New Bristol 365

New Bristol: 365 (England: Bitter: 4% ABV)

Visual: Mahogany to brown. Thin toffee bubbled head that leaves suds around the rim.

Nose: Robust. Nutty. Peanuts and crushed almonds. Light earthy notes and coffee.

Body: Malt drinks. Sour tang. Dried apricot. Sour dough. Soft lime in cream. Nutty. Dry yet milky tasting coffee – kind of like coffee cake.

Finish: Earthy and soil. Bitter hops. Malt drinks and malt chocolate. Sour dough. Cream. Lime. Coffee cake.

Conclusion: Interesting, this is a beer I can respect in exactly how well it shows the strengths of the style, while also acknowledging that it really isn’t the beer for me.

The thing you get with a good cask bitter, to my mind, is a slight sourness to it that goes alongside the actual bitter characteristics – a sourness that makes it refreshing and easily drinkable. This is especially true with traditional British bitters as they tend to have earthy hop characteristics that can get heavy without that sour counterpoint.

This uses that very well, the sour dough like tang comes up against not just a robust earthy hop character, but also a mellow coffee cake backing. There is a small amount of soft citrus fruit stuck twixt the sourness and the slight creaminess of the main body. Again an element that helps drinkability.

Despite this acknowledged quality I find it not for me – the earthiness is higher than I prefer, it doesn’t go to the full on soil level, mostly, but to a point where I appreciate its quality rather than actually enjoy it as a beer.

Throughout the beer’s lifespan the sourness mellows, though it is always present, and the malt and earthiness rise in response. You also get a few, soft, hints of dried fruit rising up. It is a solid example of exactly what can be done with a bitter, and also with cask ales – it very much emphasises the points I mentioned in “container wars“.

It just isn’t really for me, so consider what I have said, and work out if you think it would be for you.

Background: For some reason rate beer lists this at 4.3% abv, maybe that is the bottled version. Anyway, I was in the Barley Mow and saw this on. Since I had been talking recently about how cask beers suit bitters very well I thought it was a good time to give it a go. I had been meaning to de a New Bristol tasting notes for a while now, and thought it best to do one while the “New” part of their name still seemed even vaguely relevant.