Potton’s Village Bike claims to be a multi award-winning bitter from Bedfordshire so I was expecting great things and to be honest, I was a little disappointed. This 4.3% ABV ‘Premium Ale’ is a light amber colour when poured with a thin head that dissipates very quickly. The aroma is floral and slightly fresh – to my mind a little like elderflower. The taste is quite disappointing. As bitters go, this is very mild, biscuity, and lacking in a great deal of character. It’s also quite flat – the epitome of those beers that used to be sold as ‘real ale’ in pubs owned by large national breweries. Not my cup of tea, I’m afraid. Sorry!
Thwaites Frothy Moth is a light amber ale with a thin white head that is surprisingly long lasting. It’s something of a mystery as it doesn’t seem to be listed on the Thwaites website, so I’ve no idea what Thwaites thinks of it! The aroma is floral, hoppy and a little spicy, and the taste is mild, slightly fruity and with only the merest after taste of bitter. At 4% ABV, it would be a fine session ale, though I drank it as an accompanimemt to home-cooked trout with toasted almonds and lemon.
Thwaites Nutty Black says that it’s a curiously dark beer, and yes, it’s dark, though I’m unsure how curious it is! It’s a deep, deep red colour with a light tan head that lasts well. The aroma is slighty nutty, though this is not too pornounced. The flavour isn’t too heavy for such a dark beer: malty and slightly liquorice, and this flavour lasts well. To be honest, this beer might be one of just four that have been named as Champion Beer of Britain twice, but I find it really hard to describe how it is distinctive (and this is the second time that I have tried to review Nutty Black, having given up once before). This 3.9% ABV bottle-conditioned ale would go well with something like a treacle sponge pudding or any other similar sweet and robust hot dessert.
Manchester Bitter is a straw-coloured bottle-conditioned ale with a strong head and a strongly floral aroma. While there’s a very fleeting hint of honey at first taste, the predominant flavour is dry, hoppy bitterness. It’s a refreshingly diffferent ale that is uncompromising on taste among a forest of ‘me too’ ales that offer little to upset the majority of beer drinkers. I’m not sure that I’d want to drink this 4.2% ABV ale all evening, but it’s good to try something that’s genuinely not run of the mill.
Hook Norton’s Old Hooky (4.6% ABV) is allegedly one of the 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die. It’s a really rich deep copper colour and the head, though not as creamy as some beers, does last very well. There’s something in this beer for everyone and this is reflected in the aroma: it’s a subtle mixture of malt, biscuit and fruit. The flavour is well-rounded and deep, with strong malt at first giving way in part to orange: not sweet, but certainly not bitter either. This is a very accomplished beer that deserves to be savoured, and probably not with food.
Bath Ales’ Gem is an amber ale that is genuinely amber. There’s the smallest of sighs as the top is removed, and the deep amber liquid is topped by a short-lived head. The aroma is very light and slightly hoppy and the taste is malty but not overly rich, and resolves into the mildest bitter sweet flavour, which, if it reminds me of anything, reminds me of that sweet yeasty aroma emitting from a brewery in Belgium that I remember from childhood. Although described as a bitter, this is much too mild for my taste to really be a bitter, though at 4.8% ABV this would make a great session ale.
This is another ale that I’m returning to, having previously reviewed it less than fully, though this is possibly the last time that I’ll be able to review Chiltern Brewery’s Anniversary Ale. It’s a limited edition beer, brewed in 2010 to mark the 30th anniversary of the first Chiltern Ale from the eponymous brewery, bought from a local supplier long since gone.
It claims to be a ‘champagne ale’, and the first impression is of a champagne shaped bottle that opens with a satisfying pop as a result of the plastic stopper beneath the conventional cap. The ale is obviously rather darker than champagne (a sparkling amber colour), and the aroma is floral with undertones of caramel. The head lasts extremely well, and, whether because of the age of beer or deliberately, needs to be poured with care because of the sediment that has accumulated at the bottom of the bottle. The first sip of this 6.1% ABV ale is also reminiscent of a champagne, a little biscuity with a very slightly dry and bitter flavour, but this is once again followed the sweeter notes of caramel and biscuit.
This is a very accomplished ale that absolutely stands up to the ‘champagne’ label, needs to be savoured without the distraction of food, and is an wonderfully appropriate way to celebrate a significant brewing heritage at Chiltern Brewery.