Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Back to it

Things have been quiet in the Black Cat Brewery. A spell of exam preparation put pay to much activity - a similar thing happened last May when I had another round of exams to do. Happily they are all over now and all going well I should pick up a diploma in brewing science in the near future that I plan to conjure into a masters degree with a little more writing and research but thankfully no more written exams.

During this quiet spell I sustained myself on a number of German lagers that I picked up from the German discount stores. These were easy drinking, in small measures which helped with keeping a clear head and also suited the scorching weather Ireland was blessed with over the last few weekends that always seems to arrive when students are locked away in dark rooms . Boak and Bailey preempted my thoughts on hop extract last week with a post mirroring my attitude to the ubiquitous use of hop extract in German beers. I can't say I tasted anything too bad in these beers - the malt tended to more than make up for the lack of hop character because it is invariably quite satisfying, but its use does smack of a certain industrialisation in the brewing process which is something I like to avoid whenever possible. Still, they more than did the job over the last few weeks and I will continue to keep a few stashed in the fridge for easy drinking.

Two beers of note that broke the mould of my Continental lager frenzy were Fuller's Chiswick Bitter and Young's Bitter. I have waited quite some time for these to turn up in Ireland, the anticipation was ratcheted somewhat over the last few weeks by the promises of off license owners who spoke of an imminent influx of English ale, which never seemed to materialise. Eventually they arrived, but I'm not certain they were worth the wait. Fuller's Bitter is very promising on the nose; all ESB and Pride and just asking to be gulped, which I did, only to be met with a thin and slightly metallic body. Some nice crisp English hops made up for some of the lack of body but overall it was disappointing. I know, I know it's only 3.5% and by now most of you know how much I love this sort of beer, but it is entirely possible to have this little alcohol and have a bit of padding in the beer. The funny thing about drinking this beer is the way it outlined the degree of conditioning I have undergone while drinking Fuller's ESB and London Pride. Each time I brought the glass to my mouth and got a whiff of that unmistakable Fuller's aroma I was tricked into thinking it was going to be something special, but was let down each time. It was quite demoralising by the last mouthful.

The Young's was a little better, and stronger in the bottle form. I recall having a few pints last year and enjoyed every last drop of its 3.5% incarnation on cask. From the bottle it is live and lacks the hops in the Fuller's. The extra malt gives a fuller body and makes it more satisfying, but I enjoyed it more from cask. Is this always the story with bottle versions of iconic cask ales? It seems like that to me most of the time, but perhaps it should be borne in mind that the beers were brewed to be served from cask and perhaps will never fair well in the bottle when compared the cask. Young's beefed up their bitter for bottle perhaps in the hope of making it better suited to this from of serving and it certainly does give a better show than the unadulterated Chiswick Bitter. I'd certainly have the Young's again but the Fuller's may well be ignored the next time I drop by the off license.

8 comments:

The Beer Nut said...

Agree with you on the disappointing nature of bottled Young's Bitter compared to the cask, but I thought cask Chiswick Bitter was poor and am in no rush at all to try that bottled.

My moustache also twitches at the notion of referring to bottled pale ales as "bitter". I'll grant that this is an acceptable moniker for the draught version, as the history of the drinker dubbing it thus is a long one. But bottles of the same beers have always been labelled with what the brewery called them in-house: "pale ale".

I've a good mind to write to my MP.

Thom said...

I had a third of Chiswick Bitter last year at the GBBF and wasn't too fussed, but I thought a third of a pint insufficient to judge it so grabbed a bottle.

I forgot completely about the nomenclature around bitters and pale ales. It has been quite some time since any bottled bitters/pale ales turned up around these parts.

Oblivious said...

Redmonds have summer lighting another pale ale/bitter

Bailey said...

In a properly quality controlled Fuller's pub (one of their flagship ones like, say, the Jugged Hare on Vauxhall Bridge Road) Chiswick can be astounding, but its appeal is floweriness and freshness, neither of which qualities are good at surviving bottling or beer festivals.

Thom said...

I have heard about how good Chiswick Bitter can be in the right pub. I hope to try some in the near future.

The Beer Nut said...

Well just to be a whiney little boy about the whole thing, I tasted Chiswick at the Mad Bishop & Bear and I'd have thought that would count as a properly quality-controlled pub.

Bailey said...

Beer Nut -- yes, you're right, the MB&B is as almost good as it gets in terms of Fuller's beer quality. If you didn't like it there (unless there was something funny going on) you won't like it anywhere.

Leigh said...

I am partial to a pint of Chiswick - although I suspect some of its popularity may be to do with Micheal Jackson's championing of it. Would try it bottled, so its a shame that the body seems lacking in the bottled version. Young's Special London Ale is one of my faves.