Saturday, 27 August 2011

Day 127, Beer 127 - Samuel Smith's "Old Brewery Pale Ale"

Today's Beer

Name – Old Brewery Pale Ale

Brewer – Samuel Smith

Classification – Pale ale

Strength –5% ABV

Verdict - At A Glance

On the eye – Sumptuous deep amber. Truly archetypal.

On the nose – The closest aroma to a draft ale that I've yet discovered in a bottle.

On the tongue – Dry, sharp, nutty, spicy, satisfying, and pretty near perfect.

On the subject – Like a great many other humanoids, Samuel Smith is one of my all-time favourite breweries, but it seems there's been something very strange and unsettling hanging in the atmosphere around this British institution during recent times. A fair number of the staff either run or support an unofficial website which has been known to display the company initials 'SS' in a highly provocative way, which pretty much yells 'Help!' and 'Steer Clear!' at equal volumes. I've been glad to see this website mellowing slightly of late, and I hope this signals some positive internal change. The beer's still mighty good, but one wonders how long that could continue in what have clearly been some very fraught corporate circumstances.

On the market – Suspiciously hard to come by at present. There's no online brewery shop, which you may find odd for a company of such global repute, and a portion of the staff would seem to agree with you on that score. Try Only Fine Beer.

On the

Full Review

If you were to tell me that this beer alone was responsible for the recent explosion of the craft beer scene over in the USA – my face would register no surprise.

That's probably because my face has already had to deal with such claims way, way too many times.

My face is over it.

This beer, along with a handful of other British ales like Marston's Pedigree, Fuller's London Pride, Bateman's XXXB and Draught Bass – often get slipped the credit for inspiring the rise of the 'new wave', a wave which (as irony would have it) has caused these very same beers to be seen now as totally 'old school', and as representatives of everything that is wrong with the beer scene.

How amusing great beers like this must find the passing of time.

How tickled they must be by fashion, and it's forever ebbing tides.

Anyway, for those of you wondering how such an outmoded old brew could ever be indirectly responsible for the creation of the instant modern masterpieces which we all fawn over today (and I fawn as much as anyone) - let me try to explain.

Quite simply, this beer is an inspiration because it is monumentally good.

I think that explanation covers everything.

This being said, though, I was actually a little bit jittery when it came to opening this bottle.

I've been on quite a journey since The Bottled Beer Year began, and I've noticed huge shifts in my own relationship with beer, and in what I recognise as being excellent or utterly indifferent drinks. All these trendy new 'yellows' and 'blacks' have impressed me immeasurably, leaving me miles away from where I stood only a few months ago in terms of personal preference. I've also revisited some 'old favourites' recently and found them to be just a bit tired, 'lacking' in various ways, or generally underwhelming. Coming back to these cherished ales was becoming an increasingly disillusioning experience.

But not today.

Oh boy, not today.

This is just too much of an all-round beer experience. It's the genuine article. The real deal. Regardless of when it was first brewed. All of the elements are too well placed for time to make the slightest difference.

What was good about it years ago - is every bit as good about it today.

And so, so much is good about it.

It's dry, bitter, replete with nutty malt substance, and hopped sharper than nails.

It is as vital, as immediate, and as abundantly flavoured as any newcomer. The taste may be familiar, but make no mistake, that familiarity is not a fault – you are merely drinking from the original source of flavours much copied throughout the years since.

This is not just another tired old taste.

It's a liquid legacy.

On your knees, mortal. Show some respect!

But now that I've unburdened myself of all this enthusiasm and goodwill, I'm going to toss a grenade at the dance-floor by adding that this bottled version is a bit gassy. In the grand scheme of  things, it's really nothing more than a thorn in the little toe of a god, but it would be nice to see this product bottle-conditioned. In fact, so nice would that be, that it's something I'd like to formally suggest to the brewery right here and now.

But given the apparent problems within the 'SS' at present, I don't expect that suggestion to bear any fruit any time soon.

That's a pity, because I think with a bit of bottle-conditioning (done properly, as I'm sure this company could accomplish with ease) this beer might have been the only drink on my chart to have scored a perfect 10.

As things stand, a joint highest score will just have to do.


Curmudgeon said...

Yes, a true British classic, with an underlying full-bodied maltiness yet not remotely sweet. Available at the Bottle Stop off-licence in Bramhall, Stockport. Sam's Nut Brown Ale is also well worth a try.

The Hearty Goodfellow said...

PC - I often thought their Museum Ale was even better than this. It was stronger, they never bottled it as far as I'm aware, and I only ever saw it served in Smith's pubs in Central London. (Not that my searching was too extensive back in those days.)

This is a very special beer, though. One of my true 'desert island' candidates.

I'll be sure to take a fresh look at the Nut Brown before too long.

Curmudgeon said...

I thought the Museum Ale was basically a cask version of the Old Brewery Pale Ale. In my experience it was always a bit heavy and sickly as a cask beer, and also suffered from poor turnover. However, 15-20 years later, my palate may have moved towards the malt-accented.

The Hearty Goodfellow said...

They would always have two pumps of Old Brewery Bitter either side of the Museum. The bitter was 4% and I'm pretty sure the Museum was 5.2%, so it's possible the latter is related in to the Pale Ale in some way. But as you say, there are plenty of differences beyond the booze level.

It's usually far more common for a bottled version to be more boozy than it's cask equivalent rather than a shade weaker, but then, Sam Smith's are hardly one's for following convention it would seem.