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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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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.

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 4 June, 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…

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 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

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 – Epic Beers

I would like to introduce my first guest blogger. ‘Otto’, or ‘the Otto Dude’ is a familiar figure on the beer scene in the north-west of England and throughout the land. His website, ‘Otto’s Rambles’, mentioned below, is well worth a look if you are planning to visit somewhere on a beer holiday. In this blog, Otto tells us about three beers from the New Zealand Epic Brewery.

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Hi Fellow Beer Drinkers!

Let me introduce myself. I am known as ‘OTTO’ on the UK beer festival scene and I have a web site that I try to keep up to date – www.ottosrambles.co.uk that gives the low down on the best bars and pubs etc. to sup beer in around the world, so if you are looking for somewhere to go on that long awaited beer vacation then you can’t go far wrong by checking out my web site first.

I don’t usually write about the beers I have tried. This is actually my first attempt! Which is pretty poor actually as I have tried over 10,000 beers over the last 12 years. I know it’s a hard job but some one has to do it!

I was recently lucky enough to be sent three ‘Epic’ beers, from a friend on Facebook, whom I have never met in person, but who is also a beer lover and hails from the UK. Don’t you just love beer people?

So let’s begin with the Epic Brewery. Based in Otahuhu, Auckland, founded in November 2005, and one of the new Hop Forward brewers, they have even done a couple of collaboration brews; one with Dogfish Head (USA) where a beer called ‘Portamarillo’ was brewed with Pohutakawa wood-smoked Tamarillo fruit and another with Thornbridge (UK) to brew an Epic version of their Imperial IPA, Halcyon. While at Thornbridge, Kelly Ryan decided to up-sticks and move to NZ and become part of the team, The motto is; You can only drink so many beers in a lifetime, so you’d better make each one count. They also brew some awesome stouts and porters, plus they have won many international awards for their beers.

So I was sent three bottles of Hop Zombie, which I had been waiting a long time to try, plus Message in a Bottle and First Batch NZIPA.

I will start with the Message in a Bottle at 7.5% ABV. This is brewed in the old English style of IPAs that used to be exported by ship around the empire; It pours a copper colour with a fluffy head and lacing that lasted on the glass to the last sip.

This one has a definite British hop character, as it has Fuggles and Challenger in the brew.  The smell is quite fruity with notes such as nectarine, ripe apricots and golden peaches. This is such a great smell that says “drink me now!”   So without more ado let’s get down to the taste which has a good whack of hops upfront, prickly and bitter followed by a touch of marzipan and blackberries, plus a fruity maltiness – but the star is the huge hoppy bitterness.

Overall I would say this beer matches up to any IPA and is really true to style, not over-bitter and with a good malt backbone. I would definitely sup this again given the opportunity.

So now for the First Batch NZ IPA. At 6.8% ABV, it’s not a lightweight. This is the first time ever the newly named Waimea hops have been used in a commercial beer. So new in fact that at the time the beer was brewed they hadn’t even been named. It is also brewed with NZ malts to make this a true NZ beer. On pouring there are aromas of passion fruit, pineapple, gooseberries and toffee lollies. Anyway it pours a clear light golden amber with a large bubble laden head that stays to the end of the glass.

So to the taste: there are notes of mangoes, pineapple, toffee and berries that are finished with good herbal hop that gives a nice tangy bitterness and invites a second taste. This rewards you with more exotic fruits and a tingly mouthfeel going all the way to the back of the throat. If this is what New Zealand tastes like then bring it on down!

Now the one I had been waiting to try for a long time and I was not disappointed. Hop Zombie is a cheeky little 8.5% ABV IPA.  This beer is an apocalyptic psychopath of a beer and I loved it. So let’s try and describe this world-class IPA. This beer has a pale colour when poured. The head isn’t super-retentive, and leaves a light lacing which lasts to the finish. Great aromas of mandarin, passion fruit and zesty citrus that all mingle well. Nice and hoppy, and very well put together.

And so to the long-awaited taste test, WOW! tangy hop flavours shine out easily over the malt base. The malt is there to provide sweetness to balance out the hop profile. It’s just lovely how easy drinking it is for an 8.5% beer (beware). There are tropical fruit flavours all over and then your tongue is wrung out with bitterness followed by shockwaves of citrus, tangerine and Turkish Delight! This is not the atomic hop-bomb I was expecting at all. This is a gorgeous beer that leaves the mouth full of tropical fruit flavours.

Hop Zombie is definitely up there as one of my all-time top beers.

Anyway, hoped you liked my first beer blog and maybe I will be asked / tempted to do another one at some point!

Prost Otto

The images and words in this post are Otto’s copyright. If you want to reproduce any of it, just drop me a line. Thanks.

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Posted by on 12 October, 2012 in Bottled Beer

 

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Three Bottled Beers from Stringer’s

The watchword at Stringer’s Brewery in Ulverston in Lancashire is “renewable”. The microbrewery (which they helpfully define as “like a big brewery but much smaller” on their bottle labels) is powered entirely by renewable energy. They’ve been around for about four years now, and are starting to have a real impact. All their beers are based on Maris Otter malt, whole flower hops and Lakeland water. Personally, I have had eight of their beers from the cask and three from bottles. I’m going to concentrate on these last three. None of these is bottle conditioned.

I’ll start with Stringer’s XB (4.2%), which as you would expect from its name is a best bitter. In fact, although the bottle is labelled XB, this is called Stringer’s Best Bitter when it comes from the cask. It’s a mid-orange in colour and the bottle produces a thin head. The smell combines a warm maltiness with nice flowery hops. The overriding taste is of the bittering hops – there is a real abundance of hop flavour which grows and grows through the taste. At the finish it almost tastes like quinine. The malt is detectable as a small undertaste. The cask version produces a more flowery dry finish, but either way, this is a beautiful beer.

Next, Stringer’s Dry Stout (no picture of this one, sorry). This has a respectable ABV of 4.5% and pours black. It is dark and deeply malty with delghtful hints of toffee, coffee and chocolate. The dryness becomes most apparent in the finish. Lovely.

Finally, we move on to the strongest of the three. Stringer’s IPA has an ABV of 5.5%, and packs a huge wallop of taste. It starts spicy and peppery, growing through a real orange marmalade middle and finishing with very strong floral hops at the end. A whole array of fantastic flavours in one mouthful. I love a complex beer, and I love this.

www.stringersbeer.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 August, 2012 in Bottled Beer

 

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Four Bottled Beers from Ilkley

I’ve not had much luck recently when tasting a number of bottled beers from an individual brewery. I’ve not had anything really bad, but equally I’ve not had anything that raises its head much above the mundane. The thing that most annoys me is that many brewers produce a range of beers that all taste the same. I mean, what is the point? And so it was with a certain resignation that I bought four bottles from Ilkley Brewery.

All four were middle-of-the-range for alcohol content, ranging from 3.5% to 4.2%. As usual, I’ll review them in increasing ABV. None of the beers is bottle conditioned.

Mary Jane is a 3.5% golden ale, a pale yellow in colour, not quite straw-coloured. This beer is full-flavoured and packs quite a hoppy punch. There is grapefruit pith and floral overtones add a lightness of touch to the flavour. A nice, refreshing pale hoppy beer. There were slight disinfectant hints in there too, though these faded the further down the glass I got. This indicates perhaps a slight problem with the yeast in this particular batch, and it is not something I would expect to recur.

Ilkley Black is a 3.7% dark mild. It pours a lovely deep red colour. Liquorice dominates the smell. For 3.7%, this beer is amazingly smooth, with flavours of malt, chocolate and liquorice. There are bags of flavour in there, and it is very good. Unusually for me during a tasting session, I wished that I had another bottle of this to drink right away.

The third bottle was Ilkley Best, a 4.0% Yorkshire best bitter. The colour is a reddy brown chestnut. Made with 99% Maris Otter and 1% Black malts, this beer is strongly hopped with Galena and Brewer’s Gold hops. The result is a true best bitter. Darkish look, bags of maltiness and a really good, strong, bitter finish.

My final beer from Ilkley was Ilkley Pale, the strongest of the four, weighing in at a still modest 4.2%. Ilkley Pale is hopped with the fantastic New Zealand Nelson Sauvin hops, which give a wonderful floral hoppy aroma to the beer. It is wonderfully refreshing, a crisp, clear taste with great floral hoppy bitterness which grows at the finish. It’s great to find a beer that is so easy-drinking without any danger of it being bland. Splendid.

I needn’t have worried. Although I’ve been brought down a bit by some dull bottled beers recently, Ilkley has come along and restored my faith. I enjoyed all of these beers and would happily buy them all again. Best of all, they were all very different, and each one was a fine exemplar of its type.

http://www.ilkleybrewery.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 13 August, 2012 in Bottled Beer

 

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