Sunday, 30 September 2012

My GBBH Winners (et al)

A bit of a disappointment this Beer Hunt. Too many pale beers for me. Perhaps they're all (trying to) jump on the IPA bandwagon?  The Lemon Head and Double Espresso tried something different but they don't stand a chance in a 2 week best-seller-wins competition. The label as much as anything will probably dictate which beers win. Sadly.

With only a couple of days left to buy Sainsbury's Beer Hunt beers (competition closes Tuesday October 2nd) my GBBH winners are :- Double Espresso, Willy Nilly, Prodigal Sun, 99 Baboons and Wild Hop Gold.

Which 2 will win is, of-course, anybody's guess. I loved the Double Espresso but is too unusual to appear on supermarket shelves. If I had to pick 2 they would be 99 Baboons and Wild Hop Gold.

GBBH remaining Round 1 beers

Round 1 remaining beers:-

Bad Elf
Blimey, I'm getting a little tired of these pale/light/golden beers. It's a Winter's Ale. I could think of many, and I mean many, beers I'd prefer to drink over Winter. And they wouldn't be pale. A brewer who is clearly thinking "how can a badge this beer to catch as many sales as possible". It didn't work. Ordinary. 6/10

Poppy Ale A pretty grim golden ale. With added honey? Never. Might as well have been in a clear bottle. Ashtray taste. Say no more. Quality-wise ok. 5/10.

Lemon Head
A very different golden ale tasting of ginger and lemon. You'll either love it or hate it. Perhaps TOO different to win this competition. Great try though. 7/10.

Scarborough Fair IPA
Its described as an IPA but its malt is quite sweet and heavy (it is 6%). Its nice and I'd guess many would describe as a very well balanced beer. So I'll give it a very well balanced score. 7/10

Surprised by this one. Preferred to the Scarborough. Hop resin, not lager like in my view, with a bit of sweet malt. Another 7/10

Screech Owl.
I really like this. It would have earned 8/10. But the 330ml for 5.5% What's going on there? 7/10

99 Red Baboons
Label says "Is it a sort of porter or maybe a mild"? Who wrote the label? Too fruity & hoppy for either. But a bit of chocolate. Going for an 8/10 here.

Wild Hop Gold
Plain and simple citrous IPA. Hoppy with a dry finish. Better than their "IPA"? 8/10

Pumphouse Pale Ale
I didn't get this one. Light and sweet but no marmalade. Its good though. 7/10

Unfairly, perhaps, I've skipped 2 of the clear bottled beers - Elgood's Indian Summer and Cotleigh Snowy. So they cannot win my taste test. These will be sampled when I've got a friend round who I either don't like or who isn't bothered about what he/she drinks :-)

Monday, 17 September 2012

Round 1 Ruby and brown beers.

First the winner of the Double Espresso v. Manchester Dark Ale.  This has caused me difficulties because I thought the double Espresso tasted great but is a beer you cannot drink alot of and the chances of it winning the Beer Hunt?  About nill.

The Manchester Star Ale on the other-hand was a straight forward McEwan's Champion Ale immitator.  But it was better.  Smoother and with a darker chocolate taste.  This has a much better chance of winning the competition.

WINNER is Scottish Traditional Ales Double Espresso.  I've voted for this because its just a bit different.  Smooth and lovely. Sainsbury's customers would love it. (In my dreams).

Next is a 3-way taste test of brown/ruby/red ales - Willy Nilly (Brains), Dot Goody's Blissful Brown (Wye Valley) and Ivanhoe (Ridgeway).  The latter is a "red ale".  I may be comparing it incorrectly but let's have a go...

Willy Nilly is a 4.0% ABV ruby ale.   Bottled beers have a problem at this (and lower ABVs).  The taste can be washed out by the fiz.  Although this is quite fizzy the malty body makes this much better than average. I quite like this beer (considering the taste/ABV ratio).  A solid 7/10.

Dot. Goody's Brown Ale is 0.6% higher ABV than the Brain's beer but its body seems thinner and doesn't have the impact of Willy Nilly.  Strange - I was expecting more. Medium malt, medium hop.  Bottle says "Bottle Conditioned" - it did't appear to be to me.  Ok, perhaps there's a little sediment.  Bottle conditioning or not this is a very average 5/10.

And finally Ivanhoe to finish this 3-way taste-off.  Ridgeway won the 2011 Beer Hunt with their Bad King John dark strong ale at 6.0%  This is a "red ale" with an ABV of 5.2%.  Actually I note the bottle also says pale ale. I'm confused again...  Slight haze due to bottle conditioning - I've no problem with hazing at all - the supermarkets won't like it though;)

Straight away we've got a sour touch which immediately puts me off.  If somebody can tell me whether this is deliberate or a problem I'd appreciate it. Perhaps I let too much sediment into my glass?  Would a little sediment affect the taste in this way? I'm not going to go any further but the sour touch means I'm finding it difficult to review this beer properly. 3/10.

Winner Brain's Willy Nilly.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

J W Lees Manchester Star Ale (7.3%)

I should be excited by this beer.  Although the bottle doesn't say "porter" this beer is in the porter style.  Its "recipe comes from an 1884 Lees brewing notebook, a hoppy strong porter," on their website.  I wonder why "porter" hasn't been used on the bottle?  It says "ALE" on the bottle.  I'm confused before I've started...

Its very dark (not black) with a short tan head. Its aroma is standard roasted malts. It looks thinner than 7.3%.  Its body is thinner than 7.3%  Its sweet.  Perhaps the sweetness will reduce with maturity. Its close to something like McEwans Champion Ale, also 7.3%  Is that comparison harsh?  I think the Manchester ale, sorry porter, is better. Its smooter and the dark chocolate taste is stronger.

One way to look at this is on current price.  You can get 3 of these for £4.  That's a bargain. In fact if you like sweet porters I'd go to your local Sainsbury's and grab the lot NOW.  If this beer wins the competition it'll be £1 more expensive.

Back to my tasting test.  This beer is up against the Double Espresso from Scottish Traditional Ales. This was a nice smooth coffee beer.  Which one should be the winner? HELP!

Round 1 Beers Summary

Here's my Round 1 beers summary from Sainsbury's Beer Hunt 2012.  Beer details at Sainsbury's
Join in any time you want!

Beers 1and2. White Lady v. Prodigal Sun <- WINNER

Beers3,4and5  Double Espresso Premio Caffe Bira v. Batemans Mocha v. JWLees Manchester Star Ale
The Espresso beat Bateman's.  Now its up against the Manchester Star Ale.

Beers6,7and8 will be the battle of the clear-bottled-beers, this taste test being prompted by Bailey's comments in his blog at
The beers are Elgood's Indian Summer, Cotleigh Snowy and Wadworth's Horizon.

Beers9,10and11 will be ruby and brown  beers Brain's Willy Nilly, Dot Goodbody's Blissful Brown Ale (Wye Valley) and Ridgeway Brewing Co. Ivanhoe.

The IPAs et al tasting will then follow.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Chocolate and Coffee Beers

Round 1. Beers 3and4 will be Double Espresso Premio Caffe Bira v. Batemans Mocha
If I was really into coffee and/or chocolate beers I'd be looking forward to this.  But I'm not a massive fan.  The Double Espresso from Traditional Scottish Ales gives off a massive coffee aroma and had me salavating.  Poured very dark with a low carbonation, this is a great coffee beer. Smooth and sweet with vanilla hints, this beer scores a well deserved 7/10.

Bateman's Mocha next.  Not looking forward to this. Bateman's beers tend to be over sweet for my palate but I do like my chocolate!

The other question is whether I should also test the Manchester Star Ale as I see its also got "chocolate flavours".  This will be a 7.3% beer. The previous 2 were both 6%.

The Bateman's. It had a very strange aroma. Not nice like the Espresso. Not as dark and more fiz too. And not as smooth. There is chocolate there but there's the Bateman's characteristic sweet background which makes me think this beer doesn't know what it is.  Consequently its not half as good as the Espresso. 4/10

Manchester Star Ale next (some time tonight anyway).

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Sainsbury's Beer Hunt 2012 - Battle of the Beers

So I (eventually) found a Sainsbury's with this year's beer hunt selection. Its a shame Sainsbury's haven't put a little bit more effect into this year's hunt. For example, their websites  (and at time of writing point to the 2011 beer selection. I've suggested that the easiest way to fix this is to point these URLs to  this sainsburys link which, I guess, is at least fairly recent.

Visiting my 2 local Sainsbury's today also dissappointed. One didn't even have the hunt beer shelf up yet! Apparently the current refurb has got in the way. Up the road I found the beer but, embarrassingly, I had to ask where it was. It certainly wasn't next to the usual beer. It was at the front of the store hidden behind a rack of house plants! Pic:-

On to the tastings!  I'm pairing beers up, a little unfair, but adds a bit of fun.

Round 1.  Beers 1and2.
White Lady v. Prodigal Sun

The White Lady is described as a wheat beer.  Its not. At least not what I think of as a weissbier. Point deducted there.  But this is a really clean drinkable beer with a caramel malt taste.  No orange peel or coriander for me.  As the first beer hunt beer it gets a 5/10.

Prodigal Sun.  Pear drops! The Sainsbury's website (link above) says this is a blonde beer. No its not. The bottle accurately describes this as a "light amber beer". I am a fan of WilliamsBros. Their March of the Penguins (stout) is great and their Caesar Augustus was a winner of the hunt last year. Their Profanity Stout was also excellent but, alas, not many customers of Sainsbury drink stout.

I think this is a good bottled beer.  The ABV is 4.1% and at that level its quite a challenge to get a bottled beer with a bit of body and flavour. It may be a bit too fizzy (actually a character that Penguin has also picked up).  Its a shame. Point knocked off.  Citrus? No.  Pear drops I sware. 7/10