It’s Winter Warmer Wander time again; I’ll write a bit about that another time. It’s going pretty well: I haven’t been reduced to major-brewery Christmas novelty beers yet, and I’ve had some rather fine stouts and porters. (Not so many old ales – but what, as they say, are you going to do.)
Early on, though, I hit a bit of a dry patch in Chorlton, picking up two successive stickers for halves of mid-strength bitter. They had a couple of dark beers on at the Marble Beerhouse, but both on keg; I did try the 7% black rye beer, but I thought I should have something on cask for the purposes of the WWW. So (Manchester) Bitter it was – and what a fine beer that is. In comments threads elsewhere it’s been nominated as a good example of the dry ‘Manchester pale’ style, & hence a decent substitute for Boddies’ for anyone not equipped with a time machine. Having reacquainted myself with it, I’m not entirely sure; I think tastes have evolved in the last decade or two. The Bitter probably occupies very much the same position that Boddies’ once did – at the pale and uncompromisingly dry extreme of the standard bitter flavour spectrum – but that spectrum has broadened and shifted towards the hoppy since Boddies’ heyday. It’s a bit more full-on that Boddies’ would have tasted back then, in other words, unless you were just off the National Express from somewhere where beer actually looks and tastes like beer is a bit different. There’s also something else – but I’ll get to that in a minute.
My second half of bitter was in Oddest, where Blackjack‘s Oddington seemed to be the darkest thing available. Not that it was dark dark, but it did have a definite brownish tinge and a bit of a burnt-caramel flavour to go with it. Despite the name, I concluded, it was nothing like Boddies’; unlike the Marble beer, it was much less pale’n’oppy than Boddies’ bitter was in its time. But then the similarity hit me, literally as an afterthought – or rather, an aftertaste. Oddington has a light, somehow creamy quality to its aftertaste, which I haven’t tasted in very many other beers: Coniston Bluebird bitter is one, and Boddington’s bitter was another. (That ‘cream of Manchester’ slogan didn’t just refer to the head. At least, that’s my theory.) Marble Bitter doesn’t have it; Lees MPA doesn’t have it; but Oddington does. It’s a shame the flavour – and the look – of the beer is so far off its glorious original, but as far as the aftertaste is concerned Blackjack have absolutely nailed it.
Any time they want to collaborate with Marble on something that really tastes like Boddies’, I’ll be ready and waiting!