes together quite nicely, with great depth considering the fairly even balance of flavours. Another recommendation.

Hopefully, this disjointed form of beer-finding will pass soon, and I intend on setting that process in motion at next week's aforementioned Winter and Cask Ales Festival at the Franciscan Well.

Be there, and be with beer.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

#121: St Austell

Having finally returened to college after a long Christmas break, I haven't been seeing many bottoms of beer glass. When I have, it's usually been after an Irish or British ale that I picked up relatively cheap. These next two are no exceptions.

Tesco have Tribute alternately going for €2.99 and €1.49, I really don't know why. Keep an eye out though, because that's a bloody bargain. It pours gold with a decent head, and although it hasn't been chilled, the aroma is very subdued. It's hoppy, light and fruity, though, which is enough to be pleasant. The taste is in a very similar vein, being very balanced between biscuit malts and fruity peel flavours, very English altogether, in a good way. It's light bodied and satisfying, and definitely worth picking up a few.
I usually don't like to direct people to Tesco over an independent off-license, but it must be said that at the moment, €2 in Tesco can get you a Clotworthy Dobbin, Fullers Black Cab, or even a delicious London Porter, among others. 

I try to refrain from exploiting offers such as those in favour of saving my beer money for Bradley's, Abbot's or Carry Out. I Bradley's this week was a 4 for €9 deal on beers that were seemingly coming to the end of their lives. St Austell's Trelawny was among those I picked up. The colour is copper this time, and while the fruity nose is still there, small hints of nutty toffee can be found if you're looking. The ABV is a lowly 3.8%, so it came as a bit of a surprise to see that it packed quite a lot of flavour into it's tiny boot. Caramel malt is the backbone, with a spike of green apple and a bitter kick of grapefruit, before an singular, unfortunate drop of soap lingers in the aftertaste. All these flavours appear not as the Joeys and Chandlers of the episode, but rather the Mr. Heckles or Ugly Naked Guys.

Sinkable and forgettable, even a tad boring.