Category Archives: Bottled Beer

Christmas time, mistletoe and… beer

It’s that time of the year again, when session bitters masquerading as winter warmers can line up alongside genuinely festive offerings like the seasonal Belgian beers, and all be loosely described as Christmas Beers. Among them this year we found a new Christmas Ale that lived up to the promise of being “full of festive flavour”. It’s also the beer that most looks like it was brewed by Santa Claus himself.

Norfocopia

Norfocopia, based in Didlington, Norfolk, only started earlier this year and beers flavoured with birch sap, gorse flowers and elderflowers soon appeared at Peterborough Beer Festival. The label describes how the Christmas Ale was brewed:

Each day the fermenting ale is ‘dropped’ into another vessel and a different ingredient added – figs soaked in Brandy, then Christmas mincemeat soaked in country wine and finally a seasonal blend of spices.

Most of those ingredients were evident in the aroma, a waft of cloves, cinnamon and fruit cake, while the flavour and mouthfeel was overwhelmingly like red fruit wine, with cranberries and more spice, low carbonation and lighter bodied than I’d have expected of a beer based on “a normal stout recipe”, not full bodied enough for me but full of festive flavour alright. My interest in the brewery is further piqued by the description of a forthcoming pale ale “fermented with saffron and coconut infused Thai rice”. I picked up my bottle of Norfocopia Christmas Ale from Beautiful Beers.

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Christmas Beers 2012

Christmas beers – beers defined by a festive themed label. I used to believe these promised something dark, rich or seasonally spiced, but often they’re more likely to be thin, chestnut coloured session bitters (Hardys & Hansons Rocking Rudolph, Shepherd Neame Rudolph’s Revenge etc). Several years running I’d buy a bottle of Rosey Nosey, hoping that it might live up to it’s billing as ‘Christmas pudding in a glass!’. It never did. It was like the disappointment of watching what you thought was the real Santa, leave the back of the grotto, pull off the fake beard and climb into a Renault Espace.

I was going to give up on Christmas beers altogether – a bottle of Moor Freddy Walker proved to be the real ‘liquid Christmas pudding’ I’d been looking for, and in any case I always keep back plenty of great beers for the Christmas holidays so why disappoint myself with festive themed beers at all. But there’ve been a few exceptions, Christmas themed beers that lived up to the promise, so I put away a few good ones last Christmas, picked up a few more that sounded promising this year, and then suddenly it was time to get drinking them.

Christmas Beers

Rogue Santas Private Reserve:
Christmassy? Not really. Good? Absolutely. With a familiar Rogue aroma and flavour, presumably in part down to the house yeast, this is a variation on the St Rogue Red ale that first turned my head to their beers. A nicely balanced Amber Ale with a hint of spiciness that’s more on the imagination than on the tongue – it’s that festive label at work.

Brew Dog Hoppy Christmas:
Another beer that merely throws on a santa hat and doesn’t try too hard to pretend to be Christmassy – a tropical fruit flavoured IPA that would be just as refreshing on a hot summer day.

Bocq Christmas:
Ah, this is more like it, strong dark, rich, fruity with fermented pears and plums, spicy and sweet. This is what I was looking for in a Christmas beer and I’ll definitely look out for this next year.

St Feuillien Cuvée de Noël:
Wow! What an incredible aroma. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed sniffing a beer as much as I did this one. That’s not to say it didn’t also taste good, just that the aroma was so strong and delightful. Aromas of liquorice allsorts, aniseed, marzipan, pears and icing sugar, with milder yeasty, caramel flavours and a good shake of white pepper to finish.

Anchor Christmas Ale:
This one was put away in 2009. I don’t remember how it tasted when it was fresh, so can’t say what ageing has done for it, but the aroma is of strong Christmas potpourri. Probably the most ‘Christmassy’ in terms of spices – big aromas of ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Very strong herbal flavours that thinned out to something like root beer, and I don’t like root beer. Interesting then, but I can’t say I particularly enjoyed this – I didn’t even finish the bottle. I have another bottle of this from 2009 which I’ll let sit for a couple more years to see how it develops.

Titanic Christmas Ale:
This bottle was from a batch I bought a few of last year. One bottle made an appearance on Christmas day and was a great accompaniment to the rich foods being served. A few days later I had one on its own and it seemed just a bit too rich to drink unaccompanied – in the same way a dessert wine is best served with food. It could be that leaving it a year has improved it, because it went down a treat on its own this time. A strong ale, deep amber in colour with thick caramel and honey flavours, predominantly malty but with some spicy hop in the finish. A really enjoyable winter warmer. I still have one left I’ll put away for another year.

Humpty Dumpty Christmas Crack:
Another bottle from last year, a favourite Christmas beer that tastes better than ever. Wonderful full-bodied malty, chocolatey goodness with a good lip smacking of spicy, orangey hops. Just about the perfect Christmas beer for me and a good note to end on…

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

The 5X Factor

Living in East Anglia, it’s hard to get exited by Greene King. As a brewery, the ubiquitous IPA is generally one of the blandest of brown beers (though at the Hoops, Barton it was enjoyable enough), and most of their seasonal beers just seem like slight variations of it, while as a retail business ‘Greed King’ seems more well known for closing pubs than running them.

Then I tried Old 5X…

Old 5X

Old 5X is a 12% abv beer, matured in Victorian oak vats for at least two years. It is not sold singularly but is blended with other beers to produce two Greene King beers – Strong Suffolk Vintage Ale and Old Crafty Hen. Young 5X that hasn’t matured is used to produce Suffolk Springer. On it’s own Old 5X is rarely made publically available. I encountered it for the first time this year when some appeared at the Bury St Edmunds East Anglian Beer Festival in April and later at the Great British Beer Festival in August. The first time I tried it, along with a number of people sat round the same table, I was blown away. I had no idea Greene King kept such a remarkable beer, and although I liked their Strong Suffolk and XX Mild, Old 5X was unexpectedly great – and this from a brewery that makes IPA Smooth and Ruddles Best?!

Then the other week I was given a small plastic bottle of Old 5X a friend acquired during a visit to the brewery. I happened to have bottles of the two beers it is used to produce, quickly got hold of the Suffolk Springer which uses the fresh 5X, and had a back-to-back tasting session (it turns out Des de Moor has already done this, but it’s too late, I’ve done it now)

5X Factor

Old 5X

A strong, warming beer that doesn’t hide the alcohol, a beer to sip. Dry, woody, slightly sour and acidic with raisins, sherry and a growing sweetness as it warms. A rare treat, and as there are only three vessels for ageing the beer, unlikely to become more readily available any time soon. In any case, I get the impression from speaking to them that Greene King quite like to preserve the mystique about the beer.

That said, the distinctive Old 5X taste is evident in the Strong Suffolk, detectable in the Old Crafty Hen, and there only in a homeopathic sort of way in Suffolk Springer.

Strong Suffolk Vintage Ale

Strong Suffolk Vintage Ale

Yep, it’s unmistakenly there, a good dose of 5X swathed in toffee and caramel malt. A very enjoyable beer, deep ruby coloured and full bodied with the woody, dark fruit flavours of the 5X coming through as it warms. I’d been drawn to bottles of this for the past few winters, before I even knew of the existence of 5X. It’s a great beer and has the 5X factor alright.

Old Crafty Hen

Old Crafty Hen

I’m not particularly keen on Old Speckled Hen but I enjoyed this more than I thought I would and have since picked up a few more bottles. A beer of big crystal malt flavours with a crisp peppery finish, carrying hints of the richer, more complex fruitcake flavours of the Old 5X, but enough to make the beer distinct from the regular Speckled Hen.

Suffolk Springer

Suffolk Springer

No hint of old 5X sourness, this beer containing the fresh 5X that hasn’t been matured, it is nevertheless a good beer. The initial chocolatey flavour and full body quickly diminishes though, getting thinner as it warms with the familiar Greene King yeasty flavours becoming more evident. Still, better than expected.

Summary

The Strong Suffolk is clearly the best of the beers containing Old 5X but I’d happily drink the others again. Not sure clear glass bottles really suit them, but Old Suffolk and Old Crafty Hen are the nearest to tasting the wonderful Old 5X itself, albeit blended with other beers.

Next I’d like to try the BPA, the other beer used in making Strong Suffolk. According to Martyn Cornell, it’s a Burton Pale Ale, “like 5X a rare survivor of an old brewing tradition” but isn’t available on it’s own either. Maybe some will appear at the next Bury St Edmunds beer fest, you never know…

Black Shuck, That Beer Don’t Give A…

Black Shuck, a ‘black shaggy dog, with fiery eyes and of immense size’, is a phantom hound that’s been reported all over East Anglia and beyond.

“The noise of rattling chains over the desolate fields on moonless nights announced the invisible prescence of these hounds; sometimes their heavy breathing might be heard. The important thing to do was to take shelter immediately, at home if possible, and to lock and bolt doors and windows so that the fearsome animals, foretelling death or other disaster, could not come by” (Enid Porter, Cambridgeshire Customs and Folklore)

Several breweries and beers immortalise shuck and other hellish hounds – here are five of them.

Wagtail Black Shuck

Wagtail Black Shuck

Wagtail Brewery Black Shuck is a stout brewed in Old Buckenham, Norfolk using malt from Wells-next-the-Sea. According to the label

“Since Viking times the inhabitants of Norfolk have told tales of a wild black dog with flaming red eyes, the appearance of which bodes ill to the beholder”

The legend of Black Shuck is said to have been an inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles after hearing the tale while staying in North Norfolk.

Bottle from Real Ale Shop – pours black as shuck, with a faint aroma of coffee and a thin head. Light body with a soft mouthfeel, and roasty, woody, coal ash flavours. Very nice, and a vegan beer too.

Tring Colleys Dog

Tring Colleys Dog

This beer is named after a ghostly black dog that once haunted the site of a gibbet at Gubblecote Cross.

Within the parish of Tring, Hertford, a poor old woman was drowned in 1751 for suspected witchcraft. A chimney-sweeper, who was the principal perpetrator of this deed, was hanged and gibbeted near the place where the murder was committed; and while the gibbet stood, and long after it had disappeared, the spot was haunted by a black dog.

The hanged man’s surname was Colley, thought to derive from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘col’ meaning black (hence Collie Dog and the ‘four colly birds’ of the Twelve Days of Christmas song) so the apparition of a black dog is fitting. An encounter with this particular black dog is described:

When we came near the spot,where a portion of the gibbet had lately stood, he saw on the bank of the roadside a flame of fire as large as a man’s hat. ‘What’s that?’ I exclaimed. ‘Hush!’ said my companion, and suddenly pulling in his horse, made a dead stop. I then saw an immense black dog just in front of our horse, the strangest-looking creature I ever beheld. He was as big as a Newfoundland, but very gaunt, shaggy, with long ears and tail, eyes like balls of fire, and large, long teeth, for he opened his mouth and seemed to grin at us. In a few minutes the dog disappeared, seeming to vanish like a shadow, or to sink into the earth, and we drove on over the spot where he had lain.” (T. F. Thistleton Dyer, The Ghost World)

Strong tasting and full-bodied, ruddy bronze coloured with caramel and red berry flavours, a good premium ale – bottle from Northampton Delicatessen.

Elgood’s Black Dog

Elgoods Black Dog

Elgood’s brewery in Wisbech, out in the Fenlands of Cambridgeshire, has a black dog as its emblem, brews Black Dog Mild and a seasonal ‘Old Black Shuck’ Stout.

Old Black Shuck was apparently based on a story from a book of Fen Tales by local writer Polly Howat. The one-eyed dog was supposed to roam areas around Parson Drove and meant death to anyone coming into contact with it. Although the same beer now goes by the name of Snake Slayer, Elgoods say they may use Black Shuck again in future.

A particular shuck was said to have haunted the area near Littleport and Brandon Creek, on the border of Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, about 20 miles from the brewery, in search of its drowned master.

“On pitch black nights wayfarers could hear him padding along the road whining and howling for his dead master. Some even declared they had felt the dog’s hot breath against their legs, while people living in houses alongside the road dreaded the dark nights when shuck’s howls kept them awake as he roamed the river bank”

But things aren’t always as they seem; the black dog of the brewery logo is heraldic, a black greyhound from the Elgood family crest. The label for Black Dog Mild closely resembles a description of the crest:

In front of a mount vert, thereon a greyhound courant sable, holding in the mouth a key… a pile of six pellets, one, two, and three.

The pile of pellets may actually represent mill stones as there were millers in the Elgood family.

The key may have been added to represent a family member’s love of watercolour painting – there are no heraldic paintbrushes so a key was chosen. Alternatively, an apocryphal tale suggests it relates to a former brewer who would give the brewery keys to his dog to look after should the brewer, in an inebriated state, lock himself out! This story was first mooted during the after dinner speeches following a Licensed Victuallers Association dinner in the seventies.

Black Dog is an enjoyable mild with soft chocolate and a lick of liquorice, flavoursome enough to want to follow it with another one, always a good sign.

Fox Cerberus

Fox Cerberus
A 4.5% stout from Fox brewery in Heacham, Norfolk featuring Cerberus, the hellhound guarding the gates of the underworld. More fittingly, in Dante’s Inferno Cerberus is in the third circle of hell, gluttony, depicted with a swollen belly.

This bottle was past its ‘best before’ date and past its best when I came to drink it. The dark berry flavours seemed muted compared to how I remember it being on cask – I’ll try this again when I find it fresh on.

Of course, tales of fearsome beasts roaming the shorelines and rivers might also have served the purpose of scaring people away while smuggling took place.

Hellhound Black Shuck

Hellhound Black Shuck

Hellhound, a Suffolk brewery that started three years ago, has Cerberus on its logo. They also brew Black Shuck, a 3.9% porter. On cask at the Hopbine, Cambridge it was a really enjoyable and quaffable beer with good coffee and chocolate flavours – apparently made with ‘proper posh coffee’ from Deepmills of Woodbridge.

The Darkness song refers to the shuck that appeared at Blytheburgh in Suffolk. One day in 1577 it “appeared in the parish church preceded by a thunderstorm. This black dog struck three people dead and left scorch marks on the North church door, which can still be seen today.”

As he takes another fatal swipe
At the Blytheburgh Church Door

Black Shuck,
That dog don’t give a fuck

- – – – -

Thanks to Mr Elgood and Kate Pateman at Elgood & Sons Ltd for their information.

Sources:
Katharine Briggs, British Folk-Tales and Legends, 1970
Daniel Codd, Mysterious Cambridgeshire, 2010
James Fairbairn Crests of the Families of Great Britain and Ireland, 1905
Enid Porter, Cambridgeshire Customs and Folklore, 1969
T. F. Thistleton Dyer, The Ghost World, 1898
Hertfordshire’s last witch hunt
Smugglers on the Suffolk shore
mysteriousbritain.co.uk
The Osbornes of Tring
Literary Norfolk
Shuckland

Maine Beer Company – Peeper Ale

Some beers delight. From the top of the bottle…

Maine Beer Company Peeper Ale

… to the bottom, I got the feeling that making this beer was probably as pleasurable for Maine Beer Co as drinking it was for me. Which would make this one hell of a fun beer to brew.

I poured it with the same care I imagine went into crafting it, and then I just looked at it – this is one good looking beer, somehow both cloudy and bright. Class in a glass.

Maine Beer Company Peeper Ale

The aroma was as fresh and enticing as slicing open a grapefruit – not the in-yer-face pungency of a hop monster, but a refined, gentle waft of citrus to the nose. This carried through to the taste, delicate citrus and straw with a zingy dry bitterness on the tongue, the flavours getting sweeter as the beer warmed. Each time I raised the glass to my lips, I found myself smiling, charmed. Really! It was that kind of beer.

Maine Beer Company Peeper Ale

The trouble with having just a single bottle is that it’s such a fleeting pleasure. A friend only had space in their luggage to bring this one bottle back from Boston. Would it be ungrateful to suggest they might have taken a bigger suitcase?

ABV – How l’eau can you go

Since last October’s cut on the rate of duty for beers of 2.8% abv and under, a new range of lower-strength beers have appeared – earlier this year Tesco began to stock a set of 12 new or reformulated beers, all at 2.8% abv. Unfortunately the duty on beer of 7.5% and above was raised. The difference in beer duty is significant and it’s no wonder brewers have been quick to take advantage of the lower rate.

If you release a batch of 5 hectolitres of beer of a strength 8.0 per cent ABV, your Beer Duty liability is £928.40… for beer of 2.8 per cent ABV, Beer Duty liability will be £130.06

I wasn’t enthusiastic about 2.8% beers, prefering stronger beers, often those above 7.5% now under threat. I’d also been burned by my experience with the 1.1% Brewdog Nanny State, a beer I bought 12 bottles of before finding it was an undrinkable gimmick. The only low strength beer I could recall enjoying was Manns Brown Ale. Oh, and bitter shandy.

Then I had a pint of Redemption Trinity – not a 2.8% beer, but one packing an impressive punch for its 3% abv, citrus hoppy with a good body yet at a strength perfect for going the distance on long summer days – and I was keen to know how the new range of lower strength beers would compare to it, or to Manns Brown Ale, a beer brewed in Britain since 1902.

Lower strength beers:

Tolly Cobold – Tolly English Ale 2.8%
Tolly English AleBrewed by Greene King, evident in the familiar yeasty aroma as the beer is poured, it is uninspiringly described as ‘full flavoured’ and ‘brewed using a complex mix of hops’. Like many of the Greene King beers that seem to be variations on their IPA, it’s an amber coloured beer, malty with some caramel flavour, not much carbonation but fresher than the often stale tasting IPA, and although it has a thin body, that’s forgiveable in a beer of this strength and it’s not the thinnest of these beers. Not a bad beer, not a particularly inspiring one, but drinkable. That said, I left half a glass of this to stand for an hour and there was very little taste left. I didn’t finish it.

Marston’s – Pale Ale 2.8%
Marston's Pale AleThe label carries the equivocal description ‘traditionally brewed for flavour and taste’. It smells like beer, looks like beer and tastes like beer that’s been left standing overnight and needs pouring away. It’s slightly creamy with some bitterness and malt evident, but I found this to be soapy and unpalatable and could only get through a half before tipping it. This beer has just appeared on the shelves of my local Waitrose with Skinners Betty Stogs making way for it – a move as unwelcome as if Cadbury Roses replaced the Golden Barrel with Turkish Delight.

Fuller’s – Mighty Atom 2.8%
Fuller's Mighty AtomThis is more like it – I can actually smell and taste hops! Not quite the ‘floral grapefruit and plum notes, with a spicy overtone’ mentioned in the blurb, but hops nevertheless.

After pouring the head dissipates quickly, the bitterness softens and the flavours soon fade but it maintains carbonation and some citrus flavour to the bottom of the glass. I’d try this again – the first of these beers I finished a pint of.

Cains – Calcutta Pale Ale 2.8%
Cains Calcutta Pale AleAn immediate metallic twang faded over subsequent mouthfulls, but never really disappeared and I found it hard to enjoy. If water has memory, some of these lower alcohol drinks are like water with a vague recollection of beer. This one did seem to get better, brief traces of hops and malt as the beer warmed but I think I’d have preferred a shandy.

Maybe that’s what I should be trying here – which beers make the best shandy – rather than searching in vain for a tasty lower strength beer. Would I drink this again? Probably, but only because it came in a 4 pack.

Adnams- Sole Star 2.7%
Adnams Sole StarAt last! A lovely hoppy bitter with flavours that aren’t held back by the low alcohol. At 2.7% it’s lower in strength than many of these beers but this cascade hopped ale holds its flavour and body. My enthusiasm for this beer could have been in part down to the setting – the Queen’s Head in Newton, a fine 18th century ale-house that has apparently appeared in every edition of the Good Beer Guide – or maybe because it was served straight from the cask. Certainly it has an unfair advantage over the canned and bottled beers I’ve tried so far, but really this beer is in a different class. I’d choose this over the other Adnams ales that were available too, because it’s just perfect for a lunchtime drink, especially when visiting a village pub means driving afterwards.

Oakham Ales – CB 2.8%
Oakham CBA beer that came about from a competition to ‘design a concept and brand for a new beer’, brewed by Oakham with two students from Cambridge’s Anglia Ruskin University “specifically to attract young female drinkers to the ale category”. The 2.8% beer, using Pacific Jade and Galaxy hops to give ‘hints of peach and passion fruit’, launched at the Cambridge Blue this week. It has a reassuringly familiar Oakham Ales hoppy aroma and plenty of the tropical flavours promised, along with a lasting bitterness. I gather they were aiming for a sweeter beer, but the bitterness worked for me, a very light but moreish beer. It’s a shame this is to be a one-off brew, I can imagine this being perfect for a summer daytime session.

Manns – Brown Ale 2.8%
Manns Brown AleManns Brown Ale is a beer that’s been brewed in Britain for over 100 years, albeit a stronger beer then of at least 4% abv. Still, it has quietly offered a low strength beer long before the recent brews appeared.

A very sweet beer, deep red in colour, creamy and surprisingly rich. Especially for a beer that cost only £1 for a 500ml bottle (from Asda – a local beer shop has delisted it). Every time I have this beer I enjoy it.

This beer seems to be best known as the one Mr Creosote orders in Monty Pythons Meaning of Life and is shown on his table.

…and the usual brown ales?
No – I can only manage six crates today

Younger of Alloa – Sweetheart Stout 2%
Sweetheart StoutThis beer is like a home-brand cola – flat, sugary and makes you wish you’d paid extra for the real thing.

The label is what makes this stand out. Apparently the same picture of Venetia Stevenson has been used for over 50 years.

I drank a whole can of this at a barbeque last summer before opting for a shandy. I couldn’t even finish more than a few sips of it this time.

Summary

In a word, thin. Unsurprisingly, many of these beers are weak and watery with not much flavour, but there is reason for optimism. The Adnams Sole Star and Oakham CB2 are a pleasure to drink and have lasting flavours, and old favourite Manns Brown Ale still delivers. None of these beers quite match the Redemption Trinity, but then at 3% that beer is not eligible for the lower rate of beer duty. That said, Redemeption Brewery themselves seem to think the answer is Trinity shandy…

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Update:

Since writing, I’ve had another notably good lower strength beer, Brentwood BBC2, a 2.5% beer voted Beer of the Festval at Cambridge Beer Fest in May.

Richmond Fontaine beer

Richmond Fontaine are a band from Oregon. Their most recent album ‘High Country’ features a song about a fictional bar called the Chainsaw Sea, and the merchandise for the album includes Richmond Fontaine Beer t-shirts, keyrings and beermats. But not the beer. There is no R.F. Brewing Co and no Richmond Fontaine beer.

Richmond Fontaine Beer

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Lórien, Palma de Mallorca

Lórien is a bar in Palma de Mallorca. An unasssuming building from the outside, in a street shielded from the sun, it nevertheless glows with an inviting atmosphere inside.

Lorien bar

A dimly lit bar of dark wood, the walls are lined with bottles and decorated with celtic patterns, and a large picture of Tolkienesque elves and dwarves hangs from one wall.

Lorien bar
Lorien picture

About 100 different bottled beers from around the world are available (England is represented by Samuel Smiths Imperial Stout and Newcastle Brown Ale). Most interesting to us were several from Catalunya that we’d not seen before.

Zulogaarden Norai

Zulogaarden Norai is a 7% porter brewed just north of Barcelona. Deep brown in appearance, it’s a very dry and bitter beer. The oats and chocolate malt are evident but the beer is balanced with plenty of cascasde hops.

Marina Summer Ale

Brewed on the mainland in Blanes, about 40 miles up the coast from Barcelona, Cervesa Marina Summer Ale is a 6% IPA with the appearance of a wheat beer, pouring straw coloured and cloudy with a fine oily head. Its a very fruity beer with an orange citrus hop flavour and a spicy, gingerbread finish.

Another from Marina, ‘Mas Cremat’ is a dry stout with a rich flavour of roasted malts and coffee, with some hops coming through in the finish but very little bitterness. This was the best of the beers from Catalunya that we tried and a really wonderful stout. I’m keen to try their black IPA, ‘The Grim North’.

Illa and Marina

Cervesera Tramuntana Illa is Menorca’s first beer and was first brewed in 2010. It’s a pilsner-style lager, very light and lively, with some citrus flavour but a bit lacking in taste for it’s 5.5% abv. It’s an unfiltered, unpasteurised beer that’s supposed to be an alternative to the mass produced Spanish lagers, but I have to say i’d choose an Estrella Damm or Cruzcampo over this.

Estrella Damm

Actually, I developed quite a taste for Estrella Damm. Brewed in Barcelona, at 5.4% it’s a stronger beer with a fuller flavour than the 4.6% version available in the UK (Damm Classic?). It has a good body with a sweet balance of hops and malts, a very refreshing drink in the afternoon sun, and there is plenty of afternoon sun in the Balearics…

Nethergate Old Growler

Nethergate brewery began in 1986 in the Suffolk village of Clare before moving just a few miles down the road, over the river Stour and across the border into Essex in 2004. The brewery announced a change of ownership in October 2010 with plans of ‘creating a stronger brand identity and expanding into new markets‘. A year later it was named Good Pub Guide Brewery of the Year.

Old Growler is their flagship brew, an award winning porter with a label featuring their “famous British Bulldog, Old Growler”. The design has changed many times, most recently in 2009, with the size of the dog growing in each design. A local Cambridge pub, The Elm Tree, has amongst it’s collection of old beer bottles, a bottle of Old Growler that appears to date from around 1990 when it was labelled as an Old Ale of 5.8%. In 1994 the description changed to a Porter and in 1998 sugar was removed from the recipe and the abv dropped from 5.5% to 5%. More recently it has been labelled as a ‘special Porter’ and is now labelled as a 5.5% ‘robust, superior Porter’. Here are some of the changing faces of Old Growler:

Nethergate Old Growler
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Stout Bout

A battle of bottled beers, this time stouts.

Some bottled stouts
 
Some interesting and very enjoyable beers here; from the wintery, coal fire and sawdust (in a good way!) of Grain Blackwood Stout, through the reddish, roasted Ratliffe’s Stout, to the Humpty Dumpty Swingbridge Stout, a woody stout with a dry, hoppy bitterness via an Elveden Stout with a breath of whisky about it. In this closely fought battle of bottled beers, the creamy, chocolatey, easy-going Hook Norton Double Stout emerged as the victor. It’s is just about as quaffable a stout as one could hope for. Cheers!

Porter Report #1
Beerfight #1: Lancaster Bomber vs. Spitfire