Bitter

Abbeydale

Absolution
Pale, hoppy, yellow, big and strong. A definite alcoholic kick in the flavour, where a lot of beers of this style turn sour. Interesting.

BigAmy
Bigamy? Big Amy? Don’t ask me. Bright yellow in colour; a hard hoppy bitterness that hits you straight away, with a yeasty body and a slight but definite sourness. In short, this is the ‘Manchester Pale’ style (although Abbeydale are from Sheffield), done pretty well. Not my kind of thing.

Brimstone
Coming from this brewery, a complete surprise. A dark bitter, with malt and a definite caramel sweetness balancing out the hops. (Lots of hops, mind you.) Very pleasant.

Last Rites
11%. Heavy, to the point of seeming slightly thick in the glass – like brandy. I judge beers in this bracket by reference to the Gold Label barleywine of my youth, and this one’s flavour was more subtle and a lot more interesting than that. Brewing beer at this strength still seems a faintly perverse undertaking, like pouring out a Duvel and then tipping a tequila into it.

Acorn England’s Dreaming
A World Cup ale, apparently named by someone who got their Lightning Seeds and their Pistols mixed up. Very nice – a pale but heavy bitter, with a full-on fruity attack and an uncompromising bitter finish.

Allgates Hair of the Dog
Dark – almost opaque – and very malty, with a fruity richness to go with the hoppy finish. Very nice indeed.

Atlas Wayfarer
A light, sourish IPA with a strong tannic IPA character and a big hoppy finish.

Bateman’s Wayneflete Hedgerows
A yeasty, aromatic, light summer bitter.

Bazen’s

1868
I like the idea of Bazen’s, but I’ve never really liked the beer – Flatbac is both too light and too bitter for me, while the concentrated bitterness of Blue Bullet has me casting around for something to take the taste away. (It’s an ordeal, I tell you – you didn’t think I was doing this for fun?) 1868 is a bit more interesting than either. It’s… heavy. Pale, but heavy. Not much malt in there, but a thick, wheaty flavour with hoppy bitterness behind it. Still not really for me, but I could imagine ordering it again, if the alternative was something even paler.

Salford Pale Ale
This is a bit more like it; a slightly darker colour and a solid thud of tannic bitterness backed by a bit of malt. Closer to the Robbies’ area than Bazen’s usually reach. Very drinkable.

Beartown

Bear Ass
A nice dark, malty bitter, with enough hop flavour to keep it interesting and a bitter finish balancing out some sweetness.

Ginger Bear
In this area they all want to be Marble (apart from the sweet brews which want to be Blandford Fly). This wasn’t as lacklustre as the Little Valley, but fell a bit short of Dr Morton’s. (None of them is a patch on the Ginger Marble.)

Honey Bear
A brown bitter flavoured with honey, which makes it sound like a bit of an ordeal. Actually the honey was surprisingly subtle, and the overall effect was quite pleasant.

Bruin’s Ruin
Dark-ish, strong-ish (5%); quite nice, just not terribly distinctive. Beartown seem to know what they’re doing, but they’re let down by their own caution. All these beers could have done with being pushed a bit further.

Birra del Borgo CastagnAle
See what they did there? No? Never mind. A chestnut-flavoured beer; dark, malty without being fruity, with overtones that were distinct woody (or chestnutty, presumably) and a hoppy finish. Not as striking as I’d hoped.

Black Beck Belle
A big malty session bitter; lots of flavour, but light enough (at 3.8%) to drink in some quantity.

Black Hole Brewery Cosmic
Brown and malty, but with a strong hop character to balance it. A similar balancing trick to BrewDog’s 5 a.m. Saint, albeit not carried off with quite the same panache. Maybe the malt is starting to creep back in?

Boggart

Ruby Tuesday
A darkish session bitter (3.8%); light rather than full-bodied, but nicely fruity.

Sundial
A strongish summer ale in the Summer Lightning vein; a bitter attack opening up to a light and surprisingly fruity flavour mid-mouth, followed by a big slam of hops in the finish. Very nice, but uncompromising in flavour and strength (4.7%).

Bollington

Bollington Best
I think perhaps there’s a “dark Manchester” style to go with the “pale Manchester” I’ve got to know so well; it would run from Robbies through to Holt’s bitter, which the first time I had it made me wonder if I’d been licking the varnish off the table by mistake. This is in that kind of area: a full-on flavour, malt swamped with hops.

Dinner Ale
A fuller, ‘darker’ version of the Best, with less of the smoky hops and more furniture-polish bitterness.

Bradfield

Farmers Brown Cow
A nice deep colour and a fairly rich flavour; nothing to write home about, but a perfectly decent best bitter.

Farmers Pale Ale
O the brown pale ales of my youth! (See also Roosters). Very, very pale. But quite pleasant – a good balance between malt and hops (i.e. a balance tilted a bit further towards the malt than it usually is around here).

Sheffield Steelers
Yellow and hoppy, but with a bit more flavour than those pale bitters usually have. Slight yeastiness, although not at all sour, and enough malt to make it interesting. Quite a nice pint.

Brampton Jerusalem

“Flavour fight”, my notes say: malt, fruit, heaviness, bitterness, all present and correct but not really making a coherent whole.

Brewdog

5 A.M. Saint
No, me neither. Nice beer, though – tawny in colour, with a lot of malt and a thwack of bitterness in the middle of the mouth. What I would have called an IPA a few years back (these days the style seems to denote something paler and hoppier). Update On my second encounter with the Saint, I’m converted: file under How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love BrewDog. (Well, nearly.) This is a fantastic beer. Brown and malty, for sure, but with hops on either side: the hop aroma is both strong and delicate (a trick the Marble don’t always pull off) and the finish is big and dry. No sweetness, but doesn’t tip into sourness either. Sometimes – not very often – I catch myself just looking at a beer in between swallows, as if to say, How do you do that? This was one of those beers. Second update These remarks refer to the cask version. Do not have the keg; at least, lower your expectations drastically if you do. Less of a world classic, more of a half-strength version of Paradox with added cold fizziness.

How to disappear completely
Crazy name, crazy beer. A session beer at 3.6% – shame, really; that would be a great name to give a strong ale. Tawny, slightly malty, but very bitter – really very, very bitter. A kind of clove-oil bitterness that hits in the front of your mouth as well as a hoppy finish. Interesting more than enjoyable. (This was written before reading BrewDog’s characterisation of HTDC as an “imperial mild” combining low strength with lots and lots of bitterness – as indeed it did.)

Trashy blonde
A very good example of its type, where the said type is “pale yellow and very, very hoppy”. The flavours are strong enough for this to be unmistakably a bitter rather than a lager, but they’re almost all hop flavours. A smoky hop aroma, a body that’s fruity without being either sour or sweet, and a big bitter finish. Very nice.

Zeitgeist
A “black lager”, according to its semi-literate and ludicrously pretentious Web page (no link for you). I like a nice Dunkel, and this was a very nice beer. Not like anything I’ve ever had out of a cask – somewhere in the region of a rich, sweet old ale crossed with a dark porter. One hell of a region.

Bridgehouse Best Bitter

Light, malty, not particularly hoppy, easy drinking session bitter.

Budelse Capucijn
From the Netherlands. 6% a.b.v. Some sour notes, but a big, warm, fruity, spicy body. Very nice indeed.

Cairngorm

Culloden
A big dark bitter, with a fruity body and a heavy mouthfeel (but, at 4.2%, not a huge amount of alcohol). All in all, my kind of beer.

Wildcat
A really interesting beer. Dark and malty, with some caramel sweetness; hop aromas make for a surprisingly complex flavour, and there’s a Titanic-like charcoal bitterness on the finish. Not a session beer (it’s 5.1%) but over a period of time I could drink a lot of this.

Clark’s Resurrection Ale

Nothing special, but perfectly decent. A nice, well-balanced, pale and hoppy ale.

Coach House Raspberry bitter

I’ve had Coach House beer before now and found it perfectly decent, although evidently not decent enough to write about. This, though, was a different matter. Beer plus fruit can work – see ‘Nook’ below – but this was pretty awful; the raspberry flavouring completely swamped the beer, for all the world as if the barmaid had pulled the beer and then tipped raspberry syrup into it. According to their Web site Coach House do a whole range of ‘fruit beers’, although I don’t think they’ll be giving Liefman’s any sleepless nights – Banoffee Beer, anyone? Avoid, unless you’re looking for an alco-pop.

Coniston Oliver’s Light Ale

Light, very light; positively yellow, in fact. Not a good beginning, but the actual beer was rather good. A smooth, almost milky start and a nice hoppy finish, bound together in one of those complex flavours that seems to develop coherently as you drink. A bit of malt, none of that sour yeasty floweriness that tends to characterise the Manchester style. A very definite flavour, surprisingly so for one that initially seems so bland.

Conwy

Pride of Wales
A light but malty flavour with some sweetness, and a smoky hop bitterness giving it a biscuity edge; a bit like Hornbeam’s standard bitter. Quite complex really, and very pleasant.

Rampart
This was terrific. The nearest thing to Buckley’s bitter I’ve had in many years: a big malty bitter, with a rich mouth-filling flavour combining bitterness and fruit and a great big slug of malt. Very nice indeed.

Celebration
Old Goon Show joke: “What would you say to a little drink?” “Hello little drink!” This was more a case of hel-lo little drink, Leslie Phillips style. One of the best draught ales I’ve ever had. A great big nut-brown ale, with hops for perfume and bittering but no more. No sweetness but a big, intense, complex malty flavour; a flavour to swim in.

Copper Dragon
Challenger IPA
Pleasant enough, but not outstanding. Brownish and malt-ish in a nice biscuity way, but not much IPA character.

Golden Pippin
Very much a ‘balanced’ beer – flowery hop aromas at the front, malt in the middle. Perhaps a slightly hoppier balance than I’d like, but very drinkable.

Cottage Broad Gauge bitter
Brown, malty, big hoppy finish – the elements are all there, but the overall flavour’s a bit thin.

Daleside Spring Frenzy
A pale, seasonal ale. Unusually, the hops hit you first, followed by a bit of malt in the body; the overall effect is grapefruity.

Dark Star American Pale Ale
In a post I described this as “a classic of the type, where the type is essentially ‘pale beer that tastes of marmalade'”. This is to the American-style IPA what Trashy Blonde is to the pale yellow hop-bomb: if you like that kind of thing, this is the kind of thing you will like.

Dent Aviator Ale
In comments, Rob bracketed Robinson’s with the Manchester pale/hoppy style. This surprised me, as (a) Robinson’s is brownish to look at and (b) I like it; it is hoppy, though. Perhaps we can identify three local sub-styles: tawny, some malt but a big slab of hops predominating (Robbies, Hyde’s current bitter); pale, heavy, very dry, no malt to speak of (old Boddies’, most Bazen’s); pale, thin, hoppy, slightly sour (old Hyde’s, Millstone). The Aviator Ale, anyway, was in the same area as Robbies’ or Hyde’s, but perhaps a bit more malt and flavour. Very nice.

Dunham Massey

Big Tree
Malty, fruity, reddish-brown session bitter. An odd combination of bitterness and a slight sourness; quite an apple-y flavour, for a beer. Overall, a big, rounded flavour; nice change from all those bitter yellow things.

Landlady
Pale, dry, but with a surprisingly heavy body and some malt; in a similar region to the Stamford Bitter.

Stamford Bitter
A light summer bitter, a bit maltier than the average and decidedly less bitter, with a distinct front-of-mouth sweetness. I wouldn’t seek it out, but I’d have it again.

Summer Meadow
“Fruity and flowery”, someone commented unprompted when I was drinking this the other night. And it is. A light, hoppy summer ale, but fruity with it (and flowery).

Xmas Ale
Great big dark fruity flavour that doesn’t let up. A very nice old ale.

Elland Bargee
A light, pleasantly malty session bitter. Also a hop-monster, with a definite hop aroma together with a bitterness that runs right through the flavour, giving it a charcoaly edge. A surprising combination, surprisingly well realised.

Everard’s

Coppernob
A well-balanced malty session bitter, with a strong hop character as well as plenty of malt.

Flourish
A deep brown beer with a fruity character and a dry finish; a fairly light beer at 3.5%, which may account for a certain thinness to it.

Sunchaser
A light, pale bitter, without much sourness and with the hops dialled right down. Tasted of virtually nothing, in other words. Went down easily, though, and would be a refreshing summer pint. What it was doing on a bar in Manchester in January is anybody’s guess.

Flying Dutchman Junibier
Yes, it’s juniper beer. Recognisably a bitter underneath it all, but the juniper flavour is predominant; sharp and bitter with a herbal overtone, like Seville oranges mixed with thyme. Interesting more than enjoyable.

Fremlins bitter
Now brewed by Shepherd Neame. A light, sourish bitter, with a metallic hop character quite reminiscent of Marble beers and a biscuity malt aftertaste. Quite a surprising amount going on for a 3.5% session beer.

Goose Island Honker’s Ale
“Combines a fruity hop aroma with rich malt flavour”, says the publicity. Put bitter and fruity together and you get grapefruit, I say. Not keen.

Grainstore Triple B
A really nice well-balanced bitter, with a fruity character followed up with a big hop finish. Quite IPA-like, in a good way.

Green Mill

A Bitter t’Ale
Hmm. Pale yellow in colour but, surprisingly, not bitter at all; a mild, creamy flavour, verging on sweetness. For once, a bit more hopping wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Northern Lights
Yet another pale and hoppy one, but like the Abbeydale Absolution in that odd sense of hitting a big slug of alcohol in the middle of the mouth. Made with Aurora hops, apparently; maybe that’s what they taste like. (If so, I prefer these to the sour and smoky kind the Marble uses.)

Hanby All Seasons

Pale to look at, not much malt, but a clean, almost milky flavour with no sourness. Quite reminiscent of the Coniston beer reviewed above.

Highgate Red Rogue

A ‘red’ bitter is one of my favourite styles, and this was a good one. Not much sourness, but a big hit of tannic bitterness in the middle of your mouth, backed by a good wallop of malt. A big flavour all round.

Holden’s Springheel Jack

Pale and hoppy – a very bitter finish – but quite a nice rounded, malty flavour to go with it; not at all sour. Nice.

Holt’s IPA

A pale beer with a full-on hop attack and that distinctive taste of marmalade: not so much an IPA as an APA. Available on cask, at 3.8%, from a long-established family brewer – another one for the ‘why we don’t need craft beer’ file! Very drinkable.

Hopback Crop Circle

Note to self (as if this post was anything else): Summer Lightning is good, but that’s it. I like Summer Lightning a lot; it’s got that pale, heavy, hoppy quality, but it’s delivered with a real punch and intensity. There aren’t many English beers that remind me of Duvel, but that one does. But that’s Summer Lightning and this… isn’t. Pale, heavy, hoppy, and so forth. For those who like that sort of thing, this is the sort of thing they like.

Hornbeam

Bitter
This was my first encounter with Hornbeam, and I immediately decided I’d look out for them in future. A tawny-coloured session bitter (3.8%) with a surprisingly rich flavour – malty, with a bitter finish and (most surprisingly) some sweetness. An odd balance of flavours, particularly for its strength, but you get used to it quickly enough. A very nice pint.

Bramling Cross bitter
Oh good ale, indeed. Pale brown rather than yellow, malty rather than hoppy, fruity rather than sour. Very nice indeed.

Clueless
Pale and heavy, with a long, smoky, hop flavour. Quite a concentrated flavour – no metal or sourness. Well done of its type. (I didn’t like it much if I’m honest.)

Hard Rock IPA
Very successful. You know the IPA flavour – that slight sourness at the start, building to an odd, metallic combination of malt and bitterness in the middle of your mouth, with a dry, hoppy finish? That’s what this was like. Nice stuff.

Lemon Blossom
Light, crisp-tasting, refreshing. A good example of the style.

Summer IPA
Very nice indeed. It’s seriously hoppy – leaves you tasting bitterness at the back of your mouth, in the middle and, somehow, on the tip of your tongue – but there’s a lot more going on alongside: malt, fruit, even some sweetness. If you’re looking for a really good IPA, look no further.

Hyde’s Mumbo Jumbo

According to the tasting notes, this is a “rich, dark, robust and full-flavoured ale”. According to me, it’s dark and, er, that’s it. It’s basically a Hyde’s Dunkel; a ‘darker’, less hoppy, more mouthfilling version of Hyde’s bitter.

Jennings Stickle Pike
Light and thin but a definite malt character, with a ghost of sweetness on the finish.

Jersey Brewery Liberation Ale
Light, hoppy, fairly undistinguished. When I visisted Guernsey a few years ago I had some very fine bottled beers from Randall’s, they of the Nick Hancock advert. This wasn’t a patch on them.

Lancaster Amber
Pale and hoppy, with a creamy texture, a light sourness at the start and a good bitter finish.

Little Valley
Withens IPA
This reminded me of a much better beer. The first beer I ever got drunk on was Fuller’s London Pride, from a polypin; the first beer I drank at a pub was some ghastly keg bitter, best forgotten; but the first beer drawn from a cask that I ever drank was Buckley’s bitter. The malt is what I remember; great chewy mouthfuls of malt, balanced with a bit of mouth-cleaning bitterness. Very nice stuff. Withens IPA, anyway, looks like a lager and tastes like one too. It’s perfectly drinkable; clean, slightly flowery, rather bland. But it is still a pale ale, just about; there’s a tiny hit of malt there, just enough to taste.

Ginger
This also reminded me of a much better beer – it didn’t have the slightly off-putting sourness of the Ginger Marble, but it didn’t have the character or the strength either. Mild, smooth, almost milky, with a ginger burn at the back of the mouth. And, er, that’s it.

Lymestone Stone Brood
A dark bitter with a strong hoppy character; a big flavour, giving you a general sense that there’s a lot going on. Apparently (I found out later) it’s brewed with chocolate malt and honey.

Maguire’s Rusty Ale

This is what bitter should taste like. I mean that literally: not that it’s the best bitter I’ve ever tasted (far from it), just that this is the kind of thing I feel you should be getting when you order bitter. Malt and a touch of sweetness at the front of the mouth, a hoppy finish at the back, and a rich, slightly sour flavour that goes all the way through. I suppose I should be used to the Manchester pale style by now, as I’ve been drinking it off and on since the early 80s; 25 years ago I was drinking Hyde’s yellow and vinegary Anvil bitter on a regular basis. Clearly, my tastes in beer formed a bit earlier.

Marble

Bee
Darker and a bit maltier than the average Marble bitter, but no let-up on the hops. (Why Bee? Honey? The actual beer certainly isn’t sweet.)

Beer 57
Heavy, creamy and distinctly sweet, is the first impression. Lots of hops behind that; a definite metallic bite, with a hoppy finish at the back of the mouth and cloves on the tip of your tongue. Very much in the area Abbeydale have been staking out, but more full-on (as is the Marble’s wont).

Brew 1335
A short-run seasonal special, apparently. You know that ‘Manchester pale’ style I keep talking about – lots of hops on top of a dry, yeasty flavour with a sour, almost stale-tasting edge to it? This is that. This is exactly that, done very well. If you like that sort of thing, you would definitely have liked this.

Brew 14
Interesting. Very dry, very hoppy, but with a smoky depth to it; I found I was thinking of this as a tall flavour, if that makes sense. I didn’t actually like it, but if you’re into beers with no discernible malt flavour you should certainly give this one a try.

[Another] Brew 14 (2010)
Yellow, sour, hoppy. Sourly hoppy, in fact – it’s made with Citra hops & as such is quite similar to Pictish’s single-varietal ale. Harsher, though – it’s a full-on hoppy ale, as the Marble’s often are, with a bitter attack in mid-mouth.

Brew 1425 v2
‘Manchester pale’, check; hops, dry yeasty flavour, sour edge to it, check. (Especially on the nose. If they ever put this into production they’ve got to do something about the way this beer smells as you lift it – it’s really not good.) But this is 5.9%, which is very strong for Marble beers, and the strength hits you in a big, heavy, slightly apple-y flavour in the middle of your mouth; essentially, this is Wobbly Marble. Not bad at all, apart from the nose.

Dobber
This was new, expensive and 5.9%, which makes me think it’s probably a production version of the 1425. If so they’ve fixed the aroma – basically it doesn’t smell slightly off, which has got to be good. But something else has happened to the flavour; the uncompromising bitterness and the Wobbly Bob alcoholic richness have blended in a way they hadn’t before, and the result is, as far as I’m concerned, actively unpleasant. I really didn’t like this one.

Festival bitter
Pale, hoppy and sour. I owe the Marble Brewery a bit of an apology. The taste – and smell – of some of their hoppier beers has a distinctive sour edge, which reminds me of stale beer and (not to put too fine a point on it) vomit. I had assumed that this was a sign of something going wrong in the brewing, but not so – at a recent ‘meet the brewer’ event I saw (and smelled) the hops the brewery uses, and one of them has exactly this smell. As does this beer. It takes all sorts.

Ginger Marble
When the cider’s off and the guest beers both have ‘white’ or ‘silver’ in their names, you can always rely on a Ginger. I used to get Brendan Dobbin’s bottled alcoholic ginger beer sometimes; this isn’t quite up to that standard (that was quite extraordinary) but it’s a very fine pint. Essentially it’s my pet hate, a Manchester-style pale bitter, but with some of the hoppiness and most of the sourness swamped by, well, ginger. (You can actually taste the ginger – it’s not just heat.) Not really a session beer – I had four one evening shortly after it came in, and felt quite peculiar the next morning.

Ginger 6
The 6% Ginger Marble, usually only available in bottle. I wasn’t very taken with the bottled version, but this was terrific – all the plus points of the normal Ginger, bedded down on a deep alcoholic richness of flavour. Think of an Abbey-style Triple and you won’t be far off.

Good Beer
A bit of a hostage to fortune, surely? Surprisingly enough, this is a brown, malty bitter, although the malt character doesn’t develop very far before the bitter hop finish slams down on it. Not bad at all.

Summer Marble (2010)
I last tried the Summer Marble a couple of years ago. Then, the bitterness was overpowering – a real clove-oil effect, a bit like a Kölsch – and I found it almost physically hard to drink. This is a much more complex proposition – although once again it’s a full-on beer, and once again it’s hops all the way. There’s a metallic bitterness first of all; get through that and you can taste two distinct hop flavours, the lemony Citra balanced by an uncompromising smoky hit at the back of the mouth. Not the pleasantest beer I’ve ever had, but very interesting.

Tawny No. 3
Darkish, malty and strong, with a bit of hop bitterness cutting through and that particular smoky, queasy nose that the Marble’s hops tend to have. (Sorry, I’m just not a fan.) If you like Marble bitters, this is the kind of dark bitter you’ll like.

Tawny No. 4
Not very tawny, as it goes, but a lot browner than the average Marble bitter. A lot of bitterness there, but a lot of flavour too. Not a million miles from the Well Cut mild, but a less aggressive flavour & strength (4.5%). Really very drinkable.

W90
Very pale, very hoppy: one of those beers with a full-on hop attack, combining bitterness and that odd sour smokiness. Light, fruity sourness in the body and a clean, easy-drinking finish; it’s all happening at the front of your mouth.

Mauldons Thomas’ Tipple
Malty, with a distinct biscuity sweetness, balanced by a light hoppy finish. A good but unremarkable bog-standard tawny bitter, to put it another way.

Millstone Tiger Rut
Oh dear. My problems with this one started with the name, which I couldn’t bring myself to say out loud (“A pint of the… er… the Millstone…”) (It’s an anagram of ‘True Grit’, another Millstone brew.) The beer was very pale – I swear I’ve seen darker keg lager – and very bitter. Nothing much else going on apart from a heavy mouth-feel and a slight sourness, which combined with the bitterness about halfway down the glass to produce a distinct undertone of stale beer. Not that it was stale, just that that hoppy/heavy/sour combination is hard to bring off & unforgiving if you miss. I didn’t like this one very much at all.

Moorhouse
Amber Rambler
Smooth mouth-feel, malty to the point of chewiness, big hoppy finish. Moorhouse’s seldom put a foot wrong, and this was no exception.

Pride of Pendle
Amber in colour, with quite a heavy mouthfeel and a light malty flavour, balanced with some nicely perfumed hops. Really not bad at all.

Morrell’s Oxford Blue
Some malt and a bit of sweetness, but really this was all about the hops (six of them) – a sharp, bitter, flowery attack and a great big smoky finish. File under “Interesting” (i.e. I didn’t actually like it that much).

Namyslow Plum
From Poland, but I imagine it’s a novelty even there. Plum beer. Sweet, fruity. Doesn’t actually taste much like plums, unless you’ve cooked them with a lot of sugar. Well worth trying once.

Nelson Jack Knife
A pale, hoppy bitter, with a complex smoky aroma, a surprisingly fruity body and a dry finish. Very drinkable.

Nethergate Red Poll
Bitter, malty, fruity, adding up to another of those slightly unfortunate flavour blends – not grapefruit in this case but liquorice. A nice beer, but I really don’t like liquorice.

Nook Raspberry Blond
An interesting one. A very pale bitter, but heavy, almost thick-tasting; big grainy body, followed by an equally big hoppy finish. And, somewhere in the middle of it all, a touch of raspberry sweetness. An odd combination, but one that works really well.

Oakham Rollercoaster
An initial impression of sourness gives way to a Marble-ish aromatic hop attack, which gives way in turn to malt and caramel, before a big bitter hop finish. (Hence the name, I guess.) Way too heavy on the hops for me, but very interesting – I’d never drink this for pleasure, but I’m really glad to have tried it once.

O’Hanlon’s Stormstay
Named after a horse, apparently. Not a worldbeater, but a nice big red bitter, with the strength (5%) to match its depth of flavour.

Orkney Dark Island
An odd one. It’s dark – almost opaque – but beyond that I wasn’t at all sure what it was: too much bitterness and stout character for a mild, but too sweet for a bitter. An “old ale”, I guess, but not my favourite; just a bit too sweet for me.

Phoenix

Earthquake
This is 7.3% by volume, and it seemed like a good idea to try it as my last beer at the 2008 Stockport Beer Festival. It was pretty good; it had a bit of the depth of flavour that strong ciders have, and didn’t hit you with that big dirty slug of alcohol that barleywines always used to. I don’t remember much else. Update courtesy of the friendly local Wetherspoon’s: this is a seriously lovely beer. One of those ‘marmalade’ beers – a big rich fruity taste, driven home with a thud of alcohol. Good stuff.

Hopsack
Yellow, hoppy, slightly sour. Nice rounded taste with a big hop finish (unsurprisingly).

Navvy
Always good to see Pere Ubu getting a name-check. A very serviceable session bitter (3.8%) with a nice deep colour & a good hefty flavour. A bit bitterer & less full-flavoured than I’d like, but they can’t all be Thirsty Moon.

Snowbound
Pale, yellow, slightly sour, very yeasty; you can actually taste the yeast, which isn’t unpleasant. Quite refreshing. Deeply disappointing when considered as a winter beer, mind you.

Spotland Gold
I know, I know, it’s got Gold in the title, what was I expecting? Yellow, hoppy, no malt to speak of – it’s another pale bitter. But a very solid example of the style – not sour at all, and they don’t overcompensate with the milky blandness of (say) the Little Valley beers.

Struggling Monkey
Not sure if my pint was at its best. Distinctly sour, but above all very bitter indeed – one of those beers that’s bitter all the way through, from your lips to your tongue to the back of your throat. A bit of a struggle, indeed.

Tennis Elbow
Pale, hoppy, not quite bland. Quite a refreshing summer bitter.

Wobbly Bob
A big flavour, almost too big. I’m reminded of apples, again; there’s a brash sourness edged with syrupy sweetness. But then it hits the back of your mouth with a great slam of bitterness and alcohol combined. Almost too big – not quite. The joy of Wobbly Bob is the way all these extreme flavours – and un-beer-like extreme flavours, if we’re honest – combine and blend. 6%, and if anything tastes even stronger – but very, very drinkable. My second favourite English draught beer ever.

Pictish

Alchemist’s Ale
Golden yellow, with a smooth, creamy quality and not much sourness, leading to a big slam of hops at the back of the mouth. Really quite pleasant.

Blue Moon
Another smooth, creamy bitter, with an interesting combination of flavours: some sourness to begin with, a big slug of alcohol in mid-palate (it’s 6%) and a firm, but not excessive, hoppy finish. Of its kind, very nice.

Liberty
Pale yellow and yeasty, but smooth and not at all sour; nice hoppy finish. A nice clean taste, not as full-on as most bitters of this type.

Millenium
Bright yellow and (when I had it) very lively. Not so much of the yeastiness and some definite malt. Pictish continue their run of “I don’t usually like this stuff but I’ll make an exception for this one”s.

Citra
Named after the eponymous hop variety. Light, with a definite citrus quality on the attack; bitterness further back, with a big, almost medicinal bitter finish. Once again, not really my kind of thing as such, but very well executed.

Summer Solstice
A light (and very pale) summer bitter, with a bit of malt weighting down the flowery hops and a refreshing bitter finish. A well balanced beer.

Plassey

Cwrw Tudno
Malty and dark, but not much of a flavour.

Dragon’s breath
A decent 6% old ale, just not very distinctive.

Fusilier
Nice brown malty bitter, but – like the other Plassey beers, I’m afraid – nothing special.

Potton Shambles bitter

A malty brown bitter, with just enough bitterness to round off the flavour and a faint undertone of hop perfume. Very nice indeed.

Prospect Silver Tally

A light, pale, refreshing, mouth-cleansing beer; not a million miles away from Rolling Rock, say. I came to it after the Allgates porter, and compared to that it tasted like soda water.

RCH

Firebox
Stockport Beer Festival 2008. A good deep colour & a great big flavour, with just a bit of that fruitcake edge that tells you you’re getting into old ale territory (it’s 6% by volume). Very nice.

Steam Carnival
A strongish, brownish bitter, russet rather than nut-brown. A full flavour, with a bit of malt and some appley sourness to go with the hops. That apple thing that some of the Dunham ales have – there’s a bit of that in there, but not overpowering amounts.

Ringwood Forty-niner
A strong dark-ish bitter with a full, malty flavour. Not a world classic, but definitely one to have again.

Robinson’s

Chocolate Tom
Stockport Beer Festival 2008, again. Like Marble’s Chocolate, this has a strong and distinct flavour of cocoa, which in this case sits alongside the familiar old ale depth and complexity of Old Tom. And ‘alongside’ is the word – the two flavours don’t blend so much as alternate. It’s good, but it’s more interesting than successful. Update I’ve had this one again, in a Wetherspoon’s – which is ironic, as I chose it at Stockport because I thought the Ginger alternative would be much more widely available. Anyway, it worked much better this time: unlike the combination of flavours attempted by the Marble chocolate stout, this is basically an Old Tom with a muted chocolate aftertaste. Very pleasant – I could drink quite a lot of this (if it wasn’t 6%).

Nosey Parker
A nice tawny session bitter. Not a million miles away from Robbies’ Best, but a bit lighter in flavour and a touch sweeter.

Young Tom
Mr Robinson, with these Tom variants you are really spoiling us! This is like Old Tom except that it’s a best bitter, brewed at 4%; in other words, it’s not much like Old Tom at all. Still, it’s a light but full malty flavour, with just a hint of that marmalade sweetness.

Rooster

Patriot
A sharp attack leading into a surprisingly big malty body, with a faint sweetness, followed by a bitter hoppy finish. Not bad at all.

YPA (Yorkshire Pale Ale)
An unfortunate name, I thought – a nice IPA is a thing of beauty, with a bit of body to it and a good tannic thud of bitterness. This didn’t have either – just a rather old-school-Hyde’s thinness with a bit of a flowery quality. I suppose you can’t really complain about something called pale ale turning out to be an ale that’s pale, but still.

Sadler’s Stumbling Badger

Whimsical country-bumpkin names for beers are a pet hate of mine, but in this case I’ll let them off. A rich, fruity, nut-brown ale, with body & warmth (and 4.8% a.b.v.) Very nice indeed.

St Austell IPA
A bit of a novelty in the contemporary IPA scene, this, as it weighs in at a frankly weedy 3.4%. And you could call it light-ish or even thin-ish; you could certainly make a session beer of it. What’s interesting is the flavour, which is bang-on: it’s got that thwack of tannin, that slight caramel edge, that bitterness that lurks around the edges of the flavour and then takes over in the finish… it’s a good IPA.

Saltaire Bulldog Brown Ale
Sour bite, tannic bitterness and malt; a big, rounded flavour. Yes, it’s a draught brown ale.

Sharp’s Doom Bar
A big, brown, malty beer, but not at all sweet; the finish is quite uncompromisingly hoppy, in fact. Very nice indeed.

Sheffield Beer Works
Dr Morton’s Hare Straightener
Yellow, hoppy, yeasty. Very yeasty – quite creamy in the mouth. No malt or sweetness, but no sourness either. I liked this quite a lot.

Dr Morton’s Djinn Jar Beer
Um… a beer with ginger in it; a bit like the Ginger Marble, and quite a lot like Brendan Dobbin’s old ginger beer. Nothing wrong with it, just not very distinctive.

Skinner’s Hunny Trap
Pale, flowery, not at all sour… not at all bitter either… and actually, when you look at it, just plain sweet. Not just sweetness – it has a definite flowery honey flavour – but honey is definitely what you’re getting. Didn’t work for me.

Spingo
Middle
Ah, Spingo. The Blue Anchor in Helston brews a family of beers, which don’t change much from year to year. On the bar you’ll see a row of pumps with one identical badge: ‘Spingo’; the individual brews are listed on a blackboard. Blunder in and order a pint of Spingo (as I did the first time I went in there) and what you’ll get is Middle. Middle is 5% a.b.v. and it’s quite unique. If you like your bitter dark; if you like a rich, malty flavour touched with sourness and sweetness; if you like beer to have a deep flavour, that seems to develop and unfold as you drink it; then you’ll like Middle. (I did.)

Jubilee
A light, bitter, clean-tasting pale ale, possibly because someone said it couldn’t be done. No sweetness, although there is a fair bit of malt.

Bragget
A bit of an oddity, I have to say. Essentially it tastes like cider, or possibly mead; it’s pale yellow and heavy in texture, with a distinct apple flavour and a honeyed finish (literally – you’re left with your lips tasting of honey). 6%, but doesn’t drink it.

Special
A darker, heavier, stronger (6.6%) version of Middle, with the honeyed finish of Bragget; a beer to quietly sink into (and come up tasting of honey). Reminded me of some of the darker abbey beers. You wouldn’t want to order a pint – or rather you would, but you wouldn’t want to have anything else planned that afternoon.

Springhead
Bitter
A nice, easy-drinking bitter, with a bit of biscuity malt in the middle of the mouth to offset the thwack of hops at the back. Reminded me a bit of the Hornbeam Bitter.

Spring Chicken
A pale, seasonal beer made with wildflower honey (it says here). Flowery and quite deceptively light for its 4.5%.

Theakston’s Old Peculier

How long has this been on draught? I actually prefer the bottled version – it’s a bit more of a rounded flavour with more sweetness. This is still a very fine pint. A bitter that thinks it’s a porter – dark, rich, slightly fruity, and strong with it.

Thornbridge

Lumford
I’d heard a lot about this, and it didn’t disappoint. Essentially this is a Little Dobber: hops à go-go, with a smoky aroma, an uncompromising citric attack and a full, slightly heavy body. All that and only 3.8% a.b.v.

Maniola
A very dark, almost opaque, red-brown mid-strength winter ale. Perhaps not as full-on as it could have been, but very drinkable.

White Swan
Very, very pale. Not very hoppy, not very sour, not very anything much. Quite pleasant – you feel there is some flavour there, it’s just hard to put your finger on what it is.

Lord Marples
A darkish, heavy bitter, with a full malty flavour (but no sweetness) backed by intense hoppy bitterness. A big, complex flavour; very rewarding.

Three B’s Tackler’s Tipple

Dark bitter, with an almost oily tannic heaviness and a hoppy finish, but enough malt to bulk out the flavour in between; doesn’t taste like you’re drinking furniture polish, in other words. The brewery is in Blackburn, apparently – one to look out for.

Thwaite’s Ribble Rouser
A pale bitter with some surprisingly intense floral hop aromas. Family Brewer Targets Hopheads Shock.

Titanic

A night to remember
Mid-brown bitter, with a distinct fruity malt flavour blended with a big furniture-polish thud of hops. Very drinkable.

Captain Smith’s
A rich brown strong ale (5.2%), with a strong fruity character counterbalanced by hops. A stronger, darker and fruitier version of A night to remember, pretty much. Very nice.

Longitude
There’s Citra in here, I’ll go bail. A beer of two halves: light, sharp, lemony at the front, then a thud of mid-mouth charcoal bitterness (a lot of Titanic ales seem to have this) backed up with a big hoppy finish. Didn’t really work for me – the overall effect was a lot like drinking slightly fizzy grapefruit juice.

Red Ensign
Big reddish-brown bitter, with a lot of malt rounded off by a bit of sourness. An odd kind of bitterness to it – not so much hops as charcoal. Not unpleasant.

Rule Britannia
A light, pleasantly fruity bitter, with that distinct charcoal bitterness that Titanic bitters tend to have.

They think it’s ale over
Whoa, bitter. Cloves on the tip of your tongue, charcoal in the middle, hops in the finish. Lots of bitterness, not a lot else.

Triple FFF Rock Lobster
My notes on this one read as follows: “yeasty charcoal” (or possibly “yeasty, charcoal”). I think I liked it, but perhaps not a lot.

Weltons Hawthorn
Rather a nice golden ale. Made with ginger, and tastes of it – although it is actually in the flavour; there’s no ‘burn’. “Light, zesty – lemon tart” I wrote against this one, possibly on the same evening when I reviewed the Rock Lobster.

Whim

Arbor Light
Pale yellow. Hoppy, clean-tasting. Drinkable, if you like lager.

Flower Power
5.3% and tasted it. A fresh, grainy start gives way to a big slug of alcohol-flavoured bitterness towards the back of the mouth; when combined with the heavy mouthfeel, it put me in mind of cough mixture.

Wincle Sir Philip’s
I couldn’t resist this one, particularly when I read that the eponymous Sir P. sailed with Shackleton (I’ve been reading about polar exploration). But what of the beer? A big, dark, malty bitter, and, er… that was pretty much it. Not without character, but just a bit disappointing.

Wychwood King Goblin
A 6% cask version of the ubiquitous Hobgoblin. Promised more than it delivered; malt and alcohol present and correct, but caramel sweetness dominates the flavour.

Yates Wight Old Ale

This was just extraordinary – after my first mouthful I actually turned round and headed back to the bar so that I could tell the barman how good it was. (This was at the 2010 Winter Ales Festival, and I had had a couple by this stage.) Slight metallic undertone, but apart from that this was just a blast of fruit and malt and alcohol: a superb old ale

York Centurion’s Ghost

Perhaps I should classify these beers by colour rather than style. I think this is a bitter, but you could sell it as a dark mild, a porter or even a light stout without too much trouble. Dark, malty, roast-y, but still hoppy. Very nice indeed.

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