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First off, the combination of tasters meant that not only was I the only one who'd done any reviewing before I was also the only actual ale drinker involved. Who knows, maybe the evening convinced people to try them again. We'll see.
First up was Cascade Pale Ale that sold itself as being an American beer with a citrus aroma and tang. At 4.8% ABV it was a perfect starter that promised not to overpower the rest. It certainly had the promised fruity aroma, a bit orangey I suppose, and plenty of carbonation. My brother suggested that it "tasted like Budweiser," which he meant as a deprecation. Certainly its strength suggested it to be a good starter but it did mean that my non-ale drinking company were unimpressed and unmoved. It had a yeasty start with a brief flash of hops at the crest of the wave before fading rapidly to a light malt. We all agreed it improved as you drank it but this one was a hanger on rather than part of a circle of friends, well meaning but ultimately a pain. My grandfather professed it one of his favourites when mixed with lemonade.
Next was Manchester Brown Ale and I was pleasantly surprised. 3.8% ABV with a heavy malty smell emanating from a dark chestnut coloured ale. A strong head with a careful amount of carbonation that leads to a good first taste. The strength of the malt means that the bitterness of the hops was somewhat dominated by it, but they were on good terms and so it didn't really matter, the hops repaired any bridges burnt and then smoothed down any ruffled feathers from the malt and the malt knew it so didn't interfere. A nuttiness, like cooked chestnut unsurprisingly, all of us agreed that it was better than the Cascade.
Thirdly, we tried Ilkley Black that, as the name suggests, was a real dark horse. Black with a hint of ruby in the light, noted by my brother (who seemed to be getting into this), as it was poured with a swift and vigorous head. 3.7% ABV with a strong bitter aroma like melon and orange rolled into one. It was a definite ale that knew exactly what it was about, one to trust in the dead of night when you're in a place and it offers a guide home. Reassuring and strong with molasses and a thick feel to it with stabs of flavour and lightness from the carbonation. Heavy on the malt, citrus waited in the wings and danced past when you weren't expecting it in a way that almost generated applause. Heaviest of the night. "Nicer than the other two" opined my grandfather appreciatively.
Finally on the night we tried Maple Moon and it matched our beginning at 4.8% ABV. By this point my companions were flagging somewhat and we'd had a spirited discussion about Britishness and immigration. However, as expected, the Moon did much to calm the modd once more and bring us back to empty witticisms. Pungent nose, very malty and yeasty. It was an amber style ale, as noted by the colour, but then I noticed that it was brewed with Amber hops and so that shouldn't have been a surprise. A creamy head that manages to avoid being over carbonated. Much lighter than the Ilkley Black but not watery light like the Cascade. Less lingering after taste than the Manchester Brown too but difficult to tell if that was a good thing or not.
On reflection my brother announced that Manchester Brown was his best of the evening with my grandfather and I agreeing that it was a good ale but, instead, plumbing for the Ilkley Black as our favoured ale of the night.
Something must have gone right because my brother texted me his review of the Champion 1849 aletwo days later as follows:
Tasted very similar to the Manchester Brown Ale but not as nice (probably down to greater maltiness and less hops from what I can gather) being a darker colour, like strong iced tea.
I thanked him and shared my review of the Leeds Best that, in my estimation, seems to have been better than when I first reviewed it all that time ago. Certainly it was still yeasty and certainly I still missed the hops. However, I think it performed better than the Cascade and was in line with what we had on the night. Came a joint third for me with Maple Moon after Manchester Brown.
I hope to redo this again, it was a fun evening and now I understand how to taste beers a little more and to do so more effectively in company I think I could try more in an evening without losing track. And, uh, keeping notes helped - in the beer tasting, not in the social standing.