Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Bell rates... Pabst Blue Label

type: lager
origin: Milwaukee, USA
ABV: 4.6%
location: house
served: 473ml can to pint glass


I feel sorry for the Americans. Prior to the rebirth of local craft breweries that started in the eighties, and started to gain real momentum in the last decade or so, this is all they'd have had access to.

Bland.

Even Budweiser and Coors light has character compared to Pabst Blue Ribbon.
This is probably why American beer had a reputation for being dishwater before breweries like Sierra Nevada and Anchor started getting a hold on the market with brews that actually taste of something.

I was intrigued by the ingredients list on the can: Water, Barley, Malt, Select Grains, Yeast, Hops. Why is malt listed separately to barley? 'Malt' generally refers to malted barley, but if barley is listed separately, does that mean they're using un-malted barley? And more of it than malted barley? Ludicrous!

And what are these 'selected grains'? Rice, almost certainly, but why not just say that? It's a staple of the American lager to adjuncts, especially rice. Other brands promote the fact they use rice, why does Pabst try and hide it?

smell: very little. a hint of hops, but only if you look for it. 1/4

colour: very pale, very weak looking. didn't hold much of a head either. I even had it in one of those etched-bottom glasses that promotes nitrogenation and hence improves head formation and retention. poor. 1/4

taste: hints of beer. it wasn't offensive, so it avoids a zero, but it really had nothing to enjoy. 1/4

overall: bland blandness. But still better than Carling. 3/12

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Bell Rates... Radeberger Pilsner

type: Lager
origin: Germany
ABV: 4.8%
location: biergarten
served: 500ml bottle to pint glass


Had this one during the summer, but only just found my notebook. Perhaps if I drank less I'd remember where I put things. Ach well.

I actually first had this beer back in 2008 on a trip to Dresden (Radeberger and Feldschlößchen being the two most common beers on tap in the city, in our experience) and took the chance to sample it again when I spotted it for sale online. Especially since I had access to the glass, as 'collected' by one of my friends.

Smell: hops came though nicely, with a bit more malt than is evident in a lot of German lagers. 3/4

Colour: good golden hue, and a good long-lasting head. 3/4

Taste: slightly lacking in body, but a pleasant bitterness and hop flavour, and a good aftertaste. 3/4

Overall: a pleasant lager, ideal for sipping outside on a sunny day. It might be good for drinking inside when it's raining, but neither of the two occasions where I sampled it fit that profile, so I can't be sure. 9/12

Bell rates... Harviestoun Schiehallion

type: Lager
origin: Scotland
ABV: 4.8%
location: house
served: 500ml bottle to glass


When you think of Scottish lager, the first thing that pops into your head is probably Tennents - I know it's the first thing that pops into mine.

Luckily, here's Harviestoun brewery with proof that Scotland can produce a lager that isn't bland and near-undrinkable!

Three hops varieties are listed on the label; Styrian Goldings, Challenger and Hallaertau Hersbrücker. The first two are traditionally considered Ale hops but the latter is the primary Bavarian lager hop. A few ale-type flavours are introduced, but the combination does work well.


Smell: hoppy aroma, reminiscent of a German lager, but with an underlying Ale element - 3/4

Colour: Amber. Decent clarity. Perhaps slightly under-carbonated, as formed a good head initially, but it didn't last too well. Decent lacing though. 3/4

Taste: Hops very evident in both bitterness and flavour. Little bit of malt sweetness. Very dry finish, good aftertaste. 3/4

Overall: Very drinkable. 8/12

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Bell Celebrates... CIDER DAY!

aye, so I celebrate Cider Day instead of jeesus-day, and it's always worked out well for me. Here's what i've had so far: (six hours in)
 
Strongbow

type: Cider
origin: England
ABV: 5.0%

served: 44ml can to glass

rating: 7/12 - passable semi-chemical cider


Strongbow Pear

type: Pear Cider
origin: England
ABV: 4.8%
served: 440ml can to glass

rating: 4/12 - more lemon than pear; and not in a good way like alcoholic lemonade... or lemonade in general. Even then, it's chemical lemons. That could be a good name for a band; The Chemical Lemons. Possibly a 90's style Indy revival band with a Shoegazer influence. Think about it and get back to me.

Strongbow Dark Fruit

type: Cider
origin: England
ABV: 4.0%
served: 440ml can to glass

rating: 8/12 - the best Strongbow. seems as if fruit was involved at some stage, which is reassuring. Less chemicals apparent than the others varieties.


Kopparberg Spiced Apple with Cinnamon

type: Cider
origin: Sweden
ABV: 4.0%
served: 500ml bottle to glass

rating: 10/12 - nice. cinnamon is apparent, but not overpowering. probably couldn't drink more than a couple, but very pleasant as a change. label suggests serving it warm, but I personally find the idea of warm cider abhorrent.


Aspall Premier Cru Suffolk Cider

type: Cider
origin: England
ABV: 7.0%
served: 500ml bottle to glass

rating: 9/12- a very pleasant traditional-style cider.

Thistly Cross Traditional

type: Cider
origin: Scotland
ABV: 4.4%
served: 330ml bottle to glass

rating: 9/12 another very pleasant traditional-style cider. dry, yet sweet.


ANYROAD... that'll do you for now, eh?

PL&U

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Bell Rates... Tesco Finest American Double IPA

type: IPA
origin: Scotland
ABV: 9.2%
location: house
served: 330ml bottle to glass


This beer, it turns out, is actually Brewdog's 'Hardcore IPA' relabelled and sold slightly cheaper in Tesco.

The bottle was gifted to me by my manager at work (cheers Michael) to sample and review. He's a big fan of Brewdog, and craft beers in general. I'll admit that while I have a lot of respect for what the guys at Brewdog have accomplished, I'm not a huge fan of all of their beers. Some are excellent, but some i don't really care for.

I can't really decide if American Double IPA/Hardcore IPA is in the former or the latter category though. In many respects it's a fantastic beer, but it's not something that I found particularly easy to drink.

I've written before about the blandness of big commercial beers, but this goes a bit too far in the opposite direction in my opinion. There's barrel-loads of flavour, but it's a bit overpowering at times. The high alcohol content is very obvious, almost to the extent that it starts to taste like a spirit - or that somebody's spiked your drink with a shot of rum.

The colour is fantastic though.


Smell: bags of aroma, immediately evident as soon as you take the cap off. a bit of a floral note, but mainly orangey citrus, and a hint of wood. 4/4

Colour: a great looking beer, with a warm mahogany red hue and a nice frothy head which lasts well. 4/4

Taste: No shortage of flavour! Plenty of hops and plenty of maltiness, with a little bit of sweetness - I got the feeling Belgian-style candi sugar might be part of the recipe, but that's just a guess. The strong alcohol taste doesn't really do it for me though.  3/4

Overall: A technically impressive beer with just a minor flaw caused by trying too hard to make stronger beers than anyone else for the sake of it. They could easily have made it slightly less strong without losing the flavour, and for me that would have made it just about perfect. 11/12


Bell Rates... Thistly Cross Original Cider

type: cider
origin: Scotland
ABV: 7.2%
location: garden
served: 330ml bottle to glass


Another product that could have been designed with me in mind: a Scottish cider with a Thistle theme.  I wasn't planning on buying any booze when I was up at Tesco (it's not like I'm likely to run low any time soon, the bierkeller looks like I'm preparing for some kind of survivalist apocalypse party) but my Cider Senses started tingling, and I was drawn to the far end of the top shelf, where I discovered this little beauty.




The bottle states they use a slow fermentation (with champagne yeast) and a long maturation, and reckon the results were worth waiting for. Not to mention the fact that the bottle cap will look fantastic when I utilise it for a fridge magnet.


Smell: A sharp apple aroma, with a little bit of alcohol present. 3/4

Colour: Golden yellow. Nicely carbonated; the right amount of head for a sparling cider, and leaves a good lacing on the glass too. 4/4

Taste: Apples! A nicely sweet (but not cloying) flavour, with a hint of crispness. Good, lasting aftertaste as well. 4/4

Overall: I genuinely really like this, and I'll definitely be buying more. 11/12


more info: http://www.thistlycrosscider.co.uk

Friday, 12 April 2013

Bell Rates... Quinny's Yer Maw

type: lager
origin: Homebrew
ABV: ~4.1%
location: house
served: 500ml bottle to glass


Another Homebrew given to me by a colleague to sample, this time by the inimitable Quinny. He's decided to call it 'Yer Maw', purely for laughs when somebody orders it; "A pint of Yer Maw please mate." and so on. I can see it being a lot more amusing for the patron than the bar staff to be honest.

Well, until they run out of it, and the bartender gets to say "Yer Maw's off, mate". Oh! or if they kept the prices low, then they could say "Yer Maw's on special offer: two quid". Either way, it's bound to cause fights when somebody asks "whit ye drinkin'?" when it's their round, and is answered appropriately.

But anyroad, you need to mention how the stuff tastes in a review, otherwise it's just speculation, and speculation is difficult to quantify out of twelve.


Smell: Yer Maw smells of Yeast, more than anything (couldn't resist that one!) which is odd given the lack of sediment. Slight fruity aroma, but heavily masked by the yeast. 2/4

Colour: pale yellow with good clarity, good levels of carbonation for the style. 3/4

Taste: very dry, but quite refreshing. A bit of carbon, little malt taste or sweetness, but not much hop taste either - but that's style-correct if you compare it to a standard commercial lager. More aftertaste than a commercial brew though. 3/4

Overall: A good first attempt, well handled to achieve the clarity and lack of sediment with a decent level of carbonation. A possible rival to Stella Artois*  8/12


As ever, when using a homebrew kit, it's difficult to get wildly different results from the next person, but apart from the yeasty aroma Yer Maw's turned out pretty well. The fermentation was probably a bit warm, and it may have benefited from a longer ageing period, but a fine first attempt and I look forward to sampling the second attempt.



* due to the probability of violence

Friday, 8 March 2013

Bell rates... Bel Pils

type: Lager
origin: Belgium
ABV: 5.0%
location: house
served: 250ml bottle to glass

I acquired a bottle of this purely because it had (most of) my name on it.

As good a reason as any, I feel, and one that turned out to be quite fortuitous, as the beer is actually pretty decent.



It's a product of Duvel Moortgat Brewery, and while many breweries are happy just to make a basic, pale beer with a bottom-fermenting yeast and call it a Pilsner, it's good to see Duvel making a bit more of an effort. The average euro-lager tends to be a disappointing affair, with little taste, little aroma and little head retention, engineered to be bland and therefore inoffensive. Proper application of hops is evident, and while it's not exactly a world-class Pilsner, at least it's identifiably a beer, and therefore scores better than more commercial brews.

Smell: light, fresh Saaz hop aroma, with a hint of malt coming through. 3/4

Colour: a pale yellow, with a great, frothy white head. 3/4

Taste: a little bit of toasted malt, with a balanced hop bitterness and a dry finish. 3/4

Overall: a very drinkable European Pilsner 9/12

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Bell Rates... Timothy Taylor's Landlord

type: Pale Ale
origin: England
ABV: 4.1%
location: house
served: 500ml bottle to glass

Last May, while on a trip down to that London, I encountered this beer, and I was impressed. After a drunken tour of Soho (and the predicable accidental patronage of a gay bar: "not many women in here, eh?" then "here, wait a minute..." etc.) we ended up in a proper cockney pub, Guvnah, apples & pears, cor blimey, lawd luv a duck.

So anyroad, I had initially intended to sample a number of the cask ales they had on tap in this place, and the first one (working from the left) was 'Landlord'. The pump clip was clearly home-made until the brewery supplied a proper one, but the beer was tremendous, and I was forced to abandon my plan to sample the next one along the row of taps. I later got a knock-back from a lesbian bar on the understandable grounds I was not a woman.

A few months later, I found myself in a random boozer in Leamington Spa on a Wednesday night... and to my delight they had Landlord on tap! After a brief bit of confusion, where the landlord of the establishment thought I was calling for him, I managed to order a pint of it. Oh how we all laughed!

Actually, that's a lie. Nobody laughed. In fact, he locals all seemed quite worried by the fact five drunken Scottish randomly people wandered into their local on a Wednesday night and one of them began yelling about the availability of a certain Pale Ale. It was a bit like a western, and we were the strangers. Needless to say we only stayed for one drink.

So anyroad, the beer! I was pleased to see it in bottle form on the shelves of my local Tesco, and snapped it up quickly.

Smell: Very strong initial malt, then the hops come through. Hop level is well balanced. 3/4

Colour: Deep copper, with good clarity. 4/4

Taste: Good bitterness levels, well balanced with the dry, roasted malt flavours. The hops are evident, but don't overshadow the malt sweetness. medium-light mouthfeel. 4/4

Overall: Worth going to London for. 11/12



NB: the gay bar actually served the best pint of Guinness I had all weekend.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Bell Rates... Newcastle Founders' Ale

type: Pale Ale
origin: Newcastle, England
ABV: 4.8%
location: house
served: 355ml bottle to glass


Having thoroughly enjoyed the Summer Ale, I opted to sample another of the Newcastle seasonal beers. Sadly, for me, this one doesn't quite measure up to the standard set by the first one.

I feel the bitterness overshadows the malt too much, except for the toasted-butter-biscuit notes, which are more evident in the aroma than in the taste.

Smell: Biscuits, primarily, and a hint of Diacetyl. Floral hops waiting to pounce.  2/4

Colour: The strong-point, by far, is the bronze hue. head could have been better though. 3/4

Taste: Admittedly a varied flavour, with a fair amount of aftertaste, but the aftertaste isn't ideal, and the butter remains. Right on the edge of being too bitter and quite dry. While the Summer Ale struck a good balance between the maltiness and bitterness, this Founders' Ale seems a bit.  2/4

Overall: Decent enough, but I suspect that with a different variety of hops it could have been a real winner. Like something of Geordie Shore, it looks good, but lacks personality. 7/12


NB: I have never actually seen Geordie Shore, and that may therefore be an unfair comparison.