Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Holiday Beer Review

As is often the case I took my credit card for a trip to Plonk on Christmas Eve.  They were doing a lot of business - as they should!  Here follow a few initial notes on the products acquired (there are a few more to be tried, so check back):
  • Shepherd Neame "Spook Ale" When I went to Uni in Wye, Kent one of the four pubs in the village (The New Flying Horse - aka the New Fly) sold Shepherd Neame products.  They were a local brew from Faversham and regarded as a rather strange beer (the other 3 pubs sold one or other of the big brewery products).  Then CAMRA started up and they became far more well known,  This was a very pleasant full bodied Ale and not too dangerous at 4.7%abv.
  • Fullers "1845".  That was the year they started brewing beside the Thames at Chiswick.  This is an amber Ale and, at 6.3%abv, to be approached with a modicum of caution.  Of course this site always promotes moderation drinking: despite the strength of some of the brews to come tending to argue that is obeyed more in the breach than fact.
There is a bit of background to the next 2 samples.  In 2004 I went to Moldova on a consultancy trip.  It was rather cool there - in fact it snowed heavily.
These ladies were at the airport when I left.
The economy wasn't doing too well and I think the lady on the right was the snowplough for the main runway.  (The one on the left was in her costume as an entrant for Ms Moldova 2005.)

However as a country did have excellent food, wine and beer (attributed to the very fertile soil on the floodplain of the Nistra).  One night I chose a restaurant offering Baltica beer, and the different brews were all described in Russian, but given different numbers.  I chose #6 and, on ordering a second bottle, joked to the waiter that I hoped this wasn't the alcohol content.  He assured me it wasn't.  Read on.
  • Interbrew "Baltica #6".  I rate this as more like a Brown Ale than a stout, although at 7%abv - as the waiter had told me - it had the authority of an Imperial Russian.  Very excellent.  It was as tasty as I remembered, and this time I didn't have to walk 1km through the snow to get to my bed.
  • Interbrew "Baltica #4".  A less stroppy item at (only) 5.6%abv.  Also very pleasant.  I hate the wine snob reference to other tastes such as "Berry fruits with a hint of cigar box and mild licorice".  (But when considering Watneys Keg Red Barrel could use a comparison with rodent urine.)  However with some malts there is, as in this case, a definite thought of chocolate - not a bad thing in and of itself.
Back to the UK for the next specimens - not wishing to imply they had already been drunk once!  For reasons that escape me, but probably related to them looking interesting and being on the same shelves, I acquired 2 brews each from the two breweries
  • Ridgeway IPA. At 5.5%abv it is definitely not a weak Pommy beer.  The notes on the label describe the processes used for the original ale sent to the lads in the subcontinent and say they followed those methods.  It certainly ends up with a very fresh and quite bitter product: I would conclude "Mission Accomplished" and well done those boys from Oxfordshire! 
  • Ridgeway obviously have a thing about brews related to colonialism, as they also provide an Imperial Russian Stout: originally provided to "our" boys in the Crimea.  If offered a choice between this or Ms Nightingale .... I'd go for the stout, at least until I became unconscious.  At 10%abv that might not take too long, but very smooth and complex in taste.  Brewed in 2012 it has had time to grow into itself.  One of the best beers I have ever tasted.
  • Marston's "Strong Pale Ale" from brewery central, Burton on Trent.  Yes, I rate 6.2% as strong, and it was a Pale Ale, so truth in advertising is evident.  I found the tastes rather more subtle than is often the case with IPAs which may reflect some reduction in the amount of hops used.  However I'd rate it as eminently drinkable.
  • Marston's Oyster Stout.  Quite palatable but for me a little featureless after the big beers which had gone before.  Relatively light at 4.5%abv, but relatively light in everything else as well!  
To quote Peter Cundall "Thats yer bloomin' lot!"

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