177. Samuel Adams’ Blonde Ambition

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A rather cleverly named blonde craft beer, this was fairly mild but very drinkable, a little grainy and slight bitter citrus flavour in the middle and a satisfying lightly hopped finish. 

Enjoyed in one of Shepherd Neame’s own pubs, I didn’t realise this is brewed over here under license, so I feel a tad cheated not be getting the fully authentic American taste. It uses a combination of US and British hops.

three star 

176. Zywiec

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Picked up for with a curry for some reason (yes another one), I didn’t have high hopes for this and wasn’t disappointed. A very bland lager with a fairly artificial sweetness and vegetable like bitterness.

The Zyweic brewery group is owned by Heineken but it is still brewed in Poland at one of their five sites. The original brewery was set up in 1856 and owned by the Habsburg family (the rulers of Austria-Hungary). It was then seized by the post war communists, even thought they carried on using the name and crest for marketing!

1 star

 

175. Estrella Damm

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The Damm brewery was founded in the 1870’s by a August Küntzmann Damm, which gives a hint as to the beer’s Germanic origins.  Apart from being quite pricey (£3.40 in the Goose?) there’s a few signs that this is an exotic and rather better than average pilsner. The fancy branding, it’s pedigree (one of the oldest beers in Spain) and the multiple awards all play a part. 

The ultimate test though? When buying this I also purchased another pint of Amstel for a friend. I didn’t pay attention as they were handed to me and yet after a sips my friend and I concluded which was superior beer, and therefore which was the Estrella. Fuller in taste, a little richer, grainier and maltier, like many Mediterranean beers. The use of rice as well as barley gives it some additional sweetness too. It’s definitely not your normal mass-produced lager.

Even if it is still mass produced lager.

three star 

173. Sharp’s Honey Gold

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After the disappointing and somewhat surfactant Doom Bar I had earlier this year, I’m glad to report that my second offering from Cornish Brewer Sharp’s was much better. Of some fairly average beers sampled in the glorious Worcestershire countryside, this was a stand out.

Honey Gold is one of Sharp’s seasonal summer ales, and it fits that bill very nicely. There’s a pleasant sweetness to start, which some of my companions thought of as honey, but I got more of a sweet fruit taste. It then slides into a stronger citrusy burst before finishing on a mild, slightly graining bitter hop finish. Refreshing and hugely drinkable, this was a great accompaniment to some summer time chit chat.

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172. Wye Valley, Hereford Pale Ale

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When you go somewhere interesting, as we did yesterday to the Malverns, it is always nice to try the local brew. Although we were in Worcestershire, we had at least seen Herefordshire (from the top of the Beacon) so I think Wye Valley’s HPA counts.

Sadly, this was a huge disappointment. Almost completely flavourless, there was a mild bitter tang after a watery start. There was very little aftertaste and altogether it failed to make an impression. It could perhaps rather charitably be described as refreshing, but in all it was rather a waste of a pint. Not bad, just pointless. 

Fortunately, the combination of wonderful weather, beautiful setting, excellent food, cracking company and a good selection of better beers meant this didn’t ruin my day!

1 star

171. Leffe Blond

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A wee quick one, as I’m off climbing steep things again.

This one doesn’t quite have the full bodied character of it’s bigger, darker brother, but Leffe Blond is a very decent beer worth a try if the proper stuff is not for you. It always helps when it comes in massive bottles, three for a fiver, and although it is lighter, hoppier and a fizzier than the Brun, it still packs a 6%+ punch. 

three star

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170. Well’s Bombardier Golden Burning Gold

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It’s a bit of a mouthful but you can see that it’s all there on the label. This was deliberately chosen to partner a curry, and it did the job very well. There’s quite a lot of talk about whether you can have ales with curry, or whether ale-fans should just accept that lager has them beat on that one. I have to say, as a fan of both continental (particularly Czech) lager, and of proper cask and craft ales, I think both can work. I did a review a little while back about “Curry beers” and I would stand by my assessment that Kingfisher is the ultimate curry beer, but this, like many other dry golden ales, does a bang up job.

Dry and crisp to start, there is a lovely, almost honey middle before a clean and lasting hop bitterness to finish. The “Burning” part of the name I think perhaps relate to the fairly faint spicy taste you get in the aftertaste, but it certainly does an excellent job as a palate cleanser. Saying that, it’d be equally good as a stand alone beer. I actually think it works very well cold as well as cool, as it is a very refreshing ale.

And of course, this was the beer (or at least the type of beer) advertised by Rik Mayall. A total legend. So the beer must be good.

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167-169 Brewdog’s 5am Saint, Dead Pony Club and Hardcore IPA

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A carefully constructed game of Beer Chess

So, to finish up the Brewdogs from Aberdeen. Once we got into the mid-afternoon, the cues around the bars were beyond ridiculous. It was taking a good 20 minutes to get served, so we decided to get three lots of three drinks at a time, and ended up with mostly what was left, which included 5am Saint, Dead Pony Club and Hardcore IPA. You can see some of them in the rather interesting mix of pints and half pints up above, but I’ll be damned if I can remember which is which.

Anyway, I did at least write some notes on each, even if I didn’t take a good photo. 5am Saint was a very nice amber ale, the colour of fresh brewed tea, and full of sweet caramel and tropical fruit flavour.

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Dead Pony Club is their “tribute” to the Californian style Pale Ale. it’s actually more like a traditional English IPA, being fairly mundane by Brewdog’s standards, with some decent but unspectacular dry hoppiness and grapefruit tang, but a rather thin texture. Brilliantly, this 3.8% was actually once banned by the Portman Group, which overseas alcohol advertising, because it promoted excessive drinking and alcohol consumption – of all the beers they make, this would not be the one to fall into that category.

two star

 

Hardcore IPA is more the sort of beer you expect from these Scottish brewing wizards, weighing in at a hefty 9.2%, this is a mass of evaporate on the tongue booziness, dark roasty malt richness and a punchy and long lasting hoppiness. Perhaps too strong and OTT for my liking, still a beer worth trying.

three star

 

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