Stone & Wood Forefathers Blair Hayden English Pale Ale

Total Score: 7.1/10 Biscuit1Lemon1Tea1Nonicpint1

Another Stone & Wood Forefathers brew [Hooray!]. As you can probably tell I enjoyed the last one of these I tried: Willie Simpson Doppelbock Lager. I love how Stone & Wood felt that they needed to call it a “Doppelbock Lager” because most people who drink Stone & Wood probably don’t even know that a Doppelbock is a Lager (it’s entry-level craft, Stone & Wood, but it’s done well… mostly). Getting back to Blair Hayden English Pale Ale, it’s surprising that they’ve picked a style that is: a) considered a bit mundane by some in the craft community [not me I must point out], and b) a style that is wholly dependant on good quality English hops [not sure how many Fuggles get grown in Australia, but I would imagine it’s not a lot]. More power to them if they can pull it off though [FYI had a real UK EPA last night].

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Hazed pale golden-yellow body with a nice chalk-coloured cappuccino foam head that begins at about 2 centimetres and creeps back down to 0.7 cm before halting. Liking this hazed EPA look, even though this style typically has clear filtered beers. 7/10.

S: Nice and malty, biscuit and toffee character, earthy/floral centre with a citrus twist towards the finish. Turns out this beer was infused with the addition of “bergamot tea” by which I assume they mean old Earl Grey himself. Extra points for how English this aroma is – it’s not Oxfordshire English but it could be mistaken for a London brew – it’s got some Islington chops on it. Classic EPA characters all round. 7/10.

T: Biscuity, hints of toffee and caramel, earthy/floral tones, yes bergamot too – overall flavours are well balanced leading up to a finish that is mildly bitter and slightly dry from tea tannins. Flavour-wise there’s nothing wrong with it, the balance is good, it’s just missing a bit of that English character that you only get from beers brewed in the UK. 7/10.

M: Good mouthfeel though! Medium bodied with a nice dense carbonation that goes creamy when you sip it, nice stuff S&W! 8/10.

D: This is the sort of brew I could imagine drinking on a lunch break in Edinburgh, like I used to in the g__d o_d d_ys [I don’t like to spell it out, it makes me feel old]. There’s nothing technically missing from this beer, it’s actually better than some English made beers I’ve had. It’s just not (UK) cricket though. 7/10.

Food match: Coronation chicken sanger with chips, oi!


Ridgeway Brewing Very Bad Elf Special Reserve Ale

Total Score: 6.6/10 Butter1Caramel1Coriander1Nonicpint1

So it wouldn’t be Christmas if at some point I didn’t at least try reviewing a Christmas-themed beer, which this Very Bad Elf Special Reserve Ale is. My decision making process rested on finding the most interesting Christmas-themed beer I could without going out of my way. My local had this and the other Ridgeway Christmas beers and the things that really caught my eye were: 7.5% ABV English Pale Ale, using an original 1795 recipe, with a special pale amber malt that is rarely used now, and Fuggles hops. I just really like Fuggles hops, I even like saying it “Excuse me, do you have any Fuggles?” “We need more Fuggles.” “Where’s the Fuggles? No Fuggles!?”… ahhh, Seinfeld references.

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Classic EPA right here! Clear golden/amber body with a white head like the cliffs of Dover towering over the English channel sea. A good upstanding British ale, enough to make you want to hum “God save the Queen” whilst arranging dollies and lamenting the lack of a formidable English cricket team… “hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm-hmm”. 8/10.

S: It’s a toffee malt and tea Fuggle hop bonanza. Diacetyl, hells yeah! (perfectly acceptable if you’re an English beer) Herbal/floral/tobacco background notes round out a good upstanding British ale, as British as scones at high tea and awkward teeth. Jolly good stuff old chap… “hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm-hmm”. 8/10.

T: Then it takes a turn for the “holy Jesus, son of the big guy upstairs” and makes you realise why most English Pale Ales and English Bitters clock in at an odd 4-5% ABV – these flavours at 7.5% (toffee and butterscotch specifically!): they’re all too much. Too much toffee, too much butterscotch, too much herbal/floral/tobacco background notes. It’s a touch “assault on the senses” when it should be more like enjoying a pint whilst humming “God save the Queen” in your local English-themed pub whilst discussing the Brexit. That said the sweet edge dulls slightly as you press on, however it’s not an EPA as I know it. 6/10.

M: Mouthfeel is alright – mid to light (English beers usually are thinner than counterpart nations brews) with a reasonably flat yet prickly carbonation. 7/10.

D: Had a bit of challenge (due to the flavour) to finish this. It’s not a bad beer, just a bit too much with Diacetyl amped up to 11. Makes me want a lighter version of this very same brew, something around 4.4% would nail it I reckon. 6/10.

Food match: Man, got a mad “scones like my nan made them” craving right now.



Brooklyn Summer Ale

Total Score: 7/10 Nut1Lemon1Flowers1Nonicpint1

Tis summer! The season of “farken hot” weather is upon us, may we all not die of heat stroke here in Australia. It’s a season where I tend to abstain somewhat from the darker beers (don’t read my next review – it will make a liar of me) and switch to lighter beers like a proverbial migrating swallow. So obviously the appeal of this latest Brooklyn brew is in its lighter emphasis on flavour and a push towards Lagery characteristics which should make it a boon for when the power is out and there is naught to keep spirits high than a frothy glass of the amber fluid. Brooklyn note on the can that they’ve used British 2-row malt with unstated German and American hops – which should translate to an easy drinking Pale Ale that will go a treat in the heat.

Poured from a 355ml can into a nonic pint.

A: Clear pale gold body with a white sea foam head that starts about 2 centimetres and drops back to a thin white blanket. Pretty pale in comparison to other English Pale Ales, but otherwise standard stuff. 7/10.

S: Nutty overtones with a fruity/floral backing, lemon, chestnut and a light spicy/earthy character as well. This isn’t a beer that demands attention and as far as the brief goes “light summer ale” I say “nailed it”. 7/10.

T: Above noted flavours (nutty, lemon, floral, spicy and earthy) with a long dry finish. Easy and approachable brew for the uninitiated and a reprieve from Russian Imperial Stouts and Double IPAs for the seasoned drinker. Of course the ABV is a bit high at 5% given that I’ve had mid-strength English Pales with more flavour, however that’s not necessarily a bad thing unless you’re driving and these go down too easy/too fast. 7/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a mid to light carbonation – simple stuff, not challenging at all, more body would always be welcome though.7/10.

D: After all the heavy +10% ABV RISs and DIPAs this is a nice little brew that is laid-back and doesn’t ask for much. It’s got flaws – it could have a dash more bite, more body, some haze – but it’s also good at what it does, which happens to be very little. So I think Brooklyn nailed the brief with this brew, however that brief is not something I gush over anyhow, which accounts for my score here. That said if it’s a bloody hot day and I’m mowing the lawn (I never mow the lawn coincidentally) I might crack open a can of this and chug it down with gusto. 7/10.

Food match: Beetroot, feta and walnut salad will work a treat here.


John Smith’s Extra Smooth

Total Score: 6.25/10 Barley1 Caramel1 GreenApple1 Nonicpint1

Wow, has it been a while or what? I’ve had nearly a month of a self-imposed beer review exile and now I’m back with a bang! Well maybe not a “bang” more of a “slight fizzle” because today I have lined up three classic English treats, and we all know English brews are nothing if not modest in flavour, but I love them going back to my UK pub days regardless. First on the nonic-block is the bizarrely cheap (as in “it’s bizarre I haven’t reviewed it yet because I’m cheap”) John Smith’s Extra Smooth, looks and sounds like a British Caffrey’s. Anyway without further ado, let’s a-do this brew [damn I still haven’t lost my terrible punning abilities then].

Poured from a 500ml nitro can into a nonic pint.

A: Quite an interesting looker this drop – clear golden amber body with thousands of tiny bubbles clinging resolutely to the side of the glass like some sort of beer-barnacles “beernacles” if you will. With a luscious creamy 1.3 cm nitro head that beckons you to “ave a nava” [channelling Michael Caine here] sip. Nitro beers always score highly for me on looks and this is no exception. 9/10.

S: The aroma is no slouch given the mid-strength ABV of 3.6% with cereal grain forward notes, a touch of caramel malt and a cider apple finish. You wouldn’t be wrong for thinking that sounds like an odd combination for an EPA, I was thinking the same thing. Hint of metal too… unavoidable in most can brews below 5% ABV IMO. 7/10.

T: The cereal notes are prominent and frankly remind me of a typical Aussie “Bitter” – I use this term liberally as there is no longer such a beast here – caramel and apples rounds out this cereal dominated brew. Finish is more dry than bitter. Aftertaste is unmistakably metallic – a shame given how well it was going above. 6/10.

M: Feel is a bit of a letdown too – watery, thin and flat. 5/10.

D: Sessionable brew? Sure! However “sessionable” doesn’t always translate to “awesome” and this beer is an example of this. It begins with much promise but ends up being a bit too lacking and metallic in the flavour department to get it across the GEB* line. If I had to make a suggestion for a similar styled English nitro brew Boddingtons is still the champ… need to review that one now. 6/10.

Food match: THE most underrated soup of ALL TIME: Pea and ham & crusty bread.

*Great English Brew.


Adnams Ghost Ship Pale Ale

Total Score: 7.75/10 GreenMelon1 Biscuit1 Lemon1 Nonicpint1

On to Adnams and their nautically-themed beers, this time Ghost Ship, a ghostly Pale Ale (their words). Now I quite enjoyed their Broadside, an English Special Bitter-cum-Old Ale, so I was a teeny bit excited to give this a go, with a sense of apprehension at the low 4.5% ABV (low ABVs generally go hand in hand with muted flavours)… after reviewing the HUGE disappointment of a Pale Ale that is Matilda Bay’s Lazy Yak I’m not holding my breath on this blowing my socks off.

Poured from a 440ml can into a nonic pint.

A: Presents a clear amber body with a fluffy 1 cm white-with-a-hint-of-beige head that soon settles to a thin covering leaving spiderweb lace on the side of the glass – a good sign indeed mateys (I’m continuing the nautical themes in my review). 7/10.

S: Melon and stone fruit characters lead the nose followed by a nice earthy & herbaceous note and some toasted biscuit malts. There are touches of bread yeast in the background as well… this is one ship shape brew, ahoy! 7/10.

T: At first the flavour is mild and unassuming, like a cool summers sea breeze wafting over Portsmouth. Then we get some slight citric acidity, a light and sweet malt toasted malt base, and a touch of tea-leaf tannin and citric bitterness in the finish… No stormy seas here, just smooth sailing. Any negatives in the flavour department? Well it’s the same issue I, personally, have with any beer below the 6% ABV mark – it could benefit from a little more flavour intensity. 8/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with a light, slightly dense bubbled, almost English pub (but a little bit more active) carbonation, better than a tankard of grog. 8/10.

D: Sessionable? Very, and for the price it is even better than most craft beers on the Australian market at a downright reasonable $13 a 4-pack (that’s nearly 2 litres of a half-decent Pale Ale). Recently I’ve found myself keeping good English Ales in the fridge alongside Torpedo cans and FBS bottles – and this is a great go-to option for when Plonk runs out of Tanglefoot cans (which they’re selling for $14 a 4-pack), overall I’m impressed by this easy-drinking EPA with hints of APA and will definitely get it again in future… weigh anchor and hoist the mizzen me mateys! 8/10.

Food match: The overall fruitiness and herbaceous character of this atypical English Pale Ale would work well with fresh asian cuisines such as Vietnamese or Korean.


Oakham Ales Inferno

Total Score: 7.3/10 PapayaMango1 Tea1 Lemon1 Nonicpint1

Oakham Ales, the oak that is the ham of Ales, fine delicious Ale ham – that’s Oakham. Enough wordplay! I’ve got myself another Oakham Ale, and I bloody enjoy a good pint of Citra, so I naturally clutched at the bottle of Inferno as soon as I saw it at Plonk, I knew good times were ahead of me. Interesting fact about Oakham: Apparently their “trophy cabinet is bursting at the seams…” and why are we not surprised? Note: If you haven’t tried their Citra yet I implore you to stop reading, burn your computer, run down to your local bottleshop wearing potato chip packets on your feet whilst screaming “I’m a happy little pony!”† and try it now.

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Once again Oakham certainly like to bring out some hazy urine coloured Ales… not that I’m complaining – same colour out as in, easy on the kidneys I guess. The head is a thin white lace covering. 7/10.

S: More Oakham goodness – Jolly Rancher mango (does that even exist?) [of course it does – you can get every flavour candy in America, no matter how stupid an idea the flavour is] with hints of lemon, tea leaf and a toasted malt base. 8/10.

T: Ehhh. It’s good, not as good as their Citra though. The profile is quite soft and light upfront with hints of mango, tea leaf and lemon, but it’s finished with an acrid medicinal bitterness that seems a touch unforgiving and unwarranted given the brevity of the flavour characters. Perhaps I’m being a tad harsh but I don’t really see a niche for this brew in the Oakham line-up. Nor am I detecting five different Yakima Valley hop blends… so there’s that too. 7/10.

M: Mid to light bodied with some flat old English pub carbonation. Spot on UK brew. 8/10.

D: Citra is much better than Inferno… and similar. Which is a shame as Oakham could have branched out in a new direction but it’s like they’re a dog playing the same tricks… no wait – a pony. A one-trick pony. Huh, I’m a happy little pony with all my metaphors coming home to roost, like a chicken… no wait – a pony. A pony coming home to roost… yeah, that works. 7/10.

Food match: Roast lamb and gravy roll – pub style! [Awww yeah!]

†Addendum: Yeah, don’t do that, really.


Young Henry’s Real Ale

Total Score: 6.6/10 Lemon1 Malt1 Tea1 Nonicpint1

Time for some Young Henry’s Real Ale, and boy (girl/superstar DJ’s) am I excited, not for this beer but for the newly restocked fridge and the beers I have on offer in my future reviews… oh and this review will be good too… eh, who am I kidding? I had Real Ale 3 weeks ago at the Young Henry’s mini tap takeover at The Durham [spoiler: not as good as the Hop Ale]. Let’s do this so I can crack on with my next review… actually the one after, I’m not so excited about the next beer I have to review… just skip reading that one.

Poured from tap into a nonic pint.

A: Hazy amber body with a thin white head that shrinks into oblivion fairly fast – not great, less inspiring than the Hop Ale, with a “ho” and a “hum”. 5/10.

S: Fruity Fuggle-like* hop aromas with a solid toffee malt base. Très Anglais or “Very English” said in French the language English people most admire. One thing I did annotate is how muted the notes are – I know it’s practically a mid-strength at 4% ABV but there are plenty of well-endowed mid-strength aromas out there, and this isn’t one of them. 6/10.

T: Fruity hops combine with citric note and follow through to a light toffee malt base. Finishes with the sort of lea leaf characteristic you would find in a classic English IPA and the flavour is a step in the right direction, though it is still leaving me wanting more. 7/10.

M: Mid to light bodied, borderline watery in feel with a thin UK pub carbonation. Close to style but a touch “meh”. 6/10.

D: The easier Ale to drink but overall more of a boring English cousin to the Hop Ale’s brash almost obnoxious American personality. These days I do tend towards bigger beers, nothing insane – just more flavourful, so I really wasn’t awestruck by Real Ale and went straight back to the Hop Ale afterwards. As far as this brew goes though it is a decent effort for an Australian brewer to make a beer this English and a throwback to a bygone era where men wore Alan Whickers and Syrup of Figs. 7/10.

Food match: In Cockney – Dead and sneeze or a nice and mild Ruby Murray.

*They probably are Fuggles hops, as the saying I just made goes “Where there’s Fuggles hops, there’s fruity aromas”.