Monday, 27 October 2014

Spooky Ales

I don't normally review too many beers that are freely available in supermarkets simply because I don't normally buy that many and those that I do buy often disappoint.  However, a recent walk around the delights of Morrisons highlighted to me the number of beers with names that are obviously aimed at the Halloween market so here is my recommendation for a spooky beer to celebrate this event if you so wish.  

Spooky Ale (4.7% ABV) - Shepherd Neame

This beer actually has the gall to describe itself as the official ghost brew for all hallows.  Shepherd Neame beers seem to have a very distinctive aroma and this one has that same spicy hoppy smell to it.  The flavour is much more malty which is quite biscuity with hints of caramel.  The finish is very short as the flavours quickly vanish and there is a little spicy bitterness in the aftertaste.  The blurb on the bottle says that the roasted malt flavours are balanced by a huge citrussy hoppy bitterness.  I must have missed that.  Then it goes on to say that the memory of this beer will haunt you forever.  Not wrong there.  It is not a rich beer, as is also mentioned, but it does have a spicy edge to it and there is some roasted malt character to it.  All in all a bit disappointing and I'll give it a 5/10.            

Black Wych (5.0% ABV) - Wychwood

Moving on from the 'official ghost brew' of Halloween to the company that produces the 'unofficial beer of Halloween'.  Wychwood came up with the idea that their dark ruby ale Hobgoblin should get this title and I guess it is more truthful than calling it the 'official' beer but I think Black Wych is more appropriate as it is a black beer and witches are much more apt for halloween than goblins will ever be.  This is actually a decent porter which I'd be happy to have again.  Not particularly smooth or rich but it does have good flavours and a nice bitter finish with coffee and dark chocolate notes.  Just about worth a score of 7/10.             

Dark Lord (4.7% ABV) - Batemans

The beer Dark Lord is actually named after 'Black Tom' who fought in the English Civil War at the Battle of Winceby in Lincolnshire rather than the evil dark lord from Harry Potter, Lord Voldemort he who must not be named. Whichever lord you want to think about while you drink it though it is a lovely beer for this time of year.  My first silent thoughts were liquorice allsorts and after my wife tried it her first word was liquorice so if you aren't into beers with liquorice notes I'd probably avoid it.  It is smooth and quite rich and sweet with a lovely spicy edge to it and a slightly nutty finish.  Definitely the best beer so far and a great one for Halloween.  This one scores 8/10.         

Pendle Witches Brew (5.1% ABV) - Moorhouses

The clear golden colour of this beer made it look very appealing especially to my wife who was convinced she would enjoy it.  I wasn't so sure as I had already struggled with the sweetness of the aroma.  She was ok with the flavour but she did say it disappeared quickly.  It is a very smooth beer with a soft mouth feel but flavour wise it is far too sweet for me with a struggle to find any bitterness to it at all.  This beer gets a 5/10 from me but it could have been a different story if I had found a bottle of their Black Cat mild which is a beer I particularly love. 

Ghost Ship (4.5% ABV) - Adnams

Of all the large regional brewers in the UK, Adnams is probably still my favourite.  Ghost Ship has a suitably spooky name for Halloween but it is actually a hoppy American pale ale.  It has a lovely golden colour with tropical fruit aromas.  The flavour has some sweet passion fruit notes along with a zingy burst of lemon and lime.  In the finish there is a dry citrussy bitterness which I love.  There is some rye in the malts used and the wonderful mix of fruity hoppy flavours comes from Citra and a blend of other american hops.  This is a superb beer and well worthy of a 9/10.         

In terms of the scores then Ghost Ship wins this particular hunt for a suitably spooky brew for Halloween but I think you do need a dark beer on this day although with the unseasonably warm weather we're getting today then perhaps not.  However, if I had to choose one for Halloween this year I would go for the Dark Lord.  A lovely rich dark beer with a spicy edge to it and my wife would probably agree with me too.  



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