402. Watermill’s Dog’th Vader

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A lovely birthday present from Sara and Ali Gill (the people responsible for me writing this blog), the slightly awkwardly named Dog’th Vader is one of a collection of canine themed beers from Lake District brewers Windmill. Windmill is one of a significant number small breweries from the Cumbria area based out of a pub, and pretty much every town you visit up there has it’s own micro brewery. I like to think this reflects the hilly nature of the place, where up until recently transporting beer from place to place would have been difficult, so everyone brewed their own. It’s just as likely that a booming tourist trade keeps them all in business!

Dog’th is a black, porter ale with fairly thick and oily texture and plenty of smoky, cold coffee flavour. Fairly sugary sweet to start, there’s very little of the fruitiness described on the bottle, and much more of the toasty, roasty malts. The taste is powerful but actually fairly pleasing, if a little one dimensional. Certainly a decent winter warmer if you like coffee malt flavours!

three star

401. Lervig’s Marky Ramone’s Hoppy Pilsner

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Good pub, excellent beer. The Earl of Essex in Islington served up a birthday treat for me this weekend when I managed to make a plum choice from their fine selection of guest ales. Yes I was in Islington, yes it was expensive, no I’m not a hipster, shut up I had a beard before it was cool.

My fortuitous pick was Marky Ramone’s Hoppy Pilsner, from Norwegian brewster’s Lervig (my first Norsk beer I believe). To give them their proper name they’re Lervig Aktiebryggeri – I’m not sure how to pronounce that but it just looks awesome. They’ve been going for 12 years, founded after Carlsberg bought out and closed the local brewery, and do quite the range of trendy beers, and as you would expect a few rather strong ones as well. One of their head brewers is a well travelled American chap called Mike Murphy, who has brewed in Philadelphia, Italy and Denmark before moving further north. Amongst their collection is a 10.4% monster called Konrad’s Stout which I’ve decided I absolutely must try.

But to Marky’s Pilsner. I can’t work out why it’s called that because everything on the website is in Norwegian, but I imagine they’re fans. Simply put, this beer is divine – flavoursome, dry and refreshing, definitely hoppy but not overwhelmingly so. It has a long sweet, thick fruit-sugar middle which balances what would otherwise be a tongue curlingly bitter finish. Really delicious. Everything Brewdog’s This.Is.Lager wants to be but failed to live up to. Go try some now – even at £6 a pint.

five star

400. Mauldons Bronze Adder

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So, I reach 400, somewhat more calmly and serenely than 300 or indeed 200. It’s nice not to be in a rush I have to admit. Unfortunately I’ve not picked a blinder for my 400th review, but needs must and I’ve not had a great many new ones recently (nothing a trip to Cotteridge Wines can’t sort out). There’s a good reason for this, but I’ll get to that in a later blog post!

Mauldons brewery is based in my home county, but I have to admit I’ve not tried a great many of their Sudbury based brews before, with the exception of their Bah Humbug Christmas brew. Mauldons can claim some 200 years of history, although the company was actually restarted after being originally sold off Bury behemoths Greene King in the 1960s. Until 15 years ago it was actually still owned by the Mauldon family, who first started brewing in a pub in Ballingdon in 1795.

The current brewery is known as the Black Adder brewery and they have a couple of beers with a snakey theme, including this one, as well as a big range of core and seasonal beers.

Unfortunately, Bronze Adder is a bit of a disappointment, mild and unassuming with a bready sweetness and a fairly dry hoppy finish. Overall quite watery, it would make a reasonable session ale but it fails to get you buzzing.

two star

399. Guest Post: Black Wolf Rok

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Enjoying beer is something everyone can do – even those that usually prefer a glass of white wine. To prove this point, I asked my friend Kara  to review a new beer I found from Black Wolf Brewery in Stirling, Scotland. Rok is a Indian Pale ale style by the way. Here’s what she had to say:

“This beer is resoundingly weak, almost watery with an overriding taste of nothingness. It has a frothy head, and an initial taste of beer…”

At this point I felt it necessary to ask a for a little more detail…

“There’s some hoppiness, a little sweetness but resolves to nothing. For someone that doesn’t really drink ale I’d say I could finish this quite easily. Still.. Only two stars”

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Very informative! Fair to say many of the other reviewers I’ve read agree with the sentiment, and I was certainly rather disappointed by what is a rather flavourless beer, and although I’d probably verge into one-star territory, we’ll let the lady decide.

two star

398. Sadler’s Peaky Blinder

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Another from local boys Sadler’s Ales, Peaky Blinders is named after the Birmingham gang , but more realistically for the hit TV show based on the gang. Nothing like a bit of shameless cashing in with a novelty beer.

I’m not sure the Peaky boys would have been drinking Black IPA, which is a fairly modern American creation, but it bears some similarities to porter, which may have been on their more limited menus. I suspect a pint of mild was more the order of the day however.

Anyway, this modern creation is pretty interesting, tasting, as many black IPAs do, as a rather light porter, full of smoky, charcoal and coffee flavours, with a bitter coffee tang that’s almost fruity. It’s sweet and occasionally nutty as well, without a huge amount of aftertaste. Quite complex but not overly filling, mild enough to drink a fair few.

three star

397. Titanic Plum Porter

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Another porter from the Titanic chaps, this time a fruity plum number. This is actually a surprisingly bitter affair, starting sweet and biscuity, before revealing a hoppy bitter undertone. There’s also plenty of rich, dark fruitiness, but it’s quite green and bitter too, less of the smoky, charcoal flavours you might expect. This is, it seems, because they add hops in fairly late to temper the sweet flavours. Not entirely to my liking in this style, but a drinkable and interesting drop.

three star

396. Noble Lager

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An English craft lager enjoyed in the much improved Mason’s Arms in my home town of Bury St Edmunds. Owned by Greene King, so I was surprised to find so many craft beers to choose from, even if many were Greene King brews.

Noble itself was disappointing. Crisp, dry and gassy, it had a slightly oily, slick sensation in the tongue and was a little sore in the finish. Not great,but fairly refreshing.

Two Stars

395. Celt’s La Tène

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Welsh brewsters The Celt Experience bring us a rather interesting dry-hopped ale, which is surprisingly full of flavour for a relatively weak beer. Named for the site in Switzerland that was the source of the La Tène Iron Age culture, this fits neatly with all their other beers named for various historical periods and societies.

The beer features some five different hop types, added at different stages, and that comes through very clearly in the flavours. There’s a citrusy, juicy flavour to start before a very deep, dry and dirty bitterness in the middle and finish, which sticks about. It certainly packs the flavour in for a relatively light beer, but probably a bit too much for my sensitive hop tastes. Quite a feat in many ways, but not for me.

two star

394. Beowulf Dark Raven

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Sampled at the super subterranean Post Office Vaults in central Birmingham, this is either a surprisingly mild dark ale or a surprisingly dark pint of mild. Fairly fruity and rich, with brown sugar flavours but little of the burned taste you might expect for such a black beer.

The Beowulf brewery is local, hailing from Yardley in Birmingham. Their website refers to the Forest of Mercia, which no longer exists in this part of the world but the remnants of which can be found not far from where my better half grew up.

They describe it as a mild, but in the “old ale” style, hence the darker colouration than you might expect. It is certainly a very drinkable drop that’s not so heavy it’ll knock you out after a couple of pints. 

three star

393. Weird Beard’s K*ntish Town Beard

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A small and insignificant claim to fame – I once sat next to one of the chaps from the Weird Beard brewery at an ale festival in London. I wouldn’t have had a clue if Adam hadn’t pointed it out afterwards. It’s a shame, because I could have taken the opportunity to congratulate the bloke on the excellent beers his brewery makes.

Having taken rather a shine to their “Fade to Black” last year, I was hoping for another winner with this, their American style wheat ale. It did not let me down. This particular beverage was brewed as part of one of Brewdog’s (I know, them again!) Collabfests in 2013, where they invite a bunch of their favourite brewers to create something new and original.

The hirsute West Londoners have succeeded in creating an interesting blend between the usual thick, mellow sweetness of a wheat beer and the hoppiness we have come to expect from our American cousins. The start is certainly soft and fuzzy, but the finish is clean, bitter and dry. Not quite the best of both worlds, but certainly a clever combination.

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