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Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Battle of the British (Style) Beers

The Event: The 5th meeting of the Beer Club on January 15th, 2010.
The Place: Gerry and Donna Hudson's
The Mission: To taste and rate a selection of English style beers.
The Judges: Host Gerry Hudson, Ron Harrington, Dan Riley, Herb Clark, Mike Watkins, Hal Moore, and Rick Sherman.

The Contenders:

1. Arcadia English IPA - From Battle Creek, Michigan, weighing in at 5.9% ABV with a 1060 OG and 41 IBU
Arcadia has a nice looking web site and lists 15 brews.

2. Boxing Day Bitter from Middle Ages an English Bitter Ale - From Syracuse, NY, and weighing in at 6% ABV and available only on tap or in growlers. More Middle Ages brews here.

3. Fuller's London Pride, an English Pale Ale -From London, England, weighing in at 4.7 ABV. Fuller's web site is here.

4. Hobgoblin Beer, an English Brown Ale - from Oxfordshire, UK weighing 5.20% ABV.
The Wychwood Brewery web site is pretty cool.

5. Newcastle Brown Ale, an English Brown Ale from Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, UK (part of Heineken International) weighing 4.7 ABV.
Newcastle's site is still under construction, but you can go here and sign up with them for info and updates.

6. St. Peter's IPA, an English India Pale Ale, from St. Peter South Elmham, Bungay, Suffolk, UK - weighing 4.7 ABV.
If you want to check out their site, go here.

7. Tanner's Jack, an English Ale from Morland's Breweries in Abingdon, UK, weighing in at 4.2% ABV.

Greene King is associated with Morland's and Greene King has a web site.

This and That

There was a dramatic shift from the previous tastings, primarily in that there was not a blind taste test at this meeting. Gerry developed a rubric that was used to rate some of the characteristics of the beers. These included aroma, appearance, taste, and finish. Aroma had sub-catagories of malty and/or hoppy, appearance had sub-categories of color, clarity and head; taste ranged through malty, hoppy, nutty, fruity, wheat, tart, sweet, roasted, crusty, bitter, and sour; finish ranged through strong, firm,memorable, weak and invisible. Finally, taking these characteristics into account, we rated the beers on a 1-7 scale as in past meetings.
This style of tastings offered up some very interesting results. There was very little agreement among our members about appearance, especially color. Aroma didn't get much agreement either, except for the Tanner's Jack English Ale. Everyone mentioned a skunky, bad nose. Could this have been a result of a clear glass bottle? And pretty consistent comments that once you got it to your palate, it was really not a terrible brew. The categories of taste and finish got the most agreement, but within a range. Not surprisingly, English style beers tended less toward the hoppy and more towards some of the sweet, malty, fruity, and bitter tastes. The finish category was sprinkled with a couple "weaks," but primarily with "strong," "firm," and "memorable." No beer received and "invisible" ranking as we have a hard and fast rule: "NO LIGHTS (or Lites) ALLOWED!" As in previous meetings, it was a unanimous feeling that there were no poor choices, but there were definite favorites.
The Results
The Winner, with 13 quality points (3 first place votes, three second place votes and 1 fourth place votes) was:
Middle Ages Boxing Day Bitter!
Champion of the English Style Ales Division.
2. St. Peter's IPA came in second with 17 quality points (1 first, 2 seconds and 4 thirds).
3. Arcadia IPA finished third with 2 first place votes.
The next three were very close:
4. Fuller's
5. Hobgoblin
6. Newcastle
Finally, due to the unpleasant nose (I noticed the same problem is mentioned in Beer Advocate rating of Tanner's Jack).
7. Tanner's Jack - again, with this beer, once you got past the somewhat skunky smell, it tasted pretty good.

A Hoppy Ending

The meeting ended with a treat provided by Herb, who brought two samples of Wailing Wench from Middle Ages Brewery out of Syracuse, NY. One sampling was bottled Wench and one was draft from a growler. Though both were delicious and a fine choice on any day - the differences were day and night when tasted side by side. As we tried each, we talked our way through the experience. From the bottled sample, comments included, "better nose; hoppy; really good; bite; strong finish." From the draft, comments included, "smooth; sweeter; more complex taste; more going on; fresher; fun in your mouth."
No matter what, it was great to enjoy two of Middle Ages best brews in one night!
The evening concluded with pub food which was amazing.
The next meeting will be February 28th at Hal's. The beer choice will be Porters.

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