Beer, I mean, not Saturday's rugby (though they did that too). I paid a flying visit to England at the weekend with a particular beer-hunting objective in mind which I'll cover in a subsequent post. I also managed to fit in a couple of bottled English ales I'd never had before. The first was from Herefordshire, and the Wye Valley brewery. Its Butty Bach is yet another rather bland golden ale, missing both the sweet malt and the bitter hops of proper English beer. Inoffensive and disappointing. Wood's Shropshire Lad is a red ale with rather more flavour, of the earthy, mushroomy sort. There's not quite enough for it to be interesting, unfortunately. Coupled with the heavy gassy texture it all means some tough going for not so much reward.
Moving south to The Flower of Cities All, I came upon the competing strong ales of rivals Fuller's and Young's. The latter's Special London Ale (no longer made in London) has a lot of the features of ordinary Young's Bitter: the taste dominated by bitter orangey notes. It's almost double the strength (6.4%), and tastes it, but doesn't have as much of the flavour. Instead there's a gassy sharpness which, oddly, only abates when the yeast from the bottom of the bottle is added. I'm not a fan of this one. As expected, Fuller's put on a better show with their 1845. Again it's an orangey-red hue, but pours to a lovely thick head. The flavour is highly complex and offers a great mix of ripe fruity sweetness and smoky, hoppy bitterness, leaving a dry aftertaste. This is a powerful, serious beer which rewards considered sipping: just like a strong ale should.