Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Full Bore: aka ROCKET FUEL

Full bore. I think the name speaks for itself.

Another brainchild from Hunters Brewery in Ipplepen, I have to say they have done another good job. Lets just start with outlining the most important aspect of this ale, and quickly mention in passing the fact that is has an 8% ABV! That my friends, results in a pint you have to be reasonably careful with.

The over-the-bar dialogue: white = customer, blue = me (bartender)

"Hey, can I get a pint of the full bore?"
"Watch out, its rocket fuel- 8% you know..."
"Woah what! (checks pump clip) So it is! er, ok, I'll just have a half."
"Ok, thats fine, come back if you want some more"
... minutes later customer returns....
"(sheepishly) Yeah, I'll have two pints please"

So there you have it. People are initially shocked by the ABV, but then it turns out they don't actually mind and come back for more anyway.

You have to wonder why, and so, I had a pint after work.

I was expecting to be overwhelmed by the alcohol, but in fact they seem to have got away with it. In itself, it is a very sweet beer with a deep rich fruity smell and a medium dark colour. I realised the reason for the sweetness was obvious. In order to get a draught real ale with that kind of percentage, you have to put vast amounts of sugar into it. I did a bit of research, and apparently they use a lot of Devon honey to achieve this. There you have it, thats how it gets so sweet.

I would say its a pretty slow drink. Not exactly a chugger or a session beer. I mean after all, too many would kill you and it is kind of heavy to drink. But I suppose that has to be expected. I personally think it makes a nice pint.

Interestingly, Hunters Brewery also do a pint called Half bore- which is the same as full bore but with half the stuff and half the alcohol. I would be curious to taste it and see how it turns out in terms of flavour and colour. Anyway, this led me to discover something...

If you buy half a pint of full bore, you are kind of paying half price for a pint of half bore. And inversely, if you buy a pint of half bore, you are paying double for half a pint of full bore, or half for a full pint. That is provided what Hunters say is true about the "exact half ingredients" thing. Get your head around that one.

Monday, 6 June 2011

A Pint of your best Piddle please...

Now that I work in a pub, I am beginning to understand the value of customer/ bartender interaction when it comes to the purchase of ale. Its a fine art- discussing flavours, heaviness, aroma, ABV, and the all important offering of tasters.

However, when a patron approaches the bar and asks for a pint of Piddle, you can't help but smirk. Its also a good conversation starter, for example, "A pint of piddle please", "HAHA I love it when people say that", "yeah, funny name right" ... and so on, and so on.

I am of course talking about "Dorset Piddle", from the dorset piddle brewery. Previous to 2008, if you asked for a pint of Piddle you would get laughed out the door, but now with the release of this rather idiosyncratically named pale ale, it is proving a big hit. Yesterday, I must have sold about 20 times more of this stuff than the other 3 guest ales we had on pump at the time.

As for the beer itself, it is amber in colour but still manages a nice full flavour. I have often found that some beers of paler nature tend to lack in body and substance, but this one doesn't disappoint. It tastes quite fruity and has a fruity kind of smell to it, but what I like about it most is the fact it still manages a nice bitter finish at the end.

In the words of the brewery itself, "I love a good Piddle".

The brewery also does a number of beers that look promising, such as Yogi Beer, Silent Slasher, Cocky Hop, and Jimmy Riddle. You can't help but spot a theme... regardless, I look forward to tasting them if Piddle is anything to go by!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Back in the swing with Bay's Gold

First of all, my apologies! I have been totally away from blogging for about half a year! As of now I will be rekindling my ale blog and my main day to day blog, so stay tuned. Someone made me realise that blogging and keeping a record of your life is far too cool to not do. So in order to not, not, be awesome... I am blogging again.

In the time between now and my last post, I now actually work in a pub that serves guest ales on a regular basis, so expect regular updates as of now.


I thought I would start with a Bay's beer. I live in Torbay, in fact, only a short walk away from the brewery. They have established themselves well in the local market and set up a lot of deals with local pubs so they are permanently on tap.

Me and my drinking partners have always been, lets say, rather critical of Bay's beers. In general we have found them to have not a very good head and be a bit tasteless. My personal opinion of them is that they are drinkable, no doubt, but quite watery.

Today, I had a pint of Bay's staple beer- "Bay's Gold", despite my previous reservations.

The colour of the beer was pale, but not the palest I have seen. It had a nice hoppy bitter taste to it, but once again disappointingly like other Bay's ales, no real head at all. It was not as watery as some of the Bay's beer I have tried, but still pretty thin. Again, I have had thinner beers.

On the whole, I would say by no means is this a bad beer. It tastes fine, but it wouldn't be my first choice if there was something else I liked. It is pretty safe to have at 4.3% ABV, and so in conclusion I deem this an acceptable session beer. I prefer my session beers a bit smoother, but the thin quality of Bay's Gold didn't allow that. My impression of Bay's in general have gone up, and I would recommend it because it is locally brewed.

However, for someone who is just starting out with drinking ales, if you try this, do not assume this is what really good beer is like. Bay's Gold is fine, and I will enjoy a pint of it, but there are plenty of lovely ales with all sorts of attributes that can make you never want to go back to drinking lager.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Skinners Big Sister

Well, another guest ale came on not too long ago at my local pub, and it was great. From the makers of award winning beers such as "Betty Stoggs" comes a nice ale called Betty's Big Sister. Skinners brewery in cornwall unveiled this winter beer in October last year, and last week was my first opportunity to try it.

Curiously, the tap label was massive. Like about 4 times bigger than the rest of the guest ales. My fellow drinker Ricky said that it must be compensating for something. (note: not too long ago there was a christmas ale with flashing lights on the tap label- turned out to be disappointing)

But ever the optimist, I ordered a pint and it turned out to be one of my best decisions that week. These winter ales are often described as "winter warmers", but the way I see it, that just seems to mean they are more alcoholic. Big sister is a "warming" 5.3% ale, in comparison to its very much more established sister Betty Stoggs at only 4%.

Having tried both Betty Stoggs and her Big Sister, I have to say I definitely prefer the latter. Even though Betty Stoggs was winner of last years CAMRA best beer. As a dark amber ale with enough alcohol to make you merry but not ruining the flavour, big sister was very drinkable. So much so, that when I went for a breakfast there in the morning I just had to have a pint of big sister for fear of it running out!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Hobgoblin Ale

Well its fair to say that Hobgoblin is way up there in my favourite ales. It was one of the best I have tried and one of the only ones I continue to regularly buy for self consumption at partys and at home. Hobgoblin is essentially a dark brown ale, with a lovely hoppy taste and usually comes at a perfect 5.2%. It is not too expensive, but I have found it is difficult to find it on tap.

 Fortunately I have been to 2 pubs in my life that does it, one of which is in my town, and one where I used to go to university. The spinning wheel in Paignton, and the Hobgoblin pub in Bath. Both of these places pull a great pint if your ever in the area.

Above is the spinny, and below is really one of my favourite hideouts in Bath, the Hob itself.

Hobgoblin is brewed by Wychwood, who do a whole selection of absolutely fantastic ales. I will post about these ales in due course. To be honest they are my favourite brewery because other than some of the paler ales that arent to my taste, they have never put a foot wrong in my book. They are also Brewers of my favourite ale of all time, which will be revealed in the next post I guess. I also own a hobgoblin t shirt, and a hobgoblin pint glass, bought from their online shop. I hopefully will be going on a brewery tour there sometime soon, it will be awesome!

So in short, try Hobgoblin, its great. Whether in a can, bottle or draught, its usually always great.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Wessex Banger and Tom Wood's Vanilla Orchid

As the ale festival continues down at Wetherspoons, my knowledge of ales and brewery expands also. I kicked the night on wednesday off with a pint of the delicious Wessex Banger.

I had never seen Wessex Banger before, or even heard of the Cottage brewing company, so it was a nice opportunity to sample something quite rare. It is described as a mature dark fruity ale. I am going to be honest when I say that I'm not quite sure what it means by mature, maybe it is the strong flavour. It was dark, and so I was looking forward to having a pint. However, I was somewhat concerned about it being a fruity ale, I was not sure about whether it would ruin it or not. Happily, the taste of fruit was by no means overpowering and it turned out to be a good pint. If it is there still again tonight, I will certainly have another.

Another festival ale I tried was "Tom Wood's Vanilla Orchid". Once again, the idea of messing around with unusual flavours has never really served me well in the past (for example, dumpling ale and espresso ale... urgh) so I was not optimistic. However, a fellow ale fan and good friend of mine "Fred" Pearson told me that it was actually not bad.

So I gave it a whirl, and low and behold it was not bad at all. Just like with the wessex banger, the extra flavour the brewery had decided to add was not too strong and did not ruin the ale. Unfortunately I could not find a picture of it, as it was brewed especially for the ale festival alone and therefore can't be bought. I personally would not buy it again as I prefer not to have these odd flavours mixed in, but I did enjoy it.

Whilst researching the Tom Wood brewery in Lincolnshire, I discovered they make a variety of best bitters (my favourite category of ale) and there was a few of them I would love to try. Unfortunately, because it is a micro-brewery, it is very difficult to get their beer without going to one of their licensed pubs. Damn. 

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Pheasant Plucker and the Noah's Ark.

Today I was invited to the pub after work by some colleagues (yeah, part of the cool kids now) and I had some ale which I have had before and trust. Pheasant Plucker is another one of those local ales like Otter Ale that can literally be found everywhere in South Devon. This is good, as it makes a fine pint.

Pheasant Plucker is brewed in Ipplepen, Devon, by a brewery called Hunters. To be fair, Hunters is more known for its flagship beer, Hunters Gold. Its not to my tastes, so I never bother with it personally. But hey, they do a good job with this one at least.

 To start the review I will mention the smell. I never really care, but when you drink you do put it quite close to your nose and I couldn't help notice it smelt a bit spicy and a bit like caramel. The thing I like most about Pheasant plucker as a fan of dark ale, is the flavour. It really is bitter sweet, I kid you not. You get both the "aaaaahhh..." of a good bitter and the "mmm" of a sweet drink. The ale is quite flat and has a thin bubbly head, which is just the way I like it.
I find that generally carbonation ruins any flavour of beer. This is precisely why you will not see me dead with a pint of Carlsberg in a pub. I will have a 'real' beer thank you very much.

The pub in question today was the Noah's Ark in Paignton. Curiously, I live less than a minutes walk away and if it wasn't for this one house, I would be able to see it from my window. However, I have only been in there 3 times, including today. This was generally because of lack of atmosphere and expensive drinks. But it turns out this is my workmates hideout for after a shift, so I guess I could get used to it. I didn't really get the full experience, as it was between 3 and 5 on a tuesday night. Who am I to complain, I got a few great pints from there today.

I have been told they also do on tap other beers by Hunters, such as half bore (4%), Gold (obviously) and Full Bore (8%!), which I am dying to try.