JW Lees: Manchester Star Ale


Star ale has quite a dark colour, but it’s a deep garnet dark, rather than impenetrable, stout-dark.  The tan head really doesn’t last that long at all and quickly collapses to a very sparse covering.

From the other side of the room Star ale looks almost like a glass of Coke, which could be useful if you were an under-age drinker or something. (Not that I condone underage drinking, right kids?)

The aroma is incredibly complex and inviting; being almost vinous, with subtle, faintly acetic notes, the dark malts are definitely to the fore, with coffee, dark bitter chocolate featuring heavily in the mix…all partnered by a substantial alcoholic wallop.

Taste-wise, we’re talking balanced alcohol, chocolate and biscuit maltiness with a deep caramel sweetness in the background.  It’s a really nice balance of flavours. There’s virtually no hop bitterness up front, but the after-taste is good, long-lasting and full of a hop and malt bitterness.

All in all it’s tasty, fulfilling and has a good mouth feel which is helped in part by quite a delicate effervescence.

This is another beer that suggests Christmas to me.  As I was drinking it I thought how well it’d go with Christmas pudding or even Christmas cake.  Maybe it’d make a good dessert beer?  Either way it’s a cracking ale.  Put it on your “to drink” list.


I’ve no idea where it came from as I shared the bottle with my father-in-law, so you’ve got away with it this time, supermarkets…

Adnams: Southwold Bitter (Draught)


Here’s a rapid review of the draught version of Southwold Bitter, original review of the bottled version is here:


Just like the bottle version but with a slightly more pronounced leading bitterness. Beautifully balanced malt and mouth feel. Excellent after taste. Just perfect.

I do honestly rate Southwold Bitter up with Brakspear Bitter as the definitive expressions of the Bitter beer style.  Maybe you know different, Dear Reader…if you think there’s something that I’m missing, or should be tasting, drop me a line and I’ll check it out.


Wychwood: Rascal


We had to travel back to my wife’s parents in Suffolk on Friday, it was good to see them…and it was also good to be able to get a pint or two in.  When I travel I like to try the local beers, and couldn’t resist this beer which was advertised on the pump as “Deviously Hoppy” so on that basis, I said I’d like one of those please, thanks very much.

Like i said it was a family do, so there wasn’t time for much note-taking, pump-clip studying, etc.  But here’s the skinny on “Rascal” (if you’ll excuse the Americanism…and why wouldn’t you?  a good chunk of  my readers are from the US.)

Enticing hops ‘n’ malt nose.  Marvellous polished brass colour, like the colour of those brass ornaments that old folks clutter their houses up with…no?  No good for you?  OK, imagine it’s the colour of the vicar’s panama hat.

A really smashing sticky lacy head on the top that hung about for ages and actually tasted quite good.

Sweetish malt taste with a solid mouthfeel and a really fantastic quenching bitter trailing edge.  A smooth bitter after-taste that just went on and on…

All in all an excellent summer supper.  If you see it you have to try it.

Oh yes.  And guess who it’s made by?  Wychwood.  A brewery that’s about ten miles away from me at home in Oxfordshire.  Typical.  I wouldn’t have missed this pint for the world, but strictly speaking I should have been drinking local!


Brewdog: 5am Saint

5am Saint

5am Saint is, to my mind, the odd one out in the Brewdog range…I guess it’s because it seems to be more malt-led, rather than hop-led, like so many of their other beers.

Confession time:  I tasted this over a month ago, and then lost my notes, which I eventually found (note to self: in future write on phone directly into Evernote and not in spidery handwriting on a myriad of teeny-weeny scraps of beer-sodden paper.)

5am Saint goes a bit like this:

A “fizzy” tan head eventually fizzles out to a sparse covering atop a seriously amber-coloured beer.

While not having as vigorous an aroma as other Brewdog beers, it’s nice enough all the same and is subdued grassy, vegetal, hops ‘n’ malt.  Not much in the way of fruitiness here…but it’s different, it’s enticing and I kinda like it.

The taste leads out with a solid dark malt mouth-feel, that’s meshed nicely in with a smooth after-taste that tapers off into a dark, caramelly, spun-sugar sort of malt-induced bitterness; the whole thing is is nicely lingering, mouth-watering and seems to encourage you to “just have a little bit more”

This beer would probably be quite special on draught…I must try and find it somewhere.

I got mine from a supermarket somewhere for £1.75/£1.80 or something.  Either way all of the supermarkets have it, I guess…and quite honestly once you’re through the door they’re all the blimmin’ same.

Why not make your supermarket stand out from the crowd by sending me some free beer?  I’ll still be perfectly even-handed and impartial about my reviews, but it will mean that I’ll like you just that little bit more – and that’s got to be worth a whole pile of something, hasn’t it?