"In the recent past, premier grape-juice peddlers Oddbins, offered up - by way of competition - the role of beer blogger, in exchange for a Twitter application. 'Erudite, well-travelled beerhemouth seeks savvy, customer-focused retailer to taste beer and review for #OddbinsBeer' was my winning tweet and golden ticket to the special sauce, hand-selected by Oddbins' own merchants of gold standard no-no juice.
I should state at this point, that I am not a professional taster. I have no background in competitive tasting. I have never taken a course in beer tasting. What I do have is an appreciation of well-made things by passionate enthusiasts rather than cynical businessmen. In beer terms, this means I would usually avoid the flavourless, filtered fizzy water created on an industrial scale by corporate robots. It means that I enjoy complex flavours brought about by studying the process, ingredients and endless experimentation."
"...and just to make sure James doesn't disappear up his own back cavity in a pompously grandiloquent celebration of hipster beers, I, being Matt, James' buddy has been forced to drink, opine and say "shut up" when he uses words like 'mouthfeel'."
So, let's get going then. Here are the wondrous delights of Box Numero Uno...
Notes from the Editor:
The vast majority of our craft beer is small production and sourced locally. The reviewed beers are not always available in all of our stores, however, we have put a guide to availability under each review. Please use our store finder to locate your nearest branch and call ahead to guarantee stock is available.
Well, this is as black as Donald Trump's heart, but fizzier than you'd expect, with a short-lived biscuit coloured head. Unfortunately Mr Trump's biscuit coloured head isn't as short-lived...
It smells a little like cola, coffee and chocolate. I tried really hard to get the hint of coconut mentioned on the label, but I just didn't smell any.
It would benefit from a little less fizz and a slightly fuller body, but it's smoky, roasted malts play well with the sweet chocolate. By now, I'm (or at least I've talked myself into) tasting coconut. This is what happens when I read the label before tasting. Overall, it's good. Not as full bodied as some, which actually makes it a going concern for a session.
I would tear through these pretty quickly. Not one you'd labour over.
A fine milk stout. This is fast becoming my favourite style of beer.
Availability: Scotland stores only
This is the latest in a growing line of fine collaborative brews with some of the finest independent breweries. This hazy, light gold effort, despite discernible effervescence, was headless like the horseman. Maybe the...ahem...bartender was to blame.
This, rather oddly, smells like cured ham. Not entirely of course. The smoked wood comes through loud and clear with a smattering of grains. I'm hungry. I'm getting some cheese from the fridge.
The flavour comprises of sweet bread, smoked malts, biscuit, caramel and stewed apples. The smoky quality is less a whiff as promised, but abundant and strong. The yeast does cut through the mix a bit and it goes really well with Gruyere.
Have it with cheese or cured meat. Then again, have everything with cheese.
For better or worse, you get exactly what's written on the label, oak-smoked and blonde. Best paired with food.
Availability: All stores
Pretty uninspired presentation, but we're here to judge the beer, not the bottle. In the glass it's a nice deep amber colour with a small, lacing white head. Not overly bubbly, a bit like me in the morning.
It's a little toffee-like on the nose, with a subtle showing of citrusy hops.
It lacks body, feeling very watery in the mouth. It tastes malty, with a dry bitter finish. Not really fruity, not hoppy, a little tobacco maybe. A reasonable amber ale but nothing too much to recommend going out of your way for.
Not bad, but instantly forgettable.
Not tasty enough for me.
Availability: Oxford branch only
Colour me unexcited at the prospect of a Pilsner, though I should mention that the Tempest Brewing 'Easy Livin Pils' is awesome...
It pours a clear, light golden colour with a fast receding white head. It looks a lot like...a Pilsner.
My nose tells me of its light, gently floral odour, with an otters pockets worth of washing up liquid. If the taste is a disaster, maybe I'll hand it to a woman from the 50's and demand she do the washing up.
Thankfully, this is a decent pilsner. A little fruitier than average, it's bright, refreshing and not too heavily carbonated. An ever so slightly oily body, with a mouse's earlobes worth of washing up liquid. Certainly not enough to mar the experience.
Drink this all day long at a festival, that's an order.
I'd happily have this again.
Availability: London stores only
The trademark comic book Beavertown weirdness adorns the hipster 330ml can. What comes out of the can is a cloudy, rich amber brew with a large, foamy, off-white head.
It smells good. There's tropical fruit, a bit of citrus and caramel malts. Matt's not so sure on the smell, he thinks it's minerally and a bit like you're down wind from a sewage outlet emptying into the sea. I heartily disagree. Also, Matt's fired.
The flavour is a good balance of sweet and bitter. A good showing of malt, like a sweet bread. It lingers a little, but the tail is caramelised hops with a light to moderate bitterness, so...stay as long as you like.
I could session this. Dangerous at 6.2%.
Big flavour, trailing bitterness but good balance.
Availability: All stores
Oh dear, it looks like a kidney patients sample. I wonder if I should drink it out of a bag, using a catheter as a straw?
The smell is all over the place, and as evasive and unknowable as a latter day Howard Hughes. I smelled, at different times, caramel, sherbet (though this fades after a while), grass, rubber, fish. This is a real nasal curve ball for me. A smelly blind spot.
The taste fairs better. It's yeasty rather than hoppy, with subtle straw notes. She's a blonde with a good body on her, foamy, filling.
A decent, helles style. Perfectly alright.
I like it. It's nice. (Yeah, thanks for that deep insight - James).
Availability: West London stores only
Remember, ale's well that ends well. Until next time.