Sunday, 4 January 2015


Company was over! Huzzah! I had hoped to play a game or two of Settlers of Catan and get the ales in whilst that was ongoing, but instead we were besieged by our children and so the time came to get in food, that Chinese again, and we eschewed gaming in favour of chatting and sharing youtube videos. Anyone would think that I'm set in my ways or something. Anyway, the point is that we did not really get to the ales until after the first two visitors had left. My Sherwood Forest dwelling friend and I then got down to some serious golden ales.

Which, of course, meant that I had Spandau Ballet in my head after the evening rather than a hangover. Alas, such was the lateness of the hour and the tension in the youtube videos, I failed to take pictures on the night and had to take them in the morning. You may recall some of these ales from previous frolics and so they were to be.

Would you like to travel still further?

The first ale of the evening was Bumblebee, at 4.5% ABV and in a little US pint(ish) of 330ml.
I had previously enjoyed this when up in Carlisle (here) and so I was anxious to inflict it on my drinking companion. Sure enough, it poured well and with a decent head that rapidly diminished with a lovely golden hue like burnished bronze. The taste remained affected by the floral hops that I noticed the first time and,m despite being on offer at our local supermarket, there was no hint of it being a bad batch. Definitely still a summer ale and thus ill-suited to the snow-covered and icy ground outside, or the Chinese food that had been had earlier in the evening, but it was a good opening for the evening and held its own well. My drinking companion nodded appreciatively but did not make any real comment about it, which I took to be reasonably positive. Very much a playful and delicate start to the evening with those floral hints and the rolling light malt, and it was to be utterly over-shadowed by the stronger flavours on show across the evening so it was as well that it came first. The recommendation is to have this ale as a session with itself and not to go too far from the golden ales if you do decide to mix it. I have also now tried this with some rather nice home-brewed blackberry vodka and found that they do not make awful partners. In short, this is very much a party ale and would do well if combined with some barbequed meat and summer leaves in a fine sauce.

Next on the cards was Worcester Sorcerer from T. A. Sadler's, whose reappearance I have consistently predicted, 4.3% ABV.
This was something a bit different. It poured well from the bottle with plenty of fizz and a decent head but without being all froth and no trousers. The colour was more straw than golden, and the lightness aided the fizz in making this more of a Belgian style special beer. Popping bubbles allowed the aroma to really take hold with good hopping in there, of the floral and orange variety rather than harsh citrus, and the taste was in-keeping with that. Plenty of hops on the tongue followed by something of a harsh malt, though not unpleasant, rolling into an aftertaste that was both fresh and thirst quenching. I imagine that this does rather well at festivals and on longer days of hard work, there's a quality of freshness that one doesn't ordinarily expect from such an ale. It put me in mind of the Wild Swan (here) from Thornbridge but the delicate flavourings were really more about the Belgian ales that I have had in the past. On the whole this was an ale that made both my companion and I declare that we would be buying it again and look gloomily to the stash of ale in the kitchen as it was the only bottle that we had in. Nevertheless, we pressed on to the end and started on the next one.

The next one was Pendle Witches Brew from Moorhouse at 5.1% ABV.
Again, this is one that I have tried before, and I had bought in a brace just for such an occasion. Alas, it is now sold out locally and that is a shame. Once again it poured neatly and with a minimum of a head on it. The fizz was less than the Worcester Sorcerer but the colour deeper, edging toward tawny or amber whilst remaining a golden hue. After the previous ales it was rapidly apparent that this had a nutty and fresh edge to the malt, lurking beneath the veneer of respectable hopping. Definite citrus notes this time, easy to discern something of a lime in there along with some softer notes of zest. It was a tangier follow-up to the previous offerings and that was thirst-quenching in what was a rather dry evening. You know that the dehydration is coming, but this ale does a good job of making you feel as though your thirst is quenched. After the surprise of the Sorcerer this was not surprising to me but my drinking companion did pick the bottle up a few times to check details and agreed that if it were to be available again he would probably pick some up. Success of a sort then. It was good addition. It also set the scene nicely for the endgame and the final ale.

To cap the night we turned to the decidedly non-golden bitter of Robin Hood from Springhead at 4% ABV.
This was always going to be the wild card and the fact that I had got some in already (along with Maid Marion) for tasting at a later date meant that it couldn't really be left out. My drinking companion had gone to some trouble to collect his offerings and intended to leave them at my house, and so as he hadn't had this one yet it would have been churlish not to try it. So it was that our golden spell was ended. Anyway, the chestnutty colour of this one was something of a shock after so much golden ale and the taste was also bitterer and less fresh. Even the hops seemed harder and darker at this point in proceedings, which fit the mood of the evening brilliantly. Earlier in the evening I had inadvertently left the central heating off and the cold of the snow and ice outside had filtered through, kept at bay but by a candle. Even though the heating had been on for a few hours, and was now off again, the cold had left an edge to things and a ring of frost on the outside of the widows. This was the warming ale that was needed to ensure we would sleep well that night. Not treacle-like or heavy like a stout, but spicy and warming after the fresh and thin tasting golden ales. This was a proper brew to be had with working men and in clogs after traversing the paths of the forest for many a mile. I can see why it was brewed there and why it has gained the name of Robin Hood. Thus it was a good and fitting end for the evening before turning in to bed.

Winner of the evening, for me, remains the Pendle Witches Brew due to the fact that it is just so easy to keep going and it works so well as a sessionable ale. Not too full of flavour to be impossible to try with others but not so samey that one is left with a hankering for change after a bottle. My drinking companion preferred the Worcester Sorcerer, which came as a second for me too, simply because it was unexpected and a little bit clever.

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