04 February 2008

England bottles it

Beer, I mean, not Saturday's rugby (though they did that too). I paid a flying visit to England at the weekend with a particular beer-hunting objective in mind which I'll cover in a subsequent post. I also managed to fit in a couple of bottled English ales I'd never had before. The first was from Herefordshire, and the Wye Valley brewery. Its Butty Bach is yet another rather bland golden ale, missing both the sweet malt and the bitter hops of proper English beer. Inoffensive and disappointing. Wood's Shropshire Lad is a red ale with rather more flavour, of the earthy, mushroomy sort. There's not quite enough for it to be interesting, unfortunately. Coupled with the heavy gassy texture it all means some tough going for not so much reward.

Moving south to The Flower of Cities All, I came upon the competing strong ales of rivals Fuller's and Young's. The latter's Special London Ale (no longer made in London) has a lot of the features of ordinary Young's Bitter: the taste dominated by bitter orangey notes. It's almost double the strength (6.4%), and tastes it, but doesn't have as much of the flavour. Instead there's a gassy sharpness which, oddly, only abates when the yeast from the bottom of the bottle is added. I'm not a fan of this one. As expected, Fuller's put on a better show with their 1845. Again it's an orangey-red hue, but pours to a lovely thick head. The flavour is highly complex and offers a great mix of ripe fruity sweetness and smoky, hoppy bitterness, leaving a dry aftertaste. This is a powerful, serious beer which rewards considered sipping: just like a strong ale should.


  1. Looks like you were in a pub from the photos - what were you doing drinking bottles?

  2. Apologies if this appears twice.

    We've noticed that Young's London seems to taste a bit different recently. I hesitate to say this as I don't want to be one of those people who stand in the corner of pubs and bore you with how such and such a beer has changed... but we've had it a couple of times recently and it seems a bit harsher.

    Maybe it'll mature

  3. Stonch: Bored of Bitter, bored of Pride; don't like Discovery, don't like Bombardier. Too much time spent in London but out of the range of your map, is the problem.

    Boak: Definitely quite harsh, though I'd have thought a mellower version would end up tasting very like Bitter.

  4. Anonymous3:02 pm

    I definitely enjoyed Fuller's 1845, as well as their 2004 Vintage Ale (both bottled of course). Once I recover my notes, I'll be posting some bottled British beer reviews of my own, seeing as how that's the best we get over here in the States.

  5. One of my suppliers has 2007 Vintage in at the moment and I'm debating whether or not to buy it. It'd want to have a lot of bang for my €10.