Monday, 31 December 2012

Anchor Springs Black Pearl Porter

This traditional version of the style, 5.2% ABV, 1062° OG, began its brewery life with a working name of Abyss but as Black Pearl made its first public appearance at the October 2011 Worthing Beer Festival, where it proved to be one of the most popular local beers on the bar. Black Pearl was subsequently awarded joint 3rd Beer of the Festival at the Sussex Beer and Cider Festival, Hove, in March 2012. It is currently the brewery’s only seasonal beer and available from October to March.

Black Pearl is brewed with Pale, Crystal, Amber and Chocolate malt, with Target hops for bitterness, EKG for flavour and Challenger for aroma. Cinnamon sticks are added to the copper during the boil. This dark, rich beer reveals a tawny-red hue when held to the light. A sweet vinous nose has hints of Madeira; the taste is sweet at the start but well-balanced between creamy chocolate and dry biscuit malt; the mouthfeel is smooth and full-bodied. A complex range of flavours include liquorice, toffee, dark fruits and a hint of cinnamon and coffee, leading to a pleasant bitter end note.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Fuller’s Traitors’ Gate

Traitors’ Gate is brand-new “rich ruby red ale” from Fuller’s. Named after the entrance to the Tower of London, it is being trialled as a limited edition brew in a selected number of Fuller’s houses. I found it in the Golden Eagle, Delamare Road, Southsea, an outlet for the Sussex Drinker and a new entry in the 2013 CAMRA Good Beer Guide.

Given a feedback form to fill in, I wrote something along the following lines. Outstanding fruit on the nose with citrus notes; full-bodied and bursting with red berry flavours, slightly sweet, but well balanced with biscuit malt and a slightly astringent zesty but gentle hop finish. I ventured the opinion that there is a need for this fruity red ale at 4.5% in the Fuller’s range.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Fuller’s Past Masters – Old Burton Extra

I spent last Saturday delivering the winter issue of the Sussex Drinker to pubs in Portsmouth & Southsea. Alighting at Portsmouth Harbour railway station, one of my first calls was to the famous Still & West Country House, a Fuller’s house now back in the Good Beer Guide after a period of absence.

I was pleased to see a range of Fuller’s speciality bottled beers on sale - Vintage Ale, Brewer’s Reserve and the third in Fuller’s Past Masters series, Old Burton Extra.

As beer writer Martyn Cornell makes clear, Burton Ale was not a bitter IPA as one might suppose, but a slightly stronger, darker and sweeter beer than the pale ales first made famous by that Staffordshire brewing town before its name become synonymous with India Pale Ale. A Burton remained a popular choice in pubs in the immediate period after the Second World War but today it is a virtually forgotten style – Gone for a Burton, as they say. More recent beers brewed in the Burton tradition no longer go by that name.

This Fuller’s Old Burton was recreated from an authentic recipe of Thursday 10th September 1931 that used Pale Ale and Crystal malt, maize and special brewing syrup; hops were Fuggles and Goldings, both in the copper and for dry hopping. My bottle cost £4.85; the contents poured a clear amber-brown; I sat and sipped in contemplation, looking out of the pub windows over the harbour towards Gosport, watching the ferries sail by.

This is very recognisably a Fuller’s beer with characteristic marmalade and spearmint aroma but also hints of fresh grassy hops and hazelnut above the fruity caramel malt. For its strength of 7.3%, I was surprised at the smooth, light, almost delicate initial taste, only after which the alcoholic warmth becomes apparent. It is certainly a very easy beer to drink, aided by the fact that it is not in the slightest bit cloying; for while the flavour is predominantly fruity and sweet with burnt sugar and caramel malt, it is remarkably well-balanced by a gentle but lingering dry hop finish.

The original Fuller’s Old Burton Extra was replaced in 1971 by a winter brew called ESB. Wonder what happened to that?