CAMRA Approved Pub…Not Behaviour!

The…Central London, England.

Mr. Happy at a pub in London.
I asked for a taster of an ale and then, having liked it, asked and was served two pints of the same sampled cask ale.

Nice brew. Spey Valley IPA at 4.6 per abv., with a malty start and then the hops kicked in with abandon. A very fine brew. Please, don’t blame them!

The initial exchange was less than cordial, a disapproving grunt at best.

So. Mr Happy. Why are you so out of sorts?

<The verbal bits imagined as the barman was unable to speak!>

Well. Let me tell you.
As if you will listen?
First. You want a free taster. And then. Having had that. You expect me to pour two full pints.
And then you expect change from a tenner.
And then you expect me to be cordial after all those demands!
You people are beyond belief!
You fuckin’ foreigners!
Bloody hell!
Make my life miserable, or what?
Thanks so much!

“Love you too!”

Obviously, a pic would give it away!


CAMRA GBBF Winners Announced!

176Champion Beer of Britain 2015

CAMRA are pleased to announce this year’s Champion Beers of Britain as follows:

Supreme Champions

Supreme Champion Rosette - Gold

Tiny Rebel – Cwtch

Kelburn – Jaguar

Dancing Duck – Dark Drake


Mild Rosette - Gold

Williams Brother- Black

Rudgate – Ruby Mild

Great Orme – Welsh Black

Best Bitter

Best Bitter Rosette - Gold

Tiny Rebel – Cwtch

Highland – Scapa Special

Joint Bronze:
Barngates – Tag Lag
Salopian – Darwin’s Origin


Speciality Rosette - Gold

Titantic – Plum Porter

Joint Silver 
Kissingate – Black Cherry Mild
Saltaire – Triple Chocolate

Hanlons – Port Stout


Bitter Rosette - Gold

Pheasantry – Best Bitter

Acorn – Barnsley Bitter

Joint Bronze
Purple Moose – Madog’s Ale
Timothy Taylors – Boltmaker


Golden Ale Rosette - Gold

Kelburn – Jaguar

Adnams – Explorer

Blue Monkey – Infinity

Strong Bitter

Strong Bitter Gold

Dark Star – Revelation

Salopian – Golden Thread

Grain – India Pale Ale

Champion Bottle-Conditioned Beer

Bottled Beer Rosette - Gold

Cask Conditioned Ale Making Its Mark


Real ale, or cask conditioned ale, in the U.S. and Canada is still catching on but not to the same extent as in England, and for good reason. There isn’t the cask conditioned ale heritage in the U.S. and Canada that there is in the U.K., and in North America, brewers and pub owners are still learning the intricacies of handling and serving real ale. The English never totally lost real ales, as had happened on this side of the Atlantic, though cask conditioned ales were in serious decline in Britain when the Campaign For Real Ale, CAMRA, began the turnaround in the early 1970s.

Pubs on this side of the Atlantic, even the pubs imported lock, stock and barrel from the U.K., never seem to quite come up to being a real English pub. Is the real ale good on this side of the Atlantic? Yes, some of it, very good, actually. And it would seem brewpubs offer the best way for a brewer to ensure cask conditioned ale is properly maintained from brewery to glass. As an example, The Granite Brewery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, deserves to survive and thrive because it unerringly offers fine pints of cask conditioned ale. Indeed, some English visitors agree, the Granite sells some of the best pints of real ale they’ve had, outside of England, that is. And to me that’s high praise coming from the Brits.

Admittedly, real ale has latched on to my palate. I prefer the more rounded, full flavour of a cask conditioned ale to a gassed-up filtered beer, though, of course, there are always exceptions. I always drink best available, whether it is cask or keg. If I don’t like a malty brew on offer on cask, I will turn to a hoppy keg or craft beer.

But certainly not all real ale is good. Muddy beers passed off with the ubiquitous, ‘that’s the way it’s supposed to be, or taste’ have ruined a beer experience for more than one adventurous beer drinker in North America. For example, at Chicago’s Goose Island Brewing Company a cloudy, yeast laden IPA with no hope of the much anticipated hop bitterness surfacing, caused me to quickly switch to Goose Island’s Honker’s Ale, a fine pint of filtered ale.
I remember seeing but did not chance drinking a muddy, unfiltered HefeWeizen served in a Portland, Oregon, brewpub that could have floated a sand barge and yet this identical beer populated many nearby tables. I accept the haze factor for this style of beer but not to this extreme. The same brewpub did a credible job of fining its real ale, a slight haze was not uncommon, but my friend, a brewer who once brewed real ales at the former Godson’s Brewery in London, England, preferred the filtered version of the same cask ale I was drinking.

Disappointment also came from the cask conditioned Scottish ale offerings from the much heralded Highland Brewery in New York City, obviously before it closed, where, after a light refreshing 2 Penny Ale and a somewhat thin 60/Dark Mild, which had hints of underdeveloped character, a persistent graininess in the Ben Nevis 80/Brown Ale and a cardboard staleness in the Highlander Special Bitter followed. Is it any wonder the public did not take to these unappealing and ill kept beers? Is it that surprising that the brewery closed? And yet, hardly anyone wants to talk about the downside of real ale and the microbrewery industry.

Will real ale catch on in North America? In time it will find favour with some, a niche product for those beer drinkers lucky enough to be situated near a place where the beer is kept in good nick. Certainly, groups such as CASK! Toronto have helped to make in-roads in that city for the brewers who are willing to go the cask ale route.

But for me there is still nothing quite like visiting an English pub for the right atmosphere for having a pint of cask conditioned ale. Call me spoiled or spoiled for choice, it’s all fine by me.

Coniston Brewing Company, Cumbria, Hits a Double

DSC00162Coniston Bluebird Bitter is a 4.2 percent abv ordinary bitter brewed at the Coniston Brewing Company, Cumbria, Engand. This polished golden coloured ale has a whitish head of foam. Initially, bold fruity aromas, both from hops, namely challenger, and the yeast, burst forth. This is followed by rich and vibrant malt notes from Maris Otter pale malt and crystal malt bubbling up from beneath. Body is low end of medium.

On the palate, a crisp bitterness strides forward confidently, ably backed by a stunning combination of the malts. Middle has notes of grapefruit hop bitterness riding herd on a sound malt structure. Long bitter finish eagerly delivers on its early promise of hops to the fore. Bottle conditioned, therefore yeast sediment in the bottom of the bottle. Pour gently in one steady motion, leaving about an inch of beer in the bottle, if you prefer a clear beer. CAMRA’s Champion Beer of Britain 1998.


Coniston Old Man Ale is a 4.2 abv special bitter from the Coniston Brewing Company, Coniston, cumbria. It is a brilliant harvest orange red coloured ale derived from roasted barley, crystal malt and pale ale malt, having an almond accented head of foa. Bold fruit aromas, with rich malt undercurrents and a hearty grapefruit tang spring forth. Medium in body. On the palate, grapefruit citrus flavourings from the Challenger and Mount Hood hops step forward in a sprightly fashion, ably supported by an established malt factor.

Middle has a defining hop bitterness on a firm malt backbone. Finish is extended with a penetrating hop bitterness that is both sharply delineated and very moreish in nature. Old Man Ale is named after the Lakeland mountain at the foot of which sits the Coniston Brewery. Bottle conditioned, therefore yeast sediment in the bottle.

A Trio of Beauties from the Wye Valley Brewery

013Dorothy Goodbody’s Wholesome Stout is a 4.6 percent abv Irish stout brewed by the Wye Valley Brewery of Stoke Lacy, Herefordshire. This black ale with ruby hues pours has a thick crop of mocha coloured foam. The base is Maris Otter pale malt but the nose is definitely stamped by a blast of roast aroimatics.


On the palate, roast embraces a resolute hop bitterness from Northdown hops. A long, bitter finish has both hops and roast barley malt contributing to the rich flavour. Brewery recommended serving temperature of 12C. Real ale in a bottle as per CAMRA definition. A very fine yeast sediment clings to the bottom of the bottle, making pouring relatively straightforward.


Dorothy Goodbody’s Golden Ale is a 4.2 percent abv English style golden ale. Bottle conditioned, this polished pale golden ale has light aromatic scents of grassy hops and rich malt in the nose. On the palate, traditional English hop varieties, Fuggles and Goldings, deliver a persistent hop bitterness on a Maris Otter malt base. A crisp hop driven finish completes the picture. Brewery recommended serving temperature of 12C. Real ale in a bottle as per CAMRA’s definition.

Dorothy Goodbody’s Country Ale is a 6 percent abv strong English ale brewed by the Wye Valley Brewery. A hefty grain bill includes malted barley, malted wheat, flaked barley, crystal malt, amber malt and roast barley. An almond shaded head of foam sits atop this fairly full bodied ruby coloured ale. On the nose, roast notes, a hint of chocolate and luscious malt are evident.


On the palate, there is plenty of hop bitterness to balance all the malt flavours. In the middle, malt is penetrated by a sturdy and lingering hop presence. The long bitter finish is complex in nature, with hops and roast providing the lead elements. Bottle conditioned or real ale in a bottle as per CAMRA’s definition.

Fuller’s Imperial Stout–A Stellar Brew

008From Fuller Smith and Turner PLC of London, England, comes Fuller’s Imperial Stout, which slams in at 10.7 percent abv on the back of Centennial hops and rose buds, and presumably a sizeable addition of malt and hops. Aromatics of dark chocolate and a depth of malt present forthrightly.


This ebony coloured imperial stout reveals roast, lightly charred toast, black licorice and chocolate on the palate. Warming alcohol and a flash of marmite step forward as this beer warms in the glass. The finish is of roast, chocolate, and just enough of the hop to pull it all together.


It is bottle conditioned and therefore is real ale in a bottle by CAMRA’s definition. This  requires a steady hand and a careful and steady pour to leave the caked sediment in the bottle of the bottle.

Worthington White Shield–A Classic

worthington white shieldWorthington White Shield, brewed to 5.6 percent abv at The National Brewery Centre, a subsidiary of Molson-Coors, in Burton-Upon-Trent, pours a distinctive copper colour, with an off-white head of dense foam. On the nose, fruit and malt notes compete in a gentle way. On the palate, chewy malt folds into hop bitterness that becomes almost steely in nature.


The finish is of malt to the fore, and though not initially sweet in nature, it becomes more so as it warms in the glass. Still, it is a fine English brew. And while the brewery claims it to be an IPA in style, it is at the lower end of the alcohol scale. White Shield is bottle conditioned, showing clumps of fine powdery yeast on the bottom of the bottle. CAMRA noted as real ale in a bottle.

Mo–Golden Hoppy Delight

008Mo, is a delicious pale ale worthy of the style brewed by the Maine Beer Company of Freeport, Maine, USA, to a strength of 6 percent abv. This golden coloured ale has fresh yeast, malt and hops in the nose. On the palate, a crisp hoppiness attacks forthrightly, while the alcohol is neatly recessed.


A drying finish puts me in mind of enjoying another, but alas, I only have one bottle. It is bottle conditioned and therefore is real ale in a bottle by CAMRA’s definition.