256. Grain d’Orge Bier Blonde Cuivree


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This strong Belgian beer is actually made en France, and is a fairly potent potable at 8%. Grain d’Orge, if my translation is correct, is simply a “Barley Grain”, so this isn’t a terribly imaginatively named beer, but I would argue that it’s a tad dark to be a proper blonde. The colour is a true amber or dark orange, and the thick, slightly oil texture places this somewhere between a blonde and it’s darker cousins, for me at least.

The flavour is very pleasant, honey sweet to start with a dry biscuity and bready sweet hoppiness in the middle. There’s some more usual citrus bitterness sin the end and the whole drink has a slightly orangey taste underneath slightly tangy sweet. Despite it’s strength it really isn’t very boozy, and I found myself well through a 75cl bottle in no time!


255. Adnams Southwold Bitter


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Formerly known as “The Bitter” and then just plain “Bitter” before becoming “Southwold bitter”, this is Adnams most generic beer, and probably my second least favourite of their major lines after Ghost Ship, which is such a disappointment.

Such is my love for Adnams that second to last is still a decent beer, and it certainly holds it’s own against the various other bitters out there. Fairly light and fizzy, it has warming hopped flavour all the way through, with a slight tang of citrus to start. There’s some caramel, biscuity sweetness, but it primarily does what it says on the tin with plenty of dry bitterness.

The chap on the bottle is Soutwold Jack, one of Adnams and Southwold’s key icons, someone associated with the local St Edmund’s Church and the War of the Roses. A slightly creepy looking statue of him resides on one of the main brewery buildings in the middle of town if you ever get a chance to check it out.

three star

253. Theakston’s Old Peculier


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Taken me a while to get to this, despite it being one of the better known and more widely available ales out there. Arguably Theakston’s signature beer, it’s an “old style” ale, sometimes known as “stock ale”, which describes anything English, dark, malty and usually quite strong. In the days when a brewer would only probably make two main beers, this was the contrasting style to mild (yuk), so I know what I’d have been drinking.

I’d probably call it a dark ruby myself, but these names are all rather interchangeable I tend to find. It’s a fairly strong number as you’d expect, at 5.6%, but still very drinkable.

The flavour is one of toffee, some slight dark fruits and a middle full of rich, roasty hops, not astringently bitter but pleasant on the tongue. I did get a little burnt coffee taste at the end, but this is quite a dark beer so that’s probably to be expected. In all it has a sticky sweet texture and I can imagine it going rather well with roasted red meats (if I ate such things).

three star

252. Virgin Trains’ Tilting Ale


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Even on a train back from Edinburgh I faithfully update my blog! I must admit some panic is setting in as I realise that I’ll be drinking 50 beers in Christmas week if I don’t write up a few more now! 
Tilting Ale is the beer Virgin commissioned from Macclesfield brewers Redwillow, and perhaps unsurprisingly for a beer created for a huge corporation and sold on trains, it is decidedly inoffensive. When you only make one beer, you want it to appeal as widely as possible.

Tilting is a very average pale ale, fairly weak in flavour, but with an agreeable bready sweetness and warm, dry hopped bitterness in the end.  Still, credit for effort.

Two stars

251. The Coach Houses’s Cheshire Gold


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After their very nice Blueberry Bitter, which tasted nothing like bitter or blueberries, this Cheshire Gold was another hit, but worth the added bonus of actually suiting the name on the bottle.

A fruity, strawberry and citrus sweet start gives way to a smooth honey sweet, grainy texture in the middle. Light on the hops in the finish, with plenty of tang all the way through. A delightful drop.

Four stars

250. Sainsbury’s London Porter




After several excellent porters in Nottingham, this succeeded in bringing me crashing down to earth by being rather boring.

A porter is meant to be thick, heavy and full of flavours, but this was rather thin, and lacked any of the dark licorice sweetness I was expecting and the bottle promised. There’s certainly plenty of coffee bitterness and a touch of smoke in the finish but it’s all rather one dimensional.

A bit of a let down.

Two stars

242-249 Nottingham’s Robin Hood Beer Festival


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View from the mighty ramparts – by the tea shop

It has taken slight longer than planned, but here’s my review of the Robin Hood Beer Festival in Nottingham and the numerous beers I sampled while there!

The Robin Hood festival is run by CAMRA, and is one of their biggest events – it featured over 1000+ beers and several hundred ciders this year, and ran from Wednesday night until Saturday evening. It’s held in the very picturesque grounds of Nottingham Castle, and the views from the “keep” (which is really more of a big house) are pretty impressive, allowing you to take in all of the city while you sup a beverage or two. At £15 quid entry, it isn’t cheap, although that does include a fiver’s worth of beer tokens and half pint glass.

There’s live music of the usual ale festival type, and lots of interesting things to eat, including some rather excellent Indian food from local restaurants. My paneer wrap was delicious. I’ve been twice now, and would highly recommend it if you’re able to make it up to the East Midlands!


Now, on to the important bit, the beers. My track record dictates that the first couple at any given ale festival are awful, normally as I get suckered into buying beers with silly names. I made a conscious effort to avoid this fate and started out with innocuously monikered Milestone’s Honey Porter, and it worked! This was a tasty enough dark ale, starting with some light red berry fruitiness before moving to the expected smokey taste with bittersweet burnt toffee flavours, but little or no real honey, which was a shame. Still a decent enough porter.

Next up I felt compelled to try a local brew, and who better than the Robin Hood brewery. The Little John Strong was a fairly typical strong dark gold/amber ale, nicely balancing toasty malts, caramel sweetness and a warming rather than caustic hop bitterness in the finish. Not going to blow your socks off but certainly dependable, like good old Little John himself no doubt.


A monster this one

My early success spurred me to be a little more daring, and my next choice, Bexar County’s Papa Steve Rum Raison was certainly that. I didn’t realise until I’d bought it that this was a hefty 9% and it was certainly a dark and boozy beast, but well worth the effort. It has a thick, rich dark chocolate start, almost a tad fruity, before a raisiny middle and a long lasting smoky charcoal finish. According to one of my drinking buddies, Katie, it tasted “like Christmas”. Not one to rush, but really delicious.

Bexar County, a Cambridgeshire brewer, also deserve a mention from probably having the best named beers at the festival, including “Let’s go to Candy Mountain” (an American IPA) and “Do I have a twig stuck in my teeth” (A brown bitter). Descriptive and amusing.

Number four was from the appropriately named Two by Two, and was called “Biscuit Pale”. This was an underwhelming disappointment, with some subtle sweetness and a dry finish, but giving the overall impression of being a bit thin and weedy. A watered down hobnob.


By this point the beers were starting to “take effect”

Number five had the best name of the bunch, Magpie’s A Tempting Murder. This was another dark one – I was pretty hooked on them all day – and featured a fruity, raisiny start, sweet chocolate middle and a zesty orange peel finish. It was however served too cold, which was a shame.

Hopcraft’s Blanc Expression, a very pale number, was also unimpressive, leading me to conclude by this point that I’d probably ruined by tastebuds with the Papa Steve. Pretty mono-flavoured with a plenty of green hops toward the finish, this left me uninspired.


Laziness then caused me to try two by the same brewer, Nottinghamshire’s own 8 Sail. Caught in two minds as to which of theirs to try, I decided on both! The first up, Kibbled, was a “one off” red ale, fudgy sweet, almost sickly, with a touch of berry fruitiness and then a long bready finish and some yeasty hoppiness. I think. If Kirsty hadn’t been taking notes by this point I’d have no idea and as you can tell the descriptions were getting a little wild.

Lastly, we had 8 Sails’ Imperial Oat Malt Stout, back in familiar territory. This was ver nice, with dark chocolate with lots of cocoa to start, then brown sugar sweetness mixing with the oats to taste like rich porridge. There was little in the after-taste but it was still a lovely beer.

All round a rewarding and very boozy experience, and amazingly no absolute stinkers! I will be returning!

Papa Steve and Imperial Oat: 4_stars_svg

Honey Porter, Little John, A Tempting Murder and Kibbled: three star

Blanc Expression and Biscuit Pale: two star

241. Hopdaemon’s Skrimshander


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An interestingly named but unfortunately rather bland IPA, a bit sweet in the start and very hoppy, but rather bland. It has flavour but lacks anything to make it interesting.

Hopdaemon is at least more interesting than their rather uninspiring beer; run by a Kiwi based in Kent, they make use of only local hops and brew a wide range of super hopped beers. They are mostly named for demons and other evil creatures, but actually a scrimshander is someone who creates scrimshaw – ivory carvings.

Shame it’s much duller than its name.

Two stars

240. Sunny Republic’s Hop Dog


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Sunny Republic are a fairly new little brewery, based in rural Dorset. They seem a fun little set-up with some interesting looking beers, including a Friesian Pilsener and a Red Ale brewed with hibiscus. Hop Dog is a one of their first beers, described in their own words is like “kinda like Bob Dylan on acid.”

I’m not sure I’d go that far, but it is a decent “modern” IPA, starting with an astringent hoppiness before moving into a refreshing orange zest bitterness and some citrus fruitiness underneath, sweeter than the sometimes lemony flavour you get with super-hopped IPA. Very clean cut, it’s tongue smackingly dry in places, and I think I detected a slightly spicy-sweet ginger note in there as well.

They combine no less that three malts and four hops, so you can understand why there’s a fair bit of complexity.

Definitely worth a try.

three star


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