15 July 2009

Fuller's ESB Champion Ale

My apologies for the lack of updates. While the summer is a time when I consume untold gallons of ale, I am often found in Ontario's north country on my days off, far from any kind of internet access. However, I will try to post more regularly in the future. Have no fear, I have not quit drinking! After all, a summer without alcohol is akin to a world without air. Seriously. Now on to the subject of today's review.

As regular readers of this blog are aware, I am not a huge fan of English ale. Aside from Bass Ale and Fuller's London Pride, I really can't give glowing recommendations to many of the beers coming out of England (gin is a different story, however). So I understandably had my reservations when I spotted this example of English brewing at the Ajax LCBO. While it was from England, it was made by Fuller's and being the author of this blog, I had to try it out.

Further research on the Fuller's website yielded this glowing praise:

ESB's reputation as the best British beer around is borne out by the amazing number of awards it has won. The US Beverage Tasting Institute named ESB "World Champion Bitter" in 1997 and 1998. ESB received the Gold Medal in the Premium Ales category at the 2003 International Beer Competition and a Silver medal in the same event in 2004. In addition, ESB won another Silver in the Strong Bitter category at the 2002 Great British Beer Festival. And no beer has won more CAMRA awards, including Best Strong Ale in 1978, 1979, 1981, 1983, 1985, 1987 and 1991, and Champion Beer of Britain in 1978, 1981 and 1985.

With a track record like that, there is little wonder this is being marketed in North America as "Champion Ale". So after chilling the beer down, I grabbed my favourite pint glass and sat down to give this beer the full Liquor Pig treatment.

The can gives no indication of the awards this beer has won, save for the "champion" moniker in the description. It pours a clear dark brown with a nice head that laces the glass as it is consumed, and has an abv of 5.9%. I raised the glass and could not detect any skunkiness or otherwise "off" odours. The ale has a very sweet and malty profile, with slightly more hops in the flavour than I would have liked but not enough to render it undrinkable (unlike some of the swill that passes for beer I have reviewed). Ultimately, I wouldn't rank this up with Bass or London Pride, but it certainly is much better than Boddington's or Tetley's. While it wasn't an instant hit with me, I can see why fans of English style bitter praise it so highly.

1 comment:

c.elliott said...

As a Brit and member of CAMRA, I'd like to make a couple of points about British beer in general. First, don't chill it. 'Cellar temperature' is what you're aiming for, about 5 - 6 centigrade. It isn't designed to be drunk as cold as lager. (Think red wine and white wine.) Second, it should be cask conditioned, i.e. with a secondary fermentation in the cask, but you'll only get this in a proper pub. The next best thing is bottle conditioned, which has a little yeast added when bottling. All beer in tins, and most in bottles, is pasteurised, which affects the flavour. Think about it; would you drink a fine Burgundy which had been pasteurised? Keep up the good work, and congratulations on the great beer coming out of the States nowadays.