Adnams’ Bottled Beauties

24 08 2010

Given that I have several months worth of catching up to do I thought I would save a little space and combine a couple of posts here.

As a result of taking part in the inaugural BeerSwap I was kindly sent a bottle of Tally Ho by those nice folks at Adnams.  Then, as spring was beginning to brighten our lives, they also sent me a bottle of Spindrift.  Both of these I drank a while back so it is about time I let Sean and everyone else at Adnams what I thought of their fare.  I’ve had the odd pint of their beer on cask over the years but can’t say they are a brewery I would hunt out and have generally thought the beers to be averagely inoffensive so was interested to see what I would make of these bottles.

Tally Ho – Traditional Dark Ale, 7.2%

First things first I’d just like to say what a natty looking bottle of beer this is and one for which my photography does no favours.  It is definitely something which would draw my eye on a supermarket/off licence shelf so job well done in that regard.

This is described by Adnams as a Barley Wine style beer which has been brewed by them since 1880, although it hasn’t been bottled for about 10 years now.  I poured mine at room temperature which I always find preferable for darker beers and was rewarded with dark brown beer with hints of garnet red and a reasonable head which slowly dissipated.  The aromas coming out of the glass were wonderfully redolent of Christmas, a slight smokiness followed by spicy, sweet fruits all coming on like a freshly baked Christmas cake.

It tasted just as good, really smooth and easy drinking despite its strength.  The Christmas cake flavours were still there and these were joined by a bite of chocolate and a swig of coffee.  I imagine this would be great with a slice of said Christmas cake and some lovely crumbly cheese whilst sitting in front of a roaring fire on a cold winters evening.  However, given that this is my kind of beer, in reality I could happily drink this at any time of the year.

Adnams say that Tally Ho will mature in the bottle and will benefit from a period of laying down so it could get even better.  Now there is a project worth pursuing.

Spindrift – Refreshing English Beer, 5.0%

Here we have an even nattier looking bottle than the Tally Ho, all blue and fresh looking which again can’t help but make it stand out on the shelves.  Someone in the design department deserves a pat on the back for these.

This one I poured chilled(ish), about 20 minutes after I removed it from the fridge and was presented with a lovely golden beer with small white head.  Aroma wise we had some citrus fruits and a malty sweetness with nothing overpowering and all nicely balanced.  I’m not usually a golden ale kind of guy and tend to find them too hoppy for my palate but this went down a treat.  Flavour wise what we have here is a beautifully balanced mix of caramel sweet malts followed by a touch of hop bitterness which gives the beer just the right amount of edge.  Why anyone would choose to down a stubby of lager over this is beyond me, I loved it and have been recommending it to my friends & relatives as the summer beer of choice.

So there we go two resounding successes which I have to say has left me somewhat surprised.  As I stated previously I’ve never considered Adnams to be a go to brewery but maybe I need to reassess their draft beers the next chance I get.


Beer Swap Review – Part 2 of 2

8 02 2010

Well after an enforced lay-off due to family illness and a need to spend some time working on my MSc I’m back and can finally wrap up #beerswap.  In truth I completed this post ages ago and had thought I had posted it already…numpty.

Rebellion Red – Rebellion Brewery, Marlow

Does what it says on the tin and pours into the glass as what looks to be a fairly standard red/brown ruby ale.  The aroma is buttery, in the manner of a heavily oaked Aussie chardonnay, with a toffee apple like sweetness and some light hops to balance things off.  The first mouthful was, well, underwhelming and my first notes were ‘typical, uninspiring, ruby ale…ho-hum’.

Not a great start, eh?  But the Red was just teasing me, playing me for the fool I obviously am.  By the third or fourth mouthful I started to wonder what was going on.  Suddenly I was getting that malty, caramel coming through along with a rounded fruitiness and the hoppy bitterness of the aftertaste was cleansing my palate which was now beginning to crave the next mouthful.  I was really beginning to enjoy this.  OK, so Red isn’t the best thing I’ve ever tasted, not even close, but it was a lovely balanced ruby session ale and ultimately, especially after my first impressions, a very pleasant surprise.

Henley Dark – Lovibonds, Henley-on-Thames

And so I saved what I hoped to be the best until last.  I have for several years now been a dark ale man, so I was particularly looking forward to giving this a try.  The colour was a bit of a surprise and this was more of a deep chestnut colour rather than the black I was expecting (though not sure why I was expecting that).  The aroma was very pleasant, a smokey, caramel sweetness with some spiciness lurking in the background.  Taste wise this was also surprising, a lighter mouth feel than expected and whilst the smokiness and caramel were there the predominant flavour was a sourness not unlike unripe cherries.   This was far from unpleasant but, again, not what I was expecting and reminded me of a mild rather than a porter.  All in all an interesting bottle of beer and fine example of why you shouldn’t make presumptions about what lies within the bottle.  But was it the best of the four? Truth be told I think the one I enjoyed most, for a number of reasons, was the Rebellion Red.

So there we go four brilliant reasons why beerswap is such a damned good idea.  OK, not every bottle hit the mark for me but I really enjoyed tasting stuff I had never come across before and may never have picked up even if I had done.  I had no problems using the Collect+ service although others had a nightmare experience so maybe the postal format needs to be re-examined for future beerswaps.  Thanks have to go to Andy Mogg and Mark Dredge for organising a bunch of errant beer tweeters which must have seemed like herding cats at times, great job guys.

Finally I guess the question has to be asked ‘Would I do this again?’ Hell yes.


Beer Swap Review – Part 1 of 2

3 12 2009

Well, I thought I had better post something here after a week or so’s worth of inactivity brought on by a general feeling of yuerk! (That’s a technical, medical term…trust me I work in a hospital).  Nothing enough to stop me going to work but more than enough to reduce my functionality down to basic motor skills at all other times.  This status quo seems to have no intention of abating on its own so I’m making a concerted effort to force myself to do ‘stuff’.  Kill or cure, if you like.

So what better way to try and break this fug than with beer and, as the deadline for posting about the goodies I received fast approaches, Beer Swap beer at that.  As I have previously posted my benefactor in this wonderful, Twitter led, endeavour was Simon (AKA @WindsorBeerFest) who hails from the Windsor area or Doon South as we call it up here.  As a result I received the following brews:

Dr Hexter’s Healer – West Berkshire Brewery, Yattendon, Thatcham

This pours as a lovely caramel amber colour and caramel is what you get on the nose along with orchard fruits and pleasant, balancing hop freshness.  The fruit remains through to the tasting where the hops add a citrus edge to proceedings and the caramel, whilst still there, takes more of a back seat along with some nuttiness.  There is a bitterness to the finish which proves to be quite refreshing.  I could quite happily sit drinking this during the course of a session but it’s not something I’d actively hunt out.

Rebellion White – Rebellion Brewery, Marlow

OK, wheat beers are something of a no go area for me after some very bad experiences of plainly awful examples which raised their ugly head in Newcastle during the late ‘80’s.  So, other than the occasional bottle of Hoegaarden, I’m very much a novice with this style of beer, anyway here goes.   As expected the beer pours cloudy but it was darker than I had imagined, looking somewhat like a real cider in the glass.  Despite the bottle telling me I would be able to smell cloves I have to say, whilst they may have been there, I got more of a general, mixed spice aroma.  Taste wise, another surprise, in that there wasn’t as much of a citrus hit as I was expecting.  Rather the spiciness was to the fore, predominantly ginger and a tongue tingling pepperiness.  The citrus was there but it was rounded (almond/vanilla in there too) rather than sharp.  Ultimately I really enjoyed this and found it to be very refreshing and way better than the Hoegaarden I’d been fooling myself with.  I’ll be putting this on the wish list of supplies in time for Barbie season next year, that’s for sure and I’ll be on the lookout for other wheat beers to try too.

To be continued in part 2 where I’ll give my views on the remaining beers and the Beer Swap experience as a whole.


Multi-flavoured Swap Shop

15 11 2009

beer_swapLOGOGiven that my #Beerswap selection has finally reached its Collect+ arrival point I thought I would do a post about my experiences so far of the whole thing.   Well, for starters, I can’t say it was any easy selection process by any means.  The biggest problem was trying to get the balance of my selection sorted.  As I’ve stated previously I’m predominantly a dark ale man so my first thoughts were to go rushing off and by bottles of my favourite local darks but then I got to thinking, ‘what if my recipient is a hoppy, light beer lover?’

My dilemma was helped somewhat when I found out that my recipient was also supplying me with their selection.  So, the plan went, I would just wait for their selection to arrive, check it out and try and surmise what sort of beer they favoured.  Naturally, in the end, they had been very sensible and posted me a good cross selection of beer styles which, of course, is what I should have been looking to do all along.

Next problem, how the hell do you limit yourself to four beers? To solve this I took the scattergun approach and bought far more than I needed and drank my way down to four.  Not the most scientific of methods, I agree, but damned good fun.  Some of those that failed to make the final cut, for no reason other than I drank them, included Alnwick IPA, Durham Archangel and Wylam Rocket.  So what did make the final four?

Jarrow – Westoe IPA 3.8%

Allendale – Wolf 5.5%

Hadrian & Border – Ouseburn Porter 5.2%

Durham – Temptation 10%

All great beers, I think, but I’ll let @WindsorBeerFest be the final judge of that.

The chosen delivery method, via Collect+, has been a pain free experience although I am aware that other people have had problems with the service.  All I can say is that it has been great fun rediscovering some beers that, because they are local, I have tended to take for granted, which in my eyes has been the major plus point of #beerswap.  Well that and getting to try some beers I’ve never even heard of never mind tasted and I’ll post a review when I can finally find some time in my diary to sit down and enjoy them properly.


Bacchus For Good

11 11 2009

Firstly let me apologise for the delay in getting this post done but I’m afraid work has been making too many demands of me this week.  Still, it pays the bills and allows me to head out on jaunts like this along with the Good Lady Wife (GLW) and, so far unseen, co-writer (HH).  Of course I could just point you in the direction of Liz’s excellent post but as I’d made some notes, well…

With military precision plans were made to drop of my #beerswap parcel at a local newsagent’s, get into town early and pick up a couple of pre-ordered Christmas pressies and meet up with HH in Waterstones.  Of course, the military themselves scuttled these plans by marching the army (OK just some of it) in parade between ourselves and HH, effectively cordoning off Waterstones in the process.  Still beer was the order of the day so despite their best efforts rendezvous was made and we strolled along to the Bacchus.

Arriving a polite 15 minutes early we discovered the doors closed so edged up the lane 10 yards or so to stand on the street corner and not look like three desperate types gasping for the pub to open.  Within a few minutes a couple of other groups furtively edged towards the doors and catching the hint of a Yorkshire accent on the wind I realised that Pete from The Brew Company had arrived so over we popped to introduce ourselves as fellow twitter correspondents.

I have to admit to having a coffee as my first drink of the day.  Given all the beers we were due to be drinking and the fact that the GLW would only be having a few mouthfuls of each before decanting into my glass (and HH’s) I figured this to be prudent.  HH of course went ahead and had a half of the Abyss “to warm up”.  Seating was secured on the raised rear level where a collection of familiar faces were congregating and now all we had to do was wait for the menus to arrive.  It was at this point I suddenly thought about the food for the first time since the event was mooted, which I guess goes to show where my priorities lay.

Starting proceedings Pete stood up and gave us all a low down on the Brewery and what we should expect from the days event.  I prepared all my essential gear, phone for tweeting the courses as they happened, camera to take the pictures you see here and a notebook and pen for the taking of tasting notes before bracing myself for what was about to come.  And then came the beer and food…

Course 1: Abyss Best Bitter 4.2% – Duck Liver Parfait with Brioche Toast


Looking like a traditional, mid brown Best Bitter the Abyss gave off lovely toasted caramel aromas in the glass.  The sweetness of the caramel was present upon tasting too with a lovely balanced bitterness finishing things off.  This proved to be a great match for the course, the sweetness matching that of the onion marmalade and the bitterness cutting through the richness of the parfait.  What a start!

Course2: Slaker Pale Ale 3.8% – Radiccho with Thai Crab Salad


What a revelation this was.  I would normally avoid something this colour like the plague but what a wonderful beer this is.  With surprisingly more body than I was expecting this was an easy drinking, smooth, fruity beer with just a slight hint of bitterness at the back of the throat.  The bitterness became a bit more prominent when drank with the food but was never overpowering.  I could quite happily drink pint after pint of this stuff on a warm summer’s day/evening and even the odd one during colder months as a pleasant change of pace.

Course 3: Hop Manefesto 4.8% – Mexicana Cheese Tart


Blimey, you want hops? Well here you have them and more so.  My first taste of this was like sucking on a juicy grapefruit and all a bit overpowering for me.  However when tasted in conjunction with the tart things settled down somewhat and it did become drinkable.  Hats off to the tart here which, with its rich, cheesy pastry and dense, flavoursome filling, saved this course.  This is not something I would choose to drink again, reminding me too much of the OTT BrewDog beers that I just don’t get either.

Course 4: St Petrus Stout 5% – Fresh Oysters, Lemon Juice & Coriander


You can’t get much more classic than this, now can you?  Smooth, full bodied milk chocolate giving way to a hint of liquorice bitterness towards the end, absolutely bloody glorious.  This worked really well with the salt and lemon juice on the oysters which didn’t clash at all.  This is close to my perfect beer so naturally the GLW decided she liked it too meaning I got very little decant this time around, although I did gain several oysters from both her and HH as compensation.

Course 5: Hop Ripper 4.3% – Thai Fried Noodles


Hmmm, Hop Manifesto Lite anyone?  I have to admit I really didn’t like this beer, although the consensus from surrounding tables was very positive.  It didn’t have the shock factor that saw my glass of Hop Manifesto emptied and I only drank about 1/3 of a pint, the noodles were particularly nice though.  Sorry Peter.

Course 6: Tantalus Belgian Dubbel 6.5% – Sticky Pork Spare Ribs


Ah, back on the rails again, this is more like it.  A dark and rich Belgian style Dubbel beer, my notes at this point read “Black treacle and malt extract…yum…yum…yum” which I think says it all.  Some of my favourite childhood tastes blended in a wonderful adult pleasure.  The pork ribs were a lovely match too but a bit fiddly when impatiently waiting to get back to the booze.

Around about now a combination of the poor phone reception, me not understanding how to use my phone properly and the effects of the beer resulted in me tweeting pics of this particular course 4 times, but it was worth it.

Course 7:  Autumnus Porter 4.7% – Dark Chocolate and Courgette Brownies


The first of two pudding courses and the end of my tasting notes so these are from memory alone.  Another great beer and food match what with the crispy/gooey contradiction of the brownies highlighting the surprisingly delicate spices of the Autumnus.  This was much more of a subtle flavoured beer than I was expecting but a particularly nice one at that.

Course 8:  Raisin to Live ~ Black Chocolate Raisin Imperial Stout 7% – Strawberry Crème Brulee


A special one off brew by Pete for the Sheffield beer festival and this was one of two remaining barrels he tells us.  There is no way you would have guessed that this was a 7% beer, it was so easy drinking with no cloyingness at all.  There was chocolate aplenty and the raisins added a wonderful fruity sweetness that made me wish that I hadn’t drank so much already.

So there you have it…quite a spread eh? In truth too much of one really and, perhaps, six courses would have been more manageable but, hey, I’m not complaining.  Pete worked like a Trojan, visiting all the tables with every course to give us a bit of background on each of the beers and that added so much to the afternoon’s events.


Andy, Paul and Pete

Thanks must go to Andy for hosting things, Paul for cooking things and once again Pete for adding depth to the whole proceedings.  So when’s the next one?