The Pen-lon brewery, in Ceredigion, is part of a working smallholding on the west coast of Wales. They produce many bottle-conditioned beers, and on a recent visit to Pwllheli, I found an off-licence that was happy to sell me ten of them. I hadn’t come across this particular brewery before, and it was a surprise to find so many examples of their craft in one place. As far as I can tell, they do not provide beer in casks to be sold at pubs, only the bottles.
The labels on the bottles are uniform and attractive. As is my wont, I will start with the lowest ABV beer and work my way up to the stronger brews.
The first bottle opened was the 3.2% Lamb’s Gold, described on the label as a ‘Light Ale’. The colour is a mid-orange. The taste is quite lagery, and yet for a mere 3.2%, it punches well above its weight in taste. Hops are present, very noticeably. The finish is dryish and bitter. Bags of taste for such a low ABV and very satisfying. Big taste out of low ABV numbers is a mark of a good brewer, and this first sample of Pen-lon brewing filled me with enthusiasm to continue on to the next bottle.
The next bottle was Tipsy Tup, still at the gentle end of the alcohol spectrum, weighing in at 3.8%. This bottle had a little throw in the bottom, lending a slight cloudiness to the orange colour. I don’t mind a bit of haze, it doesn’t affect the taste. Tipsy Tup is bright and hoppy with distinct citrus notes. The flavour is quite complex – encouraging at 3.8%. The flavour rounds off nicely with a good dry bitterness.
Next, I moved on to Cardi Bay, the only Pen-lon brew that gets a mention in the Good Beer Guide. It’s a 4.0% best bitter, and a nice orange in colour. Hops dominate the aroma, following through with a strong bitter flavour. The finish is long and hoppy. This would make a great session ale, if only it could be had in pubs!
My fourth Pen-lon outing was their Heather Honey Ale. This bright orange ale has an ABV of 4.2%, and whilst I had enjoyed the previous three offerings from Pen-lon, this one really opened my eyes. The smell is spicy and peppery, an interesting start for a honey ale. The beer has an incredibly silky mouthfeel, smooth and warming. The pepperiness of the smell follows through into the taste, which also has a nicely understated touch of honey. For me, honey is a bit of a gamble in ale. It either dominates the taste (usually rather unpleasantly cloyingly) or it appears like it does here, underneath the other flavours, adding just enough honey taste and texture to be pleasant (see also my review of Fat Cat Honey Ale here). Heather Honey Ale finishes with a delightful hint of hoppy bitterness. This beer is quite wonderful. More please!
I finished my first session of Pen-lon beers with their take on a Chocolate Stout. Now I have a particular little place in my heart for chocolate stout, so this was an important one for me. However, confident after tasting the previous offerings, particularly the Heather Honey Ale, I pressed on. The Chocolate Stout is, as expected, very dark in colour – virtually black. Now if you’re used to big up front tastes with chocolate stouts, this one will come as a bit of a surprise. It’s quite dry, but this is to be expected of a good stout, even a chocolate one. The flavour is really quite subdued, though hints of smoke and chocolate are quite evident, if understated. Unusual, but very good.
A few days later, I sampled the remaining five bottles from Pen-lon. I’ll report back on those in a couple of weeks. Until then, iechyd da!
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