Strong, fruity, wrong and funky

Two beers: Shepherd Neame Christmas Ale and Bateman's Vintage Ale.

Last night, we got round to drink­ing a cou­ple of strong beers we were sent by Shep­herd Neame and Aldi respec­tive­ly in the run up to Christ­mas.

In one sense, Shep­herd Neame’s Christ­mas Ale (7%) is a cause for rejoic­ing: it comes in a prop­er brown bot­tle, rather than the clear glass they’ve been using to dis­as­trous effect for the last decade or so. This is a huge turn­around and a ‘pos­i­tive behav­iour’ (thanks, Dr Tanya Byron) we def­i­nite­ly want to encour­age.

It’s a shame, then, that the beer itself seemed to be… wrong. There was a whiff of elas­tic bands when we popped the cap, and it tast­ed waxy, rub­bery and, final­ly, of slight­ly singed card­board. An intrigu­ing minty hop flavour we detect­ed ear­ly on passed too quick­ly and, unfor­tu­nate­ly, we only got half way through before giv­ing up.

We’re not huge fans of SN’s beers in gen­er­al (though we have a soft spot for their porter) but this par­tic­u­lar bot­tle dis­agreed with us on a lev­el beyond ‘house style’ – a tech­ni­cal issue, per­haps? We won’t write off the beer alto­geth­er, though we’d want to wait a few months before try­ing anoth­er from a dif­fer­ent batch.

Bate­man’s Vin­tage Ale (7.5%) comes in a card­board box with a stick­er seal­ing the lid – these appar­ent­ly, thanks to Fuller’s, are the uni­ver­sal indi­ca­tors of ‘vin­tagey-ness’.

On pour­ing, we were imme­di­ate­ly remind­ed of Black Sheep Progress, anoth­er strong ‘spe­cial’ from a British region­al brew­er that we got to try at a tast­ing do run by Dar­ren ‘Beer Today’ Nor­bury. Where Progress caused one of our fel­low tasters to men­tion “armpits” in his notes, this beer’s aro­ma gave us (bear with us) old socks and white cheese rind. The taste was sim­i­lar­ly odd, with some savoury veg­e­tal char­ac­ter com­ing up against a tot of salty, cop­pery sher­ry-vine­gar.

We did­n’t love it, and, no, that does­n’t sound appetis­ing, we admit, but the beer’s not wrong, just funky, in the same way Har­vey’s or Adnam’s beers can be. If we drank enough Bate­man’s, we could prob­a­bly get to like it, and it cer­tain­ly kept us inter­est­ed, if not delight­ed, to the end.

7 thoughts on “Strong, fruity, wrong and funky”

  1. It’s dis­ap­point­ing, but some­times nec­es­sary, to bring half a glass to the sink 🙂 Had a recent bout of that, but in fair­ness, they were bot­tles well past their best before, and not ones that you’d cel­lar.

    Funky can be good, if at least not wrong. A mate recent­ly described a beer we were tast­ing as “feet”, but seemed to like it any­way. Sad­ly, I can’t bloody remem­ber what it was, even though i was drink­ing it too (it had been a long day on a build­ing site, fol­lowed by a long evening in our kitchen).

  2. Sounds like you might have got a duff bot­tle of the SN – I’ve had a few this year, and I’ve cer­tain­ly not detect­ed any rub­bery / card­boardy nature.

    Know exact­ly what you mean about the Vin­tage Ale though.

  3. some savoury veg­e­tal char­ac­ter com­ing up against a tot of salty, cop­pery sher­ry-vine­gar

    Well, I liked it, although I seem to be the only blog­ger who has done. I kind of know what you mean about the flavours (‘cop­pery’ is def­i­nite­ly right), although I draw the line at vine­gar. Less sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly, it made me imag­ine a dry ver­sion of a Bur­ton or a sher­ry-cask Wob­bly Bob; it was­n’t a bil­lion miles away from Spin­go Mid­dle, come to that. It was­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly as good as those are or would be, but it was­n’t a fee­ble imi­ta­tion either. They were flavours I’d tast­ed in beers before, is what I’m say­ing – and good beers at that.

  4. I tried some of the Shep­herd Neame. It was­n’t unpleas­ant but seemed to com­bine var­i­ous flavour ele­ments that did­n’t quite gel togeth­er. The 1698 is a bet­ter beer IMV. I have anoth­er one to drink some time over the hol­i­day peri­od.

    1. The good news is, 1698 is going into amber bot­tles, too. Used to be one we liked until we had a bot­tle that had some­how ‘gone off’ in a pub fridge.

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