Warming winter ales from the British Isles

Like the stouts reviewed last week, English ales suit Canberra’s winter climate. As a group they’re fruity, rich and malty, and a joy to drink at a mild 5–10 degrees.

They vary in colour from pale tan to inky black and in flavour from mild and subtle to rich and chocolaty, with a corresponding variance in hops bitterness.

The richest pickings I’ve seen in Canberra are at Plonk, in the Fyshwick Markets, where there seems to be a continuous flow of new beers from around the world.

A recent raid on their shelves yielded a handful of outstanding English beers (all in satisfying 500ml bottles).

The mid-amber coloured Ridley’s Old Bob Strong Premium Ale ($7.28) features deep, supple, smooth maltiness, beautifully offset by hops aroma and flavour – a harmonious brew built on East Anglian pale ale malt and Fuggles hops.

The low-alcohol Manns Brown Ale ($6.03) focuses on rich, treacly malt flavours with little bitterness. It contrasts gently with the assertive, chocolaty, roasted grain flavours and drying hops bitterness of Taddy Porter, below.

Greene King Strong Suffolk Vintage Ale (7.29) – matured in oak for two years – is another powerful but balanced brew. It’s a fireside ale featuring high alcohol and warm toffee flavours.

Batemans Triple XB Classic Premium Ale 500ml $7.11
This lively copper-coloured beer ticks all of ale’s aroma, flavour and bitterness boxes – in its own rich, complex discrete style. The malt:hops balance is superb and the extra vibrance on the palate probably comes from the inclusion of wheat malt in the blend. This is an exciting and easy-to-drink beer.

Samuel Smith Tadcaster Taddy Porter 500ml $8.28
The line between stout and porter is to some extent arbitrary, but Taddy sits towards the robust end of the porter style. It’s deeply coloured, velvet smooth and balances seductive chocolaty, roasted-grain flavours against its lingering, dry, bitter finish. Despite the complexity and strength of flavours it’s oh so pleasant to drink.

Copyright © Chris  Shanahan 2009