Old Fart

Total Score: 7/10 Biscuit1Butter1Flowers1Nonicpint1

This has been a long time coming given that I am cantankerous, old… well not old in age but old in spirit… and a boozer – perhaps the booziest of boozers as I have a blog about beer. So there you have it – many reasons for me to wrap my gob around a nonic pint of what I imagine will be a classic no-nonsense “I remember the days when…” Yorkshire-brewed English Bitter (i.e. malty with next to no hops and flat as a tack carbonation, an English pub beer if you will). Cheers to all the Old Farts out there!

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a nonic pint just as God, the Queen and Blighty intended.

A: Presents with a clear (almost hazed) copper body and a thin foamy off-white head that quickly dissipates to nothing – a typical English Bitter appearance then – no surprises but also nothing that elevates this above the pack, and TBH I prefer a bit of cloudiness in my beers, though stylistically EB’s aren’t supposed to have yeast cloudiness. 7/10.

S: Hints of Diacetyl (a buttery character for the uninitiated) upfront, this is quite acceptable for the style, along with a toffee/biscuit base and fruity/floral hops in the background. A real English Bitter with little in the way of detractions… or distractions even. 7/10.

T: Upfront fruity and floral notes lead into a dry cracker mid-palate, then a sweet toffee/caramel malt layer that then leads into some buttery character and finishes with a light hop bitterness. There’s a decent amount of complexity going on here, perhaps too much (I’m looking at you floral/dry cracker notes) and indeed the Diacetyl in the glass adds to this complexity. 7/10.

M: Mid to light, almost medium bodied with a light but not English pub flat carbonation. 7/10.

D: What a solid chap this Old Fart is! With some typical flavours you normally find in an English Bitter, although I did find it a little distracting with the floral and dry cracker notes. At times it felt a bit muddled and not really sure of where it was headed, however there are plenty of things working in its favour: Diacetyl, fruity hops, toffee/caramel malts. Certainly this is one of the better Bitters I’ve had recently (never mind it is the only Bitter I’ve had recently). 7/10.

Food match: I’ve got a friend I would like you to meet, his name is: Stew.

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Courage Directors Superior Ale

Total Score: 6.5/10 Caramel1 DarkFruits1 Nut1 Nonicpint1

I’m actually surprised I hadn’t gotten to this sooner what with me being an amateur film Director and what not [excluding both ‘what’ and ‘not’]. Plus with my penchant for English Bitters being quite strong I can only chalk this up to a sizeable slip under the old beerdar. Anyway it is here and pre-review warming up to room temp as we speak. Before I begin I must add that this is a bit on the heavy side for a Bitter at a lofty 4.8% ABV, and Wells & Young’s track record for me has been hit-and-miss with their Courage Russian Imperial Stout being their high water mark IMO, so who knows where Directors will end up.

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Clear copper body with a light splotchy thin beige head on top – about as English Bitter as old English pies with a pint of English Bitter beside it and a side of English Bitter sauce to go with the pie. 8/10.

S: Toffee malt, earthy/nutty notes, hints of dark fruit – raisin, plum, with a veneer of herbal hops in the background… overall this Bitter smells like a bit of excitement compared to the namby-pamby lightweight 4.4% Bitters out there, expecting some explosive not-your-average-day-in-the-pub-watching-football-which-is-called-soccer-elsewhere-in-the-world-to-differentiate-it-from-other-forms-of-ball-sports action here. 8/10.

T: Wow, what a let-down… the flavour is a shadow of the above aromas… it’s not explosive action, just a muted Bitter at best. I’ve had plenty of Bitters that would blow this out of the water flavourwise – several of which weigh in at 4.4% ABV. This is a disappointingly light where-it-counts English Bitter… at least the flavours are as expected from the aroma (toffee/earthy/nutty/raisin/plum) with a slight sour/bitter finish, but otherwise this brew warrants my giant beige stamp of ‘MEH!’. 6/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with some playful carbonation that does nothing to damper that classic English pub vibe. 8/10.

D: Well Courage Directors Superior Ale really drops the ball when it counts in the flavour department and totally misses out on a near flawless try/goal [as long as we’re going along with the footy theme here]. Here is a list of better Bitters for you to try instead of this average drop: Ruddles County, Brakspear Bitter, St. Peter’s Ruby Red Ale and Adnams Bitter – tell me you still prefer Courage after trying these finer brews. 5/10.

Food match: Chicken pot pie with a side of mash, peas, carrots and gravy.

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Brakspear Oxford Gold

Total Score: 7.2/10 Lemon1 Biscuit1 RedApple1 Nonicpint1

Brakspear is the Shakespeare of English Beer… not really but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to enunciate that statement, it was like part of my brain was thinking “Brakspear, Shakespeare” whilst another part was going “please no, don’t put another terrible pun in a review” too late, I did it and there’s no changing it now sucker! [err, yes, there is a button called ‘backspace’ that could work wonders for your reviews]… *brain-to-brain murmurs* OK I’ve worked it out with myself – I will keep telling terrible puns and I will also keep plying the dignity self-censorship portion of my brain with alcohol – as far as I can see it’s a win-win situation.

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Butter-Menthols (Google it) is the exact colour of the body of this beer, I can’t even describe it to you – you just have to Google it. True story: Butter-Menthols are so good that as a kid I looked forward to catching a cold just so I could have some, of course now I simply drink a beer that is heavy in Diacetyl when I’ve got a cold and make it even worse but as they say: with age comes wisdom (teeth). The head was gone in a flash, typical English head, I believe it was cream-coloured. 7/10.

S: Aroma is quite floral with a medicinal note and some cider apples thrown in… colour me “what-the-f__k-is-this?” which is a purple-brown hue. Hint of lemon in there as well perhaps? Indeed. Malt, where are you hiding today? 8/10.

T: The flavour is floral, like a potpourri, my mouth has never been so much like an air freshener, with hints of the following: Citrus, biscuit malt and apple ester with an astringent dry finish – it’s the classic dry gin martini equivalent of a beer – you can feel this brew evaporate turning your tongue into the Sahara. Not bad, if you’re into that sort of thing. 7/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a light carbonation and the aforementioned astringency dominating the palate here… the Japanese are totally jealous. 7/10.

D: I like Brakspear – so far I’ve tried two of their beers and they’ve been completely different unlike another certain brewer whom I just reviewed (I’ll give you a hint: sheep, possibly a herd, managed by someone named “Neame”) for whom it is difficult to pick their brews apart from each other. But I digress (my favourite activity) as this Brakspear is a brew I recommend with a caveat – do you have another drink handy because this is one dry MOFO. 7/10.

Food match: WARNING: DO NOT CONSUME WATER CRACKERS WITH THIS BEER.

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Shepherd Neame Master Brew Kentish Ale

Total Score: 6.6/10 Caramel1 Earth1 Coriander1 Nonicpint1

It sounds like the name of a new Iron Chef style brewing show where Sam Calagione battles against Jim Koch for the Iron Brewer crown, which is a hat shaped like a Spiegelau IPA glass: Master Brew… Kentish Ale! [said with a pause in the middle with an overtly ridiculous American movie trailer voice] However it isn’t. It’s just a beer. A beer by Shepherd Neame nonetheless but still a beer [I so wanted to see “Master Brew Kentish Ale” on the T-box, but oh well *pops open bottle*].

Poured from a you-know-what-size-it-is into you-know-which-receptacle, aka 500ml/nonic pint.

A: Clear auburn-copper body with a foamy off-white 1 cm head that wont actually just quit. I don’t know how Shepherd Neame do it but all their beers look exactly the same, least the ones I’ve tried… just as well it’s a good look for an EB. 7/10.

S: All their aromas are similar too… do you reckon Shepherd Neame distribute the same product in different packaging and the joke’s on us? I swear I had a Spitfire the other day and the aroma was exactly the same… toffee/caramel malts, fruity/earthy hops and a restrained tea leaf tannin in the background. Straight up English Bitter goodness right ‘ere! 7/10.

T: Verbatim what I wrote for Spitfire applies: “Balanced flavour here; the hops add a citrus tang and the caramel malts come through on the back palate”… Shepherd Neame I like you but you are seriously ‘aving a larf. If I could taste a point of difference this one has a bolder herbal bitter note in the finish but otherwise this brew is a definite bed mate to Bishops Finger and Spitfire, the fact that those other brews are decent reflects on this similarly tasting brew. Metal note implies some classic copper vats used in the brewing process and a slight distraction. 7/10.

M: It’s not all “good news goats” with a carbonation that is distractingly “burpy” for lack of a better descriptive, body is mid to light and spot on though. 5/10.

D: Not bad as usual Mr. Neame. This is a decent enough EB that doesn’t wow but at the same time it doesn’t disappoint either – it’s like the ale version of long-relationship sex – gets the job done. My only gripe is how gassy it is – it certainly doesn’t facilitate the ‘slamming down pints Dave Lister style’ drinking that I know and love, I’ve really had to pace myself with this one, maybe that was Shepherd Neame’s plan all along… 6/10.

Food match: That not-so-old English classic: Chicken Tikka Masala with Biriyani and a Naan of course!

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Brakspear Bitter

Total Score: 7.5/10 Butter1 Caramel1 Earth1 Nonicpint1

Classic English Bitter? Yes please! And, according to the label on this bottle of Brakspear, this is the original taste of Oxfordshire… as if a county in England could have a specific taste… anyway, I’ve got my Bitter and I’m as happy as a Frenchman who has just invented a pair of self-removing trousers. Wow, I can’t believe I haven’t used that Blackadder reference before.

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Typical English Bitter clear copper body with a thin cream coloured lace instead of a head. 7/10.

S: Toffee and butterscotch, tons of the stuff, suits me fine – I’m a Werther’s man! The hops struggle to add a note of anything under this oppressive malt regime, but it is an English Bitter – an oxymoron style that is hardly bitter at all. 8/10.

T: Bold in its massive buttery Diacetyl content, with again – a strong toffee centre with some hints of yeast fruitiness (think cider apples) and a light earthy hop finish. Impressive overall given the 3.4% ABV, some 5% Ales don’t reach a profile as tasty as this. The balance is quite well done with mild sweetness countered by the light hop bitterness. I’m very interested in trying their Triple now, that should be a tour de force. 7/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a light English pub carbonation. 8/10.

D: It’s all good with Brakspear then, an impressive, and in two words: Sessionable Ale. This is the stuff that Ye Olde English pub goers cram into their gullets in massive quantities so that they may still be able to hold a decent conversation without mincing their words or dribbling saliva on themselves (a rookie session drinkers mistake). To me the fact that this tastes like a 5% ABV drop and has those classic English Ale flavours, is what typifies that segment of culture, and really makes me miss the UK pint after work, sniff. 8/10.

Food match: I could picture this brew with a light game roast (pheasant or partridge) with a light gravy, a Yorkshire pudding, roast vegetables (potato, carrot, squash) and peas.

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