Name – Elsie Mo
Brewer – Castle Rock
Classification – Premium Pale Ale
Strength – 5.0% ABV
Verdict - At A Glance
On the eye – About as golden as a beer can get before it starts getting worn as jewellery.
On the nose – A nice fruitiness to the malt base. Hints of freshly chopped carrot.
On the tongue – Sharp, citrus zest, balanced with faint buttery sponge cake. Morish!
On the subject – Nottingham brewers Castle Rock have just walked away with the CAMRA award for Champion Beer Of Britain. Need I say more?
On the market – Wide availability and widening further due to aforementioned success. (Awarded for their 'Harvest Pale')
On the whole – 7/10
The great 'bottle-conditioned' debate is thrown a curve ball by a rather delightful brew straight out of Robin Hood country.
Castle Rock market their Elsie Mo with a claim that it is indeed bottle-conditioned. Those of you who have read my previous posts stating my various misgivings about this 'process' will understand the sense of dread which those two words can so easily fill me with. However, in this particular case – I really needn't have worried. To shorten a long story, this review was nearly postponed after the accident prone bottle tripped and fell on it's face shortly before I was due to open it. (I swear it wasn't my fault..!) All but in tears, I held the stricken bottle toward the nearest light source to survey the damage, and to my surprise, its liquid content was still as clear as it could possibly be. Not a lump, nor even a trace of yeast could be detected.
On the one hand, I was delighted that the schedule had not been rocked, but it wasn't long before the very obvious question began forming in my ever-curious mind.
If there ain't no yeast, how can this beer be bottle-conditioned?
Well, let me just me stop that train of thought before it gathers any speed. Because the truth of the matter is - I don't care. As I've said before, many of my most rewarding experiences of drinking bottled beer have involved brews which are not bottled-conditioned, and many more times have I had a drink spoiled by having amounts of horridness floating around in 'my precious'. Either that, or I've had to throw half an inch of the good stuff away in order to prevent such a calamity from occurring in the first place.
The happy medium, I now realise, is a beer which claims to be bottle-conditioned (thereby satisfying the beer snob in me) but which is actually nothing of the sort (thereby giving me a drinking experience which is free of lumps of horrid slime, or at least free of the fear of such lumps!)
Elsie Mo is that drink. And, boy, did I consequently reap the considerable rewards of this harvest pale ale! The zest of lemon and lime, the faint undercurrent of buttery sponge cake, all of this holds undeniable appeal. It drinks a little like a continental beer. It's a Hoegaarden without the cloudiness, or it's a Leffe Blonde that's just spent six months on the Atkins diet.
I liked it a lot and – despite the obvious allure of the young lady who appears on the label – there's something just a little bit macho about this beer. It is not without some level of aggression that it introduces itself to your taste buds. That's not a bad thing, it's just a little less 'leggy blonde' than the marketing might suggest.
Castle Rock's CAMRA award winning brewery is going places, and a bottle of Elsie Mo provides a (mysteriously) clear indication of precisely why.