Top 5 Ales For this Weekend
- Brewer: Wells & Young’s Bewery, Bedford.
- Strength: 4.7%
- Price: £1.69 (Tesco)
Flavour: Bombardier is a smooth and creamy pint. It is dark in appearance and we could taste a lot of malt and hops, but as with most ales on this list we are not looking for super strength and it has a pleasant, quite subtle flavour. It is supposed to taste of citrus and biscuit, and we can sort of see that. Again it is a fairly good drink if you are hosting an event, being strong enough on the alcohol to promote conviviality but light enough to avoid total disaster.
Why we like it: Bombardier is marketed as ‘the taste of England’ and as such we expect it to be available all over Brighton in advance of England Rugby’s latest humiliations in the Six Nations. It tends to be associated with sporting events associated with England teams, so the perfect choice for an afternoon watching England getting thrashed by the once easily beatable Scots and Welsh. We like the fact that the brewery references Victoriana, and enjoy the adverts based on mutton-chopped chaps doing war-like things in the empire. Also that it was popularised by the late, great Rik Mayall.
- Brewer: Hall & Woodhouse, Blandford St. Mary (Dorset).
- Strength: 5.2%
- Price: £2.15 (Tesco)
Flavour: Blandford Flyer has ginger in it, but this is not a ginger ale like Crabbie’s (which we also like) but a proper English ale with the ginger adding zing as an aftertaste rather than being overpowering. This one you should use to surprise guests, as it is not as known as other Badger ales like Tanglefoot or Fursty Ferret. The ginger adds a crisp taste that you don’t get with other ales. It is tasty and refreshing and we love it. Because of the ginger it might not be ideal with food and is best appreciated alone. We think that this one can probably be chilled.
Why we like it: We love Blandford Flyer. We liked it even better when it was called Blandford Fly. Apparently the beer was invented when the locals started putting ginger in their ale to ward off the bite of a disgusting local peril called the Blandford Fly, a bloodsucking beast they only have in Dorset. Whether or not the ginger was effective in combatting the revolting creature we don’t know. Why change the name? The nasty old fly badge was cooler as well.
- Brewer: T&R Theakston, Masham.
- Strength: 5.6%
- Price: £1.69 (Tesco)
Flavour: Although it is not the strongest ale on the list in terms of alcohol, this is probably the only one we would class as a genuinely strong beer in terms of taste. It is so dark it looks black to the colour, and is heavy like Guinness. It is too strong to really be used as an accompaniment for food, and we have added for the daring few who want to leap into advanced ale-quaffing without working their way through the Spitfires and Honeydews.
Why we like it: Old Peculiar is actually a very famous ale. It has won numerous awards and is very well known amongst ale people. This is a heavy, heavy brew and pretty strong, so would normally be for the advanced ale drinker. It is almost black in colour and almost a stout, so you could convincingly get away with serving it on St Patrick’s Day.
Fuller’s Organic Honeydew
- Brewer: Fullers Brewery, Chiswick (London).
- Strength: 5.0%
- Price: £1.29 (Tesco)
Flavour: Another one from London town, Fuller’s had the smart idea of adding honey to ale. We suspect that given ale’s long history in the UK this has been done before, but for us it was pretty new. How does it taste? Like ale but sweeter with a honey aftertaste. Are we surprising anyone with this? As with Blandford Flyer, the honey aftertaste means that you probably shouldn’t serve this with food, although it might do down well after dessert.
Why we like it: The honey means that Honeydew might be a good way into drinking ale for the beginner. The honey sweetness makes it easily drinkable but while it is obscure enough to raise eyebrows around the dinner table, it should still be available in most Brighton supermarkets.
Spitfire Premium Kentish Ale
- Brewer: Shepherd Neame, Faversham.
- Strength: 4.5%
- Price: £1.25 (Tesco)
Flavour: Spitfire is a very easy-to-drink ale like most of our picks. It is not over-strong with a good malty flavour. It is supposed to have fruit and rural flavours – barnyards and so on we suppose. To us it is a pleasant light English ale with a bit of caramel flavour and a slightly bitter aftertaste.
Why we like it: Shepherd Neame claim to be the oldest brewery in the country, brewing being recorded at their Faversham base since 1573. We love the history but this is Britain and brewing ale is an ancient tradition in these parts, so we wouldn’t be surprised if some of these houses have been brewing for a millennia or more. Aside from the history Spitfire is a very famous beer in the UK. It has regional protection like, say, Parma Ham, to appeal to foodies and the brewery’s World War II-style adverts are iconic and amusing to British people. It might appear a little obvious you are feigning an interest in real ale, but as with most ales on this list you can’t really go wrong with it.
Graham is unwell. He will return with more ales when he feels up to it.