Monday, 31 August 2009

Cheapie bottled bitter


As is well known, I spare no expense in bringing you reviews of the rarest beers imaginable. Today I have something special — cheapie bitter. Marston's Burton Bitter and Brakspear Bitter are both going for £1 a bottle at the moment. Why not put them up head to head and see how they compare?

Marston's, of course, now own Brakspears since they took over Refresh UK. Cynics suspect such beers are both made in the same brewery and they slap a different label on it at the end. This is not the case. They are similar in style, but not identical. Brakspear is actually brewed at Wychwood using the original Brakspear equipment rescued from the old brewery in Henley when it closed.

On opening the bottles, both smell quite similar. The Marston's has more sulphur, and the Brakspear's is more toffeeish.

Pouring them into a glass, they have almost the same attractive autumn-leaves colour.

Brakspear's bitter has a well balanced nose, little body, but that's only to be expected in a beer of this strength, but the hops balance it out to give one of those delightful hard-water, dry finishes.

Burton Bitter has a ghost of malt to begin with, and less hop flavour.
It comes out on top purely due to the delicious water used in making it. I hear that Marston's did actually consider marketing their well water as mineral water, but the idea never came to fruition because of lack of production capacity.

These are both well made, unchallenging beers. You could do a lot worse for a quid. On the other hand, spend less than two quid and you could get something much more interesting. I do love that hard, minerally water though.

I can't cope with so much idiocy

I might have to stop commenting on the political aspects of drinking on this blog, as the Scottish and English governments between them are coming up with stupid, unworkable ideas at such a speed that I just can't keep up.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

What do they call Scotch Ale in Scotland?




Here are some labels from 1954. Spot the difference.

The No. 1 beer sent to a bottler in England gets the label "Strong Scotch Ale". For the Scottish market, it's just "Strong Ale."

When No. 1 went to Ireland, it was Barley Wine.

Make of that what you will.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

When McEwan spied on Bass

I've been feeling a tiny bit embarrassed that Ron made it to the Scottish Brewing Archive before I did, even though I only live a half-hour's bike ride away. Yesterday I finally got around to paying them a visit. It's a tremendous resource with some fascinating stuff.

This is such a great letter that I'm sure someone must have written about it before. It was written by William McEwan in 1852, while he was still serving his apprenticeship before setting up his own brewery. He describes visiting Bass and Allsopp in Burton-on-Trent with descriptions of their practices. Seems brewers were still quite cagey about revealing their secrets back then. Nonetheless, he doesn't seem to have been impressed either by their methods or by the resulting beer.

Cordeaux's
6 New Basinghall St
London 12 Augt 1852

My dear Uncle.

I arrived the last night. I left Burton in the forenoon, and spent a few hours in Birmingham. There was no occasion for me to remain longer in Burton as the object of my visit was attained in the morning. I have been from one end to the other of both Bass and Allsopps breweries. I had however to put conscience altogether out of the question for the nonce [sic] and declared I was not at all connected with the trade. The method of conducting the process in both establishments is exactly alike, but now that I have seen their mode of operations I am not at all surprised that the gravity of the Beer should vary so much in different brewings.

You will recollect the gravities to which the beer was attenuated as quoted in the Somat [?] newspaper varied from 16 to 6. It appears to me that they can have very little control over it after it goes out of the fermenting square. From what I could ascertain and see it appears that the beer is fermented in squares (in which there are no refrigerators) where it generally remains 2 days, it is then let off into a receiver (Yeast and all.) from which it is pumped into an immense number of Butts. These Butts are kept constantly full, so as to allow the yeast to wash out which it does most beautifully, (but it wd. be rather difficult to describe it in a letter although it will be easily explained by word of mouth. After the whole of the Yeast is worked out of it, which is generally in 4 days, it is run off into Squares. But so particular are they that the dregs of the Butt are not allowed to go into the square, after it has been in the square 1 Day it is considered ready for cleansing, and it is at once racked off into the casks in which it is to be supplied to the Customer. No such thing as storing it in Vats; but our common sense has already told us such a thing is ridiculous.

The man that showed me over Allsopps was rather intelligent, and I asked him how long they keepte [sic] the beer by them before sending it out to the customer. He said 3 Months was the soonest at which they liked to send it out — He said, however, that they sometimes sent it out when only 6 weeks old, but this was only when they were given to understand that the customer did not intend using it for some weeks, but would keep it the proper time in his own cellar. They press their hops under a pressure of 14 Tons. There was one circumstance which much surprised me, viz the pressing of the Yeast. The Yeast is put into large coarse calico bags, and thrown into a vessel similar to our Hop press, where it is subjected to a pressure of 4 Tons. One would suppose the bags would burst, but the pressure being equal on all sides they cannot. The liquor flows out quite pure, but is strongly tainted with the yeasty bitter. When the liquor is all extracted the yeast has become as consistent as clay. This yeast is sent to Ireland [?] for Distillers, and a precious morsel it must be. This extract of the yeast and also the dregs of the Butts are mixed along with an inferior beer which is sold in the neighbourhood. It appears to me from all this that we have not racked [?] our ale sufficiently.

I have made a point of tasting Burton Beer in every large town through which I have passed viz in L'pool Manchester, Birmingham and London, and I can assure you in very few instances indeed has it had the fine mellow flavour which we so much desire — it must nearly all have been brewed at the end of this season.

Birmingham is a thriving town, and much beer must be consumed there, but like Manchester it is cursed with the licensed victuallers brewing their own. Now this practice is little known in L'pool. In all my travels I have seen no place where I feel so certain a Brewer of a genuine article might so certainly be successful as L'pool.

I was over Barclay Perkins & Cos premises today. It has rained incessantly since I came here, and if it continues I shall not visit the Hop district — but as this would be a disappointment I hope the weather may improve.

If nothing comes in my way I shall leave this by the Bath [?] steamer which sails at 10 oclock on Saturday night.

With kind regards to Uncle Tom; Aunt Jane [?] and all friends assembled with you, of whose names I am ignorant believe me to be yours and faithfully

Wm McEwan

Tennent's sold to makers of Magners

Just heard that AB InBev has, as predicted, sold off Tennent's to C&C, the makers of Magners carbonated apple-waste drink. C&C will also take over InBev's distribution business in Scotland and Ireland. This is more of a partnership deal than a takeover, based on my brief glance at it. That's good for Tennent's as it protects it from what I thought might happen, i.e. InBev throwing its massive marketing budget into competing against it once they no longer own it.

Is it me, or is the price of £180m stupid cheap? I know InBev really needs the cash, but still.

Also interesting is that InBev apparently wants to keep the prestigious Tennent's Super brand for itself.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Home Office nutters plan to ruin pubs for everyone except troublemakers

The Home Office has commissioned a new design of plastic glass and is apparently planning to try to get all pubs in England and Wales to use plastic glasses instead of real ones.

After Glasgow City Council came up with this stupid idea a couple of years ago and was forced to back down by trade opposition, I naively thought it was dead and buried. But it's back, bigger and stupider than before.

We have beaten back the threat of a general glass ban in Glasgow as stated above, but the council still inconveniences everyone by forcing pubs to use plastic on certain occasions like local festivals, big concerts etc. In these cases I refuse to accept it and leave the pub.

Drinking out of plastic is a miserable experience, as anybody who appreciates a proper glass of beer in a proper pub will agree.

I certainly would stop going to the pub if I were expected to drink out of a plastic tumbler and pay upwards of £3 for the privilege, and I don't think I'd be the only one.

Drunks and violent bams, on the other hand, don't care what they drink out of. So rather than make pubs safer, you drive away the responsible drinkers until only the bams are left.

That'll make pubs safer and more pleasant places. Aye, right.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Warning! Beer garden! Danger of death!

I've often bemoaned the lack of decent beer gardens in Glasgow. Of course the climate isn't really favourable to it here most of the year, so when a nice day does come along the couple of beer gardens we do have are packed.

I love beer gardens; they're pretty much my favourite places to drink. There's nothing nicer than sitting in the shade under a chestnut tree, sipping a cool beer and watching afternoon slip into evening. Somehow the beer tastes nicer in the fresh air too.

Well, that's what I once thought. But now after reading this leaflet published by the Scottish Government, I've realised how wrong I was. This is what it says about drinking outside:

"Drinking outside increases your chances of having an accident or falling asleep outdoors and freezing to death (hypothermia)."


It's a wonder there are any Bavarians left alive.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

I win!


Just a quick update on drinkin' around town. West have a new beer called Heidi. Dedicated to the boss's dog, it's a murky brown beer that tastes much nicer than it looks. I like the floral pilsenery aroma the most of all; the body is caramelly but a little thin with a slightly incongruous bitterness and acidity on the finish. It's described as "Heidi Ale" but I'm not sure if that means it's top-fermented. I have been told that they're very busy at the moment, brewing every day, so maybe this was devised to be ready for sale quickly, skipping the lagering phase.

Blackfriars are now stocking Stone IPA, Ruination and Arrogant Bastard Ale. I had the Stone IPA and it's not so much grassy as vegetal, with asparagus and green beans alongside the massive hop attack. It took me an hour to drink it.

The best news is that the Victoria Bar appears to be getting its name back! I noticed a couple of days ago that the bar had lost the "Scotch Corner" sign that the owners put up on the fascia after removing the beautiful old Victoria Bar sign about a year ago.

I went in at the time and told the slightly bemused bar staff that I'd be back when the pub got its proper name back. Today what do I see but a sandwich board outside reading "Victoria Bar" and the bar snacks menu. It wasn't open though so I couldn't go in. I'll pop in soon to check out the facts.

Early mistakes in beer

When someone starts developing a taste for beer, they generally do it in stages. The less adventurous among us find a local brand they find palatable, and stick with it. Others are dissatisfied with the beers everyone else drinks and try to seek out something a bit different.

The amusing part of this is the kind of "aw, bless" stage (and I've gone through it myself) where you realise that the mass market beer all around you are bland and uninteresting. You look around for alternatives, and you find ... the bland, uninteresting mass market beers of another country.

"I used to drink Miller and Coors, until I realised they were shit! Now I drink Guinness and Newcastle Brown Ale!"

"I used to drink John Smiths and Newcastle Brown Ale, until I realised they were shit! Now I drink Hoegaarden and Leffe!"

"I used to drink Becks and Warsteiner, until I realised they were shit! Now I drink Corona!"

In my teens I had a strange predeliction for Michelob and Warsteiner. And the first time I tried Pilsner Urquell, I thought it was awful. Apart from that, I don't think I made too many serious errors of judgement. At least not in questions of beer.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Naff glass #2: the weird shaped branded pint



Just look at this. Isn't it awful? The shape is all wrong and it looks more unstable than it actually is.

Also, I can't stand pint glasses with logos on them in the first place.

Discreetly branded glassware is fine in Germany and Belgium where most bars sell the same two or three draught beers all the time. Although to be honest I'm not keen on the Belgian way of forcing cafe owners to stock a dozen different kinds of glassware, one for each beer, either.

But it doesn't work at all in Britain where pubs are big, have constantly rotating guest beers and you need lots of glasses. Or rather, it works for the megabrands and against the little microbrewers.

Another reason I hate logo glasses is that so many bar staff don't seem to understand that the branded glass is there to serve that brand of beer in, and no other. I don't know if the correct branded glass really does enhance the drinking experience, but I do know that the wrong one — for example a pint of Deuchars in a Guinness glass — ruins it.

Not to mention: have you seen the state of these things when they get old? It's just as well they all get nicked before they start looking too tatty.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Brewers' star update



I found this (while looking for something else, as is usually the way).

I don't have too much to say about it other than to note it as further evidence of the existence of the six-pointed star as a brewers' symbol in Britain as well as Germany.

This Younger's of Edinburgh bottle is from 1961 whereas the Usher's label I posted back in June is from 1968. Two brewers in the same city were using the same symbol as a trade mark within seven years of each other. Brewers were clearly less litigious back then.

Younger's were using the star as early as 1942 and possibly before. I wonder when Youngers stopped and Ushers started?

Naff glass #1: Floppy disposable plastic tumbler




No. Just no. I try to avoid drinking in places that use these if at all possible.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Nice glass #2: Willybecher



The half-litre Willybecher is another classic German beer glass. Like the British nonic or dimple, it's utilitarian and hard-wearing. I have the impression it's regarded as a little old-fashioned these days. I really like it. But elegant? No.

Nice glass #1: Tulip

The straight nonic pint glass has been criticised for being macho, ugly, utilitarian, unattractive to women, too big, and a host of other things. I think most of these criticisms are unfounded, as I shall argue in a post yet to be written; but let us suppose for a moment that we could start again and decide what kind of glass we'd like to sup our beer from.

If we're abandoning the pint glass, we may as well abandon the pint. A smaller measure is easier to design an attractive glass for; in particular, a pint is too big for a stemmed glass (the appallingly ugly stemmed Stella Artois pint glass proves my point).

One kind of glass I really like is the tulip style:



In Germany, this kind of glass would be brought to your table by a waiter or waitress, placed carefully on a beer mat and possibly adorned with a little crepe-paper collar around the stem.

The question is, is our pub culture in the UK suited to adopting this kind of glassware?

There may be a reason why we have ended up with hard-wearing, utilitarian pint glasses. That's not to say things can't change, but I suspect there is more to it than just swapping the glasses out.

I can only envisage this sort of thing going down well in the kind of establishment that is wilfully un-pubby. Or at least, one which moves away from the more unpleasant and boorish features still common in the modern British pub: the blaring TV, the puddles of beer on the bar and on the tables, the men shouting at each other.

If you want more stylish glasses, you need to have more stylish pubs.

More nice glasses and some rubbish glasses will follow.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Carbonation

I was just idly wondering about carbonation in cask beer. It's down to the person looking after the beer to ensure that enough CO2 is preserved in the beer to give it sufficient sparkle, and it doesn't always go right.

Sometimes beer is served much too flat. I don't mean not-through-a-sparkler flat, I mean absolutely flat. This happens more often when beer is served by gravity, but occasionally you get it on a beer engine too. You rarely get it too lively. Maybe this is because drinkers may complain if the beer is flat, but bar staff will definitely complain if it's too foamy?

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Great British Beer Festival diary


I'd read all sorts of stuff about the Great British Beer Festival before I actually went there. It was going to be full of flatulent, bearded codgers and there wouldn't be a woman in the place, the venue was horrible and the British beers on offer dull and boring. I thought these opinions were probably quite exaggerated anyway, but was still pleased not to have them confirmed.

I've only ever been to relatively small CAMRA festivals before, such as Paisley (and I think, though I'm not sure, that's Scotland's biggest). Compared to that, GBBF at Earl's Court is huge. I mean really big; you can spend hours just wandering around. And it's great seeing so many people in one place, all there for the great beer. Although it's quite pricey to get in, the cost of beer and food inside is reasonable; you can very easily pay a lot more for beer in London. And there's a good selection of food too, not just pies and sausages. They could do with losing the stall with the misogynistic t-shirts, though.

I was already a bit star-struck having seen the Thornbridge crew in the queue on the way in. More than anything else, I was thirsty after a sweaty tube journey. I went for a pint to wash down the dust. That was Hook Norton Bitter, served a tad flat, perfectly drinkable but disappointing in taste.

This was also my only pint of the festival. I had acquired both a pint glass and a third glass but quickly returned the pint glass for a refund. I got to really like the third glass; it's not as ridiculously little as it sounds (not that much less than a half) and is great for tasting beers.

I wanted to try some US beer on cask, as it's something practically never seen where I live (not that it's common anywhere else). I went for Stone IPA which reminded me very much of BrewDog How To Disappear Completely, but obviously, fuller in body. As the Dogs are well-known fans of Stone, it's not difficult to detect a resemblance. But hops a-go-go. 20 minutes after finishing the beer, the empty glass still reeked of hops. I even tried to exchange it for a clean one, but nothing doing.

Next up was Keesman Herren Pils. Now I've had this before and knew I was in for a treat. This is what beer is about. Beautifully balanced with sweet malt not standing in the way of a tremendous finish. I thought drinking it in an aircraft hangar in West London would be an anti-climax after having had it in Bamberg, but I have to say it tasted just as good.

I then wandered around the British bars. It was about this time that I realised I'm really a session beer kind of guy at heart. I can enjoy strong beer too, but I was planning to be there all afternoon and drinking strong beers for six hours is kind of mad in my book, however good they are.

In advance of the festival some people had been complaining that the British list was boring. Maybe, but with over 400 to choose from there's plenty that's great. I went for some Bateman's G.H.A. – clearly brewed with very hard water, sulphury, minerally, bitter finish. Like drinking from a mountain stream in heaven. Fantastic beer and the only one that I went back for more of during the festival.

The best thing about trade day is that if you like a beer, you can turn round and say so to someone from the brewery, possibly one of the brewers. I got the chance to tell someone from Bateman's how much I enjoyed their G.H.A. while standing at the relevant bar drinking it. It's also a bit poignant; I probably wouldn't have been there drinking beer if it hadn't been for seeing Michael Jackson on TV twenty years ago, where he was visiting the GBBF and Bateman's brewery and interviewing "Mr George" Bateman.

I actually preferred Stone's Levitation Ale to their IPA. Lovely, resinous hops with just enough body to support them. Next a genuine scoop. White Shield Brewery P2. The moment I saw it I knew I had to have it, if only because there's a good chance I'll never see it again. The same imperial stout as brewed by Bass in eighteen-what-the-hell, cask-conditioned, a piece of history you really feel privileged to be able to drink. And it tastes fantastic.

I think they announced the Champion Beer of Britain about now, but I don't care who won and don't know anyone who does.

On to Marble Manchester Bitter, nice aromatic hops, but there's something (I don't know quite what) that I just didn't like. I seem to be the only person who liked Thornbridge Kipling. My notes just say "GOOD". Somewhere in the limbo between tasty session bitter and mental hop monster.

I'd never had a Harvey's beer before so went for a Harvey's XX — nice to see a beer with a proper name for a change. Unfortunately I didn't like it much, which is a pity as it's a fine ale if you like minerally, yeasty flavours. It's dark and rich for a mild with refreshing, tasty water and a somewhat incongruous bitterness. I really wish I'd liked it. The next one, Bristol Milk Stout, was amazing; tremendously complex, sweet and yet acid, a million miles away from Sweetheart (which tastes of Supermalt and flat cola). Dark chocolate malt and creamy-smooth sweetness.

The last time I was in Franconia I was quite shocked at how sweet many of the local lagers were. Greif Annafestbier brought all that back. Extremely malty, foretaste of caramel and grain, unbelievably full-bodied. Hardly any hop finish, but who the hell cares. Beck Lisberger Lagerbier was quite similar. It's kind of ironic that the sugariest, stickiest, maltiest beers and the hoppiest ones were being served at opposite ends of the same bar.

And with that, knowing I still had to meet friends for dinner and be able to stand up, I reluctantly called it a day.

Wednesday dawned and I didn't really feel like a beer, but I couldn't justify spending so much on rail tickets without making the most of my time in London. I have wanted to visit the Jerusalem Tavern and the Gunmakers for a while, so off I went to Clerkenwell. Walking up from Fleet Street I realised I was at the Old Mitre, where I'd also never been before, so as it was such a nice day I popped in for one. Just my bad luck that they had a Scottish beer festival on and the beers on offer were ones from Perthshire and Orkney that I regularly see at home! I downed a quick half of Dragonhead Stout and headed round the corner to the Jerusalem Tavern. What a lovely pub. It was a scorcher of a day and the beer was a bit warm, so I only had one pint of their St Peters Bitter before wandering round to the Gunmakers, where I drifted into a late-afternoon reverie over Wild Goose, Timothy Taylor Landlord and Summer Lightning.

I headed back to the festival in the evening for a couple of hours to hang out with a couple of friends. There I started off with Uerige Altbier, then couldn't resist a second glass of Bateman's G.H.A. Sadly I only learned on the way home that this was only launched recently. Mahr's Ungespundet Kellerbier, Cains IPA (tedious in the extreme) and Marble IPA finished the evening off. None were remarkable but it didn't matter. I may have filled in a direct debit in favour of CAMRA about now, but only to get a discount at the book stall.

On Thursday I had a quick pint of Harveys Bitter in the Market Porter before going for my train home. It's clearly a terrific beer, rich and dry at the same time, but as with the XX, not to my taste; too complex and yeast-dominated. I guess those are the qualities other people appreciate in it.

I really enjoyed the festival. It's a real eye-opener to go to a beer festival that's so vast; I've only been to ones in church-hall-size venues before (the Munich Oktoberfest is bigger, but that's not really a beer festival, more a funfair that happens to sell crap beer). It was fantastic seeing so many people trying so many different beers and it was great to meet some other beer bloggers: Mark Dredge, Mad Brewer, Reluctant Scooper, Stonch, Beer Nut and Woolpack Dave. If I didn't accost anyone else, it's because I didn't see or recognise them, not because I wasn't looking for them. Shame that Cooking Lager didn't turn up, though. I think he would have liked it.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

What have I done?

You know how sometimes you wake up after a night on the ale thinking "did I do that?" Well I have discovered a CAMRA new member pack in my bag. Turns out you don't actually get a free beard.

That's that

Well, that's me done with GBBF for this year. I'm typing on an iPod so writing a long post would be a pain. However, I drank some great beer, met some beer bloggers, chatted to some brewers and had a great time.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Robert Brown MSP is an ignorant fool who brings discredit on his party

I thought the fuss over BrewDog Tokyo* had died down, but now Robert Brown, Lib Dem MSP for Glasgow, has raised a motion calling on the Scottish Parliament to formally condemn it.

It only shows he has not read any of the excellent rebuttals -- by BrewDog themselves, Pete Brown and many others -- to the Prohibitionist health scares. Does someone who does not do such basic research before raising parliamentary motions really belong in Holyrood?

Mr Brown is technically one of my MSPs, so I'll be writing him a letter. He lives in Rutherglen where many people do have alcohol abuse problems, but I rather doubt anyone there is drinking Tokyo*.

London update

I met a brewer on the train on the way down; he was telling someone on the phone to check the mash tun, I was drinking BrewDog and Marston's; it was only a matter of time before we started chatting.

In That London I met a couple of friends at The Porterhouse. I wasn't impressed by their beers the last time I was here three years ago, and my opinion hasn't changed.Shame, cos the pub is lovely.

Monday, 3 August 2009

GBBF ahoy!

Well, I'm off to the Great British Beer Festival.

Ever since I saw Michael Jackson in the last episode of 'The Beer Hunter', striding suitcase in hand across the car park of Leeds Exhibition Centre or wherever it was, I have thought of the Great British Beer Festival as a totemic event. But I've never been.

I have no preconceptions and no list of ticks I want to get. I'm just going to enjoy whatever I find.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Innovate or die

Here's an interesting thing: a serious article about beer in a German national newspaper. (English version here).

It is surprising to many people outside Germany that most German drinkers don't know the first thing about beer.


The marketing men still think it's enough to put "Brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot" on the bottle, and most consumers still seem to agree. But the Reinheitsgebot doesn't stop you putting isomerised hop extract in your beer. It doesn't stop you lowering the hopping rate until the beer is bland and boring. It doesn't stop you pushing up the attenuation until the beer is thin and lacking any body.

The lesson for the big brewery groups should be simple: If you brew dull, uninteresting beer, then Oettinger will take your customers. While Oettinger isn't great, it sells for half the money. The beers currently being produced by the big German brewers are not twice as good as Oettinger. That's the quandary they find themselves in because they have chosen to take the same short cuts in brewing that Oettinger do.

There are two responses to this situation. The breweries run by marketing people respond by dumbing down the beer: producing "Gold" beers with less hop taste and all manner of bizarre beer-mix drinks with lemon, lime, passion fruit, orangeade and pomegranate. These are derisively known as "girls' beer".

But there seems to be hope. Some breweries seem to understand that making interesting beer is a way to compete.

Amberfest

As I posted earlier, I was fortunate enough to be in the right corner of Derbyshire last week to get to Amber Ales' little festival. It's a lovely, tiny event just held in the yard outside the brewery and in what appears to be a converted storage room.

At least a dozen beers were on offer, presumably served by gravity. Interestingly enough there are some pretty experimental beers; you might think a brewery of this size in this location would play safe, but Pete the brewer obviously believes in making his mark with innovation.

Most of the beer was pretty flat, which was a shame, but it didn't spoil my enjoyment too much. I managed to taste these brews:
  1. 1/2 Chocolate Orange Stout: possibly their most notorious beer, this is genuinely as near as a beer will get to tasting like a Terry's Chocolate Orange. Tons of chocolate malt embrace the palate. Slightly acid but that's down to the low carbonation, I think. The orange flavour tastes a little artificial, but to be fair that's exactly the way it is in the original.
  2. 1/2 Rose Petal Blond: An experimental beer, rather funky in the nose. Is that down to the yeast? Who can tell? It's a fine beer, but I don't enjoy the funkiness and don't notice the rose petals.
  3. 1/2 Liberty: I love Liberty hops and use them liberally in one of my homebrew beers. There's a load of flavour in this beer that reminds me of what Bass used to be like, the minerally taste and slightly sulphury nose somehow manage to overpower the hops.
  4. 1/2 Imperial IPA: This is tremendously aromatic but I think it's too sweet and not bitter enough.
  5. 1/2 Lemongrass and Ginger: Another experiment – very dry indeed, loads of ginger flavour, lemongrass gets a bit lost.
  6. 1/2 Chilli Beer: Wow! The best of the experimental beers in my view (though the others certainly have potential) and miles ahead of any other chilli beer I've tried (not many, admittedly). They manage to get loads and loads of green-chilli aroma and flavour into the beer but without the mouth-burning heat. Again, a certain gypseous quality which works really well with the chilli.
I wish my local brewery was like this.

(While editing the tags I just realised I've never tagged a post 'real ale' before. What does that say, apart from "there aren't many posts on this blog yet" ? )