All About Beer,

especially the Canadian kind...

Brewery List

  UK Beer Reviews

Great Britain

Boddington's Pub Ale : First brewed in Manchester in 1778, Boddington's Pub Ale is a pale ale. Its pint-sized cans feature the "Draughtflow" system that uses a pressurized insert to release millions of tiny bubbles upon opening, creating the same creamy head as a traditional hand pulled draught.

This is one of my favourite ales. I always get this when it is available on draft, but from the can, it is remarkably similar. When it arrived, it was still rolling with carbonation. It settled with a finger or so of thick, rich cream colored head. It had a medium to dark amber color and a pleasant aroma.

The taste was very smooth, mellow and well balanced. It had a slight hop flavour, but not strong or intense.

Rating: 7.5/10

 

 

While perusing the aisles of his local LCBO, Bucky was intrigued by the concept of a vanilla porter and picked up a bottle of Box Steam Brewery's Funnel Blower ("FB"). FB came in a brown 500 ml bottle with a best before date of August 2013 printed on the neck, and was 4.5% alcohol by volume.

Box Steam Brewery is a family owned and run regional craft brewery located in Holt, Wiltshire in England. They source their ingredients as locally as possible and carefully engineer each beer in a steam copper. The names of their beers are inspired by the life of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, a 19th Century engineer, whose Box Tunnel carries the London to Bristol railway through a hillside close to the original brewery. Box Steam delivers its beers throughout Wiltshire, Somerset, Bristol, Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, and its beers are available through a number of wholesalers who distribute throughout the UK, and to Canada and Finland.  According to the Company's website, tours  are available by appointment.

Funnel Blower poured an opaque black colour, with ruby highlights in the centre of the glass when backlit. Pouring produced about 2" of tan coloured head that looked a bit like the surface of a sponge. The head lasted for about 5 minutes before fading to a collar and thin film, leaving some modest lacing and spotting down the glass. The only aroma detectable was a sweet vanilla, reminding me a bit of a can of vanilla frosting. The taste was a bit more complex, starting off with a sweet vanilla, then transitioning to a dark coffee, and ending with a slight, but distinct bitterness. A coffee bitterness lingers for a few seconds as an aftertaste. The coffee bitterness is a nice counter to the initial vanilla sweetness. I would describe Funnel Blower as light to medium bodied with an appropriate level of carbonation and a slightly creamy mouthfeel...possible aided by the mental association with vanilla icing. Overall, a tasty brew that I would certainly drink again, and not overly expensive at $3.95 per bottle.

Rating 8.05/10

Produced by the Griffin Brewery of Fuller, Smith & Turner PLC in London, England, Bucky sampled the last of his winter hoard of dark beers.  This was Fuller's London Porter (“FLP”) which came in a 500 ml can with a best before date of February 28, 2015 printed on the bottom. FLP was  5.4% alcohol by volume.

FLP poured a very dark brown colour, with ruby highlights in its core when backlit. Pouring produced about ½” of fine, tan coloured head with good staying power, eventually fading to a 1/8” cap of foam which remained all through the sampling. Curiously though, no lacing and only some very modest spotting was left down the glass by this permanent foam cap. Its aroma was of sweet caramel, dark roasted coffee and European chocolate. The beer's taste began with a sweet caramel flavour, followed by dark roasted coffee and dark chocolate, with just an occasional flash of leather. A mildly bitter chocolate/dark coffee aftertaste lingered, but was by no means unpleasant. The carbonation was the softest of any beer that I have sampled to date, with just the slightest tingle on the tongue. The mouth feel was creamy, and the beer was lighter bodied than expected. Overall, a rich, well balanced porter that I would go to again, but somewhat short of its world class reputation. Selling at $2.75 per 500 ml can at the time of writing.

Rating 8.07/10

The Orkney Brewery is housed in the former schoolhouse in Quoyloo, located in the Orkney Islands, Scotland. In June 2004, the Orkney Brewery was acquired from its retiring founder by Atlas Brewery to form Highlands and Islands Breweries. Neill Cotton, founder of Atlas Brewery, was Managing Director of Highlands and Islands and drove a series of changes at The Orkney Brewery, including a rebranding. In the summer of 2006, the company was bought by Sinclair Breweries Ltd.

Intrigued by the thought of a brewery located in the Orkney Isles, Bucky bought a 330 ml bottle (despite his aversion to such tiny bottles) of Orkney's "Skull Splitter" Rich Ale, marked with a best before date of September 2013. Skull Splitter is a type of beer known as a wee heavy, and is 8.5% alcohol by volume. The beer takes its name from Torfinn Hausakjuv,  the 7th Viking Earl of Orkney sometime around 950 AD, who was nicknamed "Skullsplitter". Apparently this beer won the Supreme Champion Winter Beer of Britain Award 2001 at CAMRA's national winter celebration of beer.

Skull Splitter poured a clear, dark red-hued copper colour, with distinct ruby highlights and some orange around the edges when backlit. Pouring produced a thin, off-white head that quickly faded to an even thinner ring of foam around the glass, leaving almost no spotting or lacing behind it. Its aroma was primarily of dark fruits and alcohol, with the taste dominated by sweet malts, dark cherries and alcohol. The alcohol gives off some slight heat in the taste, but not enough to overpower the other flavours. Skull Splitter had a moderate bitterness in the finish that countered the initial sweetness of the malts and dark cherries well. I would describe the beer as surprisingly light bodied given its alcohol content, with a distinctly low level of carbonation. Overall, Skull Splitter is flavourful, quite well balanced, and well suited to consumption on a -10C night. At $3.30 per 330 ml bottle, Skull Splitter is perhaps a bit on the pricey side, but not outrageously so. I would certainly drink this beer again.

Rating 7.95/10

Thornbridge branded beers were first brewed in early 2005 after the establishment of a 10 barrel brewery on the grounds of Thornbridge Hall in Derbyshire, England. The initial focus was on producing a range of cask beers that used traditional recipes but provided a modern twist through the use of a wide range of hops, malts and innovation. The brewery has won a succession of awards since its opening (over 200 national and international awards) and a new 30 barrel, state of the art brewery and bottling line ("Riverside") was built at Bakewell, England in September 2009 to meet increased demand. Thornbridge continues to operate from both brewery sites.

Bucky snagged a 500 ml bottle of the brewery's Jaipur India Pale Ale ("Jaipur"), which was 5.9% alcohol by volume with a best before date of November 28, 2013 printed on the back. A little wary about this one...half-expecting a nuclear hop bomb. An overly aggressive pour produced about 2.5" of fluffy, snow-white head that lasted for quite some time, leaving some beautiful, sticky lacing down the glass as it retreated. The beer itself was a cloudy, yellow/gold colour, taking on more of the golden hue when backlit. Jaipur's aroma was dominated by grapefruit, with undertones of pine and orange. Its flavour began with a slightly sweet, juicy mix of grapefruit, orange and pine, transitioning to a distinctly bitter finish which lingered as a long-lived aftertaste. Definitely bitter, but not so bitter as to overwhelm all else and ruin the experience. Thornbridge has the balance just right on this one. Jaipur had a fairly active but suitable level of carbonation, and I would describe the beer as light to medium bodied. Though I'm not a huge fan of IPAs generally, this is probably the nicest one that I have tried to date and I would certainly drink this beer again. At $4.95 per 500 ml bottle it is pricey, but quality (and British beers sold in Canada generally) usually are.

Rating 8.25/10

Bucky's second foray into Thornbridge's beers involved a bottle of their Kipling South Pacific Pale Ale ("Kipling"). Don't ask me what makes up a South Pacific Pale Ale, because I've never heard of such a beast before. Kipling was sold in a brown 500 ml bottle with a best before date of January 11, 2014 printed on the rear label.

Kipling poured a slightly foggy yellow/gold colour, with the gold becoming more evident when lit from behind. Pouring produced about 1" of bubbly white head which faded to a thin collar of foam after about 3 minutes, leaving some modest spotting and lacing down the glass as it faded. Its aroma was dominated by grapefruit, with notes of pine and various citrus fruits. The flavour began with a very brief fruity sweetness which included orange, gooseberry and pine, which was quickly overtaken by strong grapefruit and a distinct bitterness. Though the grapefruit bitterness continued as a lingering aftertaste, it wasn't the 'over the top' bitterness that seems to be all the rage today. No real malt flavours detectable here. Though advertised by Thornbridge as medium bodied, I would put Kipling more toward the light/medium end of the spectrum, with a moderate carbonation and crisp mouthfeel.

My overall impression: another good brew from the folks at Thornbridge that would go down well on a hot summers day, though I would have preferred a longer lasting and more pronounced fruit sweetness up front. I'd tend to reach for their Jaipur IPA before Kipling. A 500 ml bottle of Kipling was selling for $5.00 at the time of writing.

Rating 7.70/10

Bucky's roaming minions brought him a 500 ml bottle of Black Rock Ale by Tudor Brewery of Llanhilleth, Wales. Black Rock was 5.6% alcohol by volume, with a best before date of September 2013 affixed to the bottle. It is the fourth beer sampled from this brewery.

First note: there is some sort of dried sludge visible inside the neck of the brown bottle...not attractive, but this seems to be characteristic of Tudor's beers and doesn't seem to harm them in any way.

Black Rock  poured an opaque black/brown colour, with an aggressive pour producing about 1.5" of bubbly cream coloured head. The head lasted for about 3 minutes before it disappeared, leaving some minimal spotting down the glass as it receded. The beer's aroma was all dark malts, slightly sweet with distinct coffee notes. It's taste began with a malt sweetness up front, transitioning after a couple of seconds to a bold, dark coffee taste with a mild bitterness, both of which lingered as an aftertaste. Black Rock's carbonation was quite mild and well suited to the beer, and I would describe it as medium bodied with a slightly creamy mouth feel.

In summary, a relatively straightforward, flavourful ale and easily the best of the four Tudor beers tried to date. I see on the company's web site that Black Rock retails for GBP 3.00...perhaps a bit pricey by Canadian standards, but most things in the UK are.

Rating 7.95/10

A gift from one of his travelling fans, Bucky sampled a bottle of Tudor Brewery's Skirrid beer from Abergavenny, Wales. Skirrid came in a brown 500ml bottle with a best before date of May 2013, and was 4.2% alcohol by volume.

Opening the bottle revealed a caramel coloured mushy residue on the lip of the bottle...no idea what this means for the coming experience. Skirrid poured a cloudy dark amber colour, with a very aggressive pour producing 1/2" of off-white head that disappeared in a hurry, leaving no spotting or lacing down the glass. Its aroma was primarily of green apples, with a slightly funky smell lurking in the background. The flavour began with a caramel malt and green apple sweetness, and ended with a slightly bitter finish that lingered for just a while as an aftertaste. Its mouthfeel was quite dry, and the carbonation could definitely be felt on the tongue, but didn't cross the line into prickly. With the exception of that funky background smell that I can't quite pin down, this is quite a nice, refreshing beer. Luckily the funk didn't carry over into the taste. Looking at the company's web site, Skirrid sells for GBP 2.50 per 500 ml bottle.

Rating 7.10/10

The third of Tudor Brewery's beers, Blorenge Golden Ale ("Blorenge") came in a brown 500 ml bottle with a best before date of June 13, 2013. It was 3.8% alcohol by volume and was purchased for GBP 3.00 in Abergavenny, Wales by one of Bucky's roaming beer minions. I understand that the brewery has now relocated to Unit 1, Llanhilleth Industrial Estate, in Llanhilleth, near Abertillery.

On opening, a dark brown sludge was visible around the lip of the bottle. Normally this would be a bit disturbing, but I've encountered it with Tudor's beers before and it was completely harmless. Blorenge poured a hazy golden/yellow colour, taking on more of the golden hue when backlit. An aggressive pour produced approximately 1.5" of ivory white head which lasted for about 4 minutes, leaving a respectable amount of lacing down the glass as it receded. Even through the haze, a strong, steady stream of fine bubbles was visible, and some particulates were also visible given that this is a bottle aged beer. The beer's aroma was subdued, with unidentifiable light fruits and a slightly funky yeast aroma detectable. The taste began with a sweet orange flavour, was followed by a distinct drying sensation in the mouth and a bitter grapefruit finish and aftertaste. Oddly enough, the taste reminds me somewhat of a Canadian west coast IPA. Blorenge's carbonation was quite active but well suited to the beer, and I would describe it as light bodied. Like the previous beers that I have reviewed from Tudor, Blorenge falls into the respectable but not really memorable category. I wouldn't turn one down, but I wouldn't actively seek it out either. Dydd Gwyl Dewi hapus!

Rating 7.05/10

A relative of Bucky's recently brought him back a 500 ml bottle of "Sugarloaf", brewed by Tudor Brewery in Abergavenny, Wales. Sugarloaf was 4.7% alcohol by volume with no best before date on the bottle, despite provision on the label for such a date. Tudor Brewery is a family run microbrewery, with its beers named after the three mountains that border Abergavenny. The beer retails in Wales for GBP 2.75 per bottle.

Sugarloaf poured a slightly hazy brown/orange colour with the orange becoming more noticeable when backlit. Despite the haze, a steady stream of fast rising bubbles was visible. An aggressive pour produced 1/2" of very short-lived white head which left no spotting or lacing down the glass. Even the collar of foam into which the head resolved itself was gone within 5 minutes.

Sugarloaf's aroma was of toasted malts, wood smoke and hops. The taste began with a slightly sweet toasted malt flavour, followed by wood smoke, nuts, and a dry, mildly bitter finish. A slightly Smokey/bitter aftertaste lingered for a few seconds...a bit more complex than I was expecting. Carbonation was certainly on the light side, which contributed to a bit of a thin mouthfeel, and Bucky would describe the beer as light/medium bodied. Overall,a decent brew, Bucky's biggest complaint being its poor head retention.

Rating 7.00/10

Banana Bread Beer...when Bucky saw the label on this bottle he had to give it a try. Banana Bread Beer ("BBB") is brewed by Wells and Young's Brewing Company Limited of Bedford, England, is 5.2% alcohol by volume and comes in a clear, 500 ml bottle. A best before date of  February 5, 2014 was printed on the neck of the bottle.

Wells & Young's was formed in October 2006 with the merger of the brewing operations of Charles Wells Ltd. and Young's Brewery. Charles Wells initially had a 60% stake and Young's 40%. In 2011, Charles Wells took full control when it bought Young's 40% stake. Wells & Young's is now responsible for brewing, distributing and marketing Charles Wells' and Young & Co's brands at the Eagle Brewery in  Bedford. At the beginning of 2007, Wells and Young's made its first big investment and bought the Courage brands which include Courage Best and Courage Directors. As well as brewing their own brands, the brewery contract brews other beers including Kirin Ichiban and Estrella Damm.

BBB poured a clear, attractive dark amber colour, and a very aggressive pour was needed to produce 1" of short-lived white head. The head quickly faded to a collar of foam and thin film, which left very little spotting and no lacing down the glass. Its aroma was just as advertised...sweet banana bread, with just a touch of spicy hops. The beer's flavour isn't much of anything up front...some faint sweet malt, but the sweet bananas and sugar soon kick in to save the day, followed by a very mild hop bitterness in the finish. The mild bitterness lingers for a few seconds as an aftertaste and provides some balance to the beer's overall sweetness. BBB is softly carbonated, is light bodied, and sadly has a watery mouthfeel. All in all, a decent drinking experience but the poor head retention and thin mouthfeel knock the beer down a couple of notches. BBB sells for $3.50 per 500 ml bottle.

Rating 6.50/10

Wychwood Brewery is located in the town of Witney, Oxfordshire in England.The brewery is sited at the old Eagle Maltings, built in 1841 to malt barley for John William Clinch's brewery. In 1961 Courage bought Clinch's for its network of pubs, but closed down the brewery. In 1983, the original Clinch's Brewery site was purchased by Paddy Glenny who named the brewing company Glenny Brewery. Chris Moss took over the business after Paddy Glenny moved away, and in 1990 the Eagle was renamed the Wychwood Brewery after the ancient Wychwood Forest which borders Witney. The brewery was acquired by Refresh UK in the spring of 2002. Wychwood is known for its intricate, fantasy-based label artwork, inspired by the myths and legends surrounding the ancient Wych Wood Forest, and is the UK's largest brewer of organic ales.

Bucky picked up a 500 ml bottle of Wychwood's Bah Humbug Christmas Cheer ("Humbug") from his local LCBO, which was 5.0% alcohol by volume and stamped with a best before date of Sep 1, 2013. Notice the glass-embossed witches on the bottle!

Humbug poured a slightly hazy dark caramel colour with a layer of larger bubbles visibly trapped below the head. The 1.5" head was a yellow tinted off-white colour, and lasted for about 4 minutes leaving some modest lacing and spotting down the glass as it retreated. Initially, Humbug's aroma was fairly subdued, but as the beer warmed a sweet, ripe banana dominated the aromas, with cinnamon and other unidentified spices noticeable. Like the aroma, as the beer warmed, ripe bananas dominated the taste, followed by notes of cinnamon and raisins, and finishing with a very mild bitterness that lingered for a few seconds after swallowing. The slightly bitter finish was a good counter to the original sweetness coming from the malts and fruits. I found the beer to be fairly light bodied with an appropriate level of carbonation. Overall, a tasty, enjoyable beer and quite reasonably priced at $3.50 per 500 ml bottle.

Rating 7.85/10

On the shelves of his local liquor store Bucky spotted a can of Innis & Gunn Original Oak Aged Beer ("Oak') and had to give it a try. Oak came in a 500 ml can with a "best before" date of May '14, and was 6.6% alcohol by volume.

Innis & Gunn is a specialist independent brewer based in Edinburgh, Scotland and has been in business since 2003. The business has been family owned since a 2008 buy-out of its original part-owners, William Grant and Sons. According to the brewery's website, the beer was originally developed as a way of flavouring the barrels used by distiller William Grant for its ale cask reserve whisky. The original plan was for the beer to be discarded after it had flavoured the barrel, but the brewers noted that the process had a positive effect on the beer and that discarding beer would be an act of blasphemy regardless. Aging the beer therefore became an end in itself.

Oak poured a clear, dark amber colour with plenty of visible carbonation bubbles. Pouring produced about 1/2" of off-white head that very quickly burned itself out, leaving some minor spotting down the glass. Its aroma was primarily of oak aged liquor, with notes of caramel malt, hops, and as the beer warmed a faint hint of sweet overripe bananas...very nice. Its taste began with sweet light malts, followed by oak aged liquor, with a very mild hop bitterness in the finish. Again, as the beer warmed, there seemed to be just a hint of very ripe banana in the flavour. The mild bitterness lingered for just a few seconds an as aftertaste. I found the level of carbonation to be relatively low, which did not detract from the beer, and a drying finish. I would describe the beer as medium bodied.

Though I haven't sampled a lot of oak aged beers, this is the best to date. All in all, a solid brew, my only complaint being its relatively poor head retention. Oak sells for $2.95 per 500 ml can.

Rating 8.01/10

Kindly sent by J.L., Bucky sampled a 500 ml bottle of Conwy Brewery's Honey Fayre Ale ("HFA"), with a best before date of August 27, 2014 printed on the rear label. HFA was 4.5% alcohol by volume.

Conwy Brewery recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, and is now located at new premises in Llysfaen, Conwy, Wales.

HFA poured a hazy golden amber colour, producing about 1" of yellow tinged, off-white head. The head disappeared within a couple of minutes, leaving no spotting or lacing down the glass. Its aroma was dominated by honey, with hop undertones. I love it when beers with 'honey' in the name actually smell and taste like honey...because too many don't! The flavour was sweet honey right up front, followed by a hint of lemon and a very mild dry, bitter finish. Carbonation level was well suited to the beer, which was light bodied. My only complaint would be the beer's rather thin mouthfeel. If Conwy could heft this up a bit, I think they'd have a very nice beer on their hands.

Looking forward to trying the other two of Conwy's beers that I have in the fridge.

Rating 7.15/10

Thanks again to J.L. for sending this beer across the water. Bucky sampled a 500 ml bottle of Bleddyn 1075 ("Bleddyn") from The Celt Experience Brewery in Caerphilly, Wales. The beer had a "best before" date of July 1, 2014 printed on the rear label, just below an interesting historical blurb on Bleddyn ap Cynfyn, ruler of Gwynedd and Powys who died in 1075. Bleddyn was 5.6% alcohol by volume and billed as an India Pale Ale.

Bleddyn poured a cloudy amber colour with about 1" inch of off-white, yellow tinged foam. The head lasted for several minutes before fading to a thin cap, leaving behind some modest lacing as it retreated. Its aroma was very hoppy and dominated by grapefruit, with sweet malt undertones. Bleddyn's taste very much mirrored its aroma, with a mild light malt sweetness up front, which quickly gave way to a bitter grapefruit that intensified after swallowing, and lingered for a long time as an aftertaste. The beer was very lightly carbonated, and light to medium bodied with a crisp mouth feel. In summary, a well crafted beer, just not suited to my personal taste with its lingering grapefruit bitterness. Though billed as an I.P.A., Bleddyn reminded me more of its American cousin, the A.P.A. Taking a look at the brewery's website, I like the sound of their 'Ash' Imperial Porter and look forward to giving it a try one day. 

Rating 6.80/10

Thanks again to J.L., Bucky sampled Conwy Brewery's Celebration Ale ("Celebration"). Celebration came in a brown, 500 ml bottle, was 4.2% alcohol by volume and had a "best before" date of April 22, 2014 printed on the label.

Celebration poured a cloudy amber colour and produced about 1.5" of creamy, light beige coloured head. The head faded to a thin cap of foam within about 5 minutes, leaving plenty of attractive lacing all the way down the glass. Its aroma was dominated by grapefruit, with undertones of sweet malt. The beer's flavour began with an immediate grapefruit bitterness, which was almost immediately neutralized by sweet caramel malts. The malts held the bitter grapefruit in check for a few seconds, but the bitterness reasserted itself in the finish and lingered on as an aftertaste. Celebration had a relatively low level of carbonation and a creamy mouthfeel, and I would describe it as light/medium bodied. Overall, another respectable Welsh cottage brew which is worth a try if you come across it...assuming of course that you like the hop-inspired bitter citrus tastes.

Rating 7.55/10

Impressed enough by Wychwood Brewery's 'Bah Humbug Christmas Cheer' to try another of their brews, Bucky picked up a bottle of their Wychcraft Blonde Beer. Wychcraft came in a brown 500 ml bottle with a best before date of August 31, 2014 printed on the rear label. Wychcraft was 4.5% alcohol by volume. I'm half expecting a bit of a hop bomb here since the label says "thrice hopped for flavour".

Wychcraft poured a fairly clear golden colour with lots of small carbonation bubbles visible. Pouring produced about 1" of fluffy white head that had good staying power. It eventually faded to a thin cap of foam that lasted all through the beer, leaving some minor lacing and spotting down the glass. Its aroma was primarily of limes, with just a hint of skunkiness to the beer. Thankfully that touch of skunk did not extend to the flavour. The beer tasted of sweetened limes up front, and just when the sweetness threatened to become a bit too much, a mild bitterness in the finish cancelled it out, the whole thing reminding me a bit of key lime pie. The bitterness lingered as an aftertaste but was quite mild as opposed to a hop bomb. Wychcraft had a soft carbonation...a bit surprising given the quantity of visible bubbles, and was light to medium bodied with a creamy mouthfeel. All in all, another respectable beer from the folks at Wychwood, and selling for $3.45 per 500 ml bottle.

Rating 7.65/10

Having seen this beer on the shelves of his local beer store many times before, Bucky finally gave in to the promise of “Pure Luxury” on the label and picked up a 500 ml bottle. Young's Double Chocolate Stout (“DCS”) was 5.2% alcohol by volume, with a best before date of February 27, 2015 printed on the bottle's neck. It is brewed by Wells & Young's Brewing Co. Ltd.

DCS poured a deep chestnut brown colour with about 2” of tan coloured head that was both creamy and bubbly. The head lasted for several minutes before receding to a collar and thin film of foam, leaving a respectable amount of lacing in its wake. Its aroma was a bit on the tame side, but notes of baker's chocolate, European chocolate and dark roasted coffee were discernible. The beer's taste was heavy on unsweetened chocolate, with more modest tones of dark roasted malt and coffee, with a mildly bitter finish that hung around as an aftertaste. The beer bills itself as “not too sweet”, but I think that a little bit of sweetness would have helped its cause. The soft carbonation was typical of a stout, and I would describe the beer as medium bodied with a bit of a dry, chalky mouth feel. Overall quite drinkable, but somewhat short on the promise of “Pure Luxury”. DCS sells for $3.50 per 500 ml bottle in the People's Republic of Ontario.

Rating 7.25/10

Since Thornbridge's Jaipur and Kipling were solid brews, Bucky went to the well one more time, sampling a 500 ml bottle of their Halcyon Imperial IPA. Halcyon was 7.4% alcohol by volume with a ‘best before' date of  March 20, 2015 printed on the rear label.

Halcyon poured a slightly hazy golden blonde colour, with some visible carbonation bubbles and many suspended fine white particulates that reminded me of Sea Monkeys. Pouring produced 2” of foamy white head that faded steadily over the next 5 minutes into an uneven cap and collar, strangely enough leaving some nice lacing down only the bottom half of the glass. Its aroma was dominated primarily by grapefruit, but with some sweeter fruit and caramel notes in play. Halcyon's flavour began with a sweet, malty note, quickly overpowered by a distinct bitter grapefruit that was mitigated by some sweeter, light fruit flavours. Alas the grapefruit dominated the other sweeter fruit notes so that I really couldn't identify them individually. The grapefruit bitterness lingered as an aftertaste. Medium bodied with a mellow carbonation that suited the beer well and a smooth mouth feel, Thornbridge is now 3 for 3 in producing respectable beers. Selling for $5.25 per 500 ml bottle at the time of writing.

Rating 7.75/10

From yet another of Bucky's roaming minions comes Tomos Watkin's Cwrw Braf (Lovely  Beer) from Swansea in South Wales. 4.2% alcohol by volume in a 500 ml brown bottle, and a ‘best before' date of January 2015.

Cwrw Braf poured a vey clear deep amber/oxidized copper colour with some visible carbonation bubbles. A slightly over-aggressive pour on Bucky's part produced about 2” of bubbly off-white head which lasted for about 3 minutes before retreating to a collar and irregular blob of foam floating in the centre of the glass. The foam left some modest, but attractive lacing down the glass. Its aroma was a combination of hops, a dominant caramel sweetness, and chocolate. The taste very much followed the nose with sweet caramel malt up front, proceeded by milk chocolate, with a slightly bitter finish that lingered as an aftertaste. The chocolate taste stands out for me since it's usually associated with much darker beers. Cwrw Braf had a mellow carbonation with a smooth and slightly slick mouth feel, and was light to medium bodied. Overall this is the best Welsh beer that I've had in quite some time. Selling for £1.95 at the time of writing.

Rating 7.98/10

Another beer brought home by a couple of Bucky's roaming minions, Manns Brown Ale has been brewed since 1902 and is currently produced by Marston's PLC of Wolverhampton, England. A slender 2.8% alcohol by volume in a 275 ml bottle with a best before date of October 31, 2015. Bucky used to enjoy this beer in his younger days, but hasn't had one for many moons. Would it stand the test of time?

Manns Brown Ale (“MBA”) poured a cola black with ruby highlights when backlit, with about 1” of beige coloured head which stuck around for about 5 minutes before fading into oblivion. It did leave some modest lacing and spotting down the glass. Its aroma was a combination of caramel and dark roast coffee. The taste began with a sweet caramel and molasses mix, followed by dark roast coffee and just the slightest hint of bitterness in the finish. It does indeed stand the test of time! Light bodied with the very light carbonation usually characteristic of a cask ale, the beer had a modestly weak (but not watery) mouthfeel. A bit more carbonation wouldn't go amiss here. Bucky has to ask the people at Marston's though…what's with the undersized bottle? This would be a brew well suited to those who like to drink dark ales in the summer time.

Rating 7.92/10

Thanks to his roaming minions, Bucky was able to sample a 500 ml bottle of Comeragh Challenger Irish Bitter (“CCIB”) from the Dungarvan Brewing Company of Waterford, Ireland. ‘Best Before' date of September 2016, and 3.8% alcohol by volume.

CCIB poured a hazy amber colour with quite a few visible particulates settling in the bottom of the glass. Pouring produced about 1” of fluffy white head with good staying power, eventually fading to a 1/8” cap of foam which left some attractive lacing down the glass. The aroma was of grainy malts with a bit of lemon citrus in the mix. The taste was slightly sweet up front produced by the grainy malts, followed by lemon and a mildly bitter finish that lingered for a few seconds, but did not overstay its welcome. Leaning toward the medium side of light-medium bodied, CCIB seems a bit heftier than its 3.8% ABV would suggest, and had a moderate carbonation with a soft mouthfeel. Overall, a respectable summer brew.

Rating: 7.00 / 10

 

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