Tag Archive: Marston

Marston: Devil’s Backbone: American IPA (England: IPA: 5.2% ABV)

Visual: Clear browned gold body. An off white, thin head that leaves suds as it descends.

Nose: Good hop character. Soft lime. Fresh dough to brown bread. Slight sulphur. Greenery.

Body: Solid bitterness. Mild golden syrup. Creamy lime and kiwi. Reasonably thick body with syrupy touches. Pine needles and resin. Vanilla and custard touches.

Finish: Lime. Reasonable bitterness and hop character. Prickly hops. Kiwi. Vanilla fudge. Resin. Hop oils. Grapes. Sugared apricots.

Conclusion: You know, I may catch some shit for this, but this is a solid IPA.

The body however is, well, odd I will admit. It has that standard, slightly syrupy thick style that Marstons seem to use in their beers a lot. Not really American IPA style, any of them, but still something I can live with here.

What I like about this is that it actually uses the damn hops like they always used to in an IPA. Good bitterness, solid resinous character and hop oils along with a fluffy hop feel. It may not be a masterclass but I can taste a nice hop kick. I’m missing that in a lot of IPAs these days, even when I avoid NEIPAs.

Fruit hop flavour wise it is a reasonable if not not inspiring mix of green fruit – lime, kiwi and grape, all quite sweetly delivered. In fact the whole thing is fairly sweet under the hops with a heavy vanilla influence over the slightly syrupy body.

It’s decent, a very Marston familiar body meets good hop use, if with unoriginal hop flavours choice, but you know, I’ll take that. A nice hop kick with an odd choice of malt backing.

I genuinely could see this being a nice regular beer to visit for a good hop infusion. Not stand out, but goes down nicely and not too expensive.

Background: While they are back via delivery, for a while in this virus lock-down a lot of bottle shops have been closed. So I decided to take advantage of this time to look at how the beer selection has changed in supermarkets over the years and do some notes. This one is from a local Co-Op. I first saw This beer in one of my rare visits to Weatherspoons. I respect Weatherspoons’ beer selection and decent price, but their owner is a grade A fucking shit. So, I tend to only go when mates want to or it is the only available choice. No seriously, the owner is a complete cockwomble. Devil’s Backbone is a USA brewery but this was brewed at Martson’s in the UK. First time around people from Devil’s Backbone came over to help, now I’m guessing it is just brewed under licence or similar. I found this out by a quick google, my suspicions were raised by a) The brewer listed as Marstons hidden in small print on the back of the label. And b) the text that opens “Hey there Englanders!” followed by some real folksy bullshit. In my experience no beer label from a beer actually brewed in the USA opens with anything quite that twee. Anyway, I put on a bunch of old superbursts and other Warren Ellis curated music podcasts while drinking.


Wychwood (Marstons): Bah Humbug (England: English Strong Ale: 5.0%)

Visual: Reddened mahogany brown. Lots of small bubbled carbonation. Browned inch of a bubbled head.

Nose: Lightly roasted. Light nutmeg. Malt drinks.

Body: Caramel. Cinnamon. Light chestnuts. Slight chocolate, grows over time. Quite treacle texture and slight flavour as well. Soft vanilla notes. Nutmeg.

Finish: Cinnamon and nutmeg. Slight vanilla. Slight brown bread. Light oak notes. Soft treacle. Butterscotch.

Conclusion: This feels like your standard, non real ale, bottled ale – but spiced up for Christmas. Ok, went a bit “damning with faint praise” on that opening – but please do not read that too harshly, let me expand.

The base has that smoother feel that I find tends to come with pasteurised beers, with accompanying higher levels of sweetness. It has less evident texture than the real ale version which I have also tried, and a cleaner sweetness. Kind of a clean caramel and light treacle style backed by some vanilla. As is indicated in the opening that is kind of standard for this kind of beer, to my eyes at least. From the colour of the beer I would also admit to expecting it to be closer to the chestnut coloured bitter style of ale, as for that this seems a tad light on the bitterness and hop stylings. However on the malt side it matches exactly to expectations.

Instead of notable bitterness and some earthy work from the flavouring hops, this actually goes to work with the spices in the same space. Moderate but present – they call to Christmas with the nutmeg matched with cinnamon sweetness. It is a pleasant, slightly warming flavour – very gentle in intensity, but despite that the spice is the main flavour here. It is nothing out of the normal, but solid and matches the season it is picked for nicely.

Soothing malt base, moderate spice – no complaints, does what you would expect. Some people dislike the distinct feel and taste of the pasteurised beers, but it matches the spice usage here. As mentioned, I have also tried the lower abv real ale version – It has a better, more gripping texture – the flavours are less distinct, but in that have more subtle meshing between them and with lower evident sweetness. Either way it is a solid enough drink for the season, but not one to actively hunt out.

Background: Not sure if this still counts as English Strong Ale, as it is down from its old 6% abv of years gone by. However I’m not putting it under spiced beer as the cinnamon added to the beer doesn’t dominate that much in intensity and it doesn’t really match any other style cleanly. I had drunk the lower abv, real ale, take on this in a pub the day before, but this, pasteurised bottle version was provided by my family while I was back home for Christmas – many thanks!

Marstons: Oyster Stout (England: Stout: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Dark coffee froth head.  The head has a short life but decent amounts of froth.

Nose: Fish oil. Milky coffee and dry roasted peanuts.  Condensed cream. Almond slices. Cinnamon and a hint of smoke.

Body: Dark bitterness. Slight sour dough. Milky but with a slight rough texture. Milky chocolate. That oiliness again.

Finish: Fish oil. Bitter coffee, or maybe just bitterness. Black cherry and cream at times. Dry on the tongue. Cinnamon dusting on apple at the very end.  Becomes slightly salty after a while.

Conclusion: This beer seems to show up a lot in warmer climes for reasons I can’t quite establish. Oft amongst a host of identikit lagers this oyster stout has popped up and given me something actually worth drinking.

That oiliness that seems to be what makes it an oyster stout is a slightly odd addition, but may be part of the reason why it works in the heat.  In the much more sane (and by that I mean cold) British climate it is drinkable, slightly cloying and has a reasonable chocolate base.

It’s a good beer, if not impressive in the highly competitive stout world. It does have just enough quirks with the oiliness and the like to make it at least somewhat different.

It’s all in the little touches. The almond fingers in the aroma, the oiliness, the apple and cinnamon touch at the end. All very slight but they do make it a bit more drinkable. The bitter at the back is far less subtle though and thus is the mainstay of the beer.

Like a lot of the Marston beer it’s decent product, and at the same time a stepping stone. It’s not the greatest beer, but it is good and helps open people up to the better beers out there.

Background: This beer has been a life saver a few times, I’ve seen it as the only decent beer in pubs around the UK, in Cyprus, in fact in more places than you would guess.   One of a pack of Marston beers that the parents had got in to tide me over Christmas, which was kind of them.  I tried to ignore my father using them to make shandys.   Some things should just not be done to a poor beer. Again due to being drunk with the family it had a slightly odd choice of glass.

Marstons: Pedigree (England: ESB: 5% ABV)

Visual: Mahogany to honey. Decent whitish froth of bubbles of a head. Moderate carbonation made up of very small bubbles.

Nose: Honey. Mellow British hops. Grapes.

Body: Honey. Bitter and sweet mixes. Slick texture. Lots of the clingy British hops in evidence. Dough. Golden syrup. Slight fizz mid body. Light peanuts on the middle as well,

Finish: Slick, like honey spread over your tongue. Hop oil and bitterness. The bitterness is the longest lasting element, solid but not overpowering. Peanuts.

Conclusion: Marstons can often be peoples first exposure to non crap beer.  It used to have a red and white colour scheme, maybe attempting to gain popularity my matching the English flag.  Any which way, it is a solid red these days so I can’t take the piss if it was.

Martson main appeal I feel tends to come from its very slick and quite thick texture, which tends to be backed by a solid bitterness.  Revisiting Pedigree I find the remembered texture still very much in evidence, it’s a thick sheen over your tongue that holds on well, Similarly the mix of the traditional Fuggle and Golding hops style is unmistakable, it has what I would think of a stereotypically British hop character; Thick and slightly heavy, with a clinging touch.

In fact this is what often is thought of as a hop characteristic for a casual drinker in Britain due to its prevalence in the more popular ales.  Oft people are unaware of the more showy hop varieties available elsewhere.  It’s a pity as these hops provide solid bitterness but not much pizzazz. Because of this it is quite hard to get excited about a beer that has it as its main characteristic.  The telling weight and thickness of the brewery are put to better use in some of their other beers.

This, their mainstay is somewhat dull. It does however carry nice grape and honey sweetness alongside the hops. A memorable beer for where it stands in my drinking history but not a special beer.

Background: Marstons is a popular brewer with a lot of my friends, with the term “A Marstons Moment” being used to refer to a gathering where Marstons is served.   They have always been a good stand by I’ve found, if not in the top league. Their Owd Rodger however is a thing of beauty by my recollection. May have to add it to my list of things to review one day. This beer was drunk with the family over Christmas, hence the odd choice of glass which was pretty much all they had.

Marston’s Old Empire (England: IPA: 5.7 ABV)

Visual: Burnished gold with a clear almost apple like thirst quenching and appetizing look. Frothy slightly off white head with a pale rim around the edges.

Nose: Slight apple juice and cream.

Body: Creamy hops in decent dosage. Milky, sweet syrup back.

Finish: Bitter stabby hops, more lactose. After half a pint a golden sweat forms inside your mouth.

Conclusion: A smooth hoppy beer but the hops seem to get lost sometimes in the milky flavoured centre. This keeps it just slightly off kilter which makes it hard to appreciate. Not harsh enough for a hops fan but not smooth enough for a lighter ale. By memory I believe the bottled version to be superior but that may be a topic for a later tasting note. As of such I am unable to recommend it due to its lack of balance, but the beer is not abysmal.

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