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, that I predicted 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.
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 …………..
This fine Yorkshire ale normally retails in Oz for around $8 a bottle, so when I saw it on the special’s table at Desperate Dan’s, going for $2.49, I jumped at the chance ………. 3 times.
Timothy Taylor’s Landlord a classic and much-awarded English IPA, perfect for an evening in front of the newly-installed wood-burning stove. I drank it at room temperature and found it to be a smooth as silk. Antique pine in colour, it has the mild aroma of citrus fruit and suede elbow patches. Without the carbonation characteristic of Australian and American IPA’s, it’s n easy drinking ale, sweet and nutty. Sweet as a nut, you might say. I’ll be keeping an eye out for it on the hand pump next time I’m in the Old Dart.
Quite fittingly, this was the B-side to “Message In A Bottle”, here’s The Police with “Landlord” ………..
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.
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’ …….
‘Fursty Ferret’ by Badger Brewery conjures images of the English countryside, tweed caps and Jack Russels. Brewed by Hall & Woodhouse in rural Dorset, the ‘Ferret’ is a rustic amber ale and simple as a county bumpkin.
I found it a little disappointing and somewhat nondescript. It’s very agricultural in nature, reminiscent of a flat, weak, home-brew ….. I half expected to find a piece of straw in it! It might work better as a draft ale, served via a pump but from the bottle, there’s too much of the ferret in it for my liking. Hall & Woodhouse have been brewing since 1777 and with 237 years practice you’d think they would have got it right by now. No first prize here.
Best drunk with Dorset Knobs.
Here’s Dorset’s greatest export, Polly Jean Harvey, with John Parish, sounding a lot like Television with “Black Hearted Love” ……..
I knocked the top off this fine Kentish ale to celebrate the 74th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and to recognise the fact that I missed the commemorative lunch at Ballina RSL. First brewed by Shepherd and Neame in 1990, the battle’s 50th anniversary, it came to known as the “Bottle of Britain”
This is an easy-drinking brew, in classic Kentish style. A bright ale, the colour of teak, its charms are more subtle than most American or Australian brews. There are hints of brazil nut and Chivers thick cut marmalade but more than anything, this tastes like Great British Beer. To top it all off, the beer cap is one of favourites, a modern classic.
Check out the very funny and successful ad campaign for Spitfire featuring Armstrong and Miller,
What a handsome looking beer this is. The packaging reeks of tradition and quality and rightly so. Samuel Smith’s ‘Old Brewery’ in Tadcaster has been in operation since 1758 and still uses water drawn from the original well, dug some 85 feet into the Yorkshire ground. Porters or ‘brown beers’ were the forerunners of stouts (originally ‘stout porters’) and that genealogy is evident in the Taddy.
A sensible 5%, the Taddy pours beautifully into a pint glass, with a nice, uniform head. There’s the slightest of red tinges to this deep, almost impenetrably dark brew. It’s stout-like qualities are there on the nose, roasted malt with hint of coffee. Whilst it’s refreshing, coming straight out the fridge, its real flavours come out as it warms. There’s malt, roasted nuts and hint of bitter cocoa. I drank mine with ‘Old Gold’ hazelnut plain chocolate but would go wonderfully with a rich, beef stew and dumplings ……….. shame spring is here!
Musically, to accompany this classy ale I could have chosen the aptly-named Oklahoma rockers, ‘Taddy Porter’ but I’d never heard of them. Besides, it’s grim up north, so here’s The Smiths with ‘Big Mouth Strikes Again’ …………….
“A wolf in sheep’s clothing, an easy-to-drink dark strong ale”. Black Sheep Brewery‘s ‘Riggwelter’ takes its name from the from an old Yorkshire term for a sheep, once rolled onto its back, can’t get up again. I thought that only happened to beetles and tortoises ……. mind you, after a few of these it’s likely to apply to humans too.
Why a Yorkshireman would want to roll a drunk sheep onto it’s back, I’ll never know (it’s certainly not the West Country way).
Riggwelter is a beautifully aromatic ale, rich mahogany in colour and clear as a bell. Poured into a glass in has a long-lasting latte head. The taste is a complex mix of burnt toffee, bitter roasted coffee bean and biscuity sweetness. Its smoothness belies its 5.7% ABV, beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing! All in all, a great Yorkshire ale that will leave ewe wanting moor.
‘Stick to the road, stay off the moor’ ….. from the classic, An American Werewolf In London, here’s Credence Clearwater revival with ‘Bad Moon Rising’ ……………
As I start my next half-century on the planet, I thought it only right that I review an age-appropriate beer. Some people may be offended to given a bottle of “Old Fart” for their 50th birthday, not I …… I say, ‘bring it on’, Victor Meldrew, here I come.
I was pleasantly surprised by this traditional English brew. For a start it looks so bright and young when poured into the glass, clear shiny bronze with nice tight but soft bubbles. It’s a nicely balanced ale too, bittersweet and easy drinking with toffee undertones, it tastes like it was just pumped out the keg in a Yorkshire pub.
Old Fart won’t blow your head off, it won’t even blow your mind but it will blow the cobwebs out after a hard day’s labour and, like most farts, is surprisingly satisfying.
Here’s Jimi Hendrix with ‘The Wind Cries Mary’ …………….
To quote Wells and Young, “This is very much a beer first and a dessert second, it is brewed with our trusted pale ale malt and a secret blend of complex sugars. The initial sweetness of Sticky Toffee Pudding Ale is tempered by a gentle bitterness from two of England’s most traditional hop varieties- Fuggles and Goldings. This delivers the sweet taste of caramel and toffee along with a smooth and robust aftertaste”.
I couldn’t have put it better myself. Like their other dessert ales, this is primarily an ale and a very good one at that. I’ve always been a fan of English ales with caramel/toffee undertones so the sticky toffee pudding flavour is no quantum leap. Once again, the dessert flavour is subtle and not overpowering. In fact, it smells sweeter than it tastes, where the bitterness of the hops dominates the smooth, warm sugars on the tongue. It’s a deeply satisfying, winter ale and would go well with custard.
If you’ve not yet tried one of these dessert ales, do yourself a favour and have some pudding. Or why not try a beer cocktail of Banana Bread Beer and Sticky Toffee Pudding Ale and make a Banoffee Pudding Bitter?
Mixing double chocolate with caramel undertones, here’s The Undertones with …..’More Songs About Chocolate And Girls’, great song, shit vid …………………
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!
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.