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McGrath’s Irish Blonde

August 30, 2017 1 comment

Rating: 3.0

Following on from the recent review of the very disappointing Blanche de Namur, this one is the second of two beers that were picked up on my behalf from a local Home Bargains store recently and again it is another beer that I’ve spotted in the past. The beer is brewed in County Armagh in the north of Ireland and is the second from the brewery that I’ve tried, I previously enjoyed their McGrath’s Irish Red Ale back in July 2015 when I picked it up over in Ireland, I actually remember this particular offering being available alongside that one and I almost picked it up but now I’m finally getting to give it a try.

Appearance (3/5): Pouring a blond looking golden colour that was quite clear, the beer was topped with a three centimetre tall head in the early going. The head was a bubbly white one that quickly halved in size over the opening couple of seconds and then settled as a thin, half centimetre one from the on.
Aroma (6/10): Opening with some fresh citrus notes and a little bitterness from the hops, the beer seemed lively in the early going with a faint bit of funk or tart in there too. There was some biscuit notes towards the middle with a few pale malts showing themselves as well before some lemon and background fruits seen things out.
Taste (6/10): Kicking off with some biscuit flavours and a couple of citrus hops, the beer didn’t seem quite as fresh or tarty as it did with the nose but there was some lemon coming through in the early going at least. There was a subtle bitterness coming through with touches of pale malt and cereal but nothing stood out beyond the citrus and lemon really. Towards the end there was perhaps a touch of sweetness but certainly not a lot before a few nondescript fruits finished things off.
Palate (3/5): Fresh and lively to start, the beer was moderately carbonated and the lemon flavours along with the tart made it seem fresher than it probably was in the early going. It was quite a one-dimensional beer for the most part but it was easy to drink as a result but the body was perhaps a tad thin at times sadly.

Overall (12/20): An interesting one from McGrath’s here and a beer that opened quite fresh and lively with a nice combination of citrus and lemon flavours alongside some tart and funk that seemed slightly stronger with the nose than it was in the taste, although it was still noticeable with both. There was some pale malts and biscuit in there too, not to mention hints of sweetness down the stretch but I couldn’t help but find it a fairly one-dimensional and average offering from the brewery which I probably wouldn’t have again; it wasn’t a bad beer by any stretch though, it’s just there are plenty of better ones out there.

Brewed In: Craigavon, County Armagh, Northern Ireland
Brewery: Clanconnel Brewing Company
First Brewed: 2010
Full Name: Clanconnel #2 McGrath’s Irish Blonde
Type: Golden/Blond Ale
Abv: 4.5%
Serving: Bottle (330ml)
Purchased: Home Bargains (Scotland)
Price: £0.69

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Bath Ales Wild Hare (342 of 1001)

February 13, 2017 1 comment

Rating: 3.75

My first beer from Bath Ales now and one that I’ve been on the hunt for recently since it features in the 1001 beers list, it’s actually one I was looking for on a visit to Bath and Bristol last year but never managed to find it in any of the pubs I visited. This one will be the sixty-first English beer from the 1001 list that I’ll have managed to try to I finally found a bottle of the stuff in a Whole Foods Market store at the start of the month, picking it up alongside another of the brewery’s beers that doesn’t feature on the list but is one I’ve been looking to try for a while now as well. Falling somewhere between an English pale ale and a golden ale, this year round offering from Bath Ales is a 5% beer that is also an organic offering that gets fairly good reviews online and is one I’m looking forward to trying.

bath-ales-wild-hare

Appearance (4/5): Quite a clear bodied offering, this one pours a bright, golden amber colour that is topped with a thin, quarter centimetre head that has a bubbly texture and a white colour. The head retention is fairly ordinary, initially covering the surface well but it soon starts to break up a little round the edges and leave more of a patch in the centre of the glass after about thirty to forty-five seconds but there is plenty of visible carbonation thanks to the countless fine bubbles rising to the surface of the glass.
Aroma (7/10): Fresh on the nose with a subtle sweetness to it that hints at some vanilla before some light citrus and lemon notes start to come through. There is a fruity base to the beer that also features touches of biscuit and the odd grassy hop too but there’s not too much bitterness really. Towards the middle there is a couple of floral smells coming through but it’s generally quite light and easy-going on the nose; an inoffensive, balanced beer so far.
Taste (7/10): Continuing on from where the nose left off, this one opens with some pleasant lemon flavours that are backed up nicely by touches of hay and again some subtle grassy hops that hint at an earthy bitterness. There’s a couple of background fruits and the odd biscuit malt nearer the middle with the sweetness that little bit stronger this time round and a few bread malts before a floral and citrus finish rounds things off nicely; definitely a subtle taste like the nose but again it is a good one.
Palate (4/5): Light-medium bodied and quite fresh, the beer is very well-balanced with no one flavour or smell dominating at any point but it still didn’t seem like a weak beer. There was some nice sweetness early on with a tiny bit of hop bitterness showing around the middle. A very easy to drink beer, the majority of this down to the balance but it might have benefited from being a touch stronger at times, that’s a minor criticism though.

Overall (15/20): An excellent first Bath Ales beer for me and one that was very well-balanced whilst being quite a light, easy-going beer that would definitely make an excellent session offering. There was some pleasant citrus flavours in the early going with a sweetness that got slightly stronger as things went on plus the floral touches that featured nearer the end were enjoyable too. The beer was at times a touch light but it didn’t take much away from what was otherwise a great beer. It certainly wasn’t the most complex offering I’ve come across recently either but it was well made and drinkable; decent stuff and one well worth picking up if you find it.

Brewed In: Bristol, England
Brewery: Bath Ales
First Brewed: 2005
Type: English Pale Ale/Golden Ale
Abv: 5.0%
Serving: Bottle (500ml)
Purchased: Whole Foods Market (Giffnock)
Price: £1.79

2 Cathedrals Honey Beer

January 17, 2017 Leave a comment

Rating: 3.05

Quite an interesting beer this one, I was given it by family members returning from Liverpool at the end of last year after they picked a bottle up in one of Liverpool’s two cathedrals. The beer is a honey beer offering that is brewed by the two cathedrals in the city, the only in the UK to do so and although I’m not normally a fan of the style, this is definitely a beer I was looking forward to trying prior to opening it up. I actually sampled this one over the Christmas holidays and am only getting to finish the review now but sadly it wasn’t the best of beers. It’s one that is brewed by representatives of the brewery (or possible just under contract from them) at the Mad Hatter brewery in Liverpool but turned out to be a bit too sweet for my liking; a common theme with this type of beer. Anyway, here’s what I thought of it when I tried it towards the end of last year.

2-cathedrals-honey-beer

Appearance (3/5): Pouring a golden amber with a fairly clear body, this one is topped with a half centimetre head that is white and quite foamy looking. Retention is fairly poor for the style though, turning quite patchy after about fifteen seconds but leaving a little more build up at one end of the surface. There is a few fine bubbles rising up through the beer as well but it’s not a particularly impressive looking beer sadly.
Aroma (6/10): Semi-sweet on the nose initially, something I’ve come to expect from honey beers but thankfully it wasn’t overpowering straight away. There was some sweet malts and a little sugar backing the sweetness up, the promised honey starts to come through quite strong soon after though. There was some earthy hops and a faint touch of citrus coming through as well but as expected it was the honey that dominated on the nose.
Taste (6/10): Following on well from the nose, there is again an early sweetness and the honey comes through a little quicker this time around but it’s not overpowering in the early going. I got some earthy malts, a few grassy touches and the usual background citrus too but again the honey was the main flavour with this beer. There was some sticky flavours towards the end of proceedings and a light bitterness off the back of this before some sugars and a subtle helping of earthy hops rounded things off nicely.
Palate (3/5): Medium to light-medium bodied but a very sweet beer thanks to the abundance of honey coming through in the taste and the smell; despite this there was a nice balance to the beer for the most part through. There was some earthy bitterness showing at times and I got a slight tang from the citrus that started to come through nearer the end; it wasn’t a particularly hard beer to drink though but it could have done with being just a touch less sweet.

Overall (13/20): I’m never overly excited to try honey beer in truth and this one is a perfect example of why, it definitely wasn’t a bad offering but it was just that bit too sweet for my liking; that being said, it didn’t overpower or come through as sickening at any point either. The balance wasn’t too bad with this one, all things considered anyway, although there could have been more variety nearer the end and it would have been a better beer as a result.

Brewed In: Liverpool, Merseyside, England
Brewery: 2 Cathedrals (Brewed at Mad Hatter)
First Brewed: circa. 2016
Type: Golden/Blond Ale
Abv: 5.0%
Serving: Bottle (330ml)
Purchased: Liverpool (England)
Price: Gift

Beehive Brae Honey Beer

October 11, 2016 Leave a comment

Rating: 3.4

A truly local beer now, this one is what I believe is the first ever beer from the town where I grew up now, excluding my previous homebrew efforts anyway. The beer is one of roughly three currently brewed by the Beehive Brae brewery in Lanarkshire after they successfully ran a Crowdfunding campaign last year to upgrade their facilities. The beer is a golden ale style offering with honey and is one that a few Aldi supermarkets were stocking earlier in the year, meaning I was able to get my hands on this one after being gifted it by a relative. Despite this one being brewed so close to me, I must admit that it’s not a brewery I had even heard of before getting this bottle and a look at their website might give you an idea why; their beers appear to be incredibly expensive when compared to similar offerings and might explain why nobody I know has ever tried it. The beer does also appear to be available as a cask offering in a few pubs, particularly in the Edinburgh area but not being a huge fan of cask beers means I’d be unlikely to try it by that means either; I can only hope that Aldi start selling the other beers the brewery produces now and give me a chance of trying them as well.

beehive-brae-honey-beer

Appearance (3/5): A very clear looking golden amber colour that has a few fine bubbles rising to the surface and was initially topped with a thin, half centimetre tall head that was foamy but it managed to disappear almost completely after about twenty seconds to leave a little patch in the centre of the glass. It looks to be a well carbonated offering and it’s relatively bright looking as well.
Aroma (7/10): Fairly sweet on the nose to open up, there’s a nice amount of honey in the early going but it thankfully doesn’t overpower. There’s some sweet malts and a few grassy touches alongside some medium sugars and a bit of hay. A couple of citrus notes and a floral backing come through with the second half of the nose and I got some further earthy malts to see things out nicely.
Taste (6/10): Picking up where the nose left off, this is quite a sweet tasting beer with the honey and sugar flavours dominating the early going before some of the background hay and grassy hops start to come through nearer the middle. There is a couple of subtle, earthy type malts and biscuit flavours coming through as well that help balance out the sweetness before some floral touches bring up the rear. It’s fresh tasting with some citrus and lemon in there and it matches the nose very closely indeed.
Palate (4/5): Quite a light body, it’s perhaps a touch thin but nothing major and it did have quite a clean, almost crisp feel to it. There was some sweetness from the start and a few citrus burst that gave it a slight tang nearer the middle. Not much sign of any bitterness really and some further sweetness came through right at the end.

Overall (14/20): Quite a fresh, easy-going beer that opened up with plenty of sweetness like you’d expect from a honey beer but still remained relatively well-balanced throughout thanks to the earthy malts, come nice grassy touches and the odd citrus burst. Without standing out as a classic beer or one you have to track down, the beer was quite enjoyable as a session offering and one worth trying if you stumble across it; that and it was also quite nice to try a truly local beer given it’s brewed in my hometown.

Brewed In: Wishaw, Lanarkshire, Scotland
Brewery: Beehive Brae
First Brewed: 2015
Type: Golden/Blond Ale
Abv: 4.5%
Serving: Bottle (330ml)
Purchased: Aldi Supermarket (Scotland)
Price: Gift

Gallopers Golden Ale

August 18, 2016 Leave a comment

Rating: 3.25

A little bit of a strange one now and one that I initially wasn’t sure where I should list it under given that it is an Irish owned and based brewery that was founded in Belfast around October 2015 by TV personality Eamonn Holmes and his son Declan. Owned by the Night Cap Beer Co. based in Belfast in the north of Ireland, the beer is currently contract brewed by Sadler’s based near Birmingham in England but they hope to move operation to Belfast in the near future; for these reasons I’ve opted list the beer as one from the north of Ireland for the purposes of this blog. It is a beer that does only appear to be available in the north of Ireland though with most online reviews coming from the Belfast area so I doubt this will be a beer that travels much either. I managed to pick this one up in Fermanagh on my recent trip to Ireland though and it was the first time that I’d spotted the beer which is also the final beer I managed to try on my travels; I do have a couple more bottles that I picked up but haven’t sampled yet so at least you have reviews of them to look forward to next.

Gallopers Golden Ale

Appearance (4/5): A slightly hazy looking beer, this one is a light golden colour with some amber touches and it’s topped with a bubbly white head that borders on foamy. Retention wise the beer does okay with the head slowly shrinking to about half its original size and leaving a touch of lacing on the sides of the glass too.
Aroma (7/10): Biscuit malts and the odd earthy aroma open things up here, there is a faint honey sweetness and subtle earthy hops coming through as well though. The beer definitely seems a little stronger than I’d been expecting thanks to this and there is some citrus aromas coming through too before a semi-fresh, almost toasted malt smell and some bitterness see things out.
Taste (6/10): Quite earthy and following on well from the nose, it’s also quite a sweet beer with some biscuit malts and grains opening things up alongside a bit of the honey from the nose. There was some earthy hops coming through and I managed to detect a little butterscotch before some grassy hops and a moderate bitterness started to come through nearer the end.
Palate (3/5): Definitely a sweeter beer than I’d expected going in, this one came through with a harsher than expected feel that wasn’t the most well-balanced either sadly. There was moderate carbonation and a few grains showing but overall the beer was fairly wet and moderately bitter as well but not entirely satisfying really; quite an average offering on the whole.

Overall (11/20): Quite a bitter and very earthy beer, this one started with a lot of biscuit malts and some toasted flavours but there was definitely a lot more sweetness than I’d been expecting thanks to the surprising addition of some honey flavours that also featured in the nose and were definitely welcome. Some butterscotch followed off the back of this and added to the sweetness with some touch of citrus and the odd grassy flavour featuring too but beyond that there wasn’t a whole lot going on and the beer faded fairly quickly I’m afraid. It was certainly a drinkable offering but I’m not entirely sure it is one that I’d opt for again given the choice.

Brewed In: Belfast, North of Ireland (Currently contract near Birmingham, England)
Brewery: Night Cap Beer Co.  (Contract brewed by Sadler’s)
First Brewed: 2015
Type: Golden/Blond Ale
Abv: 4.3%
Serving: Bottle (500ml)
Purchased: Reilly’s (Lisnaskea)
Price: £2.29

Farmageddon Gold Pale Ale

August 18, 2016 1 comment

Rating: 3.65

A second beer from the Farmageddon Brewing Co-Op now and a beer that I really had to think twice about before picking up. This one follows from the same brewery’s White IPA that I reviewed last summer on a previous trip to Ireland and at the time I hated the beer, it still ranks as the 25th worst beer I’ve every tried, listed elsewhere on this site but it’s also a beer that a lot of people seem to like so it’s always been at the back of my mind that I might had got a dodgy bottle. For that reason alone, I decided to give the brewery another chance and picked up this one from them, their Gold Pale Ale in the hope that it would prove to be a lot better than the last from them. This one is a beer that was introduced back in 2013, the same year the brewery was founded and I’m hoping that being one of their first beers that it is also one of their best; we shall see though I guess.

Farmageddon Gold Pale Ale

Appearance (4/5): A light, slightly watery looking amber with a hazy body and a two centimetre tall, foamy head that forms a dome shape at the top of the glass and holds remarkably well over the opening couple of minutes. There’s almost no movement initially and the head even looks to have gained a little height after a minute or so.
Aroma (6/10): Fresh and quite zesty on the nose with some orange and lemon notes coming through in the early going, followed quickly by some touches of  coriander too but they were quite light in truth. There was some biscuit notes around the middle with a few grassy touches too before some pale malts and earthy aromas started to appear. A couple of background fruits including some pear and apples followed nearer the end but as I’ve found to be the case with countless Irish beers, this one could have been fractionally stronger on the nose.
Taste (7/10): Quite a fresh and hoppy opening, there is some biscuit malts and touches of lemon in the early going. I got a faint, earthy malt taste coming through with some background fruits carried through from the nose; both the apple and pear featured. There was a slightly dry sweetness towards the end with a grassy taste but it wasn’t overly complex in truth.
Palate (4/5): Fresh and quite dry with a light-medium body, this one was zesty and fairly well carbonated with a nice tang from the citrus and a crisp finish to proceedings. The beer was also quite sharp and towards the end it came through with a moderate bitterness but as I’ve mentioned already, it definitely wasn’t the most complex beer out there.

Overall (15/20): Nice stuff from Farmageddon this time round, this offering proving to be miles better than their White IPA that I really didn’t enjoy at all; thankfully this one wasn’t quite as off-putting or unbalanced. There was a fresh and quite hoppy start to the beer as it came through with subtle bitterness and a few earthy flavours at points. There was a couple of background fruits that appeared around the middle and touches of biscuit featured heavily too. Without being an overly complex beer, there was still enough to keep me interested and I’d be tempted to try more from the brewery now given the vast improvement between this and the last from them that I tried.

Brewed In: Comber, County Down, Northern Ireland
Brewery: Farmageddon Brewing Co-Op
First Brewed: 2013
Type: English Pale Ale
Abv: 4.2%
Serving: Bottle (500ml)
Purchased: Reilly’s (Lisnaskea)
Price: £2.29

Smithwick’s Blonde

August 3, 2016 Leave a comment

Rating: 2.8

My fourth beer to fall under the Smithwick’s banner now and what will be my first since reviewing their Winter Spirit back in early 2014 whilst in Ireland. This one is again an offering from the brewery that I managed to get hold of on my latest trip to Ireland, ordering a pint of the beer on keg whilst in a Galway restaurant recently and finding that it was about the only beer they sold that I hadn’t already tried. Of the three previous Smithwick beers I’ve sampled the best has been their flagship Smithwick’s Ale and even then I wouldn’t consider that one a particularly enjoyable offering so I didn’t exactly go into this one with high hopes. As it turned out, the beer definitely wasn’t the worst I’ve tried from the brewery (their Winter Spirit takes that honour) but it was another pretty disappointing effort; here’s what I thought of what will hopefully be my last Smithwick’s offering for a while.

Smithwick's Blonde

Appearance (4/5): Medium amber in colour and sitting with a clear body in the glass, this one had a foamy white head on top that was about half a centimetre tall and left a touch of lacing on the sides of the glass.
Aroma (5/10): Not the strongest beer on the nose to be honest, there was some pale malts and an earthy touch of biscuit in the early going then a hint of caramel came not long after with some grassy notes in there too. It was quite a basic aroma on the whole with some bread towards the end but it was far too light in my opinion.
Taste (5/10): The taste was almost a carbon copy of the aroma with the same pale malts and earthy touches opening things up here. I got some biscuit and a little bread towards the middle of the beer with a slightly astringent taste coming through alongside the odd grassy hop and caramel flavour but again it was quite weak and light with only a faint bitterness at the end making it distinguishable from the nose.
Palate (3/5): A light medium bodied beer with soft, light carbonation and a bland, fairly weak feel to proceedings overall. The beer wasn’t really that impressive with some grain coming through and a moderate bitterness nearer the end to accompany the semi-dry finish.

Overall (8/20): This one turned out to be quite a disappointing offering from Smithwick’s, and that being despite the fact that I wasn’t going in with particularly high hopes given the last few I’ve tried from the brewery. Overall it was quite a bland and weak offering that struggled to impart much of anything on the nose or taste save for some pale malts and a hint of caramel; it could have used a bit more of everything really and it’s definitely not a beer I’ll be hoping to try again.

Brewed In: Dundalk, County Louth, Ireland
Brewery: Dundalk
First Brewed: 2014
Type: Golden/Blond Ale
Abv: 4.1%
Serving: Draught (Pint)
Purchased: Busker Brownes, Galway, Ireland
Price: €5.05 (approx. £4.24)