Category Archives: beer reviews

Fuller’s Past Masters 1914 Strong X

There is never going to be a Fuller’s Past Masters beer that we don’t buy by the case, even though this makes three in a row that have failed to hit the standard set by the first two.

Though supposedly brewed to a recipe for Fuller’s standard mild from August 1914, the ABV has been bumped up from an almost sessionable, historically accurate c.5% to 7.3%, more befitting of a limited edition release. (Here are Ron Pattinson’s notes on Fuller’s X from the period.) It cost us £3.75 a bottle, in a case of 12, plus delivery.

It certainly looks enticing in the glass, gleaming red, and has the characteristic Fuller’s tangerine aroma.

The problem,  however, occurs on tasting, when an overriding, Irn-Bru, Lucozade sweetness takes over. It made us think, unfortunately, of Innis & Gunn, of whose beers we are not fans, or even Adelscott, the whisky-flavoured, sweetened, alco-pop beer from France.

In fact, the reminder of whisky doesn’t stop there. Though we occasionally drink it, as with coffee, we struggle to discern specific flavours and qualities beyond the bleedin’ obvious, so please excuse our vagueness when we say that there was a whisky-and-water boozy, smoky afterburn in the throat and nose.

There’s also a gentle tooth-stripping quality like the feeling you get after eating a particularly tart rhubarb or gooseberry crumble. (Oxalic acid says the internet.)

We’re making this sound like hard work, aren’t we? Well, that’s how we’re finding it, four bottles into a case of twelve. The rest we’re going to leave for a few months and see if it mellows, though we can’t really see how it will get less sweet unless some of the remaining sugars are somehow digested by the bottle-conditioning yeast.

Ultimately, it’s a really quirky, interesting beer that won’t appeal to everyone, and we know some people have loved it:

But the really exciting news: that incredible 1893 Double Stout is being re-brewed this year. We’ll buy two cases this time.

Fantôme Saison and Brise-BonBons

Belgium’s not as handy for us now as when we lived in London so we have to rely on mail order beer deliveries for our fix.

At the end of last year, from different sources, we got hold of two bottles from cult brewery Fantôme, and decided to liven up a stormy weekday January night by tasting them in one session.

The last time we tried Fantôme Saison was at Cask in Pimlico in 2010.  Back then, we didn’t really get saison (here’s the moment where it began to click) and, anyway, as various people told us, Fantôme’s is notoriously variable. At any rate, as far as we can tell*, though we made it our beer of the week, we didn’t write about it at length, and don’t remember much about it.

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Pre-WWII US IPA and a Euro-Mashup

We tasted two beers from our end of 2014 wish list last night: BrewDog’s collaboration with Weihenstephan, India Pale Weizen, and a recreation of the fabled Ballantine IPA.

Well, sort of. The latter was not the recent effort released by Pabst, which we’re still desperate to try, but an entirely different beer produced as a collaboration between two US breweries, Stone and Smuttynose. Will it soon be possible to have a bar selling nothing but Ballantine clones? Possibly.

If there’s a theme to this post, it’s old meets new, and the idea of sliding scales. You’ll see what we mean.

India Pale Weizen

6.2%, 330ml, from Red Elephant, Truro; £2.60 at BrewDog’s own online store

With apologies to the ‘all that matters is the taste’ crowd, what got us interested in this beer was the idea of the Scottish upstarts BrewDog collaborating with the centuries-old German brewery Weihenstephan. Our assumption was that they would meet halfway and create the perfect beer for a pair of fence-sitters like us.

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Boak & Bailey’s Golden Pints 2014

Prompted by Andy Mogg at Beer Reviews, here are our nominations for the best bevvies, bars, book and blogs in the world of beer in 2014.

Bearing in mind that we live a long way from where the action is and haven’t been abroad, our choices are perhaps a bit parochial and conservative. In general, though we try to keep a bit of distance and remain objective, you might also want to cross-reference this lot against our disclosure page. And who knows how this list might have looked if we’d written it yesterday, or tomorrow.

Best UK Cask Beer: St Austell Proper Job

Proper Job pump clip.After much over-thinking, we decided that we wanted to recognise a beer from one of our local breweries, of which we have drunk several pints every week, usually at the Yacht Inn in Penzance, and which consistently delighted us — that is, made us say ‘Ooh!’ and ‘Ah!’ The peachy, pithy, juicy aroma gets us every time, laid over a clean, fresh-tasting beer with no rough-edges at all. Through compromise rather than design, it’s been an American-style IPA at session strength for some years, which is now apparently all the rage. We expect to drink lots more of it in 2015.

Best UK Keg Beer: Brew By Numbers Cucumber & Juniper Saison

Brew by Numbers Cucumber and Juniper Saison.At first, we struggled to think of any keg beers we’d drunk often enough to form a strong opinion — we dabbled with a lot of one-off glasses in Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Bristol and London, but didn’t go back for seconds of many or any. Then we recalled this beer which we enjoyed back in June and liked enough to seek out for a second session. A gimmicky beer from a brewery whose beers we don’t find universally brilliant, it nonetheless knocked us for six — the beer equivalent of a classic ‘fruit cup’. (We have also found it good in bottles, but not as good as from the keg.)

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer: Thornbridge Tzara

Thornbridge beer bottle caps.The most convincing Kölsch you’ll taste outside Cologne and, debates over style and stylistic sub-divisions aside, one of the best lager beers around. The most impressive thing about it is the malt character — solid enough to chew on. Not flashy but classy, and a real demonstration of brewing skill. (Here’s what we said back in February.)

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Beers With a Pinch of Place

For as long as we’ve been pondering what ‘local’ means in terms of beer, we’ve also been interested in beers made with ingredients that evoke the place of their origin.

In the last year, others have crystallised that into a conversation across various blog posts and articles, of which there have been a particular flurry in recent weeks.

The idea that what is at hand — what grows in nearby fields or hedgerows — might shape the design of a beer is alluring and, frankly, rather obvious to anyone who’s ever clapped eyes on, say, bright yellow gorse flowers, or glossy rosehips. Realising that our stash contained a few beers which make a virtue of containing unusual place-specific ingredients, we decided now was a good time to taste them, with a question in mind: does this approach create tastier or at least more interesting beers?

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