Thursday, 10 April 2014

A Challenger Appears

A visit from an old friend from University days who lives locally was designed to give a chance to review some local draught ales. This is something that needs to be done, where we are now has many actual pubs within walking distance that would provide some lovely chances to compare bottled and draught ales. More to the point, there's an opportunity that has so far been missed due to the fact that those draught ales that have been tried have not been reviewed here. So it is that this blog lacks Pedigree, Champion and Black Sheep that could have been compared to their bottled versions. Alas, sportsing meant that I had a buggered foot and so I had to stay in. Luckily, my friend has served at beer festivals and knows his stuff, so I was able to rely on him to provide the night's beverages.

Despite his rather good selection, we ended up having full pints of everything, which did rather slow down proceedings and meant that we only managed to get three tastings. No matter, they were all new to me and local to him and so nothing was lost.

Would you like to know more?

First up: Trooper, by Robinson's of Dizzy Blonde fame. 4.7% ABV (Amber)
Thin head on the pour but plenty of bubbles that avoid being overpowering or silly. This is quite something given the iconic picture they grace the label with. Almost immediately the aroma of a sharp lemon becomes apparent, though it took Anna to name it, and this clips along a bed of yeast but not in a bad way. First sip was hoppy and sharply so, clear taste in that it cleanses the palate, like I said - my friend knows what he is doing. Obvious citrus notes, dull lemon, maybe a hint of lime, and there's plenty of hops, which is nice. Not quite managing the adventure of Wild Raven or the hoppy heaven of Wild Swan it does fit up there with some of the best. Not much of an aftertaste but, as the first ale, this definitely works in its favour. Rather fizzy, actually, but worth it.

Harvest Pale, from Castle Rock and thus inevitable comparisons with Game of Thrones. 4.3% ABV (Blonde)
Highly recommended by my friend. Previously bought in twice and then given away by me. Something about having a selection of four hops made this something I was intrigued by. Tonight it was in the older bottle and so lacked the detail on those hops for some reason. However, the aroma more than made up for the lack of detail with some tropical citrus overlaid with more normal oranges and even a hint of peach in there. Taste was a strong hoppy surge over a light, refreshing, malt and enjoyable overtones from the yeast. A proper dry Blonde ale with a carbonation that carried the flavour rather than dominating it. Not much of a head, but that's no bad thing, and a bronze colour that helps match the feel of the hops that pretty much own the overall taste and feel. I'd say this is a very good starter for people that don't drink ale already and a staple of any ale drinker.

Sole Star, Adnams who have been growing on me of late. 2.7% ABV (Pale Amber)
Remarkably coloured and full-bodied for a pale ale, indeed, veering toward a chestnutty brown colour on the pour. Do that operation well and you are rewarded with no head at all, but do it badly and the ale is punishing, leaving a mighty froth. As a person who does not favour heads I was pleased to have managed the former, my friend supplied knowledge of the latter but admitted he likes that, so who am I to argue? Came recommended as one to start proceedings at a beer festival before the stronger ales conspire to kill it. Very creamy texture with a definite toffee overtone hanging the wings, a core of bitter hops with a fruity carriage running along the country lane of dusky malt that tends to shove the carriage into the ditch, but in a way that allows for hilarity rather than terror. A friendly ale that is soft on the aftertaste, pleasant and mellow, and a good way to end the evening. Not really my sort of thing, but it's not to be sniffed at and at such a low ABV it is definitely one to consider on an evening of sessioning. It suffered greatly by dint of not being the first one up.

What can I say? The evening was very much rescued by these choices and the fact I have a friend who is versed in ale. It does mean that we shall have to try and sample the delights of draught ale in the locality another time, however, but that's no bad thing!

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