Romney Marsh Brewery – Amber Ale

Romney Marsh, ‘The Fifth Continent’, located on the Kent coastline. It boasts picturesque sand dunes; historic and wartime architecture; a national nature reserve and most importantly (some may say) it’s very own, family run brewery, suitablly named – Romney Marsh Brewery. They’re a very recent addition to the area, only established in Spring of last year but they’ve certainly started on the right foot. One of their four bottled ales reached the final of the prestigious ‘Taste of Kent’ awards. ‘Amber Ale’, no prizes for guessing what style it is, was a runner up in the 2015 ‘Best Kentish Beer’ category.

It’s pretty clear to see how it got that far, it’s an exceptional example of the style. The combination of three hop varieties, two from across the Atlantic and one from the brewery’s home county harmonise to produce a simply quaffable ale. The bottle’s label suggests drinking it only lightly chilled, so to maximise the tropical fruit taste. There’s bitterness and hints of caramel on the long finish and the head sticks around for the full duration. I’ve yet to visit their headquarters but next time I’m in the county I’m planning to pick up a refillable jug. I’ve no doubt the brewery will have continued success if their upcoming beers are as good as this 4.4% ABV Amber Ale.

Greene King – London Glory

Like them or loathe them, there’s certainly no avoiding Greene King’s massive empire. Being the leading pub retailer they own restaurant chains such as Hungry Horse, Flame Grill, Meet & Eat. As well as beer brands like Belhaven, Morland, Hardys & Hansons. Plus, with the recent aquisition of ‘Spirit’ you’re inevitably going to be forced into their beer at some stage in your drinking career.

London Glory is a new introduction into their beer repertoire; or has there just been massive rebranding? Quite honestly, I’m not absolutely sure. Either way there must has surely been a huge investment into their marketing. Self subtitled, ‘Great British Ale’ it projects a grandeur image, a bold statement to live up to. I can’t help but think it’s been produced for direct competition with Fuller’s London Pride – a favourite draught session ale amongst publicans, and a ‘go to’ beer of choice for patrons alike.

It’s attractive, clear appearance and amber colour probably puts it between 15-20 in the standard reference method. Pulled straight from cask, it contains only its natural carbonation, so not masses of head. It’s a bit boring on the taste side, no real distinct flavour jumps out. The crystal malts produce a light toffee taste and subtle cereal flavours, with a slight sweetness on the finish. For an ale that’s 4.1% ABV it’s curiously light in body and certainly not as ‘rich’ as the commercial description boasts. There’s nothing really exciting about it, it seamlessly blurs into the rest of the brewery’s catalogue, with no distinct identity between the likes of IPA, Old Speckled and Abbot.

A severe lack of personality makes it difficult to find London Glory anything more than drinkable. It’s just a beer brewed for the masses.

Guinness Golden Ale

St. James’s Gate Brewery – Guinness Golden Ale

What better way to make the most of the British sunshine than to sit in the garden and enjoy a nice, cold Guinness – their new ‘Golden Ale’ that is.

The 250 year old company has clearly been trying to grab a part of the booming real ale market. Both the West Indies and Dublin Porter hit the market recently, and an American Lager was introduced to the U.S. So, their hoping this Golden Ale is a step further to capitalising the industry. But is the brand being stretched too far?

The creator of this new addition said he hoped it would appeal to a “broad range of people” and “introduce them to premium ale”. After hearing that and drinking a bottle, I now can’t help but think the people at Guinness are mainly targeting their regular draught stout fans to try, then continue to buy it. It’s like they’ve designed it to appeal for people without the passion for craft beers. Based on the beer itself I feel seasoned ale drinkers will try this once out of curiosity but probably never again…

It’s got a rich colour, but no head. Flavours are really subtle, and borders on being quite dull and bland. It’s not as bold as the stout, it’s a little lacklustre and really didn’t evoke the happy summer feeling that so many beers of this style can. Although it’s perfectly refreshing, it just doesn’t stimulate any interest – it’s plain boring. All in all, uninspiring and no where near on par with the smattering of golden ales the UK already has to offer.

Stick with Arthur Guinness’ Irish dry stout.

Red Squirrel Brewery

New Recipes, Limited Edition and ‘Experimental’ Beers from Red Squirrel Brewing Co.

Through the wonders of social media, I heard a local brewery were introducing a new beer range into the public domain. Red Squirrel Brewing Co. have created something called – ‘Baby Squirrel Experimental’. Already a fan of their current range (Redwood and Black Lager are two of my favourites) I was quite intrigued. Chatting to the guys at the brewery tap, they say it’s a “platform to try new recipes or very limited edition brews”. Seems like an interesting idea, I’m sure you’d agree.

First on their agenda is a changed and improved recipe of their already fantastic ‘Redwood’. For anybody who’s never heard of it, it’s an American IPA and well worth a try if you ever come across it. So, the resulting beer has been bottled, and limited to very few – only 50 in fact. My iPhone calculator tells me this is just 29.063 UK pints – hopefully the people at Red Squirrel have have drunk at least half of this when tasting…?

I had to get my hands on a bottle (or three) as I’m pretty sure they would sell fairly quick. I’ve not yet opened one but I’m very much looking forward to trying it. I really like the idea and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for future Baby Squirrel creations.

Red Squirrel Brewing Co. is based in Potten End, Hertfordshire. They have a brilliant craft beer shop in Chesham, and another soon to open in Berkhamsted.

Keep up the good work guys!

Craft Beer is in the Basket!

Here’s a piece of news I found quite interesting.

Today, the UK office for national statistics (ONS) has added bottled ‘craft’ beer to its shopping basket, the stuff that it uses to measure inflation. It’s the first time craft beer has been added to the basket of goods, in it’s 70 year history. Seeing as these items represent consumer spending, this obviously means the amount of money spent on speciality ales has increased steadily in the past 12 months. And it means shelf space in supermarkets is being increased to accommodate the rise – which is great!

Food for Thought

Why has it become the norm for people to instinctively switch from a pre dinner beer to a glass of wine at the table? We all do it, as soon we leave the bar to enter the dining room, we quite naturally start to think about wine. It’s got me thinking – is it really fair?

I really believe beer can be paired with food just as well (if not better) than wine can, but it just doesn’t seem to actually be done on any where near the same scale, especially when it comes to more formal occasions. Who has ever rejected the sommelier’s wine recommendation in a fancy restaurant in favour of a bottle of pale ale or craft lager? Very few, I imagine. In fact, would the restaurant even have them

I do think it’s becoming more practised these days though. There’s lots of books being published on the subject with proper thinking involved. Restaurants and bars are marketing themselves on offering specialist bottled beer to accompany their creative food and promotions from various organisations – it all helps the cause.

Matching beer and food relies on much the same principles as with wine, they should interact with one another, compliment and contrast whilst not being overpowering. For example a clear, crisp blonde would pair well with a light chicken salad and I would drink an American IPA with a spicy curry, whereas a bottle of stout would trounce more delicate food. These are pretty simple principles really, most people are aware of them, but (as with me) anybody who refuses to drink a certain ale just because it’s not recommended alongside the food is clearly a borderline ‘snob’. I generally stick to the recommendation but believe we should drink the beer we fancy at the time… unsurprisingly it often enhances the food experience superbly.

Devils Backbone - American IPA

Devils Backbone – American IPA

So, I recently had the pleasure of having a pint of the most amazing tasting beer, so nice in fact, that it’s actually inspired be to put these thoughts into words… so here we are. I had to do a bit of research, but thoroughly enjoyed learning about the beer and its creator. It comes from a brewery established in Lexington, Virginia, USA, but it’s made over here by Banks’s in Wolverhampton. Since October it’s been draught served in many JD Wetherspoon pubs, a great boost to its sales I’m sure, as they’re beer is always kept fantastically well. Maybe we’ll see it in bottles or cans soon? Anyway, here’s what I thought.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to what I drink from. It has to be a tall, elegant flute for Champagne, a wide bowled wine glass for red, and most importantly always a branded beer glass. The beer is poured into a beautifully simple, weighty pint glass, with their very vivid logo stamped on – made by Utopia Tableware. It’s a keg beer, so it’s a little more fizzy than the beer I normally drink, thats not to say I didn’t enjoy the change. The carbonation isn’t excessive by any means and the attractive, thick, head follows the beer right down the glass, something which I love to see. It pours as a clear, almost shiny golden colour. Served too cold in some people’s opinion, but I think it’s temperature steps it up in the refreshing stakes. It really is very aromatic, with masses of grapefruit on the nose and further citrus notes following. On first taste it’s quite complex, as your progress the citrus flavour dominates the taste, it’s very fragrant, and has a clean, floral, almost grassy flavour. It has a relatively smooth mouthfeel, and finishes nice and dry.

I had a pint with a rather spicy beef madras, and think it would go well with something like freshly fried chilli shrimps. Really enjoyable, interesting beer, at 5.2% there’s lots to talk about – really glad I discovered it.

Thank you Devils Backbone!