Meantimes: London Pale Ale

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Idiot cat included for scale (he is that small)

What do you think it’s like living next door to Michael Palin?

I should imagine it’s probably quite nice, he’s an affable sort of chap who would probably put your bins out for you when you were on holiday and maybe lend you the odd cup of sugar.  There’d certainly be no shouting, breaking crockery and ensuing police visits at crikey o’clock in the morning – and certainly no loud pumping drum ‘n’ bass all-nighters…all very pleasant, all very English…

And I guess that’s the way I feel about Meantimes Brewery’s London Pale Ale…

Straight out of the bottle it’s a startlingly clear and the colour of not oft’ seen autumn sunshine…nose-wise, it’s a bit sulphurous and a bit hoppy; which for some reason brings to mind Wadworth’s 6x.

The taste is mellow with a medium bitterness and an appealing malty character with slightly seet undertones.  There’s some hops in the there somewhere I’m sure, but the taste is just so well blended, smooth and amenable there’s nothing to jar you.  It’s easy-going all the way…sit back, sup up and relax…

I bet if you got a couple of bottles in, one for you and one for your neighbour Palin, he’d happily come ’round, sit in a deck chair in your garden, kick back, engage in amusing but witty conversation and it’d be all so terribly English and civil…just like the Meantimes London Pale Ale.

I got my bottle from Sainsbury’s for the princely sum of £1.79, as I felt I was worth it.

Churchill Pale Ale, Isis Pale Ale and Freedom Ales Stout

A week or so back I managed to slip out for a couple of evening drinks with some friends at The Killingworth Castle in Wootton.  The Killingworth is a pub that’s virtually smack on my doorstep but I haven’t previously had a chance to check out.
It’s a few months since it re-opened under new management and my first impressions are that it’s improved considerably, with the obligatory country gastro-pub refit of stripped floors, subdued lighting, a reasonable looking menu, re-vamped events program, etc.  Plus they seem to deal mostly in local beers and spirits, which is something to be applauded.

We decided to sit outside in the nicely re-landscaped garden, but only managed an hour or so before the keen north wind forced us back inside. What is it with summers these days?

Anyway onto the beers:

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First up was Oxfordshire Ales Churchill pale ale, which was nothing like as good as I remember it from the bottle.  This version was malty with a reasonable bitterness, a distinctly unremarkable character and really not that enticing.  I must admit it was a bit of a disappointment as I was looking forward to trying it on draught as it’s so good out of the bottle.  My advice: seek it out in bottle form if you can where it’s delightfully hoppy and refreshing.
Isis

Then I moved onto The Compass Brewery’s Isis pale ale. This was a completely different kettle of fish: a nice mid-brown clarity that delivered a good amount of malty complexity and gave way to a lovely mouth-wateringly bitter finish; a satisfying mouth feel and a really good pervasive hop character made this a beer that I wanted to come back to again and again.  Maybe it was the high standard of the Isis that made the Churchill seem poor by comparison?

stout

My one for the road was a stout by Freedom ales served from a keg on cellar gas and through a standard keg tap – which seemed wrong for a stout on so many levels and wrong it certainly was: way over-carbonated, making it “fizzy” – not gently carbonated, and served way too cold – both of which helped to kill most of the taste stone dead.

What I could taste was drinkable enough, some complexity in the maltiness with a pleasant enough hint of roast barley running on through.

It would probably have improved if I’d have ordered it, left it and enjoyed it a good two hours later…

Stout rules: serve on nitrogen, not cellar gas – use the correct tap and don’t serve it too cold!

The Killingworth Castle is a smashing pub and the staff are great…they just need to sort out that stout!

(The online drink menu is a bit out of date, though)

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

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Strange to think that the entire modern craft beer movement apparently stemmed from Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and even though Sierra Nevada brews somewhere near 800,000 barrels of beer a year (2010) it’s still thought of as a “micro” brewery; which, when compared to a company like Budweiser, I suppose they probably are.

Sierra Nevada have been producing their pale ale – currently the second best selling craft beer, and by a country mile the best selling pale ale, in the US – since 1980.

Straight from the bottle, the beer pours a clear heather-honey colour with a more than healthy effervescence, that brings forth a summer cumulus head.

The aroma that comes through is ozoney, fruity, honeyish and mellow.

Taste-wise, as the effervescence has broken over your tongue it leaves warming notes of malt and alcohol; which, at the  swallow, are supplanted by a smooth bitterness – thanks to the 37IBUs of early kettle hops -followed by a long-lasting finish of fruitiness and honey from the late hop additions, which I believe to be Cascade.

SNPA is by no means in the over-the-top hopped American craft IPA category, as it’s a pale ale…but it’s just as satisfying, only in a more restrained and self-assured way.

All round it’s a great beer – one of the classics.  Once you’ve tried it you’ll understand how the likes of Goose Island, Dogfish Head, etc. came to be.

I, rather ashamedly, bought my bottles from everyone’s favourite monopolists: Tesco for £1.79 for a 350ml bottle.

Vale Brewery: Checkmate

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Had a beautifully kept pint of this on Friday lunchtime at The Black Prince in Woodstock, Oxfordshire.

A bright straw colour with a good retained head that hung around to the end of the glass.

The first sip had a hugely refreshing bitterness that was on a par with beers such as Jaipur or Proper Job, but as it’s a pale ale rather than an India Pale Ale it didn’t have that massive hop flavour and aroma that I crave these days…that’s not to denigrate it at all – it’s a fine tasty beer and I could easily sink a few pints of Checkmate as it’s a perfect thirst-slaker for this time of year…

PS: A request for the head brewer at Vale: please brew a version of this  recipe and hop it up mentally, post-boil, with a big American hop variety – something like Cascade – and I think you’d have some very happy drinkers! (Especially me!)