A double issue this week, as I was a tad worse for wear last week and, er, didn't get around to emailing the article off. So, two weeks worth in one go. Aren't you lucky?
It's Friday night...
It's sat in my front room drinking beer.
Okay, so it's not quite what you'd expect, but hey there you go. So, to make the night more appealing, a few bottles of beer from the local supermarket. My local shopping emporium does a lovely offer of 4 for 3, buy 3 get one free. That sort of offer. No matter which way you look at it, it's cheap beer. Added that they are only around £1.50 a bottle anyway, you're looking at a fiver for a night in.
Now, if the line up I've got here to taste for you isn't enough... I shan't be tasting them on my own this week. The missus is joining in.
The beers this week are across the board in strength, but are of similar styles, being bitters. Ranging from a moderate but silly named 4%er to a hefty 5.6% old favourite.
Starting us off this week we have Piddle In The Hole from the Wyre Piddle brewery in the village of the same name... mind you it's bottled by Aston Manor brewery of Birmingham. Gently easing us in at 4.0% in a 500ml bottle.
A true amber coloured bitter with little to no head on it, although there is a minimal amount of bubbles in there. A gentle toffee aroma precedes a rather tangy but sweet flavour. Gentle hops ease through to gives a very pleasant caramel aftertaste.
Defiantly amber, a caramely smell and a mildly malty but minimal hoppy taste. A bit too fizzy for my liking, a bit like drinking beer flavoured pop. Not enough head for a northern lass.
The sweetness starts to dominate towards the middle of the beer, bringing in an almost cloyiness. The aftertaste veers towards the tangy showing the genuine balance of the beer.
Scrub the beer tasting pop, and then it doesn't confuse the foreigners.
Second beer of the night and we're opening a bottle of Black Sheep Ale from Paul Theakstons' brewery in Masham, North Yorkshire. Yes, it is the Theakston of the renowned brewing family. 4.4% on the label next to details in four languages.
Another amber beer but with more of a tight head than the previous beer. Little to no aroma but with pronounced hops in the taste not giving any way to other flavours. A very distinctive but not dominating flavour. Sharp but smooth at the same time. A tingle on the tongue re-awakening the hop flavours with easy sup.
Um. Smells quite hoppy, again a darkish amber. Quite a bitter taste, but not completely hoppy. At least there's some semblance of head on this one. Better on draught; being in a bottle doesn't do it justice at all.
Smoothing out to give a well-balanced, and gentle beer. Easy on the palate and very drinkable.
Moving up the scale now to 4.8% from Bateman's brewery in Wainfleet, Lincolnshire and their XXXB. An old and fiercely independent family brewery with virtually the same portfolio of beers from the start although, recently, they have branched out with a wide range of seasonal beers.
We're just going to have to guess at the colour now as the lights are dimmed and the candles are on. So, I reckon it's a dark amber beer going on experience of this beer. A balanced aroma of malt and hops with the floral hops easing into the lead. The initial flavour really wops you on the sides of the tongue letting you know that although this may still be under five percent, they've been brewing it for long enough to know how to do it right. Slightly fruity and gently sweet through the aftertaste hinting at toffee.
Dark Amber, dark, malty but almost chocolate in flavour. But that could be the mix of wine. Very little head on this beer. I know what it tastes like on draught, but in bottle is more of a light chocolate tasting lager.
The final beer is Theakstons Old Peculier at 5.6%. It's at this point that the missus is now sticking to the wine. So it's just my notes from here on in.
A dark reddish brown with a frothy head that has a bit of staying power. A rich oaky/nutty aroma with hints of chocolate and whiskey leading to a very smooth and very similar taste. Be warned, though, as this beer drinks very easily for it's strength. It also has very litte resemblance to the draught version, which is more often than not badly handled and sold in very poor condition.
Don't let it be said that I'm a beer snob, sticking only to Real Ale* Tonight Matthew I'm doing a batch of lagers.
The 'Pop Idol' final is on the telly and, let's face it, you need to get drunk to this. If you don't know what 'Pop Idol' is, you're either living outside of the UK, or have had your head surgically implanted into another orifice. Love it or hate it, it's an excuse to sit down with beer. So, a quick trip to Tescos' to grab a few bottles of lager readily available in the UK.
First up we have Kingfisher, at 4.8% the weakest of tonight's beverages.
Claiming to be the best selling lager in India it could well be, but the bottles available here are brewed here. This is a very light lager, with a slightly citrus aroma but that's about where it ends. You really have to sniff hard to find the aroma. It could be said that it's delicate but I'd say it's near non-existent. The flavour is similarly delicate, about as robust as Thames water. Drinking this you really have to keep having to check and recheck that the label does really say 4.8%. It goes down that easy. Your tongue gets used to it, however, and you can really get used to it. Very used to it. Typically this beer is found in Indian restaurants, where it's used to tone down the strength of the curries. No wonder really. But don't let it stay there. Although it may seem rather on the bland side to start with, do you really want a full frontal assault on your taste buds at the start of a night? If you're looking for a beer that can be drunk in a rather social and unobtrusive way, buy a few of these. If however you're looking for a full on flavour experience, make a cup of tea.
Second beer tonight is one I've never had before. Asahi Super Dry, a Japanese beer brewed in the Czech Republic and claiming to be Japans number one beer.
Less aroma than the Kingfisher, yes it is possible although I would have laid money to the contrary, and with even less flavour. You can almost taste the cereal chaff when supping this beer, it really is dry. So dry that I might have to get another bottle of Kingfisher to put some water back in my mouth. There is a really weird flavour to this beer, one I can't quite put my finger on. Probably because it's such a weak flavour that I can barely tell it's there, let alone identify it. But it is smooth, very smooth. Probably about as smooth as David Hasselhoff's chat up lines aren't. The smoothness is very dominating here and, after a while, it helps to get the gentle flavour to sit in your mouth, leaving you with the delicate flavour residing on your tongue. Another easy drinking beer, but this one makes slightly more of a mark on your taste buds. It does get drier to the end, though, and seems to gain some flavour from nowhere.
Now we move onto Staropramen, known to pub drinkers just as Star. Brewed and bottled in Prague as it has been for over a hundred years.
This beer almost sparkles in the glass enticing you to raise a toast. A gentle aroma of wheat leads to a rather crisp and clean and decisive flavour. No faffing about here, the brewers knew what flavour they were after and got it. Think of how a lager should taste. Think of the gentle smoothness, the rolling flavour hinting at wheat and barely, of sunshine days in European cities and, most importantly, of the alcohol content. This is the first of tonight's beers where you can actually tell that there is any booze in there. This beer isn't as easy to drink as the previous ones, it needs the effort of actually co-ordinating the gullet to swallow rather than just throwing the liquid down your neck, this one hits the taste buds first. Flavour and alcohol? Now we're getting somewhere.
The last bottle of the evening is a personal favourite. Now, the sacrifices I'm making here, risking the remains of my liver to bring you tasting notes of some of the known and unknown beers available to us, so occasionally I'm allowed to pick one I know I'll like, and here is one. Budweiser Budvar. The original, from the Czech Republic. Made with barley, malt and hops. Oh, and some yeast. No rice comes near this beer, unlike some I could go on about. But I'll stop this ramble, which there is a whole other Guide entry about, and get on with drinking the stuff.
A light drinking beer, but with the subtle hint that too many of these and you'll regret it the following morning. It may only be 5% but it feels a lot more. This is another clean-tasting, clean-looking beer that certainly isn't fit for a clean-living lifestyle. Way too drinkable is this beer. The hops come through in the flavour, allowing for a more definite taste. Not as smooth as some other lagers, but in losing some of the smoothness they've kept the flavour. Maybe a strange compromise but one I'm glad they've made. It's easy enough to make a beer that can be drunk quickly getting the alcohol into the blood stream, but to brew a beer that cares more about the flavour than the ability to throw it down the neck, is better in my book.
Lastly we have EB from the Elbrewery Company in Poland. At 5.4% it at least has a bit of strength to it.
Magrat's Wine Bit
Considering I'm drunk now, towards the end of the bottle. Banrock Station Chardonnay. Earlier on it smelt really oaky, like smoked wood. It's tastes quite citrusy but not acidic and still quite sweet... which is probably why it's been possible to have three quarters of a bottle in the time it's taken Pastey to drink two beers. It's got a slightly smokey aftertaste but not overpoweringly so. The other thing that is endearing me to this wine is that is a green* wine in that, as their label says... 'Because we understand the good Earth is the starting point for most of nature's bounty, we are working carefully to insure that the natural environmental haven surrounding the vineyards of Banrock Station is preserved for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.' I first noticed this wine because the boxes are in brown corrugated cardboard with minimal labelling, giving the impression of recycled packaging.
Smoothly sweet aroma that is in complete contrast to the body. Not heavy or cloying in the least but rather more like drinking a fruit juice. Many people may not like wine, but the enticing aroma and comforting flavour make this defiantly worth trying.