Or, “Sadly, we don’t know Mr Bean”.
Last week, we had a pint with Wilson of Brewvana fame. We were several thousand miles apart; he was drinking at lunchtime, we’d just got home from work; and the banter was by email. It kind of worked.
We’d agreed which beers we were going to drink so that we could compare, based on the UK beers Wilson could get in Iowa, and which American beers we could get in London. Somewhat ironically, he found it easier to get hold of Adnams Bitter than we did. So the final line-up was Adnams Broadside and Anchor Porter. Here’s how it went from Wilson’s point of view, and here’s how it went from ours:
BOAK & BAILEY
Apologies, we only just got in, so starting a bit late on the simul-tasting.
However, we did cheat a bit and try some Broadside on tap last night in our local.
Well, if nothing else, this exercise has made us re-evaluate Adnams. Unfortunately for them, they’re successful enough to be served in pubs that don’t really know how to look after them – so up to this point we’ve always been pretty unimpressed.
However, the Broadside last night was great – we noted;
“medium brown colour. Fruity aroma – like blackcurrants. Not much head and mediu body. Complex range of flavours, incorporating dried fruits, blackcurrant sourness, a slight roastiness, and mild hoppiness. All in all, a bit like a slight burnt fruitcake (that’s a good thing)”
Note that on tap it’s only 4.7%, compared to the bottled 6.3%, which we’re about to crack open now…
I cheated slightly as well, having cracked open a bottle of the Anchor Porter the day I contacted you. That one seemed to have a touch of oxidation coming on, just slightly papery, but the bottle I picked up for today seems much more in order.
Were you able to procure the Suffolk Special Bitter after all? I brought along that bottle to drink as well. Just poured it as your email hit, in fact. I did the first two first, in hopes that I was somewhat drinking alongside you, so this one comes drunk in the wrong order, being the least assertive of the three.
BOAK & BAILEY
Well, we’re just working our way through the Broadside (Bottled version)
It’s very interesting to contrast it with the draft version. It looks better from a bottle — much better head retention (the draft version was very very flat).
It has many of the same flavours when you take a good glug, and obviously more alcohol, but the finish just isn’t as good. There’s a bit of fizz which takes away from the fruity richness, and you end up with a kind of watery flavour, compared to the draft version’s complex finish. You could taste yesterday evening’s fruity flavours well into the night.
And we’re not just saying that to suck up to CAMRA…
So, the Broadside: my label says 6%. Nice malty aroma, caramel, dates or figs. Same flavors, along with that sorta signature earthy English hop action I adore. That bitterness is there, but acts it out in a dry mouthfeel way in the finish.
If we were sitting side-by-side in a pub, I’m sure I’d ask about your day. What’s going on with you these days?
BOAK & BAILEY
Ha ha! We’re actually sitting here right now eating our first rough attempt at homemade bacon (that is, a pork chop that I put in a load of salt and sugar for about 36 hours). It’s really tasty. A nice big chunk of pork belly is on order from the butcher so we can do it properly.
How about you? How is the restaurant coming along?
And is it possible that Adnams brew three versions of Broadside…? One for cask, one for domestic bottles, and one to go overseas…?
Where’d you learn how to make bacon? That sounds cool! [Wilson is joking — we learned it here!]
The restaurant’s coming along great. Due to our time change issues, I’m taking a break from my workday to have a beer with you. Yesterday and today, I’ve been hauling in my coolers. My back hurts from lifting and whatnot. But it’s all good whatnot. Lotta painting is complete. Flooring guy comes in tomorrow. Lining beers up. It’s too much fun to be work.
As for the Adnams, is it possible that they round it off for the draft labels? A whole separate batch to drop .3%? And it seems that we’d be the ones getting the extra alcohol.
BOAK & BAILEY
Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs don’t take kindly to messing with percentages!
We thought the Broadside got a bit better once it’d had gone flatter…
Anyway, we’re moving on to Anchor porter. Are we drinking too quickly, like typical Brits?
I meant to type round off the import (export) labels, but the points still the same.
I’ve decided I’m not a big Anchor Porter fan. I think it has a little more hops than I like in a stout or porter. I haven’t read what hops they use, but a mild guess would be the Northern Brewers that go into their Steam. Not sure at all. Thank goodness it has that raisiny quality that pushes through, or I wouldn’t be inclined to drink much of this. What do you think?
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More hops? We were just thinking that we could hardly taste any…
We’re getting mild coffee aroma. Looks great, with a rocky head that lasts.
Creamy coffee flavours, which coat the mouth. Milky aftertaste, with hints of roastiness. Really not getting a lot of hops.
Certainly one we’d drink again, but we prefer Fullers London Porter hands down.
Mind you, given the difference in travel time for us for these beers, it’s not surprising if we get different flavours!
I don’t know. Something about how everything melds. I don’t like the mouthfeel as I do others. There’s that raisin bit, and some coffee (but not French roast) and some like cocoa powder. All things I like. But the finish seems now almost tinny to me, and I’m attributing it to the minty character of those hops. Of course I could be wrong about that. Whatever it is, I think it’s more in the finish than anywhere else. Looks great, though, with excellent head retention. Like you said, we’re drinking different beers, both travel time and possibly batches.
BOAK & BAILEY
Yes, the finish is a bit weak. We’re not huge snobs about bottle conditioning, but more and more we find ourselves thinking that a good beer would be *great* if it was bottle conditioned. Anchor Porter tastes a little fizzy, a little dead, and would undoubtedly benefit from being bottle (or even cask) conditioned.
It’s funny that you found it easier to get Adnams bitter than we did, given that it’s brewed a train ride from London. Who drinks British beers where you live? The people drinking American beers over here are mostly those who will drink anything as long as its imported, and beer geeks like us. The mainstream British ale drinker is still a bit suspicious of American beer.
Oh, and what was the Adnams bitter like?
Glad we figured that out. I didn’t mean to say that I thought it was a hoppy beer. I wonder what they mean on the neck label, then, where it says “entirely natural carbonation.” Naturally, a guy goes over and turns on the CO2? This conversation would have been easier if we’d been sitting side-by-side, huh?
Beer geeks have a good appreciation of British beers, but since they carry more of a balance hallmark, English beers don’t get the “wow factor” that Belgians and American double IPAs have. Yuppies drink Newcastle so they look cool to their friends. Or Stella or Heineken. But there’s progress. I’ve watched yuppies go to beer festivals and get turned on and amazed by a milk stout.
As for the bitter, I found it a bit perplexing in that the flavor didn’t match the fruity aroma initially. As it warmed, the fruitiness gave way to caramel mixed with the hops. The flavor had some caramel nuances with earthy hops. Some mineral character. dries out in the finish. Don’t think I mentioned a subtle warming in the Broadside, but obviously that’s not in this beer. Tasty. I’d drink them both again. Liked the Broadside a little more. That bitter would be great with grilled vegetables.
BOAK & BAILEY
We’re going to have to call it a night, I’m afraid – it’s a school night!
All the best – it’s been fun!
A night it is.
Peace and pints.
PS–My son Tom wants to know if you guys know Mr. Bean…?