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10 Superior Ales of The British Isles

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 

 

By. Margcata

 

Are there any ale drinkers on line ? Could we have some input on your faves ?

 

An ale is a beverage which resembles a beer, however, it is usually produced with fermented malt and flavored with hops. Hops are the dried fruit of a climbing herb variety used to flavor beers, ales and other liquid refreshments. Here are my tasting notes on 10

of the Ales I had tasted on my last trip to the U.K.

 

1) Bass Pale Ale, England:  this well known brew is malty with well balanced flavours and a lovely pale blonde color.

 

2) Mac Andrew´s Scottish Ale, Caledonian Brewery, Scotland: this is an aromatic, smokey, spicy ale.

 

3) Mc Ewan´s Scottish Ale, Scotland:  a dark ale which is rich and semi sweet with notes of molasses and fruit.  

 

4) New Castle Brown Ale, England: a nice spicy ale with malt notes and fresh crisp finish.

 

5) Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale, England: This Yorkshire toasty, smokey ale is lively and flavorful.

 

6)  Theakston Old Pecuiler, Yorkshire produces a lush, toasty and lovely ale with a long finish.

 

7) Thomas Hardy´s Ale, Dorset, England: This ale is named after a famous writer and is bottled with natural yeast, is complex, dark and Port like in qualities.

 

8) Traquair  House Ale, Scotland: Produced on a historic estate that was once the home of Bonnie Prince Charlie. This ale is earthy and has notes of the hop herb.

 

9) Welsh Ale Felinfoel Brewery, Wales: full of spice and a lightly bitter finish.

 

10) Whitbread Traditional Parkale, England: This ale possesses a fine structure and balance and is refreshing.


Edited by margcata - 12/7/11 at 10:02am
post #2 of 20

I don't drink any beer, I simply don't like the taste - however, here are my observations on your post:

 

McEwans?

 

Most discerning Scottish beer drinkers wouldn't touch it with a bargepole.  Deuchars 80 shilling is vastly superior, ditto Skull Splitter. Innes & Gunn and many, many others.

 

That would be NewkieBroon, as it is known locally, or NewCASTLE (note, all one word - after the City from whence it comes) brown ale.

 

Traquair House was always the  house of a cadet branch of the Stewarts, not the 'wee Italian', aka BPC.  They WERE a Jacobite family.

 

post #3 of 20
Thread Starter 

 

Firstly, since I am a licensed Sommelier, and I was working on my Sommelier´s Certification at that time, I had gone to The British Isles primarily to serve on a Tasting Panel ( verses drinking the ales, as I too, do not care for the aromas of beer nor ale, nor lager nor stout; however Sommeliers do not drink the sample glasses. We evaluate the color, aromas, 1st taste, after taste etectra on many beverages and chocolate as well ... ) for my Thesis.

 

Like wines, ales, beers, lagers, stouts, whiskies, gins, vodkas etcetra --- all have Sommeliers taste test them ... We are not the only tasters, as Sommeliers worldwide are asked to evaluate the new brands, new harvests, new annuals ...

 

Here are some of the marks that Scottish Ales received during that annual Tasting Panel:

Innis and Gunn Ale achieved a mark of 6.60 ( one of the highest )

Traquair 4.17

Skull Splitter ( which you had mentioned ) 4.40

Mc Ewans  4.50 

Rail Bender 6.80

 

The other ale you mentioned Dechaurs 80 was rated 59 out of 100 and this Brewery ( firm ) is believed to have merged this past year for gain in market share. It is not always niche quality products that gain in these events, it is majority. Just or injust.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Edited by margcata - 12/7/11 at 10:30am
post #4 of 20

Are you seriously trying to impress me?

 

You need to proof-read your posts to ensure that when you are trying to instruct us all from your vast knowledge you at least get the details right.

post #5 of 20

 

 

Quote:
An ale is a beverage which resembles a beer, however, it is usually produced with fermented malt and flavored with hops. Hops are the dried fruit of a climbing herb variety used to flavor beers, ales and other liquid refreshments

 

I don't know where to begin with what is wrong with this statement, never mind what is wrong with the whole thread. So, I'll try.

 

First of all, let's do the corrections. An ale is NOT a beverage that resembles beer. Ale is beer. Simple as that. Ale is a bottom fermented beer. (Lager, if that's how you are confusing it, is a top fermented beer.) Fermented malt is a wrong. The sugars from grains (usually malts) are fermented. And beers need not be flavoured by hops as, depending on where hops are used in the boil, hops can be used to either bitter, preserve, or aromatise the beer. Hops, incidentally, are flowers and not dried fruit. Also, while they may give beer a bit of flavour, they are used primarily to give beer its bitterness and its aroma. 

 

 

 

Quote:
Here are my tasting notes on 10 of the Ales I had tasted on my last trip to the U.K

 

Given the list that follows I take umbrage at the title of this thread calling them 'superior ales' when not one of them would, when ranked by someone who knew what they were talking about, make any sort of top ten list.

 

Couple of quick comments on the beers themselves:

 

 

 

Quote:
1) Bass Pale Ale, England:  this well known brew is malty with well balanced flavours and a lovely pale blonde color.

 

Owned by InBev. Therefore Belgian. And InBev is no mark of quality. Consistency, maybe. But that doesn't equate to taste.

 

 

Quote:
2) Mac Andrew´s Scottish Ale, Caledonian Brewery, Scotland: this is an aromatic, smokey, spicy ale.

 

No longer produced. However, it would strange to see anything by Caledonian listed as 'superior'. Their beers are usually disgusting, in the scheme of things. Beers to be avoided. (It's a Heineken brewery.)

 

 

Quote:
3) Mc Ewan´s Scottish Ale, Scotland:  a dark ale which is rich and semi sweet with notes of molasses and fruit.

 

Once again, Heineken owned and not really a showcase of what beer is.

 

 

 

Quote:
4) New Castle Brown Ale, England: a nice spicy ale with malt notes and fresh crisp finish.

 

Newcastle, not New Castle. Another beer that once was good (at least to locals) but has since lost any sense of what it once was due to being Heineken owned and reduced in ingredients.

 

 

 

Quote:
5) Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale, England: This Yorkshire toasty, smokey ale is lively and flavorful.

 

Sam Smith's: stubbornly independent. Nothing wrong there. I may not be a fan. But long may they survive as they do.

 

 

 

Quote:
6)  Theakston Old Pecuiler, Yorkshire produces a lush, toasty and lovely ale with a long finish.

 

Nice dark beer. Little bad I can say about it.

 

 

 

Quote:
7) Thomas Hardy´s Ale, Dorset, England: This ale is named after a famous writer and is bottled with natural yeast, is complex, dark and Port like in qualities.

 

Little I can say about the beer here, having never tried it, but do wonder what the original posted was gibbering about when saying 'natural yeast'.

 

 

 

Quote:
8) Traquair  House Ale, Scotland: Produced on a historic estate that was once the home of Bonnie Prince Charlie. This ale is earthy and has notes of the hop herb.

 

Even the history of Traquair House does not mention this. Ergo it's nonsense. Also, most beers have notes of hops: it's a key ingredient.

 

 

 

Quote:
9) Welsh Ale Felinfoel Brewery, Wales: full of spice and a lightly bitter finish.

 

Nothing much I can say on this one as I've never heard of it and, from what I can see on the brewery's website, they no longer brew it.

 

 

 

Quote:
10) Whitbread Traditional Parkale, England: This ale possesses a fine structure and balance and is refreshing.

 

A fine structure? Er, okay.

 

Margcata, your understanding of beer needs work.

 

Next up: Ishbel:

 

[quote]I don't drink any beer, I simply don't like the taste - however, here are my observations on your post:[/quote]

 

I put it to you, Ishbel, that you just have not found the beer that suits your tastebuds. My girlfriend told me once that she did not like beer and I was to find out that she equated beer with the Heineken lager that was ubiquitous in her home town. Nowadays, she enjoys dark beers like stouts and porters, plus Belgian quadrupels, and beers made by Trappist monks. She doesn't like IPAs, English biters, or the sour lambics exclusive (originally) to Brussels. The point being that there are thousands, if not hundreds-of-thousands beers out there, and to dismiss them all is poor...it's simply a case of asking you which beers you dislike. If you can't answer that, you haven't tried enough.

 

I did laugh as Ishbel's suggestion of 'Deuchars 80 shilling' and of it being 'vastly superior' for two reasons. The first is that Ishbel is confusing (or conflating) both Caledonian Deuchars IPA and Caledonian 80-/ as a single beer and, secondly, because both beers are quite poor. Ask anyone and they will tell you that Deuchars is not what it was ten years ago when it was winning awards. The hops used then are no longer present.

 

Anyway, such nitpicking brings me on to actually talk about what may be the ten superior ales of the British Isles. Any list will always be subject to subjectivity, so one person's list will always be different to another's. Therefore, for all the nonsense of Margcata's post, the list of ten remains valid as it's based on understanding and appreciation. No-one is ultimately right or wrong, although it helps if people know what they are talking about. Here's my current ten (from the UK) although I'm sure anyone else will have ten of their own, equally as valid:

 

  • Fyne Ales Jarl (3.8%)
  • Hawkshead Windermere Pale (3.5%)
  • Millstone Tiger Rut (4%)
  • Brewdog Tokyo* (18.2%)
  • Magic Rock Curious (3.95)
  • West Hefeweizen (5.2%)
  • Dark Star Hophead (3.8%)
  • Dark Star Espresso Stout (4.6%)
  • Tempest Long White Cloud (5.6%)
  • The Kernel 1856 Imperial Brown Stout (10.1%)

 

Ten I like now. Next week, it may be different. Such is the joy of variety.

 

It would be nice to come across people discussing beer with food in a manner that complemented the beer. From this thread alone, I think there's quite a bit of beery education needed.



 


Edited by Mile - 2/12/12 at 6:13pm
post #6 of 20

Miles

Great post - so nice to have real knowledge imparted, rather than a confusion of erroneous facts!

 

I stand corrected about Deuchers - all I know is that in many Edinburgh pubs, a customer says 'Pt of 80 shillin', please' to the bar staff!  As for the 'vastly superior', I have been told that it certainly is in comparison to Scottish&Newcastle's mass produced stuff - but, again, I can only take it as read, as I'd rather stick pins in my eyes than try it!

 

And, I don't think we'll ever agree about me eventually finding a beer that I'd like!  I'm getting on in years now, and I have never smelt a beer I've liked!

post #7 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ishbel View Post

Miles

Great post - so nice to have real knowledge imparted, rather than a confusion of erroneous facts!

Thanks. In the cold light of day I thought I came across as a bit cheeky, But, hey ho.

 

 

 

Quote:

 

And, I don't think we'll ever agree about me eventually finding a beer that I'd like!  I'm getting on in years now, and I have never smelt a beer I've liked!

 

I'm the same for wine, although I've not tried that many. I'm sure that, somewhere out there, there's a wine for me.

 

post #8 of 20

Hard to believe, I know, but there probably IS a wine out there!

 

I worked as a barmaid when I was a University student...    can't tell you how much I hated it when I had pulled a lunch-time shift and entered the student bar at 11.00 am and the STENCH of spilt beer and full swill traps underneath the taps hit my nose.

 

As for coming over as a 'bit cheeky'?  What's worse?  cheek or smugness?!

post #9 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ishbel View Post

I worked as a barmaid when I was a University student...    can't tell you how much I hated it when I had pulled a lunch-time shift and entered the student bar at 11.00 am and the STENCH of spilt beer and full swill traps underneath the taps hit my nose.

 

I can understand the stench of regular lagers. However, I think the beer scene in the UK is developing, following the wave of 'craft beer' from the US. Microbreweries are, for the most part booming and the larger conglomerates are having the ankles of their market share bitten at.

 

In the next ten years I hope we'll see more cooking and pairing of beers with food a la Belgium.
 

 

post #10 of 20
Thread Starter 

 

@ Mile,

 

Good Morning,

 

Firstly, let us clarify here;

 

I had been invited to do a Lager / Beer tasting by a Media Event Group in the U.K. who also work with some famous Chefs, so it was a recommendation contact on both sides.

 

Since I live in The Iberian Peninsula, I opt for the project.

 

I am no expert in beers, as I am a Journalist and a Wine drinker and had worked in the wine sector as well including obtaining a Sommelier´s Certification here in Spain. My paternal Italian grandmom had a Trattoria and thus, wine is a family beverage.

 

UK Project:

 

1) I was asked to sample taste the beers that were  listed in the post; not having any involvement with the Multi Nationals who own or sell their labelled products.

 

So, if a company had sold a product to Heinekin, I would not know this. The Event Media Company would.

 

2) I have never claimed to have a profound knowledge of beers, I did the job I was asked to do.

 

Sample and taste. No more, no less.

 

3) After the sample taste testing, the info was given to me by a major UK Media Press Contact, thus if some of the information, is incorrect, I do apologise, however, that is beyond my control. I do not work in the beer industry, I am a journalist.

 

Pleased that you have corrected some of the details. I have learnt a bit.

 

So, thanks again.

 

Thanks for your post.

Best regards.

Margaux Cintrano.

post #11 of 20

Does it have to be just British ales? The Americans microbreweries are making some good beers these years.

 

Some Personal Favs:

 

Innis and Gunn from Scotland- ale is brewed in Scotch barrels. I get hints of caramel and oak.

 

If you can do American beers I would suggests Dogfish head 60 Minute IPA (very hoppy though)

 

 

Others you may want to consider: Fullers, St. Peters English Ale, Hobgoblin Extra Strong Ale+, Caledonian 80

 

 

post #12 of 20
Thread Starter 

 

@ Brandon Nil,

 

Good Morning,

 

I rec´d ur post and thanks for your input.

 

As you can see from my above post to @ Mile, I was invited by a Media Relations Company to taste test some British ales and I live on the Iberian Peninsula, a 3 hour plane trip. Having a dear Spanish lady friend in London, I opt to taste test 10 + ales --- taste testing is not the same as sipping or drinking. We do not swallow the element being test tasted ...

 

American Beers: I am sure there are some lovely American brews as well as Mexican, German, Belgian, Czek Republic and Irish and most countries produce their own beers. However, I have no plans at the moment to fly to the USA to do a beer testing. Perhaps, since most of the Members of Cheftalk are from the USA, and probably know alot more than I do about beer, could post a general article on the best USA beers and their flavor notes.

 

Have a nice wkend.

Margaux Cintrano  

post #13 of 20

Mile , Ishbel , Gentle Readers 

          Smugness is surely what i have read on this blog? . I found some faults with the original post but the condescending replies were awful.  The individual taste in beer is what gives us variety. Mile you are trying so hard to impress I think you may have spent many hours looking up beer facts and then regurgitated them for us all to read. INBEV does own quite a few beers, but they are still made where the brewery is located. A beer brewed in scotland is still a scotish ale. I am a brewer and I find the knee jerk reaction to macro- brewers to be ill informed. It takes skill and dedication to produce consistent taste over millions of barrels. Skill and equipment

most brewers would love to have.

       If you are into extreme beers great.Do not pretend that they are the be all and end all. Beer is not snobby . Please leave that to the wine experts. We in the beer biz do swallow. We dont spit.

  I see my pint as represnting a quiet pub with simple fare, may be thickly sliced beef on counrty bread,  a fire and good conversation. I can see it as a thirst quencher after mowing the lawn, other times a toast to long passed friends.

    I do not see it as a club to beat a poor soul with. So please go back to ignoring beer the way you have ignored the simple yet effective screw top.                            

current top  british ales FOR ME

 

 fullers esb

 sw1

anything from Samuel Smith

black cat

hobgoblin

youngs

black sheep

 

 

post #14 of 20
Thread Starter 

 

@ Stanton,

 

I wish to take a moment to say, thank you for your support against " negativity " ... even if we do not agree with another member´s thread or post or viewpoint, no need to condemn.

 

We all have a right to our points of view and nobody is perfect. This is a Community, where we can learn many aspects of the beverage and culinary world ...

 

Kind regards and have a nice Sunday.

 

Margcata.

post #15 of 20

Stanton Stout

Just to clarify:  this is not a Blog.

 

The original poster published information that was incorrect.  This was pointed out - and not corrected.

 

Now, whilst you are perfectly at liberty to have your views re beers/stouts etc - so are others here.  As I have said, I am not a beer drinker, do not like the smell or the taste.  However, you are not permitted to insult people - so I've removed your comment at the end of your diatribe.

post #16 of 20

  Ishbel

     My humble apologies. I was looking up Traditional Ales on google and stumbled (No pun intended) into your site. I read what I thought were overly stern comments and added my two cents . It is not my business and my rude comments were wrong. Thank you for removing the most disrespectful ones or I would seem the bigger #ss. Some times I am to quick to mount my white horse. Sorry again , I'll stick to brewing and cooking and leave typing to others

                             Sincerely     T

                                            

post #17 of 20

Apology accepted!

 

Now, I do hope you will return and give us the benefit of your beers/ales knowledge - I'm sure you would have much to bring to the table.

post #18 of 20

I'd just like to add a couple of unmentioned and relatively easy-to-find beers to this thread that are worth trying for anyone interested:

 

- Brakspear Triple

- Adnams Broadside

- Fullers 1845

- Timothy Taylor's Landlord

 

Regarding those already mentioned (this is opinion only):

- Samuel Smith do make excellent beers, but unfortunately the company's business practices (particularly with regard to their tied houses) are in my opinion unethical bordering on illegal, so I won't drink their products any longer

- Young's isn't quite what it was since production moved from London to Bedford

- Black Sheep is v good

- Bass and Newcastle Brown are both very bland

post #19 of 20

Hey margcata - this is a great topic, and I'm so impressed by your descriptions coming from a non-beer drinker!  It'd be awesome if we could finagle a beer and food pairing forum in addition to the wine consideration (=D).

 

I am also a brewer, and actually trained, worked and lived in the UK until quite recently.  I'd love to set a couple details straight, and add my two cents to the pot.

 

Ale and lager are two different names for the same thing; beer.  The difference being that ales use a top-fermenting yeast (ie. it floats on top of the liquid as it ferments) called Saccharomyces cerevisiae - the same stuff you use to make bread!  Lager uses a different species Saccharomyces pastorianus, which is still yeast only it likes to chill out on the bottom of tanks instead of the top.  Beers, in general, tend to be made of hops (which is a flower harvested from perennial vines, related to hemp) and grain malts (germinated and kilned grain - typically barley, but wheat, rye, and oatmeal often make an appearance as well).  Hops give bitterness, shelf life, flavour, and aroma - malt provides sugars (which are fermented into alcohol), flavour, aroma, and sometimes acidity and bitterness as well.  Some very light beers also make use of rice and corn to gain sugar without making the beer darker or altering the flavour profile.  There are plenty of other nifty ingredients used in specialty beers, such as spices, different grains, other herbs or plants, funky bacterial cultures, etc.  But that's the bare bones of the situation.

 

Most of the beers you listed are all on the more commercial side of production, comparable to Coors, Bud, Corona, Stella, etc.  That doesn't make them bad beers, just mainstream (which usually means the extreme flavours are toned down to appeal to a wider range of palates).  Some of the ingredients in beer, even the mass-produced stuff, is sensitive to things like UV, storage temperature, serving method, age, etc. (just like wine!) - what this means is that the 'same' beer will taste differently depending on the context.  Take Guiness for a great example - the dark goodness is best in Dublin, and IMO quality tends to drop incrementally according to the distance from there - same beer, different taste.

 

Your best bet when exploring beers is to try and find a STYLE or two that you enjoy, which will makes the dizzying selection available a little less overwhelming.  For example, if you like chocolate-liquorice flavours, you might enjoy stouts.  If you prefer a more bitter drink, IPA is a good choice.  Light, spicy, and almost citrusy flavours can all be found in many wheat beers.  I have a personal preference for microbrewed products, because they are fresh and local.  However, there are HUNDREDS of micro's in the UK, and many of them don't distribute past a spare few kilometers from their brewhouse.  I'm not going to start listing them, because I have to go to bed soon. =P

 

To put a final wrinkle in things, there is a special type of beer found in many UK pubs called 'real ale' or 'cask ale'.  This is a live product with a very short shelf life, and the cellaring procedures make a huge difference in how it tastes!

 

I hope this helps a bit (maybe?) and please feel free to message me or start a new thread for specific beer recommendations!


Edited by CowtownBrewster - 3/13/12 at 7:25pm
post #20 of 20
Thread Starter 

 

@ Cow Town Brewster,

 

Firstly, thanks for the lovely post.

 

I am a trained Sommelier and Journalist and thus, even if you do not sip something as a personal drink, one can still be " professionally objective " to write about it and its´ aromas and virtues without a biased viewpoint.

 

It would be wonderful since you are a Brewer, to post on a new thread, your views, what is happening in the UK Beer Market etcetra, where to purchase, Suggestions and international pairings. Beers in cooking, for example too.

 

It would be fabulous. I look forward to reading your new threads on the subject. You would be a welcomed positive addition to the threads at this Forum on a subject that I enjoy learning more about. The Funny thing is I enjoy having  Black Beer with Mexican Regional Cuisine.

 

Kindest regards.

Margcata

( Margaux Cintrano. )

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