Brakspear: Oxford Gold

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There’s no denying it…I’m a big fan of Brakspear beers, that’s not only because they’re based in Oxfordshire, it’s also because they brew beers that are solid, tasty and enjoyable.

Oxford Gold pours a baled straw colour with a not-ever-so-long lasting head.  Not a strongly aromatic beer, but does hint at pleasant notes of sweetish malt, caramel and summer fruits.

This is not a particularly bitter beer, but in it’s taste is a rich undercurrent of malty sweetness with hints of the same caramel and berry fruits that you get coming through in the aroma.  The mouth feel is velvety and sumptuous and the aftertaste persists for quite a while and again echoes those fruity, caramel and a distant, almost creme brulee, flavour.

Normally I wouldn’t go mad for a beer that doesn’t have much in the way of bitterness on it’s leading (and trailing) edge, but in this case because Oxford Gold is so well made and because it matches up all the way through from first sniff to the long aftertaste I think it’s a winner.

If I could do it again, and believe me I will, I’d serve it a smidge colder…but that’s my fault for not chilling it enough…

I picked this up from Asda as I happened to be going past.  It was on a three for a fiver deal.  There you go, Asda, I’ll happily give you my address for you to send freebies to…soon I’ll be visiting Lidl to see what they’re peddling in the way of beer.  Really.  Send me free things to stop that happening.

http://www.brakspear-beers.co.uk/beers/view/oxford

Hook Norton: Haymaker

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Look everyone, summer’s here.  No really it is.  Make the most of it, as it’ll be sharting it down in about a months time.

If it’s summer then it must be time to try another summer-type beer (even though Haymaker is available all year round) and also because Hook Norton are just up the road from me, and because the label on the bottle evokes misplaced bucolic reverie…That’s what it’s like around here, you know…rustic rosey-cheeked simpletons in smocks lean heavily on their pitch-forks and dispense sage weather advice from betwixt corn-stalk clenched teeth…

Anyhoo….

When poured Haymaker comes out a brilliantly clear high-summer sun gold, with a nice head that retains well to the end of the glass.

There’s an abundant aroma which seems to be all heather honey, cornflakes and floral hops…in fact I wouldn’t be surprised if maize was used as a small  adjunct in this beer, but feel free to correct me if you like, Hooky folks.

First taste lays an arrow straight line of sweetish malt down the centre of your tongue, that gets followed up by a well-judged lightly refreshing hop bitterness…the mouth-feel is solid, but light enough not to cloy.

With a really lovely sweet ‘n’ bitter aftertaste this beer fits the bill for summer drinks after work, rest, play or anything else that you might get up to in the summer…yes, even THAT.

I paid a £1.95 ransom to rescue my bottle of Haymaker from the icy fridge in the Kidlington Co-Op.  A fridge where they were also keeping the Old Hooky – which is just plain madness.  Someone from Hook Norton please tell them to stop doing this…

I hear some people even drink Guiness ice-cold these days, too, whatever are they thinking of?

Chadlington Beer Festival: 1st June 2013

Last Saturday saw the family and I take a trip out to Chadlington in Oxfordshire for a visit to their 10th annual beer festival.  The festival was held in and around the environs of the village memorial hall on what turned out to be one of those perfect English summer’s days.

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There was more than enough in the way of diversions to keep everyone entertained:  a cricket match was in progress on the field to the left; around the hall, food stalls were serving up pretty decent burgers, pork rolls, etc.  Some small fairground rides were taking kids for a spin (with the obligatory bouncy castle) whilst the Charlbury Morris hey-nonnied the afternoon away.

To the right of the hall was a large football field with more than enough room for the youngest of the festival goers to gambol around in.  Live music provided a musical backdrop to the whole occasion too…and that music looked set to continue way into the evening, with some half-decent looking bands on the bill…

As mentioned before this wasn’t a gigantic festival, there being only 20 or so beers on offer…but those beers were obviously carefully selected, and there were representatives of quite a few styles – including a Belgian Dubbel, which I was surpised to see.

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First beer for me was White Witch from the Wizard Brewery – Described on the Wizard website as “A pale fruity ale with a strong hoppy finish” and also “Chadlington Beer Festival Winner 2005” to boot.

It was certainly a decent drop but not nearly as distinctively hoppy or fruity as I would have liked.  I think beers these days need to stand out from the crowd, otherwise they just get drunk and forgotten – a bit like George Best before he popped his footballing clogs.

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Second up was The Oak Leaf Brewery’s Hole Hearted, which the website tells me “The use of Cascade hops gives this golden ale powerful floral and tropical fruit flavours, and a delicate bitterness.” All I can say is that they know their beer well:  it does have a delicate bitterness, a bitterness that persists long enough to persuade you to sup again and again.

The cascade hopping is evident and is more subtle than I usually like my cascade-hopped beers to be, but it’s a very, very, drinkable drop.  I recommend this beer, order a pint if you see it.

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Thirdly I tried Tring Brewery’s Colley’s Dog, described as “Dark ruby in colour but not over rich. Strong yet very drinkable, this premium ale has a long dry finish with overtones of malt and walnuts.”  When supped it did bring forth a lovely nutty maltiness, with a healthy alcoholic warmth, followed by a fruitcake sort of dryness – a bit like Dundee cake.  I liked it a lot.  A smashing “brown” beer.

StylecarronadeMy last beer was Tryst’s Carronade IPA: “Packed full of citrus flavours from the distinctive Washington state hops used, combined with pale malt and Carron valley water to create a real thirst- quenching treat.”  Now, those of you who read this blog regularly know that I like an IPA -preferably a glass full of mental, in your face, hoppiness- and I was expecting Carronade to be a fairly standard run-of-mill English IPA…but how wrong could I be; it turned out to be a lovely, lightly malty, cask ale in the English style but absolutely cram-stuffed with those US hop flavours that I really dig.

Easily the best beer out of the four I tried that afternoon.  I cannot recommend this beer highly enough.

In early June next year keep and eye out for the beer festival at Chadlington.  It’s one of the best I’ve been to as it is easily the most relaxed and well organized.

http://www.chadlingtonbeerfestival.com/