Beer Matters

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

Last Tuesday the temperature tumbled by several degrees and, for the first time in weeks, I felt it prudent to go out ringing clad in more than shorts and tee shirt. Right on cue, the pub had Mordue’s Autumn Tyne (4.0%) on the guest beer list. This was a new one on me and, whilst there was a faint metallic twang which I didn’t relish, it otherwise had all the right attributes for an autumnal ale: deep coppery colour, substantial body and rich, fruity flavour. Summer ales may be reminiscent of fair waving golden corn but, as the nights draw in, beers which reflect the bounty of the harvest and the russet hues of the waning year are just perfect.

When John Milton wrote “Then to the spicey, nut-brown ale” (L’Allegro), he could have been thinking of Adnams’ Fisherman (4.5%). A beautiful mellow brew, it almost defies classification: too ‘big’ for a mild but not obviously a bitter nor strong enough for an old, it is really a draught brown ale. Indeed, it has existed in bottled form for many years (and featured in Don Shepherd’s song “Adnams’ Ale” - “There’s Fisherman’s Brown, a neat little brew”) but only recently made the transition to the cask.

Then I tried another seasonal offering which didn’t quite make the grade. Shepherd Neame’s Late Red (4.5%) has a beautiful colour and a lingering bitterness but rather too much caramel in the mouth; it could do with a few more hops up front. One beer which does fit the bill, although I have to say it drinks well at any time of year, is Timothy Taylor’s Landlord (4.3%), one of the fruitiest bitters there is, albeit with a satisfyingly hoppy finish.

In a different category but equally welcome, especially as I had not had the pleasure for a couple of years, is Dorothy Goodbody’s Wholesome Stout (4.6%) from Wye Valley’s seasonal range. Draught stouts are not common and this is a superb example of the genre: meaty and nourishing with complex smokey and chocolatey flavours. Probably its nearest rival is Hopback’s Entire Stout (4.5%), slightly lighter in texture and eminently quaffable.

I am indebted to Mr Hutchinson (p. 935) for pointing out that beers are flavoured with hops. Actually, additives aside, beers are flavoured by all their ingredients, principally the malt and hops (hence we boring old beer writers keeping banging on about the balance between the two) but also the yeast and water – or, to be precise, the minerals in the water (which is why, when production of a beer is moved to another brewery, it never tastes quite the same).

The very day I enjoyed the Dorothy Goodbody’s, The Times brought good tidings: beer doesn’t make you fat! Recent research by Dr Martin Bobak concludes that there is no proven association between beer consumption and the so-called “beer belly” which may be due to “other aspects of diet and lifestyle”. I hesitate to venture an opinion on the matter although, when I tried to squeeze behind someone’s chair to get to the bar the other day, the remark was made “he’s not called Maximus Bibendus for nothing you know”.

Maximus Bibendus

Reproduced by kind permission of The Ringing World.

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