beer reviews opinion

The John Smith’s Experiment: Part 2

Here are our notes from the first of our 18 cans of John Smith’s Extra Smooth:

Surprisingly powerful aroma rising out of the glass. Not of hops but actually quite Guinness-like if we close our eyes – the black malt they use for colour? Very light body (watery) perhaps emphasises by the very thick head. Actually a decent amount of bitterness, but accompanied by something acrid – bile? (Eew.) Definitely more acid burn than we remember. A little hint of grassiness floating over the surface. Much nicer as the weird foamy head disappears.

Verdict: if we weren’t doing this experiment, we would pour this away. Not pleasant.

That first can was fridge cold (as per the serving instructions). Next we tried it at room temperature (better, less acrid); and, over the next few days, from a variety of different glasses, both cold and at room temperature.

It looked amazing served cold in a large brandy glass — like some gleaming amber pale ale ‘van ‘t vat’ in a Belgian bar. The attractive appearance didn’t fool our tastebuds, though, and, if anything, the shape of the glass emphasised that peculiar, burning, stomach-acid sensation.

Did we start to like it more? The honest answer is, no, we really didn’t: we found it less palatable with every can we consumed. Shame — if we had, it could save us a lot of time and money.

The thing that really puzzled us, though: who says this is easy-drinking, bland beer? It isn’t — it is a downright bizarre, odd-tasting product. It could probably be improved by replacing the dark malts used for colour with more-or-less flavourless, frowned-upon caramel for starters. (See the canned bitter Cain’s brew for Co-Op — not especially characterful, but not weird.)

We did not finish the slab.

There’s one more post on this subject to go, in which we discuss widgets, Extra Smoothness, and what we did with the leftover cans. (Though maybe we should have just done one really long epic to confound everyone who has heard rumours we write concisely…?)


beer reviews london pubs

Mild (and more) at the Museum


The Museum Tavern, opposite the British Museum, is one of those rare beasts – a decent pub in a tourist trap location. It’s always amusing to sit/stand at the bar and watch a succession of bewildered visitors cope with concepts like mushy peas (“They’re peas, but they’re mushy”, as the barmaid helpfully explained).

In fact, it’s often quite heartening. People usually want to try something British, and the bar staff are pretty friendly and willing to recommend one of the six ales on tap, which are kept in great condition.

We popped in specifically for some Old Peculier,  but were distracted by Cain’s dark mild.  This packs a huge amount of flavour for a beer that is barely alcoholic (3.2%).  Coffee and caramel, in an extremely potable form.

Another sub-4% cracker was on offer, “GMT” from Stockport’s 3 Rivers brewery. This was the first time we’ve tried any of their stuff, and we’ll be looking out for them in the future. GMT (which stands for the three rivers in question — Goyt, Mersey & Thame) is a lovely crisp session beer with hints of orange.

Finally, the Old Peculier.  This is such a marvellous beer from the cask — extremely fruity, a little sour, with a butterscotch aftertaste.  It’s almost Belgian in its richness. You could certainly serve it in a la-di-da chalice glass and fool a few people if you were so minded. The bottled version really doesn’t compete.

Jeff recommended this place months back when we were after Old Peculier on tap in London, so thanks to him for the tip.

beer reviews Beer styles

British Versions of Continental Beers

In the last few months, we’ve come across a couple of welcome attempts by British breweries to mimic continental beer styles. More of this, please. It’s surely the best way to compete with imported lagers?

Wylam Czech-style Pilsener beer is malty, fruity and very satisfying.  It’s nowhere near as good as a fresh Czech beer on tap, or even Derbyshire brewed Moravka, but compares very well with a bottle of Budvar.  An impressive offering from this Northumberland microbrewery.


Cain’s Double bock is very ‘true to style’, despite its origins in the north west of England, rather than the brewhouses of Bavaria. It’s really heavy and malty, but without being too sickly. It’s got some very pleasant milk chocolate and vanilla flavours and a soupy body.  At 7.1%, it goes straight to your head. Is this is available in cask form? If so, we’d love to try it.