327. Tuborg Julebryg

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OK, so I’m only doing a couple of reviews while I’m out here in Scandinavia, if only because I’m meant to be having fun, not writing blog posts. However, I’ve been a little bit fascinated by this, Tuborg’s Julebryg. It’s Denmark’s fourth best selling beer, despite only being on sale for the 10 weeks around Christmas. The advertising campaign and launch day, known as J-Dag, has almost become a national holiday, and features an amusing animated TV ad where Santa chases a Tuborg lorry in pursuit of the beer.

Carlsberg, who own Tuborg, give out free samples of the beer, and develop special Christmas carols which their salespeople sing as they hand them out. They even had to move J-Day to a Friday from a Wednesday, because it was having such an impact on businesses when all their staff came in Thursday rocking massive hangovers.

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The beer itself is pretty powerful stuff – 5.6% – and is infused with liquorice, giving it a potent flavour to match. As you can see, it’s pretty dark, although it is brewed in a lager style. I have to admit, I’m not overly enamoured with it; it’s kind of sickly and overly sweet with a mix of toffee and liquorice flavours before mixing with a drier lager hoppiness. A bit better cold. A nice (if over commercialised) tradition, but all the same not to my taste.

two star

325 & 326. Beavertown Black Betty & Brewers Union Dark Lager

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I’m mighty glad that I grabbed this at the last minute on the way out of the shop, as it’s a top notch beer (and in a little coke can!). Beavertown are based in London, and I’ve had one or two of their other beers before, but this is certainly my new favourite. A really well balanced black IPA, with a lovely IPA fruity fresh hoppiness and a bitter finish, toffee sweetness and smoky flavours all mixed together. Complex and very yummy.

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Another from my friends at Brewer’s Union – this time a “dark lager”. Basically a lager with more flavour, it has the expected crisp hoppiness in the finish, but with more of a floral and citrusy flavour in the start. Pretty tasty – these guys are producing a lot of good beers!

BB: 4_stars_svg

BU:three star

322-324. Homebrew Squires Ale, Homebrew Black Mamba & Amstel

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My first homebrews of the year and it’s almost over! My friend Adam Jones (you will no doubt remember him) and some of his chums have put together a pair of homebrew ales and Adam was kind enough to let me try them.

Black Mamba is a rather outlandishly named Christmas beer – a proper ruby red ale with little head or fizz. Surprisingly soft and fruity, there’s a nice mix of red berry fruits and orangey tang, with some mild hoppiness in the end. You could certainly sink a few pints of this and it makes for much milder Christmas fare than many of the usual super spiced numbers.

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Squires Ale is, I am informed, more of a “straight from the kit” brew, and makes for a very drinkable golden session ale. It’s mild and sweet with caramel and honey flavours and some limited hops in the finish. The dryness of the hops and a little yeastiness lingers in the back of the throat.

I should also include the pint of Amstel I had today – which was missed off my “all the lagers” list a couple of weeks back (and it seems with good reason). I haven’t quite worked out why it is that I only ever seem to drink Amstel in places where they clearly don’t look after the beer, as it is rarely any other than flat and watery. I have had one “nice enough” pint, but generally it’s a disappointment. Too bland and not crisp like a decent lager should be.

Homebrews: three star

Amstel: 1 star

321 & 322. Mallinsons Cascade & Anarchy Ale’s Grin and Bare It

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I suppose the clue is in the name, what with cascade being a particularly well used American hop which you find in loads of APAs. As we have discovered on this blog, I rarely like these souped up bitter beers, and I’m afraid this is no exception. However, rather than being over the top, this was just boring and one dimensional. The beer was flat and thin, with a solitary and rather unpleasant hopped astringent bitterness. If I’m generous, it’s a bit lemon or orange peel bitter, but basically a beer I struggled to finish.

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By comparison, this rather pleasingly clad pale, from Northumberland based brewers Anarchy Ales, was decent stuff. Fresh and full bodied, it has a thick texture and doughy, wheaty flavour in the start with a crisp finish, green hoppy flavours mixing with the mellow earlier flavour. This is how I prefer my hoppy pale ales – more balanced, more varied. I want beer with something other than astringent, tongue smacking, eye screwing bitterness as your reward.

G&BI: three star

Cascade: 1 star

319 & 320. Off Beat’s Crazy Christmas & Thornbridge’s Colorado Red

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This relentless pace is surely going to catch up with me by the New Year, but I must press on if I want to reach my goal – too much has been drunk and written about (poorly in most cases) to slow down now!

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First up is another Christmas offering, from Off Beat, a brewery based in Crewe(ry) that produces, in its own words “great beer brewed by a chick” who goes by the name Michelle Kelsall. Amazingly, she has described having trouble selling her wares to certain “traditional” country pubs, but one would hope this is due to the wacky bottle design, rather than the fact they have a female head brewer.

The beer itself is a fairly mild to start, with a malty brown sugar sweetness, before a dryer bready middle where the warm, slightly tingly spices begin to come through, although they are also fairly muted. There actually a bit of dried fruitiness in the end, mixing with the lingering spices for a pleasant aftertaste. All this subtly is fairly surprising giving the deep brown colouring, but the beer uses a mix of wheat and barley malt, which might explain its lighter than expected flavour.

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Next is Colorado Red, a beer produced by Thornbridge and called “Colorado” because of a collaboration with with Odell Brewing company, which is based in that state, not because it uses American hops. The “Red” comes from the deep red colouration (obviously).

The beer is fairly strong, which you can feel ever so slightly in the aftertaste, but otherwise a flavoursome rather than boozy beverage. There’s some fruit cakey sweetness (I do love that in a red/ruby beer) but it’s actually dominated by a warm and long lasting hop bitterness in the finis, that runs right down the back of your throat. Decent stuff, probably not a session beer but would go down well on a cold night!

Both: three star

317 & 318. Ilkley’s Holy Cow & andUnion’s Bern Stein

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Holy Cow is described as a Cranberry Milk Stout, which on the face of it (if you are me) sounds delightful. Milk stout has lactose sugars added, to give it a milder, sweeter taste than traditional porters/stout, which can be fairly harsh in flavour.

This particular bev still has a fairly clear charcoal taste in the finish, but is smooth and sweet to begin with a fairly hard to detect cranberry fruit flavour buried in the middle. However, as the beer settles and mellows, the cranberry sharpness becomes more evident. I would have expected a more chocolatey and fruity flavour, but it sticks to a more traditional stout taste all round.

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The second beer from my only African brewers so far this year, and it’s an interesting one. A tradition “amber” (I’d call it brown) coloured unfiltered lager, it’s not much to look at. But boy, the taste makes up for it. It has a toffee biscuit sweetness to start with, a touch of citrus tang and then a crisp lager hopped finish. Refreshing, well rounded, plenty of fizz but not too filling. Excellent – top lager. I could drink lots of this…

BS: five star

HC: three star

315 & 316. Sainsbury’s Celebration Ale and Yorkshire Bitter

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The clutching continues – more own brand beers, this one a stout brewed by our friends as Black Sheep in Masham. It has some raisiny sweet malt, a cocoa tang and lots of smoky bitter finish. Probably a bit heavy on the charcoal flavour for my liking.

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The Yorkshire Bitter is also produced by Black Sheep, but has a lot more going for it. Sugary sweet to start – much more so that I would have expected – it’s more fudgy than caramel. The bottle describes “Demerara” taste, and I can see where they’re coming from. The middle is a little drier and more biscuity, with a clean and crisp hop bitterness that doesn’t linger all that long. Easy to drink, would make a decent session bitter.

Yorkshire: three star

Celebration: two star

313 & 314. Erdinger Alkoholfrei & Sainsbury’s Scottish Craft Brewed Lager

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So… the straw clutching has set in. I’ve pretty much run out of beers I can buy in the supermarket, but there are just a few left, and this is one of them. I’ve never event tasted an alcohol free beer before, which is strange, as I like the taste of beer, not just the booze in it, but it always seemed kinda desperate – which of course is daft.

Anyway, brilliantly, this German version is advertised as a “refreshing alcohol drink” and the back even extols the healthy properties of the drink: high in folic acid and vitamin B12 dontcha know. It even promotes “energy-yielding metabolism” and supports the immune system. I am sorely tempted to take a bottle of this to my next five-a-side game.

For all my mocking, this is actually a really nice drink – soft and fruity, dry in the finish, well balanced between the malt and the hops, as well as between the wheat and barley malts. It is fairly mild, but that’s probably to be expected, and it still has plenty of beery flavour. I will be buying it again.

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By comparison this Sainsbury’s own brand beer is rather a let down, even if it does contain precious, precious alcohol (this is definitely a joke). It is brewed for Sainsbury’s by Harviestoun, the people who bring you Bitter & Twisted and Old Engine Oil (a cracking name for a dark beer). I often wonder if these breweries, who no doubt use the cash from these supermarket tie-ins to prop up their less profitable beers, deliberately make them less good than their other stuff. I know I would.

In this instance, for “craft” lager, read over hopped and under fizzed. Instead of balancing sweetness and crisp bitterness it just overdoes the hops. Quite refreshing I suppose but not great.

SCBL: two star

Alkoholfrei:  4_stars_svg

311 & 312. Schneider Weisse’s Mein Grunes & Meine blonde Weisse

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Regular readers (all three of you) might remember the rather pricey half pint I had from Schneider Weisse a while back. It was rather enjoyable, if somewhat overpriced, so I was pleased to see that my favourite potent potable purveyor, Cotteridge Wines, had got just got a good selection in stock.

Mein Grunes is named for being a copper or country beer – I can’t work it out – but both are fairly apt descriptions. The colour is a muddy copper, and the flavour is strong, green hopped bitterness with a slightly sour citrus start, little sweetness. Probably a bit grubby for me, but certainly an interesting beer.

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Meine blonde Weisse was one I was expecting to be a little more up my street. I’m a big fan of blondes usually, but this was a bit of a let down. It has a thick and grainy texture, as I would expect, the wheaty, grainy flavour evident. The middle has some fresh citrusy fruitness – sweet and juicy rather than sour. However overall I got the feeling this was a little too mild, lacking flavour. A shame.

Blonde: two star

Grunes:three star

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