We had many a healthy discussion at the European Beer Bloggers Conference about 'Free Beer'... so I thought I'd tell you what I think of some of the free beer I received from said conference.
I got chatting for a little bit with Sarah Howe from Adnams, and after I told her about my blog, and after she told me about things that were going on at Adnams, she kindly offered me a bottle of Ghost Ship - a beer right up my street really. It was unfortunate however that this bottle got smashed during the Pilsner Urquell dinner and so I a poured my sadness out in a few random tweets, not directly at anyone, just into the time stream. I'm not sure how but Sarah managed to see this and told me if I got my address to her she'd send me some more. "Very kind" I thought and obliged. A few days later a box arrived for me from Adnams. I didn't realise it would be a mixed selection of six bottles though... insert smily face here.
Here is the low down on what I received and what I thought:
Southwold Bitter, 4.1% - The first of the lot has a deep ruby brown colour about it, slightly darker than I'd expect for a bitter. The aroma is full of oranges, it's big on the marmalade. The English malt presence is obvious, and a toffee/caramel smell is welcomed. It's a refreshing and easy drinking beer. Big on the fruity malt flavour. A big orange tang leads to a long, almost citrus-y, bittering aftertaste making it quite dry and rather moorish. A pleasant starter.
Going off a different direction I had the strongest next; Broadside, 6.3% - It's a beer quite a few are familiar with. A couple of shades darker than the previous but with a beautiful amber brown with a red ruby hinted colour. The aromas in this one are all about the aniseed and pears. It's quite floral too, and it's a single hopped beer (cos they're cool) with First Gold making a big presence. The flavour is big on the toffee malts making it quite sweet in body. Slightly woody too, with hints of vanilla. Big on the fruit cake flavours with a touch of rum soaked raisins. Brewed to commemorate the battle of Sole Bay it warms the heart with it's boozy kick. I should also note that Sarah gave me a taste of their recent Adnams Spirit distilled from Broadside ingredients, and I must say without conviction that it was incredibly impressive.
Third up to bat was Gunhill, 4% - Donations from the sales of this beer go to 'The Prostate Cancer Charity' so it's a beer I'd happily buy again and again. I thought it had a great citrus/grassy aroma for such a dark looking beer, lots of lemon and lime going on. Whilst drinking I thought I was starting to get a feel for a classic sort of Adnams malt character, but this one was softer, lighter, with much more fresh fruit than the previous two. A little apple and grape mixed with some sweet caramels. Perfectly balanced with an orange malt backbone.
After a bit of a break it was time for Explorer, 5% - In colour it's the lightest of the lot so far - a big Chinook and Columbus Pale Ale. The aroma is fantastic fresh lemon grass. Citrus fruits and honeycomb sweetness are also present. It's a great refresher, served chilled as is bottle requested. Grapefruit and lemon is the main presence with a little dry spice in the finish. It's just the kind of beer you want after a long shift.... and if that sounds rehearsed, I just finished my shift as I type this, and it's really hitting the spot!
Next is Lighthouse, 3.4% - A pure gold, light Pale Ale. It smells a little of sulpher and green apple skins. Slightly worrying but it looks good so I dived in. The aroma carries through to the taste quite a bit. It's not that off putting, but I'm not really sure I'm a fan of this one. Some toffee and pineapple in the body with a nice bitter finish, but as I smell the empty glass, it smells a little like a beach... sorry guys. It's not a flawed beer, it's just not to my personal tastes.
And finally, the beer that brought me here, the one I was most looking forward to and the one I'd heard the most about... and the one that almost got away; Ghost Ship, 4.5% - 'A Ghostly Pale Ale'... how could I not like that? Am I right in saying that Citra hops were involved in this? It has a huge aroma of lemon and lime, lots of grapefruit and lemon sherbet, quite frankly in smells delicious. It's delicious too! Oranges, limes and lemons assault your tongue while the perfect balance of fruit, sweetness and bitterness interplay to create a beer that is so refreshing, so drinkable, so damn good, that I'm typing with one hand right now!
This Ghost Ship steals the whole show! And I have the pleasure of my bag smelling of this for a while now...
They say free beer always tastes better, and there may be some truth to that. It's still pretty obvious however, that Adnams can make some pretty fantastic beers: Regardless of whether or not I got these free, I should know - I've paid for many a pint of Adnams in the past, and my opinion of them has yet to change.