Craft beer advent calendar 1: Meantime London Pale Ale

This entry is part 1 of 24 in the series Craft Beer Advent Calendar

So I was given a lovely (and slightly daunting) present for my birthday – a craft beer advent calendar. My aim isn’t to make a big deal with long posts, or I won’t do it, but it was a fun idea and so I’m going to record my thoughts for the blog.

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As a bit of background, I do like craft beer, and I have tried a good few, but I don’t consider myself to be particularly knowledgeable. I like the taste of a decently strong ale, but I don’t consider myself to have been exposed to a lot of variety.

So today’s advent calendar ale is Meantime London Pale Ale. I’ve had this one before (I think in rather trendy bars and restaurants). It describes itself as ‘brewed with Cascade, Centennial and Kentish Golding’, which are apparently hops. I like that the bottle doesn’t do anything else in a self-aggrandising way.img_20161201_200118-copy (more…)

Craft beer advent calendar 2: Heart of Gold

This entry is part 2 of 24 in the series Craft Beer Advent Calendar

Well, it got a bit late on day 2 of the advent calendar but the wait was worth it. Time for my next craft beer. This one got into the fridge for a couple of hours before drinking.

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The beer was called a golden ale and though the picture doesn’t do it justice, it was golden. The aroma was rather sweet – honey or lychee, and rather inviting.

The first taste was rather watery, though. This was confirmed on second and further tastings – it never felt like it had much body. There was no hop to it but it wasn’t unpleasant, either. I just couldn’t get away from the feeling that I was being served watered down beer.

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Reading the label, it was a 3.8% CAMRA-approved ale by Oakleaf Brewing. This wasn’t a brewery or a beer I’d heard of before, and unfortunately it’s not one that I’m going to seek outagain. It could have used some hoppy bitterness or some deeper barley flavour, but overall this wasn’t as good as the Meantime from yesterday. Still glad I tried it! I think I’ll wait until tomorrow’s beer before starting scoring.

Edit: After a couple more days, I’m giving this a 5/10.

Kat was absent from today’s tasting.

Craft beer advent calendar 3: Andwell Ruddy Darter

This entry is part 3 of 24 in the series Craft Beer Advent Calendar

We happen to be travelling at the moment, so I had to plan ahead to ensure that we adhered to the advent calendar publishing schedule. So I bring this review to you from the comfort of the Felix hotel in Cambridge.

Today’s beer is the Andwell brewing company’s ‘ruddy darter ruby ale’, apparently a “rich ruby ale brewed in Hampshire”. It comes in at 4.6% and has a design which is evocative of country walks and jolly farmers with red faces.

The first flavour that comes immediately to mind was coffee there was something incredibly malty about this beer. It’s warming and flavoursome but it is really dominated by that one flavour which isn’t particularly subtle. That said, I could see myself having one or two at the bar – just not much more.

So I’d give this one a 6 which puts it below the Meantime but above the Golden.

Kat’s thoughts

 It smells stronger and less fruity than the last one. It’s less fizzy too. It tastes more bitter but I prefer it to the Meantime even though I’d have thought I’d like a lighter fruitier one.

Craft beer advent calendar 4: Oakleaf Piston Porter

This entry is part 4 of 24 in the series Craft Beer Advent Calendar

I’ll be honest, I don’t really know what porter is. I presume it’s a type of relatively strong ale (I don’t know why I assume that) but I couldn’t be sure. A google would tell me for sure but for now I just want to try the day’s craft beer: another one from the Oakleaf Brewery, who brought us the (not very highly rated) Heart of Gold.

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This porter describes itself (via the label; the beer doesn’t speak) as a dry, rich Porter (yes, they capitalise the P) with initial chocolate and toffee flavours, that finishes with a liquorice and dry roast taste, leaving a lingering brightness. This immediately makes me a bit suspicious, as I feel like they’re trying to make you think of these things so you’ll say “oh yes, I can definitely taste dry roast.”

On raising it to my nose I can’t get any of those flavours (I don’t actually know what dry roast means), although there is something vaguely chocolatey about the aroma. It reminds me of the sweet – I think they were eclairs? – which were kind of chocolatey, but kind of caramel-like. There are definite burnt toffee notes on tasting. A few more sips in and I enjoy it more. It’s got a bitter sweetness to it, and a decent amount of body without feeling like you’re drinking treacle. Definite positive – I give this a 7/10.

Kat’s thoughts:

It’s darker. I can’t tell if it has less of a strong beery taste or if I am just becoming more immune to the taste of beer. It’s actually quite pleasant. It’s less bitter – to me the bitterness is a more unpleasant thing.

Craft beer advent calendar 5: Andwell King John

This entry is part 5 of 24 in the series Craft Beer Advent Calendar

I hate to say this, but ‘King John’ makes me thing about the gangly lion character in the Disney cartoon version of Robin Hood, who flounces around in a rather camp fashion obsessed with his false power and whose crown doesn’t quite fit. (Yes, I know technically he was Prince John in Robin Hood, but my vague historical knowledge seems to have me thinking he did eventually become King, even temporarily, and even if not as a lion.)

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So if Disney has taught us anything, it’s that this beer will be rather weak and weedy, which is probably totally unfair.

We have another offering from the Andwell Brewery in Hampshire, and this is a ‘rich amber ale’, although further up the label it is a pale ale. So, pale amber. It comes in at 4.2%.

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It certainly is amber – there’s no doubt about it. So maybe Pale Ale is more to do with the brewing style than colour. On the nose it’s slightly peachy, but on first taste it’s a pretty mellow ale with a nice bit of subtle flavour to it. I did ask for subtlety a couple of posts back, and this is a beer I could mull over all evening. I like it, although perhaps with a touch more depth to it. Ultimately very drinkable and would earn a 6.5.

Kat is away this evening.

Craft beer advent calendar 6: Belhaven Scottish Ale

This entry is part 6 of 24 in the series Craft Beer Advent Calendar

Today’s will be very quick. Belhaven Scottish Ale very proudly asserts it’s Scottishness, from the thistle on the cap to the St Andrew’s cross to the blue of the bottle.

It’s full of words everywhere (which makes me rather suspicious – let the beer do the talking), but without reading them I went into a taste.
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The beer had a lovely rusty colour and very little on the nose. But on sipping the beer was very pleasant, with a nice balance to it. It’s strength (5.2%) didn’t really love through. That said, it remained somewhat anonymous in the end, which is why it would get no more than 6.5.

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Kat’s thoughts

It’s lighter and less fizzy and less bitter. Or maybe perhaps I’m starting to like beer. I actually quite like that.

Craft beer advent calendar 7: Oakleaf North Pale Ale

This entry is part 7 of 24 in the series Craft Beer Advent Calendar

Number 7 has come in rather quickly and we have North Pale Ale from the Oakleaf brewery, with a striking design on the label. I do love a bit of outdoors and so the look is appealing. It comes in at 3.7% and in the glass has a very pale gold colour.

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Its aroma is of honey and possibly tropical fruits, but the taste is rather lighter. There is something right at the back that I can’t put my finger on, but it’s pretty good. Perhaps a bit more of a tropical tang.

This is a beer that I could see myself drinking of an evening in a pub, but not being particularly taken by. I’m not going to be commenting about it more than at the start when I first try it. Nonetheless, it does deserve a 6.5.

No Katherine again today.

Craft beer advent calendar 8: Crafty Dan 13 Guns

This entry is part 8 of 24 in the series Craft Beer Advent Calendar

So we have our first foray across the pond, and a beer that sounds like it might have won a few awards (World Beer Awards Europe: Gold). Apparently the 13 guns are a salute to the original states of the USA.

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The label is right – the beer follows the habit I have found with American beers to be pretty hoppy and get their major flavours from the different hops they use. This one is pretty good, with a reasonably strong spicy note in there – feels like it might be ginger. But it’s really good – definitely one I’d like to try a few times more. A really good beer and it gets a 7.

Craft beer advent calendar 9: St Edmunds Golden Beer

This entry is part 9 of 24 in the series Craft Beer Advent Calendar

So the label of this beer makes it feel like this is a very unknown craft beer. But then I saw that the label said Greene King and I realised it may be more mainstream than I thought. And while we’re on the label, it’s another label which draws attention to hops – Cascade hops in this case (I haven’t heard of it before, but then again I haven’t heard of many hops). I guess its their way of tapping into the ‘we feel like we’re connoisseurs’ market which makes people feel like they’re not just drinking alcohol.

The beer is really light, and there is (again) a bit of a lychee/tropical fruit nose. The taste is a bit odd – slightly unusual bitterness possibly verging on astringency. It’s almost but not quite chemical in its nature. It’s still there on the second and third taste, and in fact it stays there as I keep drinking. I think I’d like it to be a bit fuller in its flavour.

Apparently there is a citrus finish (according to the label) – that might be what it is. Perhaps grapefruit? Hmm. The label says 4.2% and I give it a 6.

Kat’s thoughts

It smells light and fruity and it tastes of lychee. I love lychee. It’s almost slightly sweet, which I like.

Siân’s thoughts

Siân is a friend of Kat’s.

Very subtle flavour. Not very fizzy, which is good. Light on the palate. Not bitter.

Craft beer advent calendar 10: Meantime Yakima Red

This entry is part 10 of 24 in the series Craft Beer Advent Calendar

Well here was me thinking incorrectly that Meantime was a London-based brewery. Turns out that it is, but it doesn’t just do British-grown beer. The Yakima Red, despite sounding like a species of Japanese tree, is in fact a deeply rust coloured beer from hops grown in Washington State to produce a 4.1% beer.

It’s got a pretty hoppy aroma to it, and does rather feel like it’s got ‘craft beer’ written all over it (not literally). At first and following tastes it does have a strong hop body to it, although it doesn’t overwhelm you; it has enough of other things going on (a bit of grapefruit and other citrus).

It grows on me as I drink it to the point where I think I’ll give it a 7.5 (the first of the advent calendar beers to breach 7). I do like it and wouldn’t mind finding some more of this around if it were available and not too expensive!