Tag Archive: Alesmith


Alesmith Olde Ale

Alesmith: Olde Ale (USA: Old Ale: 11% ABV)

Visual: Dark cloudy brown to red with greyed to brown bubbled froth of a head.

Nose: Sultanas. Sour red grapes and port. Christmas cake. Nutmeg. Cherries. Buttery shortbread. Cinnamon.

Body: Big vinous and sour character. Sour grapes. Sultanas. Buttery shortbread. Madeira cake and Christmas cake. Cinnamon. Creamy character. Some alcohol tingle. Malt chocolate. Cake sponge.

Finish: Sultanas and raisins. Malt chocolate. Vinous. Sour grapes. Some bitterness. Lightly herbal tea. Cake sponge. Cinnamon.

Conclusion: British style old ale they say? British style ma son? Bit of a bold statement there guv. Let’s take a look at you then.

So, yeah, you’ve get some vinous going on lad, bit of the red wine and Christmas cake on the I suppose* there, gets proper lovely jubbly there it does.

However, me old china**, you’ve overplayed your hand. What is this? Bit of the old buttery shortbread? Bit of smooth play here, you are not from around these parts are ye? Too smooth for that mate. Now, that ain’t a criticism mate, you do good, but it is a dead give away like.

Course, you do give it a good try, big vinous body, lots of warming alcohol character that warns you that you will be a bit Oliver Twist*** by the end of this. Seriously, at 75cl and 11% it will knock a drinker right on your arris***** son if they don’t share it with their droogs******. But even there, in that big punch of sour grapes and Christmas Cake&, you couldn’t let it go, could you? Nah mate, buttery shortbread again – smooth as silk, you just had to show off didn’t you.

Now, I am impressed, and it takes a lot to impress this geeza, but I have to ask. American, right? You do the same with Belgian beer styles, make ’em smooth as silk. Again, not complainin’, but it’s a bit fancy ya know? Anyway, well worth the bees and honey&& it costs for something a bit different.

Lots of sour wine like old ale, lots of smooth as silk as a bit of a twist. give it a good old butchers&&&

*nose

** mate aka friend.

***pissed****

**** aka drunk

***** Arse aka bottom.

****** What do you mean you haven’t watched ” A Clockwork Orange”?, for shame.*******

******* – No that isn’t what it means, I was just venting.

& Not rhyming slang. I actually mean Christmas Cake.

&& Money. Yeah, I know, this one was new to me as well.

&&& Look.

Background: Bottled 04/03/14 (UK Style date) Drunk tail end 2015. They call this a British style ale proudly on the front of the bottle. Over a picture of Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland. Now I am about to be amazingly pedantic, but Ireland isn’t part of Britain. We deliberately made up many different ways of grouping the countries, with different names for each, so to confuse everyone so we can be pedantic when you get it wrong. Because we are evil. If they had put UK style ale I would have understood – just showing Northern Ireland would have been confusing geographically so I could have forgiven that the entirety of Ireland was on there. Anyway … drunk while listening to Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven. A name that is almost as long as playing the damn CD. Nice chilled backing music for beer.

Alesmith Wee Heavy

Alesmith: Wee Heavy (USA: Scotch Ale: 10% ABV)

Visual: Dark mahogany to black. Small brown bubbled head.

Nose: Chocolate liquore and chocolate dust. Figs. Raisins, in fact, rum soaked raisins. Boozy. Brandy cream.

Body: Frothy. Shortbread. Rum soaked raisins. Figgy pudding or Christmas Pudding. Chocolate and chocolate fondue.

Finish: Bitter chocolate. Sweet red wine. Slight spice warmth. Rum soaked raisins and brandy cream.

Conclusion: Scotch Ale. Now, there is always one awesome thing about having a scotch ale. It gives me an excuse to break out the thistle glass! However, often scotch ales are not to my taste. Yet I keep returning to them. Call it indestructible optimism. Or sheer bloody mindedness. Anyway, this one is from Alesmith, and while I don’t always agree with the view that their beers are some of the best USA beers, they are generally very good. So, it was with anticipation I took my first sip, and , it is very evident – this one is coming in big and boozy.

What stands out initially is how quickly the beer froths up into a very nice chocolate fondue feel. The texture and sweetness eases off a lot of the bigger boozier elements. It does have a lot of those bigger elements to offset – rum soaked raisins, red wine, brandy cream – it is never burning, but there are a lot of warnings about the alcohol level you are taking in.

It really does taste like Christmas pudding in a lot of ways, lots of dark fruit, the brandy cream. It takes a lot of the natural Scotch ale elements and harmonises them in a way that is stronger than the sum of its parts. It doesn’t go far from the scotch ale elements, but it does them very smooth and well – even better, it doesn’t get sickly, which is one of the common failings for the style.

Because I am not the biggest fan of the style, and it does play it fairly straight, I merely find it a very good beer rather than a great beer. However considering my bias against the style, I think that bodes very well for fans of the style.

So, very enjoyable, and, trust me, it is a beer than can compete with anything you drink before it. I have had it before at the end of a session and it never suffers for it. A well crafted show of the style.

Background: DOCTOR WHO DAY! This was drunk while waiting for the second Doctor Who episode to be available on Iplayer. As you can probably guess from the glasses in shot, this was drunk with friends, who declined doing a guest tasting. Which makes me sad. I have drunk this before, shared with groups in bars, but never got around to reviewing. It’s always been near the end of a session as well, so I was never sure if I was giving it a fair crack of the whip. Oh, also, I picked this up from Brewdog’s Guest beer selection. Because it is a nice selection.

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Alesmith: Nut Brown English Style Ale (USA: Brown Ale: 5.25% ABV)

Visual: Brown with red edges. Large sudden coffee froth head.

Nose: Dry oats. Light bitterness. Crushed leaves. Vanilla and cocoa dust.

Body: Nice moderate bitterness. Nutty. Red wine touches. Slightly chalky. Cherry hint and some fruitcake. Malt chocolate. Liquorice.

Finish: Bitter. Milky chocolate. Praline. Nutty. Chalk. Vanilla.

Conclusion: English Style, yeah, we have style! So much so people emulate our style! Woo. I’m reaching a bit there I think..

So a) Is it “English Style” and b) Much more importantly, is it any good and sod the style?. Good questions. Mainly because I came up with them so I would say that.

So

a) It is reasonably close, a higher abv than most English Brown Ales, but it has a similar base malt character and a moderate nuttiness. I’m guessing CAMRA wouldn’t consider it real ale and so it doesn’t have one of the quintessential traditional characteristics, but sod it I’m not too bothered on that. What it does lack which I consider important is that dry and slightly sour tingle that I do like in the best English Brown Ales. Its an element that makes them very refreshing and is missed here.

So, b) yeah, it’s pretty nice. A bit of fruitcake and chocolate sweetness, a bit of praline and good nuttiness. Easy to drink, quite soothing. The Japanese take, Angry Boy Brown Ale, is better for my money. A bit more out there and that makes it more fun.  This one is more authentic but less sheer awesome.

So this is a half way point, not entirely authentic, not entirely new. At a lower ABV I would find it sessionable on toast  (metaphorically of course, not really on toast. I think) and really enjoy it for it.  As it is the beer seems to suit going alongside a traditional beer and Yorkshire pudding meal. The flavours sit heavier due to the lack of tartness so would suit the heavier meal in my mind. Still a beer to go with  beef and Yorkshire puds that’s authentic enough for me.

It is good. Balanced nuttiness and malt chocolate flavour and easy to drink. With a bit of tartness it would have been great, as is I can still definitely find time to relax with it. Pretty nice.

Background: Alesmith, a brewery with a massive reputation, and one whose beers I enjoy. However with the exception of Old Numbskull I don’t quite see why people rate them so highly. They have been good, but not world best for the most part. Still, they have been quality enough that I never mind trying a few more of them. Continuing my punk retrospective to my youth I drank this while listening to Offspring: Americana. In my opinion their best, and last good, album even though two of the singles from it were utterly atrocious in both songwriting and intent.

Tasting Notes: Alesmith: X

Alesmith: X (USA: American Pale Ale: 5% ABV)

Visual: Golden with medium loose froth bubbles head that is just slightly off white. The main body is slightly bitty which makes me think that I should have left the bottle a touch longer before pouring.

Nose: Hop oils. Prickly gooseberries. Toffee and shortbread. Fresh and citrus. Pineapple.

Body: Good bitterness. Gooseberry and elderberry. Grapefruit. Slight sour grapes, Rough hop feel at times. Peppermint. Feels quite dry. Pineapple. Vanilla yogurt in a lightly sweet fashion. If allowed to warm has more custard cream and apricot sweetness.

Finish: Bitter, yet with lots of fresh elderberry. Slight mouthwash and peppermint. Hop oil.

Conclusion: First point. Extra does not start with an X , therefore using it to call this an eXtra Pale Ale is just annoying. Second point. Extra Pale Ale? What, your beer is paler than other pale beers? Who are you marketing to, white supremacists?

Ok, ok, I’ve got that out of my system now. The beer is definitely on the dry end of the pale ales, feeling highly attenuated as it is.  A feel that is both reinforced and contrasted by the flavours. The elderberry and gooseberry flavours are the main part when chilled, and while slightly tart in contrast to the dryness, it seems to contribute to the dehydrating feel of drinking, hence reinforcing and contrasting.

Some times the flavours can push a bit past that into a peppermint and almost mouthwash experience. Light but still not elements I quite appreciate. They show mainly in the finish but it still puts a slightly disjointed element to the flavour.

A pity as the beer has good characteristics otherwise, with an almost NZ like feel to the hops usage. There is good bitterness that complements the dryness without feeling excessive. The vanilla styled sweetness is well understated. It is well crafted, but the main flavour elements feel misused slightly. Never so much as to be unpleasant, but it keeps it from being truly enticing

It is a beer I wish I could say more good about as the polish of the implementation is such that even with the slight off elements on flavours it is easily drinkable.  Better warm than cold, the additional sweetness that comes seems to remove a lot of what I found negative about it. When I criticise here it is not so much it is a bad beer, but I feel that it lets down its potential.

Still, it is a pleasant pale ale, with just a slight wrong path of flavour, not even bad for the most part, just ill suited to the dry character here. A very dry and slightly tart beer of impressive style but slightly underwhelming choice of main flavour

Background: Picked up from Brewdog’s guest beer section, seriously that place is getting too much of my money. Not too much to say on this one. Alesmith have a huge rep, so far I’ve found their beers good but not exceptional with the exception of the awesome Old Numbskull, but they have had enough quality to them they I’m always happy to try more of their beers.

Alesmith: Speedway Stout (USA: Imperial Stout: 12% ABV)

Visual: Black, quite large froth of a coffee brown head. The head doesn’t last long but does leave suds around the glass.

Nose: Firm bitter coffee and roasted nuts, Sour dough.

Body: Roasted nuts. Very slick texture which is full of bitter coffee. Belgium bitter chocolate behind. Slightly milky. Very bitter for the most part. Texture can be made to froth up easily.  When chilled gets sweeter with riesen chocolate chews and toffee mixed with tiny touches of black cherry and orange liquore.

Finish: Dry bitter coffee. Hazelnuts and cashew nuts. Deluxe black chocolate.

Conclusion: I’m in kind of two minds on this. Technically it is very highly proficient. A small range of flavour elements. It has coffee, nuts and chocolate as the dominant components to such an extent that little else gets a look in. However each element is very well defined as to have a range within itself in a similar fashion to beer geek brunch weasel.

The chocolate, though a smaller element, is quality bitter Belgium chocolate in style. The coffee is flavoursome and roasted, and the nuts a mix of cashew and hazelnut in style which has that slight sourness as well.  Each element can be dissected and examined in itself.

Well, that’s the good points, so why am I in two minds. Well, the thing is that despite each element being very well defined they feel like it is lacking in counterpoints to the elements. They all lay on the bitterness and complement each other well in that, but it feels like it needs a bit more going against the grain to bring the flavours into sharper relief.

For fairness sake, it does have the interesting characteristic that the intrinsical bitterness seems linked inversely to the size of the sip taken. Small mouthfuls explode into bitterness, larger gulps froth up into a subtle sweetness that make in dangerously easy to drink.

The other point is the effect that chilling has. Chilled significantly it went down a lot better. Smoother, and it reigned the bitterness back a bit, giving the chocolate more room to flow.  This really is one of the few beers that works better after a full night in the fridge, rather than  shorter session.  It feels more balanced and therefore a better beer with some small sweet sub notes.

Overall a highly competent Imperial Stout, that feels closest in call to Stone Brewing’s Russian Imperial Stout In its bitter nature, but with far more coffee emphasis.  I think it suffers from excessive concentration on the bitter side of the flavours, but that really is personal preference. A very powerful and intense coffee imperial stout with a grace of texture and presence.

Background: listed as one of rate beers top 50 beers, this is a beer with a big rep (After a quick glance I realized I’ve had 20 of their current top 50, not bad). I’d had a bottle of it back at the first Brewdog AGM where it was shared between the three of us.  I was quite drunk then so didn’t review it.  Made with a large amount of Ryan Bros coffee beans, and in a quite hefty 75cl bottle so the beer was shared with a few friends this time as well.

Alesmith: Old Numbskull (USA: Barley Wine: 11% ABV)

Visual: Cherry red. Large slightly rouged lace leaving head of impressive density.

Nose: Glacier cherries. Light fruitcake and some cinnamon. Strawberry. Custard and crushed digestives.

Body: Thick and syrupy. Strawberry. Solid malt loaf that moves into liquorice. Easy frothing up in feel. Bitter chocolate rises if you hold the beer on your tongue for a while and also allows exploration of some pineapple hops. Fruitcake.

Finish: Liquorice and bitterness. Very bitter unsweetened chocolate. Pineapple hops. Slightly oaken.

Conclusion: On what unexpected twists this weaves. Initially very sweet, fruity and rich in the nose. Very well defined and yet still promises a grace of character. Combined with the rich red colour of the body it makes for quite and impression on that first bite by eye and second by nose.

The main body initially seems to follow the same path with bright strawberry sweetness and a syrupy texture. It is here however that this mystery of a beer brings its first twist. Mid body a liquorice element grows at the back , and carries through into the finish. This twists again turning into a deep bitter chocolate, a mix of high quality and uncompromising bitterness.

So the first sip has been taken, and the beer has had its measure taken. Or has it? As it turns out. No. You see, that bitter chocolate character hangs around and the second gulp is filtered through that lens, leading to a Belgium chocolate and fruitcake air to the whole proceedings.  It’s like drinking a melted box of fruit centred chocolates. This builds up with each sip to give remarkable depth of character.

There are even addition little flairs of character past that, with pineapple hops flaring up every now and then to give a fresh tone. Some times the bitter chocolate can seem to get too heavy, but just as I’m about to go off it, it relaxes the assault and lets the fruitiness come through again.

This is the beer where I get why Alesmith have such a great reputation. A fine beer above and beyond call of duty.
Background: Alesmith, a reputation looking for a beer to match it.  Ok, maybe a bit harsh, I have enjoyed all the beers I’ve tried from them, but so far none so much to match the squeeing I hear from it’s fans. Maybe this one will change that.  Picked up from Brewdogs Guest beer section and shared with neighbours. There’s also a bottle of Speedway Stout in the cupboard which I’m saving to drink after Doctor Who’s mid year break episode. Should be a nice night.

Alesmith: Grand Cru (USA: Belgium Strong Ale: 10% ABV)

Visual:Dark bronzed red. Massive off white head made of a mix of small bubbles.

Nose: Wheat. Slightly vinous sour grapes. Malt drink. Raisins.

Body: Red grapes. Malt loaf and sultanas. Dry malt drinks. Very vinous. Slight sour white grapes. Light aniseed. Malt chocolate.

Finish: Bitter. Wheat. Dry. White wine and sour grapes. Cinnamon. Soy sauce. Liquorice.

Conclusion: Bit of a disappointment this one. Maybe I built it up too much in my mind as I was looking forwards to it. Not a bad beer, but compared to similar beers with similar reputations it just doesn’t quite match up.

I’ve pretty much started at the end there. Maybe being a bit harsh as well. Lets go back to the start and I shall explain.

The aroma was fairly simple, it calls to the Belgium Saison style with dryness and what characteristics. What it didn’t do was get me excited for the main beer. It did have a slight sourness but not too much is hinted at. Thus I had to move onto the main body for it to stand on it’s own merits alone.

The body definitely showed the influence of Belgium yeast (or if not then a facsimile thereof) in the texture, but the flavours call more to heavily smoothed out version of the British ESB style. Now here it does do some nice tricks with fruit flavour, wine sourness and a dryness mixed in. It did seem a bit light without any push or emphasis initially. This resolves itself as I poured more into the glass. Either the flavour had built up or, at a guess, the extra dislodging of the yeast in the bottle helped the flavour. Its amazing how many times with beers like these the second glass from the bottle is far more flavoursome than the first.

The finish is dry and simple. Maybe it was due to only having a year to age but the beer seemed to fare badly against the three year aged Bush Prestige I had before. They seem to play for the same style butt this beer doesn’t have the same range or craft.

Now I have listed the areas I found disappointing I will say again it isn’t a bad beer, just not in the league it was seemingly aiming for. It is nicely vinous and tart, easy to drink and does have decent flavour to the main body. The mix of styles is interesting, and gives the impression of a malt drink saision with vinous touches. Not as good as that sounds though. It does do a nice mix of raisins and red wine with lots of Belgium character. I guess for all its reputation, and my enjoyment of the similar, Bush Prestige I was just expecting more. Not bad, just not great.

Background: Picked up a while back from Brewdogs guest beer section. There’s no bottled on date, but based on how long it’s been in my cupboard and how long American beers usually take to get here I would guess it’s had about a years ageing. Alesmith is one of these breweries that have a legendary rep, but I’ve yet to try a beer from them that matches their rep. There haven’t been any bad beers, just none so great as to make me go wow. Then again it took me a while to find beers that made me see why Moor had a good rep as well and now I love that brewery, so I’m always willing to give Alesmith another try to see what I’m missing. (odd fact noticed from this write up, I always seem to typo “malt loaf” as “malt load” – I really hope I didn’t miss this elsewhere). Final Note: I have been reading “John Dies At The End” which may explain the sudden appearance of the “Soy Sauce” flavour note in this review.

Alesmith: IPA (USA: IPA:7.25% ABV)

Visual: Amber gold, the head a middling off white, but thick and sturdy.

Nose:  Big chunks of pineapple, slightly resinous. Sharp grapefruit undertones. Wheaty yet crisp. Moderate malt and apricot.

Body:   Pineapple, very solid and dry bitter core. Very dry hoppiness. Very brown bread influenced.   Slight fresh citrus around the edges. When it finally opens up you get peaches, custards sweetness and an understated malt backbone.

Finish: Solid sticky dry hops. Sour dough. Very solid bitterness. Clinging texture.

Conclusion: If I have leant one thing from this beer, its bastard ignore brewers serving advice, they hate you. I don’t know why, maybe they wrote them while they were drunk and it seemed funny.  The shits.

So I took their advice, more fool me, left the sediment in the bottle, chilled the beer just slightly.  Poured it in a pint glass, ok not an “Alesmith pint glass”, but still a pint glass, it counts. What did I end up with?

Well a texture more than a taste is what I got.  The nose was out to fool me, more evidence of Brewery trickery.  It was all, “Here’s your standard American Fruity IPA”, but that aint what entered my mouth.

No what I got was a beer as dry as they could make it feel and as bitter as they could sensibly fit. You can feel the flavours under there, but pretty much you get dry and bitter.  The finish especially leaves your tongue dry and parched.

Any long time readers will know that at this point I was getting ready to rip this beer a new one, I love a bitter beer, but there’s got to be more to it than that.  This thing was eschewing the traditional malt backbone, sweetness, or massive citrus of most takes on ultra bitter IPAs. Without that it comes across lightly dull, especially for a 600ml bottle and high abv.  It just didn’t have the charm to sustain itself.

Then, I thought “sod this noise” poured in the damn sediment, and warmed the thing up. Oh look, there was a decent beer in here after all.  Bit of sweetness added, and a nice peach streak is suddenly introduced. Somewhat hardcore IPA but with less malt and more brutal.  Notable I remembered at this point that the brewers tasting note had mentioned black cherry, and suddenly I tasted black cherry. I didn’t add that to the main tasting as I deeply distrust it when someone tells you they taste something and suddenly you taste it yourself, seems a tad psychosomatic  If only because I have a friend who likes shouting out random oddities during my tasting notes. The git.

Still heck of a hop kick, it isn’t too fancy pants, but I get the feeling that was what they were aiming for and they achieved it.

It’s direct and to the point, and I can respect that, even if I prefer a bit more game to my beers. Oh and don’t chill this unless your in the middle of a heatwave.

Background: Alesmith are a brewery with a big rep, and I got to try their Speedway Stout a while back, which was pretty good.  Id seen their own official tasting details a while ago when I first investigated what this beer was, but with a memory like mine, hopefully that doesn’t make too much difference (notable exception explained in the main body).  Oddly, I broke the pint glass shortly after doing this tasting note. Bugger.  If I gave point scores to beers I’d take ten points off it for sheer spite because of that.  Thankfully I don’t. Rate beer lists this as their highest rated IPA.

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