For those that don't know, Booths are a small, independent, supermarket chain based in Preston with around 29 stores. The nearest to me is Media City in Salford. Think of them as the Waitrose of Lancashire and you won't go far wrong. They are noted among other things for their large and very varied beer selection which has most connoisseurs of bottle British beer, not only nodding their approval, but actively seeking them out. I like them and make a point of popping in when I can, though more usually for their foodstuffs rather than beer. Still, I like beer too and while I don't drink beer at home that much, I was nonetheless grateful to receive three samples from Booths of their latest in house range. Now I tend to leave beer descriptions to those that are adept at it, such as the Beer Nut and those who are not such as.... well, let's move on there, but last night, pre-thunderstorm seemed a good time to give them a try, sat out in the garden in the warmth and sunshine. I also had the lovely E on hand to give here usual forthright views, so what could possibly go wrong?
First of all the labelling. Plain, striking and simple. Full marks. Beers descriptions actually told you useful things, rather than "Brewed from the finest malt and hops". More plaudits. We started off with Booths Summer Ale, brewed for them by the highly respected Ilkley Brewery at 4% abv. The helpful label told us that it contained wheat as well as barley and was bottled by Holdens. More praise here. This geek didn't know Holdens had a wholesale bottling operation. Well interesting to me, though E seemed less impressed funnily enough. Right away E identified orange notes in the nose. I agreed and the taste of Seville oranges throughout was very pleasing indeed. It claims to be refreshing, though E thought it too bitter to be so. It certainly wasn't a gulper, but to me the Frank Cooper marmalade notes were very attractive. There was maybe just a hint of the promised peach, but neither of us could detect the label's passion fruit. I don't doubt the dreaded crystal malt was there too, as a slight barley sugar note could be detected, but hey, Ilkley clearly know their stuff and it worked. We'd both buy it. Me in a heartbeat. I loved it and could see myself drinking two or three in a row with pleasure.
Next up was Booths Lemongrass Ale (also 4%), made by Lancaster Brewery and bottled by Robinson's in Stockport. It promises "natural lemon and lemongrass". There's always a difficulty in this kind of beer which to my mind tend to veer between toilet duck and lemon furniture polish. E didn't like the nose or her first taste, but became a little more enthusiastic as she moved on through her glass. She detected lemon sherbet and thought it rather woody from the lemongrass. My own thoughts were rather sentimentally of the old Huntley and Palmer Lemon Puff in a badly done liquid form. It had lemon and biscuity malt, buy sadly it didn't really work for me at all, though oddly, I liked it more, the more I had of it. E concluded that it was like a "badly made shandy." Funnily both of us would like to try it again, so pick the bones out of that.
Last, but by no means least was Black IPA, brewed by Hawkshead Brewery and bottled, oddly, by Agricola in East Yorkshire. I love that. Another new one on me. Now this was almost guaranteed to divide opinion, E not being the biggest lover of dark beers. She loved the piney resinous nose though, but the distinct roastiness wasn't to her taste, but it was right up my street. Now here I have a dilemma. It tasted to me of roast barley, but it could be a modified carafa. I don't know, but even less do I really know what the difference between this and a bitter stout might be. I'd suggest if you changed the label, no bugger would know, or care, or shout foul. Whatever, it was the kind of classy beer that you'd expect from Hawkshead. I liked it and E didn't really. I'd love to see it on cask form at a boozer near me. No real surprises there.
To conclude. Three beers, two great and one a bit of a puzzle. Not so bad. Well done Booths.
Tasting notes from me eh? Whatever next? My thanks to Booths for the samples.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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