Craft beer advent calendar 13: Mann’s Brown Ale

Well, until tonight I only knew about one Brown Ale, and that was from Newcastle. Mann’s is a London brewery (so a little closer to home and without such a thick accent), and apparently the original Brown Ale (stated by the label and verified by the source of truth: Wikipedia).

Of course, visiting the Wikipedia page meant that I learned that the term Brown Ale doesn’t really mean anything except the colour, because apparently there are a variety of styles of Brown Ale.

This one looks dark, surprisingly so for a 2.8% beer (yes, I’m sure the colour isn’t related to alcohol content, but it’s a link that seems to linger in my mind). I expect it to be nutty, but it isn’t; the aroma is pretty mild. On first taste, it’s creamy and sweet, with a slightly ‘toasted’ feel to it. Quite a good beer, but a little too sweet for me. It gets a 6.

Craft beer advent calendar 12: Wintery Wonder Ale

I like the look of this ale, even if it annoys me slightly that they didn’t call it “Winter Wonder Ale” (perhaps there was a copyright infringement to worry about). It evokes the feel and look of something a bit old school and looking at it, it does look like a heavy duty, warming ale to have on a cold winter’s eve.

Well, it’s 2 degrees outside as I write this, so it’s time to try out this 3.8% ale. It’s very, very dark, almost like a porter (am I using that word right?) or certainly similar to a stout – it even has a slightly thick feel to it.

It’s rich and malty on the nose, and promises a bit of wintery-spice (or maybe it’s just good marketing); and the first sip makes me think of stout again. It’s heavy and nice, and does make a good winter’s evening drink. I give it an even 7 (again).

Kat’s thoughts

Wow, it’s very dark. [Long pause with various faces] Like the last one, it doesn’t have a fruity taste, but I can’t work out what taste it has. I don’t like this one either.

Craft beer advent calendar 11: Yardbird Pale Ale

Tonight’s ale is again from Greene King, and it looks like a pretty balanced one, with a golden colour. In fact. it almost looks rather like a lager. On the nose, interestingly, is a hint of white wine-type aromas – maybe grass and citrus fruit? – and a gentle feel.

On tasting it is really subtle but in a good way, not a watery way. It’s a 4% pale ale with a bit of character, but not in a bold way (which is contrary to how it describes itself.And I have no idea what a Yardbird is, or why there is a treble clef on the label. It gets a 7.

Kat’s thoughts

Not very fizzy; it’s light in colour but has quite a strong taste that I don’t like. It’s quite bitter and not fruity.

Craft beer advent calendar 10: Meantime Yakima Red

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!

Craft beer advent calendar 9: St Edmunds Golden Beer

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 8: Crafty Dan 13 Guns

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.


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 7: Oakleaf North Pale Ale

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.


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 6: Belhaven Scottish Ale

Today’s will be very quick. Belhaven Scottish Ale very proudly asserts its 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.

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%) I 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.


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 5: Andwell King John

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.)


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%.


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 4: Oakleaf Piston Porter

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.


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.