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Category Archives: Bottled Beer

Three Bad ‘Uns from Leatherbritches

Leatherbritches Brewery is based in Smisby in Derbyshire. They moved there from near the sadly now defunct Green Man and Black’s Head pub in Ashbourne (of which more in a later rant) in 2011. Leatherbritches Bad 'Uns small These three bottles were all bought in a shop in Ashbourne, and are attractively labelled with images of fictional Rotters. Leatherbritches Cad small Let’s start with Leatherbritches Cad. I’m sure I should know the face that looks out from the label, I know the other two, but I’m afraid I don’t recognize this one. If you can enlighten me, please leave a comment below. (See comment below!) Cad is a 4.0% brown ale, perhaps a best bitter. On the face of it, this is a fairly straightforward beer. There are bags of dry malt to start with followed by a hoppy finish. You have to dig a bit for the subtler tastes. There’s a touch of toffee in there, and the more you get down the glass, the more prominent becomes the roasted flavour in the malt. The malt certainly dominates here. The beer is drinkable and good, but perhaps lacks a bit of excitement. Leatherbritches Bounder small Leatherbritches Bounder sports an image of Terry-Thomas playing… well, just about every character he ever played. The label describes this beer as a ‘Premium Extra Pale Ale’. I hate that word ‘premium’ as used by brewers. It’s just a noise, it means nothing. All it does is fill a small space on the label. The rest is accurate enough, this is a very pale beer. It’s lively and pours with a foamy off-white head. The taste is smooth, floral and fruity with a tiny hint of cream and a nice dry bitter finish. Although the same ABV, 4.0%, I found that Bounder is better than Cad, definitely. Leatherbritches Scoundrel small Leatherbritches Scoundrel has the late massive boozer Oliver Reed on its label. Ollie is seen here in his younger days when he was indeed a dashing and handsome fellow. Here he appears in his role of Bill Sykes in Oliver!, the musical adaptation of Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist. The beer is described on the label as a ‘Premium (oh dear) Dark Ale’. Yes, it’s dark, pouring an attractive deep red colour. It’s just a tad stronger than the other two at 4.1%. The head is a little thin, but that means little. The first impression is that this beer is quite sweet. There’s clear roasted malt, too with a slight hint of treacle, or possibly caramel. Nice and drinkable, but again, it lacks a certain excitement. I wouldn’t condemn any of these beers, in fact I would say that they are all pretty good, but if pressed to make a choice, I would plump for Bounder over the other two.

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Posted by on 29 November, 2013 in Bottled Beer

 

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Two Caribbean Stouts

For this part of my exploration of all things beery, I’m heading off to distant, warmer climes.
Specifically, the Caribbean islands of Jamaica and Barbados. As you know, I like to do these things
by increasing ABV, so we’ll start with Stallion Stout from Barbados.

Banks Stallion Stout small

Stallion is brewed by Banks Brewery in St Michael, Barbados (no relation to our own Banks’s
Brewery). Banks is best known for its most popular brew, the intriguingly named ‘Beer’. They also
brew other beers under their own name, Amber Ale, Milk Stout and the non-alcoholic Tiger Malt.
Banks is also the Barbadian producer of Guinness.

Stallion Stout is a new kid on the block, only having been brewed since late 2010. It’s not
desperately strong for a stout at a fairly easy-drinking 5%. It pours quite black with a light
brown head. The flavour is immediately sweet, with lactic tones that suggest milk stout. There is
lots of sweet malt in here, with clear coffee and chocolate notes. There are also, unusually, hints
of toast. There’s no getting away from it – this is very nice.

Island-hopping now, we move on to Jamaica, where a far more established stout is produced by
Jamaica’s well-known Red Stripe, a label owned by Desnoes & Geddes Brewery. Desnoes & Geddes
Brewery is also the local producer of Smirnoff Ice, Guinness (again) and Heineken. I refuse to
comment.

Red Stripe Dragon Stout small

Desnoes & Geddes started producing Dragon Stout in 1920, just two years after the company was
formed by the merging of two shops. Rather heftier than its newer Barbadian sibling, Dragon Stout
packs a meaty 7.5% ABV. Again, and unsurprisingly, the beer pours black with a thin dark brown head
that clears very quickly after the pour. The taste is strong, sweet and fruity with chocolate
notes. There is a touch of spirituous overtones, and the finish is marked by a slight earthiness.
Overall, this is a nicely complex stout, and worth checking out if you see it on the shelves.

Both these stouts come in half pint (284 ml) bottles, disappointingly small, perhaps. There are
similarities between them – both are sweet, maybe an unfamiliar flavour for most drinkers of
British stouts. Both are worth trying though, as both are interesting variants on the type, and to
be quite honest, both are very enjoyable.

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Posted by on 4 September, 2013 in Beer Styles, Bottled Beer

 

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Five Bottled Beers from Tatton Brewery

Tatton Brewery Logo

Tatton Brewery Logo

Tatton Brewery is based in Knutsford, and started brewing in 2010. They produce four regular beers along with seasonals and occasionals. The four regulars are Ale (3.7%), Blonde (4.0%), Best (4.2%) and Gold (4.8%). Their logo (above) takes us back into the depths of brewing history and depicts a couple of Mesopotamians sharing a pot of ale.

Although I’ve had some of the regulars on tap, I’m going to be discussing the bottled beers here, only one of which is a regular. As usual, I’ll review them in order of increasing strength.

Tatton White Queen small

First up is the spring seasonal, White Queen. ‘Naturally cloudy’ reads the label, ‘a whiter shade of pale’. White Queen is a white Belgian wheat beer, flavoured with coriander, orange peel and cardamom. Cardamom? Aren’t those the horrid little pod things you pick out of your curry? The beer is indeed cloudy, and a pale yellow in colour. The taste is initially sweet, followed by spiciness. The flavours I got were cloves and a hint of cinnamon. Perhaps not what should be expected from the ingredients list. Nevertheless, this is a very drinkable beer, refreshing and enjoyable.

Tatton Ruck & Maul 2 small

Tatton Ruck and Maul is a 4.3% porter, very dark red, almost black. The label reads ‘Porter – Dark but not All Black’. I’m getting hints of a rugby theme here, but I’m no aficionado. This beer pours with a thin head that quickly dissipates. The mouthfeel is smooth and chewy, the taste has treacle, chocolate and coffee and is generally quite dry. Complex and very good – I probably prefer this to the White Queen.

Tatton Yeti small

Yeti is a seasonal winter ale, weighing in at 4.5%. ‘Stomp out the chill’ suggests the label. Indeed, Yeti is a fine beer to do just that. It pours a deep orange / reddish / copperish colour (pick your favourite). Rich warm maltiness with a distinct hoppy bitter edge and finish. The malt is smooth, almost to the point of being chocolatey. This is excellent beer, and highly recommended.

Tatton Gold small

Slightly stronger is our next offering, one of Tatton’s regular range, disappointingly called ‘Gold‘. As regular readers will know, I have a big beef with boring, dull, uninspiring golden ales. This ennui normally sets in with the beer name which is almost invariably ‘Blah Gold’ or ‘Golden Meh’. Fortunately, the first sip of the boringly-named Tatton Gold is a bit of a wake-up call. The name may be insipid, but the beer certainly isn’t. Floral, hoppy and somewhat dry, it’s like a boring golden ale but with a Tatton twist which makes it really very much better. Extraordinarily good.

Tatton Obscure small

Finally in this roundup, I reach Tatton Obscure, which has already been discussed on this blog (see here) but it’s just so damned good it deserves a revisit. Obscure is considerably stronger than the other Tatton beers reviewed here at 5.7% The label reads ‘Not your obvious beer’, and that’s very true. It is a beautiful deep red colour, and in the glass just looks as pretty as a very pretty thing. On tasting, I first noticed very strong dark hops. Malt floods through, also strong, giving it a dark chocolate taste with clear notes of burnt caramel and treacle. Absolutely outstanding beer.

Tasting my way through these bottled beers from Tatton has been an enjoyable experience. Not one failed to excite my tastebuds in one way or another. I’d happily drink any of them any day.

www.tattonbrewery.co.uk

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Posted by on 27 August, 2013 in Bottled Beer, Breweries

 

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Innis & Gunn Bottled Beer

Innis & Gunn Bottles small

I have for a long time been a fan of Innis & Gunn Original, so recently, when I found a stockpile of different Innis & Gunn beers in a local supermarket, I decided that it would be a good idea to try them all out.

Firstly, I wanted to find something out about the brewer, so turned to my trusty Good Beer Guide. Astonished, I discovered that Innis & Gunn do not brew their own beer, but subcontract that lowly task to Tennent’s. A range of bottled beers is produced, but as far as I can see, none of them ever make it into a cask.

The regularly produced beers are ‘Oak Aged Beer’, ‘Original’, ‘Blonde’ and ‘Rum Cask’, or so it states in the GBG. Frankly, I find that rather confusing, as I have only ever seen one I&G label that does not have ‘Oak Aged Beer’ on it. That was I&G Blonde, which has ‘Lightly Oaked Beer’ on its label. So what is meant by ‘Oak Aged Beer’ in the GBG list? I don’t know, I can only assume that they got the information from I&G themselves.

Be that as it may, I tried out five I&G bottles, and will review them, as ever, in order of increasing ABV.

Innis & Gun Blonde small

The lightest of these beers is 6.0% Blonde. These beers are heavy-duty, and not to be trifled with! Blonde is a light yellow in colour. It has a fresh, fruity smell and is exceptionally smooth. It is very full-bodied, fruity and sweet with sweet vanilla overtones. There is a distinct spirituous overtaste. Excellent.

Innis & Gunn Original small

Next is Original, a little stronger at 6.6%. A lovely golden colour and beautifully smooth, Original has quite a bready aroma and taste. There is the characteristic sweet vanilla and subtle hints of oak from the barrels that it is matured in. There is a slight hint of whisky in the aftertaste. Quite exceptional.

The remaining three beers are all brewed to the same strength, a meaty 7.4%.

Innis & Gunn Rum Finish small

Rum Finish is, as its name suggests, matured in rum barrels. The colour is a deep ruby and on at least one occasion, the head behaved very curiously. It didn’t last after pouring, but then regrew afterwards. I had to try this with another bottle, but this time the head behaved quite normally. Bizarre. Like Original, this beer has a sweet, bready smell. The taste is a sweet toffee malt. There is fruit, a little spiciness, hints of vanilla and an alcoholic zing throughout.

Innis & Gunn Spiced Rum Finish small

Spiced Rum is a darkish orange. With the now familiar bready aroma, this beer is quite extraordinary. Finished as it is over oak infused with spiced Caribbean rum, the rum flavour is very evident, along with vanilla and toffee. It is smooth and utterly delicious.

Innis & Gunn Winter Treacle Porter 2 small

Finally, I sampled a Winter Treacle Porter, a seasonal special, I presume. The flavour here is much like Original, but noticeably stronger and with quite an alcoholic overtaste. It is sweet and treacly, so the beer is not misnamed, and there is an engaging dryness.

Overall, then, I found these beers to be exceptionally good. There is a unique set of flavours that instantly identifies every one of these beers as an Innis & Gunn, but beyond that, each one is different, and each one is utterly superb. I recommend all of them to you.

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Posted by on 4 June, 2013 in Bottled Beer

 

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Five Brilliant Dark Ales

As I sit here typing this, outside my study window the snow is falling quite heavily onto an already deeply-whited landscape. I went for a walk this morning, and out in the fields I found drifts of snow that threatened to tip over the top of my wellies. Snow transforms the landscape into magical, fantastical vistas and yet also brings the very real threat of traffic accidents, delays (I’ve had no post today) and at the extreme, death. Snow is both exhilarating and frightening, beautiful and deadly.

Many people prefer to remain locked up tight and warm indoors at times like this, sipping cocoa and hot soup, but I like to get out, specifically to the pub, for a pint or two of a doughty, warming dark ale. You knew something like that was coming, didn’t you?

Of course it’s possible that you really can’t get out, in which case it is always advisable to have a good stock of wonderful dark beer ready for such an eventuality. Here are five brilliant dark beers, bottled and waiting for you right now on the supermarket shelves. In no particular order:

Williams Bros March of the Penguins 2 small

Williams Brothers March of the Penguins is a 4.9% dream of a stout, pouring a very dark brown colour rather than black with a good brown head. Masses of body complimented by a strong, dark flavour, the beer is creamy and sweet with a deliciously malty start which transforms into a finish that is both mildly hoppy and slightly fruity. Deeply satisfying.

TSA Glencoe 4 small

Traditional Scottish Ales Glencoe is our second stout from Scotland, described on the bottle as a ‘Premium Wild Oat Stout’ of 4.5% ABV. It is a very dark red in colour, the redness only really visible if you hold it up to a light. Coffee and chocolate aromas dominate the smell. The mouthfeel is smooth and velvety, a rich and malty taste with strong chocolate and coffee flavours. There’s something else here, nagging away at the edge of the taste – is it the oats? Could be. There is an underlying hint of smoke throughout the taste. Simply fabulous.

Blakemere Deep Dark Secret small

Blakemere Deep Dark Secret is again very dark red, virtually black, just hints of red in direct light. The head is light brown and short-lived. Weighing in at a respectable 5.2%, this dark ale, described on the label as a ‘liquorice porter’, is quite distinct in its flavour profile. The taste is very dark, malty and bitter. Yes, there is liquorice in the taste, but this isn’t like the stuff you chewed in the playground. It’s very dark and bitter and ultimately far more satisfying.

Tatton Obscure small

Tatton Obscure will blow your conceptions of dark beer right out of the water. Described on the label very vaguely as ‘real Cheshire ale’, this 5.7% beer is guaranteed to surprise you. If you’re like me, it will also delight you. It pours a beautiful deep red in colour, and the smell is not what you expect. You would expect malt, fruit, maybe coffee and chocolate, but no, what you get here is strong, dark hops. The taste is a revelation. It is strongly malty, giving it a dark chocolate taste with strong notes of burnt caramel and treacle. The overarching flavour, though, is those dark, bitter hops, making this a very hoppy, very bitter beer. Absolutely outstanding.

Ridgeway Bad King John small

Ridgeway Bad King John is the strongest beer in this selection. It’s 6.0% and is a dark reddish-brown in colour. This beer provides a whole mouthful of flavour. It’s very dark with strong bitter malt. The label says the flavour is ‘intense’, and that’s about as good a word as I could have thought of to describe it. It is full of darkness with a distinct espresso flavour along with hints of chocolate and dried fruit. Definitely a different taste experience from those earlier creamy stouts, but then it does not claim to be a stout, merely describing itself on the label, somewhat mysteriously, as ‘a very English black ale’. Well worth seeking out.

Thanks for reading. More dark beers to follow.

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Posted by on 21 January, 2013 in Bottled Beer

 

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Some Christmas Bottled Beers from 2012

Christmas has been and gone once more, and again I find myself pondering the special beers brewed for this special season. It’s a season that these days many people are as glad to see the back of as they are to welcome. It’s true that Christmas is a time of great pressure for many people. Gifts HAVE to be bought, and what you buy for Bob must be of an equal value to what you buy for Jane. Cards MUST be sent to obscure relations you wouldn’t recognise if you fell over them and to that couple you met on holiday seventeen years ago and haven’t seen since. Masses of food MUST be prepared and ready on time. People MUST be visited and at all time, you MUST look happy and full of joy.

If you’re anything like me, then that final requirement can get a bit stretched. What’s the answer? De-commercialise Christmas and just let everyone have a couple of days off work with their feet up? Sounds tempting, but what are the chances? No, we know the real answer – BEER!

I’ve picked out five beers that I supped over this Christmas, starting with a couple from the Cheshire-based brewery Blakemere, which also brews under the name of Northern.

Blakemere Ho Ho Ho 1 small

Blakemere Ho Ho Ho Hoppy Christmas enters with a high placement on the over-forced pun stakes. A light beer, Ho Ho Ho Hoppy Christmas weighs in at just 3.7%. It’s a mid-yellow in colour and sports only the thinnest of heads. Although there’s no indication on the bottle as to what type of beer this is, it’s a bitter, and a fairly ordinary one at that. The first taste impression is that it’s earthy, with a touch of soap. There is a growing hoppiness towards the finish, but it’s mostly earthy and soapy.

Blakemere Santa's Slide 2 small

A little stronger is Blakemere Santa’s Slide, described on the bottle as a ‘Yuletide Golden Best Bitter’. It’s as well to cover all options, I suppose. This is slightly darker in colour than Ho… etc., being more of a pale orange. The smell is good; hoppy and pithy. The taste delivers a smooth hoppiness with distinct citrus pith. The bitterness is never harsh and the flavours work nicely together to form a nice, rounded beer. Good.

White Horse Rudolph the Red Nosed White Horse Beer small

Ho… etc. is joined in the over-forced pun stakes by White Horse Rudolf the Red Nosed White Horse Beer. Yeah. It’s 4.8% and is a dark red colour, tending to brown. I suppose those with a more poetic view of colours than mine would call it chestnut, Which is quite appropriate for this nutty beer. Warm toffee notes and a good deal of marmalady bitterness join with the nuttiness along with some citrus pith and fruit. Quite a complex, warming taste, and most welcome on a cold December evening.

George Wright Reindeer's Revenge small

George Wright Reindeer’s Revenge is a heftier affair, punching in at 5.1%. This is a lively beer as it pours, forming a big, frothy head, even when poured carefully. There’s loads of hoppy bitterness here with a good side order of grapefruit pith. The hops used are Citra, and have a distinct floral-citrus flavour.  Cracking beer!

Innis & Gunn Winter Treacle Porter 2 small

Finally, I treated myself to an Innis & Gunn Winter Treacle Porter. This beer is oak-aged for 39 days and has treacle added, as you probably guessed from its name. It’s by far the strongest of these beers at 7.4%, and it even comes in a box. It pours a lovely dark red, with a promising aroma of fruity malt. From the first sip, you can tell that this beer is from Innis & Gunn. There’s just something about that unique flavour. It has a surprisingly light touch at the start, but the flavour grows with treacle and molasses and hints of rich fruit. There is quite a noticeable spirituous overtaste, common to many beers of this strength. Throughout the taste, there is an unexpected but engaging dryness. Yum yum!

Although Christmas is now over, it’s still the depths of winter, so I’m still in dark beer mode. More to come…

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Posted by on 7 January, 2013 in Bottled Beer

 

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Three Pale Ales from Thornbridge

The still-young Thornbridge Brewery (opened 2005) enjoys an enviable reputation for quality and innovation. The brewery is currently situated in the lovely little town of Bakewell in Derbyshire, but the original site at Thornbridge Hall is still operating for beer development. The beers have won something like 200 awards between them, so when I saw a little cluster of Thornbridge pale ales in a supermarket recently, I had to get them.

Thornbridge Pale Ales small

These three beers are all described (albeit slightly differently) as ‘pale ales’, and as I have an issue (well documented in these pages) with breweries that produce a range of beers virtually indistinguishable from each other, I thought this would be something of an acid test for Thornbridge beers.

As ever, I will review in order of ascending ABV.

Thornbridge Wild Swan 2 small

Thornbridge Wild Swan at just 3.5% is described on the bottle as a ‘White Gold Pale Ale’. It pours a very pale yellow in colour, almost straw-like. The head is thin and short-lived. It has a bright, clean, hoppy aroma, which immediately invites you in. The taste is quite startling; a huge, fresh, hoppy mouthful with a pleasing twist of lemony citrus. This is amazingly full-flavoured for a 3.5% beer. Buckets full of aroma, flavour and bittering hops. Superb. There is much that some breweries could learn from this.

Thornbridge Kipling small

Moving way up the alcohol scale, we next arrive at Thornbridge Kipling, a 5.2% beer described as a ‘South Pacific Pale Ale’. This beer is made with Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand – hence the name. Nelson Sauvin is one of the very best of the new generation of hop varieties that we are seeing at the moment. The aroma of this beer is hoppy, but quite mildly so, quite unlike Wild Swan. Beautiful tropical fruit flavours dominate – a trademark of the Nelson Sauvin hop. The finish is excellent, nicely bitter with some muted pithy citrus running underneath. Wonderfully refreshing.

Thornbridge Jaipur small

My final bottle was Thornbridge Jaipur, a multi award-winning IPA. Weighing in at 5.9%, this one packs a nice alcoholic wallop. The beer pours a pale orange in colour. The smell is again hoppy. The initial taste is misleading. It tastes quite mild and the flavours all seem somewhat muted. It doesn’t last; buckets of bitter hops follow and the bitterness grows for a long time, ending up dry and earthy. Citrus pith is present throughout. This is one of those beers that also tastes excellent on the burp.

With these three pale ales, on the surface seeming fairly similar, Thornbridge has provided a masterclass in brewing technique. The beers are, indeed, all pale ales, and yet they are each wildly different from the others. Thank you, Thornbridge, for such an enjoyable taste experience.

http://www.thornbridgebrewery.co.uk/

For rants about brewers producing samey beers, see Four Bottled Beers from Wold Top, Teme Valley This & That and Four Bottled Ales from Fyne Ales

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Posted by on 11 December, 2012 in Beer Styles, Bottled Beer, Breweries

 

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