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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

Words and images are my copyright (except Tatton’s logo, which of course is theirs), please respect that. All you have to do is ask. Thank you.

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

 

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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

Words and images are my copyright, please respect that. All you have to do is ask. Thank you.

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

 

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Guest Blog – Rochefort Trappist Beers

Guest blogger Otto Rhoden returns this time with an excellent survey of three of his favourite beers (mine too, as it happens). Enjoy!

After the success of my first venture into blogging here is my second blog and it is about my favourite Trappist Brewery ROCHEFORT. Actually known as Notre-Dame de Saint-Remy, this monastery began brewing in 1595. They brew three beers, “6”, “8” and “10” they are all dark and very moreish ales. First a little bit of “gen” about Trappist Breweries:-

“Trappist” – This term is properly applied only to a brewery in a monastery of the Trappist Order, one of the most severe orders of monks. This order, established at La Trappe, in Normandy, is a stricter observance of the Cistercian rule (from Cîteaux, in Burgundy), itself a breakaway from the Benedictines. Among the dozen or so surviving abbey breweries in Europe, seven are Trappist; six in Belgium and one just across the Dutch border, all established in their present form by Trappists who left France after the turbulence of the Napoleonic period. The Trappists have the only monastic breweries in Belgium, all making strong ales with a re-fermentation in the bottle (bottle conditioned). Some gain a distinctive rummy character from the use of candy-sugar in the brew-kettle. They do not represent a style, but they are very much a family of beers. The breweries are Westmalle,  Achel Orval, Chimay, Rochefort, Westvleteren (the smallest brewery in the order) and La Trappe (which is in the Netherlands). By law, no other breweries are entitled to apply that name to their product. Between these abbeys about 20 beers are brewed. All are top-fermenting, and usually very strong, bottle conditioned ales.

I will be giving my opinion of all three of the Rochefort ales. Note all the beers are from a 330ml bottle, which I poured into a goblet, and all beers were chilled in the fridge for approximately 10 minutes.

We’ll start with Rochefort 6, (Strong Dark Ale) at 7.5% ABV. This is the “weakest” brew by the monks!  It pours a slight hazy brown with an orange amber hue, with a small, light, off-white head that quickly vanishes to some foamy films on top. There is not much lace. Carbonation is actively high which is not a bad thing. The aroma has notes of sweet fruit, bread, a touch of sherry, toffee and slight white raisin notes. The taste is complex and delicious, with notes of sweet apricot, pear and sweet green raisin, and some yeasty spice, finishing dry and slightly sweet. Overall it is harmoniously well rounded with a pleasing hint of chocolate and gentle hop notes, and is very drinkable

On to Rochefort 8, (Dubbel) at 9.2% ABV. This one is not for the faint hearted! It pours a wonderful, dark brown colour into my goblet. This beer has a wonderfully fluffy head with very good retention. Aromas of alcohol, sour cherries, hops, cinnamon, and malt were obvious immediately with hints of chocolate/coffee-like malt. And so to the taste; hints of fig and vanilla, with a big alcohol presence. The second sip, however, is much kinder, with a sweet malty flavour showing up first, followed by dark fruit and finally a lovely bittersweet chocolate finish. A bit spicy throughout as well – perhaps ginger? As the beer warms, the alcohol mellows to a gentle peppery flavour which blends nicely into the overall flavours of the beer. It leaves a malty and plummy finish that is again quite dry. Truly, one of the all-time greats.

Last but not least one of my all-time favourite beers Rochefort 10,(Quadrupel) at 11.3% this is a beer to sip and savour. I like to have it either after a rich dark chocolate dessert or with a big hearty beef stew. Anyway let’s get to my overall view of this truly great beer. This pours a near black colour, but you still can definitely notice that there’s some murkiness about it. Some reddish hints can be seen through the glass if held against a light. Quite a big, dense, off-white head that keeps to the last sips, lacing all the way down the glass. WOW! The aromas give a nasal overload!  Chocolate, raisins, currants, plums, cherries, green pear, cloves and spices all intermingle and fight for a place; every smell provides a subtly different sensation. The taste doesn’t hit the palate as hard as you expect from the nose. Super delish! The flavours ease their way in, starting with sweet plums and some liquorice. Then comes a wave of sweetness in the form of figs and nutmeg. Very rich with a light carbonation that provides just enough punch to offset it. There really isn’t any bitterness present at all. A nice warming beer for a winter’s night. This is a “must-try-beer”. Long live the Trappist Monks of Belgium!

Hope you enjoyed my second beer blog, ‘Op uw gezondheid.’

Otto.

Rochefort Brewery

Words and images are Otto’s copyright, please respect that. All you have to do is ask. Thank you.

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Posted by on 30 November, 2012 in Beer Styles, Bottled Beer, Breweries

 

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Dipton Mill Inn and the Hexhamshire Brewery

A couple of miles south of Hexham, in an achingly lovely spot, sits the Dipton Mill Inn. The Inn is an old farmhouse dating to the 17th century. The Mill (actually two mills) of the name, dating to the 1300s, burned down in 1783, though the mill-race still circles the grounds of the current inn.

This little gem of an inn is also home to the Hexhamshire brewery, founded in 1993 and currently operating from Ordley, less than two miles away up Dipton Mill Road. There are plans to move the brewery to the Inn itself in the near future.

The first impression of the inn is of a picturesque, almost chocolate-boxy looking pub, quintessentially English. Unfortunately, it was too dark to take a useable photograph when I was there, but see their website (address below). Inside, the pub is snug. Low-beamed ceilings, panelled walls and half flagged/half carpeted floor all add to a sense of cosiness. There are only a few tables, and the bar is compact but bristling with handpumps, most dispensing the Hexhamshire beers.

The atmosphere is friendly inside, each time a local walks in, cries of greeting hail them. I was standing at the bar, ordering a couple of sample jars and the landlord, Geoff Brooker, was standing next to me. He spends as much time leaning on the punters’ side of the bar as he does behind it. “So,” I started, “you brew this beer then?”

He shook his head emphatically. “No, no, no!” He pointed at a chap sitting at a table behind us. “He does it.” The chap looked up from his beer. “No, no, no I don’t!” he said. Puzzling. “Unless you like it,” he added. Ah.

As it happens, the gentleman pointed to was actually the brewer, John Henderson. After a couple of pints he came over and sat with Lady Alebagger and myself in the way that friendly locals do in these places. Warms your cockles, so it does. John does the actual brewing, following recipes devised by Geoff. The beers have been very successful, with Hexhamshire Lightside winning an award at the Newcastle Beer Festival in 2010.The brewery’s stout, Blackhall English Stout, goes down so well that Geoff has taken Guinness off the bar (this momentous event has also taken place in my regular watering hole, where Titanic Stout (from a keg, no less) has replaced Guinness).

We chatted for some time with John, who seemed only too pleased to talk about his brewing. His own favourite is Whapweasel, which is the only Hexhamshire beer I had tasted before. The brewery mainly supplies to local outlets, but with some leakage into Yorkshire and Lancashire, where my local got some in March 2011.

John Henderson

So, what of the beers themselves? I’ll start with the Hexhamshire Whapweasel, a 4.8% brew described as a bitter by the brewer, but I would class as a best. It’s a mid orange colour, just about right for type. The first flavour is fairly sweet, redolent of caramel. A nice overlying hoppiness grows throughout the taste to finish with a satisfying bitterness. I’d be happy to drink this any day of the week.

Hexhamshire Shire Bitter is a 3.6% bitter (no argument over this one). It’s a pale orange, again, just right for the type. The beer is clear and bright and packs a good deal of refreshment. Having said that, all the flavours in this beer are very slight, and I had to concentrate a bit to discern what they are. Caramel is in there, as in Whapweasel, but much fainter, as is the bitter hops. This is a very popular brew and is the pub’s regular bitter.

The next brew I tried was Hexhamshire Devil’s Elbow, slightly stronger than the Shire Bitter at 3.8%, but what a difference! The mouthfeel is really smooth. The flavour is rich and full-bodied, with toffee dominating, and just a hint of bittering hoppiness at the end. Given the choice, I’d have this over the regular bitter any time.

I then moved on to the famous stout, Hexhamshire Blackhall English Stout. 4% and a deep black, it looked very inviting. I took a small sip. John looked at me closely. “What do you think?” he asked. I sat still, letting the beer give me its full complement of flavours. “It’s exceptional,” I said, and I wasn’t exaggerating. During my trip to the North East, I spent over two weeks sampling beers from pubs in Northumberland, County Durham and Yorkshire, and out of all of them, this was to be the best. It’s simply gorgeous. Velvety smooth with flavours of coffee, cream, almond and a hint of smoke at the back of the mouth.

Hexhamshire Blackhall English Stout

I returned from the bar with a Hexhamshire Devil’s Water, a 4.1% ale with an orangey red colour. “Now I don’t like that one,” confessed John. Neither did I. It was vinegar. However, Geoff was good enough to take the trip down to the cellar to connect up a fresh barrel for me. I’m afraid I still didn’t like it. It tasted quite harsh and not very pleasant. Ah well, can’t win ’em all.

I was persuaded (quite easily, now I think of it) to have a jar of Hexhamshire Old Humbug, a dark orange, slightly hazy beer, weighing in at a very respectable 5.5% and named after the landlord. “Do you know a beer called ‘Old Peculier’?” asked John. Do I! “Well this is better!” he declared. Throwing down a challenge to my favourite beer? Bring it on! Old Humbug is sweet and malty with distinct spirituous overtones and a thick mouthfeel. Almost a meal in a glass. It is very, very good, but better than OP? Weeell…

I must also mention the food at the Dipton Mill, prepared and served by Geoff’s wife Janet. I had minced beef with dumplings and vegetables, whilst Lady A had haddock with tomato and basil. Both were utterly superb.

www.diptonmill.co.uk

Words and images are my copyright, please respect that. All you have to do is ask. Thank you.

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Posted by on 26 September, 2012 in Breweries, Cask Ale, Pubs

 

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Quantum Brewery, Stockport

On my Christmas pub crawl round Manchester last year, I visited the excellent Port Street Beer House. Whilst there, I sampled an Imperial Russian Stout (with cranberries) from a brewery I had not heard of before – Quantum.

I posted my review of the Port Street Beer House and the beers I drank there – including the Quantum Impy (I loved it, but couldn’t taste the cranberries) – here on my blog. Shortly afterwards, I received a tweet from Jay Krause, owner and head brewer of Quantum brewery promising to add more cranberries next time he brewed it. During the following few days, we passed messages back and forth and Jay revealed that the recipe for the impy was one that he had adapted from a homebrew recipe. Growing more curious by the minute, I arranged to meet Jay in the brewery the following week.

Inconspicuous – apart from the smell

The Quantum Brewery is located in a single unit of a very small industrial estate in Stockport. There are no big ‘Welcome to Quantum Brewery’ signs, but as I climbed out of my car in the tiny courtyard, my nose told me I was in the right place. The alluring aroma of mashing malt led me straight to the right door.

I had arrived at the end of the mash, and the grains were being sparged. Although normally a solo brewer, today Jay had an assistant, a young lad employed by a local pub and being trained in the art of brewing.

Jay and I sat down with a cup of coffee – from a cafetière, no less, and let the obviously more than capable young chap get on with it. Jay is late-twenties, long-haired and gentle voiced, and he told me about how he bought Dukinfield’s Shaw’s Brewery when it came up for sale. It was run down, and little more than a hobby brewery by the time. Unfortunately the premises did not come as part of the deal, and he had to search around to find suitable premises to set up his new brewery. He got the keys to his current premises on the 1st April, 2011. The brewery’s key words are ‘local’ and ‘quality’. Everything is sourced as locally as possible, and to as high a quality as possible.

Quantum produces three regular beers – Bitter (3.8%), Stout (4.8%) and American Amber Ale (5.3%), plus a number of one-off beers, seasonal specials and a couple of series beers – Fleur series (using different flowers in each brew) and a single-hop IPA series which so far has included Motueka hops (New Zealand), Super Alpha hops (New Zealand), Nelson Sauvin hops (New Zealand), Willamette hops (United States), Summit hops (United States) and Aramis hops (France).

As you can probably tell, Jay is an experimenter. He’s been home brewing for eight years, and clearly has a talent for coming up with exciting and great tasting beer. His enthusiasm for brewing is infectious. ‘Look here,’ he says at one point. We squeeze between the brewery’s two fermenters and he points out a bucket of homebrew tucked in behind them.

‘Try this,’ he says, pouring a little beer out of another homebrew barrel. The beer was not fully ready for presentation, it was pretty cloudy, but the taste was incredible. Rich, thick, exceptionally smooth malt flavours present at the start, and just as you’re thinking ‘Oh, that’s nice!’ the hops leap out of nowhere and smack you in the taste buds. Quite sensational. He looks ruefully at the beer. ‘I can’t afford to make that one commercially – the hops are far too expensive, and as it runs to about 8.5%, the duty would be crippling.’

Quantum currently runs a 5 barrel plant, supplying 50 or 60 outlets, and sells everything that it produces. He’s running at full capacity and needs to expand. Demand is understandably high for the amazing beers produced by this tiny little start-up brewery.

As I take my leave, Jay presents me with an unlabelled bottle. ‘It’s SK1,’ he says. This is Quantum’s 7.4% barley wine. The labels for the bottles are still at the (local) printers.

I drank the SK1 (Stockport’s premier postcode) a couple of weeks later. It’s a deep ruby red in colour and has a rich fruity smell. The fruit carries through into the taste, but with an added bitterness. As the wonderful mouthful of fruit fades, it is replaced by hops, leading to a long, bitter finish. Absolutely cracking stuff, and I for one will be heading to the Stockport beer festival in June, where a barrel of SK1 will be available.

Quantum SK1 Barley wine

As I’m leaving, I mention to Jay that he just seems like a home brewer with bigger buckets than most of us. He nods, ‘Yeah,’ he says, ‘it’s really a hobby that just got out of control’.

So, if you spot an interesting beer on the bar, and see that it’s from Quantum Brewery, take a tip from me – buy with confidence!

Words and images are my copyright, please respect that. All you have to do is ask. Thank you.

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