England’s ale and craft beer industry is once again booming. After a long time of nothing but poor-quality mass-produced lagers being pumped from pub bars around the country, the drinking folk there are starting to see a change.
This change is very welcome indeed, and, on a recent visit there, I decided to do a bit of DIY beer tasting. We’ve done one of these beer tastings before in Sydney with some Czech beers (but watch this space for some domestic brews reviewed too).
It’s great fun and very easy to organise.
We popped down to the local supermarket – Tesco’s has a good range of ales by the bottle – and we bought eight to try. We drank them in the order they’re reviewed here.
Instead of using our tasting sheet we developed for the last DIY beer tasting – we were in the middle of a family party after all – we decided to quote the breweries, give our own impression of each beer and then score it out of 10.
This score was agreed upon by all involved: Mrs Romance, me, and my mum and dad!
St Austell – Tribute Cornish Pale Ale 4.2%vol
From the brewery: “Pale amber in colour, Tribute is a moreishly drinkable beer with delicious full-bodied malt flavours and a citrus aroma. Brewed using Cornish spring water, Cornish Gold and Maris Otter malts, with a hand-picked blend of aromatic hops – it is a truly Cornish Pale Ale.”
Our opinion: bitter with a diminutive aftertaste. Bit gassy. Not that fussed.
Badger Brewery (Dorset) – Tanglefoot 5%vol
From the brewery: “Tanglefoot is a golden ale with hints of melon and pear developed from fermentation. Ideal for steak and ale pies.
See: light copper, golden amber
Smell: fruity, scented hop, cereal
Taste: crisp/sweet, spicy overtones”
Our opinion: toffee flavours mid-taste. Smooth and easy to drink.
Ringwood Brewery (Hampshire) – Boondoggle blonde ale 5%vol
From the brewery: “A deliciously fruity beer – Boondoggle delivers a punchy citrus aroma, and a well-balanced moreish fruity taste.”
Our opinion: Doesn’t taste anything like a blonde ale – more like a pale ale. Lots of flavour, body and a good, bitter aftertaste.
Ringwood Brewery (Hampshire) – Old Thumper 5.6%
From the brewery: “Old thumper delivers a deep brown strong ale with a spicy fruity hop aroma and a warming malty finish. The distinctive taste has made it a champion Beer of Britain.”
Our opinion: Perfect ale flavour – no bitterness. Very enjoyable.
Timothy Taylor’s (Knowle Spring Brewery), Keighley – Landlord Classic Pale Ale 4.1%
From the brewery: “Landlord is the classic pale ale, brewed in the traditional way from Knowle Spring water, using only the finest Golden Promise malted barley and best possible leaf hops. This full-flavoured brew has won many awards, both at Brewers Exhibitions and Great British Beer Festivals.”
Our opinion: Smooth with medium-full body and a pleasant bitter aftertaste.
Shepherd Neame Brewery, Kent – Bishops Finger Kentish Strong Ale 5.4%
From the brewery: “Named after an ancient Kentish signpost found on the Pilgrims Way pointing to Canterbury and the shrine of Thomas A Becket.
See: Chestnut brown
Smell: Roast, toffee, berries
Taste: Rich, fruity, bitter”
Our opinion: Full, deep, rounded ale flavour. A great beer – in spite of its potentially embarrassing name!
Morland Brewery – Old Crafty Hen oak-aged ale blend 6.5%
From the brewery: “This strong fine ale combines a distinctive malty taste with a satisfying, smooth raisin finish. Brewed with a blend of the famous old 5X, which is aged using our vintage oak vat maturing method. This delicious dark amber ale is perfect for indulging yourself and your friends.”
Our opinion: Strong malts and a delicious sour finish. An underlying sense of evil power!
Young’s (Wells and Young’s Brewery) – Double Chocolate Stout 5.2%
From the brewery: “Chocolate malt and real dark chocolate are combined with Young’s award-winning rich dark beer to craft a satisfyingly indulgent, but never overly sweet experience.”
Our opinion: Thick rich dark and a huge flavour. Coffee and bitter chocolate flavours almost overpower the malts and completely overwhelm the hops of this monster of a beer. Great dessert choice or one for a cigar.
Score: 5/10 drinkability 9/10 for cigar companion 7.5/10 over-all.
Doing a DIY beer tasting is really good fun – especially if there are a few of you – and you all like beer! Try it at home with some friends the next time you have a dinner party – it’ll go down better than a game of charades or Monopoly that’s for sure.
Have you ever had a DIY wine or beer tasting? Tell us about it in the comments!
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Dad Down Under
Tough job but someone has to do it. Timothy Taylor’s used to be my beer of choice in a former life, in truth I prefer a nice Aussie pale ale these days rather than the warm flat stuff ; )
I know! I was against it, Matt. But everyone made me – so what could I do?
I was always an Adnam’s drinker back home, but Aussies prefer a bit more fizz and a lot less warm. I’m on your side now though: some of the pale ales out here now are great. Funny enough, I hadn’t heard of Timothy Taylor’s until a couple of years ago. Then a mate of mine from Yorkshire was going on about a little brewery just round the corner from his house in Keighley. It’s his favourite beer too! Small world, isn’t it? J