Archive for August, 2013

The Beer Ashes: The Fourth Test

England have now won back the Ashes properly, (I know we retain the Ashes anyway because the series could have been a draw, but this is now a proper win), can they also make it a clear win in this, the fourth test of the beer ashes? Today’s test, however is not strictly a beer because up to bat for  for Australia, Pipsqueak Cider (5.2%) and trying to bowl them out, from England is Reddaways (6%) farmhouse cider. Both of these were £2.59 from Beers of Europe.

First up, the Australian cider. I was expecting it to be a very sweet cider, I don’t know why but I was. I was probably guessing that it would be another cider which is jumping on the Magners bandwagon. I was wrong. “Uh-oh”, I thought to myself, “Is Australia starting to make good cider?” I based all this on my first thought: it’s not sweet. Then I had another sip and I began to relax a bit as I realised that just because it isn’t sweet, it doesn’t necessarily make it good cider. The colour should have given it away, as it poured into the glass I noticed it was somewhere between straw yellow and slightly green. Not an attractive colour. Like some of the other Australian representatives we’ve seen in this series it was wildly effervescent, almost to a fault. Vinegary, estery vapours on the nose, although not overpowering. As I went through this drink I tried to think what it reminded me of, when suddenly I got a flashback from my youth, a flashback in a large blue plastic bottle, I realise what this reminds me of now: white lightning. As I finished it off I realised it was the perfect way of explaining it, it’s not completely undrinkable, but hasn’t got any sort of quality or discernibly decent characteristics. It just about get’s away with it on every aspect.

The Beer Ashes Fourth Test: Pipsqueak Cider vs. Reddaways Farmhouse Cider

The Beer Ashes Fourth Test: Pipsqueak Cider vs. Reddaways Farmhouse Cider

And now England’s offering. After the Pipsqueak, this just seamed like heaven in a glass. A medium sweet, well rounded cider, where you could taste the apple juice. Smelling the aroma of apples and not chemicals was fantastic, joyful, and such a relief that I hadn’t picked a rotten cider from all of the brilliant English ciders out there. Although it had just come out of the fridge and was perfectly chilled (some cider enthusiasts will say this is sacrilege but I don’t care) it still had a warming mouthfeel, it was thick and comfortable. I genuinely didn’t want the glass to ever empty, but alas, all good things have to come to an end.

Neither of these drinks have fallen into the modern wave of over ice, over advertised, overly hyped, over priced, overbearingly sweet, modern ciders which seem to adorn the list of products in every major lager brand these days. However this doesn’t either of them good on its own. Pipsqueak (which I have found out is part of the Little Creatures range of drinks) is a dry, gassy chemically tasting cider with none of the charm, warmth or charisma (can a drink be charismatic?) of the Reddaways, which is by far the better drink in my eyes. There is nothing Australia can do, England win the fourth test and the first beer Ashes, the only question left is, will they be able to finish the series with a more respectable 3-2 defeat, or will England crush them 4-1?

The Beer Ashes Third Test

So the cricket was a bit of a wash out and we’ve ended up with a draw leaving the series undecided whether it will be a draw or an English win.  Similarly there is no definite winner in the beer Ashes either, and to top it off the category which I was most fearing on England’s behalf is coming up today: Pilsner.

Batting for England is Meantime’s Pilsner and for Australia is Little Creature’s Pilsner. Little Creature’s 4.6% (£2.39): an immediate hit of yeasty, bready flavours, a hint of oranges with a jelly sweetness. Medium sparking which helps the produce a good mouthfeel. Mild Aroma, similar to its taste. Meantime 4.4% (£1.89) cereal tastes with a honey sweetness. More sparkling than the little creatures and drier too. To my mind much more like a pils should be. It’s much cleaner tasting, more fresh and more crisp.

The Beer Ashes Third Test: Little Creatures' Pilsner vs. Meantime Brewery's Pilsner

The Beer Ashes Third Test: Little Creatures’ Pilsner vs. Meantime Brewery’s Pilsner

As well as being much cheaper than the Little Creatures, the Meantime is a fresher drink. It has a less complex flavour which I find more attractive in any lager style. The cleaner more polished finish, however is what really sets it apart from the Little Creatures and is why I have no qualms in awarding the third test to England. This means the score for the overall series’ so far is 2 – 1 to England!

Thistly Cross Cider

Work has recently sent me to the town of Aviemore in the Scottish highlands. Aviemore is a small town with views out across the Cairngorm mountains, which, although impressive, don’t really compete with what I hear it’s like in the Alps. What has this got to do with the price of eggs? I hear you ask, well, while in Aviemore I found that nearly every restaurant and bar had at least a couple of beers available from the Cairngorm Brewery, the brewery itself being in an industrial estate on the edge of town.

Moody Skies

Moody Skies Over Aviemore

Work done and about to head back to England we thought it’d be rude to not have a look at what’s available at the brewery shop. Obviously there were many Cairngorm beers, a few guest beers and you usual souvenir brewery clock and brewery t-shirt etc. But what I want to mention is the Thistly Cross Cider.

Thistly Cross Cider

Thistly Cross Whisky Cask Cider 6.9%

Thistly Cross Original 7.2% is a lightly effervescent cider, light in colour too. A pleasant, dry aroma, something akin to Stowford Press. It has one real though, and it’s a major one, the main taste. it is far, far too sweet. I did not think that a cider of such strength could possibly be that sweet. As a result of this sweetness it also has a thick and gloopy mouthfeel, which isn’t desirable either. Afterwards the cider has an aftertaste more akin to Merry Down, with a slight sour note to it. It really was quite a chore to finish this.

I’d hoped that the other bottle would be better Thistly Cross Whisky Cask Aged 6.9%. The one with the slightly lower ABV being less sweet must surely be to do with the maturation in Whisky casks? More rounded, mellow and with hints of vanilla out of the two it would definitely be my choice, although it is still very sweet. But would I choose either of them at all? No. I won’t say that you should avoid it like the plague because that can get people into trouble, and I suppose if you have a sweet tooth you may like it. Definitely not for me though.