regrettably (or mercifully), 2012 beer bites is not a series of 2,012 separate pieces of information regarding pubs and real ale. Instead its just a title, which I have used before, that has been adapted slightly. So don't panic, you do have time to read this post.
So, here are my reviews of two of my Christmas beer bottle selection this year.
Brewery : Dunham Massey, Cheshire
Name : Milk Stout
Strength : 4.0%
BCA/none BCA? : BCA.
Purchased : Dunham Massey brewery shop.
Here is the beer pictured modelling my rather fetching retro Tolly glass that I was kindly given by the Rutland in Sheffield - cheers gents. Alas the bottle pic did not make it....
Colour : Jet black, with a thin white head
Carbonation/Pouring : low, poured flat, with some latter bubbles joining the head, however the lack of carbonation was a benefit as excessive fizz disturbs the yeast sediment.
Aroma : Oh dear.
I had smelt the particular aroma that greeted me on opening the bottle, and then on pouring into the glass, before. It was the rank smell of sour beer and nasty yeast. Dear god, I thought, here I am about to review a beer, a bottle conditioned one at that, and from a brewery I reckon have nailed bottle conditioning, and its only gone and been orf! I sighed whilst looking at the "CAMRA says this is real ale" logo and remembered disconsolately how many times that sticker adhered to the label of a bottle of undrinkable filth, and how bad that was for real ale, and how I would have to solemnlyy concede to Wee Keefy that even a brewery I rated had got it wrong, and then I had a sip. And it was fine.
Taste : somehow the first swig, despite the smell, tasted of dark beer, and in the second, somehow that initial grimace making aroma was gone. Now almost all I could smell was roast malt.
The main flavour that hits you is a very ascorbic dry roast malt, like a much meatier stout than one you might find labelled milk stout (the milk, of course, is just lactose but it still usually renders the stout sweet). In the second taste the roast malt gives way to a light creaminess, before a further wave or roast malt bitterness comes through.
As you take more slakes there is a strange but by no means unpleasant lemon sherbets fizz in the mix, I wondered if this might be the sweetness of the lactose fighting through the roast malts. The beer is described on the label as a sweet stout but, it certainly isn't that, which is maybe to its credit.
Head retention - the head is very thin and very quickly moves to the edge of the glass and slips slowly lower with the beer, leaving no trace on the glass, and looking not unlike a thin halo of white icing that hasn't separated from the cake.
WBrating : 6.5
Loses points for scaring off less trusting drinkers with its initial aroma, and for being, although nice, not much like it claims to be.
Beer number 2:
Brewery : Tatton brewery company, Cheshire
Name : Ale
Strength : 3.7%
BCA/none BCA? : none.
Purchased - Tatton brewery shop
Colour : dark varnished wood, virtually red, with a lustrous frothy head.
Carbonation/Pouring : very lively if not well chilled, however the beer does settle down quickly allowing you to enjoy mostly burp free beer. The carbonation does remain throughout however.
Aroma : strangely, almost no malt or hops, just subtle spice, apples and grapefruit.
Taste : Grapefruit, and biscuity malt hit you initially with a long dry fizzy hop finish. Its startlingly snappy for a lower gravity ale, and although the bitterness is warmed by malt in the background it still has a very pleasing bite, albeit more traditional English than Nelson Sauvin as is often found in bitter beer these days.
The second taste is even more bitter, but its tamed by a sweeter flavour perhaps the malt. As you continue drinking, the long bitter grapefruit finish seems to increase its bite. The beer would probably lose its sharpness if chilled so make sure you serve it at room temperature. Despite my attention being drawn by the bitterness its not unpleasant or overpowering and is a very well balanced beer overall.
Head retention - the head is quite large, possibly a temperature issue, but it follows the beer loyally down the glass leaving sparkling white trails behind it, and remains sat in the middle as well as round the edges to the bottom of the glass, which is pleasing on the eye.
WBrating : 8.5
Gains extra points for being far more astringent and packing in much more flavour than the ABV suggests.