Posts Tagged ‘english strong ale’

Orkney Blast

Rating: 3.35

A third beer from the Orkney based Swannay brewery but actually only the first bottle to have that name on the label, the previous two I’ve tried both brewed when the name was still Highland Brewing Company. I enjoyed the brewery’s Orkney IPA when I tried it in January 2013 but their Orkney Porter was outstanding when I tried that one a couple of months later so I’m eager to see how this one compares since the brewery’s 2015 re-branding. This one is one of two beers that I managed to pick up when visiting a bottle shop in Pitlochry recently and one I was intrigued by given it was labelled as an IPA/barleywine hybrid, something I’ve not come across before. Previously a CAMRA Champion Beer of Scotland back in 2010, this one is a year round offering from the brewery and one that I’m definitely looking forward to cracking open.

Appearance (3/5): A surprisingly clear, almost caramel or copper amber colour with a thin, half centimetre head that fades to a fine surface lacing around about thirty or forty seconds; it breaks up slightly towards one end of the surface too.
Aroma (6/10): Not an overpowering nose initially but there was a definite sweet aroma to the beer in the early going with a lot of caramel malts coming through to begin. I managed to get some earthy touches and some sugars towards the middle as well as some bread and butterscotch/vanilla notes but these all start to fade slightly towards the end with a tiny floral smell seeing things out but it’s definitely one that could have been a little stronger.
Taste (7/10): Continuing where the nose left off, the beer opens with some floral touches and a slight citrus tang but it is again a very sweet tasting beer with sweet caramel malts and some biscuit dominating in the early going again. Further on some butterscotch and sugars started to come through alongside orange and faint pine but that was about the extent of the IPA side of things. Towards the end there was a touch of alcohol grain and further sweetness before a nutty taste seen things out.
Palate (4/5): Quite a smooth and surprisingly full-bodied offering, this one was a thick beer that was boozy at times and very sweet throughout with the caramel malts and butterscotch dominating, often at the cost of the beers balance. It was quite an easy beer to drink with soft carbonation and quite a rich feel in the later parts too.

Overall (13/20): Interesting stuff from Swannay here, this one is a little more boozy and has more alcohol showing the longer it has to open up but it’s a pleasant enough offering with some nice caramel malts and touches of butterscotch coming through as well. The nose was a slight disappointment given how light it was but the taste wasn’t a bad one and definitely came through stronger but I doubt it’s a beer I’d hurry back to given it never really lived up to its billing as either an IPA or a barleywine sadly.

Brewed In: Orkney, Highlands & Islands, Scotland
Brewery: Swannay Brewery
First Brewed: circa. 2008
Type: English Strong Ale
Abv: 6.0%
Serving: Bottle (500ml)
Purchased: Drinkmonger (Pitlochry)
Price: £3.75


Innis & Gunn Blood Red Sky

March 9, 2018 Leave a comment

Rating: 3.25

The second of two new Innis & Gunn beers that I picked up recently, this one follows on from their Gundpowder IPA that I reviewed here last and is another beer that I stumbled across in an Asda supermarket recently. This one was the beer of the two that I picked up that I was most looking forward to trying, labelled as a barrel aged red ale and coming in at just under 7% abv. had me hoping that it would be as good as some of the oak aged Innis & Gunn beers that I’ve reviewed here over the years. This particular bottle is actually the seventeenth beer from the brewery that I’ll have reviewed here now and I have noticed a couple other new bottles from the brewery in various stores recently so I can’t imagine it will be too long before I add to that number again.

Appearance (3/5): Very dark amber to mahogany in colour and topped with quite a poor head that is more a thin lacing than anything else, sitting around the circumference with the odd bubble on the surface of the still looking body.
Aroma (6/10): Dark and quite malty, there is an earthy nose to the beer with some sweet notes of mainly caramel and toffee following on behind. It’s lighter than expected with some background spice and sugars before some rum and touches of vanilla start to come through with a few darker fruits rounding things off at the end.
Taste (6/10): Dark and spicy with hints of a rauchbier coming through in the early going, there was definitely a lot of smoky flavours and a touch of ham but thankfully it wasn’t as strong as a rauchbier. It was definitely a malty offering with some sugars adding to the sweetness before some vanilla and caramel seen things out.
Palate (4/5): Light-medium bodied and lightly carbonated with a fairly sweet feel and plenty of sugars showing throughout. There was some smoky touches of the taste and it seemed like quite a strong beer with some of the alcohol content showing towards the end of this one too.

Overall (13/20): Quite a strong and sweet offering with more smoke showing with the taste than I’d like and the beer almost leaning towards a rauhcbier in style at that point. There was a lot of malts showing throughout but I’d have liked the sweetness to me more pronounced and the rum touches that showed with the nose to have carried through to the taste as well. It was an okay offering but not exactly a good one and I imagine I’d avoid it in future if given a choice.

Brewed In: Edinburgh, Scotland
Brewery: Innis & Gunn Brewing Company
First Brewed: 2017
Type: English Strong Ale
Abv: 6.8%
Serving: Bottle (330ml)
Purchased: Asda (Glasgow)
Price: £1.50

Belheather Whisky Beer

January 31, 2017 1 comment

Rating: 2.55

Anyway, this one is a beer that is brewed exclusively for Lidl stores in the UK and is one that I received as a gift towards the end of last year before finally sampling it right at the start of this one. I never really hold up much hope for beers from this brewery, they always tend to be somewhat average offerings at best but I was interested to try another whisky beer and see if I liked it any better than the like of 1488 Whisky Beer or Innis & Gunn’s Irish Whiskey Cask; it turns out I did not.


Appearance (2/5): Medium amber and a fairly cloudy offering, this one was topped with a thin, foamy white lacing in lieu of a head and wasn’t much to look at really. The lacing was quite a patchy one, not doing particularly well to cover the surface really and it was a disappointing start.
Aroma (5/10): A very subdued offering, the beer was almost weak on the nose with only a few bread malts and touches of caramel coming through initially. There was some further background sweetness and the faintest of citrus touches alongside some basic hop bitterness. Towards the end some touches of oak did materialise but there was none of the promised whisky flavours, or even any peat; not what I was expecting really.
Taste (5/10): Like the nose, the beer opened with the same caramel malts and bread flavours before some citrus came through; there wasn’t a great deal but it did seem a touch stronger than with the aroma. It’s still not the strongest beer out there but some vanilla and touches of oak did appear, still no whisky though. Towards the end I got some biscuit flavours and subtle hops with touches of smoke seeing things out.
Palate (3/5): Light-medium bodied and quite a lively, well carbonated offering with plenty of sweetness from the malts but some blander, almost weak touches nearer the centre that meant this one definitely didn’t seem like a 6.5% abv. beer. The balance was okay at times but again this was more to do with some of the flavours being so weak, it did remain drinkable though but it certainly wasn’t one that I enjoyed.

Overall (11/20): Quite a disappointing offering on the whole, the beer was a sweet one with plenty of caramel and bread malts making up most of the flavours before some biscuit ones appeared nearer the end but there was none of the advertised whisky flavours showing. I managed to get some oak, vanilla and lighter smoky flavours towards the end of the taste alongside some faint alcohol grain but it seemed bland and weak at points, showing itself to be quite a cheap, one-dimensional beer that I wouldn’t pick up again.

Brewed In: Stirling, Scotland
Brewery: Black Wolf Brewery
First Brewed: 2016
Type: English Strong Ale
Abv: 6.5%
Serving: Bottle (330ml)
Purchased: Lidl
Price: Gift

Shepherd Neame 1698 (277 of 1001)

December 24, 2014 Leave a comment

Rating: 3.85

Yet another from the 1001 beers list now, they seem to be like buses in that I don’t drink many for a while then tonnes come along at the one time. This one is another English offering from the list, a ‘Kentish Strong Ale’ from Shepherd Neame that follows on from Bishops Finger as the second beer on the list that the brewery produces. This one was originally brewed back in 1998 to mark the brewery’s tricentennial celebration, back then it was a 10.5% abv. affair but a 4.5% cask version was also available. The beer was then relaunched in March 2005 as a 6.5% abv. bottle conditioned beer and is now just referred to as 1698 without the celebration part at the end. The beer is a very local affair with all the ingredients sourced within the region and it is a beer I’ve been on the lookout for since this time last year, finally finding a bottle in a Tesco supermarket last month; I’m looking forward to this one.

Shepherd Neame 1698

Appearance (5/5): A bright and clear copper colour with a fairly large, two centimetre tall head that is a foamy white one with a thick looking texture and good retention. There looks to be good carbonation with this one, there are plenty of fine bubbles moving about the body of the beer, some sediment at the bottom and the head takes on a domed shape with no reduction in size over the opening couple of minutes.
Aroma (7/10): Stronger on the nose that I was expecting, there is a good amount of toffee and caramel making an appearance early on with some sugary sweetness and a solid caramel malt base. Some biscuit notes come through as well and there spice to round things off with.
Taste (7/10): Quite a sweet tasting beer with a combination of caramel malts and toffee coming through together at the start, there is some spice too with hints of ginger among them. Some biscuit malts and a hint of vanilla make an appearance but it was definitely the caramel and toffee that seemed to dominate with a hop backing throughout as well.
Palate (4/5): Medium bodied and well carbonated, this one from Shepherd Neame is fairly sweet with a smooth mouthfeel and some spice coming through as well with only a touch of alcohol showing.

Overall (13/20): Definitely one of the better Shepherd Neame beers I’ve tried, this one is likely the pick of the eight I’ve now tried. The beer was quite sweet with a good combination of caramel, toffee and sugars without seemingly sickeningly sweet. It’s by no means a classic beer but it was a nice one to sip away at on a cold winters night.

Brewed In: Faversham, England
Brewery: Shepherd Neame Ltd.
First Brewed: 1998 (relaunched in 2005)
Also Known As: Shepherd Neame 1698 Celebration Ale
Type: English Stong Ale/ESB
Abv: 6.5%
Serving: Bottle (500ml)
Purchased: Tesco (Glasgow)
Price: £2.15

Yorkshire Stingo (250 of 1001)

Rating: 4.15

A relatively new one from Samuel Smith’s brewery now, by their standards anyway, this one is a strong English ale from the brewery that was first launched back in 2008 and I managed to picked up a 2012 bottle of the stuff whilst in York late last year. The beer takes its name from an old English folk song with ‘Stingo’ meaning strong ale so it fits this one perfectly. The beer was introduced 250 years after the founding on The Old Brewery although it isn’t a commemorative beer despite the fact it could easily be one given the strength of the beer. This one should have the potential to be aged for a number of years but can also be drank fresh due to the fact that Samuel Smith ages the beer for a year before bottling anyway, for this reason I’ve decided to try it now and see how it tastes, if it’s as good as I hope then I’ll have to see about picking up another bottle and aging that one.
Yorkshire Stingo

Appearance (5/5): Caramel brown with a huge, inch high, very foamy looking head that has a creamy looking layer at the top. Retention is excellent here, particularly given the abv. of the beer with zero movement over the opening four or five minutes before it eventually starts to subside, leaving what is still a fairly sizable head sitting a couple of centimetres tall with some nice lacing on the sides of the glass.
Aroma (8/10): Strong on the nose with good malts and toffee coming through plus a nice alcohol edge to it as well. Plenty of ripe and sweet fruits, oak and vanilla featuring too. A very good smelling beer with a solid balance and the touches of alcohol only improve things, as does the sweetness from the fruits.
Taste (7/10): Again the sweetness kicks things off with some ripe fruits and vanilla coming through, there was some of the oak from the aroma in there as well and I could detect bread and malts with a great balance between flavours. The beer is rounded out with some toffee and the flavour was a very good one.
Palate (4/5): Very smooth with a nice alcohol kick throughout, there isn’t much in the way of bitterness to this one but some sweetness is present from the start. The balance of this one was good and despite the strength it was quite an easy one to drink.

Overall (17/20): Another very good offering from Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery, a strong one from the start but it didn’t overpower and went down surprisingly easy with a good balance. The beer was a good one to mark me making it through 250 beers from the 1001 beers list, I quite enjoyed this one and would definitely be tempted to pick this one up again if I can manage to find it and the price maybe isn’t quite as much as I paid this time around; regardless it’s still a great beer.

Brewed In: Tadcaster, England
Brewery: Samuel Smith Old Brewery
First Brewed: 2008
Full Name: Samuel Smith’s Yorkshire Stingo
Type: English Strong Ale
Abv: 8.0%
Serving: Bottle (550ml)
Purchased: Evil Eye Lounge (York)
Price: £6.00 (approx.)

Arran Milestone

October 25, 2013 Leave a comment

Rating: 2.9

One of the lesser known Isle of Arran beers here, this one is a beer I was given as a gift from someone returning from the island and despite the fact it has been available since at least 2006, it is not a beer I have ever seen or heard about until now. It is not one of the beers from the brewery that makes it to UK supermarkets as far as I can tell and had to be picked up from the brewery shop on Arran earlier this year. This one will be my fifth beer from the brewery and to be honest it isn’t one of my favourites, with three of the previous four I have tried coming across as pretty average so hopefully this one is a beer that can change that.

Appearance (4/5): A copper amber colour with a thumb-sized, creamy white head on top that holds remarkably well over the opening five minutes.
Aroma (5/10): Some very strong fruity notes initially that are almost pungent with some orange, lemon and a slightly tropical aroma with some passion fruit in the mix. There is some acidity too, and this is followed by a sweetness and hops but overall it is the blend of fruits that dominates. The smell isn’t particularly well balanced and is overly strong to begin with sadly.
Taste (5/10):
Fruit to begin with an orange and tropical fruit taste again dominating, much like the smell. There is some hops coming through not long after this and hints of spice too. The citrus flavours seem overdone if I’m honest and there is touches of caramel interspersed with various of hints of fruit.
Palate (3/5): This one is probably about medium bodied and very fruity throughout with a slight citrus tang and hints of alcohol too. The carbonation is medium to high and the finish is a sweet one.

Overall (10/20): I wasn’t particularly impressed with this one at all and felt that the balance was poor throughout with the orange and tropical fruits dominating from the offset and neither being particularly enjoyable. The beer also seemed over-carbonated and just didn’t sit well with me for one reason or another. Sadly the worst of the Isle of Arran offerings I have tried thus far but it is still an excellent brewery.

Brewed In: Isle Of Arran, Scotland
Brewery: Isle Of Arran Brewery Company
First Brewed: circa. 2006
Type: English Strong Ale
Abv: 6.0%
Serving: Bottle (500ml)
Purchased: Isle of Arran, Scotland, UK
Price: Gift

Fuller’s Vintage Ale (2010 Edition) (115 of 1001)

September 20, 2013 Leave a comment

Rating: 4.25

Although not a re-review this one is very close to it in that I will be trying the 2010 version of Fuller’s Vintage Ale after first trying the 2011 version in June of last year and rating it quite highly. I managed to try the year before s version in the Iron Duke pub in the Mayfair area of London recently since the Fuller’s pub I stopped off in didn’t have the greatest selection of bottles and I didn’t feel like a cask beer. Since I’ve already reviewed a version of this beer I’ll keep this post short but it will be interesting to see if the beer is any different or how my tastes have changed over the past year and a bit. I’ve also marked this one as featuring in the 1001 beers list, although obviously not as a new entry since I’ve already tried it.

Fuller's Vintage Ale (2010 Edition)

Appearance (5/5): A deep copper colour that is a sort of amber brown with a thin, foamy layer on top for a head that doesn’t budge at all and leaves some great lacing on the glass too.
Aroma (8/10): Initially there is a boozy smell with lots of sweetness and sugar plus some nice caramel notes. There is a lot of background fruits making up the aroma with plums, apples and raisins all featuring along with some vanilla and a touch of butterscotch. A great aroma and just as good as the 2011 version.
Taste (8/10): Again this one starts off quite boozy with a pleasant and warming alcohol taste that is complimented by the caramel and toffee that follows. There is some background fruits again and this time some banana features, although it is a light smell and again vanilla adds to the sweetness. A complex and very good taste overall.
Palate (4/5): Smooth tasting with a strong alcohol taste but not an overpowering one thankfully. There is some sugar and lots of sweetness with a warming feeling coming from the alcohol. Carbonation is medium but the body is a thick and full one.

Overall (17/20): A good beer with a very strong combination of flavours and a great balance between the fruits, sweetness and the alcohol that helps the beer go down very easily. A great beer that does lose anything as it settles and is drank, although maybe not quite as good as the 2011 version but it was very tight. Hopefully I’ll get to try a few other versions of this beer and I’ll definitely be on the lookout for the 2012 and 2013 versions with a view of aging them for a later date.

Brewed In: London, England
Brewery: Fuller, Smith & Turner
First Brewed: 1997 (2010 for this version)
Type: English Strong Ale
Abv: 8.5%
Serving: Bottle (500ml)
Purchased: Iron Duke, Mayfair, London, England
Price: £6.00