My top supermarket ales – Part 1 strong and dark

I thought that I would fulfill the booze part of this blog a little more as it has been a bit neglected. That is not to say that the author of this blog has been neglecting booze, just neglecting to write about it. I felt that the best place to start would be in providing a break down of some of my top supermarket ales. The world of ale is such a diverse one that I will be breaking these segments down into different types of ale as much as I can. This first post contains some of my top picks for darker ales, which is a type of ale that I often go for, and there are a couple of my absolute favourites in here.

Fuller’s 1845 6.3% ABVIMG_20140613_171240

This ale is not listed first by any coincidence. As far as a mainstream bottled ale goes I think this is pretty much top of the pile. I admit that I was first drawn to it due to its high alcohol content much like the big child that I am. But I have remained with it due to its deep complex fruity flavour and lovely clean finish. Many other ales with an alcohol content this high can taste a bit too boozy, Fuller’s Golden Pride is an example of this, but the 1845 does not have any of this. According to the brewers notes “1845 delivers a sweet, fruit cake aroma, a dark tawny colour and a dry finish that sings of spices and raisin“. I think that this is a pretty accurate description and whenever I see this in a supermarket it always ends up in my basket.

Tom’s ale rating 4.5/5

Fuller’s ESB 5.9% ABVX3IHtUgRb2lB1Qat4uxTf0CdXPPNN4jdmzoHNYWt3OY=w394-h657-no

Yes it is another entry for Fuller’s, and in terms of their ale range this is the next one down from the 1845 in terms of strength. I accept that it is a little boring to have two ales from the same brewery in a list but I could not omit either of these. For a mainstream producer I think that Fuller’s do produce some great ales and so I am happy to promote these ales here. I was first introduced to ESB by my friend and former housemate Steve in our favourite pub “The Basketmakers Arms” in Brighton. Many an afternoon was spent there during my student days sinking pints of ESB and eating seafood platters for lunch. I would say that ESB has a slightly lighter and more bitter taste than the 1845 and so is not quite as rich. The Brewer’s notes state that “The hops impart grassy, peppery notes alongside hints of citrus fruit – while the Pale Ale and Crystal malts bring distinctive biscuity flavours.” this makes ESB a much more year round ale despite its dark and malty appearance. Even better than that it is often available on tap in Fuller’s pubs so you can enjoy it at home and when out.

Tom’s ale rating 4/5

Shepherd Neame 1698 6.5% ABVIMAG0216

I’ve always found ales from Shepherd Neame to be pretty hit and miss, often tasting a little boring or even synthetic somehow. I spotted this one a few years back during my weekly shop and thought that it would be a potential rival to the Fuller’s 1845. It certainly fills a similar role in that it is around the same strength and is a dark malty ale. They do definitely have some strong similarities in the taste department although where the 1845 is rich and fruity I find that the 1698 has slightly more of a roasted hop flavour to it. This ale also feels a little more fizzy in the mouth and perhaps has slightly less depth of flavour to it and so does not linger on the palate that long. Despite these very slight negatives I would definitely recommend giving this one a try as there is a good flavour to it and it is very drinkable.

Tom’s ale rating 3/5

Morland’s Old Crafty Hen 6.5% ABVeivuIAK9XWVbyFVBsyIwtxdCMAOLRZodTr-gkqA3GKc=w372-h657-no

The strongest of the “Hen” range of ales that come out of the Morland/Greene King brewery in Suffolk Old Crafty Hen has placed itself in this upper echelon of speciality ales. I cannot say that I am a massive fan of this range of ales although quite often find myself with a bottle of their ale in my hand when there is little else on offer. This particular offering does come across as having some of that malty fruitiness that you would expect of an ale in this category. However where the other ales mentioned have either nice richness or roasted malt flavour to savour Old Crafty Hen falls a little short. You get a little hint of dried fruits but this does have a much boozier taste to it and so doesn’t hide its high ABV as well as the others. It is also much lighter in colour which is perhaps a sign that it lacks their depth. It is by no means an unpleasant experience when drinking but you can tell that this is a mass produced ale for the consumer market whereas the others can fool you into thinking they are a little more special. Give it a try if you want something with a bit of a kick but if you have the option of 1845 or ESB go with them every time.

Tom’s ale rating 2/5

This is my first proper ale review, let me know what you think. I appreciate that there are a few more ales in this range that deserve a mention and perhaps they will do in the next installment.

Happy drinking all.



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