Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The Old Boy and the New Man?

The more you drink beer, the more you'll enjoy beer.

Is this necessarily the case?

Does consuming more ale in ever-wider varieties lead to a greater appreciation of beer in general? You would think so, wouldn't you. But just to see for sure, I thought I'd run a little test.

So far on The Bottled Beer Year, I've taken a pretty close look at 110 different beers. I've looked, smelled, tasted, and contemplated time and time again, and I can safely say that no two of these drinks have been remotely the same drink experiences.

But to know if I have stayed the same myself, I decided I needed to go back to the very beginning - to the very first beer I reviewed - and review it all over again.

So I did.

Without referring to my original review, I took another look at Oldershaw's 'Old Boy.' I knew it wasn't going to be massively scientific, but I suspected it might reveal quite a bit about how I now relate to beer after trying out so many varieties of it in recent months. 

Did my greater awareness of beer shine through?

Have my tastes in beer changed?

Well, you might want to start by checking out my first Old Boy review here.

And now, without further ado – here is that (rather fascinating) second opinion...

Day 1 (Again), Beer 1 (Again) - Oldershaw's "Old Boy"

Today's Beer

Name – Old Boy

Brewer – Oldershaw

Classification – Premium ale

Strength – 4.8% ABV

Verdict - At A Glance

On the eye – Rich chestnut, infused with burnt orange.

On the nose – Fruity malts, bitter nuts and black treacle.

On the tongue – A classically styled but distinctly contemporary rendition of an English premium ale. A good malt presence and dynamic hops.

On the subject – As this is an experimental review, I'll just let Oldershaw do the talking themselves.

On the market – With the new regime now firmly in place, there's a noticeable spring in this brewery's step, and their cask versions are popping up at all kinds of 'groovy' establishments nationwide. But availability of Oldershaw's bottled range is still in the 'growth' phase nationally. Pester them directly here.

On the

Full Review

'Old Boy' is a clever name for this beer.

'Old' is appropriate because it reflects the strong sense of tradition at the very core of this entire brew, whilst 'Boy' is the essential reminder that this beer is also very 'now', with all its zesty hoppiness and its highly nuanced array of complementary flavour themes.

The fact that my spell-checker recognises neither the word 'zesty' nor the word 'hoppiness', suggests that my PC has yet to move forward into the modern era of craft beer production.

I digress.

My point is that this beer is nicely pitched at the broadest cross section of the market, it is mindful of the needs of the traditionalist fashion sceptics and the new army of hopheads which continues to swell in numbers.

Needless to say, my spell-checker is also at a total loss with the word 'hophead'.

I rest my case.

Old Boy is richly fruity, and has a properly punchy bitterness – all underscored by some delicious hazelnut/cashew base notes. It's hearty and substantial, but also feels dynamic and immediate.

The bottle-conditioning is pretty nicely done too (I wonder if they've been tinkering with their methods over at Oldershaw...?) and the consequent 'pub served' feel of the beer is pretty impressive.

Distinguished, robust, intensely flavourful and hugely rewarding.

He's a good lad is Old Boy.



Well, there it is. My all-new look at that very first beer.

Needless to say, I have now compared them myself, and I was quite surprised by several things.

I rated the beer slightly higher this time, albeit by just 0.5 of a mark. It seems that spending these many months being barraged with hordes of 'yellow' massively hopped beers has not yet turned me into a 'hophead' – in fact it appears to have been a setback in that regard. This is surprising to me because in very recent days I'd started to sense a slight shift towards the 'yellow zone'.

From the two 'At A Glance' sections I learn that 'oak' has somehow become 'chestnut', but perhaps the addition of 'infused with burnt orange' gets me out of trouble there.

But the greatest differences are in the improved bottle-conditioning (which is a great relief to me) and in my greater awareness of the more contemporary use of hops, which I seem to have totally dismissed the first time around. The 'traditional feel' (which does get mentioned in both pieces and is indeed the greater contributor towards overall 'character') is all I talk about in the first review. Either I was harsh, plain ignorant, or they've upped the ante slightly in the brewhouse.

All in all, I think for my very first review the original was a passable attempt. The bottle-conditioning rant proved to be merely the first of a great many, and it was interesting to see that this huge industry nuisance was causing trouble right from the very start.

Let's hope things continue to improve on that score like they appear to have done at Oldershaw.

In the meantime, I look forward to running a similar test after another 110 beers.

But I'll have to drink them first.

Stay tuned...

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