Category Archives: English Bitters

Youngs’ Special London Ale (ENG)

OK, I’m going to keep this short and sweet. I took this photo on 10th June. It was the day before I visited Brisbane with a bunch of friends and rivals, fellow Poms and Aussies to see the first test against the Wallabies. Was this bottle of beer a good omen? With Ben Youngs set to start for the a very special England XV,  I predicted a 3-0 win for the visiting team.

Low and behold, 3 weeks later I was proved right! However, my clairvoyant career was short-lived as I failed to predict the England soccer team’s exit from  Euro16  courtesy of the football powerhouse that is Iceland, and the UK’s exit from the EU, courtesy  of a bunch of idiots in the motherland.

Nonetheless, I’m a rugby man and that’s the result that counts.

Image of a bottle of Special London Ale on an England rugby shirt.
Something special from England……


How about the beer I hear you ask? Brewed by Charles Wells, Young’ Special London Ale s a fine example of an English ale, nutty with hints of caramelised marmalade and a controlled bitte hoppy finish; smooth and satisfying. They say revenge is a dish best tasted cold, but this beer it’s best drunk at room temperature, to bring the flavour out. World class. Swing Low.

For a well-travelled Special Ale and some fine Internationals, here’s the Specials with International Jet Set …………..





Moa Five Hop – Moa Brewing Co (NZ)

Any beer with a cork in the top of the bottle that pops like champagne when you open it has got to be good. This multi-award wining English-style ale from Blenheim’s Moa Brewing Co lives up to it’s billing.

Moa Five Hop - Heaven in a bottle
Moa Five Hop – Heaven in a bottle


Cloudy teak in colour, it has the aroma of freshly baked bread with honey. It’s tight bubbles hold a good head and slide the ale smoothly over your tongue. The taste is complex, as you’d expect from a combination of five hops, and deeply satisfying. I detect hints of brandy barrels and spices, creamed honey and pine needles. Another winner from a great Kiwi brewer, Heaven in a bottle.

Here’s the very wonderful James Teague with ‘Heaven’, keep an eye out for his new album, ‘Beyond The Melting Dawn’ due for release in November 15 …………………

Young’s Special London Ale (ENG)

I always get excited when I try a new Young’s ale, I just know it’s going to be good. I was a convert for their Banana Bread Beer and an evangelist for their Double Chocolate Stout. How would they go with a beer flavoured ale? Well, there’s a clue in the name ………. ‘special’ is one way to describe it.

Young's London Ale ......... it's a bit special!
Young’s London Ale ……… it’s a bit special!


It pours nicely into the glass, with beautiful fat bubbles from its bottle conditioning.  The colour of toffee caramel, a warm orangey brown, there’s a sweetness on the nose,  (toffee apples spring to mind) but the taste is more complex. Toffee, yes, but three’s also layers of bitterness with hints of kumquat and olde English marmalade. I drank this a little cooler than I normally would but the subtleties of the taste still shone through. A thoroughly refreshing pint, it would go well with another bottle of Special London Ale.

Here’s something else a bit special, London Grammar with ‘Strong’ …….


Sunset Ale – Two Birds Brewing (AUS)

If a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush what is Two Birds in the hand worth? It’s worth drinking that’s for sure.

I’d always associated the Victorian town of Spotswood with the slot-car movie of the same name, starring Anthony Hopkins, that inspired the “Fast & Furious” franchise. It seems Spotswood could soon be known for craft brewing too.

Sunset Ale - Two Birds Brewing ..... worth one in the bush
Sunset Ale – Two Birds Brewing ….. worth one in the bush

The name alludes to the fact that the brewers in question are in fact ‘two birds’, of the female variety. Making their way in a very male-dominated industry must be hard (conversely, I know my mates Jonno and Des struggled with their cupcake business) …….. but the girls have done good. Mahogany in colour, it has notes of toffee on both the nose and the tongue. I would have preferred a little more bitterness in the finish and maybe a third bird would have would have been the icing on the cake. Overall, an easy drinking English-style ale, best poured into a glass and supped slowly.

I’d also like to see a “Spotswood Ale” with a picture of a slot-car on the label.

It’s no quantum leap from Two Birds to “Three Little Birds”, so here’s a bit of Bob …………………



Old Admiral – Lord Nelson Brewery (AUS)

No trip to Sydney is ever complete without a visit to the The Lord Nelson pub. It’s not exactly hidden but it’s not a pub you’re likely to stumble across unless your looking for it.  A beautiful sandstone building located in Kent St, The Rocks,  The Lord Nelson is Sydney’s oldest continually licensed pub and home to Australia’s oldest pub brewery. When I lived in Sydney, The Nelson was one of the first places I took visitors, neatly forgetting that most of them were quite used to drinking English-style brews served in pint glasses …… in an old pub. For me, the novelty never wore off. The beer was too good.

Nelson's Blood ...... Australia expects every man to do his duty and try a pint ........
Old Admiral …… Australia expects every man to do his duty and try a pint ……..


Weighing in at a hefty 6.1%, Old Admiral is not a great beer to start an evening on …… but it certainly makes for a damn good finish. An impenetrable reddish black in colour, it has a rich caramel aroma. Like any old sea dog worth it’s salt, it’s bark is as good as it’s bite with  deep, rich winter flavours and hints of burnt treacle. I might be being a bit one-eyed about this but theres no ‘arm in stating that, like the Old Admiral himself, this one serves respect and ‘admiration’

Goes down a treat with Monday night’s $8.00 pie, mash and peas and a walk round the harbour to check out the Vivid Festival

Sydney Harbour Bridge lit up for the Vivid Festival
Sydney Harbour Bridge lit up for the Vivid Festival ©Mike Greenslade

Obvious, I know, but here’s The Special AKA with ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ …………………



‘My Wife’s Bitter’ – Burleigh Brewery (AUS)

‘My Wife’s Bitter’ sounds like the start of a Les Dawson joke. My wife’s marmalade is both bitter and sweet and therefore very satisfying.  I wish the same could be said of Burleigh Brewery’s English style ‘bitter’.

My Wife's Bitter - Not a patch on My wife's marmalade!
My Wife’s Bitter – Not a patch on my wife’s marmalade!


It’s not a bad drop, it’s just lacking something. Perhaps it’s the hops? There’s a familiarity to it but it needs something else to differentiate it  from your average ‘boys bitter’ found in any English pub. Perhaps a hint of toffee, an undertone of biscuit, some cheeky chocolate, a nibble of nuts, a slice of christmas cake ………….. it just needs something to raise it above the ordinary. Perhaps I should try it at room temperature?

For a real bitter finish, I watched England play the All Blacks on Saturday night only to see us go down by 1 point. Now that left a bad taste in the mouth!

In honour of My Wife’s Marmalade’ here’s The Verve with the perfectly balanced ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ ……………

Old Hooky by Hook Norton Brewery

Another brew from the historic Cotswolds-based, Hook Norton Brewery. These people have been putting smiles on faces since 1849. Today the brewery offers tours, owns 40 pubs and still delivers ale locally by a shirehorse-drawn dray. Carbon neutral delivery, I like it!

Hook Norton's Old Hooky - ummm, got me hooked
Hook Norton’s Old Hooky – ummm, got me hooked


Cloudy copper in colour, it has an aroma of fruit and flowers, like a hospital waiting room without the disinfectant. Very English in style, it tastes like christmas: dried fruit, spices, brazil nuts and ….. well, beer. I like it. In fact, I like it a lot. It’s kind of got me hooked.

Here’s Hooked On Classics ……… only kidding. From Hooky we get Peter Hook, or “Hooky’ as he’s known (could have gone straight to ‘Hooky’ there really) from New Order with ‘Confusion’. Quite apt really!  I used to have one side of a C90 filled with this.


Theakston Old Peculiar (ENG)

Theakston Old Peculiar‘. Just the mention of the name conjures the archetypal image of the CAMRA member, bearded, woollen jumper under tweed or corduroy jacket with leather elbow patches, supping his pint from a dimpled glass with a handle. If only the campaign against coal seam gas could be as successful as the one for real ale!

Theakston Old Peculiar - the legend lives on
Theakston Old Peculiar – the legend lives on


Old Peculiar is a dark and mysterious pint. The colour of polished teak, impenetrable to light, it could almost be a stout. Toasted malt and a little fruit on the nose is followed by burnt toffee-apple and roasted coffee beans on the palate. It has the character of an Olde English ale, capable of getting you lost on the moor on the way home. A few of these would make you most peculiar indeed!

Most peculiar mama! Here’s another English legend, John Lennon. I was going to go for ‘Nobody Told Me’ but after careful consideration, I’ve hopted for  ‘Instant CAMRA’.

Robinson’s ‘Old Tom’ with Chocolate (ENG)

‘What’s Easter without chocolate’? I hear you say.  ‘A religious festival free of rampant commercialism’ I reply. There’s more to Easter than preaching the gospel of tooth decay, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Hence I shun the chocolate egg, let the whippets loose on the Easter Bunny and try a bottle of ‘Old Tom with Chocolate’ to prove I’m not a complete cynic.

Robinson' Old Tom with chocolate ...... the cat's whiskers
Robinson’ Old Tom with chocolate …… the cat’s whiskers


Robinson’s have been brewing in the UK for over 175 years and their 8% ‘Old Tom’ was voted the ‘World’s Best Beer’ (it says so on the label). This version has been toned down to 6% but is still a full-blooded bitter. The chocolate is evident in the aroma and even the rich brown colour, but only subtly in the taste. This is a heady brew, deep, strong flavours with coffee and cocoa undertones, not at all sweet. It’s a great winter ale and not what you might expect when you read ‘chocolate’ on the label ……. nice bottle too!

Here’s The Stone Roses with ‘I Am The Resurrection’. Happy Easter everyone.

Courage Directors Bitter – Wells & Young (ENG)

Courage Directors was originally brewed exclusively for the Directors of the Alton brewery, but following public demand, the beer was made available to the public.” I’m glad it was as this was one one my favourite cask beers when visiting England (from Cornwall). Of course, now it’s available around the world.

Courage Directors Bitter - rich in history and taste
Courage Directors Bitter – rich in history and taste


This classic English pint certainly travels well and the bottled version compares well with the cask brew. A rich copper brown in colour, it’s smooth on the palate, with a slightly sweet, malty taste, balanced with the bitterness of hops. The Directors knew what they were doing when they kept this one to themselves. If you’re ever in the UK, try this one on the hand-pump, you won’t regret it.

From the album ‘Director’s Cut’, Here’s the very lovely Kate Bush (my first girlfriend …. just ask my kids) with ‘The Red Shoes’