Thursday, 27 June 2013

Barley Mow Bristol

By a stroke of luck I found myself in Bristol for an evening. The Barley Mow was recommended as a pub to visit and as it is close to Temple Meads station it was a good place to start. From the station I headed across the river via a modern S-shaped bridge, past an Ibis Hotel and through an area of modern flats before coming across a tidy looking pub. 

Once inside I felt at home immediately. The bar that faced me had a row of 8 hand pumps. Behind the bar were 10 taps serving keg beers and lagers. A truly modern pub.

The pub itself is one relatively small room. The bar is central and similar sized seating areas are at both ends.  Outside at the back was a covered patio area. Bare wooden floors, solid looking tables and chairs as well as cleverly constructed wooden benches gave the whole bar a clean modern classic feel.  To me this is the perfect pub. I would not change a single thing and I have not been in a pub where I have ever thought that.

The beer selection was immense. On cask there were the following choices

Arbor Ales Yakima Valley
Arbor Ales Hoptical Delusion
Kent Brewery Altered States
Kent Brewery Beyond The Pale
Dark Star Festival
Moor Beer Company Hoppiness
Bristol Beer Factory Bitter Californian
Purity War Lord IPA

The selection of keg beers were from the best of the new wave micro breweries that seem to be opening up all over the UK. Those available included the following

Tempest Old Parochial
Kirkstall Framboise
Magic Rock Dark Arts
Summer Wine Maelstrom
Stone Ruination IPA
Burton Axe Edge

With so many cask beers to choose from I ignored the keg. Well, if it isn't consumed quickly it will go off and that would be a tragic waste. With beers from four breweries that were new to me I began with a pint of Beyond The Pale (5.4ABV) from the Kent Brewery. This was an extremely pale bitter that looked fantastic.  It was a lovely hoppy beer with strong lemony flavours with a spiciness to it too.  Full of flavour it had plenty of strength and I loved it.  It very nearly achieves top marks.  Score 9/10.  

With other recommended pubs a considerable walk away and over a dozen other beers to choose from I decided to stay.  I ordered some chicken wings and chunky chips to go with my second pint which was the Arbor Ales Hoptical Delusion (3.8ABV). This was my first taste of Arbor beer on cask having previously tried a lovely bottled beer from them. Described as being packed full of hops it was surprising that it had little aroma. The initial taste was quite complex. It had a pleasant earthiness to it and it took a while to get more flavours. I should not have had the stronger beer first but the full flavour eventually found a way through and it was a delight.  I want to find more beers from this brewery for sure.  Score 8/10. 

There was time for one more pint before heading back to the station. The Bristol Beer Factory Bitter Californian was described as a hoppy brown ale.  What a beautiful beer it was.  Both hoppy and malty in equal measure it was superb and my favourite beer of the evening.  A definite 10/10 gold medal beer.
Awesome beers and excellent food in a modern simple pub with the friendliest of bar staff. This pub is perfect.

Happy drinking.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Sleepy Sussex

Last night the local CAMRA crew headed out to deepest Sussex.  The first stop was The Half Moon Inn.  This pub is on the main A283 in the village of Northchapel a few miles north of Petworth.  The second pub in the village is currently closed so surely the sole remaining village local will be full of thirsty locals.  The car park certainly suggested life but upon entering we were met with a grizzled landlord and one local watching TV together in a darkened bar.  The landlord didn't appear to be too happy to see some customers as he poured our pints.  The choice between Palmers IPA from Dorset and the local Hammerpot Harvest didn't appear to be too bad.  I chose the local beer.  Bad choice or probably the lesser of two evils judging by the comments from those who chose the Palmers.  Slightly fruity bitter but the harsh taste and lifeless character did nothing for me except make me wish I'd only ordered a half.  I could only give it a 4/10 at best.  The last beer I ordered from Hammerpot was a delight so hopefully this is a one-off.

The pub itself is a delightful treasure trove.  The vintage tractor parked outside the front has been there for years.  Hanging from the ceiling in the bar is an enormous amount of antique artefacts ranging from old tennis rackets and snooker cues to agricultural tools.  There is a gorgeous fireplace and all around there are antique signs and objects to catch the eye.  This pub should be a bustling village local so it was very disappointing to see it so devoid of life.

From Northchapel we retraced our steps back to Petworth before heading across to Midhurst.  At Halfway Bridge, located amazingly halfway between Petworth and Midhurst, you head off to the left where you stumble upon the tiny village of Selham.  The Three Moles is set high off the winding road through the village so you have quite a few steps to climb up to the front door of the pub.  The Three Moles has long been a favourite pub of mine having been one of the pubs on the King and Barnes Ale Trail I completed three times in the early 1990s.  Back then it did no food and the excellence of this pub was maintained for years culminating in it winning the Sussex CAMRA pub of the year in 2002.  Once the then owner/landlady Val retired some years back it has gone through a few changes of owner and this was my first visit for many years.

The inside of the pub did appear to have been updated substantially.  It is a very small single bar pub but food is available now.  The one room has seating for probably no more than 40 customers.  It certainly doesn't have the homely feel it once had and when we arrived the landlord was about to close as there were no customers at all (it was just past  He was happy to serve us a pint from one of two beers available.  There was Betty Stoggs from the Cornish brewer Skinners (4.0% ABV) alongside Swift One (3.8% ABV) from the Hampshire micro Bowman Ales.  Once again I went for the local beer but luckily the owners were happy to serve us some more so I ended up trying both.

Bowman's Swift One was a nice hoppy bitter balanced with a biscuity malt character.  It had quite a dry finish I felt and it was certainly a pleasant beer without being spectacular and I'd give it a comfortable 7/10.  Betty Stoggs is quite widely available now nationwide but I rarely drink it as I've always found it to be little more than average.  How wrong could I be though?  Tonight I found it to be a robust fruity beer full of flavour and character and on this form I'd lift it up to an 8/10.

Our journey into the heart of West Sussex found the locals asleep.  The Three Moles is not quite the pub it once was but the new owners have only been there a short time and are trying to revive it.  This weekend they are holding a beer festival from a marquee in the lovely garden and the beer list we were shown was an interesting mix of local brewers alongside highly acclaimed London micros such as London Fields and Redemption.  I'm sure this will prove a big success as their beer festivals of old were always hugely popular.  If you are in the area I would check it out.

Happy drinking.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Fade to black ....... four dark beers reviewed

1.  Thwaites Tavern Porter (4.7% ABV)

This was my first porter for quite some time and I wasn't disappointed.  Thwaites is brewed in the Lancashire town of Blackburn and as my wife has roots there she was pleased to give it a try.  This was a bit of a mistake on my part because it was difficult to get it back from her.  However, once I managed to wrestle it back without spilling any of it I was hit by the delicious smoky aroma.  It had quite an intense coffee bitterness and here's the strange thing.  I hate coffee.  I love the smell of fresh coffee but as for drinking it - no way.  Give me a beer with lots of roasted malt though and I love it.  This beer was quite smooth in the finish and a very good start to my mini exploration of the dark side.  Score 8/10.     

2.  Grain Porter (5.0% ABV)

This Grain Porter was one of the beers I purchased at the Norwich City of Ale brewers market.  This beer had the same jet black colour as the Thwaites but the taste was quite different.  It was described as an old fruit porter and the aroma was one of rich fruit berries with no discernible smokiness.  The intensity of the fruit flavours were apparent immediately with notes of blackberries and blackcurrant.  There was an underlying bitterness in the finish which was very pleasant.  It was velvety smooth and so easy to drink.  An absolute delight and the Grain Brewery is fast becoming a favourite of mine.  Score 9/10

3.  Black Panther (4.5% ABV)

I was on a roll now with my black beer theme so I opened another beer bought in Norwich.  Black Panther is from the Panther Brewery based in Norfolk as mentioned in a previous post.  The label displayed a rosette announcing it as the runner up in the Norfolk CAMRA real ale in a bottle for 2012 so I was expecting big things from this beer.  I wasn't disappointed.  This is definitely my favourite beer so far from this brewery.  There was a pleasant smoky aroma to it.  The coffee bitterness was restrained alongside chocolate and caramel notes making it incredibly smooth.  The finish was quite nutty and slightly dry and overall there was nothing at all to complain about here.  Score 9/10.

4.  Ascot Ales Penguin Porter (4.5% ABV)

Whilst planning to review a trio of dark beers I stumbled across this in the Prince of Wales, Farnborough.  This pub is superb with about ten real ales on at any one time and I will return shortly to conduct a proper review.  However, I was more than happy to include a fourth beer in this post.  Ascot Ales are based in nearby Camberley and this is my first beer from them.  To be honest the comments I made about the Thwaites Tavern Porter could equally be applied to this beer which is high praise indeed.  It had the same intense black colour, the same smoky aroma and the same coffee bitterness.  There was possibly slightly less bitterness and a few more chocolate notes coming through.  Finally, there was the same smooth finish.  Because of all this I will award it the same score.  Score 8/10.  

My journey to the dark side was a hugely enjoyable exercise.  It is easy to neglect these type of beers in the summer but I find them a delight all year round.  They all scored highly with me and I was possibly scoring them a point down if I'm honest.  I love dark beers so much and giving them all top marks would be a little silly perhaps.  Whatever the score all four of these beers are superb and highly recommended. 

Happy drinking.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Maypole, Yapton

The village

Yapton is a village in West Sussex close to the town of Arundel and about a mile from the sea.  In days long gone it was famous for smuggling and the doors of Yapton were always open to smugglers (so they say) at any time day or night.  In the Murrell Arms, a pub in the nearby village of Barnham, there's a warning inscribed on the door of the bar aimed at people forgetting to close the door with the words 'do you come from Yapton?'.  A friendly little dig at the nefarious past of its neighbour.

The pub

My wife and I moved to Yapton in 1997 and we soon made the Maypole our local pub.  It is on the outskirts of the village a few hundred yards down a single track lane that leads nowhere but you will find a large sign advertising the pub from the main road (North End Road) that takes you from Yapton to the A27.  The lounge bar was fairly small and it was often incredibly smoky.  The public bar was larger with a pool table and there was a door through to a traditional skittle alley.  It always had an excellent beer selection and it won the Western Sussex CAMRA pub of the year on quite a few occasions. 

Since moving from Yapton in 2006 I don't think I had been back to the Maypole until last night.  The only changes I detected were the lack of smoke (lovely), the construction of a wooden covered patio area (for smokers) replacing the couple of tables outside the entrance to the lounge bar and a new manager.  It had the same welcoming atmosphere and there was still a large stack of copper coins on the bar that they build each year for charity.  The skittle alley is still there too.

The beers

As I was there last night with lots of CAMRA members for the regular monthly meeting the lady behind the bar offered us all a sample of a mystery brew.  The pump clip for Ale Fresco (4.3% ABV) gave no indication as to the brewery at first inspection but it did have a description saying it was a fresh golden ale with a citrus hoppy aroma.  So this was a genuine blind tasting.  The aroma was not hoppy at all.  The colour was more brown than golden.  The taste was more caramel and malt than citrus and hoppy.  Finally, the harsh bitter aftertaste was not very nice.  Needless to say nobody bought a pint and we then noticed in very small writing Westgate Brewery and everything fell into place.  Another beer from Greene King masquerading as something else!! 
The remaining beer selection was very impressive.  I'm not sure which beers were regulars but I think the Dark Star Hophead (3.8% ABV) can always be found here.  This is what I went for first of all.  This beer does have a delightful citrus hoppy aroma and it was in excellent condition.  Judging by the number of members ordering it with huge smiles on their faces I think it is the favourite beer of this CAMRA branch.

The second beer I went for was from the Wessex Brewery.  This micro is based in Warminster in Wiltshire and is totally new to me.  Wyndham Pride (4.0% ABV) is a traditional well balanced session bitter with a nice malt character.  Plenty of flavour with caramel and peach coming through.  There was a slight bitter aftertaste to it that was both smooth and pleasant.  We were told that another beer from Wessex would be on the bar soon - a 9.0% ABV Russian stout (named Russian Stoat).  Sounds good!!

The third beer I went for was from Cheddar Ales who are based in Somerset.  It was a beautifully golden coloured 4.0% ABV beer called Gorge Best.  The aroma was very fruity as was the initial taste.  Lots of sweet fruit flavours came through such as peach, pineapple and orange.  It was very robust and the flavour held throughout before giving way to a lovely subtle bitter aftertaste.  

Finally, I tried a pint of Shark Head (5.0% ABV) from the Sunny Republic Brewing Company, a new micro based in Dorset.  Shark Head is described as a Friesian Pilsener which makes it a cask lager I guess although I found it to be a delightfully crisp and refreshing hoppy beer.  It is brewed using lager malt and the hops are the German Spalt and New Zealand Pacific Jade.  After being lagered for three weeks it is run through some of my favourite Citra hops.  The grapefruit notes from the Citra were very subtle and not overpowering.  I absolutely loved it.  I would probably say it was my favourite beer of the night (those Citra hops do it every time) but it was up against some very stiff competition. 

It is good to see that my old local is still a pub worth visiting and with my local CAMRA branch using it as their venue for meetings every couple of months I will look forward to sampling more delightful beers from their ever changing lineup.   

Monday, 10 June 2013

Bottled Beers Review

Off Beat Out of Step IPA (5.8% ABV)

My first beer is described as being brewed by a chick in Crewe.  It had a lovely deep golden colour to it and a classic fruity aroma.  The initial taste was one of citrussy hops with a lovely mix of lemon and grapefruit notes.  It was love at first sip.  It has plenty of strength and that comes through in the robust flavour.  It had a delightfully long finish to it with a lovely tingling bitterness.  It really is a classic modern American-styled IPA which I always seem to enjoy.  Score 9/10

Mallinsons Galaxy (4.0% ABV)

This beer is also brewed by chicks, as Mallinsons describe themselves as women who brew beer.  They love hops and this is my second single hop beer from this brewster.  The Amarillo (4.3% ABV) was superb and so I was looking forward to this one too.  Just look at the picture below.  This beer looks absolutely magnificent.  The hoppy, citrussy aroma was also very inviting.  The first taste was of grapefruit along with a little earthiness too.  Galaxy is an Australian hop and is described as giving both a citrus and passion fruit flavour.  There was definitely a richer fruity flavour coming through alongside the citrussy grapefruit notes.  The finish was quite dry but very pleasant.  I like this beer very much and hopefully I can find more of their single hop beers to enjoy in the near future.  Score 9/10

Two Towers Chamberlain Pale Ale (4.5% ABV)

Two Towers is a small micro brewery based in the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham.  This beer was a nice pale golden colour.  The aroma was certainly pleasant with hints of grapefruit coming through.  It is a beer made with maize and wheat as well as pale malt and it is hopped with Fuggles and Goldings.  The initial taste was a little sour and I had to check the best before date on the bottle as I was not convinced it tasted right.  With the date showing March 2014 I persevered.  There were some grapefruit notes giving some bitterness to it but the aftertaste was quite harsh and not very pleasant.  This is the second beer I have tried from this brewery and the second one I have not enjoyed.  Score 4/10  

Ilkley Pale (4.2% ABV)

Talk about saving the best until last.  Ilkley Brewery is fast becoming a massive favourite of mine.  This 'premium blonde' looks magnificent and it had a lovely fresh lemony aroma to it.  It is brewed with the Nelson Sauvin hop from New Zealand.  The initial taste matched the aroma but this gave way to lovely richer fruit notes like passion fruit.  Everything about this beer was perfect.  The clean crisp taste continued throughout with more and more citrussy notes coming through and I was left with a very satisfying lemony bitterness aftertaste.  Score 10/10   

Friday, 7 June 2013

Trooper Beer

I really want to like this beer.  There has been masses of publicity regarding the collaboration between Manchester-based Robinsons Brewery and Iron Maiden's frontman Bruce Dickinson.  For the full story behind the collaboration and an interview with Bruce Dickinson I suggest you click the link to Pete Brown's blog as he was the lucky man who got to interview this rock god.  Robinson's Brewery say they have been surprised at the reaction behind this new beer.  However, Iron Maiden are a band that have sold over 85 million records worldwide.  They are huge.  They have fans in every corner of the globe and their popularity seems to be increasing.  Their latest album, The Final Frontier, entered the album charts at no.1 in 29 countries.  Iron Maiden's loyal fan base will crave anything that is linked to them and that now includes beer.  I fell in love with the music of Iron Maiden at around the time I began to fall in love with beer.  So yes, I really want to like this beer. 

Firstly, the label is excellent as you would expect from a band famed for their album covers.  For those of you unfamiliar with Iron Maiden they have a mascot called Eddie who appears on their artwork in various guises.  The label has Eddie dressed up as a trooper from the Crimean War to represent the name of the beer which comes from the band's 1983 single 'The Trooper'.  The song is based on the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava in 1854.  OK here ends the history lesson.  What about the beer?

The beer is deep golden in colour and certainly looks appealing.  It has a slightly malty aroma with a bit of peach fruit.  The fruitiness continues into the taste before it gives way to a slightly dry bitter finish.  Yes it is a nice well balanced beer and certainly drinkable but I feel it doesn't taste up to its strength of 4.7% ABV.  It has the taste of a session bitter but the strength requires something more robust.   

Robinsons Brewery to me will always be synonymous with Old Tom, a stupendous winter ale at 8.5% ABV.  Now wouldn't it be great if we had an Iron Maiden bottled winter ale called Old Eddie at a strength of 6.66% ABV?  I think Robinsons need to invite Bruce back for this one.  As for Trooper I will put aside my disappointment and give it a score of 6/10.     

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Bat and Ball, Farnham

I usually find that pubs which are difficult to find turn out to be exceptional.  The Bat & Ball near Farnham is one such place.  Using the satnav I did get a little concerned when the directions sent me down an unmade road but after a few hundred yards of very careful slow driving I came to Bat & Ball Lane which, whilst not having enormous potholes, did appear to be quite narrow and winding.  Luckily I met nobody coming the other way and at the end of the lane I came to the pub car park.  One way in and one way out. 

As can be seen below the pub is a lovely looking building and it is surrounded by lots of greenery and it is set in a bit of a valley.  There is plenty of outdoor space which is mainly paved.  Part of it is covered by a leafy pergola and there is an impressive looking wooden climbing area for kids.    

Inside, the pub is very rustic with quite a few separate areas with large wooden tables.  Past the bar to the left is a large dining area and judging by the number of people eating inside as well as the number of plates coming out to people sat in the outdoor areas it is very popular.  The bar itself had six handpumps and these were all filled with options from small local breweries (if you count Somerset).  I was spoilt for choice with the following selections available

Oakleaf Quercus Folium
Upham Punter
Cottage Duchess
Itchen Valley Pure Gold
Triple fff Moondance
Hogs Back T.E.A  

I chose the Punter (4.0% ABV) from the Upham Brewery, based in neighbouring Hampshire.  The beer was sadly a little bland I felt.  It was a traditional session bitter, brown in colour and nice and clear in the glass.  There was very little malt character coming through and the bitter aftertaste was a little harsh.  There was a little caramel and peach fruit flavours coming through but not much.

The Bat and Ball is a pub well worth finding.  This weekend it is holding a beer and cider festival and with glorious weather forecast it would be a perfect time to look for it.  Just be careful along the undulating unmade road (the pub is signposted from Sandrock Hill Road).  Once you arrive you won't want to leave.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Visit to Redwell Brewing

I love visiting breweries.  Big ones, small ones and all sizes in between.  So when young Nate informed me that he had arranged for a small select group to visit Norwich's newest brewery, Redwell Brewing, during the City of Ale weekend I was more than delighted.  I had better whisper the next bit but Redwell Brewing only produce keg beers and lagers.  They describe their products as being hand crafted English ales and lagers brewed in small batches.   

Redwell Brewing are located to the east of the centre of Norwich under a bridge alongside a railway line.  There is no big sign or anything at all really except for a small board with the words 'Redwell Brewery' to indicate where you are.  We were met by Patrick Fisher, co-owner and marketing man behind the operation.  The brewer behind the operation has spent many years honing his craft in Sweden.  Their beers have only begun to appear in local pubs in the past month and they have also managed to get them into a number of popular specialist craft bars in London.  Patrick explained that the idea behind choosing the keg route was to ensure that they had control of the quality of their product wherever it may be sold.  More on this later.

When we stepped inside the large cavernous building we saw five conditioning tanks and plenty of wide open space.  They are certainly thinking ahead with plenty of room for expansion.  Steps at the back led out to a large gravelled area ideal for trainspotting and Patrick showed us a second building they have.  The plans are to open up the land as a car park which could be used by football fans as Carrow Road, the home of Norwich City FC is not too far away.  Plans to convert the currently empty second building into a small bar will make it a popular place with fans looking for a lunchtime drink before the game.

As soon as we arrived at the brewery we were given a glass and this was filled direct from the conditioning tanks.  The first beer we got to try was their first attempt at an IPA coming in at a little over 6.0% ABV.  It was hoppy and reminiscent of the new American-style IPAs.  For a first attempt I would say it was pretty much spot on.  After this encouraging start we moved on to the 4% Pilsener (both filtered and unfiltered) and the 5% Pilsener (both filtered and unfiltered) followed by the Steam Lager (5.0% ABV).  Lager manufacturers in the UK have given lager a bad name and I rarely drink it but these drinks were refreshing and had plenty of flavour.  Whilst preferring the unfiltered 4% pilsener, with the 5% pilsener I preferred the filtered version. 

After standing around the conditioning tanks we moved outside to enjoy the sunshine but the samples kept on coming.  I am convinced the amount in the glass kept increasing with each sample too.  This was a fantastic way to spend an afternoon and it was extremely kind of Patrick to give up his time so generously for us.  The last couple of drinks we had were from the keg although they had not been cooled in any way.  This was my complaint when visiting the Brewdog bar in Birmingham last year where the beer was cooled to such an extent it was impossible to enjoy. 

Redwell Brewing know what market they want to tap into and I think they will be very successful.  Once they have established their name I'm sure they will experiment more too.  I respect their comments regarding why they are going down the keg route.  It is true that cask brewers can get bad reputations through no fault of their own if their beer is not looked after properly at the point of sale but I do feel that cask beer always has more depth of flavour to it than any keg product I have tried.  Even in America where I have visited many craft breweries I have always preferred the cask version of beers on the few occasions where they have been produced alongside the keg version.  So yes whilst you may get consistency of product I do feel you are losing something too.

A big thank you then to Patrick Fisher from Redwell Brewing and to Nate for organising the trip.  I will always look out for their beers if I am visiting a craft bar in London or visiting Norwich.  As a postscript to this trip we finished off the day at the Norwich Taphouse, a new Norwich pub specialising in keg craft beers from around the UK.  Located on Redwell Street it is no surprise that Patrick Fisher is the man behind this enterprise too.  It is a very lively bar and the blackboard lists up to 20 keg beers and of course we had to try the Redwell Steam Lager (5.0% ABV) to compare it to the one we sampled earlier.  Yes it was a little colder and yes it did seem to be a little fizzier but it was still a full-flavoured modern beer and nothing at all like the lagers you would find in most pubs. 

Good luck to Patrick then with both enterprises.  He is providing something a little bit different in a city of ale that is awash with excellent cask ales and I'm sure there is room for the very best in keg beers.  Let's not forget it is the big brewers that gave keg beer a bad name and Redwell Brewing are showing that good beer is good beer in whatever form it is served.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Review of Norfolk beers

At the Norwich City of Ale there was a brewers market on the first Saturday morning and I picked up nine bottles from a range of five breweries to enjoy and review.  I have picked one beer from each brewery to review here and the remaining beers will be covered at a later date.

Moon Gazer Ruby Ale (4.0% ABV)

Norfolk Brewhouse began brewing last year using a 10-barrel plant.  They are based in Hindringham in the northern part of Norfolk.  For a relatively low alcohol content the Ruby Ale had a very rich taste with spicy orange notes along with caramel.  The name of the beer describes the colour to perfection.  There were delicious hints of roasted malts in the aftertaste.  It was so smooth it slipped down rather too easily.  This was a very satisfying beer and a fabulous start to my tasting session.  It was not difficult to give this beer a gold award.  Score 10/10   

Ole Slewfoot Citraville (3.9% ABV).

This brewery just north of Norwich in the village of Hainford began brewing in 2009.  Citraville is light golden in colour and is an American-style pale ale brewed with my favourite hop, Citra.  It had the familiar grapefruit aroma but the initial taste was more floral and lemony.  It also had a distinct dryness to it before giving in to a gentle floral finish.  I was probably disappointed by the lack of the expected citrussy hoppy hit but I did not prefer it over their excellent Cabarrus Gold.  Having said that it was still a very pleasant pale ale and very drinkable.  Score 7/10

Dr Rudi's New Zealand Saison (6.3% ABV)

The Poppyland brewery is based in Cromer on the North Norfolk coast and it is a very new operation.  The beer I chose uses the New Zealand hop named Dr Rudi and it has been fermented with a Belgian saison yeast.  The beer came in a 375ml corked bottle and at a cost of £5.00 it wasn't cheap.  It had an appealing pale golden colour but the aroma was very sour and the taste was very strongly of bitter oranges.  I do not like marmalade particularly and this beer was a liquid version of it.  It had a complex refreshing finish to it that was quite pleasant but the overriding bitterness was never far away.  I could not drink alot of this beer.  Score 5/10.     

Red Panther, Panther Brewery (4.1% ABV)

The Panther Brewery is based in the village of Reepham to the north-west of Norwich and began brewing in 2010 using the old equipment of the Reepham Brewery which ceased brewing in 2009.  The red panther is one of three beers I purchased and I chose the red first to compare it to the Moon Gazer Ruby.  It had a lovely malty aroma and the initial taste was one of burnt toffee and the rich malty aroma came through in the taste too.  It was actually quite mild with a distinct nuttiness in the aftertaste.  I cannot say that it matched the Moon Gazer Ruby but is was a lovely red ale with the same ruby colouring.  Score 8/10.

Grain Redwood (4.8% ABV)

My final beer came from the Grain Brewery based in the south of Norfolk close to the border with Suffolk.  They began brewing in 2006 and upgraded to a 15-barrel plant last year.  As with the Panther, I purchased three bottles but chose the Redwood first to compare with the other red ales.  This beer was very different though.  The colour was more brown than ruby.  The aroma was strongly hoppy.  The initial taste was very fruity with hints of peach.  There were subtle hints of malt which balanced beautifully the hoppiness creating a rich smooth beer.  The finish was more complex.  This beer was an absolute delight.  Score 9/10.