Monday, June 27, 2011

Three Heads Brewing - Blimey English-Style Pale Ale

One of the neatest things about being a Brit in Upstate NY is that you get to critique the attempts that people make at imitating your own accent and culture.  From Renaissance festivals to Cockney reptiles selling insurance to those God-awful accents that well-meaning Hollywood actors put on, there's plenty of opportunity for a proud Englishman to smirk at the Yankee perception of his way of life.  I also thoroughly enjoy it when locals refer to me as 'that Australian guy'...oh my, oh my.

When it comes to beer, however, Upstate practices the sincerest form of flattery by emulating very closely a lot of the great British beer styles I've known and loved.  Frankly, you're probably better off getting an Upstate-brewed British-style beer than an import, because English ale doesn't travel well, even when bottled.  More than once I've bought a bottle of a well-loved British ale, only to find that it tastes skunky, or stale.  So I've been exploring some of the local ale offerings, and I'll be jiggered if they're not a damn fine impersonation of British Best.

Tonight's review is of Three Heads Brewing's Blimey, a cheekily-named Extra Special Bitter which boasts a respectable 6.0% ABV and whose label shows a stereotypically buck-toothed Queen's Guard with an old-fashioned London Routemaster bus in the background (this got me all nostalgic, because you rarely see those buses in the city these days).  I couldn't help but raise a smile at the picture - though I hasten to add, I pride myself on having the most un-British teeth imaginable.  My wife will back me up on that.

The beer pours a light copper, with a slight head and low-moderate carbonation.  It's very clear, which shows it's been filtered well.

Bready malts dominate the aroma, with a balance of mild UK hops.  There's a slight alcoholic warmth that hits your nose, and very low fruit esters are detectable.

When I first tasted it, it was fresh from the fridge (I should have really known better - British styles are usually best served at around 54-58 degrees Fahrenheit).  Served from the fridge, it had an aggressive hop bitterness which clashed with the malty aroma.  As I let it warm slightly, however, the malt had more of a chance to show itself over the hoppy bitterness.  The bitterness remains fairly strong, as one would expect (this brew has 60 IBUs).  Served on cask at cellar temperature, I can imagine this beer comparing very favourably with UK standards like London Pride.  There's a slight toasty quality to the aftertaste, which is subtle and quite pleasant.

As far as mouthfeel's concerned, there's a low level of carbonation, and a medium body.  The brew finishes fairly clean and dry with some bitterness.

It's a great beer, and I like it a lot.  So here are my scores:

Appearance - 4.5/5
Aroma - 4/5
Taste - 4/5
Mouthfeel - 3.5/5

Overall - 4/5.  Great strong British ale.

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