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Bath Ales Gem

February 13, 2017 Leave a comment

Rating: 3.55

My second Bath Ales beer now, this one following hot on the heels of their Wild Hare pale ale that I reviewed here recently. This one is another that I picked up from Whole Foods Market at the start of the month and is a beer I’ve been keeping a lookout for over the last few months, having previously failed to try it when visiting Bath at the end of last summer. This one is a beer that is very popular in the south-west of England, I believe it is one of the best-selling bottled craft beers in the UK too, possibly placing as high as second behind Punk IPA but don’t quote me on that as I can’t find the article I think I read it in now. The beer is my first premium bitter in quite a while so it should act as a good refresher on the style and is one that I was actually quite surprised to find didn’t make the 1001 beers list given its popularity in southern England, perhaps that’s a fairly recent things though. Gold medal winner and best ale up to 5% at the 2014 International Beer Challenge, as well as a silver medal winner in 2015, the beer should be a good one despite the fact that the brewery changed hands last year and is now owned by the St. Austell Brewery Company after the acquired the Bath Ales portfolio for an undisclosed in July of last year; hopefully the beer itself hasn’t suffered though.

bath-ales-gem

Appearance (4/5): Pouring quite a dark, almost caramel amber colour this one has a fairly clear body and a thin, foamy white head on top that’s more of a thin lacing than anything else really; there’s a little more build up around the edges but for the most part it is just a patch of foam in the centre of the surface.
Aroma (7/10): Quite sweet but not overly so, this one opens with a nice combination of caramel and toffee notes before some burnt sugars and very subtle toasted malts start to come through. There’s a little bit of biscuit following on behind plus some earthy notes start to make themselves known nearer the middle of the beer. Towards the end there is a some roasted malts and even a hint of chocolate coming through as well but it was subtle and fleeting. The beer was rounded off with an earthy bitterness and faint citrus notes that seemed to work well together.
Taste (7/10): Opening with the toffee that carried on from the nose, the beer didn’t seem quite as sweet but there was at least some showing with touches of caramel not far behind. I could detect a few brown sugars and toasted malts nearer the middle with biscuit and bread ones nothing featuring before an earthy bitterness showed alongside some subtle earthy hops.
Palate (3/5): Sweet with a light tang at points, this one had a medium body and proved to be a well-balanced offering that was a little basic and one-dimensional but still a pretty drinkable beer. While not as good as the bottle of Wild Hare I had from the brewery last, this one was also a good session beer that went down easily enough but without really exciting at any point. There as some nice malts showing at times and the toasted malts/toffee flavours were a nice addition but I was expecting it to be a little more varied and at times a little stronger too.

Overall (15/20): Nice stuff again from Bath Ales but probably not quite as enjoyable a beer as their Wild Hare pale ale that I tried last. This one was obviously a little darker and the sweetness seemed more pronounced at times with a nice combination of darker malts, toasted flavours and some sugars that complimented the caramel and toffee flavours nicely. Nothing seemed overdone and a good balance was maintained throughout, making this one another decent session offering but I’m probably go back to other beers before having this one again; still it’s definitely a nice beer and well worth trying.

Brewed In: Bristol, England
Brewery: Bath Ales
First Brewed: 2002
Type: Extra Special/Strong Bitter (ESB)
Abv: 4.8%
Serving: Bottle (500ml)
Purchased: Whole Foods Market (Giffnock)
Price: £1.79

Spooks Ale

October 19, 2015 Leave a comment

Rating: 1.85

This one is a beer that I picked up alongside the bottle of Pumpking from the Wychwood brewery that I recently reviewed here, the reason for this one was because it was also on special offer when I popped into the shop so I thought I may as well give it a try as well. Another Halloween themed season, this one was first introduced by Shepherd Neame in 2011 and will be the ninth beer from the brewery that I will have tried, although a few of those have been contract brewed there so the true number is probably a couple less than that. The beer is not one I was aware Shepherd Neame brewed up until I bought the bottle which may go some way to explaining why it was on special in the run up to Halloween rather than after October. Despite this, the beer is one I’m looking forward to trying as it has been a while since I tried this still of beer, hopefully it will be a good reintroduction to the genre.

Spooks Ale

Appearance (3/5): A slightly darker than normal caramel amber colour with very good clarity and a half centimetre tall head on top that is a creamy looking texture. Retention of the head is fairly average with it settling as a thin lacing that completely covers the surface around thirty seconds after it was poured; nice but nothing to write home about really.
Aroma (4/10): The beer is semi-bitter on the nose and starts off with some nice caramel notes with a touch of toffee backing it up. There is a few sugars coming through early on alongside an earthy smell that hints at some nuttiness too. I could detect some moderate strength biscuit malts, a few background fruits but nothing too strong and finally some bread on the nose before further bitterness appeared at the end.
Taste (2/10): Biscuit and caramel malts kick things off here with some earthy flavours and a touch of bread backing things up; there is a few earthy hops in there as well but nothing too pronounced. The taste is nothing much to speak of really, it’s pretty poor if truth be told with some faint sugars in there but the biscuit flavours are the ones the dominate.
Palate (2/5): Light-medium bodied with a few grains coming through but the balance wasn’t really great with this one with too much bitterness coming through. There wasn’t much in the way of carbonation and the aftertaste was a lingering one.

Overall (5/20): Terrible, that’s about all I can say to sum up the taste of this beer really. It started okay when I first poured it, sitting well in the glass but instantly things deteriorated when I smelt and tried the beer with little more than some caramel malts and too much bitterness coming through. The beer was a real struggle to finish and I ended up giving up close to the end, it was that bad.

Brewed In: Faversham, Kent, England
Brewery: Shepherd Neame Ltd.
First Brewed: 2011
Type: Winter Warmer / ESB
Abv: 4.7%
Serving: Bottle (500ml)
Purchased: Morrisons
Price: £1.00

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

Merlin’s Ale

June 30, 2014 Leave a comment

Rating: 3.15

Another beer from Biggar based Broughton Ales, my first from them in a while and one that I was initially worried that I had already tried before. When I looked at this bottle and went to put it in the fridge I it was quite similar to the same breweries Scottish Oatmeal Stout although as it turned out it was my mind playing tricks on me and I hadn’t actually tried this one before. Taking it’s name from the legendary wizard whose burial site is said to lie near the brewery, this one is yet another English style bitter that I picked up in my local Aldi supermarket the other week and I’m doing a good job of getting my Scottish beer count up with all these offerings, I’m just hoping this one proves to be an improvement on some of the previous ones I’ve already tried but we shall soon see.
Merlin's Ale

Appearance (4/5): Settles as a clear and medium amber colour with a foamy white head on top that stops just short of turning to a patchy lacing on the surface.
Aroma (6/10): More hoppy that I had been expecting initially, there is some earthy notes and a few grassy ones coming through alongside a touch of sweetness and freshly cut grass as well. I could detect biscuit malts and some floral notes with some light grain as well. The beer isn’t the strongest on the nose but it has quite a nice balance and is easy on the nose.
Taste (6/10): Biscuit malts and some faint sweetness, there is a slight tang initially and I could nice floral taste that is backed up by some caramel and a bitter aftertaste that went down well. There wasn’t a whole lot else going on really other than some earthy hops but the taste was much like the aroma, pleasant but nothing special.
Palate (3/5): Light-medium bodied and quite smooth, although there was the odd touch of grain in there. It is a dry beer with moderate carbonation and fair balance as well although the mouthfeel seemed the weak link in this beer, only just though.

Overall (11/20): This one started not too badly at all with a nice hoppy taste and some bitterness coming through but to be honest it was a fairly standard beer and wasn’t too exciting either sadly. It’s drinkable but not great, nor is it one I’ll pick up again I’m afraid.

Brewed In: Biggar, Scotland
Brewery: Broughton Ales Ltd.
First Brewed: Brewery since 1980
Type: Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)
Abv: 4.2%
Serving: Bottle (500ml)
Purchased: Aldi
Price: £1.59

Yorkshire Moors

December 23, 2013 Leave a comment

Rating: 3.2

This one is another bottle I received for free after a tour of the Great Yorkshire Brewery (formally the Cropton Brewery hence the old labels still used on the bottle ) in Cropton near York last month, the second such bottle after my recent review of the same brewery’s Two Pints bitter that I really enjoyed. This one was first brewed back in 2002 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the North York Moors National Park and was obviously deemed good enough to be made a permanent beer in the brewery’s roaster. After enjoying their last beer so much I am hoping they have managed to repeat the formula with this offering although whether they do or not remains to be seen.

Yorkshire Moors

Appearance (3/5): A dark, murky brown with a thin, bubbly head that is light, tan brown and slowly reduces to a soapy lacing on top of the beer after a few minutes at its original height.
Aroma (6/10): Quite a bitter smelling beer but backed up with lots of earthy malts and some lighter fruit notes. There is some biscuit and darker fruits that give the beer some sweetness with some subdued English hops featuring alongside some toffee and toasted notes but overall the smell is on the light side.
Taste (6/10): Bitter and dry with some grain and subtle fruits on top of an earthy malt base. There is some light caramel and some basic hops as well. The taste is fairly bitter and pretty average on top of that but it’s certainly not a bad tasting beer either.
Palate (4/5): Medium bodied and quite bitter with some sweetness and a smooth feel that is rounded off with a crisp, dry finish.

Overall (12/20): This one from the Great Yorkshire Brewery sadly turned out to be a bit of an anticlimax considering how much I enjoyed the last beer I tried from them, a bottle their Two Pints bitter. The problem with this one was the the taste was bitter and that was about it, I could detect some light fruits and hops but I had to work to notice them and the beer was pretty much standard fair throughout. Not really one worth keeping an eye open for if I’m honest although it wasn’t the worst bitter either, thankfully.

Brewed In: Cropton, North Yorkshire, England
Brewery: Great Yorkshire Brewery
First Brewed: 2002
Type: Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)
Abv: 4.6%
Serving: Bottle (500ml)
Purchased: The New Inn, Cropton, England
Price: Free as part of brewery tour

Great Yorkshire Chocolate Orange (Cask)

November 12, 2013 Leave a comment

Rating: 3.9

Another cask beer now and likely one of my last for a while, also the last beer I still have to review that I tried last weekend whilst down in York. This is a beer that I managed to try on-site at the pub attached to the Great Yorkshire Brewery, formerly the Cropton Brewery until it was renamed to appeal to a more international audience recently. I was given this one to try as a free half pint as part of the brewery tour I was about to take, along with a steak pie lunch and it was a beer that I quite enjoyed and actually went quite well with my meal. One of the breweries special offerings, I’m not sure when this one was first brewed but I have reason to suspect it would have been this year. Not one of the breweries beer that seems to be available in bottle so I guess this will probably be my only opportunity to try it for some time and that fact that it is a 6% abv. cask beer is something relatively unusual so the beer was an obvious choice for me on my visit.
Chocolate Orange

Appearance (5/5): A dark, chestnut brown with a thin and foamy, slightly off-white coloured head that is about half a centimetre tall and leaves some lacing on the glass as it is drank.
Aroma (7/10): Dark malts and some strong chocolate start things off, followed by some background orange although this is deinitely noticeable along with some faint alcohol and a little bit of roasted barely. Quite a sweet smelling beer and one that strikes a good balance.
Taste (7/10): Medium strength bitter flavours and a lot of chocolate open things up, followed by a strong taste of orange as you would expect and  some darker cocoa plus a little coffee. Quite a dark beer but nothing overpowering. There is a generally rich taste and hints of sweetness throughout with some roasted malts and barely bringing things to a close.
Palate (4/5): Rich and quite sweet with low carbonation and a creamy, full body that is very smooth and highly drinkable.

Overall (14/20): Rich and chocolaty with a strong orange presence as the name would suggest and certainly a lot more flavour than I’m accustomed to with cask ales; this is probably helped by the fairly high abv. for such a style of beer. Quite an enjoyable beer with plenty going for it and one that wouldn’t say no to again and it is up there with the best cask beers I have tried to date.

Brewed In: Cropton, North Yorkshire, England
Brewery: Great Yorkshire Brewery
First Brewed: Brewery since 1984
Type: Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)
Abv: 6.0%
Serving: Cask (Half Pint)
Purchased: The New Inn, Cropton, England
Price: Free as part of brewery tour

Iron Maiden Trooper

July 12, 2013 2 comments

Rating: 3.0

Time now for my second band inspired beer, this one drawing inspiration from Iron Maiden and their song ‘The Trooper’. This one is brewed by the Robinson’s brewery that also brewed Build A Rocket Boys!, the beer brewed in collaboration with the band Elbow and a beer that I reviewed here a while back. Seeing that Iron Maidens lead singer Bruce Dickinson is a real ale enthusiast I hoping that this beer will be an improvement on Elbows attempt. It not one I am expecting a lot from but it was being heavily advertised in Morrisons the other week so I thought I may as well give it a go, hopefully I won’t end up regretting my purchase.

Iron Maiden Trooper

Appearance (3/5): A medium, golden amber with a thin and frothy white head on top that turns to a very patchy lacing after a minute or so.
Aroma (6/10): Very light on the nose with some bitter malts just about pushing through along with some sugar, very light caramel and some faint, earthy hops. There is some bread too but basically this one is pretty weak on the nose.
Taste (6/10): Thing one is composed of mainly lighter fruity flavours and some basic malts with a bit of bread and some floral notes. It’s fairly easy to drink but mainly because nothing stands out or is particularly strong with it. There is some orange, a few hops and some sweetness with a hint of caramel but that’s about it really.
Palate (3/5): Smooth and medium bodied that is sweet in places. Carbonation is soft and the beer is very easy to drink with fruity, faint alcohol finish.

Overall (12/20): This one was an improvement Build A Rocket Boys! but only a slight one and to be honest the beer didn’t really offer much out of the ordinary. It was pleasant enough but nothing stuck out and both the smell and the taste where pretty light and hard to detect.

Brewed In: Stockport, England
Brewery: Robinsons Family Brewers
First Brewed: 2013
Type: Premium Bitter/ESB
Abv: 4.7%
Serving: Bottle (500ml)
Purchased:
Price: £1.99