Real Ale, Belgium Beer, Porter, Stout and IPA Tasting Notes.

Porter, by Anchor Brewing

Review Date: 05 January 2012     
Type: Porter      ABV: 5.6%     Brewery: Anchor Brewing

Introduction

San Fransisco's Anchor Brewing Company is one of the most iconic American Beer brands. The brewery gained widespread popularity during the 1980's and is today seen as one of the Godfather's of today's American Microbrewery boom.

Today's Beer is their Anchor Porter. One of their five core beer's, Porter is 5.6% in alcohol volume. I've had their Porter a few times in the past and I'm always blown away by the flavours and how well it drinks. So for a special treat I've decided to review it on my site and put down some tasting notes.

Body & Aroma

What I love about Anchor is the aroma. Once you pop off the crown, an aroma of fruit, mixed with this rum and raisin profile just oozes from the bottle.

Like other Porter's, Anchor Porter is coal black. The head explodes in the glass when poured. At the best of times this is a two finger head. I would suggest giving it a few minutes before giving it a sip or you're going to get a beer moustache!

Taste

Everything I want taste wise from a Porter is here. Notes of Dark Chocolate, Cream Coffee, some bitterness. It's all here. However, it's all very smooth, yet complex. Every mouthful hits you with a different taste sensation. I'm impressed with how well Anchor Porter holds up in the mouth, it's full, velvety and incredibly agreeable. The finish is medium; what you get is a nice rounded bitterness, with a little amount of warmth.

Overall Impressions

One of my favourite all time Beer's - hands down! Anchor Porter delivers on so many levels while not over-extending itself.

Goliath, by Wychwood Brewery

Review Date: 22 December 2011     
Type: Golden ale      ABV: 4.2%     Brewery: Wychwood Brewery

Introduction

Along with Hobgoblin, Goliath are Wychwood Brewery's two flagship brews, available up and down the British isle's in every major supermarket.

While Hobgoblin is more of a darker, moody brew, Goliath aims squarely at quenching your thirst, but being light, easy drinking, yet aims at being incredibly tasty.

At 4.2% alcohol volume, Goliath is in that area where it's not going to knock you out, but will keep you merry enough.

Body & Aroma

Golden Amber in appearance, with very little carbonation, Goliath is actually quite sedate. Sporting a two finger head, Goliath isn't trying to be fancy, but more middle of the road. Of course, there's nothing wrong with that.

On the nose, there's a delightful amount of sweetness, bought forth by the malts that are in the beer. Towards the end, you can detect the hops coming through, that rounds off the aroma perfectly.

Taste

Initial thoughts is that like the aroma, Goliath is all about the sweetness from the malts. I like the fact that there's no real harsh bitterness here, as it would be totally out of the place in the ethos of this beer.

The finish is long, however, maybe a little longer than what I'd expect because of the sweetness of this beer. The hops brings forth a little amount of bitterness but nothing offensive. With the bitterness, there's also some smoothness, almost velvety in texture that I also like.

Overall Impressions

Goliath was not devised to to be complex or fancy, but just to a quench a thirst. Goliath does just that. So, if you think that Goliath is one big beer in character, then you're wrong, this Ale is in fact a pussycat. Indeed a seductive one. I could happily buy two or three bottles of Goliath and happily drink this on a summers evening and it would compliment the mood and ambience I'm trying to achieve on having a nice evening - nothing too heavy, demanding or over-achieving.

Tavern Porter, by Thwaites

Review Date: 21 December 2011     
Type: Porter      ABV: 4.7%     Brewery: Thwaites

Introduction

Being mid-December as I write this review, I'm looking for more hearty, warming brews. Luckily enough, Thwaites have come to my rescue with their Tavern Porter, 4.7% alcohol volume.

The first thing I noticed with Tavern Porter when I bought it that it said on the bottle label that it is Bottle Conditioned. It's not often you come across a Porter that is bottle conditioned and is available through a major supermarket chain.

Just a side note. I quite like what Thwaites are doing with their bottled beers when it comes to having them bottled conditioned. Their specialist brews, including Old Dan deserve to be bottled conditioned to allow the beer to mature and age. The end result is better beer, and of course, that is a good thing.

Body & Aroma

On the aroma there's a good amount of chocolate, with some fruity overtones. The porter is pitch black, with a gorgeous two finger head.

Taste

On the back of the bottle it explains that Tavern Porter is a full-flavoured, dark porter with subtle notes of smokiness and liquorice. Sounds damn good! I'm looking forward to this... I wonder how close my tasting notes match Thwaites...

Well... actually their tasting notes are pretty much spot on. The first flavour I had on the first sip of Tavern Porter was this smokiness, along with some roasted coffee flavours. The coffee wasn't that pronounced, but along with it there was some chocolate and hints of bitterness that reminded my of liquorice. So Thwaites' tasting notes were very close to my own.

Another element I like from a Porter is that it's warming and full bodied. Tavern Porter was both those. There's a lingering silky bitter finish that I wasn't expecting, but it was there, and it wasn't overpowering at all. This spiciness complimented the warmth superbly.

Overall Impressions

This is a lovely lovely porter from Thwaites. Good for them for getting this Bottle Conditioned Porter into the major supermarkets. Everything I would like from a traditional is here in spades. The only thing I can do is to tip my hat off to Thwaites. Good job!

London Pride, by Fuller's

Review Date: 20 December 2011     
Type: Bitter      ABV: 4.7%     Brewery: Fuller's

Introduction

Fuller's is one of the UK's most well known and respected Breweries in the United Kingdom. Founded in London in 1845, Fuller's have managed over the last few years to push their range of beers into the main supermarkets.

Driving into London from the West as I have done many times in the past, there is no better welcome to the capital than driving past the Fullers Brewery. :-)

Today's review is Fuller's flagship, and most recognisable Ale, London Pride. Brewed at 4.7% ABV, this bitter is mahogany in colour, with a one to two finger head.

Aroma & Taste

On the nose - along with the malt, there's some hops going on towards the end. Also, there's some fruit in there. Due to the hops, there's a little bit of grapefruit just teasing you.

In the mouth, once the carbonation stops dancing on your tongue, there's a complex mix of malt, bitterness from the hops with some citrus; possibly some orange peel.

All this mixing of flavours is exceptionally well balanced. The bitterness, and fruit helps push through some spice, that gives London Pride a warming quality.

Overall Impressions

Fuller's London Pride has been for a long time my 'goto' beer. If I'm in the mood for a drink, and not sure what to go for, I can always depend on a bottle of London Pride.

I've been lucky enough to have London Pride on cask a few times when I've been in the big smoke and maybe not much surprise, it's even better in that format.

Overall, a solid, dependable and bitter from the Fuller's Brewery. London Pride is a great beer.

Dragonfire, by Shepherd Neame

Review Date: 19 December 2011     
Type: Golden ale      ABV: 4.5%     Brewery: Shepherd Neame

Introduction

Now and again I pop in my local Lidl to see what Beer's they have on offer. One brewery that the Supermarket giant stocks quite regularly is the Kent Brewery, Shepherd Neame. Along with their flagship beer's, Spitfire and Bishop's Finger, the odd other Shepherd Neame offering pops up from time to time. A few months back I found Dragonfire in my local Lidl's.

There's not much information regarding Dragonfire on the Internet. Even the Shepherd Neame website itself don't have any kind of product information regarding the Beer. So, all the information I'm going to give you today is from the bottle.

Firstly, the notes on the back of the bottle mention that Dragonfire is ideal for Saint George's Day. Therefore, I'm assuming that this is a seasonal brew, on sale around the March / April period.

There's a good amount of different ingredients that have gone into Dragonfire, including malted barley, oats, rye and wheat with Golding Hops to round the whole thing off. It sounds like there's going to be a lot going on when I get round to tasting this mahogany coloured Beer.

Aroma & Taste

What I liked on the nose with Dragonfire is the spice that comes through. Like the aroma, on the palate the spice factor hits quite quickly, Medium in body. Towards the middle, there's a slight dryness that finishes up with a medium bitter finish.

Overall Impressions

Fair play, Shepherd Neame have done good with Dragonfire. There's enough going on to make you sit up and take notice, while not being overpowering or harsh. Sometimes I wonder if Shepherd Neame produce too many different releases, and they all become quite similar or in the worst case, the quality just isn't there. However, in Dragonfire's case, this one's a keeper.

The Governor, by JW Lees

Review Date: 16 December 2011     
Type: Bitter      ABV: 4.1%     Brewery: JW Lees

Introduction

The Governor is an Ale created by celebrity TV Chef Marco Pierre White, and is brewed by JW Lees, the Manchester based independent family brewer.

I found The Governor in my local Morrisons, and according to a press release that I found online at the JW Lees web site, it is exclusively supplied to Morrisons only. However, you can find The Governor available nationwide via Punch Taverns and National Drinks Distributions.

I'm looking forward to tasting this Ale, and getting to understand what Marco had in mind flavour wise when he thought up this Beer. It's always interesting when someone who has a vast amount of knowledge in the areas of food and drink what that person think would be a great beer. Would I be call The Governor a success? Lets find out...

Marco Pierre White holding a pint of The Governor, an Ale devised by
     him and the JW Lees Brewery, Manchester.

On the bottle The Governor is described as an all-malt British Beer. I'm not sure what that means... are there any hops? When I open the bottle and tip it's contents into the glass, I get a sludge of malty mash? This is going to be interesting. There are no tasting notes on the bottle either. Not even Mr Cyclops. Lets see how this goes.

Body & Aroma

After popping off the black crown, I'm greeted with an aroma of biscuit, and only biscuit. To be honest, there's nothing much going on the nose at all. There's definitely no hoppiness coming through... maybe that's what the description means by an all-malt beer. You really have to give a deep sniff to get some aromas from this beer.

The Governor pours a golden amber, with very light to no carbonation. The head is scarce, almost non-existent. From the aroma and carbonation, I could call this beer dead. The only choice I have now is to taste The Governor and decide if the Beer is all taste, or nothing at all...

Taste

Not sure what I was going to expect from giving The Governor a good gulp. I didn't get much from the aroma, and funnily enough, I got not much from the flavour.

On the palate there's a good amount of malt, with that biscuit flavour coming through behind. The finish is very light and delicate. As there's no real hop bite, the malty flavours just round off The Governor.

Overall Impressions

Drinking The Governor, I feel as if there's a whole half missing to the beer. It's not foul, you can drink it, but it just feels that there's nothing to excite the palate. Would I suggest to you to go out and source this beer? The answer is a resounding no. There are much better Beers that this. I would even consider buying a foul tasting beer - at least I would be tasting something that would make me stand up and take notice.

Burton Bitter, by Marston's

Review Date: 15 December 2011     
Type: Bitter      ABV: 3.8%     Brewery: Marston's

Introduction

The Marstons Burton Bitter is the re-branded version of Marstons Bitter. Not sure why they have gone ahead and re-branded this Beer - the most obvious reason is probably the right on; to use the reverence of the tapestry of history that Burton-on-Trent has in association with Beer Brewing.

One of Marstons most well known Beers, their web site mentions that their Burton Bitter is available all year round in both cask and bottle form. Marston's use the water from the famous 'Burton Well'. If you've read up a little bit about British Brewing history, the water from Burton-on-Trent, is well suited for producing high quality, tasty beers.

Body & Aroma

In the glass, Marston's Burton Bitter is golden brown in colour, with a decent one finger head. The carbonation, the best I can describe it, is 'sprinkly'. There's no real conformity in the carbonation - the bubbles are rising to escape any which way they can.

The aroma is very fresh and lively. Jumping out was a lovely hop element hovering over the biscuit. It isn't complex, but boy is it inviting.

Taste

Burton Bitter is light in the mouth. Along with malt flavours and a delicate amount of hops to round off the beer, there's a slight sweetness towards the end that reminds myself of caramel.

Overall Impressions

Everything with Marstons Burton Bitter points to an easy going session Beer. I'd have no problem drinking a few pints of this on a hot summer's day. With an alcohol volume of 3.8% ABV, this Beer has been brewed with being a session ale in mind. I was able to find Burton Bitter in my local Aldi for just over a pound a bottle. At that price, you just can't argue with the price point versus quality.

Yes, you can say that Burton Bitter is a little uninteresting, but all Beers serve a purpose, and this one serves it's purpose well.

Tiger, by Everards

Review Date: 14 December 2011     
Type: Best bitter      ABV: 4.5%     Brewery: Everards

Everards Brewery has kind of snuck on me during the last year or so. All of a sudden, in the Ale section of my local supermarket, two Everards beers, Tiger and Beacon have managed to find themselves to be sitting next to more mainstream brands such as Shepherd Neame and Thwaites.

I haven't been all that tempted by purchase a bottle of Tiger, however last week I decided to get some pennies out and buy one. The bottle design itself is quite basic. There's no fancy packaging, no Brewdog type slogans, just a plain logo. Maybe that's the reason why I haven't bought any bottles in the past and were placed at the bottom shelf in the Ale section of the supermarket.

Anyway onto the Beer itself. Once I opened Everands Tiger and poured the chestnut brown liquid into my pint glass, the aroma that whifs up my nose is a playful spice, with some hops thrown in for some good measure. There's some very light sweetness towards the end of the nose... maybe some light grapefruit. On the bottle it mentions that there's meant to be aromas of toffee, however I could not detect any.

On the palate, the initial flavours and finish are short. Predominantly bitter forward, Everards Tiger has this sweet element that is more malty, than anything else. There's no citrus play here folks...

There's something conservative regarding Everards Tiger. You're not going to be blown away by the flavours on show here. Everything is restrained. It's just a decent, sturdy pint. Maybe that's just all you want. I have no problem drinking this in a pub, just that I would something a little more exciting.

A pint glass half filled with Everards Tiger, alongside the bottle.

Punk IPA, by BrewDog

Review Date: 13 December 2011     
Type: Indian pale ale      ABV: 5.6%     Brewery: BrewDog

Scotland's Brewdog Brewery are renowned for pushing the envelope with their Beer's. Fully hopped Ale's, the usual speciality of the Americans, has made it's way to these shores in a big way. Along with the Thornbridge and Dark Star Breweries, we have seen a sharp increase of Beer's that pushes the palate of the pub drinker to the limit.

Today's review is one of the first Beer's from these shores that has made it's way to the mainstream. Brewdog's Punk IPA is probably the most popular and commercially available highly hopped IPA's available in your local Supermarket.

On the aroma, there's a light grapefruit aroma. Then to round off the grapefruit, I can pick up a straw element right at the end. I've found that in all my time tasting Beer's, if there is a grapefruit element in the aroma, then the hops have been flowing when making the beer. And from my experience, that's a good thing.

Pouring the Punk IPA into my half pint glass, the first thing you notice is the uniform, line straight carbonation. The head is frothy, that climbs two a good two fingers.

The flavours you expect from Punk IPA is exactly what you'd expect. With these Ales, the element that hits hard is the hops that attack the palate right away when you taste the beer. Punk IPA is no different. The sharpness is right there. You can't get away from the big flavours that are in concoction of Punk IPA.

You can't really knock Punk IPA in flavour. It's big, bold and brash, just like what it says on it's label. Maybe it's a little rough around the edges. I have definitely had the odd heavily hopped IPA that is a little more rounded than this.

Brewdog's Punk IPA is paving the way for heavily hopped Ale's in the United Kingdom. Many drinkers who seem to think they know a thing or two are migrating over to these big flavours. For a brewery heading the charge in such a way, they can only be commended.

Half pint of Brewdog Punk IPA along with it's bottle

Druids Choice, by Newmans

Review Date: 12 December 2011     
Type: Bitter      ABV: 4.1%     Brewery: Newmans

This dark, ruby red, almost like a hue of purple Real Ale, was quite a sight to behold. Bloody Hell... it looks like something that would be concocted from Druid's all right...

The aromas, although faint, reminded me somewhat of toffee with some floral hints. However, what little I got from aroma, Druid's Choice certainly made up for in it's flavour.

On the palate, the first thing you notice is the tartness of the alcohol. Underneath this tartness, there's a pink grapefruit element, that leads into this bitter hoppiness. The first sip I had from this Ale really knocked me for six. The colour of the beer was the first sign that Druids Choice is at least going to be

I'm somewhat surprised that Newman's decided to supply this to the local pubs, as this is definitely an acquired taste. I'm not sure if this is a seasonal beer or not, this is not what I'd consider winter warmer but more for the autumn season. The flavour profile is just too tart, too powerful and too 'out there' to appeal to normal drinkers. I only decided to buy a half pint of Druid's Choice, and thank my lucky stars I did. I don't think I could have drank another half and enjoy it. Just because I didn't really enjoy the first half at all.

Does Druid's Choice have the repeatability of a Real Ale? Would I go and buy a second pint? The answer is an absolute no. I can't see many people giving Druid's Choice the thumbs up. I'm critical of Newman's as they seem not have a wide range of Ale's but many of them are somewhat similar. Druid's Choice is certainly different, however it's certainly worse than a lot of it's 'samey' brothers.