Sunday, 30 January 2011

The Motley Otley Crew!

That headline might rhyme, but I must admit it's a little bit harsh, considering how refined and sophisticated these beers appear.

The Otley branding has been pretty cleverly judged. It simultaneously says "look at me" and "what are you staring at, moron?" - which is not easy to achieve, except perhaps in an expensive nightclub.

I'm very excited about his lot.

They are - (from left to right)

O1   (Golden ale)
O4 Colomb-o   (Pale golden ale)
O8   (Strong golden ale)
O - Garden   (Wheat beer)
O6 Porter   (Old style porter)
Dark - O   (Stout)

O my wOrd, Otley dO knOw hOw to get me gOing!

Reviews of each beer will be coming soon...

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Beer Year Update!

Bottled Beer Year - The Director's Cut!

Sienna Miller

Sir Trevor Nunn

The Bottled Beer Year is having to evolve. But how could the two showbiz individuals shown above be responsible?

Well,  Sir 'Trev' has given yours truly very little choice but to take a role in his new theatre project, which just happens to feature Miss Miller.

This involves poor me having to up-sticks and move to London for a while, and engage in prolonged periods of actual work.

This, inevitably, will enforce some small changes to this here blog.

In essence, The Bottled Beer Year will continue as normal, but the chances of me sticking to the plan of reviewing a new beer every single day have been dramatically (excuse the pun) reduced. Cracking a bottle during rehearsals seems inappropriate, as does supping a large one before a show, and giving proper detailed attention to a new post every time the curtain falls seems risky or plain unlikely.

As for taste-testing during a show, well, I really don't suppose there's a long tradition of beer reviewing on-stage at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.

Though, that's merely speculation...

In short, the reviews here on The Bottled Beer Year will continue, but at a slightly more leisurely pace to allow sensible space for some new 'real world' commitments.

You could say I'm merely re-branding a little - just like so many breweries have been doing lately.

Is this a setback, a failure, or a marvellous rebirth?

The reality is that the 'beer a day' theme was really just a context in which to place a desire to begin to write about beer, and I hope that the tremendous subsequent interest in the site - from readers and breweries alike - will mean that my loyal visitors won't look upon me too harshly for taking a wage and posting just a little less often.

The show must, and will go on.

It's just that there are now two shows.

That's all.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Day 62, Beer 62 - Woodforde's "Admiral's Reserve"

Today's Beer

Name – Admiral's Reserve

Brewer – Woodforde's

Classification – Premium ale

Strength – 5% ABV

Verdict - At A Glance

On the eye – Lustrous golden brown.

On the nose – Cocoa butter, treacle and spiced apple.

On the tongue – Robust, intricate ale with a strong 'cask' feel.

On the subject – Norfolk based Woodforde's are responsible for my most fondly remembered beer-consuming week. The 'Wherry' at the Hunny Bell pub in the village of Hunworth was legendary back in the summer of 2006. In fact, the words 'Woodfordes' and 'legendary' have become synonymous in that part of England.

On the market – Not the easiest ale in the world to find. But worry not – just deal with the brewery direct.

On the

Full Review

This is very distinctive , and in so many ways.

There's a simultaneous bolt of honeyed sweetness and a potent, all pervading bitterness which usually only comes from maximum strength spirits.

Vodka, in fact, sprang suddenly to mind. Not in terms of taste – but in terms of the delivery of taste.

It's a fascinating, mind bending experience.

Also worthy of mention, is the fact that, of all the ales I've sampled during this project so far – this was the one that most felt that it had come from a cask. Those 'cask characteristics' are not things which I usually find 'lacking' in bottled beer – as you really have to deal with cask and bottled beer as entirely separate beasts and avoid getting bogged down with comparisons.

All the same, the cask-like feel of this drink was striking – and really rather lovely.

It's not just in the body that it felt 'pub served' but also in the immediacy of the flavours. The hops zinged with a new purpose, and the lower tones from the malts interacted with those shaper notes in a new way.

I'm using the word 'new' in place of the word 'better' because I'm one of those oddballs who still believe that 'cask' beer is not always 'better' beer. But perhaps I should add that – in this case at least – I did find that cask characteristic highly appealing.

To round off this extremely agreeable drink experience, there's something of the sea in the finish – a welcome salty swathe to complemnent the firmly pitched sweet base – and I reckon that the 'Admiral' referred to in the beer's name (a certain Admiral Nelson, I've little doubt) would have enjoyed this brew enormously.

Just as I did.

Windsor & Eton shall not be beaten!

Three brave and mighty brews from Windsor and Eton have arrived to restore some order and impose a bit of civil obedience to The Bottled Beer Year.

So, stop all that messing about and pay attention!

The beers are - (from left to right)

Conqueror - (Black IPA)
Guardsman - (Oak crafted best bitter)
Knight of the Garter - (Golden ale)

I'll be sure to escape reprimand by giving each one a full feature over the coming weeks.

W&E - I salute you!

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Day 61, Beer 61 - Wadworth's "Farmers Glory"

Today's Beer

Name – Farmers Glory

Brewer – Wadworth

Classification – Premium ale

Strength – 4.7% ABV

Verdict - At A Glance

On the eye – Deep, sumptuous rosewood.

On the nose – Cereals like never before. Cereal-zilla!

On the tongue – Traditional bitter with an emphasis those wonderfully rich cereals.

On the subject – "Locally sourced (Wiltshire) barley" sets the tone for this bold and characterful beer.  Well, wherever the barley came from, it certainly makes the difference.

On the market – The Wadworth message is growing beyond that of just their mighty 6X. Even so, the brewery's own shop is a perfect place to buy.

On the

Full Review

Sometimes, in moments of divine inspiration, breweries give their beers exactly the right name.

This is one of those beers.

Firstly, the word 'glory' is used, and that is the proverbial 'nail-on-head' use of the term.

Secondly, and perhaps even more apt, is the use of the word 'farmer', because this ale takes you right onto the farmer's land, among the rows of swaying crops, which border wildflower meadows rimmed with hawthorn and blackberry bushes.

There's no hiding from it - this drink is simply packed with cereals in a way only Kellogg's could compete with.

There's a citrus sweetness, too, to lift the malt up from the earth and into the trees, and a fulsome bitterness from the hops completes the nature-infused appeal of the brew.

There's something knowingly traditional about what Wadworth bring to the marketplace – and I can sense the many generations of farmers (as well as all the other varieties of working folk) savouring this beer at the end of the long day's grind.

There's a spiced orange/aniseed twang to the finish, and a trace of oriental black bean sauce on the nose, but these are the only real hints of any modern-day tinkering. These extra character features work wonderfully, without ever taking centre stage.

Centre stage is taken by those swaying crops and those wildflower meadows...this beer evokes these images as clearly as a liquid ever could.

Halfway through the glass, I felt like I was actually there. I could almost detect those barley ears tapping softly together in the warm summer breeze...

Clever little beer!

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Day 60, Beer 60 - Dorset Brewing Company's "Silent Knight"

Today's Beer

Name – Silent Knight

Classification – Dark Wheat Beer

Strength – 5.9% ABV

Verdict - At A Glance

On the eye – Seductive, darkest orange.

On the nose – Mightily rich. Torched oats and treacle.

On the tongue – Sweet, bitter, and all else in between. Impressive complexity.

On the subject – A winter beer when in cask form, this ale has picked up national awards in the wheat beer category. Not that I'm surprised!

On the market – Great local availability, and that's now spreading. Try online at West Country Ales.

On the

Full Review

This is very nice.

It seemed ridiculous to begin this piece in any other way.

What is most remarkable – and this becomes clear immediately – is the way this beer interacts with every separate receptive region of the tongue at precisely the same time and with exactly the same intensity.

It was only when this happened that I realised how most beers don't tend to do that. The usual mode of delivery for a beer is to appeal to the different flavour detection zones at different rates, but this beer is having none of that 'traditional' nonsense!

Sweetness, bitterness, saltiness and acidity all descend upon the tongue like some impossible simultaneous weather event . It's like mid-summer, deep winter, fading autumn and burgeoning spring all arriving at the very same tick of the clock.

It's highly enjoyable.

As well as arriving all at once, each of these flavour themes are quite distinct and quite wonderful. Toasted marshmallow collides dramatically and deliciously with blackberry and liquorice, and there's constant support from treacle toffee and spiced apple.

The other, more peculiar aspect of this drink experience is that – as a wheat beer – it failed to make me sneeze.

I should add that I'm more than happy for a wheat beer to fail in this way.

However, my question is – how can one wheat beer induce no allergic reaction whatsoever when most others always do?

If anyone can explain why this might be – feel free to release me from my new-found state of mild bewilderment.

In the meantime, I've found a wheat beer that likes me back.

One which happens to be one of the best I've ever tasted.

Happy day!

The Shocking Worthington's Truth!

I'm embarrassed.

I really am.

Yesterday, I took delivery of two boxes of goodies, which came in the form of entirely separate deliveries.

I opened one, and decided that it would be the delivery to post next. That became the Worthington's post which went online earlier today.


Later this morning, I got around to opening that second box which, it appears, was also from Worthington's.

Now, as I said, I'm embarrassed.

Anyway, here's a brand new picture of the full consignment from Worthington's - with nifty multiple-angles of the various labels to zoom in on at your leisure.

Be prepared for a yet another 'new' set of pictures when the third box arrives.

I should have known that this is the kind of thing that happens when you start rolling with the big boys such as Molson Coors.

All the same, I'm still so very, very embarrassed...

Worthington's - Three shields to the wind!

          Red,          Orange,       White,        and Gold!

A trio of mythical ales and a certain iconic stout fit for a Czar!

The folks at the legendary - but also ultra-new - William Worthington's Brewery (they just moved from the White Shield Brewery) have sent along nothing less than three noble knights and an Emperor to experience the full Bottled Beer Year treatment.

The red carpet is being dusted off as I speak!

The beers are - (from left to right)

Red Shield - (Burton blond ale)
Bass P2 - (Czar's Imperial stout)
White Shield - (IPA)
Celebration Shield - (Strong, special edition ale)

Those of you who know a thing or two about beer, will have caught sight of the golden coloured shield on the right and seethed mildly with envy.

The beer on the left will anger many, too.

As will the two in the middle.

In fact, the arrival of these bottles has pretty much made me hate myself.

So you're not alone.

Stay tuned for the full features on each of these ales.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Day 59, Beer 59 - Flying Dog's "Doggie Style"

Today's Beer

Name – Doggie Style

Brewer – Flying Dog

Classification – Classic pale ale

Strength – 5.5% ABV

Verdict - At A Glance

On the eye – Pale? Not so sure. But brown is beautiful, and this beer proves it.

On the nose – Creamy, yet seriously intense. Deep, sharp, zesty. A truly huge aroma.

On the tongue – Smooth bodied, with masterfully crafted flavours.

On the subject – This airborne hound was born in the Rocky Mountains, but in more recent years the lovable mutt has been shipping his beer out of Maryland. The Hunter S. Thompson-themed branding, though splendid, should not mask the painstaking care which clearly goes into these beers. Unlike the famous 'Gonzo' journalist, I reckon the folk who oversee the Flying Dog brewing process are all extremely clear-headed.

On the market – A growing global presence, but in the UK it will tend to be the more specialist or select oulets. This dog flew from Newark's Real Ale Store.

On the

Full Review

There's just no danger of this being anyone's least favourite beer.

Now, I realise there may be seven-and-a-half-billion chances of someone disliking this more than all other beers – but I'd stake my reputation on that opening statement all the same.

But a very different question is – how many people would name this beer as their most favourite, and am I about to become merely the latest person to do so?

Believe me, after a couple of sips... I knew there was every chance of that happening.

Well, before I give the game away, let's look at exactly what we have here.

A gorgeous looking pale ale (my oh my, aren't pale ales looking dark these days!) which has the fruitiest, maltiest, most elegant bodied characteristics anyone could wish for, and all of its attributes – in all departments – are pitched to near perfection. Nothing is over or underdone.

There is a traditional feel to the drink, but at the same time there are subtle flavours at work here which I'm certain are quite unique to this brew. There's some old stalwart themes such as grapefruit and cookie dough, but is there also ginger? And isn't that marzipan?

This beer literally toys with the tongue. In fact, it plays the tongue like a grand piano, and it knows some very catchy tunes.

The American beers I've included so far in the The Year are relatively few in number, but as you will see from the chart – every one of them has leapt straight into the top ten.

This brew is merely the latest to do so.

Our friends in the US are truly on the march. Right now, no other nation is producing new beers as consistently exciting and delicious as theirs.

Is that a provocative, controversial statement?

Only to those who've not yet discovered American craft beer.

To anyone else, it's just a fact.

If only the American's would ship out less of their beers in these child-sized bottles. 

That way I could start to seriously enjoy them.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Day 58, Beer 58 - Lymestone's "Stone Faced"

Today's Beer

Name – Stone Faced

Classification – Bitter

Strength – 4.0% ABV

Verdict - At A Glance

On the eye – Deepest rosewood.

On the nose – Toasted jungle. Fierce and fulsome.

On the tongue – Turbo hops. A robust and relentless bitter. Impressive stuff.

On the subject – Staffordshire's Lymestone Brewery is growing as fast as any in Britain at present. A recent nationwide deal with Wetherspoons pubs is just one example of this. The broad appeal of their complete range of beers and their flair for branding are often sighted as causes of their success.

On the market – Increasing options, but online is still as good a bet as any. Try Beer Here

On the

Full Review

This is a powerhouse of an English bitter.

There's a definite SAS or Green Beret feel to the hops, which don't so much 'enter' your mouth as 'storm' it, before taking control of your taste buds by force.

I'm not kidding – the first gulps of this brew are properly 'full-on' experiences.

My mouth felt like it had been grabbed by a playful grizzly bear, which then proceeded to toy with it until the drink was finished.

It's an impressive experience.

There's real substance here too though, with all that sharpness countered wonderfully with an understated roast chestnut-like malt base. There's even a hint of fudge in the finish.

I worried a little at first about the size and the behaviour of the bubbles – which were large, abundant, and pretty frisky, and it brought briefly to mind my recent encounter with Robinson's Unicorn. But if I'm honest, I worried about this for around 10 seconds, after which that grizzly bear and those SAS guys showed up and filled my concerns with hot lead and claws.

The fact is, this beer simply will not tolerate any amount of doubt about its own appeal. I've never witnessed 'mild concerns' being dispatched and erased with such consummate ease. If you tend to look for beers that will forcefully remove all your cares and concerns – your search is pretty much over.

Those, like me, who appreciate it when a beer arrives with great self-confidence and takes control of the drink experience – you will absolutely love this ale.

For those who prefer their beers to be a little more reserved and demure, all I can say is – give this a try. You might find that being raided by bears and gunmen is every bit as exciting as it looks at the movies.

That's now two very impressive ales from Lymestone - a company I knew very little about before this project began.

Another from their range is coming soon... and I can hardly wait.

Wearing the Badger with pride!

Hall & Woodhouse have decided to get their Badger range of ales involved The Bottled Beer Year.

Never has a wild woodland creature been so welcome in my home!

One of the larger British brands in terms of bottled beer, it is extremely apt that they should be named after Britain's largest native carnivore - because one look at these beauties gets me all bloodthirsty and ravenous!

The Badger beers now awaiting their own full features are - (from left to right)

Golden Champion - (Golden ale)
Blandford Fly - (Premium ale)
Tangle Foot - (Golden ale)
Long Days - (Summer ale)
Badger First Gold - (Ruby brown ale)
Dandelion - (Flavoured organic ale)
Poacher's Choice - (Strong ale)
Fursty Ferret - ('Seasonal' amber ale. Available year-round in bottles)
Golden Glory - (Premium ale)

They also sent along their River Cottage collaboration ale 'Stinger'...

...which will also be getting a feature to itself before long.

Oh, and of course Badger also make cider....

...however my house rules leave me with little choice but to set aside these for anyone brave enough to start a project called 'The Bottled Cider Year.'

Hang on. That's not a bad idea.

I'll race you to it!

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Day 57, Beer 57 - Dark Star's "Sunburst"

Today's Beer

Name – Sunburst

Brewer – Dark Star

Classification – Golden Ale

Strength – 4.8% ABV

Verdict - At A Glance

On the eye – The very palest yellow gold.

On the nose – Buttered malts and subtle but frisky hops.

On the tongue – Crisp! Also pretty vivacious and zesty. But I think it's definitely worth a repeat of the term 'crisp'. Oh, and did I mention 'crisp'?

On the subject – This continuously morphing brewery is really much closer to a young, radiant celestial orb than a fading giant nearing black hole status. The latest incarnation of the brewery's speedy evolution (involving entirely new premises and some groovy re-branding) has been necessitated by success. It's that simple.

On the market – Dark Star really is rising. National availability is getting better. Many of the usual online suspects now stock the range. Try My Brewery Tap.

On the whole – 7.5/10

Full Review

Let's get this clear first – this is a delightful beer.

Let's get something else clear, too – this drink and whoever is reading these words right now (...that would be you!) need to make arrangements to get together during the approaching summer months, and if that means you cancelling an expensive family holiday in order to do it – then so be it!

I could go on making lists of things to make clear about this beer – but there's one thing that could never be more clear, and that's the beer itself.

No clearer beer have I seen. Period.

And the beer's clarity is just one aspect of its appearance that will get your jaw dropping. In short, I can't recall the last time I was so surprised to see a drink emerge from a bottle.

The lightness of hue – almost entirely colourless as it pours – is eye-catching to say the least. Whilst looking at my glass filling with this liquid, my curiosity was in overdrive as it tried desperately to imagine what a beer of this appearance was likely to taste like. The flavour reference-points are few and far between for a beer that looks like this.

The relationship between a beer's colour and its flavour is never quite as straightforward as many people suppose. Dark, rich looking beers can taste insipid and lack body, and the lightest coloured beers can pack some seriously tasty and substantially textured punches.

So... which was this beer going to be? What surprises might it have in store?

These were the questions bubbling around in my mind.

Well, the reality is that Sunburst's ultra-discreet colouring is nothing less than a wholesale visual hoax.

Never was a red herring clad in so very little red, or any other colour for that matter.

The appearance of the drink merely walks you up a garden path, so that by the time the stuff is in your mouth, you are well and truly at its mercy – with nowhere to run or hide. Not that you'd want to do either of those things, mind you, because being at this beer's mercy is a pretty marvellous predicament in which to find yourself.

Rather than lacking any flavour-based impact or complexity, this brew is gloriously and vividly alive with all manner of thirst quenching, citrus-infused loveliness. There's grapefruit, watermelon, lemon zest, and just enough of a popcorn undertow to prevent the high notes from running away with all the glory. It's also a beer which is very careful not to throw too much of any one thing at you and risk dampening your enthusiasm for more. 

Yet other thing which is abundantly 'clear' about this ale, is that it will simply adore great summer weather – and there's little doubt that great summer weather will adore it just as much in return.

I know I will have no problem adoring it on a very frequent basis when the warm times return.

If only a certain other star would move a little closer!

Roll on June!